From 1830 the population increased steadily until White Pigeon became a center of over eight hundred people and in 1831, the government established a new land office. The village was laid out in 1829. It had three saw mills and two grist mills and was considered a center of enterprise. Many are the stories concerning "land sharpers" and "shavers." Immigrants were warned by the early newspapers not to purchase land through agents. Several villages were platted. The two serious checks in the thirties to the tide of immigration came, first from the cholera and second from the Black Hawk war, though the latter fortunately, in St. Joseph county, was only a scare.
In April, 1830, the first town-meeting was called at Savery's "Old Diggins" --- mine-host one of the most picturesque characters which early Michigan produced.
A part of "Old Diggins" was built in 1827-'28, and in its long log-hewn bar room the wheels of government for St. Joseph county were set in motion. Here in 1830, the Hon. William Woodbridge and Henry Chipman, presiding judges, held court. The old tavern occupied the site of the present White Pigeon high school.
SOME PIONEERS OF 1830
Adams, Dr. Isaac O.; Beadle, Michael, Flowerfield; Buck, George, (Sturgis prairie); Cade, Thomas, Sherman; Calhoun,
Andrew, Florence township; Clark, Robert Jr., Centreville; Coffinberry, J. W., White Pigeon; Connor, Fletcher,
McMillan (who opened the first farm land on Nottawa prairie); Crawford, Robert and Mary Shannon, Constantine;
Crawford, James; Engle, James, N. Y., to Burr Oak; Engle, Jonathan, Nottawa; Engle, Thomas and Sarah (Rynerson),
Nottawa; Fitch, Charles B., Ohio to White Pigeon; Lothrop, Edwin H., Massachusetts to Prairie Ronde; Laird,
Glover and wife, New York to Nottawa; Parker, John and Elizabeth (Leiser), Pennsylvania, New York to Sturgis;
Hatch, A. T., Colon (Indian trader married Marchess Maqua); Jones, DeGamo, Sturgis; Lancaster, Columbia,
Constantine; Langley, Thos. W., 1830 or 1831. First Register of Deeds, first postmaster, Centerville. Six sons, one
daughter. "Laid most of the corner stones for the public buildings of Centreville;" Lawrence, Andrew, Florence
township; Parker, John, Sturgis; Raymond, Oliver, Sturgis; Rhoades, Orrin, Rhoades, Lewis, came to Monroe in 1795, to
White Pigeon; Savey and Lancaster, at-
ST. JOSEPH IN HOMESPUN
torneys at White Pigeon; Trumbull, Edward A., Deputy U. S. Marshall of W. Michigan; Wheeler, Challenge S., Flowerfield; Wheeler, William, Folwerfield. (See history of Episcopal church); St. Joseph Methodist Mission for the first time appears in the general minutes as a part of the Ohio Conference and in 1830 the pastor was Erastus Felton; Sellers of 1830-1831; Schellhouse, Cyrus, Nottawa; Schellhouse, George, Colon; Schellhouse, Lorenzie, Colon; Schellhouse, Martin G., Colon; Schellhouse, Roswell, Colon.
Nottawa and the Black Hawk Scare
In 1830 Amos Howe accompanied by William Hazzard, Hiram A. Hecox, Samuel McKee and William Conner, came to St. Joseph county, sowed wheat in September and then returned the following year with their families.
The first log house erected in the township of Nottawa was built in 1830 on the farm of William Hazzard, near Centerville. It was only 18X18 and for several weeks was the residence not only of the Amos Howe family but also of the Connors, Hazzards, McKees, Lanes, Hecox, Ingalls, Shermans, Powers, Post and the Dr. McWilliams.
The organization of Nottawa was accomplished in 1832 and the first town meeting was held at the residence of Captain Henry Powers when Amos Howe was elected to that most impressive office within the gift of the early settler-a Justice of the Peace.
Mr. Howe has written for the Pioneer Society of Michigan most interesting stories of the "early days" of that period when the Sauk Indians west of the Mississippi tried to induce the Pottawatomies to "rise" against the settlers but the Pottawatomies of lower Michigan were hearth-fire lovers rather than warriors.
In his history of the United States, Bill Nye pictures the Black Hawk War of 1832 as the time of "scalping in inhabitants between soup and the remove," and explains that "it grew out of the fact that the Sacs and Foxes sold their lands to the United States and afterward regretted that they had not asked more for them; so they refused to vacate until several of them had been used up on the asparagus beds belonging to the husbandman.
Far less facetious are some of the squatter's stories of the Indian uprising as told from one cabin to another in St. Joseph county's first "whispering campaign."
Among the names listed as soldiers at the time were Ashael Savery, Major S. P. Williams, Capt. Calhoun, John Hamilton,
George Thurston, Deacon Forbes, John Hartman. The latter was working on a millstone when message came,
he dropped his hammer and was off for war. John W. Fletcher, Wm. H. Cross, Wm. Langley, Charles Monroe, Michael Beadle, Adna A. Hecox, Edgar A. Trumbell and others hastened to enlist.
