By Col. Charles DICKEY
[Read before the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan, February 2,
The centennial year of our national existence is upon us, and this seems a fitting
occasion as the representatives of Michigan pioneers to exchange greetings, compare notes
and recollections of the trials, pleasures, and conquests of our early days in Michigan.
A large portion of the pioneers of our State came here young and, generally, poor, with
just money enough to buy their homes and pay their natural expenses in the near future.
There are but few left of our very earliest settlers to relate the interesting events that
occurred in those times in the history of our respective localities. Those who came first
were ardent and joyous. Although early historians represented Michigan unfavorably, still
those settlers hoped much from an unknown future when life's best business was little
thought of, but with many of us now begun in real earnest.
These memories of the past which we meet to discuss oil these stated occasions, will
increase and brighten with age while life remains. And these recollections remind us of
our happiest days, while enjoying the society of those near and dear to us, long since
It is always pleasant as we attend these pioneer gatherings to take a retrospective
view of life, now that we are able to realize that those golden opportunities of early
life are past and gone. Michigan is our home, here we raised our children, and here we
expect to spend our declining years, fully persuaded that when we are gone our children
will discharge the responsibilities of life with credit to themselves and their ancestors.
It was many years after the first settlement of Michigan that Calhoun was first
settled, as our lands were not in market until October 1830. Sidney KETCHUM, the
recognized pioneer of our county, came in August 1830, in search of a home and a fortune
in the future. On his way here from Clinton county, NY, he made the acquaintance of Samuel
CAMP of Ann Arbor, who was persuaded to pilot him through the new counties of Jackson,
Calhoun, and Kalamazoo, prospecting. The lands of our county were to be in market at the
Monroe Land Office in October, and this being a delightful season of the year for travel
in the wilds of Michigan, with the inconveniences naturally incident to a journey upon
Indian trails only, they became so much interested in the country they decided to locate
here. Mr. Ketchum took minutes of the land covering the water powers at the forks of
Kalamazoo, now Albion, and at Rice creek at its junction with the Kalamazoo at Marshall;
and on their way to Kalamazoo in search of floats, overtook Judge ELDRED and Ruel STARR on
Bear Plains three miles west of Marshall, where they went prospecting down the valley to
Comstock creek, where Eldred and Starr remained, when Ketchum and Camp made for Titus
Bronson's -- familiarly called Potato BRONSON. He had his shanty up at Kalamazoo. Bronson
was Camp's neighbor at Ann Arbor, and had introduced the Neshannock potato into Michigan
and had that year raised 700 bushels on an acre, the avails of which paid for the claim
then made. Bronson afterwards located these lands, and in the May following John ALLEN,
Calvin SMITH, and Orange RIDSON, commissioners, located the county site of Kalamazoo
county. Bronson bargained his claim that evening with Ketchum, but in the morning, the
family objecting, it was abandoned. Noble MCKINSTRY was found at Schoolcraft, who arranged
with Ketchum to procure floats and locate two parcels of land in Calhoun county when the
land office opened at Monroe in October (this was in August) for a commission of
seventy-five per cent, McKinstry to go by way of Detroit for his money on Ketchum's check.
Ketchum and Camp at once returned to Marshall, and on their way called on Judge Eldred
at Comstock creek, where they learned that Starr had returned to Marshall with eight day's
rations to establish a claim. This news excited Ketchum, who hastened back to Marshall
where he found Starr slashing brush and marking trees to make good his claim. Ketchum at
once negotiated with Starr for his claim, giving him the $100 and gun which Bronson was to
have for the claim at Kalamazoo. Camp in the meantime discovered that a Mr. BLUSHFIELD was
ahead, and had not only marked trees at the section corners and quarter posts, but had a
load of lumber brought from Flowerfield which it took him two weeks to haul. Blushfield
was soon found building a log tavern at Slab City, Jackson county when Ketchum made all
satisfactory by paying Blushfield a gun and $75.
Messrs. Ketchum, Camp and Starr returned to Ann Arbor. Very soon Ketchum and Starr went
back to New York. Afterwards Starr located in Porter county, Iowa, where he amassed a
fortune and died last summer.
