History of Lenawee County, Michigan, Chapter 13, Fairfield Township

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CHAPTER XIII, FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP. Topographically, this Township is considerably diversified. Nile creek and Black creek drain the territory and flow in a northeasterly direction, Black creek leaving the Township on section 12. The valleys or bottom lands adjacent to the_ streams are especially fertile, highly improved, and very valuable. The higher lands are not so rich for agricultural purposes. The surface of the Township is generally rolling, but no elevations of any considerable magnitude appear. There is some land of little value for farming purposes, and such is either used for grazing lands, or is still in the primitive state, nourishing the native timber which is yet standing. The principal varieties of timber which abounded in almost exhaustless supply and excellent quality were hickory, walnut, butternut, ash, poplar, sugar-maple, oak of all kinds, elm, and on some of the lower lands there was a growth of reed willow. With the advent of the first white settlers, the woods abounded in game of all kinds known in the country. Deer were exceedingly plentiful and afforded the principal meat supply of the early settlers. Every man and boy, and some of the female population, were expert hunters, and many are the tales told of hair-breadth escapes from, and single-handed contests with bruin, the arch enemy of the young domestic animals about the settlers cabins. Wolves and wild-cats also made night hideous and nocturnal travel precarious, with their prowling, stealthy and deceptive methods of attack. The first settlement of the Township of Fairfield antedates its organization by several years. The Township organization was effected in the spring of 1834, from territory previously embraced within the Township of Blissfield. The house of John H. Carpenter was designated as the voting place, and there the first election was held. It is not clearly known as to who was the first actual permanent settler of the Township of Fairfield, but it was settled mostly by people from the state of New York. The first land entered in the town was by John W. Austin, Jr., who located eighty acres on section to, Oct. 7, 1830. The first house was built in 1831, on the southeast quarter of section 1o, and in 1832 several log houses were erected. John Arnold, one of the early settlers, was born at Barnegat, N. J., in 1779, and lived in New Jersey until i8o6, when he moved to Wayne County, New York, near Palmyra. When he was a boy he learned the tailor's trade, which he followed until he came to Michigan, in 1829, settling in Washtenaw County, near Saline. In 1830 he moved to this County and worked land for Darius Comstock, in Raisin, one year. In the spring of 1831 he purchased a farm in Madison, and he owned that place until the spring of 1833, when he purchased a large farm on Black creek, in Fairfield. At the time the Township was organized, he proposed that it be called Fairfield, which name was adopted. He was the first clerk of the Township. He afterward sold his farm to William Wilbur, and purchased a farm in Seneca, where he died, Feb. 24, 1876.

The Baker family was foremost among the early settlers of Fairfield, John Baker being elected as the first supervisor after the organization of the Township. John Baker was born in Adams, Mass., Jan. 17, 1798, but in i8oo his father, Moses Baker, moved to Wayne County, New York, where he was a pioneer, and assisted in building the aqueduct for the Erie Canal, over the Genesee River at Rochester, and he also worked on the canal. Moses Baker took up a large tract of new land in Macedon, Wayne County, New York, and he afterward divided this land among his sons, John coming into possession of a part of it, where he lived until 1832. In the fall of 1831, Moses Baker and two of his sons, John and Orin, sold out and all came to Michigan, arriving in Detroit, June 1, 1832. Being well acquainted with Darius and Addison J. Comstock, in Wayne County, and John having a brother-in-law-Levi Shumway-already settled here, they naturally came to Lenawee County, where they finally settled as follows : Moses took the southeast quarter of the northeast fractional quarter of section 3; Orin took up the north half of the northeast fractional quarter of section 3 ; and John the northwest fractional quarter of section 2, all in Fairfield, the locality for years being known as "Baker's Corners," afterward the platted village of Fairfield. Moses Baker lived in Fairfield upon his original purchase until his death, which occurred Nov. 26, 1853. Orin Baker died on his old farm in Fairfield, Jan. 30, 1871, and John Baker died in Fairfield, on the farm he purchased from the government, May 7, 1873. The record of the first election in the Township of Fairfield has been lost or was not properly kept, hence it is impossible to give the names of all those who were first chosen as officials of the Township. However, it is known that the first Township meeting was held in the house of John H. Carpenter, in the spring of 1834, and that there were thirty-two electors present at the time. Andrew Millett was chosen chairman; votes were cast in a hat in lieu of a ballot box, and in the contest between John Baker and John H. Carpenter for the office of supervisor, the former was elected by one majority. And John Arnold was elected the first Township clerk.

