History of Lenawee County, Michigan - Chapter 25, Ogden Township

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OGDEN TOWNSHIP. On March 11, 1837, the legislature of the state of Michigan passed an enactment, a portion of which reads as follows: "That portion of Lenawee county, designated in the United States surrey as township 8 south, of range 4 east, shall be erected into a township, called Ogden, and the first meeting shall be held at such place as the sheriff of such county shall designate, giving three days public notice thereof." On March 31, 1838, another act was passed, providing that "All that part of the county of Lenawee, lying in range 4 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 Ogden, in said county." On March 7, 1851, by an act of the legislature, it was provided that "All that part of the township of Palmyra which is south of Raisin River, between the point where the line between Palmyra and Ogden intersects the above river, to that point where the said river enters the township of Blissfield, be taken from the township of Palmyra and made a part of the township of Ogden; and all of Ogden which lies north of Raisin River shall be taken from Ogden township and be made a part of Palmyra." This last enactment of the state legislature gave to Ogden its present size and boundaries, as no change has since been made. The township is well watered by several tributaries of the River Raisin. Bear creek enters the township near its southwestern corner, and flows northerly and easterly through the entire extent of the township, and on section 2, near the northeast corner, it unites with the River Raisin. Black creek, a branch of Bear creek, enters the township on section 7, and unites with the main stream on section 4. Another branch flows northerly through the central portion of the township and unites with Bear creek near the mouth of the latter, on section 2. Other and smaller streams flow through the township, and these different water courses render it, as before stated, a well watered region.

The surface of the township of Ogden is naturally low and level, and heavily timbered with maple, oak, walnut, ash, whitewood, etc., from which large amounts of timber have been taken. By large outlays in drainage, the lands have been made fertile and are constantly improving. The township was originally one of the finest hunting grounds in the county. Game of all kinds known in the country was here to be found in almost exhaustless supply. The heavy growth of timber afforded ample cover and protection, and many are the "bear stories" and daring feats of frontier life remembered of the early pioneers of Ogden. They were brought in daily contact with bears, wolves, and wild-cats, and these were formidable enemies to the young domestic animals about the settlers' cabins, as well as dangerous companions in the lonely wilderness. Deer and grouse were also to be found in great numbers, and these, with an occasional "bear steak," furnished the principal meat supply, to which the epicurean of today would have no reason to object. Venomous reptiles, and especially the dreaded rattlesnake, were among the enemies of modern civilization, and they added their share of the discomforts and perils of pioneer life. The settlement of the township began under the same discouraging circumstances which prevailed everywhere in districts remote from the natural thoroughfares. The meager supplies of actual necessities had to be brought long distances, through trackless forests, infested with dangerous opponents of civilization. The pack-horse was the faithful friend who was the means of connecting the pioneers with the outside world, carrying to them the few articles of commerce which this simple mode of living demanded. Ammunition, meal, and salt were the three articles most required, but the first was always an absolute necessity. The periodical trips to the "base of supplies" were always fraught with peril, both to the lonely travelers who made them and to the helpless and defenseless ones who were left behind. Several days were required to go to Monroe or Toledo and return with a cargo of supplies.

The first settler of the township was Moses Volentine, from New York, who came in 1826. He was born in Jackson, Washington county, New York, in 1796, and upon coming to the then territory of Michigan purchased of the United States the southeast fraction of the northwest quarter of section 1, situated in the northeast corner of the present township of Ogden. Returning to York State, he passed the summer at his old home, and on Oct, 5, 1826, bade his friends good bye and started, with his wife and a few household goods, for Michigan, via the Erie canal to Buffalo, where they arrived at the end of ten days, the passage being made on a freight boat. On Oct. 16, they left Buffalo on board a schooner bound for Monroe, but adverse winds obliged them to go on to Detroit, where they landed at the end of a three days' voyage from Buffalo. After staying in Detroit ten days, they were landed on the old log pier, four miles from Monroe village, which place they reached the same evening. At Monroe, two days were spent in procuring a quantity of provisions, and an ox team with which to transport their goods and effects to their intended new home. Leaving Monroe, Nov. 2, they arrived at the house of George Giles, on the bank of the River Raisin, and within the southern boundary of the village of Blissfield, having made arrangements to stay with Mr. Giles until Mr. Volentine could build a house on his own land, situated two miles further up the river. After hiring some help, Mr. Volentine commenced to build a log house, and on Nov. 23, 1826, had finished and moved into it. On Jan. 25, 1827, the Volentines were much pleased to receive the first addition to their little family, in the person of an average-sized girl baby. This child was named Amanda M., and is supposed to have been the first white child born in the township. Mr. Volentine passed through the many privations and hardships that are met by the pioneers of all new countries. On April 7, 1828, and for five succeeding years, lie was elected and served as an assessor of taxes in what was then Blissfield Township, giving the best of satisfaction to the taxpayers. In 1837, while suffering from a severe cold, brought on by exposure, he lost his voice, and a year passed before lie regained it being compelled to speak in a whisper during all that time. Meanwhile he continued his labors as a farmer. Up to this time he had chopped and cleared about fifty-five acres of his land, erecting thereon good, substantial frame buildings. In 1838, he was attacked with a disease of the nervous system, and for a long time was confined to his bed. Partially recovering, lie was able to ride out a short distance from his home, in fine weather. In July, 1859, lie sold his farm, and with his wife went to reside in the family of his eldest daughter, Mrs. C. J. Randall, where they remained until removed by death. His wife died of inflammation of the lungs; March 19, 186o, aged fifty-six years. In July of the same year, Mr. Valentine's disease assumed a very remarkable change, which obliged him to have his room made quite dark, light apparently having the singular power of imparting a very disagreeable heat to his whole body, and from that time until his death no light was allowed in his room, except that of a lamp or candle, and that was placed behind a screen. He remained in this condition until he died, July 18, 1865, aged sixty-nine years. Mr. Volentine was a man of strict integrity, being just in his deal with all persons with whom he had business transactions; he was social in his disposition, entertaining in his conversation, liberal in his religious beliefs, and in politics a Jeffersonian Democrat.

