Search billions of records on


Chicago F.A. Battey and Company Publishers 1882


By: Weston A. Goodspeed

Milford Township- Long List of Pioneers-Conjectures as to the First Settler-
First Township Election-A Backwoods Burial-Hunting Experiences-The Regulators-
The Underground Rail- Road-Mud Corners and South Milford-The Educator and the 
Moralist- Manufacturing Interests.

     The greater portion of the surface of Milford Township is extremely irregular and billowy; and to this may be traced the fact that the earliest settlers in the county passed on to land that could be subjected to cultivation much easier, and that would furnish a more bountiful crop for such labor. While it is mainly true that the greater number of  early settlers in the northern tier of townships came from the older settled locality in Southern Michigan, it is 
also true that the greater number of those in the southern tier first came to Fort Wayne, and thence up the Fort Wayne and Lima road, along which they entered their land. During the years 1836, 1837 and 1838, a great rush was made into Milford, the greater number of the following men locating in the township at that period: J. W. Austin, David Ackerman, S. A. Bartlett, John Barry, Jacob Butts, Charles Cope, Jared Cook, Arba Crane, Edmund Clark, Perry Case, Zopher Case (lived in Johnson), William Cochran, Harrison Dues, Brinkley Davis, Nelson Earl, William Fitch, Cornelious Gardiner, Stiles Goodsell, Isaac Holly, John C. Lonsbury, Luther Nesbit, John Nevil, Stephen D. Palmer, Gary P. Newman, William Nevil, Samuel Perkins, Enoch Perkins, Jacob Perkins, Amos Reynolds, Enos Randall, Henry Randall, Erastus 
Sturgis, Jacob Sturgis, Edward Shehan, Lyman Sherwood, John Searls and Charles Turner. Some of these men never lived in the township, simply owning the land, and paying tax on the same, and selling out at a small profit at an early day. Several of the men came in with grown-up families of boys, who soon made homes 
for themselves, and who are yet living to recount their lives of privation while the township was yet fresh from the hand of nature.

     The first settler in the township was probably Jacob Butts, although the year of his arrival is not known.
It was likely as early as 1834, and perhaps 1833, as he was known to have been in the township during the 
spring of 1835. There are some doubts, however, about his being the first settler, as Richard Rice, William 
Fitch and one or two others were living in the township during the spring of 1835, and might have been in a year 
or two before. The facts in the case cannot be learned with certainty; but it is probable that the three men mentioned (Jacob Butts, Richard Rice and William Fitch) came to the township some time during the year 1834. These conjectures will have to answer until someone is found who can satisfactorily unravel the tangle. It is said that a man named Bailey came in with Mr. Fitch, locating near him for a time; but afterward leaving for 
some other place. Mr. Butts was a German, and remained in the township until the gold excitement broke 
out in California, when he joined the tide of emigration westward. His daughter Caroline was married to George Thompson, of Springfield Township, in 1835, by Rev. T. B.Conley, the marriage, so far as known, being the first in the township. Richard Rice located on Section 3, where he remained but a short time. Fitch and Bailey established themselves in the southern part. The first white child born was a daughter of Mrs. Fitch, but the infant 
was feeble and soon died. This was probably the first death.

     During the summer of 1837, a number of citizens of the township petitioned the County Commissioners to set apart Township 36 north, Range 11 east of the Second Principal Meridian, and constitute the same a seperate township. In the petition it was suggested that the township be called Milford. In accordance with this petition, the
Commissioners, in September of the same year, ordered the creation of the township Milford, and the first 
election to be held at the residence of Samuel Avis, who was probably appointed Inspector. Charles Turner was elected Justice of the Peace, and Col. William Cochran Road Supervisor. The names of the other officers elected are not remembered. Milford was at first a part of Greenfield Township, but, after August, 1834, and 
prior to its seperate organization as stated above, it was attached to Springfield for election purposes. At this early day, the three officers of the greatest use were Justice, Constable and Pathmaster. There were no roads save winding trails through the woods, and about the first thing the early settlers were called upon to do was to 
assemble and place some new highway in passable condition. Much of the early tax collected was devoted to the expense of constructing roads. This gave great dignity to the name of Supervisor. Cases of assault and battery were almost every day occurences. It is amusing to examine the docket of some early Justice of the Peace, and notice the fines that were imposed for a violation of the rights of personal security. At almost every rolling or  raising, a bout at fisticuffs took place, resulting in blue eyes and bloody noses, and the subsequent fine for assault. Everybody drank whisky, not neccessarily to excess, but simply to realize the exhilarating effects. It was taken to cool in hot weather, and to warm in cold; to drown sorrow and assuage the pain of privation; to assist digestion and strengthen the weak. Mothers drank it to gain strength to endure; children were given it to make them 
healthy and strong; all took it because it was regarded as a panacea for all human disorders and one of the neccessaries of life. As all, at times, were under its influence, those of a quarrelsome disposition were often engaged in broils and fights; and then the servants of the law were required to do their duty. The Justice and the Constable were important personages then. And what a noise the early pettifoggers made! And then what eloquence! Then it was that every boy went home resolved in his heart to be a pettifogger. Nothing short of that would satiate his inordinate pride and ambition.

