Interesting Sketches of its First Settlement
The Northwestern Tribune
Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
April 20, 1888
The township of
Sherman was first settled in 1867, eight years after the organization of the
county. Thomas Burgis
and Cyrus Dunbar, with their families, and Richard Amsbury, a widower, were the first settlers. Burgis and Dunbar came from
Holland, Mich., and Mr. Amsbury joined them on their way north. From Wm. Broomfield's, two miles north of Millbrook, they made their own road as they advanced, winding around hills and swamps, looking out the route as they went, sleeping by a camp-fire at night and up at the break of day to again resume the toilsome journey. All were aware of the fact that every mile traveled removed them just that much farther from civilization, yet nothing could have persuaded them to turn back, for hope beat high in their breasts, and the hardships that always come to test the courage of the pioneer were looked upon as trifling difficulties which they would soon be able to overcome "when they once got a start."
Mr. Burgis had homesteaded then n. w. of section 18, Mr. Dunbar, the s. w. 1/2 of the same section, and here the first improvements were made in the township. On reaching their land they proceeded to build comfortable houses for their families and clear away the forest, and the winding trail made to reach their homes soon became a thoroughfare for others to enter the township. A little log house on the farm lately owned by Andrew Kirvan was the first house built by Mr. Burgis, and one of the first, if not the first, house in town. There was a log building of about the same size on the west end of this old house, with a store room between the two main buildings; this was "Uncle Richard's" shop. "Uncle Richard" was Mr. Amsbury, who lived with the Burgis family. That shop had great attractions for me when a boy, for when I paid a visit to the Burgis boys, "Uncle Richard" would invariably give us full possession of the old shop where in the the long winter evenings, we were at liberty to amuse ourselves by the light of the great open fireplace until, tired and sleepy, we would all (five) tumble into one bunk and sleep as soundly on a pile of hemlock boughs as a king on a bed of down.
From 1867 to 1869 George H. Abbie, Lazell Curtis, Wm. Darnell, David Archey, Wm. J. Darnell, Milton Deen, Adam Souls, John Souls, Daniel Flinn and Wesley Ellis settled in the township. Amos Johnson opened the first store in Sherman City, it being, also the first in Sherman Township, in 1868. It was run under the firm name of Wood & Johnson. Goods were all hauled from Stanton, a distance of 35 miles. But Mr. Johnson monopolized the whole business in this section at that time, and not withstanding the great distance he had to draw his goods over rough roads, he prospered in business and three or four years after he arrived with his first load of goods he built a fine two-story, frame store on the foundation that his brother's (Gilbert Johnson's) store now occupies, just across in Coldwater township. The upper story of this building was used for a dancing hall.
The first township meeting was held at the residence of Cyrus Dunbar. At that election Wesley Ellis was chosen supervisor and Daniel Flinn, clerk. Tunis W. Swart, then sheriff, collected the taxes. In the fall of 1860 and winter of 1869 and 1870 another party of home-seekers reached here. John T. Cohoon, A. F. Swem and David R. Hays settled at Sherman City, John Kent, moved on his homestead, the s. e. 1/4 of section 20, James J. Bennett settled on the s. e. 1/4 of section 36, Alexander Miller located on the s. e. 1/4 of section 17, James Miller on the n. e. 1/4 of section 20 and Henry Woodin on section 28.
In the spring of 1870 Mr. Woodin commenced building his saw mill which was completed the same season, it being the first mill in town. In the fall of the same year A. F. Swem and D. R. Hays opened a store at Sherman City. They had a large stock of goods and did quite a business for a while.
In the fall of 1870 Mr. Bellonger built the first hotel in town, on section 28, at Woodin's Mills. Mr. Beutler afterwards bought the building and moved it from near the river to its present position, where it was used for a hotel for many years. I think that Mr. Bellonger, also, opened the first blacksmith's shop in 1870.