At a meeting of the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, Mr. Cross paid tribute to the pioneer women of this period. Mr. Cross said: "When the word came to shoulder our rifles on that May day in 1832, our family found itself just moving on a new farm. The oldest settler not having been a resident five years, there were twice as many Indians as white men and the prospect of nine tenths of the men going to war gave a gloomy outlook. Then came the question from the wives and mothers and sisters: "But, do you have to go", and when we in turn asked: "Would you ask us to shirk our duty and let others go", the reply was worthy of the woman of those days: "No, go, we will do the best we can.
Two months before the so called uprising, Mr. Cross had married and brought his nineteen year old bride to the wilderness. "What am I to do", I asked and promptly came the reply: "Go, you must bear your share, I will do the best I can".
The Hon. William Connor of Nottawa, gives the following description of the settler's fort: "The contemplated site of Ft. Hogan was on the lands of J. Foreman, in the northeast corner of Colon. For its erection, a file of one dozen men was appointed each day to work upon the fortificatons. On the very first day, after a trench had been partially dug and two loads of stumps drawn to the spot, the sun shone with such intense heat that the workmen grew tired, handsomely cussed the Sauks and regarding discretion the better part of valor, abandoned the enterprise.
"The committee which was appointed to draw the plans for Ft. Hogan, included Amos Howe, Rev. Mr. Alvord and Dr. McWilliams. They drew the ground plans for the square fort which, covering five acres and earth two feet high, topped with grubs, fortunately was never completed."
Col. Jonathan Engle often laughingly declared he had received but one scratch during the war and that was by the government pen, which gave him 160 acres for a month's uneasiness.
Another volunteer, Hiram Jacobs, said he was ordered out in May. Had dashed for Niles one day and dashed for home the next.
Walter G. Stevens, who came to White Pigeon in 1829, said that doubtless he would be called a tramp now. He had heard so
much about Michigan in his old Virginia home that he just had to come and see it. So, afoot and with two dollars for
emergencies, he started on the long lonesome journey. One
ST. JOSEPH IN HOMESPUN
night, with frosted corn which he had toasted in a blacksmith's forge, as his only food, he decided to tell his story to "Savery at Old Diggins' and ask for food.
When he entered the tavern, Savery was pouring toddy and came from behind the bar, looking so sternly at the hungry boy that he was "nigh ready to drop". Satisfied by his scrutiny, Savery said: "You look honest" and added, "When the breakfast bell rings go in and eat your fill. Stay until you are able to pay."
Mr. Stevens was one of the first to respond to the call for troops. As a reward he received a quarter section, money and blankets for a month's service. Later he helped build the Centerville jail and served as jailer. He told amusing stories of his courtship, his walk of ten miles after the day's work to call on his sweetheart. His fortune on his wedding day consisted of two dollars ans courage. One dollar, however, was given to John S. Berry to perform the wedding ceremony.
Concerning the causes of the Black Hawk War, Amos Howe writes: "The very suggestion of an Indian uprising filled the settlers with alarm; the reports were heightened by the stories told by the fun loving Frenchman, Navarre of Godfroys' Landing Post, who, it is said, never left a stone unturned in the line of humor if he could witness the fear and excitement of his Yankee neighbors." Others claim that the stories were originated by the squatters who longed for the rich prairie lands of the Indian reservations. They prodded both the Indians and the white men into trouble that the government might have cause for the removal of the Indians.
The frightened settlers appointed their committee of safety: Martin C. Schellhouse, Jonathan Engle, Sr., Benjamin Sherman, Amos Howe and Alvin Alvord, Sr.
Undoubtedly the most dominating figures in St. Joseph county during the Black Hawk trouble were Martin G. Schellhouse and his brothers. Through their kindly common sense fears on both sides were allayed.
An incident, a near tragedy at the time, but now an enjoyable story, is told of a New England family, who had but recently
settled on Sturgis prairie. In order to preserve their valuables, consisting of plate, china, mirrors and other prized
possessions, which could not be taken with them in hasty flight, they carefully packed the goods in a large box and
in the dead of night stealthily gathered around a dry well by their cabin. With low whispers the well rope was attached
to the box, the windlass having been freshly tubbed with soft soap that no tell-tale creak might reveal their work. The
men seized the crank and steadily lowered the box, when suddenly the rope broke and with the crash of a
cannon the box struck
bottom and shattered its contents to atoms. Shrieks from the women arose on the midnight air, the alarm was sounded along the prairie, shriek after shriek. The prairie was awake and deeming the Sac warrior at their very door, there was a general flight.
