History of Lenawee County, Michigan - Chapter 29, Deerfield Township

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DEERFIELD TOWNSHIP. Previous to March 13, 1867, the territory of this Township was a part of the Township of l3lissfield. It was then organized as a separate Township, in conformity with the prayer of certain petitioners, and given the name of Deerfield. Nearly two years later, by an act of Jan. 5, 1869, the Township was enlarged by the addition of four sections of land taken from the Township of Ridgeway. The Township comprises, practically, twenty-five sections, which is considerably less than a full Congressional Township. The central part of the Township is embraced in the valley of the River Raisin, and is very rich and valuable territory, the northern portion of the Township is traversed by two smaller streams, the valleys of which are also fertile lands and embrace a considerable area. Numerous spring runs increase the volume of water in the river and creeks mentioned, and at the same time enhance the value of the lands traversed, rendering them available for grazing purposes. The general surface of the Township of Deerfield is level, and the soil is very productive, producing excellent crops of wheat, oats, and other cereals. Fine farms and excellent improvements attest the fertility of the land. The surface of the Township was originally covered with a heavy growth of excellent timber, and the varieties were those usually found in this section of the state. While some valuable timber is still preserved, by far the greater part of it was destroyed in fitting the land for cultivation. That which survived the pioneer log-heaps has submitted to oft-repeated cullings for market purposes, or the personal needs of the owners, until at this time the territory where it grew thickest, more resembles the treeless prairies of the West than-the original home of a dense forest.

The village of Deerfield, located in the eastern part of the Township, is one of the most prosperous trading centers in the County, and it was incorporated in 1872. It is a thriving borough of about 1,000 inhabitants, and some considerable trade is 'carried on there in merchandise, live stock, and farm products. It has a bank, hotels, and some manufacturing interests. It is situated on the Detroit branch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railroad. The territory now embraced within Deerfield Township was occupied at about as early a period as any of the Townships of the County, with a very few exceptions. The first man to make an actual settlement in the Township was William Kedzie. Mr. Kedzie was born in Roxboro, Scotland, where he lived until the age of fourteen, and then emigrated to America with his brothers and sisters, landing in New York. He went to Washington County, that state, and settled in Salem, but about the year 18io moved to Stamford, Delaware County. He resided there about ten years and then removed to Delhi, in the same County, and purchased a second farm, upon which he resided for six years, clearing up about 100 acres of land in the meantime! In the spring of 1824, lie came to Michigan and purchased 304 acres of land in what is now Deerfield, it being the first land entered in the Township. He then returned to Delhi and remained there until the spring of 1826,' when he sold his farm and migrated to Lenawee County. He took passage on a canal boat at Utica and came to Buffalo, where he remained four days waiting for a steamboat-the old Superior-which was the only one at that time running between Buffalo and Detroit. At Detroit he transferred his goods to the steamer Chippewa, which brought his family to Monroe, and he landed at the latter place on May 13, 1826. There he rented some land and stayed until the fall of that year, when he moved upon his farm in Deerfield, into a new and unfinished log house, without doors or windows. In the winter of 1826-7, he let a job to Benjamin and Nathan Tibbetts of chopping thirty acres, a portion of which was cleared and planted corn and potatoes in the spring of 1827. For several years after this, the nearest grist and saw mill, post office, blacksmith shop, store, and doctor, were at Monroe, a distance of twenty-five miles. For about one year after Mr. Kedzie's settlement, there was no bridge at Petersburg, and in going to mill gristís had to be ferried at that point across the river in a large canoe, and the wagon was taken apart and transferred in like manner. The horses then were made to swim the river, when the wagon was put together again horses harnessed, etc. The same operation had to be repeated on the return trip. On Aug. 5, 1828, Mr. Kedzie died, which was the first death and burial in the Township. A short time before his death, a post office had been established, with Mr. Kedzie as the first postmaster, and the name given the office was "Kedzie's Grove," afterward changed to Deerfield.

