First Easterners to Arrive

From 1827 to 1833 Louis Campau and his dependents were practically the only white settlers on the east side of the river, at the rapids. On the west side Mr. McCoy and his family were temporary residents until 1827, when Mr. McCoy was succeeded at the Baptist Mission by the Reverend Leonard Slater who, with his wife and his steadily increasing family, stayed until 1836. A lad of seventeen, who came here in 1827, should have place in the history of Grand Rapids. This lad was Samuel Holloway, who, coming with a party to distribute supplies to the Indians, assisted Louis Campau in building his log house. Young Holloway left about 1832, and never revisited the city until 1872. There were women school teachers at the Baptist Mission, an Indian agent, a blacksmith and a few other artisans, but their number at no time exceeded twenty, and there is no record that any of them remained permanently, although it is probable a few did.

Before 1833, however, the surveys of public lands had been made, the people in the east began to hear rosy stories about the exceptional opportunities there were for settlers in the valley of the Grand river of Michigan, and land lookers, representing easterners, appeared.

In the fall of 1832 Samuel Dexter of Herkimer county, New York, came to the valley. He entered a tract near where Ionia is at present situated and he also entered four eighty-acre tracts--a section two miles longs and eighty rods wide--along the east side of the Division avenue line, from Wealthy street to Leonard street. He then went back and organized a colony of emigrants, numbering 63 persons, which started westward from Herkimer county in the spring of 1833. The names of the persons in this company will ever be remembered in the history of Grand Rapids. They were: Samuel Dexter, Erastus Yeomans, Oliver Arnold, Joel Guild, Edward Guild, and Darius Winsor, with their wives and children; Dr. William B. Lincoln, Patrick M. Fox, Winsor Dexter, Warner Dexter and Abram Decker, bachelors.

They left German Flat, New York, April 25, arrived at Buffalo May 7, landed at Detroit May 10, left Detroit May 12, arrived Pontiac May 14, at Fuller's in Oakland county May 15, at Gage's May 16, were in the woods May 17, at Saline May 18, and camped from May 20 to 28. It took the intrepid adventurers sixteen days to make their way through the woods to Lyons, whence the party went on to Ionia.

From Ionia, Joel Guild and Samuel Dexter started on horseback to Grand Rapids on their way to the land office at White Pigeon. When they reached Grand Rapids they met Uncle Louis Campau, who urged them to settle here. Joel Guild was persuaded that this was a good place at which to settle, and he accordingly took up forty acres now known as the Kendall addition and also some pine land a little south of the village. On his return from the land office he bought a village lot from Louis Campau, paying therefore $25.

Uncle Louis generously offered to assist Joel Guild in bringing his family to Grand Rapids from Ionia. He and some of his dependents took bateaux up the river and the Guild family embarked for the rapids. They made a halt at the mouth of the Flat river where they found Dan Marsac in a log shanty. They next stopped at Rix Robinson's. They landed at Grand Rapids on Sunday, June 23, 1833, and they were given a warm welcome by Mrs. Louis Campau. They stayed at the Campau log residence for a few days, then removed to the Campau fur packing house, where they lived until about September 1, when they family moved into the new house that Joel Guild had built on the lot purchased in the spring from Uncle Louis. This lot was at the foot of Prospect hill, where the noble structure of the Grand Rapids National Bank now rears its head towards the sky. This was the first frame house erected in Grand Rapids, and the lumber for its construction was secured from the saw mill which had been built for the mission. It was a story and a half structure, about 16 by 26 feet in dimensions. It had two windows in the lower and one in the upper or gable west front, and two windows, with a door between, in each side, north and south.

The river bank then was about 150 feet west of the Guild home, and on the bank was a spring, over which Uncle Louis had erected his milk house. The space between the Guild frame house and the river was open. On that space was done the cooking and other domestic work of the Guild household, by an outdoor fire. An oak log was used for a backing to this primitive open fireplace, with its wooden crane and pothooks and hangers, and a large tin baker in the foreground. A few loose boards and some green boughs constituted the roof of this temporary kitchen. Accommodations being few in this tiny village, this Guild residence hospitably housed many strangers during the first few months after it was completed, despite the fact that the household included Joel and his wife and six daughters and one son. On some days there were twenty in the family.

The Guilds came from West Winfield, Herkimer county, New York, whence they had removed to Paris, Oneida county, New York, before coming to Grand Rapids as permanent residents.

In the very year that he arrived here Joel Guild accompanied the land commissioners when they drove the stake for the Kent county court house, quite near the 40 acres he had purchased. In December of that year lots were selling at from $25 to $200.


Transcriber: Ronnie Aungst
Created: 16 January 2000