Mendon History

The excerpts written out below are from a small booklet entitled, "St. Joseph County Historical Review and Business Guide" written and compiled by Roy D. F. Sowers, Historian.

The downtown business district, identified , Mabel (VAN RIPER) STANTON are as follows (from left): 1. STANTON's Clothing Store, 2. ENGLE's Shoe Store, 3. ESTES Drug Store, 4. HICKMOTT's Dry Goods, 5. ROGER's Meat Market, 6. RILEY's Grocery Store, 7. SHOEMAKER's Hardware, 8. SWONK & HEINEY Grocery and a Millinery Store at the end.

Who or when the first white settler of Mendon was----no one knows. When Francois MOUTON and family arrived in 1824 to establish an Indian trading post, apple orchards existed that were then old. Perhaps the same missionary that planted trees around Colon and Leonidas, planted these trees at Mendon.

Francois MOUTON was one of three brothers exiled from France because of their royalist views. Landing at New Orleans, one remained and later became governor, one came up the Ohio valley and fought with Mad Anthony Wayne, and Francois MOUTON went to Detroit and fought in the war of 1812, where his daughter, Frances MOUTON, who later became Mrs. Patrick MARANTETTE, was born. In 1826, Patrick MARANTETTE arrived from Detroit to open a trading post as representative of his brother-in-laws, the GODFROIS Brothers. He catered to all the Indians and especially those of the Nottawa-seepe Reservation. Like his famous father, he seemed to have the respect of, and control over the Indians that few other white men had. Mr. MARANTETTE refused to sell a drop of whiskey to the Indians, nor did he permit others to do so. If in his power to prevent, on numerous occasions, he busted in the heads of whiskey kegs, even withstanding lawsuits over the destruction of personal property. He was always fair and just, with the Indians, which, sorry to say, few others were.

Mendon township was originally a part of Flowerfield Township. In 1833 Leonidas and Colon were divided off, and Mendon became a part of Nottawa. In 1843 it was again divided and became Wakeman Township in honor of Adam WAKEMAN, the largest land owner. In 1844 the name was changed from Wakeman to Mendon Township. The settlers of the village wished to call it Marantette, but Patrick MARANTETTE, being very modest, suggested the name of Mendon from a city in France, this name was heartily approved of by Peter HOUSE, who hailed from Mendon, New York and Moses TAFT, from Mendon, Mass.

Mr. MARANTETTE donated and opened the first school and paid the first school teacher. He was very instrumental in closing the treaty with the Indians, whereby they gave up their land in Southern Michigan and moved westward. He even pacified the famous Indian Chief, BLACK HAWK.

The first settlers, being Frenchmen, the French influence was dominate for years. The first school house in the township was built in 1837 and taught by Wealthy HUNT.

MARANTETTE built a large frame house which Adam WAKEMAN named, "Queen of the Prairie," in 1835.

The first brick building was built by Hosea BARNABEE and William PELLETT.

The first hewed log house was built by Leander METHA in 1834, near where the WAKEMAN House now stands. Oliver H. FOOTE built a blacksmith shop in 1836. Several farmers began the raising of thorough-bred cattle, hogs and sheep, Mr. MARANTETTE leading in the horse raising field and building the first race track.

Some of the first settlers were, Peter NEDDEAUX, Mr. MILLER, William HARRINGTON, Abram H. VOORHEES, A. Wesley MARING, Fordyce JOHNSON, Samuel E. JOHNSON, Mr. ROWELL and Joseph WOODWARD.

The first crops were raised by Mr. MOUTON in 1832. Mr. MARANTETTE raised the first wheat in 1835. The first land entries were made in 1836. The first factories were Oliver DELEI, Blacksmith; Abner MOORE, a Cooper, who made half-bushel measures and churns and Joseph WOODARARD burned the 'lrst lime on the shores of Portage Lake, using marl taken from the marsh on its border. The first white child was born to Mr. and Mrs. MARANTETTE in 1836. The first marriage was between Patrick MARANTETTE and Frances MOUTON who were married by J. W. COFFINBERRY, Esq., and later ratified by the Bishop of Detroit. The first death was that of the wife of Alexander C. METHA, who was accidentally shot by her husband. The date of the first cemetery is not known, as there were several old cemeteries used. The first religious services were Roman Catholic and held in the MARANTETTE home or trading post. The next church organization was the Methodist Episcopal, another early church was the Zion Evangelical.

The first road laid out in the township was the territorial road which passed along the southern line of the reservation, surveyed in 1832 and 33. The first bridge over the St. Joseph River was built in 1839. The WAKEMAN bridge was built in 1843 and the MARANTETTE bridge in 1873. The Little Portage was dammed and the mill race brought through the marshes affording power to several frits and saw mills in 1844. The early industries were Planning Mill, Sash and Door and Blind Factory, a Wagon Works, and a harness maker. The YAPLE family built and operated many stores and businesses in the early days. The first hotel was operated by Lewis B. LYMAN, next was the WAKEMAN House, both hotels were burned in 1873 and later rebuilt, the WAKEMAN house is still standing.

Mendon has suffered two great fires, the last one occurring in September, 1916, which burned the entire business district. The business part is being gradually rebuilt in a substantial manner of brick and stone. Mendon has many beautiful old homes, which with the newly built business section, makes it very picturesque.

 

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