History of St. Clair County, Michigan
by A.T. Andreas
History of St. Clair County
 Among the first American settlers of Clay were John K. Smith, Aura P. Stewart, George Harrow, Jacob Pier, Eben Westbrook, Ira Marks, S. Miller, H. Robertson and others named among the patentees of United States lands in the township. The town was organized under the name of Plainfield in 1822, which name it continued to obtain until 1828, when it was re-organized as Clay, as related in the organic history of the county. It includes the Islands of Stromness and Harsens.
Algonac is the principal village of the township. There a Catholic Mission was established at a very early date, and there, also, the first Methodist Episcopal Church society was formed in 1821, under Mr. Griffith, of the Canadian Methodist Mission. The village was founded by John K. Smith, who settled there in 1816. In 1830, the Methodists erected a church building, the same which, in later years, was the residence of Mr. Russell.
FIRST LAND BUYERS.
Andrew Westbrook, Section 1; Jacob Pier, Section 2, September 17, 1822; James H. Cook, Section 3, May 15, 1839; James H. Cook, Section 9, May 15, 1839; James Beauvais, Section 9, May 15, 1839; Charles Paquette, Section 9, May 15, 1839; A. Ebaire, Section 9, May 15, 1839; Ira Davenport, Section 9, May 15, 1839; Luther Stoddard, Section 10, May 15, 1839; Lansing B. Mizner, Section 10, May 15, 1839; Constance Loisselle, Section 10, May 15, 1839; Henry Connor, Section 15, May 15, 1839; Timothy Boyer, Section 15, May 15, 1839; Stephen Chortier, Section 15, May 15, 1839; Ed. R. Kearsley, Section 15, May 15, 1839; Augustine Fauche, Section 15, May 15, 1839; Louis Beaufait, Section 15, May 15, 1839; John Dalloz, Section 16, May 15, 1839; Stephen Rose, Section 16, May 15, 1839; Francis Morass, P. C. 614, May 15, 1839; Pierre Yax, P. C. 627, May 15, 1839. The Chippewa Reservation was subsequently sold. Edmund Purcelle, Section 2; Andrew Westbrook, Section 3, May, 23, 1828; Jacob Pier, Section -, May 23, 1832; Peter F. Brakeman, Section -, June 8, 1833; William T. Marks, Section 3, April 11, 1834; Lambert Canchois, Section 3, June 10, 1834; Henry Robinson, Section 3, October 13, 1835; Mark H. Sibley, Section 3, March 2, 1836; Clark W. Newhall, Section 4, December 6, 1832; Robert and Leonard Smith, Section 4, 1835; Lewis Goddard, Section 4, 1835; George A. O'Keefe, Section 4, 1835; Luce and Jones, Section 4, June 2, 1836; Amos B. Henkley, Section 9; August McDonald, Section 10; John Maine, Section 10; Private Claims 203, 211, 198, 309, 202, 301, 196, 197 and 190, as described in chapter on French Pioneers, belong to this township.
Albert Miller & Co., of Bay City, bought 1,400 acres of marsh land in the town of Clay, known as the Point Tremble Prairie, in November, 1882, and made a dyke around the whole tract, with a view of reclaiming the land for agricultural purposes. Mr. Clark, of Detroit, had the contract for building the dyke, for $9,000. He commenced work with one dredge about the first of September, and about the first of October put on another, operating in the opposite direction. They calculated, with favorable weather, to meet about the 25th of November, having about a mile each to dredge. The whole distance, when completed, will be about twelve miles. The ditch is thirty-two feet wide and four and one-half feet deep. The clay is all thrown to the outside. They will put in steam engines and commence pumping out the water as soon as the dyke is finished. They calculate it will take at least a year to get the land dry enough for cultivation. This will be a death blow to stock-raising at the point, as this marsh was used for pasture from the beginning of settlement. If the work of reclaiming proves a success, the land will be valuable, as there is upon it an average of at least two feet of black loam.
