Early Settlers in Lenawee County, Michigan

Early Settlers in Lenawee County
By Francis A. Dewey of Cambridge
Read February 6, 1880
(to the Pioneer Society of Michigan)

We do not wish to omit the record of a few names of our hospitable and generous pioneers who began the first settlement of this country precious to the year 1830. Their pleasant homes and fertile farms are left for others to occupy; the original owners have gone down to the silent tomb. Those who now enjoy and own the highly cultivated and productive farms of this admired county may not readily realize that these lands were, but a short time ago, owned by the red men of the forest, and the wigwams of the Indians have changes into beautiful farm mansions crowned with peace and plenty. What has the independent forest hunter received from civilization in return for his unbounded possession? No home but contracted hunting grounds with and iron railway through the center, surrounded on all sides by reckless men dealing with fire-water, which is, assuredly rapidly sinking them into imbecility and wretchedness; and ere long the noble tribes will be swept from the western wilderness.

We will now review a short catalogue of the undaunted man, genuine pioneers, who settled in this county full fifty years ago. A large share of them, I am pleased to say, the writer was personally acquainted with. It brings to mind many social remembrances as we read them over. There was Jacob Ketcham on the banks of Evans Creek, and Jesse Osborn who raised the first wheat and planted the first orchard. His romantic log house was on the bank of the beautiful stream whose musical waters seemed chanting their vespers over the clear, pebbled channel. Luther Rawson built the first best frame barn. Wm. H. Hoag, justice of the peace and judge, Thomas Sisson, Timothy Marshall, Moses Smith, all reliable farmers; Dr. M. A. Patterson, medical advisor; Abner Spafford, a farmer and mill-wright; Mr. Knaggs, first merchant and Indian trader; Charles Spafford, George and Litch Spafford, farmers and merchants; James T. Borland, tavern keeper; Sylvester Blackmar, first miller; Daniel Pittman, merchant, farmer and postmaster; Isaac Powers, and Charles Blackmar, tavern keeper on the Chicago road; Wm. Avery, E. P. Champlin, Artunedorus Fuller, David Reed, John Houck, J. B. McCray, Daniel Hixon, Silas Benson, Jacob Sclosh, Thomas Goodrich, John Roberts, Giles, Hubbard, Hugh Hillick, John Grogg, Calvin Brown, Peter Low, Joseph Bangs, Thomas Nelson, Simeon Dewey, Asa Gilmore, Daniel Cross, Simeon Davidson, Don A. Redd, all farmers; Stillman Blanchard, merchant, judge, and built the Globe mills, Tecumseh; Horace Wollcot, fur trader; James Patchin, sheriff; Wm. McNair, farmer, and colonel in the Black Hawk and Toledo wars; Ebenezer Anderson, of literary attainments � a farmer with a good library; Jesse Ballard, carpenter and hotel keeper; Theodore Bissel, bridge builder � first one married in the county; Myron Mudget, hunter � killed by a bear; Asahel Robertson, True Mudget, Daniel Warring, John Penington, farmers; Curtis Page, carpenter; Jacob Arnold, teamster; Silas A. Hollbrook, merchant; Alpheus Kies, farmer and tavern keeper; H. N. Baldwin, postmaster; Rev. Alanson Bangs, Methodist minister; Rev. Alanson Darwin, Presbyterian missionary.

At the "Valley", the Friends' ministers were . In Logan township we will name a few: A. J. Comstock laid out the village of Adrian; Isaac Dean, tavern keeper, Nathan Pelton, constable, Dr. Ormsby, first physician, Conant Winters, merchant, John Gifford, James Whitney, Allen Chaffee, Robert Smith, Pliney Field, John Walworth, Noah Norton, Joseph Beals, Elias Dennis, Nathan Comstock, David Bixby, all good farmers, with many others. We will not pass over Blissfield without giving a passing notice. They were our neighbors, although fifteen miles apart. They laid the foundation of that most excellent, productive and wealthy farming town over fifty years ago. Harvey Bliss, William Kedzie, Benjamin Clark, Ezra W. Goff, Jacob Lane, George Giles, John Lane, Gideon West, Samuel Randall, Anthony McKay, with many more good farmers in the dense timbered forest land. But a small number of the early settlers were over thirty-five ears of age when they came to Michigan. Their average age at death was about sixty years. Their wives, self-sacrificing emigrants, are fully entitled to a chapter in the history of Michigan; their sons and daughters, a share of them are deserving of the most commendable situations in the State.

Our wish is to get an outline record of the early settlers of the now beautiful and populous county of Lenawee. The first memorial is of Darius Comstock, with whom the writer has oftimes passes a social hour, full fifty years ago. This memoir we take partly from Whitney and Bonner's book, which to the latest generation of our citizens will be a valuable historic record of the pioneers.

