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Early History of Lee Township

Calhoun County Michigan




by Pierce, H. B. (Henry B.), Pierce, H. B., L.H. Everts & Co.


Lee was organized in 1840, making the roll of townships (in Calhoun County) complete, and included, as at present, township 1, range 5.

It is not unfrequently observed that a roadway marks the division between lands totally different; so physical features common to one section are absent from another, and townships varying in position are unlike geographically. Amidst eastern nations, known as civilized and enlightened, the boundaries of provinces, and even parishes, mark distinctions of race, language, and custom; hence the individual detail of township features, far from monotonous, tends to a complete description.

The location of Lee township, Calhoun County, is in the northern tier of townships, between Clarence and Convis. An extensive marsh, commonly known as the " Tamarack Swamp," extending through the centre of the town, comprises nearly one-half its area. The land on each side of this morass was originally covered with a heavy timber growth, of which some portions are yet preserved. The woodlands of Lee have been the source of considerable revenue to the townsmen, and have furnished a supply of lumber to the lower portions of the county. The oak, beech, maple, ash, basswood, and whitewood are among the principal woods. A strip of land, about two miles wide, extends from east to west. through the north of the town; and a similar strip, a mile in width, located southward, lies in the same direction. These tracts are available for cultivation, and from them good average crops are raised. Wheat and corn are staple products. Fruit is also grown to a considerable extent. Garden vegetables for home consumption are cultivated. From the maple some sugar is annually manufactured, but not in the quantity earlier known, when settlers were thrown upon their own resources. During the years of settlement the sugar from this source was the only supply of the inhabitants, the difficulty of obtaining any other making its production a necessity.

It was a matter of rivalry among the good housewives as to which should produce the finest quality. By some process of clarifying, this home-made sugar would rival the refined products of the cane made at the present day. This choice article was only brought upon the table on special occasions, to honor the guest and exhibit home handiwork. But few maple-orchards remain at this day, and these are opened more as a rarity than as a means of subsistence. In the early days the need of a stimulant to replace coffee resulted in the substitution of acorns, rye, and wheat, none of which proved as palatable as the coffee berry of Brazil or the Indians. Tea was steeped from the wild sage, and barely answered as a substitute. Various expedients were adopted in keeping with those named to supply the place of luxuries grown to be necessaries by use, but with growth and convenience all were long since abandoned for the original, and the day of substitution has gone by.

Difficulty of transportation was a serious check to progress. What availed the treasures of timber and the wealth of grain without a market? There was abundance at the farm, but it was raised at home and there remained.

The construction of railroads has wrought many changes, and, linking State with State, has created a market in every county and brought to each village the products of distant lands. The time has nearly arrived when the people of Lee shall hear the trains rumbling upon an iron road through their territory. Already cuts have been made and grading is far advanced upon the Marshall and Coldwater Railroad, whose route is across the western portion of the township. It is intended to lay the rails and operate the road during the summer. The landowners and others look to this event with hopefulness as an opportunity to market the surplus lumber and grain to the best advantage, and it is expected that the completion of the road will mark an era of growth and prosperity. Mills for sawing will be erected, depots for grain purchase established and teaming will become obsolete.

Lands now timbered will be cleared for tillage, and agricultural resources greatly strengthened. Such has been the result elsewhere, and the railroad is regarded, with reason, as an agency of much importance.

To pioneers upon these lands the outlook had little to encourage. Heavy woods covered the land, and harbored wild beasts, while straggling Indians, quarrelsome and thievish, contributed to the settlers' annoyance. The wolf and the bear were destructive to live stock, and Indian depredators aroused the townsmen to drive them from the township. A party organized and made an attack upon an Indian village located near what is now Lee Centre. Lodges were demolished, and the occupants rudely ejected from their homes. The act was variously regarded, and 15 parties in Marshall, friendly to the Indians, entered complaint against the leading raiders. Several were arrested, taken to Marshall, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to fines of from twenty-five to one hundred dollars, and three months' confinement in the county jail.


Opinions differed as to the best lands and the choice locations. In many places the comparatively high lands were denuded of timber and given to a semi-profitless cultivation, while the rich lowlands, partially water-covered, were left as found. There were those who traversing the territory of Lee saw enough of promise to induce permanent residence. In the spring of 1835 Amos Hadden and Nicholas Stanley entered and occupied a part of section 36, in the southeast part of the town. The former yet resides on the old place. His neighbor, Mr. Stanley, lost his life by the caving in of a well in which he was at work.

