History of Lenawee County, Michigan - Chapter 19, Rome Township

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ROME TOWNSHIP. Rome is in the northwestern part of Lenawee County, with the Township of Rollin for its boundary on the west, Camridge on the north, Adrian on the east, and Dover and a small portion of Hudson on the south. It comprises Congressional Township 6, range 2 east, and contains of course thirty-six- sections of land. The only watercourse within this Township is a small stream, or rather two streams that unite and form Sand creek or the west branch of the River Raisin, and Wolf creek flows through the northeastern corner of the Township. Not unlike the other Townships of Lenawee County, especially the region of country between the River Raisin and Bean creek, there is very little rough, untillable land, and the greater portion of it has been cleared of its native timber. The valleys of the streams are very productive, and this is equally true of the higher lands. A reasonable portion of the fields is given over to pasture for the various kinds of live stock, which are very extensively raised. It is one of the best agricultural districts in the County, and yields large crops of wheat, corn, oats, etc. The farmers are mostly well-to-do and possess fine residences and comfortable homes, as a trip through the Township will readily make manifest. Although possessing no railroad facilities, being the only Township in the County without this means of travel, nor having any large commercial mart within its borders, it has a rich soil, an enterprising population, and all the elements of a thrifty farming district. The Township was named in 1834 by Lyman W. Baker, presumably after the famous capital of the ancient Roman Empire. Prior to 1835 it was a part of Logan, or Adrian, as it is now known. Lyman W. Baker, from the time of his first settlement in the Township, in the spring of 1833, was one of its most active men. He came in before its organization, and during the meeting held at a logging-bee was made secretary and instructed to write to the president of the Legislative Council and ask if the Township might organize. There was soon received a reply in the affirmative, and at the meeting of the twenty-seven voters in the Township, Mr. Baker proposed it be called Rome, David Smith, Jr., proposed the name of Junius. It was put to vote by ballot and Rome had three majority. The chairman then declared the Township should be called Rome, and Secretary Baker so informed the Legislative Council. In 1837, Mr. Baker was elected justice of the peace and continued in the office until about 1840. He subsequently represented the Township in the County board of supervisors, and for a period of thirty years was postmaster at Wolf Creek. He was commissioned twenty times as notary public, and in 1840 was made deputy United States marshal. In addition to the duties of his various offices, being a man of great industry and energy, he carried on farming. David Smith, Jr., came to Lenawee County and settled in Rome Township in the spring of 1832. He labored industriously for years with slow returns, and succeeded in building up a comfortable home from the wilderness. He proved just such a man as was needed in the early settlement of the Township, his labors not being confined to his own personal interests, but from the very first he encouraged the settlement of a good class of people, and he was foremost in the enterprises which were inaugurated for the general good of the community. He was born near the town of Constable, St. Lawrence County, New York, Oct. 30, 1812,, and came to Lenawee County in 1832, the year before the arrival of his father, David Smith, Sr., who located nearly 20o acres of land on section 6, in what was then Logan, but is now Adrian Township. Like his father, David Smith, Jr., contributed his full share toward all that was necessary to be done in establishing the educational and religious institutions which have such an important bearing upon the moral and intellectual welfare of the community_ He was twenty years of age upon coming here, and being blessed with good health and strength, accomplished a very great amount of work during the following thirty years.