Harvey Stewart, 1828-33; Charles Kimball, 1834; Jacob Kendall, 1835; Charles Kimball, 1836; Jacob Kendall, 1837; Commissioners Board, 1838-41; Harvey Stewart, 1842; Daniel Daniels, 1843-44; J. Kline, 1845; Chester Kimball, 1846-48; George Jasperson, 1849; Chester Kimball, 1850-51; Isaac Kline, 1852-55; Daniel Daniels, 1856; A. P. Stewart, 1857-59; J. D. Butterfield, 1860-61; Samuel Russell, 1862; Isaac Kline, 1863; G. G. Stewart, 1864-68; Samuel Russell, 1869; A. B. Smith, 1870; Samuel Russell, 1871; J. B. Kendall, 1872; G. G. Stewart, 1873-74; Samuel Russell, 1875-76; J. M. Robertson, 1877-78; James P. Harrow, 1879; Daniel G. Jones, 1880; John M. Robertson, 1881.
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE.
John K. Smith, 1837; Jacob G. Street, 1838; Jacob Kendall, 1839; Joel Tucker, 1840; John K. Smith, 1841; Jacob G. Street, 1842; Jacob Kendall, 1843; Aura P. Stewart, 1844; John K. Smith, 1845; Jacob G. Street, 1846; Jacob Kendall, 1847; Aura P. Stewart, 1848; John K. Smith, 1849; Jacob G. Street, 1850; Joseph W. Gear, 1851; Austin Bostick, 1851; Jacob Kimball, 1852; John K. Smith, 1853; Isaac Klein, 1854; Joseph W. Gear, 1857; Michael Jackson, 1858; Jacob Kendall, 1859; Larkin Hatch, 1859; Aura P. Stewart, 1860; Samuel Russell, 1861; James D. Butterfield, 1862; Jacob Kendall, 1863; Isaac Klein, 1864; J. W. Gear, 1865; Jacob Kendall, 1867; William Baird, 1868; D. G. Jones, 1869; Benjamin Swartout, 1870; Isaac Klein, 1870-74; E. A. Buckington, 1871; William Baird, 1872; D. G. Jones, 1873; J. M. Robertson, 1875; Ezra H. Buddington, 1876; Aura P. Stewart, 1877; L. M. Davis, 1878; J. M. Robertson, 1879; Chester Kimball, 1880; William Woolluff, 1881.
The equalized valuation of Clay is $228,423. The population in 1845 was 569, in 1850, 721; in 1864, 1,327; in 1870, 1,475; and in 1880, 1,523. The area is 10,000 acres; number of school children, 506.
From the paper prepared a few years ago by the Rev. Mr. Parish, the following facts are taken: The first minister of the Gospel that visited this county came to the residence of Harvey Stewart, on Harsen's Island, in the winter of 1818. He was a Methodist preacher by the name of Dixon. There were but three families on the Island at the time, all of who assembled at Mr. Stewart's house to hear Mr. Dickson's discourse, which was the first sermon preached by a Protestant minister in St. Clair County. But let us pause for a moment to inquire how these few families happened to be living on this verdant isle. Jacob Harsen and his son-in-law, Isaac Graveraet, were the first settlers on Harsen's Island. Harsen was a gunsmith, and Mr. Graveraet a silversmith; they came from the city of Albany, N.Y., for the purpose of dealing with the Indians; they selected the Island, since called Harsen, as their place of business, and purchased it from the Indians under the sanction of the British Government. Soon after, however, Mr. Graveraet died, leaving his wife and children in the care of their grandfather, Mr. Harsen. The war soon broke out, and Mr. Harsen with all his family was compelled to abandon his home and take refuge in Detroit. Here Mrs. Graveraet met, and in the winter of 1814, was married to, Harvey Stewart. The war closed in February, 1815, and in April Mr. Stewart moved his family and goods up to Harsen's Island, and took possession of the house and lands of his wife.
In the autumn of this year, his two boys, Aura P. and John H. Stewart, who had been left in New York State in care of their grandmother, were brought to their father's Western home. After a journey of about a month, full of novel incidents to inexperienced lads, they arrived at their father's house, at about 8 o'clock one evening in November of 1815.