Salathiel Coffenberry's Story
The most authentic account of the Pottawatomies of St. Joseph is undoubtly that written by Salathiel C. Coffenberry for the Western Chronicle of 1858. Mr. Coffenberry was a pioneer who was highly respected by the settlements, so much so that Three Rivers' Masons named their chapter for him. We quote Mr. Coffenberry as one whose story would deal squarely with both red men and white. Mr. Coffenberry says: "Notwithstanding that the settler found himself surrounded with thousands of acres of the most fertile lands, obtainable for ten shillings per acre, he envied the Indian his little home of twelve square miles. In vain the chiefs in council said: "You have much, we have little, why you want our little?" But the settlers importuned, became unpleasant, annoying, and the Indian patiently submitted.
"On the south bank of St. Joseph river, Patrick Marantette had established himself a trading post. He exerted an almost absolute control over the Indians and his sincere aim was their prosperity and happiness. He indignantly inveighed against the inhumanity of those who introduced the liquor which turned the Indians into fiends and, as they formed the tast for it reduced them to groveling poverty, imbecility and wretchedness.
"At the commencement of the first settlement of St. Joseph county in 1829 or '30, the Nottawa bands of Pottawatomies acknowledged the sway of Pierre Morreau, as chief. He was a white man, an educated and accomplished Frenchman and because of some misfortune he sought a secluded retreat. He married an Indian woman, adopted Indian costume and habits. As a savage, he was more to be feared than the red man.
Morreau, by his Indian wife, had seven children: Sau-au-quette, the wicked, Moniss, Isadore and Wau-be-gah. His daughters were Betsey, Min-no-wis and Min-nah. Sau-au-quette, shrewd, wicked, wily, displaced his father and disputed the right to govern with Cush-ee-wes, the legitimate chief whose father, deceased, had been supplanted by Morreau.
Sau-au-quette possessed remarkable powers as an orator. Cush-ee-wes was modest and retiring. Each had his followers
but all of the Indians admitted the rightful claim of Cush-ee-wes. Sau-au-quette invariably won out. He was
ST. JOSEPH IN HOMESPUN
extraordinary in appearance, six feet, three inches tall, straight, finely proportioned, possessing an imposing and withal winning address. The tribe had been steadily deteriorating, they had ceased to hunt or trap, they had traded guns and ponies for whiskey; they hung around the post insisting, begging for more "fire water," more whiskey.
"At this crisis came the Black Hawk war scare. It is not to be wondered at that the settlers were alarmed. Panic to be wondered at that the settlers were alarmed. Panic seized them, goods and valuables were concealed, cattle sold at half their value, crops left ungathered. Amid all the alarm, there were some in the settlement that could not be persuaded that the settlement was in danger, among them the venerable Judge Sturgis, Martin G. Schellhouse and his brothers, and several others. However, the militia was organized for deadly conflict and, flushed with the glory of their mission, marvelous were the hair breadth escapes of the soldiers which were told to the frightened settlers.
"Among the stories was that of Min-no-wis, sister of Sau-au- quette who had been detected in stealthily approaching the cabin of a settler to ascertain by espionage the strength of the white enemy. It was in vain she pleaded that her children were starving and that she only had come to beg a bit of bread. In vain she said she was afraid of the white man and was trying to see his wife, who would, as a mother, perhaps pity her children and give her a bit to eat. With tears streaming from her eyes she offered her baby's little moccasins for food. "No good if squaw can buy no bread."
Among those who pleaded for the Indian as a friend was Col. Sherman, for whom a township of St. Joseph county is named. Col. Sherman's talk at the white man's council is worth reading. He said in part:
"I have as good a knowledge of the disposition of the Nottawa Indian as any one. I do not believe there is the least danger from then; the poor cusses are more scared than we. But if you must have a man go to Niles, though it is on a fool's errand, give me your dispatches, I'll be off." "Arm yourself well, Sherman", said one. "Take my horse pistols" said another. The dispatches were sent. The next day began the building of Fort Hogan."
Again, we quote Coffenberry: "Cyrus Schellhouse in the meantime stole away to the reservation. He found the Indians
destitute and laboring under the impression that their white neighbors, taking advantage of the Black Hawk excitement,
were planning an attack. After a brief parley with the Indians an interview was planned at the home of Captain Powers. "Cush-ee-wes,
with an interpreter, accompanied Cyrus Schellhous. Cush-ee-wes offered his hand in token of
friendship to the doughty captain and stood with unaffected dignity before the fidgety commander. "What does the white man want? He has sent for his red brother. Let pale face speak." "We want to know what we have done to induce you to try to cut our throats and scalp our people," demanded Captain Powers. "Pale face does not speak words of wisdom or he would not ask what red man has done, but would ask what pale face has done," replied Cush-ee-wes.
And then there followed an eloquent plea for his people; he pictured their loss of land, their distress through the white man's influence and to the arraignment he demanded that the white man answer. After many inquiries, it was found that the only Indians off from the reservation were the young warriors who had gone with the fur trader, Captain Hatch, to fight for the white people.
Col. Sherman returned from Niles with the welcome news of Black Hawk's capture. All of the old newspaper article by Mr. Coffenberry is worth reading. His intensely human story closes with the query: "What did the red man receive from the white man and his civilization in exchange for the home land of his fathers?"