The earliest settlers who came to this Township with their families were Sturgis L. Bradley, John B. Schureman, Sylvester Knapp, William and Theodorick Luther, Allen Hubbard, and Joseph M. Baker, who came in 1832, 1833, and 1834, from New York State. John B. Schureman was born in Westchester, Westchester County, New York, April 26, 1795. He lived in the County of his birth until the spring of 1832, when he came to Lenawee County and settled on sections 22 and 23, in Rome Township, taking up 320 acres of government land. He also entered 16o acres in Dover. He at once built a house, in 1832, and it immediately became headquarters for all new settlers. Mr. Schureman was a well educated man, with considerable business experience, and 'the settlers depended upon him in many ways. He built his house on a beautiful eminence on the south side of the road, one mile east of Rome center. Sturgis L. Bradley settled on section 23, about the same time, and built his house a few rods north of Mr. Schureman's, and Sylvester Knapp also settled on section 22, and built about a half mile west. William Luther lived about one mile south, and these four families comprised pretty much all the inhabitants of the Township at that time. During the three or four following years a large number of settlers came in, Mr. Schureman's house being headquarters for nearly all the immigrants who were looking for homes. He accommodated all that came, lending them all the aid and giving them all the information possible. Mr. Schureman was a man of ability, with a good education for those days, possessing a good knowledge of all kinds of business, hence he was at once looked upon by the settlers as their superior in matters of public welfare. The Township of Rome was organized at his house and the first town meeting was held there. He built one of the first saw mills that was erected west of Adrian, the same being located on his farm, one-half mile south of his house. He was the first supervisor of the Township, also the first postmaster, and he held all the offices in the Township within the gift of the people. He was always a very prominent man in the Township, being highly honored and respected by all for his uniform kindness and good judgment. He lived to see every foot of land in Rome owned by actual settlers, and the Township become one of the wealthiest and most productive Townships in the County. He died March 25, 1879.

Theodorick Luther was one of the prominent figures in the scenes of the early history of Rome Township, where he first made his settlement in 1834. He was born in South Hero, Vt., March 23, 1799. He resided with his parents until he was -twenty-one years old, and by them was reared as a farmer, receiving a good school education in the Empire State, to which his parents removed while he was young. The family lived in the neighborhood of Plattsburg, N. Y., until 1831, and for the last ten years of his residence there Theodorick Luther followed various kinds of a mechanical business, such as building barns, wagons, sleighs, etc., he having a natural ability in that line. In August, 1831, he came to Michigan and made a settlement at Superior, Washtenaw County, where he resided three years. In the summer of 1834 he sold out and came to Lenawee County, locating some lands in Rome Township, joining on the west a tract that had been entered by his father,. William Luther. There he resided the remainder of his life. Not being entirely content with his agricultural pursuits, in the winter of 1834-5, in company with his father he built a saw mill on the River Raisin, which ran through their land, and with it sawed lumber to build their own houses and barns, besides doing considerable work for neighbors and new settlers. In 1847 Mr. Luther built a steam saw mill that was for many years well and favorably known throughout Rome Township. It-was a great benefit to the community in more ways than one, and the enterprise of Mr. Luther in erecting it was commendable. Fortunately, when he and his father came here, they had quite a sum of money, more than was necessary to purchase their farms, and being among the very earliest pioneers, they had their choice of the land, but preferred to have small farms and nearer neighbors. Theodorick Luther filled the place of an estimable citizen, a kind father, and a loving husband, until April 25, 1887, when he was called from this vale of tears by the Angel of Death.

Joseph M. Baker was born in Adams, Mass., Feb. 19, 1780. When he was quite young his parents removed to Ira, Rutland County, Vermont, where he lived with them until the year 18oo, when he left home and went to Manchester, Ontario County, New York where he purchased a farm in the woods. He at once commenced clearing his land, and built a log cabin. He, married a pioneer's daughter, reared a family of eleven children, and resided there until the country was well improved. He erected a large and fine house, and the family enjoyed all the comforts and many of the luxuries of that period. But he had five sons, and as they became men they grew uneasy and wanted homes and farms of their own. Michigan at that time being the Eldorado, these young men began to talk about emigrating to that unknown country, and the parents, rather than have the family separated, finally decided to sell and abandon the pleasant home they had worked so hard to make, again to go into the woods and start once more. This they did, and in the spring of 1833 Joseph M. Baker and the entire family came to Michigan and settled in the virgin forest of Lenawee County. Mr. Baker purchased from the government 1,000 acres of land on sections 12, in Rome, 5, 6, and 7, in Adrian, and 30, in Franklin. Each of his sons was given 16o acres, and his daughters eighty acres of land. The family arrived in the woods on Aug. 7, 1833, and this day is now celebrated by Mr. Baker's descendants, to the number of nearly four hundred, by the annual Baker picnic. Joseph M. Baker died in Adrian Township, May 27, 1872.

