Pioneer Society Collections
Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan Together with Reports of County, Town and District Pioneer Societies
1877 pages 285-301 Muskegon

Part 2- The Centennial History of Muskegon
By HENRY H. HOLT

    The history of Muskegon, so far as we have been able to learn any items in regard to it, has its origins in 1812, when John Baptiste Recollect began to occupy a trading post, which was situated about twenty rods west of the Raddiman Flouring Mill, at the mouth of Bear Lake. This was the first trading post on Muskegon lake, and was occupied for a number of years, the remains of the chimney still being visible as late as 1836. In the spring of 1812 it became necessary for Recollect to go to the military station at the mouth of St. Joseph river, and he made the trip in one day, having swam the Grand and Kalamazoo rivers, and forded the other streams.
    Mr. Constant, the father of Mrs. William Lasley, built the next trading post, near the A. M. Allen & Co. mill, which he occupied in the winter for about thirty years. The next was built in 1830 by Joseph Daily, near the Rogers foundry, and was occupied by him until 1834, when he sold it to Louis B. Baddeau.
    George Campau also built a trading post in 1833, near the present site of the White, Swan & Smith mill, and occupied it until 1835.
    The territory embraced within the limits of the present townships of Norton, Fruitport, Ravenna, Chester, Moorland, Cazenovia, Eggleston, Muskegon, Laketon, Lakeside, and the city of Muskegon, was organized by a provision of section 11 of an act of the State Legislature, approved December 30, 1837 into one township, and called Maskego. The act was passed at the first session after the State was admitted into the Union. This section was repealed in 1838, and the same territory was organized as the township of Muskegon, and the first town meeting was appointed to be held at the house of Newell & Wilcox. At this time, and for several years after, there was quite a diversity of opinion in regard to the correct spelling of the name, as will appear by reference to various acts of subsequent legislatures. In 1841 an act was passed, by the provisions of which the unorganized county of Oceana was attached to the township of Muskegon for judicial purposes, and in 1843 certain territory was detached from the township of Muskego and organized into the township of Norton. This confusion in regard to the name ended at the establishment of Muskegon postoffice in 1848.
    The first township meeting was held in 1838, when township officers were elected, among whom was Henry Penoyer, supervisor. But little was done in the way of township business for several years, often no taxes being assessed. Township meetings were often omitted entirely, the old officers holding over.
    George Ruddiman held the office of supervisor several years during this time. In 1847 Geo. W. Walton was elected supervisor, and the township having increased somewhat in population, taxes were assessed and business regularly transacted after that time. The old township records were destroyed in the great fire of August 1st, 1874.
    The land in this part of Michigan was brought into market in 1839. The first attempt that was made to claim and hold any of the land now embraced in the city limits was made by a Mr. Taylor in December, 1836, who built a shanty on lot one of section nineteen, near where the Washington House now stands. He retained possession for a few months and then sold his claim to Horace Wilcox, who afterwards entered the land. Theodore Newell soon became the owner, who platted a portion of it in 1849, which was the first plat of Muskegon. This plat embraces that part of the city lying east and north of a line running from the Chapin & Foss mill to the old cemetery, and thence east along the north line of Mills & Furlong's addition to H. D. Baker's residence.
    Another tract of land that has since become very valuable is lot two, section thirty, which was entered May 2, 1833, by Elias and Isaac D. Merrill, and Josiah P. Dana. This land is that part of the city  lying south of the line running from the old cemetery to the Bigelow Bro.'s mill, and between Mills & Furlong's addition and Muskegon lake. On this property at the present time are several of the most valuable mills in Muskegon. There were no frame buildings in Muskegon until 1837, when Theodore Newell and Erastus Wilcox erected a boarding house, which stood near the C. Davis & Co. boarding house.
    Horace Wilcox put up a small dwelling the same year near where the Hofstra home now stands. The first village plat was made in 1849, but nothing of any account was done for several years towards opening the streets, and the hill was so steep where Western avenue and Pine street now are that a man could not ride up on horseback. Village lots must have been at a discount, from the fact that two lots on which the Hofstra home now stands, were once sold for forty-five dollars. Nothing was done towards opening the roads leading into the surrounding country until 1846. At this time Mr. Ryerson cut out the road to Ravenna, to connect with the road from that place to Grand Rapids, which had already been cut out and was in a condition to be traveled. Ravenna township was detached from Muskegon and organized in 1849.


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