History of Lenawee County, Michigan - Chapter 24, Seneca Township

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SENECA TOWNSHIP. This Township was established by act of the state legislature, approved March 23, 1836. Its boundaries are regular, with the exception that on the south there is a row of sections belonging to Township 9 south, and which became permanently a part of Seneca Township at the time of the settlement of the boundary dispute with the state of Ohio. The act of the legislature establishing the Township of Seneca included within its boundaries all of Townships 8 and 9, and fractional Township 1o south, of ranges I and 2 east, which in more explicit terms means all of the present Townships of Medina and Seneca, in Lenawee County, and in addition all the territory in Ohio in ranges I and 2 east, south to the so-called "Fulton line." But when the boundary dispute between the two states was settled by act of Congress, the territory south of the so called "Harris line" was lost to Seneca, and by an act of the state legislature, approved March-11, 1837, the Township of Medina was created, comprising Township 8 south of range I east. The settlement of the boundary dispute in favor of the Buckeye claimants disarranged the plans of the Michigan people and annulled the acts providing for the erection of Townships south of the "Harris line." But it left the first tier of sections of Townships 9 south, in Michigan, and an act of the state legislature, approved March 31, 1838, provided that "all that part of the County of Lenawee, lying-in range 2 east, and south of the Township line between Townships 8 and 9 south, be, and the same is hereby attached to and shall form a part of the Township of Seneca." This act gave Seneca Township the limits it occupies today.

At the first election held after the Township organization, on the first Monday in May, 1836, of which meeting Elias J. Baldwin was moderator, and by which he was chosen the first supervisor, James H. Sweeney was elected treasurer and Simon D. Wilson, Township clerk. The highway commissioners for that year were John Knapp, William Lee, and Amos Franklin. The first magistrates of Seneca were Elias J. Baldwin, Cook Hotchkiss, Alanson Briggs and William Lee, the last three named and also Mr. Knapp, being residents of what is now Medina Township.

Simon D. Wilson was a native of Connecticut, and upon reaching manhood migrated west and located in that part of Fairfield which is now Seneca Township, where he entered 23o acres of government land and transformed it into a valuable homestead. There he resided the remainder of his life, and died in x887, when about eighty-two years of age. He became a prominent man in the affairs of the County and was the leader in the organization of districts and the building up and maintenance of the common schools. He served as school inspector for fifteeen consecutive years, and as stated above was the first clerk of the newly organized Township of Seneca. He held that religion and education should go hand-in-hand, and organized the first Sunday school in Seneca Township, and he presided as superintendent.