Centreville, A Centenarian
Among the villages taking their civic places in the county in the early thirties, was Centerville. It was platted in 1831 and on November 22 the governor's proclamation located the county seat there. It was platted by Robert Clark, Jr., Electra W. Deane, Charles Noble and D. B. Miller. A bronze tablet indicates the site of the first courthouse. The inscription reads:
Concerning the first court sessions held in Centerville, Chester Guerney, a learned, rather cynical old lawyer, when asked
about the first court sessions replied: "Like the Irish witness who testified in court that he had known the fun in question
ever since it was a pistol, I have known about the court and its first sessions in Centerville. In the early days when our
circuit court went pioneering, it held session in the little frame building built by Langley for a store but used by Sam Scott,
grocer. Mr. Guerney characterized Thomas Langley, the builder of the store, as a man of ready speech, quick imagina-
ST. JOSEPH IN HOMESPUN
tion and action, a man of great courtesy of manner. Langley built the first tavern in the village and in Langley's eyes it was a feudal castle and he it's lord, whose highest ambition was to entertain every guest with knightly cheer."
Several years ago Mrs. F. H. Coon compiled from the St. Joseph History, for the D.A.R., the data covering the early courts of Michigan from which the following is quoted:
"The first term of circuit court held in Centerville was called October 21, 1833, and was held by Hon. W. A. Fletcher, Circuit Judge.
"The first divorce case on the calendar was during the October term of 1833, when Aurora Amulet Gilbert complained most bitterly of the cruel desertion by her lawfully wedded lord and master, David Gilbert, and meekly stated that if the court didn't want to take her word, they might just inquire for themselves. But the court believed Aurora for at the April term in 1835, they decreed that David should no longer have his Aurora Amulet to charm his cares away and bade her resume her maiden name.
"The first court of record ever held in St. Joseph county was a session of the probate court held at the office of the Register of Probate, John W. Anderson in White Pigeon on Friday, March 26, 1830, five months after the county was organized. It was held by Dr. Hubbel Loomis, Probate Judge, granting letters of administration to Elizabeth Thurston on the estate of Amos Codner. August 23, 1830 the first will was probated in the county; that of John Baum, deceased.
"The first probate court held in Centerville was on October 24, 1834.
"The Circuit court of St. Joseph county held its first term August 17, 1830 at Savery's Old Diggins in White Pigeon. The first foreign born applicant for citizenship to be accepted for citizenship in the county was at this meeting. His name was William Johnson and he came from Berwickshire, England.
In October 1837, the first of the bank suits appeared in the Circuit Court. In the September term of 1838, Daniel Fulton was indicted for "exercizing secular labor" on the Sabbath Day but a jury of his neighbors acquitted him of the charge.
At the first meeting of the county court at Savery's in White Pigeon in 1830, a seal for the county was ordered with the following device and inscription: "A sheaf of wheat, a merino sheep and a pair of scales and the inscription was "St. Joseph County Seal."
In 1830 the commissioners appointed to investigate a suitable location for the county seat reported favorably on its
location on the plat by George Buck of the village of St. Joseph - now second ward - Three Rivers. Mr. Buck and Jacob McInterfer were to donate the lots. Because of misunderstanding the report was set aside and a new commission consisting of Thomas Rowland, Henry Desborn and George A. O'Keefe recommended the site of Centerville, which was formally proclaimed on November 22, 1831.
"The first court rooms at Centerville were furnished by the supervisors and were in the upper story of the first frame house built in Centerville.
In May 1832, it was voted to build a jail and the first man incarcerated was committed without formality by Sheriff Taylor. The door was closed but not locked. The prisoner was forgotten. When looked for, the jailor found his tenant gone but at night the prisoner returned on his own free will and offered twenty-five cents to be allowed to sleep there again.
The old jail did service for twenty-one years. August 14, 1854 it burned and one of the three prisoners there at the time lost his life. It was supposed he had set fire to the building . The old jail lock weighed twenty-five pounds and was a most ingeniously wrought combination made by E. C. White, village blacksmith and gunsmith of high repute. Long years afterwards the huge key to the old jail was an interesting curio in the collection belongs to Dr. A. W. Scidmore in Three Rivers.
The late Elias S. Swan of White Pigeon served the first legal process issued from Court of Record in the territory now constituting St. Joseph County. This was about 1828. He was then deputy sheriff of Wayne County. In 1831, Mr. Swan located at White Pigeon and brought the first stock of goods up the St. Joseph river from its mouth where they had been landed on the lake shore from Buffalo. His goods were brought in batteaux propelled by poles as far as Hartman's Landing, about a mile from the present site of Mottville (on the land later owned by Charles Fox) and from there toted overland to White Pigeon.
The following letter, written by the Hon. Columbia Lancaster from Vancouver, Washington Territory, August 10, 1887, was published in the Michigan Historical collections. "Hon. S. D. Bingham, Lansing, Michigan.