The early impressions of Aura P. Stewart of this new and wonderful country as recorded by him in a series of memoirs contributed to the Marine City Gazette in 1876, are most natural and vivid, and almost transport one back to the scenes described. These memoirs can be found in the general history in this volume. We copy a paragraph here: "Coming as I did from an inland and thickly settled district, I had seen no flowing water save brooks and rivulets. I had seen no forest but in the distance, and though but a boy of twelve, I could not but feel impressed with the beauty of my new home. The  dense and almost impenetrable forests, the magnificent River St. Clair, the countless number of every variety of water fowls flying over my head or resting and sporting on the bosom of the beautiful waters, the howling of wolves at night, the constantly passing and repassing canoes of the strange looking Indians, their stealthy tread through the woods, and their unintelligible shouts as they passed each other, and last but not least, the merry songs of the French voyageurs toiling at the oar and propelling their boats swiftly over the blue waters - these were new scenes to me, and called forth my wonder and delight. Nearly sixty years of my life having been spent in Michigan, I have witnessed the improvements made in the county of St. Clair; flourishing towns have sprung up, and a large portion of our older settlers have become wealthy; all have shared in the convenience of modern improvements and comforts; but yet, for my own part, I could enjoy no greater pleasure than, for a short time, to see Michigan as I saw it in 1815, wild and romantic as it then was. Fancy ofttimes leads me back to the dear old primitive days, and then I am a boy again. Alas, the vision lingers not; I am an old man with increasing infirmities, and nothing is left me but the memory of the past."
I have given these items and this paragraph a place in my sketch for several reasons. First: Mr. Stewart being the oldest living immigrant in St. Clair County, we may be justly proud of his residence here.
Secondly: I am indebted to him for several valuable items of information, embodied herein.
Thirdly: As we have seen, the first Methodist sermon preached in St. Clair County, was in his father's house; who, though a Calvinistic Baptist, kindly opened his house for the early itinerants until they organized societies able to support their own ministers.
After awhile they began to have preaching at the house of Widow Stafford, at Point Aux Tremble in the old Harrow House, and subsequently in the office of J. K. Smith. They continued to be visited by ministers, occasionally, from that time forward, both from Canada and the Ohio Conference, until it became a regular appointment in 1823. Some of those who paid one or more visits to this section during this interval, were Williams, Jones, Huston, Demorest, Slater, Parker and Adams.
The earliest visitor of note that reached Algonac was the renowned William Case, who, under God, was the founder of Protestantism in Michigan, and who was familiarly called the "Father" of missionary work in the Northwest. Father Case was appointed P. E. of the Upper Canada District, which then embraced all the territory lying contiguous to the American shore, July 20, 1820; and some time during his quadrennial of service, in the oversight of his district, is said to have visited Algonac, then called Pointe Du Chesne.
The Genesee Conference of 1823, admitted William Griffes on trial, and he, with James Jackson as P. E., were appointed to the Thames Circuit, which must have included Algonac. It is probable that Mr. Griffes was given the principal oversight of the western portion, since Mr. Jackson is only remembered as having paid a few visits to this section. By authority of the General Conference which met at Baltimore May 1, 1825, the Canada Conference was created, and at its first session in the fall of that year, the western portion of what had been called the Thames Circuit was set off for a new circuit called St. Clair, and Mr. Griffes was appointed preacher. And it was he without doubt who organized class paper dated December 23, 1824, which has upon one side, "Class paper for the 2nd Class upon the St. Clair River. John K. Smith, Leader; William Griffes, Jr., Preacher." And upon the other side the names of the class as follows:
"John K. Smith, Leader; Catharine Smith, Charles Phillips, Derutia Phillips, Catharine Harrow, George Harrow, Mary Grummond, Jacob G. Streit, Sarah Robeson, Rachael Ward," and then, near the bottom, separated from the rest, included in brackets, is this: "Colored, Harry Sanders." How long the society had existed prior to this date, is not exactly known; but it had existed; for on the paper its shows that a class-meeting was held on the 19th of December and the attendance of the members is marked.
