ORGANIZATION-TOPOGRAPHY-EARLY HISTORY- MUSGROVE EVANS AND OTHER PIONEERS-LOCATING SEAT OF JUSTICE-FIRST HOUSE, SAW MILL, GRIST MILL STORE, CROP OF WHEAT IN LENAWEE COUNTY, SCHOOL HOUSE. RELIGIOUS SERVICES AND ELECTION-4TH OF JULY, 1826-PIONEER SKETCHES.
At present this is one of the smallest subdivisions of Lenawee county, as it contains but one-half of- the territory of a regular Congressional township, but it is one of the wealthiest and best improved sections of the county. It has perhaps more tillable land per acre than almost any other township in the northern tier, and it contains some of the choicest farms within the county. The soil is rich in the bottom lands of the branch of the Raisin River, which flows through the township, and much of it is of unsurpassed fertility. The higher lands, of course, though good grazing fields, and reasonably productive in the growth of grains and fruits, are less fertile than the valleys.
Tecumseh was one of the first three townships into which the county of Lenawee was divided, and it was organized by "an act of the legislature; approved April 12, 1827. Its original territory was co-extensive with the northern one-third of the county, as will be seen by the act creating it, but it has since been reduced in size by the- formation of other townships out of its original territory. The act creating it provided that "all that part of the county of Lenawee south of the base line, and east of the principal meridian, containing the surveyed townships numbered five, and the north half of-the townships numbered six, in ranges one, two, three, four and five, to be a township by the name of Tecumseh, and that the first township meeting be held at the house of Joseph AV. Brown, in said township."
The early history of this township has much to do with that of the county; and will be found under that head. Its first settlement was made, May 21, 1824, on the present site of the village of Tecumseh. These primitive pioneers nearly all came from Jefferson county, New York, and consisted of fifteen men, four women, and eleven children, as follows: Musgrove Evans, wife and six children; Gen. Joseph W. Brown, wife and five children; Ezra F. Blood, Peter Benson and wife, Simon Sloate, Nathan Rathburn, Peter Lowe, James Young, George Spofford, Curtis Page, Levi Baxter, John Borland, Capt. Peter Ingals, and John Fulsom, Turner Stetson and wife, who had come from Boston, joined the party at Detroit. During the previous year, 1823, Musgrove Evans visited the locality during a preliminary exploration, and after covering a large portion of the region, decided that this spot was the most desirable and beautiful of all he had seen.
Soon after the arrival of these immigrants a village was platted and named Tecumseh, in honor of the renowned Shawnee warrior, who had often, tradition says, visited that locality and sat in council around the fires of the resident-tribes. As soon as the settlement was fairly commenced a village platted and named-a movement was put on foot to establish the seat of justice for the county at this, its only settlement, and in its only village of one log house. This house was built under the direction of Musgrove Evans, and its dimensions are said to have been twenty feet square, horizontally, and about nine feet perpendicularly. There was a low garret, two logs in height above the ceiling, which was used as a bed-room for the boys and hired men. There was no floor, as the nearest saw mill was at Monroe, the roof was covered with bark peeled from elm trees, and until the following November the house was provided with neither chimney nor fire-place. A bake-kettle served the purpose of an oven for several months. For cooking purposes a fire was made on the ground, the smoke ascending through a hole in the roof. In this house Evans and his wife, with five children, Peter Benson and wife, and several men, lived during the summer, Mrs. Evans and Mrs. Benson preparing food for from fifteen to twenty persons daily. In the following November a floor was laid, a chimney and an out-door oven, and two small shanties were added to the house, for two other families had arrived to occupy the mansion during the ensuing winter. General Brown returned East in July, and had brought hack his wife and children, and George Spofford and wife had arrived. Brown brought a dozen chairs with him, and some other articles of household furniture, including a trundle-bed. During the winter of 1824-25 this house afforded a home for Mr. Evans, his wife and six children; General Brown, his wife and six children, Peter Benson and wife, and George Spofford and wife. This log house was the first in Lenawee County, and one of the first ones in Michigan, west of Monroe and Detroit.