Amos Franklin migrated from Bradford County, Pennsylvania, in the spring of 1835, and settled in Seneca Township. The prospects of those who settled in this part of the country at that time were not of an enviable character, but Mr. Franklin cheerfully engaged with other pioneers of that day in subduing nature, building cabins, clearing land, and laying the foundation of the happy homes which now thickly dot this section of country. He died in 1844. Seneca, as a whole, may be characterized as level or gently undulating, and it perhaps contains more than the average amount of farm land. The soil is of the very best in the 'County, and great care has been taken by the farmers to cultivate their lands in a proper manner, and, as a direct result, the Township has more well tilled, highly improved farms than almost any other Township within the County. There are many very commodious and beautifully designed farm houses throughout the Township, a number of which are surrounded by large, thrifty trees, the dark green foliage of which adds materially to the beauty of the surroundings. Bean creek, or Tiffin River, flows through the southwestern portion of the Township, and Black creek, a tributary of the River Raisin, has its origin within the Township limits. There are but few other small streams, but the territory is well watered with excellent springs. Seneca is especially adapted to grazing purposes, an industry which receives the careful attention of the provident farmers, with favorable results. Fruit culture is also carried on very profitably, apples being the staple in that line, though all kinds of small fruits succeed admirably. Unlike some of the other Townships Seneca was settled only a few years before the Township was organized, the territory then being embraced within the Township of Fairfield. Two settlements were made in the Township during the fall and winter season of 1833-34, one known as Hayward's, in the east part, and the other in the western portion, led by Gersfiom Bennett and others. On Nov. 9, 11833, Francis H. Hagaman and Gershom Bennett purchased of the United States, lands on section 31, in Dover, and section 6, in Seneca, and the same month erected a log house near the northwest corner of the Township of Seneca. This was undoubtedly the first settlement in the Township. On Feb. 1, 1834, Rosewell J. Hayward purchased of the United States, land on section 13, and settled on it immediately thereafter. He had first come to Michigan in 1831, visiting Livingston County, and there, in 1.832, he enlisted in the Black Hawk war. After the "war" he returned to New York and reported so favorably of Michigan that a family by the name of Hair soon decided to return with him. Micajah Hayward, who was then not seventeen years old, also thought he would like-to try his "luck" in the then new territory. His father, Henry Hayward, had been to Michigan, and had traveled through Wayne, Oakland, Livingston and Washtenaw counties, and finally located 24o acres of land on the "base line" in Livingston County, and had then returned home, thinking pretty well of the country. In 1833 he again came to Michigan, this time traveling through Monroe and Lenawee counties, and he purchased one lot of land for himself on section 5, in Hudson, near Posey Lake, besides 16o acres for his son-in-law, J. R. Hawkins. He was not as well pleased with Michigan in 1833 as he was in 1830, and lie refused to sell his farm in Ontario County, New York, for what he had been offered for it, raising the price six dollars per acre. This was finally accepted, and in the summer of 11834 he came back to Michigan and settled on section 1o, in Seneca. The following year lie purchased 16o acres on section 14, in Seneca, on Blackcreek, and erected a saw mill, the only one then in the Township. Most of the lumber used in the Township for several years was sawed at this mill. Henry Hayward lived on this farm until his death, which occurred Jan. 26, 1842. He was born in Cummington, Mass., July 12, 1787. Although the shanty erected. by Messrs. Hagaman and Bennett, in the fall of 1833, was doubtless the first structure for human habitation, it is thought that Archibald Brower and Roswell J. Hayward built the first houses, properly so-called, in the spring of 11834, at the Hayward settlement. Archibald Brower was born in Dutchess County, New York, Feb. 13, 118o5. He left his native state when a young man, and his marriage was the first which occurred in Seneca Township. His daughter, Alma, who became Mrs. Millett, was the first white child born there. Mr. Brower married Miss Julia A. Millett, of Fairfield Township, and she is credited with having been the first white woman who set foot in Seneca Township.

Among the early pioneers are prominently mentioned Jacob Baker, Simon D. Wilson, Micajah Hayward, Amos A. Kinney, Samuel K. Kinney, Richard H. Kinney, Alvah Holt, Stephen P. Spear, John Stockwell, and others. After their advent the Township settled up quite rapidly. Jacob Baker entered land on section 30, March Io, 11834, and soon thereafter came with his family and commenced a settlement. Horace Garlick and Arnold H. Coomer accompanied Mr. Baker to the wilderness. Mr. Garlick was married, but Mr. Coomer was a single man. They proceeded at once to build a log house. Mr. Coomer had the bark to peel for the roof, and he pressed the Indians into service to assist him. The house was the usual log cabin of the early settler-puncheon floor, bark roof and gables, small window holes, and panelless doors. The doors were of the kind called batten doors, but the batten was a piece of timber a little longer than the width of the door and larger at one end than at the other; the large end projected beyond the door, and was bored to serve as part of the hinge. The boards were fastened to the battens by wooden pins or by nails, as the necessity or convenience of the builder required. In the early part of May, 11834, Simon D. Wilson, James Wilson, Ephraim Whitman, Ephraim Baldwin, and Samuel D. Baldwin came to the Township, looking land. They were all young men, and, with the exception of Simon D. Wilson, unmarried. The first two were brothers, and the Baldwins were brothers-in-law of Simon D. Wilson. Simon D. Wilson selected land on section 30, in Seneca, and on sections 6, 7 and 8, town 9 south, this tract lying partly in Seneca and partly in Ohio. The land office at Monroe was his next objective point, which he made, and he entered his land on May 15 and 16, 1834. Arnold H. Coonter had entered his land on section 31, May 8 Simon D. Wilson immediately commenced operations on his land by building the inevitable log cabin. On Sept. 29, Alvah Holt entered his land and immediately commenced to build on it.

