History of Lenawee County, Michigan - Chapter 30, Clinton Township

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP. The township is in the form of an oblong square, bounded on all sides by straight lines, six miles in length and three in width. The soil is exceedingly rich, and is not surpassed in fertility by any land in the county. The River Raisin furnishes the drainage of the township, taking a southerly course through the western part. The Jackson branch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railroad also traverses the township, with an important station at the village of Clinton, and before the days of railroads, Newburg gave an air of business to the particular locality in which it is situated. The township is abundantly supplied with well kept roads. In the early days its territory was a popular hunting ground, the heavy timber affording excellent cover and favorite resorts for all the larger game found in the country. Even after the general settlement had progressed for some years, large game was plentiful, and foreign hunting parties frequently visited the locality, and were the organization of this township was provided for on March 12, 1869. The act creating it provided that "Sections I to 18, inclusive, in township 5, south of range 4 east, being the north half of the township of Tecumseh," be erected into a township by the name of Clinton. The hotel of Charles H. Adam, in the village of Clinton, was designated as the place for holding the first township meeting, and the date thereof was the first Monday of April, well rewarded for their efforts. Heavy timber of the usual varieties found in the county covered almost the entire township, this being relieved only by small patches of prairie in some portions. In the early part of September, 1825, John Terrell came as an explorer to Clinton, and determined to locate there, but returning East, he did not come to remain permanently until 1831, when Thaddeus Clark accompanied him.

Thaddeus Clark was a blacksmith by trade, and helped to construct a ship for service in the war of 1812. In 1831, with his wife and niece and Mr. Terrill, he came with teams overland from the state of -New York to Michigan, bringing their worldly effects in a wagon, and lie located in Clinton township, securing land on which the village of Clinton is now situated. He secured a large property, consisting of 400 acres of land, which he lived to see nearly all well improved at the time of his death, April 15, 1870, at the ripe old age of ninety-one years. He gave liberally to have the railroad built into the township and contributed freely to other local enterprises and charitable movements. George Lazell came, March 17, 1829, from New York. Clinton at that time was all woods-no roads, no houses. Mr. Lazell left Saline in the afternoon and traveled by foot to within four miles of the present site of the village of Clinton, at dark, when he arrived at the residence of Colonel Hixon, in Bridgewater township, Washtenaw county, where Mr. Lazell located. The first marriage in Clinton was that of George Lazell and Deborah Gillett, which took place April 22, 1832, and the first death in Clinton took from Mr. Lazell the wife of his youth, after having been married only ten months.

Alpheus Dies was already-here when those above mentioned made their settlement. He came from Cayuga County, New York, the journey being made via canal to Buffalo and thence by the lake steamer, "William Penn," to Detroit. This boat was commanded by Captain Hoyt, an old friend of Mr. Dies, and after they had been out two days it became disabled and they were obliged to put in at Dunkirk. From there they took the steamer "Enterprise," and arriving in Detroit six days later, secured a team. Then, loading their effects upon a lumber wagon, the family and goods were by this means conveyed to their destination: The route was scarcely marked by a wagon track, and in some places almost impassable. Upon their arrival within the present limits of Clinton Township they found there one building, a "shanty," near the site of the present village and standing in the woods between what are now the villages of Clinton and Saline. Mr. Kies took up a tract of government land, 240 acres in extent, lying on sections 4 and 5, and embracing the greater part of the present corporation of Clinton village. He donated from this a lot of one acre each to a carpenter and a blacksmith, to encourage them in establishing their business. This was in keeping with the character of the man, as he took a heartfelt interest in the progress and development of his adopted county and employed the best means in his power to assist in bringing about this result. The site where the village of Clinton now stands was then known as Oak Plains, and there Mr. Kies erected the first house, there being but one other building within forty miles, on what is known as the Chicago turnpike. The log house which Mr. Kies erected for the use of his family in time became the stopping place for many a traveler through that section. As time passed on he began dealing in real estate, and was permitted to behold the transformation of the wilderness into smiling farms and valuable homesteads. He named the village of Clinton in honor of DeWitt Clinton, an early governor of the state of New York and at one time a candidate for vice-president on the Democratic ticket, which Mr. Kies uniformly voted. The death of this early pioneer and thoroughly good plan took place at the homestead of his son, Joseph after many years labor, in October, 1864.