But to return to the subject of locating the seat of justice. A petition unanimously signed, no doubt, was sent to Governor Cass, who, in -accordance with the territorial statute in such case provided, appointed commissioners to examine, select and report a location for the county seat of Lenawee County. They decided to locate it at Tecumseh, and it is related that when the commissioners stuck the stake to mark the site for the court house, the company present, among whom were the proprietors of the village, swung their hats and gave three hearty cheers. About the latter part of June a post office also was established, and Musgrove Evans was appointed postmaster. An extract from a letter, written by Mr. Evans to General Brown while the latter was in the East preparing to bring his family to the new settlement, will shed some light on the condition of things at that time. The letter bears date, "Tecumseh, 8 M., 8th, 1824." After acknowledging the receipt that morning of Brown's letter "of the 6th July.," it continues: "The articles thee mentions will be good here, particularly the stove, as it takes some time always in a new place to get ovens and chimneys convenient for cooking. We have neither yet, and no other way of baking for twenty people but in a bake kettle and the fire out at the door."
During the summer, several other families reached Tecumseh from Jefferson county, all of whom had been induced to come West from the representations of Mr. Evans. In June Or July, James Patchin arrived with his family, coming by the way of Detroit and Monroe, as the pioneer party had done. He located two lots of land east of Brownville, and built a small log house thereon, where he continued to reside for many years. Elisha P. Champlin arrived with his family about the same time, and settled on land near the Patchin farm, and a little west. He resided there two years and then returned to New York. He again came to Tecumseh ' in 1830, and remained there until 1834, when he sold out and removed to Jonesville, engaging in the mercantile business with George C. Munro, and built a block of stores. He retired from business in 1851, and died in 1855. He was postmaster at Jonesville from 184o to 1844, representative in the state legislature in 1838 and 1840, and state senator in 1841 and 1842. In politics he was a Whig.
Turner Stetson, who came with the original party, built a house on the bluff of Evans creek, near the site afterward occupied by the Episcopal church. He sowed a small patch of wheat in the fall of 1824, as also did Mr. Evans. The first land bought of the government was in 1823, when Austin Wing entered two lots, covering the Brownville mill privilege. The next land entered was in June, 1824-one lot by Stetson, extending north and west from the present railroad station, and the next was two lots, entered by Ezra F. Blood, in June, 1824, about a mile southeast of the village. The next family which arrived was that of Abner Spofford, who was born in New Hampshire about the year 1779, and lived there until 1818, when he removed to Lyme, Jefferson County, New York. He lived at the latter place until the summer of 1824, when he migrated to Michigan with his family, and arrived in Tecumseh about July 20. The same year lie took up eighty acres of land, afterward known as the Patterson farm, adjoining the village. He was a blacksmith by trade and opened the second blacksmith shop in the county, Turner Stetson opening the first. About the year 1826 he purchased a "mill privilege" of Ezra Blood, and erected a saw mill, and in 1828 he built a grist mill at the same place, with a blacksmith shop attached. He carried on these mills until about 1838, when he sold to his son, Samuel Litch Spofford, and Eliphalet Wood, and removed to Racine county, Wisconsin, where he was killed by a horse while driving, in 1861. Upon their trip west the Spofford family came on the Erie to Detroit, where they arrived on July 4, 1824. From that place, with two of his boys, Mr. Spofford started for Monroe by land, driving eleven head of cattle, and Mrs. Spofford, with the rest of the family-five in number-took a sail boat called the "Fire Fly" and proceeded to Monroe by w-eater. After a week's stay at Monroe, Mr. Spofford got two yoke of oxen and a lumber wagon, and with this rig the family started for Tecumseh. They camped out two nights, and on the third day arrived at Musgrove Evans' house. They located their house on the flat near-the creek, a few rods north of the present railroad station of the Jackson branch of the Lake Shore road. Elevating the wagon-box on crotches and poles, they camped under it until a log house could b_ e raised. This house, like its predecessors, was destitute of floor or chimney. They had no floor until Nov. 27, when the new saw-mill had commenced operations and enough lumber was obtained to make one. The family lived in this house two years.
