History of Lenawee County, Michigan - Chapter 17, Macon Township

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MACON TOWNSHIP. The prevailing soil of Macon Township is a black, sandy loam, with some clay. Crops, in quality and yield, compare favorably with any of the other Townships. The railroad facilities consist of the Wabash railroad, which passes through the southeastern part, and a near-by station in Ridgeway Township, called Britton. One of the earliest settlers was John Pennington, who moved into the Township with his family, from Raisin, in 1829, and entered the first land. Mr. Pennington was born in Stafford, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Aug. 25, 1778, and there he lived until he was twenty years old, when he went to Monroe County, New York, where he was a pioneer. He purchased wild land there, improved it, and lived upon it until the spring of 1829, when he sold out and came to Michigan. He was a brother-in-law of Darius Comstock, and when he first came to Lenawee County, in 1828, located land in Raisin, near the home of his relative. When he moved his family, in the spring of 1829, he came from Detroit by the way of Ypsilanti and Saline, and while passing through the present Township of Macon he was very much pleased with the appearance of the country and the land in certain portions; and after getting his family settled in Raisin he came back along the "trail," as it was then called, and took up 16o acres on sections 5 and 8, this being the first land located in the Township, and Mr. Pennington was then the first and only settler between Tecumseh and Saline, a distance of about twelve miles. In September, 1829, a part of his family moved into a shanty he erected, and during that winter he chopped off twenty-three acres. The following spring, 183o, he plowed and planted a portion of it, this being the first ground plowed and the first crops planted in the Township. From that time forward Mr. Pennington and his family continued to live in Macon. In 183o he took up 16o acres of land adjoining his first purchase, and he afterward entered 16o acres more. He died in Macon, Dec. 29, 186o. The village of Pennington's Corners (now called Macon) was named after him, and is located on land he took tip from the government.

The Township was named in the winter of 1833, after a creek which flows through it from the northwest to the southeast. Israel Pennington and Dr. Joseph Howell circulated a petition at that time to have the Township set off from Tecumseh, the present Townships of Macon, Tecumseh, Clinton, Ridgeway, and portions of Blissfield and Deerfield then being one Township. The act creating the Township of Macon was a general one so far as the County was concerned, and it was the second division of the County into Townships for the purpose of local self-government. At the time of its erection Macon included all of the territory now embraced in the Townships of Macon and Ridgeway, and all of the land in Blissfield and Deerfield Townships lying north of the line between Congressional Townships 6 and 7. Israel Pennington, who with Dr. Howell, was instrumental in the organization of Macon Township, was the son of John Pennington, and came to Lenawee County with his parents in 1829. He was born in Perinton, Monroe County, New York, Nov. 17, 18o8. Although he was not a birthright member, he was for many years and up to the time of his death an active member of the Society of Orthodox Friends. In 183o he located 24o acres of land in the present Township of Dover, which is said to have been the first land entered in that Township, but he soon afterward sold his claim. He was always an active man, and performed his full share of hard labor in developing and subduing Macon Township from a wilderness. He held the plow to break tip the, first piece of land plowed in Macon, in the spring of 1830. In 1832 he returned to his old home in Monroe County, New York, taking passage at Detroit on the then new steamboat "Washington." In the passage down the lake the boat encountered a terrific storm and went to pieces on the Canada shore, near the lower end of Long Point. There were about thirty passengers aboard, but only one life was lost, although they were at the mercy of the storm for more than twenty-four hours. In the fall of 1835 Mr. Pennington again went East, and during that winter made a tour of all the large eastern cities. Early in the spring of 1836 he spent some time in Washington and daily visited both houses of Congress. He had the pleasure of seeing Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun; James K. Polk, President Andrew Jackson, and others of the nation's celebrities of that day and time. He also visited Mount Vernon: Mr. Pennington greatly assisted early settlers in examining, locating, and exploring the country, sometimes extending his trips into Clinton, Ionia, and Ingham counties. He was an active politician, always on the side of freedom. He was an early anti-slavery man, afterward a "Free-soiler," and then a' Republican. In 1837 he was appointed the first postmaster at Macon and held the office for twenty-five years. In 1848 he was a delegate to the first Free Soil convention held at Adrian, and was also a delegate to the, first Republican convention in the County, held at Tecumseh, in 1854. He was a delegate to the Republican state convention in 1878 that nominated governor and other state officers, and he was also a delegate to the state convention of i88o. He was ever a staunch temperance man, and was a member of the first temperance society organized in the County, in the winter of 1829-30. He started the first nursery in the County, and for many years he was an active worker in the County agricultural society, being a director for nearly fifteen years. In 1879 he was a delegate to the American Pomological convention, at Rochester, N. Y., being appointed by the Michigan Pomological Society, and he was present during the entire meeting.