Children are lost in populous cities, and press, police, and detective, stimulated by promised reward, fail to restore them to their homes; how much the more peril in the early day to the child lost in pathless woods and impenetrable morasses teneted by fierce beasts, and exposed to starvation! What anxiety experienced by the parents and what sympathy bestowed by neighbors!

In 1837 a child of Mr. Stanley became lost in the woods and created an excitement not soon forgotten. The incident is thus related: one evening Mr. Stanley, hearing the tinkle of the cow-bell a short distance from the house, started his son, a child of six years, into the woods to drive the cows home. The cows soon came in, but the boy was not with them, and repeated calls brought no reply. Immediate search was instituted and fruitlessly maintained for three days. The neighbors, turning out, scoured the country for an area of ten miles. The child was found at last, distant from home but a short half-mile. He sat at the foot of a tree with his back leaning against it, and was dead. He had perished from cold and hunger. The Rev. Mr. Hobert officiated at his funeral, at which were held the first religious services in the town.

In 1836, Abram Hadden, a brother of Amos, took up his residence in the vicinity, and, simultaneously, several of his old neighbors from New York settled in Clarence, Sheridan, and Marengo, thereby forming what has since been known as the "Rice Creek Settlement." Benjamin Thomas, a settler of 1836, in Marengo, from Sardinia, Erie county, New York, removed in 1839 to a farm situated in the central northern part of the township. A dense growth of timber covered the land, to reach which it was necessary to clear a road with the axe. A log house was built, and sufficient land cleared to get in a corn crop during the next season. During the fall of 1840 Thomas was away assisting some settlers at their harvesting; his wife, fearing to remain alone, went to a neighbor's two miles away to remain till his return. While there the fire went out, and to obtain a light they started for a house four miles distant. Their light was carried back in a lantern, along a route indicated by marked trees. A day was occupied in making the journey. The house had no door, and by night wolves gathering from the forest kept up a continual howling; at times they ventured near the entrance, from which they were barred by dread of a good fire well maintained.

It is related by Mrs. Thomas that on one occasion, her husband being away, his father, an old man, and herself were the sole occupants of the house. A loud outcry was heard among the hogs in the pen, and on going to ascertain the cause a large bear was found in the pen trying to lift out a hog. Bruin paid no heed to her demonstrations, but when the old gentleman appeared with an axe in hand retreated to the woods. The hog was so badly injured that it soon died. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas still reside on the old place, grown dear by association and changed by the progress of time. B. S. Ward settled near the Eaton line, in the northern part of the town, and lives there at this time. In 1840, D. P. Wood, for one or two years a resident of Albion, desirous to improve his condition, set out for Clarence, and made his way around Duck lake into Lee. He settled about a mile from Thomas, on the same road. Not having money to pay for his forty acres, he found work by the day, and so acquired possession. A cow was bought by the same means. A log hut was built, and, unchanged, occupied till fall. It was his home for two years. In August, 1840, some land cleared was in crop, when Mr. Wood was married to Maria Payne, of Jackson county. Joseph Gardinier hauled his goods to the marsh edge, and Wood drew them across upon an ox-sled. These were the preliminary movements to the acquisition of one of the best farms in the township,-a present valuable and comfortable home.

Among those of other early settlers we find the names of Stephen Aldrich, F. Garfield, John Weaver, T. S. Havens, Charles R. Thomas, and Jesse Ackley. Early in 1836 Sidney S. Alcott located the major portion of sections 6 and 7. During the year following he built a saw-mill on a branch of Indian creek, -a small stream running through the northwest part of the township. The mill was operated for several years by F. Garfield, but being burned was never replaced. It was the only water-power saw-mill built in the township. Illustrative of Lee's natural attractions and condition on April 5, 1836, it is related that Colonel Charles Dickey, in company with S. S. Alcott and others, started into Lee to look out land. In attempting to cross a morass the colonel got in up to his neck. There was not a settler in the northern part of the town, and the explorer was obliged to wear his wet clothing throughout the day. The party having left their horses in the woods near the creek, experienced considerable difficulty in finding them when ready to return. Late at night Lane's tavern was reached, and a supper made upon dried beef and shortcake baked before the fire. Colonel Dickey pronounces it the most palatable supper he has ever enjoyed.