During the fall of 1824 Mr. Blood built a log house upon his farm, the gable ends being finished with the first lumber turned out of the new saw-mill, which is hereafter mentioned. The same fall an Indian trader by the name of Knaggs built a small house on the north side of Chicago street, upon the block east of the East Branch school, and during the winter of 1824-25 that was the only place of business in Tecumseh, In July or August, Daniel Pitman and his family, consisting of a wife and two children, arrived. He put up a small house on the site afterward occupied by the residence of Dr. Patterson, and there he lived for several years. The next summer he erected a store on the same lot and embarked in the mercantile business. John Borland, his wife and two children, arrived the same fall, although late in the season, and took up their abode with Mr. Blood, upon his farm, where they lived for two years, and until Abner Spofford's family moved in. Mr. Borland then became the landlord of the Brown tavern. Horace Wolcott and family came about the same time. He entered two lots north of the Evans home, in Brownville, which were later divided into several small farms, and built a small log house there. The family lived there for some years. Peter Lowe joined the pioneer party at Buffalo. He entered a lot on Evans creek, between Shawnee street and the present village cemetery. He sold this lot in the fall. to Jesse Osborn, and took tip a part of the farm afterward owned by Perley Bills, east of the road leading to E. F. Blood's farm. Jesse Osborn and family, consisting of a wife and five or six children, came in during that fall and purchased the lot of Peter Lowe. He set out a large orchard on this place, and it was afterward known as the Hoag orchard. His house was, on the bank of the creek, a few rods north of where John Whitnack afterward resided. A few years later Mr. Osborn moved to the town of Woodstock, in this county. To him belongs the honor of raising and taking to mill the first wheat that was ground in Tecumseh. In the original party which came with Evans was a lawyer, Nathan Rathburn, but as the pioneers were a peaceable set he had no litigation to attend to. But as there was a considerable sickness in the new settlement a physician became a necessity. Dr. Ormsby arrived in the fall of 1824 and continued in practice there two years. Ezra F. Blood had the honor of going to Detroit after his medicine chest.
We have thus enumerated (as far as possible with the insufficient data obtainable) all the persons who came to Tecumseh during 1824 with a view of a permanent settlement. When that winter set in, the total population of the village, including men, women, and children, numbered about fifty. We will now take a brief retrospect to relate a few incidents of a general character, which are gleaned from an excellent article on the early days in Tecumseh, written by the late Consider A. Stacy. During the summer of 1824 the principal business of the men in the settlement was building houses and cutting roads. No crops of any amount were put in during the season. As often as a new family arrived all hands would turn in and help put up a log house. Nearly all their provisions, flour, merchandise, etc., were carted from Monroe in wagons. Peter Benson, who was in the employ of Mr. Evans as his teamster, did most of this work. He spent the whole summer traveling back and forth between Monroe and Tecumseh. New pieces of road had to be cut every few days, as the soil was marshy in many places and the road would soon become impassable by reason of the mud. The entire stock of sugar, however, was purchased of the- Indians. It was maple sugar, and was put up in a vessel called a "mocock." 'This vessel was made of bark and about the size and shape of a copper boiler. A "mocock" of maple sugar would last a family several months. The mails came up from Monroe at intervals of a week or ten days, whenever Peter Benson came over the road with a load of provisions.
In the year 1825 but few new settlers presented themselves, but many new buildings were erected and substantial improvements made. Among the arrivals were Curtis Page and William W. Tilton, two practical carpenters. Mr. Tilton came in June, 1825, and he was the man who cut the two small fields of wheat sown by Stetson and Evans the fall before. Soon afterward, he and Page hired out to Daniel Pitman, and were employed' several weeks, in building his new store upon his lot at the corner of Chicago and Ottawa streets. In the fall Mr. Pitman opened his store, and continued in mercantile business there for several years.