Mr. Valentine was soon followed in the township by Joel Whoodward and John Underwood. Mr. Underwood was born near New York City, Sept. 16, 1788, and afterward lived in Dutchess, Madison, and Wayne counties, in New York State, being a miller by trade. He owned a large farm in Marion, Wayne County, New York, where he lived until 1833. In the fall of that year he migrated with his family to Michigan, bringing his team and wagon with him. He came from Detroit with his own conveyance, and arrived at George Crane's, in Palmyra, in September. Within a few days after his arrival, Mr. Crane asked him what kind of land he wanted. He replied that he wanted 16o acres of heavy timbered land, flat and level with a stream running through it, with trees tall enough to make three or four railcuts. "All right, John," says Mr. Crane, "I can show thee what thee wants," and they went down into the town of Ogden, where Mr. Underwood took tip 16o acres. He built a shanty that fall and moved his family there. In the winter of 1835-6, he was engaged by Addison J. Comstock to run the Red Mill at Adrian, and he lived there three years. In January, 1840, he traded with Isaac Rathbun for the latter's farm on section 30, in Palmyra, and he lived on that farm until his death, which occurred April 17, 1851.

Erastus Brockway moved into the township in the spring of 1835, and lived there until his death, April 18, 1881, being one, of the pioneers. He was born in the state of New York, April, 13, 1802, was reared in his native state, and when a young man moved to Ohio and located in Erie county, where he resided until 1835, and then started for the territory of Michigan. He made his way into the wilderness and settled in what is now Ogden Township, where he entered eighty acres of land from the government. It was then covered with a dense forest of heavy timber, and the country was inhabited by deer, wolves, wild turkey, and other game. Mr. Brockway erected a log house on his land, and for the construction of a roof used basswood bark. A considerable time before his death, he put up a frame residence for the comfort of his family, and good barns and other out-buildings for the domestic animals, with which he stocked the farm. In the fall of 1835, Ephraim Hicks settled with his family in the township. He was a native of Massachusetts, and before coming to Michigan was a pioneer in Ontario County, New York. He was a man of sterling qualities, having been reared among men who never faltered in time of need. His boyhood days were spent in a Puritan atmosphere, and his young manhood was passed among scenes of trial and triumph over the primitive in nature, and strife and war in human affairs. He was a soldier in the war of 1812, and was at Buffalo when the British burned that city. He settled on sections 6 and 7, in Ogden, and there he took up two eighty acre lots from the government and purchased two from John T. Comstock. There lie resided until his death, which occurred May 12, 1879. He was the first supervisor elected in the township of Ogden, in 1837, and was again elected in 1841-2-3. He was a man highly respected by all, and enjoyed the confidence and esteem of the people of the township for more than forty years. Clark Angell, William Paul, and Ruel Thayer, came the same fall, and Norman B. Carter in 1836. Clark Angell was born in Bateman, Dutchess County, New York, July 19, 1803, and lived with his father on a farm until his twenty-first year. He then went to Rochester and lived until the spring of 1835, when he came to Michigan, arriving in Adrian, June 1. The previous fall, in September, he came here and took up the southwest quarter of section 7, in Ogden. He moved his family on this land the following spring, and cleared and improved it, erected good buildings, and lived there for forty years. In 1875, he rented his farm and purchased a house in the southwest corner of the township of Palmyra, and there he resided the remainder of his life. Norman B. Carter was born in Warren, Litchfield County, Connecticut, Sept. 7, 18o1, and there he lived with his parents until the eleventh year of his age. In 1811, he moved with his parents to New York, and settled in the western part of that state, on the Holland Purchase. They moved with an ox team, and were twenty-four days on the way. For five years thereafter, young Carter hardly saw the inside of a school house. He helped his father clear up a new farm, undergoing all the hardships of a new country. In December, 1820, he took a contract of the Holland Land Company for a piece of land, in what was then called Ellicottville, Cattaraugus County. In the spring of 1821, with his small effects, he moved on this land. There was not a tree cut, nor a neighbor living within several miles. He was one among a few who paid for their land, and he got the first deed in the whole township. It was there that Mr. Carter first undertook to hew a farm out of a vast wilderness. He taught the first school in that township, his pupils coming a long distance to attend. He remained there about sixteen years, until the country was well improved, and came to Michigan in 1832, purchasing land - on section 8, in the township of Ogden. In May, 1836, he moved upon this land, with his family, it being the third time that he had grappled with a wilderness country. He was justice of the peace, township clerk, and school inspector, during nearly the entire time he resided in Cattaraugus County, New York. He was justice of the peace for at least twenty-five years in Ogden, and township clerk and highway commissioner for several terms in the same township. He at one time owned 1,6oo acres of land in Michigan, 32o acres being in Hillsdale county and the balance in Lenawee. He amassed a large property through habits of economy and industry. At the first township meeting held in Ogden, for the purpose of organization, there were thirteen votes cast. The first saw mill was built by Calvin Bradish, in 1837, on Gleason brook. The first death in the township was that of Lydia D. Paul, 1838.

