History of Lenawee County, Michigan - Chapter 20, Woodstock Township

                                  Previous Chapter                    Next Chapter

WOODSTOCK TOWNSHIP. Topographically, this Township enjoys the distinction of being among the most irregular in Lenawee County. The Township was erected by action of the state legislature, approved March 23, 1836, from territory then embraced in the Township of Franklin. The house of Jesse Osborn was designated as the place for holding elections.

Jesse Osborn was born in Newburgh, Orange County, New York, in 1784, and lived with his parents until after he had reached man's estate. His parents then moved to Cayuga County and purchased a farm, upon which they lived for several years, and Jesse lived with them during the time. In 1824 he came to Michigan, and landed in Detroit with his family, bringing his own team and wagon. He was the first man to drive a team from Detroit to Monroe after the War of 1812. When he arrived at Monroe he could find no house to live in, and finally went up the River Raisin about five miles and occupied an old deserted house, where a woman and five children had been murdered by the Indians, the blood-stains being on 'the floor at the time. They occupied this house until winter. In the latter part of August Mr. Osborn went to Tecumseh; but could not get a house up and make it sufficiently comfortable for the winter, so he returned to Monroe and stayed until the spring of 1825. In June, 1824, he purchased eighty acres of land adjoining the Judge Stacy farm, in Tecumseh, a part of it being now used for the cemetery. He raised the first wheat in the County on this farm. He lived there until 1831, when he sold out to William H. Hoag and purchased 120 acres on section 9, in Woodstock. He built a large log house and kept a hotel on the Chicago turnpike until 1857. He then sold out and moved to Coffey County, Kansas, where he died in 1865. He was the first man to purchase land in Woodstock Township and Cornelius Millspaugh was the first settler, he pre-empting his land some years previous. Thomas Jowls and Mary Ann Millspaugh were the first couple to be married in the Township. Jesse Osborn built the first school house, in 1834, and Alvin Chase taught the first school: Bean creek, or Tiffin river, as it is called on the early maps, flows through a small portion of the Township, maintaining a course a little north of west until it reaches the east and west quarter line of section 32, When it makes an abrupt turn to the southward and enters the Township of Rollin. This is the largest water course in the Township, but there are other small ones, fed by springs and the lakes. A portion of the Township is very broken and rugged, and it contains a dozen or more of picturesque little lakes, the three larger ones being called respectively Devil's, Goose, and Silver lakes. "Prospect Hill," near the eastern boundary-line of the Township, is one of the highest elevations in the state.