Micajah Hayward was a native of Farmington, N. Y., and was born Jan. 18, 1816. As stated on another page, the Haywards came to Michigan in 1834 and located in Seneca Township. Micajah was reared to farming pursuits, which he followed all his life. At the time of his death he was the owner of over boo acres of land, all in Seneca Township. In connection with his farming he had built two saw mills, a grist mill, and a cheese factory, all of which lie operated successfully. He died at his home in Seneca Township, April 10, 1887.

Amos A. Kinney was born April 12, 1812, in Johnsonburg, Sussex County, New Jersey, and when eleven years of age his parents removed to New York State. He there developed into manhood and became familiar with farm pursuits, in which he always delighted and was ambitious to excel. His early opportunities for education were exceedingly limited. When about twenty years of age, he left home and entered the employ of his uncle, James Kinney, who conducted a hotel on Cortland street, in New York City, and while there he made the acquaintance of Commodore Vanderbilt, who was at that time boating and operating a ferry. In the summer of 1834 Mr. Kinney bade farewell to his friends and acquaintances in the Empire State, and started overland with a team for the unknown West. For sixteen days he traveled through the, wilderness, and reaching Seneca Township in March, 1835, he at once entered eighty acres of land on section 17, and the following year was joined by his father's family. He put up a log cabin, and, after months of incessant labor, began to feel that he had done a wise act in coming to this section of the country. The soil, under proper cultivation, proved to be exceedingly fertile, and the prospect of having a well tilled farm of his own proved a pleasurable stimulus to his exertions. Indians had not then left this region, and they often passed by his cabin door in large numbers, but they never attempted to molest him, and he was careful to keep them at a respectful distance and treat them with proper consideration. He added to his real estate until he had a good farm, embracing a quarter section of land, upon which he erected a substantial dwelling, barn and other buildings required for the shelter of stock and the storing of grain. For many years Mr. Kinney was prominent in Township affairs, and he was one of the first assessors appointed, serving three years. He cast his first presidential vote for Andrew Jackson, and from that time was a stanch supporter of the Democratic Party.

Samuel K. Kinney came to Seneca Township in 1835, accompanying his brother, Amos A., from the vicinity of Canandaigua, N. Y. They made their way from Detroit overland with a team, and Samuel made his home with his brother until joined by his parents and the rest of the family in July, 1836. Elias Kinney, the father of Amos A. and Samuel K., purchased eighty acres of land in Seneca Township, and all the children who were old enough assisted in, clearing it and building tip the homestead. Samuel attended the first school in the Township, it being conducted in a log house, twenty feet square, which was called the Kinney school house on account of being projected by the father. It boasted but one window, while a blanket, hung up at the opening, served as a door, and in this rude structure Samuel K. Kinney commenced his education when fourteen years of age. And this continued but a brief time afterward, the school being carried on about three months in the winter. The early life of Samuel was thus spent amid the scenes of pioneer life, and he developed into manhood stout of heart and strong of muscle, admirably fitted for the duties which lay before him. He made his home with his parents until after he was twenty-eight years of age. Politically, he voted with the Democratic party, and he occupied some of the minor offices in connection with schools.

Richard H. Kinney, a brother of the two above mentioned, located in Seneca Township during its early settlement, and upon reaching manhood took up 16o acres of land on section 8 transforming the wilderness into a beautiful farm. By slow degrees he brought the soil to a good state of cultivation, and erected one building after another until he had a shapely and convenient residence, good barns and out-buildings, tastefully laid out grounds, with numerous shade and ornamental trees, including evergreens and graceful maples. These last were set out in the spring of 1850, and stand. as giants. As an illustration of the industrious and enterprising pioneer, Mr. Kinney occupied a place in the front ranks. His straightforward business transactions gave him a good position among the representative men of his community, among whom he built up a worthy and honorable record. Mr. Kinney was born in Hardwick, Sussex County, New Jersey, Dec. 3, 1820, and was a youth of fifteen years when he came to Michigan with his parents, with whom he lived until their decease. He assumed control of the homestead when twenty-five years of age, tilling the soil and laboring tinder the disadvantages of a new settlement until the march of civilization rendered the labors of the agriculturist less laborious and more remunerative.

