Beginning of the Boom

The year 1833 may be said to be the first of the "boom" years in pioneer Grand Rapids. In addition to the Guild family quite a few others settled here in that year, and there were numerous land lookers, explorers and visitors to make short stays. Among those who established themselves as residents in 1833 were Barney Burton, Josiah Burton, Eliphalet H. Turner, William R. Godwin, Gideon H. Gordon, James Gordon, Warner Dexter, Luther Lincoln, Ira Jones, Nathaniel P. Roberts, Sylvester Sibley, Myron Roys, Joseph B. Copeland, Henry West, Andrew D. W. Stout, James Archibald, and Jonathan F. Chubb.

In 1834 came the following, to become residents of the village or immediate vicinity: Richard Godfroy, Hiram Hinsdill, Martin Ryerson, Darius Winsor, Daniel D. Whiteman, Andrew Robbins, Daniel North, Robert M. Barr, Joseph S. Potter, Ezekiel W. Davis, Julius C. Abel, Ephraim _ Walker, William McCausland, Louis Moran, Robert Howlett, Aaron Sibley, Willard Sibley, Alvin H. Wansey, Jared Wansey, James Watson, Lewis Reed, Porter Reed, Ezra Reed, Joel Sliter, Horace Gray, Lyman Gray, William R. Barnard, Abram S. Wadsworth, Edward Guild and Cyrus Jones.

In 1835 came still others famous among the early settlers, including Lucius Lyon, James Clark, Jefferson Morrison, John Almy, William Hinsdill, Dwight Lyman, James Lyman, William H. Godfroy, James Marion, N. O. Sargeant, Dr. Stephen A. Wilson, Dr. Charles Shepard, David S. Leavitt, Demetrius Turner, the Reverend Andreas Viszoczky, Justus C. Rogers, Edward Feakins, Abraham Laraway, Amos Hosford Smith, Leonard G. Baxter, Alanson Cramton and Charles G. Mason.

In 1836 came Myron Hinsdill, Isaac Turner, Samuel F. Perkins, Samuel Howland, William G. Henry, Maxine Ringuette, John Ringuette, Daniel W. Evans, Lovell Moore, Sylvester Granger, Charles H. Taylor, David Burnett, Howard Jennings, Simeon S. Stewart, Henry C. Smith, Kendall Woodward, James Short, James Scibner, Hezekiah Green, Charles I. Walker, Abel Page, William A. Richmond, Loren M. Page, John Ball, James McCrath, John Parnell, Henry Eaton, J. Mortimer Smith, George M. Mills, Warren P. Mills, H. R. Osborn, George A. Robinson, William Haldane, Robert Hilton, George C. Nelson, James M. Nelson, Charles P. Calkins, John W. Peirce, George Coggeshall, Samuel L. Fuller, Solomon Withey, and Billius Stocking.

In 1837 came Gouverneur B. Rathbun, Edward S. Marsh, Archibald Solomon, Josiah L. Wheeler, Jacob Barnes, John T. Holmes, Canton Smith, William Morman, Harry Dean, Samuel F. Butler, Luman R. Atwater, John Friend, Truman Kellogg, Truman H. Lyon, Noble H. Finney, Leonard Covell, Joseph J. Baxter, William I. Blakely, James A. Rumsey, Henry Stone, Edmund B. Bostwick, Harry H. Ives, John Kirkland, Aaron Dikeman, William C. Davidson, Hezekiah Green, George Young, and Eli Johnson.

Each succeeding year a few immigrants came, but there was no census until 1845, when the total population of the town and village was reported at 1,510. However, the hopeful and jubilant first settlers claimed a population here of 1,000 in 1837 and of 1,200 in 1838.

Not all the early visitors could foresee a great future for Grand Rapids. Indeed, in Baxter's history it is recorded that in 1834 two men from Washington county, Vermont, came here to look around. These two, Abel Drew and Wait Farr, bachelor farmers, went back and reported that they had spent a few weeks at the rapids of Grand river in Michigan, in a little settlement of a dozen families, "a hundred miles from nowhere, and at a little tavern about big enough for a cheese house, where there were five or six of the prettiest little girls west of Montpelier." They said "the land was middlin' good, but the people wouldn't have a market half as good as Boston in a hundred years."

Human nature doesn't change much, as is again evidenced in the land boom of 1836 and 1837, which struck the western country even as it struck the Florida of 1925 and 1926. The speculative fever in Grand Rapids became general in 1836. Prices for real estate and for many commodities soared to record prices. Dream villages came into existence on paper and lots and plots in them were sold at what was then considered fabulous prices. Village lots here rose to high and often prohibitive figures, depending upon location. About this time the "wildcat" banks were running wild, too, and paper money of doubtful or no value was widely circulated. The inevitable reaction came, and came quickly---in 1837.

It is recorded that Jefferson Morrison, an early resident, in 1836 built a fine residence just south of Monroe avenue and west of Ionia avenue. To complete it, he went into debt $5,000. Being financially embarrassed, when the pinch came he traded his residence for four parcels of real estate at $1,500 each, the value of which soon dropped to nearly one-tenth their cost to him.

John Ball, who came here in November, 1836, writes that at that time he met John Almy, who told him that lots on Canal street and Kent street were selling at $50 a front foot, or $2,500 for a fifty foot lot. "I did not invest," laconically observes Mr. Ball.

John Ball has left us a graphic description of the routes by which the outsider could reach Grand Rapids in 1837. An article written by him for Professor Franklin Everett's "Memoirs of the Grand River Valley" is of much historical value and a portion of it is here given:

"In 1837 the Grand river settlement was far detached from the rest of the world. To reach it from any direction had its difficulties and required much time. If approached by what was called the northern route, through Shiawassee and Clinton counties, it was a day's journey from house to house, to Ionia. The only other approach with a team and wagon was by the "Territorial Road," as it was called, through Calhoun and Kalamazoo, then by a day's journey from Battle Creek to Kalamazoo, to Yankee Springs, and another to Grand Rapids. This was the usual route to Kent and Ottawa counties, keeping over the "openings" east of the Thornapple river to Ada. There was a bridle path or trail though the timbered lands direct out through Byron to Allegan; and there was communication by keel boats and dugouts up and down the river. By these routes all supplies of goods and even most of the breadstuffs for Kent and Ottawa counties were brought.

The traveler on horseback, leaving Grand Rapids by the usual route in those days, would stop at night at Williams', and later in the year at DeLang's; and by the next night, riding through a dense forest twenty-five miles he would reach Lyons. There was a trail or bridle path, to Grand Haven, and down the lake beach to Muskegon. No roads as yet were made, nor bridges built, so the traveling by wagon was rough and slow.


Transcriber: Ronnie Aungst
Created: 10 January 2000