"Sir: My name is Columbia Lancaster; I was born in New Milford, Connecticut, August 26, 1803; occupation an attorney; politics, a democrat (copper-fastened).
"I came to Michigan in August, 1830; remaining at White Pigeon until the county seat was located at Centerville; erected the first dwelling and became the first citizen of Centreville.
ST. JOSEPH IN HOMESPUN
" The territory of Michigan filled rapidly with good citizens .. When Michigan was robbed of its ten mile strip .. and a territorial military organization was effected I was made a colonel. When the state constitutional conventions were called, I was delegate to Ann Arbor. I was elected to the Legislature in 1837 or '38 (1838).
"In March, 1837, (probably 1839) with my wife and daughter, four years old, I left Michigan with an ox team for Oregon and reached Oregon City September 15.
"November 30, 1847, I was afterwards sent to Oregon's second legislature and was her first delegate in Congress (Democratic).
"I am pleased with this country but I cannot keep my mind away from Michigan and her noble system of education, the best the world produces .. In imagination I sit down in Centreville and all her incidents of early history pass in a grand panorama before me. But my old friends have emigrated to celestial regions and I shall follow soon.
(Signed) Columbia Lancaster"
In that quality of citizenship which ranks greater than riches -- the spirit of appreciation for sacrifice and heroism -- Centerville ranks among the highest in the county. A grey granite monument surmounted by a soldier on guard pays tribute to the loyal sons of 1861 and also stands as a memorial to the St. Joseph county men who served in Mexico, Company E. 15th U. S. Infantry, under Capt. I. D. Toll.
The county is indebted to the Hon. Frank S. Cummings for his interest in obtaining this public recognition and remembrance of the courageous old Company E. whose heroic story is told in another chapter. Mr. Cummings is a son of Soloman Cummings, pioneer, and he is entitled to credit for his splendid work through the St. Joseph County Pioneer Society in salvaging valuable historical material from oblivion.
The first settlement in Leonidas was made in 1831 by the fur trader, Thomas Hatch who married first, Marchee-o-no-qua, the sister of Chief Maguago. Other settlers were the George Matthews who came from New York city and located near the St. Joseph river bridge in the vicinity of the trading post. Many stories are told of the Matthews family, among them that of an intoxicated Indian whooping and yelling who came to the Matthews cabin and decided to stay. Matthews was very sick with ague, but when the Indian refused to leave,
Matthew's spirit rose higher than his fever, he pulled the Indian from his pony and severely slapped his face. A few days later the Indian returned with many others and demanded that because Matthews had insulted him when drunk now he must fight when he, the Indian, was sober. Mrs. Matthews fearing something wrong slipped a hunting knife under her apron and went along. Suddenly whipping out a knife, the Indian said: "Now we fight with knife." Promptly Mrs. Matthews handed over her hunting knife and the surprised Indians with him shouted "Ugh, squaw!" and applauded her, "Chemokeman", as they called his squaw", and the Indians were ever after good friends.
Leonidas is rich in folk stories of the pioneers and of their ancestors who fought for American independence: Allen Wing, William Hobart, Javiel Sherwood, Zachariah Watkins, Chapman Davis, Nathaniel Watkins, Shadrich Pierce, Peabody Kinne, Benjamin Clark, of Captain Isaac Conklin and Wakeman Foster, stories by the Kibbes, Bishops, Hodges and others. The story of Mark Watkins, buried in Leonidas cemetery, is told in the chapter of St. Joseph's Roll of Honor.
Escaped From the Red Coats
It was Wakeman Foster who was compelled by British soldiers to hitch his yoke of oxen to a flat bottomed boat which the Red Coats coveted and requested to have transported overland to the Peconic Bay, which was about three miles distant. We are told that Foster was a praying man but with expletives as strong as his orthodox christianity would permit, he proceeded leisurely with his task to threats from the impatient soldiers. The road was obscured and darkness fell. Foster suggested that he lead the way. The British soldiers consented. They were weary and the oxen for some reason were hitting a wonderful gait. With many "whoas" and "gees" and " haws" the inpatient yoke and driver when entering a particularly dark place, vanished out of sight of the British into a dense forest. Foster's "whoas" increased as he was vanishing until the breakneck speed of the oxen lost his voice to his captors. Foster had been shouting "whoa" but with a sharpened stick had been prodding "go".
(Compiled by Miss Emma Price for the D.A.R.)
This township, which takes its name from the village within its limits, has within its boundaries an eminence which is called Colon Mountain, not remarkable for its elevation, though it is the highest point in the township, 120 feet above
ST. JOSEPH IN HOMESPUN
the general level. It is supposed to have been made by the mound builders.
"Roswell Schellhouse came from Ohio in 1829 to Nottawa Prairie and located on what was afterward included in Colon township. He built a log house of two rooms, which he kept as a hotel for some years. His location was on Section Six.