This Township was originally surveyed by Benjamin Hough and Robert Clark, Jr., and in their notes accompanying the report of the survey they describe the land as being hilly and broken, swampy and marshy in places, and the soil third rate and poor. But, notwithstanding their discouraging statements in regard to the soil, the land ;s principally owned by actual residents, who have strenuously endeavored to cultivate and improve it, and a comparison with other Townships in the County will show that their efforts have not been in vain. Choice farming land lies in the valleys of the streams. Some of the land is still covered with natural forest trees, thinned out, of course, by the process of seventy-five years of culling in the search for desirable timber for various purposes. Being a purely agricultural and dairy district, in this respect it maintains a high standard of excellence. The soil averages with other lands in the County in fertility and value, being well adapted to certain features of the farming industry, and the farms are rendered "profitable according to the energy and intelligence employed. Long years before the white man entered the territory, this was a favorite rendezvous for the Indians in passing through the country, and doubtless was the scene of stealthy plottings against the enemies of their own race, equally as often as against the white intruder. As stated above, the honors of first settlement are due to Cornelius Millspaugh, but he was a resident here only a short time-a year or two, perhaps-and he then sold and went further west to what is known as Somerset Center, in Hillsdale County. In November, 1834, Willard Joslin and Nahum Lamb moved into the Township with their families. Mr. Joslin was born, April 29, 1793, and came to Michigan from Erie County, New York. His family was among the very earliest of the pioneers of this section, and while he lived Mr. Joslin discharged with unshrinking energy the duties devolving upon him as a frontier citizen. He was an old-line Whig politically, and a stanch supporter of Henry Clay and his associates. He died in Woodstock Township, Sept. 18, 1842. Nahum Lamb was born in Charlton, Mass., in 1794, but was a farmer in Wales Township, Erie County, New York, prior to his migration to Michigan. He took up a farm on the line of the Chicago turnpike, on section 1o, the farm afterward owned by Garrett F. Harris. About 186o he sold this farm and moved to the village of North Adams, Hillsdale County, where he was engaged in the mercantile business the remainder of his active career. Benjamin Laur settled on section 12, in the month of April, 1834. He was an active, industrious mail, upright in his dealings, a good farmer, and later in life a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He lived to see his honest industry crowned with success, the wilderness around him bloom and blossom as the rose, and the reclaimed forest give place to fields of plenty. The cabin in which the members of his family sheltered themselves has long since given place to a spacious and comfortable home. Soon the tide of immigration and the spirit of enterprise brought new accessions, new neighbors, new friendships, and new associations. After those already enumerated, came William Western, who settled on section 8 and subsequently removed to Wisconsin with his family. Next, George. W. Clark, a son-in-law of Jesse Osborn. He has been described as a man of fine sensibilities, of superior mind, of strict integrity, a gentleman with a high sense of honor, careful of giving offense acid quick to resent an insult, sincere in his profession of friendship and an honored and open foe. But in the springtime of his usefulness consumption carried him over the unrelenting gulf of death. Thomas McCourtie, who first settled on section ii, and soon thereafter on section 9, was a man of indomitable perseverance and industry and lived to accumulate a splendid farm property. Isaac Smith settled on section Io, one-half mile east of Nahum Lamb's place. He was born in Connecticut, May 3, 1787, and there he lived until after he was twentyone. He then went to New York, and finally settled in Paris, Oneida County. He was a carpenter and joiner by trade, and followed that business until he was about fifty years old. In the fall of 1835 he came to Lenawee County, settling in Woodstock, on the Chicago turnpike, and there he resided as long as he was able to attend to any kind of business. He died in Woodstock, Jan. I6, 1879.

Charles M. McKenzie settled on the western shore of Devil's Lake, in an indentation of its shore, to which he gave the euphonious name of "McKenzie's Port." He was born in Hartland, Vt., June 1, 1800. In the spring of 1830, he tied a few things in a handkerchief, and with but fifty cents in his pocket, he bade his wife and three children good-bye, turned his face and footsteps toward the West, and in the fall of the same year reached Tecumseh. Although he had never served an apprenticeship as a carpenter, he took up the square and compass, and laid out and completed one of the first frame houses put up in that village. In 1831 he came to Adrian. In-1833 his wife and children came on from the East, with a-number of other settlers, whom Mr. McKenzie had induced to leave the old Granite State and' come to Michigan, which he claimed to be the flower garden of the west. In 1834 he moved to the Township of Woodstock with his family, and lived in a log cabin which stood at the head of the lake then called by the Indians, "Michenmantou." The cabin had neither doors, windows, nor floors, but Mr. McKenzie took lumber with him, and it was soon fully equipped. For a number of years it afforded shelter for many a weary traveler. The meats at this primitive hotel consisted of fish, turkey, and venison, and the fruits were whortleberries, cranberries, and blackberries, which were bountifully brought in by the Indians, who were glad to exchange them_ for pumpkins and potatoes, or anything that the white squaw had to give them. During the nights, the wolves and bears were frequent visitors, but they were not welcome by a lone mother with four small children, as most of the time the husband was obliged tq be away, at work in Adrian. Mr. McKenzie named the town of Woodstock after a small village in Vermont. After finding that through a mistake of the land commissioner, nine-tenths of the eighty acres he had entered from the government, and paid for, was lying in the lake, he decided to return with his family to Adrian, and there, in 1843, for the second time he engaged in the brick-making business, which he pursued the remainder of his active life. The wrong sustained in the purchase of his farm was subsequently righted by a special act of Congress, passed for his rehef while Hon. Robert McClelland was a member of that body. Mr. McKenzie deeded back the water and received instead eighty acres of land. In 1832, when the new and wilderness Territory of Michigan was threatened with war and an Indian invasion by Black Hawk, he was among the first to shoulder his musket to protect the then frontier. Again, in 1834, when the people of the young Territory thought they were being wronged by the adjoining state of Ohio, he joined the little army that made the demonstration against the invading Buckeyes. Mr. McKenzie was a patriot in every sense of the word, yet, like most men, he had his peculiarities. He was always sympathetic, kind-hearted, and ever ready to do work in a good cause.