Stephen P. Spear was born in Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, in i8o8. He was educated in the common school, lived with his father until he was twenty-one, and then struck out on foot and alone, having twenty shillings in his pocket when he reached Lenawee County. He halted near Adrian, then in its infancy, in 1831. There he worked out for a year and a half, and then took up 16o acres of land. He finally located on Bear creek, about four miles from Morenci, and there he resided the remainder of his life. He was drafted for service in the Black Hawk war and went with his company to Coldwater, where it encamped a few days, and then marched to Niles, on the Big St. Joseph river, where the company again went into camp, faring as soldiers fare until the news of the capture of the celebrated Black Hawk reached them, and then each received his discharge and 16o acres of land. fn 1834 Simon D. Wilson and a few others cut a road from the southwest part of the Township to the Hayward settlement, thus opening communication between the two points. The year 1835 was a trying one to the settlers; there was a great scarcity of provisions, so much so that many persons went up to the Adrian settlement and procured materials to make nets, and therewith caught fish from Bean creek, which was unusually well supplied with the finny tribe that year. Besides this food the settlers had little to eat, some of them even dug up the potatoes they had recently planted, in order to keep from starving. Wolves were plentiful, and many thrilling stories are told of them. It is related that Elias J. Baldwin was followed, in the fall of 1835, by a pack of wolves, all the way from the woods south of Morenci, where he was erecting a log house for his future home, up to the very door of the house in the village where he was temporarily stopping. But the wolf bounty soon thinned out the annoying animals.

The first death in the Township was Judith P. Hayward, who died in January, 1835. The first weddings in the two respective settlements of Seneca were celebrated over the nuptials of H. N. Wilson and Phoebe Wakefield, 1836, and Stephen Hayward and Sarah Jane Sanger, in January, 1837. Stephen Hayward came to Lenawee County with his father in 1834, and remained at home until his marriage. He was born in Farmington, Ontario County, New York, in I8I4, and married the daughter of Benjamin and Betsey Sanger, who settled in Seneca in 1834. Benjamin Sanger was a native of Connecticut, and was a soldier in the war of 1812. He died in Seneca Township in February, 1849.

James H. Sweeney was the first disciple of Aesculapius, and he had plenty of ague patients in those days. The first school house was erected in the spring of 1835. The Methodist denomination was the first religious society to organize, and the members of that denomination erected the first church in Morenci village, in 1841. The first saw mill was set in motion in 1835, and the grist mill at Morenci was probably the first flouring mill. William Sutton was "mine host" of the first tavern, established at Morenci in 1836, and his sign-board was a barrel-head nailed to a post. In 1836, Jeph Whitman built a log store building where Morenci now stands. The Township derives' its name from Seneca, N. Y., from which point many of the early settlers emigrated.