William Luther was born in Bennington, Bristol County, Rhode Island, Sept. 28, 1774, and when a child moved with his parents to New Hampshire, afterward going to Vermont, where he lived until about the year i8oo. He then moved to Plattsburg, N. Y., where he purchased a farm and lived until 1832, when he came to Michigan and took up the northeast quarter of section 27, in Rome. He possessed quite a sum of money when he came into the Township and could have purchased a large tract of land, but he preferred to have neighbors. He was one of the earliest settlers in the Township, and was active in doing all he could for its growth and development. He was ever ready to assist and encourage the new settlers as they came in, and lived to see the entire Township settled up, and many fine farms and buildings wrought out of the forest. He died in Rome, Oct. 2, 1841.

Daniel Bates was another of the early settlers of Rome who became prominent in the civic affairs of the Township. He was born in Pownal, Binghamton, County, Vermont, Aug. 8, 18oo, but moved with his father, Stephen Bates, who was a Revolutionary soldier, to New Lisbon, Otsego County, New York, when he was about eighteen months old. In 1811, the family removed to Erie County, in the same state, and there Daniel Bates was reared, assisting his father in clearing up a farm, and there he lived until he was eighteen years old, when he commenced on a farm for himself. He took an "article" for some land and lived upon it ten years, when he sold his, "chance" for $40o and purchased another farm in the town of Clarence, in the same County, where he lived until 1835. He then sold out and came to Lenawee County, and purchased 20o acres of land of job Comstock, on section 10, in Rome. This was all new land, but a log shanty had been erected, with shake roof and split log floor. Mr. Bates cleared up his first purchase, and added to it until he owned 52o acres, and he built a good, frame house with barns and sheds. He was a sturdy, honest, energetic man, a thrifty farmer, and a good citizen. In his early settlement in Rome, he was alive to every enterprise that would benefit the Township or County, assisting in cutting through roads, building bridges, erecting school houses and churches, and advancing the social and material interests of the community. He died on the land he purchased, Jan. 13, 1878. In religious faith he was a Baptist, having united with the church in 1832, and he always lived a consistent Christian life.

Winslow Bates was the eldest son of Daniel Bates, and he was born in Erie (now Newstead), Erie County, New York, Oct. 11, 181g. He lived with his father until he was twenty-three, coning to Michigan with his parents in 1835, and he resided in Rome Township the remainder of his life. Re was a genuine pioneer, having assisted his father in clearing up his farm, and he saw the Township transformed from a wilderness to a high state of cultivation. When he first saw the Township, there were only a very few log shanties within its limits, but he saw them all gradually replaced by comfortable, and, in many instances, elegant brick and frame houses. Every acre of land in Rome is owned and occupied by farmers, and there is not an eighty-acre lot in the Township but what a farmer can get a good living from. There are no large swamps or marshes within the Township limits Winslow Bates was elected highway commissioner in 1854, and was annually re-elected as long as he would accept the office. He was also elected justice of the peace, and filled the office one term. He was always an enthusiastic Republican, and he posted the first call in the Township for a Republican caucus, in the spring of 1854, the notices being written by James H. Parker. The Republicans carried the Township that spring, and have elected a majority of the officers in nearly every year since.

The Township of Rome was organized in 1835, and the first election was held that year, the following persons being elected to fill the more important of the Township, offices: John B. Schureman, supervisor, Theodorick Luther, James Allen, and John Bates, assessors. The first grocery was opened by Messrs. Knowles and Halstead. The Baptist Church of Rome was founded in the fall of 1839, being the sixth organization of that denomination to be established in Lenawee County. The Rev. H. Churchill is the present incumbent of the pastorate, having been installed therein in the summer of 1805. In point of membership this church is one of the smallest in the County. Rome, familiarly known as "Rome Center," is a hamlet appreciated by farmers in their vicinity.

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

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