History and Directory of Kent County, Michigan, Containing a History of Each Township and the City of Grand Rapids, Compiled and Published by Dillenback and Leavitt, County History, Directory and Map Publishers, Grand Rapids: Daily Eagle Steam Printing House, 1870.
The township of Paris is situated on the second tier of townships from the south line of the county and is bounded on the north by Grand Rapids, on the east by Cascade, on the south by Gaines, and on the west by Wyoming. Being situated so near the city of Grand Rapids, which is market for all its produce -- and being traversed by the Grand River Valley Railroad, it is, so far as convenience is concerned, an exception to the general location of townships.
Paris is next to the oldest township in the county. As long ago as the year 1833, Barney Burton, Edward Guild, Joel Guild, Daniel Guild, and James Vanderpool located within its present limits. Benjamin Clark and Abram Laraway settled in the year 1835; Jacob Patterson, Miner Patterson, James Patterson, Orleans Spaulding and Philanzo Bowen, in the year 1836; Nicholas Carlton in the year 1837; Hiram H. Allen in the year 1838. Among the other early settlers were De Witt Shoemaker, Clinton Shoemaker, Robert Shoemaker, Alvin W. Wansey, Jared Wansey, James Ballard, Stephen Hinsdill, Abram Laraway and Robert Barr. We would here also make special mention of "Captain Davis" as he was familiarly called, who was the father of Ezekiel W. Davis, commonly known as "Judge." He settled in the township in the year 1834, and remained a resident up to the time of his death, which occurred some twenty-five years ago.
The trials and hardships endured by the pioneers of those days seem to have been unusual. Nearly all of the settlers were poor, and consequently were unable to relieve the unequal distress of the less fortunate among them. The lots of some were peculiarly distressing. Orleans Spaulding, who was before mentioned as having settled in the year 1836, informs us that, in the month of June, 1837, he was afflicted with sore eyes, and that for six years he was thereby unfitted for labor. During three years of the time he was totally blind, and that, too, while his family was dependent upon the productions of their little farm for a living.
But there were trials of a general nature which had to be endured at this period, occasioned by the "hard times" or "wild cat times" as they were commonly called. Many of the new settlers had but a small part of their farms cleared, and a still smaller part cultivated, and consequently were obliged to buy their provisions. Those who had been in the country longer, and had larger improvements, raised a few bushels of wheat more than was required for their own use, but they could sell it neither for money, nor for groceries. Usually it could be given in exchange for "shelf goods" as they were called, provided no more than fifty cents per bushel was charged.
While wheat was selling at only fifty cents per bushel, flour was selling at $15 per barrel, pork $36 per barrel, potatoes $2 per bushel and butter fifty cents per pound.
We are informed by Mrs. Burton, that when she commenced keeping house in the township, on what is now the Garfield farm, she had no neighbors on the south nearer than Gull Prairie, none on the east nearer than Ionia, and none whatever on the west. Uncle Louis Campau, Joel Guild and Jonathan F. Chubb, were the only residents of Grand Rapids. Rix Robinson was in the township of Ada, trading among the Indians.
Mr. Burton built the first log house in the township of Paris, and erected the first barn in the county. He also erected the first frame house in the township, upon the site of the fine residence of S. M. Garfield.
The following incident illustrates the condition of the country at an early day: when Mr. Burton was on his way from Gull Prairie to Grand Rapids, one night he and his few companions halted as usual, spanceled their horses, and took their rest. In the morning, the horses belonging to Mr. Burton were nowhere to be seen, so he started out to search of them. He wandered about in the thick woods for several hours, without success, and finally turned about with the intention of returning to camp. He traveled until the sun was low in the west and no camp could be found. Night came on, and he rested himself, a lone man in a dense forest. The experience of the succeeding day was similar to that of the first; and it was not until the third day that he reached a settlement. By following a creek which he found in his wanderings, he had reached the Thornapple river, tracing which to its mouth, brought him to what is now the Village of Ada. Thence he proceeded to Grand Rapids where he found the settlers quite excited over the fact of his disappearance, which had been reported by his companion. Mr. Campau already having dispatched a number of Indians in the direction he supposed Mr. Burton would be, to search for him.
At one time in the winter of 1835 and 1836, the cries of what was supposed to be a man were heard in the vicinity of Mr. Burton's residence. He answered, horns were blowed, and other noises were made to attract his attention, with no result. About the same time a grey horse came to the residence of Abram Laraway, not many miles away, which none of the settlers claimed. Early in the spring a saddle was found by Robert Barr in the woods not far away. Still later the body of a man was found on what is now called the Penny property, in the Third Ward of the City. Its appearance indicated that death had taken place some months previously. A few dollars in money, a watch, and some papers were found on his person, the latter indicating the name of the man to have been Moore. Nothing further was ever ascertained in regard in the matter. He probably lost his way in the pathless woods, wandered about for several days, perhaps lost his horse, and finally starved to death; or, overcome with weariness and down to rest, and perished by the excessive cold.
In the year 1835 or 1836, a man by the name of Sizer was shot by an Indian near Plaster Creek, on what are now the premises of Henry Allen. At that place on the creek was a deer lick, which, of course, was watched by settlers as well as by the natives. The parties concerned in the affair to which we refer were both looking for deer, the one not knowing the presence of the other. As the white man was moving about in the bushes, the eye of the Indian caught a glimpse of his white shirt bosom, which he mistook to be a spot upon a deer about to run. A second more and the white man fell dead, with a bullet through his heart. You can imagine the terror of the Indian when he discovered what he had done, as he supposed his own life must pay the forfeit.