Edwin and John Smith, brothers, took up their abode in Clinton in the days of its early settlement, and the last named was one of the early merchants of the place. In the month of May, 1830, Benjamin B. Fisk came in from Livingston County, New York. He was a native of Connecticut, was reared in the county of his birth, and there learned the trade of a blacksmith. After reaching manhood he removed to the township of York, Livingston County, New York, where lie followed his trade for some time. In 1830, with his family lie came across the lake in the "Peacock," which had a very stormy voyage, landing in Detroit at the end of eight days. When the family arrived in what is now the village of Clinton, Mr. Fisk had about $1.50 and in order to secure a lot on which to erect a shop-the first in the place-he had to trade some cloth and bedding. He had only gotten a fair start in life in this new country when death called him to his final reward, his demise occurring from typhoid fever, Sept. 28, 1832. He was an honest and upright man, a Universalise in religion, and in politics his sympathies were with the Democratic Party. He was the first of the early settlers to be buried in Clinton, and a son, B. Western Fisk, was the first white child born in the village. Mr. Fisk erected the second frame building in Clinton, and as a blacksmith did all the work in his line from Clinton to Jonesville west, and to Ypsilanti east. Gen. Clinton B. Fisk was a son of this early pioneer of Clinton Township, and was less than two years old when the family took up its abode in Lenawee County. He grew to manhood in Clinton and for several years conducted a general store at that place. He removed to Missouri a few years before the outbreak of the Civil war, and from that state he entered the Union army as a private, and left it as brevet major-general of volunteers. He subsequently held positions in the Freedman's Bureau and elsewhere, was the Prohibition candidate for governor of New Jersey in 1886, and in 1888 was the candidate of the same party for president of the United States. He was one of the founders of Fisk University, in Tennessee. He died July 9, 1890. In the fall of 1831, every adult in the village of Clinton was invited by Benjamin B. Fisk and wife to dine, and they all at one time sat around the table, thus giving some idea of the population of the embryo village at that time. The' second death in Clinton was that of John Huston. The grave of Benjamin B. Fisk was the first dug in the old burying ground, and the cemetery was laid out by Owen Pomeroy the day following Mr. Fisk's death. Elder Bangs, the first Methodist minister in Clinton, preached the funeral sermon. On July 4, 1831, occurred the first celebration of Independence Day in Clinton. There were about 100 persons present, all told, and the joyful occasion was marred by an explosion, as a result of which David Reed lost both his arms. Dr. Patterson, of Tecumseh, was the officiating surgeon, his assistants being George Lazell and Calvin Drown, and his surgical instruments were a butcher's knife and a carpenter's saw. In connection with the celebration, there came up a thunder storm, with, wind and rain, and the roads were literally deluged. Many of the ladies' bonnets loosed themselves from their moorings and floated on the flooded streets, and many a young man took a cold bath in a gallant attempt to rescue the headgear from a watery grave. The first grist mill in Clinton was started by Smith & Dodge in 1836-7, some of the gentry in the place had a fine stud of saddle horses, and they knew how to ride them as well as exhibit them. Among these horse fanciers were J. W. King, Samuel Chandler, D. W. Owens, Dr. A. Cressey, C. H. McClure, and Andrew J. Clark. These gentlemen would saddle up on a pleasant afternoon, ride to Tecumseh, and on their return would leave the public roads and tutor their horses to clear the fallen trees. They would then ride into town, single file, double file, or all abreast.