Thomas Griswold, wife, and four children, arrived in July, 1825. He entered two lots about a mile north of Wolcott's, on the present Clinton road. The family lived with Evans until November and then moved upon the farm. Thomas Griswold was born Feb. 22, 1790, on his father's homestead in Southport, Chemung County, New York, and he did good service for his country as a soldier, taking part in the war of 1812. He followed the occupations of farmer and miller in his native town for some years, but in July, 1825, concluding to seek a new home in the forests of Michigan, he came to Lenawee county and procured a tract of 16o acres of land in Tecumseh township, on section 21. He thus was among the very earliest settlers in Lenawee County. His land was heavily timbered, with no improvements. The grist .mill which had been erected by Messrs. Brown and Evans was not as yet in running order, as the miller who had been sent for to complete the arrangements for grinding wheat and corn, became sick and could not come. It was quite important to get it in working order as soon as possible, and Mr. Griswold volunteering to prepare the stone, the owners very gladly availed themselves of his skill. He soon had everything in readiness, and from the first grist ground fine wheat cakes were made to celebrate the Fourth of July in the year 1826. After he was fairly settled "Mr. Griswold commenced the improvement of his farm, and built the first frame dwelling house erected in this county, General Brown having erected a frame building to be used as a hotel during the preceding summer. Into their new house Mr. Griswold and his family moved in November, 1825, the autumn following their arrival Mr. Griswold soon became a prominent figure in the early annals of this county, doing much toward opening it up for settlement, while he gave much valuable assistance to new settlers as they came in, and gave them such information in regard to the land and resources of the country as would be beneficial to them in their selection of a home. In 1829 he was appointed Commissioner of Lenawee County by the Territorial governor, General Cass, and in the discharge of the duties of that office did very efficient service for the government. He died Oct. 15, 1836.
In the spring of 1825 General Brown commenced the erection of a large frame tavern on the southeast corner of Maumee and Chicago streets. The house was occupied during the summer, and was kept as a public house for ten or twelve years, when it burned down. At the time it burned it was known as the "Green Tavern." The first death by accident occurred on July 30, 1825, when a child of Musgrove Evans, little Charley, aged about three years, was drowned in the river near his father's house in Brownville. George Griswold, a lad of about four years, was with the child when the accident happened. The two boys went down to the river bank to play, and while there Charley walked out on a plank which had been placed to stand on while dipping up water, and he fell off into the river. His companion shouted for his mother, but before anyone arrived Charley was drowned. Col. Daniel Hixon and family arrived in the fall of 1826 and took up their abode in the building owned by the Indian trader, Knaggs. They lived in Tecumseh 'a couple of years, and then moved on a farm just north of Clinton, where Mrs. Hixon continued to reside until she was well past the century mark in age. Theodore Bissell arrived the same summer, remained over one winter, and then returned East. In 1827 he came back and settled in Tecumseh.
During the season of 1825, the settlers were hard at work breaking up the land, tilling, and harvesting their crops. A large amount of wheat was sown that fall. It was in the fall and winter of this year that Wing, Evans & Brown started the project of a new grist mill, which has been previously mentioned. The first winter had been a very mild one, but the second one was colder, and there was some good sleighing. At this time a sleigh ride was gotten up to Benjamin's tavern, ten miles this side of Monroe. There were two loads of seven persons. One load contained Theodore Bissell, Horace Wolcott, and five young ladies, from fifteen to thirty years old. They were the only single ladies of a marriageable age then living in Tecumseh. The other load contained Dr. Ormsby, George Spofford, and five married ladies. . As there were but two strings of bells in the county, each load appropriated one string. The husbands of the married ladies had previously gone to Monroe to purchase provisions, and after the two sleigh loads arrived at Benjamin's, the five husbands stopped on their return home, and very unexpectedly found their wives there. The occurrence produced much merriment and was the theme of gossip in the village for sometime afterward. Another incident related by Mr. Stacy is that in the fall of 1825 or spring of 1826, John Borland made a party at his house on the Blood farm. General Brown hitched up Evans' lumber wagon, put a long board across, and picked tip a load of ladies to take to the party. Going home the wagon reach came apart, the board dropped down, and the women were tumbled into the ditch. Mrs. Daniel Hixon was one of the heroines of this accident. The first white child, or rather children, born within the present domain of Tecumseh township, were twins, and Mrs. Peter Lowe was the happy mother. In the spring of 1826, Musgrove Evans commenced the building of a large frame house on the corner of Oneida and Chicago streets, and by July 4 in that year the frame was up and roof on, and it was used for the celebration. And in the spring of this year the grist mill, which is described at length in Chapter II, was completed.