Joseph Younglove settled on section 36, where he opened a hotel on the new road opened from Adrian to the Chicago road, in the western part of Woodstock. He held numerous offices in the Township, sustained a good reputation, and finally removed to Illinois. Richard Osborn also settled on section 36 and reared a large family of children, who distinguished themselves in various pursuits of life. He always sustained a spotless reputation and maintained an honorable record. Susanna Sanford settled on section 15, coming to the Township with a grown-up family of seven sons and two daughters. Five of the sons and both daughters were married and had famihes of their own. Mrs. Sanford was a woman of more than ordinary abilities, of generous impulses, strict integrity, pure womanly affections, and with heroic resolves. Her sons were named as follows: Malachi, Ezekiel W., Joseph B., Ezra., Wardel W., and Lewis, the latter of whom held several offices of trust in the Township. There are many more that should receive a passing notice, but the names and facts concerning them have been lost in the years that have intervened. Those pioneer days were days of toil, privation, and suffering. To rear the rude dwelling, subdue the forest, prepare the soil, fence the lands, harvest the crops, and in short create a home with anything like comfort, required indomitable courage, untiring industry, and unwearied attention. Yet those noble men who forsook the luxurious ease of their Eastern homes, the scenes of their childhood, the graves of their fathers and mothers and kindred friends, and those noble women who left behind them the luxuries of refinement and ease, the allurements of society and style, are worthy of the blessings which the most sanguine of them may have pictured, as well as the gratitude of an enlightened people.

The first Township meeting in Woodstock was held at the house of Jesse Osborn on April 4, 1836. The officers elected were: Nahum Lamb, supervisor; Thomas McCourtie, Township clerk; David Terrell, Samuel Dunn, and Joseph Younglove, justices of the peace; Israel Titus, Ezekiel W. Sanford, and Willard Joslin, assessors; Jesse Osborn and John Binns, directors of the poor; Charles M. McKenzie and Jedediah P. Osborn, constables; Nelson Terrel, Michael Chool, and Isaac Titus, commissioners of highways; William Western, Joseph Younglove, and Mitchell Gue, commissioners of schools; Alonzo L. Smith, William Babcock, and Wardell W. Sanford, school inspectors; Ezekiel W. Sanford, pound master; Benson Hulin, sealer of weights and measures. .