Early in the spring of 1827, quite an immigration came into the Township, the Clark family, with Daniel H. Clark at its head, being prominent among the early settlers. Daniel H. Clark was born in Argyle, Washington County, New York., April 27, 1809. He came to Michigan with his parents in 1823, and lived in Monroe County until the spring of 1827, when the family moved to Lenawee County and located land on section 14, in what is now called Deerfield Township. The family then consisted of Daniel II., his mother, four sisters, and a younger brother. Daniel H. carried on the farm and took care of the family. He cleared up the land, and when the State Line road was built from Toledo to the Indiana line, after the settlement of the Toledo war, with his brother,William C., he took a contract for building seventeen half-miles of road and bridges. They afterward had a contract of three half-miles on the La Plaisance Bay turnpike. Mr. Clark afterward had contracts, being associated with different parties, on the Michigan Southern railroad, between Deerfield and Osseo. With the means that he received from his contracts he improved his farm, building barns, fences, etc., and he resided there about fifty years, selling to Conrad Haidle in the spring of 1877. He then moved to Petersburg, Monroe County, where he purchased a small home and resided the remainder of his life. Mr. Clark was a soldier in the Black Hawk war, and served under Gen. J. W. Brown as a musician. He was not a soldier in the Toledo war, but did what he could for Michigan, and was much interested in the controversy. In the first year of the residence of the Clark family in Deerfield, Eliza Clark, one of the daughters, went to Petersburg to see about attending school, and she became lost in the woods while attempting to return to her home, a distance of about five miles, through the dense forest. It was about Christmas time, a little snow had fallen, and, as she did not start on her return trip until about five o'clock, it soon became dark. When she came to a small creek, about half of the distance on her journey, she found the water was high, and in attempting to find a better crossing place, she lost the Indian trail, which she was following and was obliged to remain in the woods through the night. The next morning, she was bewildered and unable to find her course, and it was three nights and nearly three days before she found a house. On one of the nights, while she was sitting with her back to a tree, with the dry portion of her underclothing wrapped about her feet to keep them from freezing, she heard a little noise close by, and threw her shoe in the direction of the noise. The next morning she discovered that she had killed a mouse, and she put the little creature in her pocket with the intention of eating it if compelled to do so in order to save her life. On the third day she came to a house on Swan creek, about five miles north of Maumee City, Ohio, and there she was kindly cared for. Her mother and brothers and-sisters knew nothing of the circumstances until a letter came by the way of Monroe, informing them of her suffering. She finally came home all right, and afterward married Seeley Finch, of Caledonia, Livingston County, New York, but her health was seriously impaired by her exposure in the woods, and she died a few years afterwards.

After the death of William Kedzie, Anthony McKey was appointed postmaster at Kedzie's Grove. Mr. McKey was one of the most prominent men of the settlement-active as a farmer, surveyor and engineer, and he served as a member of the state senate for two years, in 1837 and 1838. The mail, at first, was carried on horseback from Monroe to Blissfield, by way of Deerfield, and weekly trips were made. Some of the early settlers in Deerfield and vicinity were over twenty days in getting through with teams from western and central New York-a trip which can now be made by a railroad in about half as many hours. The first school house was a log one, built in 1829, and the first teacher was Miss Caroline Amelia Bixby, of Adrian. For the first two or three years, the early settlers had to, go to Monroe to market, to mill, to post office, for blacksmithing, and for a doctor. It is related that a member of the Kedzie family at one time had to go a distance of five miles, on a winter morning, for fire, or rather for the means of making one. And they were not the only pioneers of Lenawee County who occasionally had to go quite a distance on like errands, as those times were long before the days of friction matches. Another incident, showing the difficulties and hardships of early pioneer life in Lenawee County, is related of Mr. Kedzie. At one time he took a grist to mill at Monroe, but when he arrived at that place the mill was out of repair and he was compelled to bring the grain back unground. He then took it to Tecumseh, traveling through an almost unbroken wilderness, with only marked trees and old Indian paths for his guides. The distance to Monroe and back, and then to Tecumseh and return, was about 100 miles. George Ferguson, another of the early settlers of Deerfield Township, was a native of Perthshire, Scotland, and was born Sept. 16, 1786. When little past infancy he was brought by his parents to the United States. He was reared to manhood in Washington County, New York, and assisted his father on the farm, remaining in the Empire State until after he had been married and had become the father of seven children. In the early summer of 1833, he determined to cast his lot with the pioneers of Michigan Territory. Disposing of his interests in New York state, with his family he started for Lenawee County, traveling via the Erie canal to Buffalo and thence by lake to the present site of Toledo, where there was then but a solitary house. There Mr. Ferguson engaged a man with a team to bring him and his possessions to Lenawee County, but the teamster compelled the children to walk the greater part of the way. Mr. Ferguson, with his little family, first stopped in Kedzie's Grove, moving into a log house with another family, and while residing there purchased the land which he in due time transformed into the homestead where he spent his last years. Upon this there was also a log house, which the family occupied several years, the father in the meantime raising it and putting a story underneath. When Mr. Ferguson came to this section of country, deer, wolves, bears, and wild turkeys here plentiful, together with other game, especially coons, which were very destructive to the corn crop. But he lived to see the country around him developed from a wild waste into valuable farms and beautiful homesteads, and he contributed in no small degree in encouraging the immigration of an intelligent and thrifty class of people. He departed this life at the homestead which he had built up in Deerfield Township, Jan. 4, 1867.