For several days prior to July 4, 1826, arrangements were making for an extensive celebration. About noon a procession formed at Brown's tavern. Daniel Pitman was marshal of the day and rode on a small, bald-faced pony. Brass bands were not plenty in those days, but music of some kind was necessary, so they got a French fiddler from Monroe, and that Frenchman with his fiddle constituted the band. After' forming the procession it was marched to Evans new house, three blocks up Chicago street, where the exercises were held. During the march, one string of the Frenchman's fiddle broke, and the band cried out, "Stop the procession." The marshal, however, kept the procession moving, the music after that was rather demoralized. Arriving at Evans' house, the speaking of the day was gone through with and then the company dispersed. Some of the men returned to Brown's tavern for their dinner, and others, with the ladies of the village, made some tables in Pitman's yard, on the corner opposite Evans' new house, and enjoyed a picnic dinner. Mrs. Brown had some cake and new biscuits there made from the new flour ground that morning.
The first physician to abide in the county was Dr. Caleb N. Ormsby, heretofore mentioned, who first located in Tecumseh, but permanently settled in Adrian in 1827. Dr. M. A. Patterson was the first to permanently settle in Tecumseh. In the spring of 1830 a stage route was established west from Tecumseh to White Pigeon, by Horace Wolcott, and Sumner F. Spofford drove the first coach through.
The first election in the county took place in Tecumseh, in 1825, when only fourteen votes were cast for the I-Ion. Austin E Wing, for delegate to Congress. Mr. Wing was twice elected to' Congress, and served from 1825 to 1829.
The first school in the township of Tecumseh was taught in the winter of 1824-5, in a building erected by Evans and Brown, of tamarack logs, the building being twelve feet square. In that house Mrs. George Spofford taught school during the winter. In the fall of 1825 a small frame school house was built on the north side of Chicago street, where the old Michigan House was afterward erected, and in the ensuing winter George Taylor taught the first regular term of school in the new building. The development of the educational interests of the township kept pace with the onward march of civilization in other directions. The log structure of pioneer days soon gave place to the more pretentious buildings of the middle period, and these, in turn, to the modern and finely equipped buildings of the present day.
The first regular store in the county was opened in Tecumseh by Daniel Pitman, in 1825. It was greatly appreciated by the white settlers, as well as the Indians.
The Presbyterians were the pioneers in religious effort in the township of Tecumseh, they having held meetings at a very early date. The first religious service held was in the summer of 1825, and was conducted by Rev. Noah M. Wells, then pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Detroit. He formerly resided in New York, and Mrs. General Brown was a member of his church there. He came over to Tecumseh to pay the General's family a visit, and as he remained in town one Sabbath, a meeting was held in Brown's tavern, and Mr. Wells preached the sermon. In the fall of the same year Rev. John A. Baughman, a Methodist, commenced preaching in Tecumseh and continued regularly every two weeks for three or four years, that place being the principal point in his circuit, He received the magnificent salary of $loo per year. The services were held at first in 'the school house and afterward in the court house, A Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1826, and the first church building for that denomination in Tecumseh was erected in 1842. In April, 1826, the Rev. Alanson Darwin established a Presbyterian church with ten members, and in 1839-4o the first church edifice was built. The Baptist church was organized in 1839, with a membership of twenty-eight.. St. Peter's Episcopal Church dates back to September, 1831, when Rev. Dr. P. Galatin conducted the first services in a school house, and in 1832 the parish was organized. A Universalist church was instituted April 9, 1853, and the Friend's church was organized in 185r.
The first burial places in the township were usually private grounds, established on the farms, as necessity required. The Tecumseh village cemetery is the oldest public burying-ground in the township, and this sacred spot contains the remains of many of the early pioneers of Tecumseh. It was first located at 'the corner of Ottawa and Killbuck streets, but with the development of the village it was moved to a pretty location in the northwest part of the corporation limits.
The first mill in the county of Lenawee was a saw mill, built in 1824, and it was completed and commenced operations in the fall, thenceforth building became possible. A dam was thrown across the river in Brownville, and the work was done mostly by volunteers, the same as the log houses had been raised. Men had but' little to do at home, and they were all waiting for lumber with which to finish their houses for winter. The site of the saw mill was east of the bridge across the mill-dam and south of the race. It was completed in a few weeks, and by November was in running order. Several logs were sawed up that fall, and thus the settlers were supplied with boards with which to make floors for their houses. This mill did valiant service for several years, but it finally went to decay, and the last timber of its foundation floated down the Raisin many years ago. There may have been other temporary saw mills, erected on the various streams as necessity demanded, in the early days, but if so they were discontinued when the wants of their patrons were supplied.