"Loransi Schellhouse, a brother of Roswell, came into the township in 1830, as did George F. and Martin G., two other brothers, and bought land on sections three and six, Loransi buying the mill site on Swan Creek where the present flouring mill is now situated in the village. These persons above named were the first settlers in the territory included in the present bounds on Colon.
"Charles Palmer came in from Ohio in 1831 and bought 300 acres east of the creek.
"The civil organization of the township occurred in 1836 at which time Colon was limited to its present area and is known on the government surveys as Township six, south of range nine west. The village was projected 1832.
"The first marriages in the township were those of Jonothan Engle Jr. and Delia Brooks in 1832; Reuben Trease and Sally Rumsey, August 13, 1834.
"Among the early settlers, Comfort and Job Tyler came in 1832. Alvin Hoyt and Hopper in 1832 and also Abel Belote. The Shellhouse and Dr. Mitchell were natives of Vermont. The Tylers, Farrands, Henry K. (1836) with Phineas and their father (1838). Dr. A. J. Kline (1831). The Bowers, Adams, William and father, John, William H. Castle (1835), Charles L. Miller (1841) and Dr. McMillen (1834) were New Yorkers. Stebbins, Brooks, Noyes (1831) and Chaffee (1835) were from Ohio. The Scholfields and Louis A. Leland (1833) from Massachusetts. Eberhards, Wagners, Dr. Voorheis (1836), John H. Bowman (1839), from Pennsylvania. Danburys, Tellers, Van Vorsts, Mohawk Valley. Levi Matthews (1832) Connecticut. David King and family were English. The Clipfells (1839) from Alsace and the Borns and Engles from near French border.
"The first death was the first white child born therein, a son of Roswell Schellhouse, in the summer of 1830. First adult Mrs. Schellhouse, 1832. First burial in Colon cemetery was Emily Noyes, aged 8 years, 1832, the year the cemetery was first laid off.
"The first schoolhouse was built in 1833 on the Brooks farm, and Martin G. Shellhouse was the first teacher there in -- 1833-34.
"The first merchant in the township was Louis A. Leland, who settled in 1836 on section ten (the old Noyes homestead)
to which Samuel Noyes and his family of daughters came from Ohio in 1821. Louis A. Leland married Mary Ann Noyes. Mr. Leland first carried his stock of goods in a wagon, traveling from Bronson to Centerville, and permanently located in Colon in 1836, retailed his goods from his house.
"Charles L. Miller was the first merchant to open a stock of goods for retailing in the village. Mr. Miller was elected Judge of Probate in 1856 and was secretary of the commission on commerce of the United States from 1861 until his death.
"E. Hill and Sons commenced in the mercantile trade in the village in 1851 and until 1868 were leading merchants, doing a heavy trade. The Exchange Bank of E. Hill and Sons was organized in 1878.
"Dr. Isaac Sides opened the first drug store in 1859. Dr. Isaac Voorheis was the first physician, locating in the village in 1836. Another early doctor was Dr. James Fisher, of New York, who located there in 1832 on the prairie near the trader Hatch's place. A son of Dr. Fisher, born in Colon, distinguished himself in the United States navy, Dr. McMillan practiced for a time after he came into the township in 1834.
"The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in Colon township in the year 1844 by the formation of a class of 16 members by Ryan Williams and Aaron Bradley (who moved into the township the previous year), with Ryan Williams as class leader. Ryan Williams, Mrs. Ryan Williams, Aaron Bradley, Samuel Sheik, Mrs. Barber Mills, Mrs. James Palmer, Mr. Washburn. The board of trustees for the society was elected August 18, 1856 with Phineas Farrand, William H. Harper, William F. Bowman, Solomon R. Salisbury, Ellis Hughes, Gilbert Liddle and Moses Blanchard as members of such board. John W. Lovett has long been an active worker as Sunday School Superintendent.
"This society was formed in 1840 by Rev. Daniel Crow in School District No. 5. First members being John Yeatter, Michael Yeatter, Peter Miller, Adam Decker, John Fogleman, John D. Everhard, Elias Ware, John A. Ultz, Daniel Rich, Peter Wagner. John D. Everhard was from Pennsylvania. A brick edifice costing $3000 was erected in 1844.
"Colon Baptist Society was first organized in Leonidas (as found by records kept in an unbound book) in 1837 by Elders Brown of Centerville, Taylor from Prairie Ronde and G. B. Day of Sturgis. First members of organization were: E. G. Terry, Daniel Franklin, Orrin Legg, Sarah Legg, Mary Vaughn, Experience Watkins, Enoch S. Bersline, Benjamin Blossom, Joseph Gilbert, Constant Vaughn, Armilla Terry, Justus W. Denton, Eli Denton, Lurelia Denton, Clarissa S.
ST. JOSEPH IN HOMESPUN
Denton, Mary Reynolds, Sally Reynolds, Anna Gilbert, Clarissa Blossom.
"An edifice was built in 1845, the society being incorporated January 20th of that year. The first trustees were Orrin W. Legg, Loransi Schellhouse and Seth Goodwin, John Gray, Benjamin Blossom, William Grover and Mr. Rowe.