Albert K. Hickok was born in Norwalk, Conn., July 25, 1799, and there he resided until he was eighteen years, old, when his parents moved to Scipio, Cayuga County, New York, and purchased a farm. Albert K. remained there until 1821, when he came to Michigan and settled at Monroe. At one time he carried on a brick-yard there, and afterward manufactured the first brick ever made in Toledo. He carried on a meat market in Monroe, and was also engaged with a surveying party in laying out roads between Detroit and Grand River. In 1834 he came to Lenawee County, and after working a farm four years, he took up 20o acres of land on sections 9 and 15, in Deerfield Township, and there he resided until his death, which occurred Nov. 26, 1874. In 1836, the name of the post office at the present village of Deerfield was changed from Kedzie's Grove to Deerfield. One evening, upon agreement, three of the five heads of families who made up the most important part of the population met at the post office for the purpose of changing the name of the hamlet. On account of the abundance of deer during, its first settlement, Ephraim Hall suggested that the future name be Deerfield, and it was accordingly changed to the name by which it has since been known. Mr. Hall came to this County in 1836, and first engaged in the lumber business, becoming junior member of the mill firm of Clark & Hall. He built and owned the first dam and saw mill at Deerfield, and they subsequently became the property of Jason Hemenway. Three years after embarking in the saw mill venture, Mr. Hall concluded to take up farming, and he purchased a part of the Kedzie farm on the west side of the river, where he afterwards built his home. Another reason for his preference for the name of Deerfield was that it reminded him of the home of relatives in Massachusetts to whom he was much attached.

Ephraim Hall was born in Sudbury, Rutland County., Vermont, Jan. 20, 181o. He remained in the Green Mountain State until he had reached the age of twenty-three, when he made his way to the Territory of Michigan, landing in Detroit in May, 1833. He erected the first frame house in the village of Deerfield, and was foremost in many of the enterprises which helped to place the struggling hamlet upon its feet and encourage within its limits the settlement of an enterprising and intelligent class of people. In politics, Mr. Hall was a Democrat.

Jason Hemenway made his way to the Territory of Michigan in the summer of 1830, and within a short time it was evident that he was to be a most valuable accession to, the community. There were then but few people around him, only here and there the cabin of an adventurous settler hidden among the forest trees. He was a native of Seneca County, New York, and was born near the town of Ovid, May 8, 1811. He made his home with his parents until nineteen years of age. The previous year he had purchased his time of his father, and being a natural mechanic borrowed a set of carpenter's tools and commenced his career as a builder. His first undertaking was a house for his father, which he succeeded in putting up in good shape, and received the admiring approval of all the people around. Upon the completion of this, lie decided upon a change of location, and coming to Michigan. Territory, lie located in the embryo village of Ogden, Monroe County, where he followed his trade continuously for a period of five years. In the meantime he had purchased an acre of land and a house in Odgen, but in 1837 sold this property and took up his residence in Summerfield, Monroe County. There lie bought a village lot, put up a house, and worked at his trade until 1840. He then traded his Summerfield property for a half interest in a saw mill in Deerfield Township, to which he removed and where he ever afterward resided. He rebuilt the mill three different times, and invested his surplus capital in land, which he cleared and improved, and lie carried on general farming with success. In 1848, lie established the first mercantile concern in Deerfield. When lie first removed to the place, there was but one frame dwelling in the village, and that a very insignificant structure. Deer, wolves and panthers roamed through the wilderness and frequently surrounded the little hamlet. Mr. Hemenway was a man naturally looked tip to as the encourager of the enterprises which sprang to life as the population increased, and lie never failed the people in giving his encouragement and substantial support to whatever tended to the general welfare. He cast his first Presidential vote for Martin Van Buren, but later in life was independent in politics.

Joe Bragg, another early settler of Deerfield Township, was born in Barre, Orleans County, New York, Dec. 25, i8oi. He was reared a farmer, and remained in his native County, where he owned a farm, until the fall of 1833, when he came to Michigan and purchased land in Fairfield Township, but after living there about five years and making considerable improvement, he sold out. He then located another piece of land near by, but in the spring of 1839 lie made another change and purchased a farm on section 36, in what was then Ridgeway, but now Deerfield Township. At that time Daniel Carey and Anthony McKey and one or two others, were the, only settlers in the vicinity of where the village of Deerfield now stands. There were no roads for improvements, and Mr. Bragg assisted in all the first public work done. He resided on his farm about seven years, when he sold out and went to Seneca Township, purchasing a farm on section 1. He resided in Seneca for about three years, and then again sold out and returned to his old neighborhood, in Deerfield Township, where he resided until his death, April 8, 1856. He was indeed a pioneer in the truest sense. He brought his family from New York to Michigan with an ox-team. He was a poor man, and it required his best energies and judgment td provide for his family and give them enough to eat. He was an honest, hard-working, kind and generous man, who enjoyed the friendship and confidence of every acquaintance. Others of the early pioneers of Deerfield which may appropriately be mentioned were Neal S. McBride, Alanson Pool, E. E. Burnham, Philander Munson, John Scully, George Hall, James Keegan, Hiram T. Fife, Daniel Carey, and Walter P. Clark. From the small beginning, the particulars of which we have attempted to relate in this chapter, the Township has grown in population until in 1904 the Michigan state census gave the number of inhabitants of the Township as 1881.

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

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