Mr. Griffes is described as being at the time a small, young, light-haired, rosy-cheeked, energetic man, and as having a very handsome wife, whatever extra advantage that may be to  a preacher. He died in Wisconsin a few years ago. And here let us turn aside a little, while we consider the past history, present relation, and future fortunes of some of the members of this little company of frontier Methodists. John K. Smith was born in New York, and at the breaking-out of the war of 1812 was serving his county as Sheriff. Early in the war, he connected himself with a regiment, and remained with it until it disbanded at Detroit in 1816. Among the discharged men of that regiment were two experienced potters, who being indebted to Mr. Smith, consented to remain in the Territory and enter his employ if he would establish a pottery. Mr. Smith, on ascertaining that no brown earthen ware had ever been manufactured in Michigan, and that the prospect for a ready sale was good, sought for a place to establish his pottery. He came up the River St. Clair, found an old vacant house on Stromness' Island, leased it, and in May, 1817, had his pottery in full operation, continuing the business until late in the fall of that year. In the winter of 1818, he was induced by Harvey Stewart to teach school on Harsen's Island. At this time there were only four families on Harsen's Island, viz., William, Jacob and Francis Harsen and Harvey Stewart, but there were several scholars from Point Aux Tremble, residing, making in all a school of twenty-five or thirty scholars. Here he met, and the next year married, Miss Catharine McDonald, whose parents had in 1805 come over with Lord Selkirk's colony and settled at Beldoon, but at the close of the war removed to Stromness' Island. He established his residence on what was then considered the most pleasant location in the neighborhood - on the exact site of young Cuthbertson's new house - this he designated "Point Office." A few years after he removed - house and all - to the spot still occupied by the "Smith Mansion," being the first settler on the site of the present village.
Shortly after, however, Ira Marks, Ebenezer Westbrook and Silas Miller, bought and settled upon the land in the order named, stretching southward from his to the point. Mr. Smith was commissioned by Gen. Cass as Justice of the Peace, the first on St. Clair River, March 17, 1818, which office he held to the day of his death.
When he settled at Point Office, and at Algonac, litigants from all parts of the country came before him to have their causes adjudicated, and his business exceeded that of the County Court for many years. But it may, and ought to be said in this connection, that he never encouraged, but rather discouraged litigation, and the peacemaker's blessing is truly his. His popularity was very great, as the single fact that up to the time of his demise he could show a greater record of marriages than any, if not all the Justices in St. Clair County, would clearly show; and was gained through his judicious judgments and straightforward, conscientious attention to duty and business. August 26, 1826, he was appointed first Postmaster at Algonac, and in the county, then called Plainfield, and afterward, Clay, until the village which was laid out in 1836, and called Manchester, but soon changed to Algonac, since which time the post office has been known by that name. He was appointed Special Commissioner for the county of St. Clair, by Gov. Cass, April 20, 1827. He was also made the first Custom Inspector on this part of the American shore, commencing the discharge of this office May 1, 1832. In 1836, he was elected the first Probate Judge of St. Clair County, over his opponent, George McDonald, an old Detroit lawyer. Dr. Pilcher says of him, "We found him to be a man of ability and piety, and a decided Methodist. He was a very worthy Christian gentleman."
He united with the church under Elder Adams and was appointed the first class leader by William Griffes, which position, together with that of Trustee and Circuit Steward, he filled with great acceptability for many years. His home was always a refuge for the weary itinerant, who shared his hospitality and left his blessing. He died in great peace, April 14, 1855, aged sixty-nine years. His funeral sermon was preached by Rev. A. Jameison, in the Methodist Church, from 2 Samuel, iii, 38, and his body was laid to rest in the cemetery, while his spirit returned to God who gave it; appropriately enough, a plain, substantial monument with his name, date of death, and age inscribed upon it, marks his last resting place. No epitaph is there, for he needs none. His life speaks volumes in testimony of the good he did and is unerring prophecy of the reward upon which he has entered.
Of the eleven original members, only three survive the pale sheeted nations of the dead;  these are Catharine Dunlap, George Harrow and Catharine Smith. Mrs. Dunlap was a prompt and faithful member of the society up to the time of her removal from Algonac, and now, in failing old age, resides at Mount Clemens.