As a result of this expedition the colonel located six lots on section 5, two on section 4, and one each on sections 8 and 9. These lots were entered in the names of different parties. A stock company was formed in 1844 by G. W. Dryer and others, and known as the " Dover Company." They purchased a large body of land in the vicinity of what is now called Partello Post-Office, and began the erection of a mill, which they failed to complete. The frame having stood for years finally fell through decay. In time the property was purchased by J. R. Partello and a saw-mill erected. The mill was destroyed by fire within a year or two, and, another succeeding having burned, none other has been built. At this point quite a hamlet sprung up. Here are some eight or ten dwellings, a store kept by Charles Osborn, the present town clerk; a shoe-shop, in which is kept the post-office, and a small cider-mill, owned by D. W. Murray and erected in 1872. It was run by horse-power. In 1876 the mill was supplied by a run of stone, and a steam-engine superseded the horse-power. The capacity is equal to the requirements of the neighborhood.

In 1856 a mill was erected by Messrs. Fisher& Bean, at Lee Centre. It was scarcely completed when Mr. Greenough, purchasing a large interest, took charge of the business,-sawing and stave-making,. The structure, burned in 1862, was rebuilt as a stave-mill by L. B. Fisher and J. S. Scarlett. It is now owned and run by Martin Dedrick. Anticipating a village, a store and a number of dwellings were built contemporary with the first mill; these buildings, save those removed, are falling into decay through disuse. The store building is utilized as a town-house for the transaction of public business.

Settlement here is a question of time; it was premature, but will be permanent. Large deposits of iron ore exist in the vicinity, but so far no movement towards mining has been made. Its presence has been ascertained on sections 4, 5, 9, 10, and 12, —lands belonging to O. W. Miller, D. P. Wood, N. W. Paine, H. B. Thomas, M. Kelly, and D. O. Codwise. The time approaches when these deposits will prove a source of great wealth to the townspeople. Undeveloped resources will ultimately give this section prominence. In addition to mineral wealth, the great marsh, comprising nearly one-half of the township, will, when drained, constitute most valuable farm lands. The project of drainage is under consideration, and, when realized, will give Lee as good soil as exists in the country. Small streams flow through the town; of these, Big Creek, rising near the centre, flows to the northeast into Eaton county; Indian creek crosses the northwest corner. A southern branch of this stream rises in School lake and Lake of the Woods, which, together with Pardy lake, are situated in the western part of the township. All three are amply stocked with excellent fish.


Events of to-day, lightly regarded, gain value with the lapse of time. Authenticated statement, timely chronicled, renders honors only to the deserving. The first white child in Lee was James, son of Nicholas Stanley, born July 31, 1836. The first female child was Dorcas J. Hadden, daughter of Amos Hadden, born October 4, 1838. She now resides in Barry county, and is the wife of M. F. McCormick.

The second birth in the township was of Nathaniel Hadden, August 7, 1836. Mr. Hadden is a present resident of Sandusky, Ohio. The first birth in the northern settlement was of Elijah J. Thomas, in May, 1840.

However balmy the air, whatever the fertility of the soil, there is no locality exempt from death. This was exemplified in Lee by the decease of the child lost in the woods, and by the violent death of his father, Nicholas Stanley, killed by the caving well on January 19, 1838. The first grave-yard in Lee was located about 1837, in the extreme southeast corner of the town. A second was laid out I in 1845, in the northern part of the town, and the first person there buried was named Ezra Pierce.


The people of Lee have not been dilatory regarding the establishment and support of schools. The first school building was erected in 1839, on land owned by Amos Hadden, and situated in the southeast corner of the township. The walls were composed of hewn logs, and the interior was destitute of the apparatus known to the houses of to-day. Into this pioneer structure Miss Elizabeth Farrer, now living in Marshall, was introduced as teacher, and there was a school in Lee. The first school in the northern settlement was opened in 1845, by Sophia Stowell,. later the wife of Henry Crittenden, of Albion. The old log building used stood near the centre of the township. The area of Lee is apportioned into seven districts, which maintain a corresponding number of schools.


