Early History of Bowne -- The First Settlers -- 
A Woman's Courage --
Interesting Incidents of Pioneer Life

    In 1837 Mr. Jonathan Thomas, of Ovid, New York, came andsettled in the northwestern portion of Bowne, bringing with him his family and afriend named Frederick Thompson. Mr. Israel Graves and family, and Mr. Wm.Wooley and family came about the same time. They came by water to Toledo, andthence to this township with ox teams, making the trip from Toledo in about twoweeks. They proceeded to build houses and clear up farms. The first house theybuilt, and the first within the town, is still standing and is preserved as arelic of the past, and as a contrast with the present. It is built of logs,about twelve by fourteen feet square, without any chambers and with only onedoor and one window and a "Shake" roof. Near this Mr. Thomas built twoother houses and a small log building for an office for himself.
    Mr. Thomas was taken sick soon after his arrival, andcontinued so until the next winter, when he was visited by his son-in-law, Mr.John Harris, who determined to remove him to his home in New York. He fixed abed in a sleigh and started in December, 1837. They made the whole distance witha sleigh, dragging through Northern Ohio in the slush and mud, and occupyingover four weeks in making the journey.
During the summer of 1837, when they got out of provisions, Mr. Thomas, althoughquite ill at the time, had his bed fixed in a wagon, and, taking his whip,started his ox team for Kalamazoo. He found it necessary to go a few milesbeyond there and buy wheat, bring it back to Kalamazoo and have it ground.
    When these families first moved into the township there werea great many Indians there. They found them good neighbors when they were sober,but when they could get liquor they were quarrelsome, and occasionedconsiderable trouble. One came to Mr. Thompson's house one day when there was noone in but his wife. He sat down in a rocking chair before the fire and rockedhimself over into the fireplace. Mrs. Thompson pulled him out of the fire, andhe became enraged and attempted to stab her; but when she picked up an axe andthreatened to take his life if he did not leave, he made a quick retreat.
    At another time a lot of Indians came up on their ponies,when the men were gone, and ordered Mrs. Wooley to get them something to eat.She ran to her door and called for Mrs. Thompson, who came to her relief,affecting to be brave and fearless; but the old chief ordered her to go back toher wigwam and get him something to eat. The poor woman obeyed, trembling withfear, and got the best dinner she could under the circumstances, setting hertable with her nicest spread and best dished she had. The chief are his mealalone at her house and declared himself much pleased. He told her that she was a"brave squaw," and that they would not harm any of them then; butafter a certain number of moons they were going to kill all the whites in thecountry.
    A number of the families I have mentioned soon becamediscouraged and went back, while those who remained were seven miles from anywhite neighbors.
    At on time when Mr. Thompson went to Kalamazoo to mill, owingto his oxen straying away while at the mill, he was detained from his home eightdays. His wife remained at the house alone until noon of the eighth day, whenher suspense became so great that she could not bear it any longer, and shestarted on foot for the nearest neighbor's seven miles distant. After completinghalf the journey, she was met by a white man. She enquired after her husband ,was told of the circumstances which caused his delay, and that he was on theroad and would be home before night. He advised her to return home, but herreply was, "I will never stop until I see my husband."
    These were dark and romantic days in the history of Bowne.Packs of wolves were often seen prowling in the outskirt of the woods, and bearsfrequently came within a few yards of the houses. For several years they6 usedto go to "Scale's Prairie" to meeting, but after a time the populationincreased and the little town could boast its own Minister.
    In the spring of 1838 quite a large number of settlers camein, and soon the desolating forests began to disappear. Civilization hadprocured a strong foothold, and prosperity followed in abundance. Excellentschools soon followed the churches, and the increase of population, industry andwealth have ever since marked the progress of the place.
    The first township election was held in 1838, resulting inthe election of the following staff of officers: Supervisor, Abner D. Thomas;Clerk, Abel Ford; Treasurer, James M. Nash; Justices, Steven Johnson, BenjaminJ. Lee, Levi Stone, Henry D. Francisco; Commissioners of highways, Loren B.Tyler, Henry D. Francisco, W.H. Stone; Constable, Oliver A. Stone.

Document Source: Tuttle, Charles R., Historyof Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids: Tuttle & Cooney, 1874.
Transcriber: Karen Blumenshine
Total Names: 16

Created: 29 September 2000