Mr. Harrow, for reasons unknown to us, soon withdrew from the church. He still lives in his beautiful home, surrounded by an honored and happy family, about two miles above the village, in a very active old age, and never fails to give us a most cordial welcome when we call. The "Mother of Algonac Methodism" still lives to tell the story of Jesus and his love, and to proclaim her devotion to the church she loves so well. She was converted at home, at the age of ten, and like John Wesley, knows the time and place when her "heart was so strangely warmed." As the wife of Brother Smith, she ministered to the comfort of many a weary minister of Jesus. In her active life, she was fervent and devoted and always in her place. The last time she was at church was on the occasion of the first quarterly meeting, in November, 1879. She remembered the dying Lord in the simple emblems of the sacrament, and left, as usual, a bright, clear testimony that even yet lingers as a precious perfume. But, perhaps we can do no better than to insert here the letter addressed to the pastor and church on the occasion of our Semi-Centennial Jubilee, at the Jackson House, on Friday evening, February 27, 1880:
BELOVED BRETHREN: I deem it a privilege to send my offering on this, to us, great and happy occasion. Although absent in body, I am present in spirit. The pains of earth nor the prospect of the joys of heaven can make me forget my beloved church. I have enjoyed her blessings for fifty-six years; and I pray for her prosperity and God's blessing on all her interests. Your sister in the Lord, CATHARINE SMITH.
Sister Smith, now quite feeble, is nearly eight-four years of age. Her large liberality, her deep, sweet, constant experience, and her unexampled devotion to the church of her choice, all prominent traits of hers, and well remembered by those who have known her, will be recognized in the above communication. She has lived to see her family grow up to maturity, usefulness and honor, and now, in her pleasant home, overlooking the pure, placid waters of the St. Clair, beautiful emblems of her own life, in the care of two faithful daughters, waits in her ripe old age, like a full shock of corn, only for the Master to gather her up from the fields of earth into the garner of heaven.
All of Grandma Smith's children who are members of any church are communicants of the Episcopal. her son, Abram, though never yet having formally united with the Methodist Church, has always, together with his excellent family, given it his presence and sympathy, and been one of its most liberal supporters.
In the minutes of the Canada Conference for the fall of 1825, St. Clair was left to be supplied; whether a supply was found and ordered to come, we know not, but if so, he never came; for no report was made from this work at the next Conference. And here we bid adieu to Canadian Methodism, and make our respectful salutation to Ohio, under whose jurisdiction we shall hereafter be found.
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Algonac, was organized in 1867, by Rev. Joseph B. Prichard, who was preacher at that point from 1862. He was succeeded by Rev. Andrew Jamieson, of Canada, who is the present pastor. Rev. Mr. Flower, of Marine City, served the church in 1879-80. The value of the church property is about $3,000; the number of communicants, twenty-one; and the congregation, about fifty. The following report, tendered to the Convention of 1882, shows the condition of the parish:
Baptised - Infants, 5. Communicants - Removed from the parish, 1; present number, 21. Marriages, 4. Burials, 6. Public services - Sundays, 44; holy days, 2; other days, 6; total, 52; Holy communion - Sundays, 3. Congregation - Families, 26; individuals not included in families, 1; total of souls, 88 Sunday School - Teachers and officers, 7; scholars, 55; average attendance, 40. Bible Class - Teacher, 1; scholars, 7. Rector's salary, $141; music, $26; other current expenses, $29.03; church building or improvement, $22.70. Total for parochial purposes, $218.73; diocesan missions, $4.12; foreign missions, $5; by the Sunday school, for its own purposes, $33.95; total of contributions and offerings, 231.80. Salary pledged to the rector, $156. Number of sittings in the church, 175 - free.
 Rev. Mr. Jamieson completed his thirty-first year of labor among the Indians of Walpole Island in 1876. When Mr. Jamieson first came among the Indians, they were little better than savages, and it was with considerable difficulty that he taught them the truths of the Bible, and prevailed upon them to renounce paganism and adopt the teachings of Christianity; but he has lived to see the fruit of his labors. Mr. J. speaks the Indian language fluently, and preaches to them in their own tongue every Sabbath morning. he has resided in Algonac for a number of years, and in addition to his Indian work, he has had charge of the Episcopal Church here, and is much esteemed by the congregation. His uniform kindness and Christian courtesy have won for him universal respect.
The Catholic Church of Algonac is referred to in the histories of Marine City and Port Huron. The affairs of the parish are administered by Rev. Mr. Medor, of Marine City.
Algonac, one of the oldest settlements in Michigan, is situated at the head of the St. Clair Flats, in Clay Township, about fifteen miles south of St. Clair City. Its location is pleasant, but with the exception of Smith's saw mills and factory, it must be considered to be sleeping out this century. The Episcopal, Methodist and Catholic Churches are well represented. This village, as well as the entire district, is very fully treated in the Stewart Memoirs.