Alonzo L. Smith, who was one of the first school inspectors of Woodstock Township, was born in Paris, Oneida County, New York, April 25, 1814, and lived with his father until he was twenty-one, learning the carpenter's trade. He came to Michigan with his parents in 1835, and followed his trade until the spring of 1839, when he settled on section ii, on land that he had purchased about three years before. He taught school during three winters, in Cambridge and Woodstock Townships, but after 1839 he followed farming exclusively. He at one time was elected highway commissioner, and filled the office of school inspector for at least twenty years. He was also elected justice of the peace and served one term. He was an influential man, took an interest in public affairs, and from the first was active in organizing the school districts in the Township, laying out roads, building bridges, etc. He was probably as well known as any man in the Township. In December, 1835, John Talbot commenced preparations for building a mill on Bean creek, near the outlet of Devil's Lake, and it was finished in August, 1836. The mill is said to have been situated near the southwest corner of section 33, and it was the pioneer grist mill of the Township, proving a great accommodation to the settlers. It was a small affair, however, and when run to its full capacity it was unable to do the grinding for even the northern portion of the Bean Creek Valley. In a short time there was quite a collection of houses, shops, etc., around the mill, and the place received the name of Peru. In the fall of 1837, Mr. Talbot concluded he could obtain a better power farther down the stream, and commenced a new race and mill. Although the mill property was nearly all within the limits of Woodstock, yet the mill was located just south of the Township line, in the edge of Rollin. The new mill commenced operations in the month of July, 1838, and very soon thereafter all the denizens of Peru moved to and settled around the new mill-site. In the political campaign of 1840, because nearly every voter of the burg was a Whig, and coon skins (one of the Whig campaign emblems) were displayed at nearly every door, Thomas McCourtie nicknamed the place "Coon Town," an appellation it did not outgrow for many years. On April 8, 1847, the village was platted and given the name of Harrison but soon thereafter became generally known as Addison. It is situated in two Townships, with perhaps the greater part of the residence portion in Rollin. In 1840 Jesse Osborn and David Terrell built a saw mill on Goose Creek, in the northern part of the Township. The mill at Addison was sold to Darius C. Jackson in 1842, and about that time a saw mill was built there. A new grist mill was built in the fall of 1848, and an extensive milling business is still done there. The village has several reliable merchants and is surrounded by a fine farming country. Cement City, on the line between Woodstock Township and Jackson County, is also a thriving village. A large cement factory is located there, the site being selected because of the discovery of extensive marl beds in the surrounding country. The growth of the place has been quite rapid, and a bright future for it is confidently expected. The Township of Woodstock has been the scene of two foul murders, or more properly of fire, for one was a quadruple murder. The particulars of these foul crimes have been given about as follows by another writer, who was familiar with the circumstances Mr. and Mrs. Bivins had long been residents of the Township, and had won the respect and esteem of all their neighbors. They had but one child, a boy named David. He was not different from other boys, except that he was noticed too have a very revengeful disposition. At an early age he married a daughter of Ezra Sanford. She died July 5, 1862, and it was afterward thought that David was instrumental in her "taking off." At the time of her death she was but nineteen years of age. In February, following, he married his second wife, a daughter of Thomas Brownell, a citizen of Rollin Township. Miss Laura Brownell was a young lady of great personal attractions, and appeared to be much attached to her husband, and they lived happily for a time. David took a notion that he ought to have a deed to his father's farm, and to induce him to deed it, David enlisted in the army. His idea was that his parents would rather deed him their home than have their only son go into the army. In this he was mistaken. Learning his mistake, he hoped he would not receive his commission and appeared disappointed when it came. He subsequently deserted the army, and at the house of his father-in-law had an interview with his father, who besought him with tears to endeavor in some way to earn an honorable living. As it was not safe for David to stay there, his father gave him $100, expressing the hope that it was the last money he would ever ask of him. David went to Grafton, in the state of Ohio, and engaged in the sale of Blackman's medicines, and earned some money. While thus employed, he made the acquaintance of Miss Myra Hart, the daughter of a dry goods merchant of Grafton. He was smitten with her charms, and it is believed made some progress in gaining her affections. But there was a Woodstock lady in the way of a consummation of his wishes. He resolved to be rid of this encumbrance, and at the same time secure the property he would need to support Miss Hart. With this thought uppermost in his mind, he left Grafton for Michigan, in January, 1865. He went to his father's house and had an interview with his parents and wife, and then to Hudson the same day. At the livery stable of Green & Johnson he applied for a saddle horse. Mr. Johnson informed him that they had none, but could furnish him a light buggy. It was winter, but the ground was bare. He gave orders to have the horse and vehicle ready on the arrival of the night train from the east. Having made these arrangements he went east on the afternoon train. He returned on the night train, took the horse and buggy, and driving to the vicinity of his father's house, hitched the horse among some hushes by the roadside. Going into the house, he found that his father and mother were absent, taking care of a sick neighbor: His wife was alone. He sent her for his father, saying he must see him immediately. Mrs. Bivins accompanied her husband home. David seated himself beside his father, under pretense of private conversation, and thus held his attention while he presented a pistol to his head and fired. The old man dropped dead. His mother was next slain, and then he faced his wife. She pleaded with him for the sake of their unborn child to spare her life, but the image of Myra Hart was before his eyes, and the brute at once murdered his wife and their child. He then set fire to the house and retraced his steps to Hudson. He arrived there in time to take the morning train eastward. A robe dropped from the buggy told who the murderer and incendiary was, and he was immediately arrested: He died in the Michigan state prison.