William Sutton, who is mentioned as the first hotel proprietor, was born in Junius, Seneca County, New York, May 2, ISo8, and there he lived until he was about sixteen years old, at which time he went to Lyons, Wayne County, and- learned the carpenter's trade. He resided in Lyons until the spring of 1835, when he came to Michigan and settled in Adrian, entering eighty acres of land on section 34, in Adrian Township, the tract being the same, now occupied by Adrian College. He soon sold this land, however, removed to Seneca, built a double-log house, and as before stated, kept the first public house in what is now the thriving village of Morenci. In 1838 he purchased 16o acres of land in Gorham Township, Fulton County, Ohio, and resided there until 1870, when he purchased 120 acres in Seneca Township, and there resided until his death, which occurred in October, 1892. Franklin Cawley came to Morenci in 1836. He bought his land of James Armitage, of Monroe, and a large part of the village of Morenci is on the land thus purchased. In 1838, a post office was established, and Mr. Whitman was made postmaster. Its name, Morenci, was given by Simon D. Wilson. In 1841 David M. Haight came and opened the second store within Seneca Township. Morenci was but little more than a country post office until about the year 1850, when it began a considerable growth. Almost immediately after his coming here, in 1836, Franklin Cawley purchased the pioneer saw mill on the Bean, about one and a half miles above the site of Morenci. It had been built in 1835, by Jacob Baker and Horace Garlick. In 1851, there were four stores in Morenci. The original store had ceased to exist, but Mr. Haight was still selling a few goods. Asa A. Kennedy and Moses S. Worth each had a little store, and the store of the mill company, which had built the saw and grist mills in the village, made the fourth. In the fall of that year, Silas A. Scofield came to Morenci, erected a building, with steam power, and commenced the manufacture of furniture. The community seeming to demand it, he afterward added planing machinery, and extended his business in any direction the needs of the place seemed to demand, sometimes to his own detriment financially. No sketch of the village of Morenci would be at all complete without a somewhat extended reference to Silas A. Scofield. He was born in Lysander, Onondaga, County, New York, Oct. 5, 1826, his ancestors coming from Scotland. He was reared on a farm _ until he was fifteen years of age. From the age of twelve he worked the homestead on shares, and accumulated some $350, which he gave his father for the balance of his time until he attained his majority. He was a natural tradesman, and first began clerking in a store at Plainville, N. Y., where he remained between two and three years. At this time he received from his brother-in-law an offer which led him to engage in peddling looking-glasses, pictures, and picture frames. Later lie engaged in the same business for himself, and then secured a one-third interest in his brother-in-law's business, in which they carried on a quite extensive trade. He had reached the age of twenty, when he suddenly decided to go West, and started for Watertown, N. Y with his horses and wagon, peddling as he went. From that place lie set out for Gorham, Ohio, where he had relatives. The following spring he located in Adrian, where he sold furniture, and he resided there until the fall of 1851, when he came to Morenci and opened a similar store. From that time until his death Morenci was his home-the place where his best physical and mental powers were expended; where he finally established a successful business, and where he was a potent factor in the general welfare of the village. Fires devastated his establishment, but he was never the sort of man who gives up because of misfortune. He became noted far and wide as. an undertaker, and lie personally had charge of over 3,000 funerals up to the time that his activity in that respect ceased. Besides all that he did in and for Morenci he established the village of Scofield, in Monroe County. He cleared up considerable land there, and furnished the Canada Southern railroad with all of its ties, timber, and piling, from the state line of Ohio to the Detroit River, also furnishing forty miles of telegraph poles. He built a depot, furnishing the funds himself, and otherwise helped to build up the village of Scofield. He did much in giving mechanics and other laboring men employment, in the manufacture of furniture and- coffins in the earlier days and in other lines in a later period. He also busied himself in inventing sundry devices, the most important of which was his casket fastener and other articles connected with the mortuary trade. These devices have made the name of Scofield noted in many parts of the country, as they are largely used, and they contributed to a considerable degree to his financial success in connection with the extensive furniture store, of which he was the head. The automatic rug machine was another of Mr. Scofield's inventions, and at one time it had a large sale. Mr. Scofield had an alert mind and was an indefatigable worker, continuing his active labors considerably beyond the time when the majority of men are ready or forced to retire. He was not a politician, yet took a keen interest in local and general affairs, and kept himself well informed, always having pronounced views. He voted the Republican ticket. Such, in brief, is the life work of an enterprising, industrious, valued citizen-one whose life labors form a conspicuous place in the annals of Morenci, and whose name will long be remembered. In 1854, the Hon. James P. Cawley bought the store of the mill company and commenced business on his own account. He continued in business until 186o, by himself, and at that time formed a co-partnership with Messrs. Rothrock & Green, the business being continued until 1873. About 18S5, the Rev. John Crabbs came to Morenci