The first school house was built in the fall of 1870 in fractional district No. 1, Sherman and coldwater, and is still standing one-half mile south of Main street, Sherman City. It is a log building with shake roof, and the gable ends are sided with split siding, and yet that modest looking relic of the past cost the district, when completed, $225. Wm. K. Gibbs was the contractor. The first term of school was taught by Samuel Gettings, the school officers being: director, John T. Cahoon; assessor, A. F. Swem; moderator David R. Hays. The scholars who attended the first term of school in this district were, Fred Cahoon, Charles Cahoon, Henry Swem, Lizzie Hays, Celestia Hays, Calvin Hays, Royal Gibbs, Ansel Gibbs, Albert Gibbs, Chauncy Gibbs, Adelbert Butter field, Perry Butterfield and Lizzie Butterfield. The old log school house was only used a short time when a frame one was built in
Coldwater, which was a decided improvement on the old. The new school house, which was built in 1879, is 30 x 50 feet in size, with fixtures, cost the district about $900. It will seat 80 scholars, and is the finest school building in this part of the county.
Further Sketches of its Early Settlement
The Northwestern Tribune
Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
April 27, 1888
In the spring of
1870, William Connor, with four or five men, was left in charge of David Ward's
lumber camps on section 29.
It was Mr. Ward's intention to make a large clearing here during the season, but, after chopping a fallow of six of eight acres, there came a "dry spell" and it was set on fire. The wind carried the flames towards the camps and the efforts of the men to save the barns, cook's shanty and men's shanty were unavailing. The office, in which Mr. Connor and family lived, and the blacksmith's shop escaped. The buildings, together with hundreds of dollars' worth of provisions, clothing, tools, etc. were destroyed. A Detroit paper, commenting on the disaster, stated that "Mr. Connor sustained a heavy loss, as all of his household furniture was devoured by the flames." Owing to the fact that Mr. Connor's household furniture was similar to that of all his neighbors, home made from benches to bed-steads, the report caused him considerable merriment. After the fire Mr. Connor purchased the n. w. 1/4 of section 20 and moved on it. He became an active and influential citizen who worked for the best interests of the township, and when he moved to Canada we lost a valuable resident. He soon after went to Portland Ore. with the intention of making his fortune in the far West, which he would, undoubtedly have done had not death cut him down in the prime of life, soon after he reached his destination. It is seldom that the loss of an enterprising, public-spirited citizen is looked upon as a public calamity to the extent that it should be, but the death, or removal, of such men as Mr. Connor from a community, where live, enterprising men are indispensable in improving new country, is an incalculable loss.
The first school house built in district No. 2 was completed in 1871. John Kent was the builder and received $80 for his labor. The first school officers of this district were: William Connor, director; Alexander miller, moderator, and Cyrus Dunbar, assessor. The first term of school was taught by Miss Anna Ingerson, of Allegan county, in the winter of 1871-2. The scholars who attended this term were: christopher Dunbar, Thomas Dunbar, Ettie Tinker, Alice Tinker, Amos Tinker, Ellen Tinker, Eudora Tinker, William Miller and Fred Kent. The old log school house, with its row of home made desks on either side, facing the centre of the room, and its uncomfortable seats with the wall for the backs, was fortunately for the urchins who attended the school, burned to the ground in an unaccountable manner in 1878. A new block school house was built in 1880, which is a fine building but is not entirely finished.
The lumbering operations, which were carried on in this section in the early days, afforded profitable employment to the settlers during the winter months. William Saxton, of Mt. Pleasant, built camps on section 16 in the winter of 1870-71. Wages ranged from $28 to $36 per month, but produce was correspondingly high. Flour cost $10 per barrel, pork was as high as $30 per barrel, tea was from $1.00 to $1.50 per pound and in fact everything we ate, wore, or used, came at a good round price. Cows were worth from $50 to $60 each, consequently the big wages paid for labor would not buy as much as the wages paid today with flour at $5 per barrel, port $14, and tea at 50c per pound.
In the summer of 1870 my brother Oscar and I made a trip to Isabella City with an ox team and a grist of wheat. The distance was 20 miles, but by getting an early start and making free use of the "pursuader" we reached the City before sun-down. After leaving our grist at the mill we drove down on the river flats, fed the oxen and slept under the wagon until morning. During the night we were awakened by a chorus of war-whoops and the clatter of horses' hoof down the street and across the bridge. The next morning we learned there had been a saloon fight between the pale faces and the red men; the reds of course were defeated and drive from town, which accounted for the uproar. The territory between Sherman and Isabella City was almost an unbroken wilderness at that date, as I do not remember of seeing but one house on the route, excepting an Indian's bark mansion on the east bank of the north branch in Deerfield township. Now this great stretch of country is dotted with farm buildings, and is destined to be one of the finest farming countries in the State.