On the 15th of October Noble McKinstry located tile west half of southeast quarter,
section 28, 72 South, range 6 west, 67 acres, covering the water power at Marshall, and
the 16th of October, Ephraim HANSON located the south half of the northeast quarter,
section 2, 73 south range 4 west, Albion. These lands Ketchum expected would be located in
his name, the only lands located in Calhoun county in 1830. There were some fifty parcels
taken early in 1831, George Ketchum came to Marshall to build mills, with Mr. and Mrs.
BALL, H. P. WISNER, and four others. Abram DAVISON and Jotham WOOD came in February 1831
located the 160 acres, the original village plat of Marshall, on which the county site was
located by Roger S. MAY. Thomas ROWLAND and Joseph W. TORRY, commissioners appointed by
Gov. MASON July 31, 1831, and by proclamation of Gov. Mason, October 7, 1831, duly
On the 17th JuIv 1831, Isaac N. HURD, Lucias LYON, George Ketchum, H. H. COMSTOCK, and
John Bertram located twelve parcels in Marshall township, and during that year A. L. HAYS,
John D. Pierce, John I. GUERNSEY, Stephen KIMBALL, Sidney S. ALCOTT, Thomas and Peter
CHISHOLM. Henry COOK, Henry FALING, Ezra and Samuel CONVIS, Nathan PIERCE, Nathaniel
BARNEY, Polodon HUDSON, Thomas J. HURLBERT, Asahel WARNER, Thomas BURLAND, Thomas KNIGHT,
S. G. CROSSMAN, Solomon M. ALLEN, H. P. Wisner, Dowena WILLIAMS, Josiah GODARD, Powel
GROOM, Oshea WILDER, and many others came to this county
Calhoun county first attached to St. Joseph for judicial purposes in 1829, and to
Kalamazoo in 1831. July 29th 1832, Calhoun county, by act of Territorial Legislature,
organized into one township, Marshall, March 6th, 1833 an act of the Legislature fully
organizing the county for judicial purposes and the first session of circuit court
November 7th, W. A. FLETCHER presiding; Eleazer MCCONELY, associate. A grand and petit
jury was summoned with 0shea Wilder foreman. All discharged for want of, business. For a
farther history of [he judiciary of Calhoun county I refer you to Judge WOODRUFF 's
remarks made at the dedication of our new courthouse, the 18th of January, 1875.
In the early settlement of Calhoun county men had money to buy lands for their homes
Some had money to buy on speculation Then we had no saloons for laboring-saving purposes
and loafing was not at all agreeable. In those early times every man was a neighbor; now
some go fifty miles to find one. This one is too rich, that one not rich enough, or his
politics or religion is wrong. No trouble of that kind in our early associations, for all
were then poor and felt it no disgrace. Then we had no roads, and sometimes in going to
balls and bees in timbered lands the crotched sled hauled by oxen was used, and if
perchance in getting over a large log the party would slip off behind, it made no
difference; a "gal" had quite as many invitations to dance as though she had not
slipped off the sled. Then we had "slews" of foot visiting,-wonien and children
in the afternoon, husbands and beaux in file evening for a dance.
Early in 1831 several families came to Calhoun county, Dr. HAYS, Peter Chisholm, John
D. PIERCE, Randall HOBART, Charles D. SMITH, Samuel Camp, and others. There was
considerable building done that season The first house was built by FULLER on Bear Plains,
and while building, MULLETT, commissioner to locate University lands, quartered on Fuller
with his party, eating his rations and drinking his whisky. To comfort him for his
hospitality, Mullett pointed out the north line of six sections of University land then
located with Fuller's house some ten or twelve rods on the University land. Fuller became
disgusted, went back to Ann Arbor and gave the house to Samuel Camp, who located three
lots immediately north of' this land, moved the house, and afterwards sold to John
Bertram, who lived there while building the first framed house and barn in Calhoun county
in 1730, L. G. Crossman master mechanic. At the raising was John D. Pierce, Sidney
Ketchum, Deacon SPENCER, Marvin PRESTON, Isaac N.