William Crockett is now one of the oldest, if not the oldest, man of continuous residence in the township. He was born in Sodus, Wayne County, New York, Feb. 4, 1828, and came to Lenawee County, in 1836, with his father, Nathaniel Crockett, who settled on section 35, in Ogden Township. The father afterward removed to Iowa, and died in Hardin County, that state, March 13, 1872. William Crockett was eight years old when his parents came to Lenawee county, and he has resided in the township of Ogden ever since. When his parents settled in the township, there were but few settlers, and the township was considered nothing but a cottonwood swamp, most of the east half being under water half the year. Mr. Crockett remembers most of the settlers who had located there previous to 1836, and had made a beginning. They were as follows, in addition to those already mentioned: Elisha Benton, on section 33, Samuel Graham, on section 29, Andrew Sebring, on section 28, Nathaniel Graham, on section 29, Gideon Sheldon on section 15; and Jacob Gilbert, on section 15. At that time there were no settlers in the east half of the township, and for many years there were no settlers east of Nathaniel Crockett's, and no roads were cut through. Many times the water was so deep that for miles it would come up to the ox-bows, as the oxen wallowed through the woods. It was some time before anything except corn and potatoes could be raised, and they would often drown out during the "June freshets," which then occurred almost annually. Wheat was a failure until the timber was considerably cleared off, and the ditch system was inaugurated. There was not a frame house or barn in Ogden, in 1836, and the first frame barn Mr. Crockett saw was Norman B. Carter's. William Crockett lived with his parents until he was twenty-one, but worked the farm for some time, in the meantime purchasing a farm on section 14, in Ogden, where he now resides. He has seen the township brought from a primitive, worthless state, to one of the best and most promising in the county. He has spent nearly his entire life in this work, and has done his share in bringing about the great change. He has assisted in clearing away the wilderness, and subduing the rank and almost impenetrable swamp. He has expended much time and money, besides cheerfully paying all assessments for the ditching system that has proven so generally beneficial to every resident. He has grown up with the township, and has prospered slowly but surely as the township advanced in productiveness and value. The township is now entirely settled up, with no swamps and "cat-holes," although Mr. Crockett's valuable and very productive farm was, in 1836, an impenetrable and worthless swamp, covered with water almost the entire year. As would be naturally inferred from the description given of Ogden Township, as the country there presented itself in the pioneer days, miasmatic troubles plagued the residents a great deal. But this and all the other ills were banished by the application of one treatment-ditching. An examination of the land levels revealed the fact that there was sufficient fall to direct the water by a proper system of drainage into Lake Erie, and the inhabitants of three townships-Ogden, Blissfield, and Riga-were interested in having such plans carried to a successful conclusion. The matter was given careful consideration, and Dr. Henry Wyman, of Blissfield, consented to become a candidate for the legislature for the express purpose of procuring a legislative enactment looking to the drainage of all that region of country. He introduced and secured the passage of the first law ever enacted in the United States, providing for extensive ditching, and as a result of this enactment, marvels were wrought in the increased productiveness of the land, and the purification of the atmosphere to such a degree that it became as healthful as any other locality. And that region of country, which was given such an unfavorable report by Surveyor General Tiffin, is now a veritable garden spot.

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

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