and established himself as a tailor. He remained in that business, preaching on Sunday a part of the time until the beginning of the Civil war. He was commissioned chaplain in an Ohio regiment and was stationed most of the time with Gilmore, on the Island before Charleston, S. C. After the war he engaged for a time in the life insurance business, but later resumed his old business. David M. Blair came at about the same time, and engaged in blacksmithing. This business he developed until it became one of the finest carriage manufactories in Southern Michigan. The village of Morenci is situated on the bank of the Tiffin river (Bean creek), near the Ohio line, in the southwest corner of the Township of Seneca. The first school was taught there by Miss Louisa Dellman, in a log house erected for that purpose. The first church organization was the Methodist, in 1836, with seven members. Rev. Mr. Staples was the first minister. The first Methodist church edifice was dedicated in May, 1852, by R. R. Richards, presiding eider. The trustees were Hiram Wakefield, Josiah Osgood, Daniel Reed, Simon D. Wilson, and Samuel Warner. A Baptist church was organized in 1852, with fifteen members. The Congregational church was organized in 1858, with the Rev. George Barnum as pastor. The first plat of the village was made in 1852 by Franklin Cawley, who also platted an addition in 1858. The first name given the village was "Brighton," but owing to the fact that there was another village in the state with the same name, it was changed to Morenci by Mr. Whitman and Simon D. Wilson. From this time, 1852, until the present, the village has steadily grown in importance and wealth. It was incorporated in 1871, and is now one of the most thriving business points and growing centers of population in the County, outside of Adrian and Hudson. There is a splendid public school system, adequate churches, and a sound and progressive social sentiment, and the village today is one of the handsomest and most desirable places of residence in the County. The business interests of Morenci are large and varied, and there are many important enterprises that go to make tip a prosperous and happy community. The village is the center of an excellent farming region and enjoys a large patronage from the nearby Ohio farmers. Brick pavements are upon the principal streets, and the business places and residences are lighted with electricity. For railroad facilities, the main line of the Wabash railroad, the Fayette branch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, and the Toledo & Western electric line furnish adequate and complete service. One of the chief places of interest in the village of Morenci is the Stair Auditorium. This magnificent structure, which would be a credit to any city, was made possible by the generosity of E. D. Stair, the famous theatrical promoter, who was born in Morenci and has never lost interest in the village of his boyhood and young manhood. The question of having a suitable place in which to hold public functions was discussed in Morenci for a long time, and numerous plans were proposed. The matter was finally taken up by the village council, and in the spring of 19o6 an authorized committee visited Mr. Stair at his Detroit home, and asked him if he would not be willing to assist in the erection of an auditorium at Morenci. Mr. Stair generously offered to contribute one-half of $10,000 or $15,000 for the erection of a building that would be a credit to the village, providing the remaining half could be raised by popular subscription. It was immediately decided to accept the offer, subscription papers were soon circulated, and a number of citizens worked zealously in behalf of the project, among them being S. K. Porter, C. M. Butler, Vernon Allen, L. A. Snow and S. T. Snow. After sufficient funds had been subscribed to warrant the purchase of a site, a very convenient one was decided upon, and on Oct. 31, 19o6, the contract for the erection of the building was entered into, the contract price being $15,815. The other expenditures increased the cost of the building until it approximated $26,000. The building is constructed of red brick with stone trimmings, and it is a large and imposing edifice, being 112x63 feet in size, with a 33-foot ceiling. The roof is covered with slate and galvanized steel, with a deep cornice, giving the structure an attractive and substantial appearance, and the architecture is unique, being a combination of mediaeval and modern. The interior decorations are beautiful, and the stage is considered by experts to be high-class in every respect. This place of entertainment was formally opened, Jan. 7, 1908, and has steadily grown in popularity. Just north of the village of Morenci is located Oak Grove cemetery, one of the most beautiful burial places in Lenawee County. This "city of the dead" has been given the care and careful attention that is considered fitting and in keeping with that respect and veneration which in all climes and localities is shown for the departed ones. An interesting and attractive feature was added to the cemetery in 1908, when The Morenci Compartment Mausoleum was erected-a structure wherein the dead, singly or in groups of families can be safely housed for ages. . The structure is 105x33 feet in size and contains 240 compartments, with a marble hall, twelve feet wide, extending the entire length. The architecture is a mixture of the Gothic and Greek styles, and glass, copper, steel, concrete, and marble are the materials used to render the structure both sightly and enduring. The exterior is of white cement, with enameled terra cotta, and the walls are eighteen inches in thickness. The Mausoleum is constructed of the best materials known to this era, and it is regarded by all as a splendid building of striking, appropriate design-a true ornament to the cemetery.

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

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