     The early settlers were compelled to endure many hardships unknown to the generations of to-day. Stores and mills were far distant, not only in miles, but from the fact that distances then, on account of the bottomless roads, were practically double what they are at present. Many had no team, some had oxen, and a few had horses. A good grist then was a bagful, and a few acres were a large field. Families lived on pork, corn bread and 
potatoes. Other articles were delicacies. Some families were extremely destitute. The tax duplicates at the county seat are filled with such expressions as "Too poor to pay," or "Gone away," or "Tax paid by Mr. So-and-so." 
This was true even when the tax amounted to but 50 cents. It is related that when Nathan Holly's second wife died, her own son John laid her out, and made the rude coffin with his own hands. James Cochran was called upon for assistance at the burial. He asked Evan Wright to accompany him. These two boys and John Holly were the only ones present at the interment of this pioneer mother. The poor woman had at last found rest in the embrace of death, and over her lonely grave the robin and the wren chirped their requiem of triumph- a dirge of rest to her soul. She was buried in the southern part of the township.

     Of course the woods, in early years, were filled with wild game. Deer in small herds were every-day sights,
and those who were accustomed to the use of the rifle, and knew anything of the habits of these animals, found no difficulty in killing as many as they desired. Venison was a common article of food on the pioneer tables. Wild turkeys were very numerous, and, it is said, were often so fat that when they were shot to the ground from the 
tops of high trees, the skin upon their backs burst open like a ripe pod. This is vouched for by more than one old settler. Wolves were numerous and troublesome. They often found their way into sheep-folds at night and destroyed many or all of the flock. Then it was that the old settler breathed maledictions of revenge toward the marauder. On one occassion, Henry Randall fired into a pack of  these ferocious animals, and at one lucky shot killed three. Bears were sometimes seen, but only rarely. About thirty-five years ago, a number of men with dogs, started a bear from some swamp in Noble County, and chased it into Milford Township. Isaac Carpenter, who was hunting in the woods, encountered the animal and shot it. It is said that Ed Dyer in one day killed five 
deer. Those who were familiar with the habits of these animals always endeavored to shoot the buck or leader of the herd, as in that case the others would stop, thus giving the hunter time to reload. It was often the case that, if 
the hunt was properly managed, the entire herd fell before the rifle of the hunter. Minot Goodsell tells that, to the best of his knowledge, he on one occasion killed three deer at one shot. The circumstances were about as follows:
    One morning, late in autumn, after a heavy snow of the previous night, Mr.Goodsell put his horses to the sled and started out to hunt deer, knowing that it would be an excellent time. He drove several miles in a southerly direction, and, while crossing a road, saw three deer bound across the track in front of him. He got a good shot at one, but for some reason missed it. He continued to drive on through the woods, until finally he discovered the 
tracks of four deer, and in a few minutes later saw them coming back, whereupon he concealed himself and shot 
at one of the herd, but again missed, much to his chagrin. The one shot at seemed to seperate from the rest, as the other three started rapidly in the direction of Mr. Dryer's, and soon entered a dense brushy marsh. Mr. Goodsell hitched his team and crept into the marsh, watching cautiously for another shot. At last he saw one of 
the deer just over the ridge of a snowbank. He made proper calculations and fired through the upper edge of the drift, expecting to strike the deer in a vital spot, but again he was doomed to disappointment, as the three deer dashed out and scampered away through the snow. He followed them some distance, and noticed that one of 
them was wounded, as blood drops could be seen on the snow. At last he saw them some distance ahead. One
was pawing up the snow, and a minute later it lay down, and the others came back and also lay down near it. 
Mr. Goodsell crept around so as to get a large log (which was rendered quite high by the foot and a half of 
snow on it) between him and his animals, and then succeeded in creeping through the sound-deadening snow to within ten yards of the prostrate animals. After looking a moment, he crept back a few paces, and, quickly 
cocking his gun, rose suddenly to his feet. The animals leaped up like a flash, but the rifle of the hunter rang out on the morning air, and the nearest deer (the wounded one) fell dead in the snow, while the other two bounded off at full speed. He bled the dead animal and then started after the others, and then noticed for the first time that one of the latter was bleeding. Within a quarter of a mile it was found dying in the snow. It was bled, and the hunter started after the other, when to his astonishment it was found also to be bleeding. At last he found it badly wounded, in a little clump of bushes, and dispatched it with his knife. All three deer had undoubtedly been shot with the same bullet. The first one had five bullet holes in its hide, three of which had been made before it was last wounded; but at all events the last shot brought it down. The other two were undoubtedly mortally wounded by 
the last shot. The three dead animals were loaded on the sled and taken home. It is related that Henry Randall, one day, saw a large bear in an oak tree eating acorns, whereupon he advanced, fired, and brought it dead to the ground. Col. William Cochran brought with him from Marion County, Ohio, three well-trained Siberian blood-
hounds. They were savage animals and had to be watched. One day they were heard off in the woods baying at some animal they had brought to a stand, whereupon one or more of the boys went out with his gun to see what was the matter. He found that the dogs had driven a catamount into the top of a large perpendicular branch of a slanting tree, and one of the dogs had succeeded in reaching the foot of the branch, and was standing baying on 
the slanting trunk, while the others were on the ground twenty feet underneath. At the approach of the boy, and before he could get a shot, the catamount leaped to the ground, breaking its fall on a small ash tree beneath, and, running a short distance, ran up a very high tree and lay down lengthwise on a branch at the extreme top. As it leaped from the slanting tree, the dog on the trunk at the foot of the branch leaped after it, and was badly hurt by the fall. The boy hurried up, and, taking aim at the catamount, fired, and the animal, with a convulsive spring, fell 
the whole distance to the ground, probably dying before it struck. Many other incidents of a similar nature might 
be related if space permitted.

Volunteer transcription by Pati Blowers May. Material for transcription gathered by Barbara Henderson. 

On to Milford Township Part 2

Return to 1882 History Index

Return to Home Page

Graphics from-