At about this time, the following firms in Clinton had large stocks of merchandise: King & Warner, Clark & Snow, Smith & Payne, H. & S. Chandler, E. & E. A. Brown, Seth Worth, A. Richardson, John Smith, G. E. Bull and others. It took a small fortune to get a stock of goods from New York in those days. King & Warner paid $1.45 per hundred on hardware and groceries, and $1.95 on dry goods from New York to Detroit, amounting to $1,500 on the stock, and from Detroit to Clinton, one dollar for heavy and $I.5o for dry goods on the same stock. Trade came in from sixty to ninety miles west, and the travel on the Chicago road was immense. About every third house was a hotel, and every landlord kept a team to haul supplies from Clinton. The latecomers at a hotel cheerfully accepted a space on the bar-room floor to spread their robes or blankets for the night. Two daily lines of stages were then running over this route, and the passengers had to be accommodated at Clinton. Captain Parks, who then conducted the hotel, would have refreshments in readiness until midnight, and then would commence breakfasting the early starters at 4 o'clock in the morning. The winter of 1836-7 was made memorable among the early pioneers by a mammoth sleigh ride to Ann Arbor. The sleigh for the occasion was built by John and Oraman Skinner, assisted by their brother, Ben, who was a boss carpenter. It was nearly forty feet in length, with seats arranged omnibus fashion. The driver's seat was nine feet high and carried two reinsmen, with one knight of the whip. The team consisted of twenty of the best horses in the vicinity, three span of which were owned by the Skinner brothers. The tong ties were so rigged that three span could hold back while going down hill. The four leading span were controlled by postillions, who wore red uniforms trimmed with black. The best carpet in town was used to cover the sides of the conveyance, a piece of green flannel covered the seats, red bombazine bordered the frame, and the top was covered with heavy drilling. The entire load consisted of fifty-six persons, all married but one couple. Prominent among the originators of this ride were the following pioneers: Alpheus Kies, Richard Townsend, James Parks, Thaddeus Clark, J. W. King, John Terrell, D. B. Warner, Edwin Smith, John P. Silvers, Hiram Dodge, B. R. Felton, Fielder S. Snow, Henry Chandler, Daniel Hixson, Alonzo Cressey, and Shubael Green. The whole expense of the sleigh ride was $450, which averaged over sixteen dollars apiece for those who paid the bills. A few days later, Mr. Skinner put eight horses before the same sleigh and took eighty-four school children to Saline and return.

John P. Silvers, who was prominent in this sleighing party, was born in Sussex, N. J., April 14, 1803, and three years later was taken by his parents to Fayette, Seneca County, New York. He worked on the home farm until the spring of 1833, when he started for the Territory of Michigan with his team, driving the entire distance to this county, and he purchased 26.E acres of land on sections 8 and 9, in what is now Clinton township. The greater part of this was heavily timbered, about loo acres being "openings." That same spring he set out fifty apple trees, most of which are now alive and in good bearing condition. He was remarkably active and industrious, and it was a favorite remark of his that his farm had "produced everything but a mortgage." The first Presbyterian minister who preached in Clinton, and who officiated at the funeral of Mrs. George Lazell, was Noah Wells, who afterward became a resident of Ohio. The first resident Baptist minister was R. Powell; Methodist, a Rev. Mr; Bangs; and Episcopal, Rev. Lyster. The first physicians were Drs. Pierce, Cressey, and Christie; the first lawyers, Ensworth and St. John; the first school teacher, John J. Adarn, and the first postmaster was H. N. Baldwin. The last named gentleman took the census of the village of Clinton, in 1836, and the count showed 925 souls, with not one-half of the roofs necessary to cover them. One house was occupied by five families, numbering thirty persons.

The village of Clinton is situated on the northern border of the county, on the Jackson branch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railroad. The Clinton Woolen Mill is one of the important manufactories of the county, and its fine product of cloth finds ready market. The village is surrounded by a fine farming country, was incorporated in 1869, has two banks, good hotels, and is an important shipping point.

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

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