The history of the village of Tecumseh is inseparably connected with that of the township, and it was platted and christened in 1824 by Musgrove Evans, who was the first mail contractor and postmaster. When it was decided to make the place the seat of justice for Lenawee county it was stipulated that in laying out the village the company (Wing, Evans & Brown) should set apart for the public benefit four squares, viz., one for a court house and jail, one for a public promenade, one for a cemetery, and one for a military parade ground, and that they should build a bridge across the River Raisin east of the village. These conditions were accepted. In the meantime Wing, Evans & Brown had entered the land comprising the present village east of Railroad street, and extending north to the Brownville mill. Upon this tract the original plat of the village was made. Musgrove Evans, who was a surveyor, himself laid out the village plat during the summer of 1824. The original plat embraced the territory bounded east by Wyandotte street, south by Killbuck street, west by the present railroad and the section line running directly north from the present railroad station of the Jackson branch of the Lake Shore road, and north by a line about ten rods north of the street leading east from Brownville across the river. All of the territory west of the railroad has been attached to the village by subsequent additions. The cemetery square was located on the corner of Ottawa and Killbuck streets, the military square on Shawnee street, the court house and park squares on the west side of Maumee street, and upon either side of Chicago street. The cemetery square has long since ceased to be used for that purpose. The park square has been turned over to the school district, and upon that the East Branch School was erected. The court house square, opposite, no longer contains the temple of justice and the county bastile. The court house building, vacated by the removal of the county seat to Adrian, was for a time occupied by the Tecumseh branch of the State University, and then, moved one block farther east, it was used by S. P. Hosmer as a tool handle factory. Tecumseh soon came to be a place of importance, and retained the county seat until 1838, when, by act of the first state legislature, it was removed to Adrian. By the state census of 1837 Tecumseh had a population of .2,462, while Logan township (afterward changed to Adrian), including the village, could only muster 1,962. With the construction of the first railroad to Tecumseh, in 1838, a new impetus was given to the flourishing business of the village, and through all the years of its existence it has been a place of considerable importance and a very popular trading point, sustained by an excellent farming country. The population-of Tecumseh in 1904 was 2,525. In writing of churches, schools, and-other public enterprises, the village has been frequently mentioned. It is located on the Jackson branch and also the old Michigan & Ohio, now an east and west branch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railroad, and the Detroit, Toledo
Ironton road has a station there, thus giving excellent means of communication with the outside world. Tecumseh is one of the handsomest and most desirable places of residence of its class 'in Michigan. As a business center it is an influential factor in Lenawee County. Many important manufacturing industries are located there. The various industries incident to villages of this size, together with the social, religious, educational and political functions, are all represented, while the mercantile and other business interests are quite extensive. The business places, many of which are filled with most desirable and varied assortments, are mostly located in substantial brick buildings of good style and architecture. The streets are wide and shaded by deciduous trees, bordered by beautiful lawns and fine residences. There is an efficient system of water works, and water of the best quality is supplied. The village also has a good electric light plant, and the public places are all nicely lighted, while most of the stores and many residences enjoy this most brilliant and cleanly illuminator.
Noted among the educational institutions of Tecumseh, and standing as a monument to the enterprise and intelligence of its local promoters, as well as an illustration of the generosity of Andrew Carnegie, is the Tecumseh Public Library. The volumes it contains have been carefully selected by competent judges, and upon the shelves are found scientific treatises, works of a general nature, books devoted to history and biography, and others descriptive of travel, while in the realm of poetry and fiction, the classics and modern works of an enduring nature have been chosen. The writer feels that he is easily within the bounds of truth when he says that few communities of the same population have institutions that equal, and that there is none which excels the Tecumseh Public Library as an intellectual storehouse for the student and a place of entertainment for the reader of wholesome literature. The building is "a thing of beauty," as may be seen by a glance at the accompanying illustration, and its interior is so arranged as to afford ample room for the large number of volumes the library contains and also a well appointed reading room for visitors. The people of Tecumseh and vicinity feel a just pride in this temple of knowledge.
Rural post offices for the accommodation of the people were early established, some of which were kept in the farm houses. These have been discontinued, on the adoption of the admirable system of "rural free delivery," which brings almost every farmer in daily contact with the outside world, and his mail is left at` his door. Add to this the convenience of the modern telephone, and the isolation of country life is reduced to the minimum.