Methodism, early planted, has shown healthful and vigorous growth. In 1841-42 Amos Hadden and wife, B. H. Carrier and wife, Silas Wood and wife, C. Hanchett and wife, D. H. Miller and wife, and Abram Hadden and wife, residents of Marengo, Sheridan, Clarence, and Lee, united to form a society, and, choosing Silas Wood for class-leader, erected a church edifice in the northeast part of Marengo.

A Sabbath-school was organized in 1845, by Albertus Green, in a school-house located on the land of J. Wetmore, in section 9. The school was maintained and well attended for a number of years.

A Methodist Episcopal society was formed in 1847, in the school-house at Lee Centre. It numbered six persons, viz., Mrs. Luff, Henry Harris, D. P. Wood and wife, and Leander Curtis and wife. The last named was class-leader, and H. Harris was their first preacher. The society numbers twenty members, and, under the management of the pastor, Rev. A. M. Finch, much interest is manifest. The school above noted is connected with this society.

Partello Methodist society was organized by Rev. Nichols during April, 1875, with A. L. Gipson, Charles Osburn, Charles Miller, and their wives, as members. Services are held by the pastor, Rev. Miller, in the school-house at Partello Post Office. The society is prosperous, and maintains a Sabbath-school during the summer season.

A society entitled " Church of the Living God" was formed by Elder Rhodes, and numbers forty members. Services are held in the school-house on section 16. An essential to their belief is the efficacy of faith and prayer to cure the sick without assistance from physicians. A society of United Brethren exists in the eastern part of the township. Meetings are held in the school-house on section 10. Their discipline excludes from membership all persons belonging to secret societies.


The first annual town-meeting of the township was held on Monday, April 6, 1840, at the house of F. Garfield. F. Garfield was chosen moderator, and Sidney S. Alcott clerk for the day. The following-named officers were then duly elected: Supervisor, John Weaver; Town Clerk, F. Garfield; Treasurer, Jesse Ackley Collector, Benj. Thomas; Assessors, F. Garfield, Amos Hadden, Stephen Aldrich; Justices, F. Garfield, T. S. S. Holmes, Amos Hadden, Chas. R. Thomas; Overseers of Highways, Amos Hadden, Chas. Thomas, F. Garfield, J. Ackley; Commissioners of Highways, Amos Hadden, J. Ackley, Oliver Thomas; School Inspectors, Amos Hadden, Stephen Aldrich, Benj. Thomas; Poor-masters, John Ackley, Wm. Garfield; Constables, John Clough, E. Aldrich.

The whole number of votes cast was twelve. The largest number at a town election, two hundred and ten; at general election, two hundred and seventy-two.


The following-named gentlemen have held the office of supervisor and town clerk:

Supervisors.-1840, John Weaver; 1841-42, Benj. Thomas; 1843-48, Andrew Sneider; 1848, Benj. Thomas; 1849, R. B. Wood; 1850, R. Balcom; 1851-54, D. P. Wood; 1854-59, Daniel Tabor; 1859, A. S. Ford; 1860-65, D. Tabor; 1865, D. P. Wood; 1866-69, D. W. Murry; 1869, H. M. Thomas; 1870, D. S. Tabor; 1871, L. C. Handy; 1872-73, H. M. Thomas; 1874, Henry A. Clute; 1875, D. W. Murry; 1876, David Bennett; 1877, H. A. Clute.

Town Clerks. —1840-44, Frederick Garfield; 1844, Barney Brannagan; 1845, F. Garfield; 1846-47, B. Brannagan; 1848, F. Garfield; 1849-50, D. P. Wood; 1851-52, M. Woodmanson; 1854, Benj. Thomas; 1855, M. Woodmanson; 1856 -59, D. P. Wood; 1859, A. C. Jewell; 1860-61, Benj. Thomas; 1862, William Duryee; 1863, J. T. Scarlett; 1864, C. B. Wood; 1865, J. T. Scarlett; 1866 -77, Chas. Osburn.


Supervisor, H. A. Clute; Clerk, C. Osburn; Treasurer, S. H. Jewett; School Inspector, A. C. Jewett; Highway Commissioner, C. H. Short; Justice, D. P. Wood; Constables, Richard E. Smith, Gilbert Cooley, Emery Thomas, Geo. Winnegar. R. A. Johnson has been justice of the peace for eighteen years, the longest time the office has been held by any one person in the township.

Population of Lee. —Males, 612; females, 503; total, 1115.