Hon. Daruis Comstock was born in Rhode Island, July 12, 1768, and was married to Miss Phebe Smith in 1790. His wife died at Palmyra, New York, April 27, 1820. His second wife, Mrs. Anna Brooks, was married to him in 1821, and about that time he had the superintendence of opening the Erie canal through the large ledge of rocks at Lockport, which was one of the greatest achievements of the age, taking over four years to blast a water channel through the Niagara ledge, and over eight years to dig the canal. On the 26th of October, 1825, the first boat, the Young Lion of the West, went through the canal from Albany to Buffalo. Mr. Comstock moved to Michigan in 1826. General J. W. Brown had previously built a log house for him at the Valley which had two commodious rooms of good size. Darius Comstock had purchased a large quantity of land in the year 1825, which he called "Pleasant Valley." Here was a flowing crystal spring, which was more conducive to health, happiness, and good cheer than the far-famed Saratoga springs of New York. Here was made large and admirable improvements on this beautiful Pleasant Valley plantation, the home of the generous, plain-spoken pioneer, who was also the founder and main builder of the Friends' meeting house, the first built in the county, and the only one between Detroit and the Pacific ocean, if we except a few Indian missions. His house was always open for the poor and needy, also for hundreds of social friends. He died in his stately monumental home June 2, 1845, aged seventy-seven years. His widow departed this life at the residence of her son-in-law, A. J. Dean, Adrian city, May 25, 1866. She will be remembered by thousands as one of the most worthy citizens of the State.

We will now bring this brief memorial to a close by adding one more of our lamented pioneer friends to this hasty record. The first one who opened the road into this county and ed the way for thousands more � Musgrove Evans, a worthy, educated surveyor and gentleman, born in Bucks county, Pennsylvania, in 1793, was married to Miss Abi Brown, sister of General J. W. Brown, in 1814, at Brownville, New York. Mrs. Evans and family were the first white settlers of the county, June 2, 1824, cutting and making a road for his team through the wilderness for more than twenty miles. It was a day of unclouded beauty that the first pioneer settlement was begun in this now wealthy, prosperous and healthy county; no cloud, no mist, or stain obscured the rich, deep arch of heaven for a number of days after their arrival at their new forest home. The grounds for miles around Tecumseh were handsomely wooded with tall, majestic oaks, with no underbrush. In the near forest was ash, maple, black walnut, cherry and whitewood. The water of the river Raisin was of a crystalline clearness, and the shore on either side was firm and gravelly; the slopes with the level plateau of land were gay with wild flowers of many varieties. All exclaimed with delight, as they looked over and surveyed this luxuriant scenery. Here by the river's bank the first emigrants pitched their tent, and there the first log cabin was erected and covered with elm bark. On this plat of ground from time immemorial had been a resort of the Indians, their favorite camping place. Here was the grand portage of the river Raisin, the great through route of the trail from Monroe to the western lakes; also the trail from Detroit and Saline Springs to the Wabash. Here was an unlimited field for the Indians, also deer, elk, wolf, bear, wild turkeys, geese, grouse, swans, and all fur-bearing animals. An eminent writer says, more beautiful scenery than the wild domain presented never perhaps greeted the eye of the enterprising home-seeker. Here the emigrant foresaw a prosperous future, grand mill privileges, agricultural industries, with an unlimited scope for domestic enterprise, prosperity and wealth. Mr. Evans' family consisted of wife and five children, viz.: Samuel, Vincent, Hannah, George and William, and Peter Benson and wife as assistants, and several others. It was twenty-three miles to the nearest neighbor. Mr. Evans was appointed postmaster, the first west of Monroe, and with the aid of J. W. Brown and Mr. Spafford, built the first school-house and was part owner of the first saw-mill and grist-mill west of Monroe. In 1825 he was government surveyor on the military road from Detroit to Chicago. Mr. Manor, a Frenchman, now living at Brest, Monroe county, was chainman in these surveys of the military roads. In 1830 he was assistant marshal to take the census, which included territory west to Lake Michigan. In 1832 he was surveyor on the United States military road from La Plaisance Bay to the Chicago road in Cambridge.

The year 1833 brought with it a saddening time. The wife of our esteemed friend and first pioneer died. She was one of the noblest and best of wives and mothers. A dark cloud of deep and prolonged grief seemed to rest on all parts of the county when that devoted woman went down to the tomb. Our unwearied friend, Elijah Brownell, preached the funeral service. (The writer's pleasant home was at Mr. Evan's house for most of the year 1830.) After the death of his wife he seemed to have a desire to begin a new settlement in the wilderness again. The lone star of Texas was just rising; he sold his possessions in Tecumseh, and left, with his children, for the southern clime, where, for several years, he was engaged in his chosen occupation of surveying. After a useful and active life of twenty years among the low lands and prairies of Texas, he died at his residence, at Cypress Creek, June 7, 1855, aged sixty-two years. Although he died in a southern country, his memory in Lenawee county was well kept, for his unassuming abilities to help hundreds of our first settlers. With them, a virtuous record is left in the hearts of all who knew him.

Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collection, Vol. 1, 1877, pages 552-555


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