The other murder was that of Rhoda Pennock, who was killed by her husband, James P. Pennock, on April 22, 1865. Mr. Pennock had formerly lived in the city of Adrian, and there owned the McKenzie farm. He removed to Woodstock about the year 1854. He was upward of six feet in height, and in 1865 he was sixty-seven years old, and his hair was perfectly white. He owned 16o acres of land on the shore of Devil's Lake, on section 34. He was a profane man, excitable and passionate, but had never been intemperate, and although penurious, had never been deemed dishonest. On the question of domestic economy Pennock and his wife had had frequent quarrels. Their son-in-law had been living with them, and most of the household furniture belonged to him and to his wife. They had determined to live apart from the old folks, but the old man objected to a removal of the furniture. Mrs. Pennock took sides with the young folks, and the result was a series of family quarrels. On the afternoon of the day of the crime, just before dark, the neighbors discovered Pennock's barn to be on fire. They rushed over there and succeeded in extinguishing the flames. When this was done, the house was discovered to be on fire. This fire also was extinguished, but while they were engaged there Pennock succeeded in firing the barn so effectively that it was destroyed. When this third fire was discovered it first occurred to the neighbors that Pennock was the incendiary. Mrs. Pennock was nowhere around, and as darkness had now come on, they procured lights and went in search of her. They found her lifeless body under a bridge which spanned a small stream running into the lake. He had killed her by blows on the head with some blunt instrument. The Township of Woodstock has today within her borders seven excellent schools, exclusively of the high and graded schools in the village of Addison. These institutions of learning are in charge of a corps of specially trained instructors, who receive compensation according to their attainments and efficiency. No Township in the County has a better system of public schools or a more appreciative class of patrons.

The Township now, as a whole, presents a striking contrast to what it was when the early surveyors made their unfavorable reports. The majestic solitudes, before those days unbroken, save by the howling of the wild beast, the war of the elements, or the peals of the reverberating thunder, now respond to the busy hum of industry, the scream of the locomotive, and the chime of the church-going bell. Where the red man once bivouacked around his camp-fire, with his girdle of wampum strung with the scalps of his enemies, and then whirled into mazes of the war-dance, now fields of plenty and homes of industry, comfort, elegance, and luxury, gladden the eye of the beholder. Where the unsightly swamps and quagmires and waste places marred the symmetry and beauty of nature, now arises the stately manufactory, with its thundering machinery, all subjected to the control of man, for the good of the generation-yes, and of generations yet unborn; where vice, ignorance, and superstition was once the rule, now it is the exception, and institutions flourish which are worthy of the progress of the age, and a bright prospect opens for the future. Considerable of the data for this chapter has been taken from an address which was delivered by Orsamus Lamb, in March, 1877. Mr. Lamb was for many years one of the most prominent and active citizens of Woodstock Township, a sketch of which would not be complete without appropriate mention of him. Orsamus Lamb was born, Jan. 23, 1818, in Erie County, New York. He came to Lenawee County with his father, Nahum Lamb, who settled in Woodstock, in November, 1834, upon a farm on the 'line of the Chicago turnpike, in section Io. About i86o the old gentleman sold his farm and moved to the village of North Adams, Hillsdale County, where he engaged in the mercantile business. Orsamus Lamb lived in Woodstock, engaged in farming, until January, r868, when he removed to the city of Adrian. While residing in Woodstock, he held several public offices of importance and trust, having been elected school inspector when he was but twenty-one years of age, and this office he held for six years. He was also elected to the office of justice of the peace, at the age of twenty-three, and held the position for twenty-six consecutive years. He was elected supervisor of Woodstock for nineteen successive years. In 1867, he was appointed County drain commissioner, and held that position six years, when he resigned to accept the office of justice of the peace, to which office he was twice re-elected. He was always a prominent man in the County, earnest, energetic, and diligent, constantly working for the advancement and improvement of the County and the welfare of the people. He was a self-made man, with a laudable ambition for the honor and respect of his fellow citizens. In politics, he was always Democratic, and took an active part in all campaigns, as an organizer and public speaker.

                                  Previous Chapter                    Next Chapter

 » Home
 » Contact Us
History of Lenawee County
published by The Western Historical Society in 1909.

Chapter 19
Chapter 21

Please support our advertisers

History of Lenawee County
Lenawee History

Copyright © 2009-2014, Dominant Systems Corp. and others.