Hurd, Crary and Ketchum to hold the foot
of the posts.
In 1832 quite a rush for land took place and lasted till the Black Hawk war broke out
in May, and in June the cholera, Making sad work with our weak settlement. More than half
the population of Marshall died -- of that number Isaac N. Hurd and Mrs. John D. Pierce,
the latter buried in the night by her husband and Randall Hobart. No female hand to aid in
burying this refined and cultivated woman, who used to sing "Sweet Home" as none
other could. She would impart to if such a pathos that a tear-drop would start to the eye
of the listener.
Luther H. HAYS, born October, 1831, was the first boy born in the county and Emeline
Chisholm the first girl, was born in January 18,12. Our people were obliged to go to
Dexter east, and Flowerfield west, to do the milling. The mail accommodated us once a
week. Mrs. George Ketchum took the care, of it; it was kept in a cigar box.
The Marshall and Comstock mills started late in 1832. Afterwards a strife arose between
Sidney Ketchum and H. H. . Comstock as to the head of steam navigation on the Kalamazoo.
Comstock lost the county seat of Kalamazoo, when Ketchum claimed the prize. Marshall was
lithographed with steamboats and flags flying as the future Capital of the State.
Actual settlers came to our count in large numbers in 1833 and 1834, but most of the
lands were taken in 1835 and 1836 Our population increased rapidly so that during our
first decade we increased to 10,999; in 1850, to 19,169; in 1860, to 29,398, and the
fourth decade, to 1870, 36,571. In 1840 Michigan raised 2,157,108 bushels of wheat and
153,000 lbs. of wool. In 1850, 4,893,141 bushels of wheat and 2,000,000 Ibs. of wool. In
1860, 8,171,688 bushels of wheat and 3,929,113 lbs. of wool. In 1870, 16,296,989 bushels
of wheat: and 8.864,989 Ibs. of wool.
Your speaker bought the first wool sold for money in six counties in 1837, being
Calhoun Kalamazoo, Barry, Eaton Jackson and Branch, and then got less than 8,000 lbs.
To John D. Pierce and Isaac E. Crary who came to Calhoun county in 1831, is due the
credit of organizing our present system of public schools, which proves to be one of the
noblest features of our country. They, too, had much to do in securing the 72 sections of
University land, and section 16 of every town in the State for primary schools, besides
salt spring lands and internal improvement lands -- not swamp lands.
How true it is that the world knows little of its greatest men, here is an instance.
While these men may not compare in some respects with those who invented gunpowder, the
mariner's compass, the application of steam or the discovery of America, yet we are made
to realize quite as much real benefit from the free schools of Michigan as from either one
of those discoveries if such a comparison is admissible.
Speaking of railroads when our county was organized there was not a mile of railroad in
America and only thirty-two miles in Europe. George Stephenson's "Rocket,"
invented in 18,31, was the first locomotive that could haul three times its own weight, at
the rate of twelve miles an hour. A Pennsylvanian invented a tubular boiler that same year
and expected to compete with Stephenson for a prize or 550 pounds sterling but while
experimenting his machine jumped the track and he was killed. Michigan's first,
locomotive, named "Rocket," was landed here in 1837, -- not a mile of railroad
then in Michigan. Now thirty-four separate roads pay a specific tax to the State, and
probably full 75,000 miles of track is in running order in the United States today.
Now, Mr. President, as I am trespassing upon time which can better be occupied by
others, I will come to a conclusion. I take pleasure in inviting all persons front far and
near to join us in our semi-centennial sometime in 1880 as a sort of old folks' reunion,
when not only every town in Calhoun county can be represented with their relics, but all
the pioneers of the State. When the aged and the honored may be cheered and refreshed;
when the young men and women may be reminded of the responsibilities resting upon them,
and of the debt of gratitude and respect they owe the noble men and women who under
difficulties, laid the foundation strong and deep by which we have become a prosperous,
cultivated and happy people.