Alpine -- Its Early Settlement -- Incidents of Pioneer Life -- The First Settlers -- A Woman's Courage -- Town-meeting -- The Mills
Alpine is one of the west tier of townships, and is bounded on the north by Sparta, on the east by Plainfield, on the south by Walker, and on the west by the township of Wright, Ottawa county. The first settlers were Solomon Wright and family, who came from Wayne county, N.Y., in the year 1837, and located on the south line, near Indian Creek. The family consisted of the old gentleman and lady and five sons, Benjamin, Solomon, Noodiah, Andrew and Jeremiah, only one of whom remains in the township, and that is Solomon. The old people are both dead, one son lost his life in the late war, one is living at Lowell, and two are in Walker.
In the year 1840 John Coffee and Richmond Gooding came from Ohio, penetrated the forests nearly five miles beyond Wright, and settled near the west line of the township. For many years this was considered "the jumping-off place," as they termed it, there being no settlements north of them, and, in fact, no house in any direction nearer than three or four miles. About the same time Jacob Snyder, a German, settled on section thirty-five, and another German, named John Plattee, on section thirty-six, in the southeast corner of the township. A short time previous, Turner Hills and family came from Vermont and located in the east part of the township on section thirteen, where, for several years, they were the northernmost settlers. Mr. Hills died several years ago, but the widow and two sons survived him in active and profitable industry.
Among other pioneers who settled in various parts of the township at an early day, I will mention Noel Hopkins, Baltas Schaffer, Peter Schlick, James Snowden, Sherman Pearsall, John B. Colton, A.B. Tones, Thompson Kasson, Joseph Hipler, John Ellis, Edward Wheeler, Hervey Wilder, Joseph Bullen, Moses Ramsdell, John J. Downer, Hiram Stevenson, Artemus Hilton, Henry S. Church, Charles Anderson, Francis Greenlely and the Boyds, Denisons, Meads, Bremers, Davenports And Cordes.
Many and varied were the priyations endured by these early settlers. We, who have never been pioneers, cannot fully appreciate the sufferings, the trials and hardships which were their lot. Contemplate a journey to Grand Rapids with an ox team, over rough roads, with a grist for the mill; of a return in the night with its many perplexities, now and then losing the indistinct road, with a consequent delay of half and hour; of finding trees blown across the walk, preventing further progress until they have been removed by the use of the axe, and so on through the list.
Again imagine, if you can, the loneliness of a family coming from a thickly settled part of the country, and making a home in the wilderness, with no actual neighbors; with no schools; with no churches; and , in fact, with no associations except those of their own fireside. Little time can be spared for social intercourse, even at home. The round of duties consumes each day but the Sabbath, which is, indeed, to them a day of holy rest.
I do not wish to be understood as stating that there are no enjoyments connected with such a life. Situated as the pioneer of this place was, in an unbroken forest, with every stroke of the axe, and with every effort made toward improvement, he seemed to be hewing out a little world of his own. Every acre added to the cleared space added more than its proportional amount of pleasure to the soul of the laborer. He looked forward to the time when his broad acres should be seen clothed with the rich yellow grain of a plenteous harvest, and he looked not in vain.
Alpine was united with the township of Walker in 1847. Its first independent township meeting was held at the school house in the southeast corner of the township on the 5th day of April, 1847, which resulted in the election of the following named persons as officers: Supervisor, Edward Wheeler; Clerk, C.D. Shenich; Treasurer, Casper Cordes; Justices, Wm. H. Withey, John Coffee, John Colton and John Tuxbury. The next annual meeting was held at the house of Edward Wheeler, near the center of the township. Soon after a small log school house was erected on the corner of Mr. Wheeler’s farm, one-half mule east of the center, and was used as a place of holding township meetings until about the year 1860, when a fine Town Hall building was erected on the northeast corner of section twenty one.
Alpine, which is said to have derived its name from the supposition of many of the early settlers that it was chiefly timbered with pine, is not what its name indicates. There was originally considerable pine along the larger streams, At one time several saw mills were located on Mill Creek, and were doing a brisk business, but now there is hardly enough pine left to sustain two.
The soil of the beech and maple timbered portions of Alpine, which comprise about two-thirds of the township, is generally clay or loam. Indeed, this is township of good land, well adapted to the productions of both grain and fruit. The good looking orchards and the loads of apples, peaches, plums, pears, etc, as well as the excellent yields of wheat and other grain, speak for themselves. The soil of the pine timbered portions is sandy, but it grows fair crops when well cultivated and improved.Document Source: Tuttle, Charles R., History of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids: Tuttle & Cooney, 1874.