The first religious services in Macon Township were held by Joseph Bangs, a Methodist minister, in a log house near Pennington's Corners. The first frame house was built by Dr. Howell. Mary White was the first white person to die in the Township, in the spring of 1833. James and Gabriel W. Mills were the first to bring a stock of goods into the Township to sell. Gabriel W. Mills was born in Barnegat, N. J., Feb. 14, 1793. He was reared a farmer and lived with his father until he was twenty-one, when he commenced business for himself and engaged in the wood and lumber industry, purchasing pine lands along the Jersey coast and cutting the timber off and shipping it to the New York market. He followed this business until 1834, when he came to Michigan and settled in Macon Township. In 1832 his brother, James Mills, came to Michigan, and, looking around for a location, came upon Macon creek. He believed that a good mill site could be made, and at once wrote to Gabriel his ideas, telling him he could procure a good mill privilege, with i6o acres of heavy timber, of Joseph Howell, for two and one-half dollars per acre. Gabriel at once sent the money on to make the purchase, erect a dam, and build a saw mill. This was immediately done, and in 1834, when he arrived with his family, the mill was running. This was the first saw mill in Macon, and the second one in the northern portion of, the County. It was of great importance to the settlers and was the means of increasing the settlement and adding to the comfort and protection of the pioneers. There was a great abundance of white-wood timber in this section, and the settlers in the entire northern part of the County came to this mill for lumber, several buildings in Clinton and Tecumseh being erected of lumber sawed at this mill. It was kept in operation for over thirty years, and then it was torn away, the dam scraped down, and the ola pond now affords the very best grazing land. Without a doubt, Mr. Mills was the wealthiest settler that came to Lenawee County during its early settlement. He brought $6,000 in specie with him, which was a fortune in those days, and it was probably more money than all the "wild-cat" banks in southern Michigan actually possessed. He was a great benefactor to the settlers, and stood between them and starvation and loss in many instances. He trusted all who asked him, for lumber and other necessaries which he possessed, and he was to Macon what Darius Comstock was to Raisin, a big-hearted, benevolent man, loved and respected by all. He owned at one time 1,2oo acres of land in Michigan, 8oo of which were in Macon. He erected the first frame school-house in the Township, furnishing all the material, and John Norton did the work. At that time there was a log school-house at Pennington's Corners. Mr. Mills died in Macon Feb. 1, 1851.

Among the earliest settlers not before named were Samuel Niblack, the first justice of the peace; James Collins and his sons, William Hendershott, and Peter Sones. The last named ("honest old Peter") broke the first ground in the Township. James Collins was also of- New Jersey and of New England ancestry, and was characterized by his loyal adherence to the Quaker faith. He followed the occupation of a boatman while a resident of New Jersey, and came to Michigan with his son, Isaac, when the latter was a youth of eighteen years. It is supposed that they settled in the wilderness of Macon Township as early as the fall of 1832. - They took tip a tract of land on section 5, and after making some improvements, the father returned to New Jersey after his wife and family. Before they had started on the return journey, however, his wife was seized with cholera and died very suddenly. Her remains were laid to rest in her native soil, and then James Collins proceeded to carry out his original intention, coming to Lenawee County with the remaining members of his family. Upon his arrival here he went forward with the cultivation of his land, but subsequently returned to his native state and married a second wife. His death took place in Macon Township in 1864, when he was quite well advanced in years.

When Ira Stewart came, in 1833, he had to cut his road for four miles through the woods to reach his place. He was a native of Massachusetts, whence he removed with his parents when a child to the vicinity of Utica, N. Y., where he developed into manhood. He then made his way to Wayne County, Michigan, locating first near the little hamlet of Plymouth, whence, in 1833, he removed to this County. He took up a tract of land in Macon Township, converted the same into a good farm, and there he spent the remainder of his days. Peter Miller, who settled in 1833, caught a deer by the horns while it was asleep, and in trying to hold it was dragged through the woods until his clothes were torn to shreds. Simeon Davidson, Daniel Clarkson, William Cadmus, Abraham Wheeler, Burtis Bird, and Capt. Isaac Miller, may be mentioned also as early settlers of Macon.