In the Christian Herald of 1886, Rev. L. H. Trowbridge wrote: "Southern Michigan never knew livelier times than during the first decade of its settlement. Sherman township comprised a tract of 3,000 acres and, although the land office was at Monroe and the early settlers had to make the distance on horseback, it was counted no hardship, for all were in the freshness of youth -- strong, hopeful, happy.
"Holidays were not numerous but were great occasions when they did occur, winding up usually with a barbecue. In 1828, the year following Mr. Thurston's settlement on the prairie, a bear was killed in the locality and the novel announcement followed of a "Bruin Barbecue". Among those present on this occasion was Governor Cass with his staff on their way to Niles to settle with the Indians for the purchase of their lands. In the governor's train were eight ponies, four laden with silver, the purchase price, and four with 200 pounds each of ginghams was given shelter but his "staff" camped out of doors.
"The influx of immigration increased until 1836 when settlers came by tens and hundreds. In the spring of this year Abel Crossman and Gersham B. Day of Kempville, Niagara county, N. Y. entered land in Nottawa. They were the leaders of the second colony that settled in Sherman, made up of Wear Drake, wife and son Addison, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen H. Chase, Abel Crossman and family, James M. Tefft, M. D., John Harris, Nathaniel Cutter and Thomas Davis.
"Up to this date every man knew his neighbor and neighbors were not limited by township or county lines. Some of the familiar names were: Thomas Cade, settled in Sherman, 1830; David Petty, David and Charles Knox, 1831; John S. Barry, White Pigeon, 1831; Dr. Elliott, 1832; Caleb Arnold and his father's family in Constantine, 1832; Norman Roys of Florence, 1832.
"John Landrick, in 1833, was the genial, jolly stage driver between Detroit and Chicago and for more than half a century was one of the wealthy men of the prairie. For first class accommodations by coach, passengers paid seven cents a mile with the privilege of a rail to pry the stage coach out of
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the mud. General Brown of Tecumseh and DeGarmo Jones of Detroit owned the line, increasing facilities by 'extras' year by year until the coach run daily, reluctantly giving place to the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern railroad in 1851.
Second class transportation in these earlier days was slow and no springs. One of the original contracts reads:
"The undersigned agrees to transport in lumber wagon without springs, ten persons for $40 from Detroit to Constantine." At this date Constantine was the Chicago of Southern Michigan, being the head of navigation.
"While passengers travel was brisk by stage, freighting was lively by the lakes and the St. Joseph river. In fact, the first bridge at Constantine was a swing bridge. Lima, Indiana and all surrounding towns received their freight at this point via lake and river. The river arks which were 40 by 60 feet were covered with two inch white oak plank and calked with tow and slippery elm bark. They required great skill in handling . The famous old arking captains and their hair breadth adventures were subjects of many an evening's entertainment. Keel boats made their appearance in 1835. One of the musical names of these vessels was the "Kitty Kiddungo."
In the saga of St. Joseph county pioneers, the coming of John Sturgis and George Thurston is a most dramatic episode. John and Ardillacy Sturgis first came to Michigan Territory in 1818. In 1827 Mr. Sturgis came northwest from his Ohio home, accompanied by Geroge Thurston, a boy of nineteen years. They brought with them oxen, a plow, seed and provisions. They made their way through forests by the Indian trails until they came to land belonging to General Cass (now Sturgis Prairie) and there they broke the first prairie land which is now within St. Joseph county. George Thurston turned the first furrow. We are told they garnered twenty five tons of hay that first season. Then came a prairie fire that swept it all in flames. Discouraged, they returned to their Ohio homes, but being men of energy and of faith in the beautiful prairie lands of Michigan, returned the next season, accompanied by the Sturgis family, and began again. Of Thurston, it is written that in five years after coming to St. Joseph county, he assisted in raising eighty-six houses. Among them the first house in Kalamazoo county, that of Judge Harrison, the first settler of that county. It is recorded that "the neighborhood" went over to where the house was to be raised one day, did the work and returned the next day. Thurston's
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father served in the War of 1812 and his grandfather fought in the American Revolution.
Much has been written of the Sturgis family, especially of John Sturgis, for whom General Cass named the prairie. He first located in what is now Fawn River, two years later moved to Nottawa and entered 240 acres of government land. He was a most important personage in his day, and eventually became the owner of 1400 acres of land. He was the father of ten children: William, Jane, Catherine, John, George, Amos, David, Hannah, Sarah and Henrietta, many of whose descendants still reside within the county.
In a biographical sketch recorded by W. P. Champion, we read:
"John Sturgis was born in Philadelphia in 1787, the son of Captain Amos Sturgis who served in the American Revolution. He fought at Germantown and in several other engagements of the Revolution. In 1818, John Sturgis settled near the head of Lake Erie and in 1828 came to St. Joseph county with his family. His household goods, equally divided, were drawn by six yoke of oxen. The two loaded wagons travelled for a period of twenty-one days, a distance of 130 miles over the almost impassable prairie trails, sometimes covering only a mile in a day.