The Schools and Ministers of Pioneer Days
The Northwestern Tribune
Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
May 4, 1888
Wild animals were never so
plentiful as to become very troublesome to the inhabitants, although a number of
bears have been killed in the township, and in the fall of 1874 John Kent shot
and killed a wolf, for which he received a bounty of $8 o presenting the head.
I think that was the only wolf killed in the county. Wm. J. Darnell
devoted more time to hunting than any of the early settlers, and he can relate
many interesting stories concerning his hunting exploits in the early days.
At one time there was an abundance of deer in our forests, but the southern
sportsmen made yearly raids on them with dogs until all were killed or drive out
of the place. When that was accomplished the tardy "game law" was enacted,
but it came too late to protect the game in Isabella county.
The early pioneers will not soon forget the tramps they took hunting their cows. There was but one pasture lot for all the cattle in town - the highway and the forest. To find them four or five miles from home was nothing unusual, and our cows sometimes got as far as Mr. Clits', two miles south of Two Rivers. Once they were found two miles south of Farwell, 15 miles from home. James Miller once found his cow at Stanton, 30 miles from home. But that cow of Mr. Miller's was a hightoned animal, not altogether unlike members of the human family we sometimes meet. She was born and bred in an old farming country where pasture was plenty and mosquitoes scarce, and she held lofty notions as to what constitutes good society. When Mr. Miller brought her north with him, to feast on leeks and hemlock browse and supply the family with "snowie milk" and "virgin butter", the old cow kicked on the arrangement. She did not like the society and she made no effort to conceal the fact. When she met any of the back-woods bovines she would give her head a disdainful toss and pass them by as though she was fully convinced that she was out of her proper sphere in associating with cattle that inhabited such a horrid county. But time passed on, and one day in the leafy month of June, when the mosquitoes began to get in their work in good shape, and leeks had out-grown their usefulness, she decided that it would be advisable to go south where she could enjoy the blessings of a civilized country. At any rate, she started on her journey in high spirits, and for some time it certainly did seem as though success would crown her efforts; but, alas! she was doomed to disappointment. On the afternoon of the second day out Mr. Miller, who was in hot pursuit, overtook her as above stated. He gently but firmly informed her that the game was up and she must return with him. He, also, imparted the unwelcome news that his feet were sore from walking and that she would be under the painful necessity of carrying him on the return trip. To say that her pride was humbled is putting it very mildly, but she was forced to return with a long-leg dangling from each side of her back bone. "Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." I will now give Mr. Miller and his cow a rest, and give a short account of the organization of school districts, etc.
In school district No. 3 the first term of school was taught in a small board house on Jas. Bennett's farm, section 36. The building was afterwards used for a granary and is still standing. A board school house was then built on the north-west corner of Mr. Bennett's farm, which cost $300. This building was used a good many years. They now have a fine frame school house on the south-west corner of section 25. Not one of the inhabitants of the district at the time the first term of school was taught, is now a resident of the township.
In district No. 4 the first term of school was taught by Miss Addie Woodin. The scholars that attended her school were, Jennie Burd, Luella Woodin, James Smith, High Smith and George Smith. A log shanty, which stood near the house of John Hein, was used as the first school house. Three or four years later a board school house was built on the corner north of David Archey and Miss Ellen Burd taught the first term of school in this building. A good frame school house was built north of the river in 1878, and Miss Nettie Whaley taught the first term of school in it.
School district No. 5 was organized in 1879. Wm. J. Darnell and H. M. Goodenough built the first school house, for which they received $50. The building was good enough, but the people of the district learned in time that they had made a sad blunder in locating it in a frog pond and consequently another house was built on the south east corner of section 30. The first school officers in this district were Wm. J. Darnell, director; H. M. Goodenough, assessor, and Winfiled Bly, moderator. The first teacher was
Miss Maggie Ruxton; the first scholars in attendance were, Marion Goodenough, Martin Goodenough, Lyman Goodenough, Sammie Goodenough, Willie Darnell, James Darnell, Elijah Darnell, Alvira Darnell and Charlie Bly.
The first term of school in district No. 6 was taught by Miss Sadie McCombs in an old log house on Jesse Thompson's place in 1881. Richard Alderman was director; Wm. Thompson, assessor, and Mr. Dimond, Moderator. A new log house was built on the Sherman road soon after the organization of the district. It is a rough looking building, but is better finished than any other school house in the township.