The Baptist church was the leader in religious effort in the Township of Fairfield, the first church edifice being erected by that denomination on section 7. The fourth society of the Baptist denomination to spring into existence in this County was the First Baptist church of Weston, which was launched in the year 1838. The progress of the society has been gradual, the foundations having been laid upon a durable and substantial basis, and _in point of active membership it is the third largest Baptist church in the County today. The present house of worship, the erection and finishing of which cost in the neighborhood of $3,500, is one of the most adequate and commodious church buildings in the Township. The Rev. Frank Burnett is the present pastor, having been installed in the summer of 1908. The Methodist Episcopal organization at Fairfield was first assigned a conference pastor in 186o, in the person of the Rev. O. J. Perrin, but the organization is now in point of active membership the smallest of its sect in the County. The church has no regularly assigned pastor at this time, but the organization is still intact and the regular services are conducted every Sunday. Free Methodism is represented by a church society at Jasper, and at the same place the Disciples of Christ have an organization, it being one of only two of the organizations of that sect in Lenawee County. At the present time there is no pastor, and the membership of the society is very small. The first saw mill was built on section 9, by Levi Shumway and Andrew Millett. Shumway had purchased about four hundred acres of land in Palmyra, Madison, and Fairfield Townships, and he and Mr. Millett built this mill on a creek that then passed through the land on section 9, in Fairfield. At that time this creek afforded a good water power, but it has now nearly dried up, a very small brook being all there is left to remind the passer-by that "once this was a mill-site." The first post office was established in the winter of 1835-6, and was called "Baker's," Orin Baker ,being the postmaster, a duty he performed for eighteen years. John Baker was the first man that contracted to carry the mails from Baker's Corners to Adrian, a distance of six miles, and the first few mails he carried tied up in his red bandanna. The first cheese dairying was commenced in 1852 by Samuel Horton, who carried it on with success during his life, and established the fact that as good cheese could be made in Michigan as in New York. Mr. Horton was born in Lincolnshire, near Boston, England, Dec. 9, 1818, and he lived there until he was about seventeen years old, when with a school-mate he emigrated to the United States. The voyage from London to New York was most distressing and unfortunate, seventeen passengers perishing from starvation and exposure, while all on board suffered nearly to the point of death from lack of necessaries of life. The vessel was 104 days at sea, finally landing at Castle Garden, N. Y., where Mr. Horton passed six weeks in recovering strength sufficient-to leave the place. While thus confined he was robbed of nearly all the money he had, but finally managed to get as far as Troy, N. Y., where he found employment in the lumber woods of Herkimer County. He remained there for three years and prospered reasonably well. In 1839 he went back to England and took possession of a little property his father had left him. He returned to America in 1840, and in the fall of 1841 removed to Medina County, Ohio, purchased a farm in Lafayette Township, and resided there six years. In the fall of 1847 he sold out and returned to the state of New York, residing for three years in Niagara County. A resolute, thrifty man, he was not satisfied; the opportunity and the ideal home he was seeking were not to be found there, and in 1851 he migrated to Lenawee County and purchased a farm on section 6, in Fairfield Township. In 1853 he commenced the manufacture of cheese, and with a dairy of ten cows, lie was the first man in Michigan to manufacture that desirable edible for the general market. He met ,with special success at once, as his product was good, and it soon became sought after by merchants. He steadily increased his dairy, and in the spring of 1866 erected one of the first two cheese factories in the state. He was an enterprising, honorable, unassuming man, and by his probity, honest dealing, and the quality of his product, soon became a leading farmer and dairyman in the West. More than a score of other cheese factories were afterward operated in the County, and the business soon grew to large proportions. At the time of his death, April 25, 1872, Mr. Horton owned 469 acres of land and about fifty cows. It is said, however, that Mrs. Horton was really the first cheese-maker in Michigan from a commercial point of view. She learned the business as a girl in Herkimer County, New York, and superintended her husband's cheese-making for eight years, beginning with its inception. Mr. and Mrs. Horton were the parents of George B. Horton, who, succeeding to his father's business, has become one of the leading men in the farmer's organizations of the state and nation. The first cheese factory to be put in operation was erected by Rufus Baker, in 1866. Mr. Baker was born in Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, June 30, 1821, and was the son of John Baker, who is mentioned on another page. He was reared a farmer and only received a common school education. He was but eleven years old when he came to Lenawee County with his parents, and therefore passed through all the different phases of pioneer life, many of the hardships and pleasures of living in the woods being impressed more vividly upon his mind than upon those who were older and had more cares and anxieties. He grew with the country and improved with it, and at the age of nineteen commenced teaching school, his first term being two months, for which he was to have ten dollars per month, but for some reason or other he never received all of his pay. He taught eleven winter terms of school, working by the month in summers, until 1846, in the meantime purchasing forty acres of land in Madison Township, where he lived until 1855. He then purchased 16o acres of land, it being the southwest quarter of section a, in Fairfield; and there he lived the remainder of his life. He added to this farm until he owned 370 acres of choice land. His health failing him, in 1853 he commenced dealing in live stock, which he followed with energy and success until 186o. In the spring of that year he commenced dairy farming with eighteen cows; gradually increasing until 1866, when he built the Fairfield cheese factory, the first to be operated in Michigan, preceding Samuel Horton only four days. From that time he was engaged with his son, E. L. Baker, largely in the business, manufacturing during some seasons as high as $60,000 worth of cheese. In 1872 Rufus Baker & Son opened a wholesale cheese store in Adrian, and continued until 1874, when L. Ladd was admitted as a partner, and the firm then known as Rufus Baker & Company continued until December, 1878. As will be inferred from the foregoing, the Township is devoted mostly to grazing, either to make milk for the dairy or to fatten cattle for the shambles, large farms being used for the latter purpose. Many thousand pounds of cheese are made in the Township annually.

The Township embraces three villages within its boundaries Fairfield, Jasper, and Weston; the first named being still popularly known among the older residents by its original name, "Baker's Corners." The locations of these villages are beautiful, and the spots are historical, as far as the Township of Fairfield is concerned. They are busy trading points, sustained by large scopes of good farming country, and their support is assured in the character and reputation of the business men. Some of the stores would do credit to much larger places. Some small manufacturing is also done. Excellent schools in the Township afford ample opportunities to the children in the acquirement of a good practical education.

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History of Lenawee County
published by The Western Historical Society in 1909.

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