"Assisted by George Thurston, he built his log cabin, the first house ever erected in Sturgis township. In the autumn of the year 1828, General Cass, then governor, on his return from Niles with about ten persons in his company, all mounted on pack horses, encamped on the east end of the prairie near the cabin of settler Sturgis. The latter supplied the General's company with water from a spring which he drew to them with his oxen. Later, the water supply proved inadequate for Sturgis needs. He moved to Nottawa, preceding Peter and J. J. Godfroy by two years on the site where the Godfroys erected their trading post. Part of this land Mr. Sturgis sold to Adam Wakeman and he returned to the "Sturgis" prairie.
"During the territorial times, Mr. Sturgis was commissioned one of the Associate Judges of St. Joseph county and in 1836 was elected to fill a second term as a representative of the Democratic party. He was one of those who were chosen to frame the State Constitution of Michigan, but being too sick to attend, another went in his place.
"The Indians of Nottawasippi at first resented his coming, but he succeeded in assuring them of his friendship and won from them the highest expression of praise. 'They lived as neithbors in mutual trust-worthiness."
Sturgis township claims many of the prominent early settlers, other than those whose names have been given.
Among the first to establish homes in windowless log cabins on the Sturgis prairie were George Buck, Hiram Jacobs, John S. Newhall, Oliver Raymond, J. G. Wait, Major Isaac J. Ullman, Luther Douglas, Rev. J. E. Parker, who accompanied his father John Parker, Ephraim Bears, Jacob Pearsoll, Nathaniel Rathbun, Aaron Gilham, the Osborns, Philip Aurner, Michael Welliver, the Mumfords, De Garmo Jones, John B. Clark, Truman Bears, Jacob Hopkins, David Petty, David Knox, all of whom came in the early thirties.
The first frame tavern was built by Oliver Raymond in 1831. Preceding this, the log house owned by Clarke was the only tavern on Sturgis prairie. It was afterwards conducted by Allman. Like all the taverns of the times, it was the meeting place of all kinds of political and civic bodies. A story is told of Major Isaac J. Ullman, a very staunch Democrat, a well known political character of the county, who was called to preside at a Democratic convention at the tavern. Someone began reading a denunciatory set of resolutions concerning some Democratic action. Hardly had the preamble been finished when the irate presiding officer tapped for order, indignantly exclaiming: "I taught wen I accepted dis chair dis was a Temoratic convendshun, but I pelief it ish notings but twiggery, and shtay I vill not " ---- And stay he did not Major Ullman was a representative in the State Legislature, 1835 -- 1836.
Oliver Raymond was the first postmaster of Sturgis and like the other postmasters of St. Joseph county, kept the mail of the entire settlement in a candle-box.
Before the coming of the mills the settlers had many home made ways of making meal. The wife of Judge Sturgis told of preparing corn meal by rubbing the ears of corn on the bottom of a perforated tin pan, the meal was then moistened with water and baked on a board before the fire in the enormous fireplace.
The "pioneer mill" consisted of a hole in a block of wood or stump of a tree. It reduced the grain to meal by means of a pestle attached to a spring-pole.
Araba Heald in 1828 put up a "pepper mill" near the east end of White Pigeon prairie. With its double cranks, two persons would grind about a bushel of grain in an hour. Samuel Pratt, we are told, went to Cutler's to board in 1829 and a part of his board bill was paid by grinding half a bushel of shelled corn in Heald's mill every other day.
In 1828, Judge Luther Newton built a saw mill on Fawn River, then called Crooked Creek, and thereafter followed a long list of mill wrights who added so greatly to the prosperity of the county.
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The St. Joseph river furnished power and transportation. In 1845 Governor Berry built a warehouse on piles over the river so that flat boats, steamers and arks could unload directly within the building without extra hauling. The warehouse, after the railroad came, was moved to the river bank and became a part of the store of Barry and Eacker, still later a part of the Hotel Harvey at Constantine.
Many stories of early Sturgis concern the Fourth of July celebrations: In 1835, with Elias B. Smith as orator of the day, the patriotic crowd drank the toast -- "Sturgis Prairie -- May her farmers grow wealthy by industry and her pure air preserve the red cheeks of her fair daughters."
In 1839, there seems to have been a most impressive program with the Hon. J. G. Wait as presiding officer and Hon. John S. Chipman an eloquent speaker. It was whispered that the "Hon. Black Chip", as he was called, became more brilliant with each successive toast and neither wit not drink were stinted. In 1852 Sturgis again celebrated and this time had General Isaac D. Toll as marshall of the day, and Hon. William L. Stoughton as orator. Tommy Jones, a noted fiddler, enlivened the program first with fiddle and then with drum. "Several soldiers of 1812 were present and two Revolutionary soldiers -- Araunah Hibbard of Sturgis and the Rev. Edward Evans of Constantine.
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