The spiritual advisors who made our township their home in the early days, and to a certain extent the field of their labors, were Elders A. F. Swem, Alexander Miller and Elder Burret. During the summer months Sunday schools were held in the different school districts which were enlivened by an occasional picnic and a general good time.
Accidents and Tornado in Pioneer Days
The Northwestern Tribune
Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
May 11, 1888
I was mistake in
saying that H. Woodin finished his saw mill in 1870; it was not finished until
1871 - he sawed the first board on May 3, 1871. He raised his grist-mill
on March 25, 1874, and ground the first grist on September 9, 1874. John
Kent's was the first grist ground in the mill.
In the eventful year of 1878 two honored citizens lost their lives in Mr. Woodin's saw-mill. On June 18, Mr. Norman Rose went under the mill where a large grindstone was run with a belt attached to the line shaft, with the intention of grinding his axe.
In adjusting the belt he was caught in such a manner as to be drawn on the shaft where he was whirled around and around until the life was beat out of him. Mr. Woodin and David Archey, who were running the mill, knew something was wrong by the run of the machinery. They shut the mill down and went below, where they found the unfortunate man still fast to the shaft. They took him down and laid him on a pile of sawdust where he almost immediately expired. Mr. Rose was a brother of Mrs. H. Woodin and had been a citizen of this township but a short time, but was highly respect by all who knew him. On December 17, 1878, George Woodin, the only son of Mr. ad Mrs. H. Woodin, was fatally injured within a few feet of the spot where his uncle met his death six months before. On the morning of the accident Mr. and Mrs. Woodin and their daughter Luella went to Mt. Pleasant. About 8 o'clock George concluded to start the mill, and as the flood-gate was frozen he went below to cut it loose. Near where he was at work laid a big belt wheel which was invented by George to run the grist-mill. This wheel is perhaps 10 or 12 feet in diameter. While cutting the ice away the gate suddenly broke and the machinery was set in motion. In some manner he fell on the belt wheel and was carried around with lightning speed. One arm was torn off, his head was cut and bruised, and he received such terrible injuries that it is strange that he could resist death so long. He was soon thrown from the wheel where he lay mangled and bleeding, but still able to call for help. His wife heard him and ran to his assistance. Crazed with grief, she attempted to carry him away from the terrible place, but her strength was too feeble. She then flew up the long flight of stairs and her screams for help soon brought four or five men to her assistance, and covered with blood, he was carried to his home. Frank Meeker mounted a horse and started for Mt. Pleasant. In one hour he had traveled the eighteen miles and Mr. Woodin was informed of the accident. Two doctors were engaged and made the distance from Mt. Pleasant to the mills in one hour and twenty minutes. Mr. Woodin and family reaching home shortly after. While the surgical instruments were on the table, the summons came, and about noon he passed to the better shore. George Woodin was a m an of irreproachable character and his death was no t only a severe blow to his relatives, but every citizen felt that they had lost a friend.