Simeon Davidson was born in Lodi, Seneca County, New York, June 26,_ 1804. He was reared a farmer, but learned the carpenter's trade, which he followed for several years. He came to Michigan in 1831 and settled on section 3o in Macon Township, where he resided until 1854, and then purchased a farm on sections 25 and 36, consisting of 67o acres, in Tecumseh Township, at the same time owning 16o acres in Macon. During the first few years of his residence in Lenawee County, he followed his trade when not obliged to work on his farm he built many of the first houses, barns, mills, and bridges in the northern part of the County, and after the County began to be settled and the people were able to build, he engaged in contracting and building, employing a gang of men. No man in the northern half of Lenawee County was better known than he. His first settlement in Macon was at a time when the country from Tecumseh to Monroe was an almost unbroken wilderness, when the few scattered pioneers were poor in this world's goods, with little to sustain them but strong muscles, stout hearts, and their own unflinching energies. If he had but little to spare in those trying days bf pioneer life, Mr. Davidson was ever ready, "without money and without price," to divide that little with those more destitute than himself. When a log cabin was required to shelter an immigrant and his family, he was the first invited to the raising and the first to respond to the call, and when frame dwellings of more pretensions succeeded the primitive structures, unless he could be present with his cheering voice as master of the occasion, the raising would frequently be postponed until convenient for him to attend. In fact, as one of the most enterprising, energetic, and liberal-minded men, he was long and favorably known throughout southern Michigan. As a farmer he was eminently successful, and as the auctioneer of northern Lenawee his services were regarded as indispensable. In all public measures for the promotion of the social, religious, moral, and educational interests of his neighborhood, and for the general development of the resources of the country by railroad or otherwise, he was ever ready to bear his full share of the burden. He was liberal without extravagance, economical without meanness, a good husband, a kind parent, and as a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, a Christian without offensive zeal or undue pretension, ever ready to aid the poor and sympathize with the afflicted, and it is not strange that from an early period to the day of his death he was almost universally greeted wherever known by the familiar name of "Uncle Sim." Although of ripe age, he passed away in 1874 in the midst of an active and useful life, and his death was regretted by the whole community. He donated liberally for the construction of the fine brick church edifice at Ridgeway village, giving over $4,000 to the building committee. Daniel Clarkson was born in Woodbridge Township, Middlesex County, New Jersey, and was of New England ancestry for several generations. His childhood and youth were spent in his native state, and when starting out for himself he emigrated to Seneca County, New York, where he was married. In November, 1831, he started with his family for the Territory of Michigan, taking the household goods and making the journey via the canal and lakes to Detroit. At that city, which was then in its infancy, they secured an ox-team, by means of which they made their way to this County, along narrow roads, almost impassable, through swamps and underbrush; these alone were the sights and scenes by which the tediousness of the journey was relieved. They probably traveled many miles without passing a human habitation, and finally pitched their tent in the woods some distance from any opening, and with not a settler in sight. Daniel Clarkson entered a tract of government land on section 18 in what was afterward laid off as Macon Township, and he put tip a rude log cabin with a stick-and-mud chimney and the wide, old-fashioned fire-place, before the cheerful blaze of which men, women and children sat with deep content. They passed that winter under many difficulties, and in the spring the father commenced clearing the land and preparing it for cultivation. This involved the labor of years, but the parents lived to see a finely improved farm around them, and their children comfortably settled in life. As time passed, Mr. Clarkson added to his real estate, and before his death, in July, 1869, when about seventy years of age, was the owner of 400 acres. He was a man of great energy and determination, and by prudence and economy acquired a valuable property. Politically, he was an active Democrat, fearless in the expression of his sentiments, and always ready to do' battle for what he believed to be right.

Abraham Wheeler was a native of Ovid, Seneca County, New York, where he was born May 16, 1803. He came to Michigan in June, 1833, and purchased land on section 22, in Macon Township, and there he resided until the spring of 1840, when he removed to a farm on section r6. Making this his residence until 1863, he then sold out and retired from active business, making his home with his son, James K., until his death, which occurred Jan. 6, 1874. He was quite influential in local political circles in his day, and served his Township as supervisor for several years, while he filled the office of justice of the peace for eight years. Thoroughly active and progressive in all public improvements, he shirked no responsibilities that came upon him $s a pioneer. Politically he was attached to the Democratic Party. The school facilities of Macon Township are first class and various church organizations are represented. The eastern portion of the Township is well watered by artesian and flowing wells, some of which are said to have at times thrown their waters twelve or fourteen feet in the air. A ridge runs through the Township nearly from northeast to southwest, and it has indications of having once been the shore of a large inland lake. Macon Village is a small hamlet in the northeast corner of the Township, and it is appreciated by farmers in that vicinity.

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

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