Live-Stock.-Horses, 357; work oxen, 513; milch cows, 330; neat cattle, other than work oxen and cows, 426; swine, six months old, 568; sheep, six months old, 2373; sheep sheared 1873, 2820; mules, 10.

Wheat on the ground May, 1874, 1850 acres; wheat harvested 1873, 1503 acres; corn harvested 1873, 746 acres; wheat raised 1873, 22,443 bushels; corn raised 1873, 41,428 bushels; other grain 1873, 13,680 bushels; potatoes raise; 1873, 6834 bushels; hay cut 1873, 1239 tons; wool sheared 1873, 9165 pounds of pork marketed, 31,404 pounds; cheese made 1873, 50 pounds; butter made 1873, 35,690 pounds; fruit dried 1873, 4528 pounds; cider made 1873, 352 barrels; maple-sugar 1873, 340 pounds; orchards, 306 acres; apples raised 1873, 10,003 bushels; peaches raised 1873, 3 bushels; pears raised 1873, 51 bushels; cherries raised 1873, 146 bushels; grapes raised 1873, 14 hundredweight; garden vegetables, 450 bushels.



A leading man in the Rice Creek settlement, so called, was and is Amos Hadden, the subject of our sketch. He settled therein, in what is now known as Lee township, on the 31st day of October, 1835, with his wife and one boy, Smith Hadden, locating on section 36, township 1 south, range 5 west, purchasing one hundred and twenty acres, and adding subsequently thereto, until his present farm contains two hundred acres. His nearest neighbor then was four miles distant. His farm was situated in the midst of heavy oak openings, which he has cleared off and built him a snug comfortable home, and commodious bans for his stock and grain, a view of which improvements we present on another page. Mr. Hadden was born in Windham, Schoharie county, New York, February 9, 1810. His parents, Smith and Susanna (Townsend) Hadden, were natives of the same State, and Amos was one of ten children who lived to maturity. The family resided in Windham for six years after the birth of Amos, and then removed to Mentz, Cayuga county, New York, where they remained for twelve years, removing thence to Oswego for eight years, and from thence to Michigan; Amos remaining the whole period with his father, engaged in farming. On the 30th of September, 1830, Mr. Hadden was married to Mary J., daughter of Lawrence and Mary (Waldo) Dutcher, natives of New York. She was born in Washington township, Dutchess county, New York, November 5, 1811. The fruits of this union were the following-named children: Smith, now of Olivet, Eaton county, Michigan; Jerome, now deceased; Nathaniel A., of Sandusky, Ohio; D:Dorcas J., now deceased; Newton D., who died of typhoid fever in the war for the Union, while a corporal of Company F, Ninth Michigan Infantry, at Elizabethtown, Kentucky, February 8, 1862; and Leonora L., now Mrs. M. F. McCormick, of Nashville, Barry county. In politics Mr. Hadden is a Republican, and was a member of the Whig party formerly, but cast his first vote for General Jackson. He has been a member of the Methodist church for half of a century, and his excellent helpmeet but four years less. He contributed largely to the building of the Methodist church in the Rice Creek settlement. He has held the office of justice of the peace for four years, and other township offices.

The subject of the present sketch, was born in Huron township, Lorain county, Ohio, February 3, 1830. His father, Truman Walker, was a native of Vermont, and his mother, Anna (Carpenter) Walker, was born in Massachusetts. The lad lived at home with his parents until he attained his majority, attending the common schools of the country and assisting on the farm. When he was twenty-one years of age he removed to Michigan and bought a farm of one hundred and sixty acres in Lee township, to which he brought his father and mother, and dutifully cared for them till their decease. His farm was wild and unbroken when he bought it, but by his industry and good management he has brought it up to one of the many good farms of the county. On the 16th December, 1856, Mr. Walker was united in marriage to Caroline Smith, who was born June 15, 1839, and whose parents, Frederick I. and Parnell (Joyce) Smith, natives of the eastern States, removed to Ohio and from thence to Lee. The father is living in Illinois with his oldest daughter. Three sons have blessed Mr. Walker's marriage,-Artemas, James H., and John F. Mrs. Walker died December 1, 1864, and Mr. Walker has never re-married, but keeps his first faith unbroken. She was a faithful wife and able and efficient helpmeet. In politics, Mr. Walker is a Democrat.

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