On September 19, 1878, a t about 3 o'clock, a cyclone struck Sherman City with terrific force and with scarcely a moment's warning. It came from west of south-west and its path could easily be traced by roofless buildings and fallen timber. No one seemed aware that a storm was approaching until it suddenly grew dark and the cyclone was doing its terrible work of destruction
Several of the "boys" were playing a friendly game of cards in J. McKersie's store when the struck the building raising one side 3 or 4 feet from the foundation, when the "boys" quickly agreed to call the game a draw and watch the progress of the storm. Amos Johnson and wife and a number of customers were in Johnson's store when the storm caught the building, lifted it clear from the sills and hurled it over the heads of the crowd below. All escaped uninjured, but none felt particularly amused over the affair at the time, for, taking it all around, it was a narrow escape from death, and no one realized it more fully than the little party at Johnson's store. The south half of the roof of Mr. Johnson's house was blown away, that being as far north as the storm went. Parmenter's hotel was badly damaged by flying timbers from the store. A big hole was stove in one side and it was moved about 3 feet to the east. Robert Martin had just raised the frame to his hotel and it was carried away like a feather. Mr. Trease's house, a little farther to the east and situated on a slight elevation, was blown over bodily. The family were in the house at the time and one of the children was quite seriously injured. Strange to say the rest of the family escaped uninjured. The school house, which stood on a sharp rise of ground in the east part of town, was in the direct route of the storm and offered no more resistance to its power than a straw. The writer visited the spot tow days after the cyclone passed through town, and not so much as a shingle, nor a splinter, was left to mark the spot where it had stood. Pieces of boards and timbers were seen scattered over a chopping some distance to the east, but I think it would have been a hard matter to have collected enough material to build a chicken coop out of the ruins. After the storm Mr. Johnson's loss was estimated at $10,000, but the total loss to all parties could not have exceeded that amount. Although the storm had destroyed thousands of dollars' worth of property, and many had narrowly escaped death, there was some ludicrous incidents connected with the affair, which came to light after the more serious effects of the storm had been fully discussed. The wind entered the house of Frank Ellis, lifted a tea kettle of water off the stove, carried it through the front door, and dropped it in the yard, without spilling the water. Elder Thompson was crossing the street when the "angry elements" swooped down on him with the evident intention of giving him a free ride; but he had no pass from the superintendent, and, as the conveyance seemed rather shakey, he politely declined to ride out when the wind got down to business and was traveling 100 miles a minute. The elder felt a sudden desire to "catch on", not for the purpose of making a "mash" be it remembered, but to prevent a smash. He finally anchored to the liberty pole, where he lay face down and held that lofty emblem of liberty in a loving embrace while the tempest was passing over. The wind struck the barn of J. B. Tinker, who lives on section 30, this township, and carried the roof away together with nearly all of the logs. Mr. Tinker and his son Amos were at the barn when the storm struck. A flying board struck Mr. Tinker on the head and he lay insensible while the cyclone was tinkering around the barn. After passing through this township, the storm did considerable damage to property in Gilmore township and still father east, but I believe there was not a life lost anywhere. An exaggerated account of the storm was published in a London, Eng. paper. It was made to appear that a large city in Michigan had been swept away and the loss amounted to a fabulous sum.
The Many Advantages it Presents for Settlers
The Northwestern Tribune
Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
May 18, 1888
From 1872 to 1877 a good
many of the first settlers became dissatisfied with the place, chiefly because
we did not get a railroad, and moved away -- in fact, but few of the early
pioneers remain. Those who came from 1868 to 1870 and are still residents
of the township are: Wm. Darnell, David Archey, Wm. J. Darnell, H. Woodin, John
Kent, D. R. Hays and A. T. Swem.
Of those who moved to other parts I do not know of one who bettered his condition, while those that "weathered the blast" have comfortable homes and nothing to regret having remained. This is proof enough that a man with limited means can do no better than to make his home in Sherman. Some complain that we have too much cold weather. I shall make no attempt to deny this, but we have no blizzard, and it is a consoling thought that we are never compelled to burn hay, corn, stolen fence boards, nor anything but good beech and maple wood to drive away the cold. And never since the settlement of the township has our crops, under favorable circumstances, failed to grow. It would be hard to find a place better adapted to stock-raising that this. Hay grow in abundance, where it is give a chance, and in the summer stock find an abundance of grass in the wood, and the purest of water from numerous spring brooks, and the Chippewa. As a fruit country it can not be excelled. Apples, plums, pears, and all kinds of small fruit grow in abundance. Grapes have not been given a fair trial, but it is certain that they can be grown under favorable circumstances, as one of our farmers raises a considerable quantity every year. The population of the township is about 600, with over 100 farms, and more than 2,000 acres improved. In 1870 the population was 134.
At Woodin's Mills there is a grist-mill, saw-mill and shingle-mill, one store and a post-office; at Sherman City there is one dry goods store and grocery store, one hardware, one drug store, one flour and feed store, one meat market, one millinery and Yankee notion store, two hotels, one blacksmith's shop and a post-office. In 2884 the population of Sherman City was 117; it now has a population of about 200. It is situated in the centre of a fine farming country, has a splendid water power, and when favored with a railroad will soon develop into a flourishing village. Farming land in this town ranges in price from $4 to $10 per acre, and some good land laying off from a road, can be purchased for $2 per acre.
I think I have now written enough concerning the past and present of the township to elicit a sigh of relief from the reading in saying, "I have finished".
FRED L. KENT
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