It seems to have been the custom of the Indians to demand a life for a life. We were informed by an old settler that, at one time, while a little Indian girl was taking car of an infant white child, near what is now the city, she accidentally let it fall from her arms upon the ground, and it was taken up dead. The Indians took the girl with the intention of executing her; but upon the earnest solicitation of Uncle Louis Campau and Joel Guild, and the offer an amount of money for her life, she was spared.
In this instance the Indian went immediately to the missionary named Slater who lived on the west side of the river, told him all and gave himself up. Slater advised him to go back, arouse the whites and tell them what he had done and assured him he would not be punished. He did as he was advised and the affair there ended.
When Benjamin Clark came into the township, in 1835, he selected a piece of land on section twelve, located upon it, and has ever since made it his home. When he settled, no one was living in that part of the township, except Alexander Clark. He says he came all the way from Morau's residence near Reed's Lake to Abram Laraway's, without seeing a house.
James Patterson came into the township in 1836, via a road on the east side of Thornapple River, which he followed to Ada. There he found John W. Fist keeping tavern in the wilderness. His cattle swan the river, while himself and team were ferried across on a cow owned by Mr. Fisk. From there he took a southwesterly course through swamps, streams, and woods, without the least sign of road, a distance of six miles to his new home. On this route he saw only one settler, and he had but just located.
When Hiram H. Allen settled in the township in the year 1838, there was but one regular thoroughfare through it, and that was the old Gull Prairie, or Kalamazoo road. N. O. Sergeant had just previously established a line of stages between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. Mr. Allen said he took a trip through Cascade in 1838 and found but very few settlers. From the Patterson settlement on sections 12 and 13 to Cascade village, there were no passable roads.
During the first few years of early settlement, there was no regular camp of Indians in this township. Occasionally they would pitch their tents for a few days on their hunting and fishing expeditions, but the first regular colony was formed about the year 1840, on or new section 33. They lived there for several years, but when the country became more thoroughly settled, they sold their lands and left.
The township of Paris -- which then included Gaines -- was organized in 1839 and the first town meeting was held at the house of Hiram H. Allen, which resulted in the following officers:
Supervisor--Joel Guild. Clerk--Hiram H. Allen. Treasurer--Robert Barr. Assessors--Stephen Hinsdill, Foster Kelley, Joseph H. Blain. Justices of the Peace--H. H. Allen, Hezekiah B. Smith, Barney Burton, Alexander Clark. Commissioners of Highways--Joseph Blain, Jacob Patterson, John Kirkland. School Inspectors--James Ballard, Renssalaer Mesnard, Joseph K. Palmer. Directors of the Poor--Andrew Mesnard, Daniel Guild. Collector--Jacob Patterson. Constables--Jacob Patterson, Joseph J. Baxter, Palmer Allen.
SOIL, TIMBER, Etc.
The soil of Paris as a township, is quite good. To be sure it has its poor land as well as other townships; but considered as a whole it is considerably above average. The soil in the southeasterly and central parts is heavy clay, while in the northerly and westerly parts it is sandy,
The timber in the southeasterly and central parts is quite heavy; that I the northerly and westerly parts light and what might be called oak openings. In the southwesterly part of the town is some pine, in places mixed with elm, black oak, etc.
There are many good farms in Paris, among which many be mentioned those belonging to T. S. Smith, on section 27; Stark Le Fever, on section 35; Seeley S. ? section 34, Isaac D. Davis, on section 29; Philanzo Bowen, on section 28; ? G. Shear, on section 13; S.S. Bailey, on section 13; Myron Richards, on section 10; John H. Ford, on section 2; S. M. Garfield, on section 7; John D. Alger, on section 7; Joel Simonds, on section 7.
Some of the best residence in the townships are those owned by T. S. Smith, Myron Richards, S. M. Garfield, John D. Alger and Riley Cole. The orchard on the premises of John H. Ford, is the most thrifty and extensive of the many we saw in the township.
The first school-house erected in the township stood on the corner of the northeast quarter of section 7. It was used for many years, but was finally removed, and the present building erected in 1857. There are several fine school-houses in the township. The Godwin school-house standing on the old plank road, a short distance beyond the Godwin tavern, is a good brick building, and an ornament to the locality. The school-house on the southwest corner of the section 10, built of brick, presents a fine appearance, and exhibits the enterprising character of the inhabitants of the vicinity; also the frame school-house situated near the northeast corner of section 34. We mention these as being particularly good, while in fact, all of the school buildings in the township are above average in character.
COUNTY POOR HOUSE
The county farm and poor-house are located in Paris, on section 16. The farm contains 104 acres of thereabouts, and has the appearance of being well-worked. At the time the farm was purchased by the county, a log house was standing on it which was used for a number of years as a poor house. It was removed in 1860 and the present frame building erected in its stead. Several additions have been made to it, until now it is a large structure. The present keeper is John Otis.
The Bostwick Grist and Saw Mills were erected many years ago, on Plaster Creek, on the east line of section 17. Four dams were constructed at different times, but in each instance they were carried away. The mills were run at intervals, but never for any great length of time and were finally abandoned. The Tanner Mills, situated on the southeast corner of section 20, were operated for a number of years; but are now among the things of the past.
THE PRESENT OFFICERS
of Paris, are: Supervisor--Samuel M. Garfield. Clerk--John Steketee. Treasurer--Everett Hurd. School Inspectors--John H. Ford, Gilbert G. Bailey. Justice of the Peace--Hiram H. Allen, Abram C. Barclay, Seeley S. Buck, John H. Ford. Commissioners of Highways--G. G. Bailey, Mason L. Shater, Bester Brown. Constables--Abram T. Cook, Thomas H. Foster.