HISTORY OF TUSCOLA COUNTY
The first actual settler in the present town of Almer, was Christian Shadley, who settled with his family on section 26, in October, 1852. Mr. Shadley was born in Switzerland in the year 1813, and emigrated to America in 1833. Immediately after arriving in this country he enlisted in the regular army and remained in the service sixteen years. He was in the Florida and Mexican wars, and saw more active and hard service than is usually experienced by members of the regular army.
In 1849 he received his discharge at Detroit, where he remained about a year. He then married and went into Oakland County. Early in 1852 he came into Tuscola County, and located 160 acres of land in section 26. He worked that summer at lumbering for the fir of North & Edmunds, of Vassar.
In the fall he returned to Oakland County and made preparations for moving. Loading his wife and some household articles into a lumber wagon, they set out with a pair of oxen for their new home. After a journey of four days they reached their destination, in the wilderness of what is now Almer, and the settlement of the town began.
At the time Mr. Shadley and wife arrived a bachelor, named Levi A. Rapplege, was living alone in a little shanty about where the county poor-house now stands, and was making some improvements on the land. In March, 1850, this man Rapplege, had entered some land in section 34, and for some time he was the only occupant of the township. He did not, however, make a permanent location, and after a little while moved away as he come alone.
When Mr. Shadley and his wife arrived upon the site of their new home it was untouched by the hand of man. There was no shelter provided except such as was afforded by the wide spreading braches from which the golden leaves of autumn were falling. Placing the stove against a tree, a kitchen was extemporized; the wagon was converted into a bedroom, and the whole township constituted the balance of their suite of apartments. During the few days that followed they lived in this way, and Mr. Shadley put together a hastily constructed log cabin, which they moved into when completed, and the first home with a woman at its head, was erected in Almer.
The next building in the township was put up by William McPhail, who came in the fall of 1852, a few weeks after the arrival of Mr. Shadley. He was accompanied by Christopher Callan and another man who stayed only a short time and then went away. Mr. McPhail entered land in sections 13 and 14, and Mr. Callan in section 24. The tree men had come together from the State of
New York, and during that winter lived together and kept bachelor’s hall.
The were soon followed by Dr. Dickinson, C. M. Delling, James Andrews, George Cleaver, David June, Henry D. Hamilton and John Court.
The first marriage in Almer was that of Henry D. Hamilton and Julia Callan. The ceremony was performed by Christian Shadley, who was justice of the peace, as well as a functionary in numerous other capacities.
The first death was a child of Peter Fox. It was buried in the burying ground first bought of Mr. Shadley. It was afterward removed to the new burying ground.
The first wheat raised in the town, was by Mr. Shadley, who was obliged to go to Flushing to get it ground. The mills at all nearer points had been obliged to stop running on account of low water.
The first frame house in the town was built by Mr. Shadley in 1857.
BLOOM AND BLIGHT OF RICHLAND.
In the southeast corner of Almer, on the north bank of the Cass River, may still be seen the decaying skeleton of a saw-mill, which evidently has but one more duty to perform and theat is to which evidently has but one more duty to perform and that is to entirely disappear. Such relics are always monuments of past activity, always industrial, sometimes prosperous, and often times disastrous. This one seems to be clinging to its original foundation until record can be made of the metropolis that once was promised should surround it. Brief as the glory that hero earns, is the story of the projected village on the Cass, that was christened Richland. About 1859 Horace Parsell and E. P. Randall platted forty acres bordering on the Cass River, in sections 35 and 36, and named it Richland. The State road had been opened two years previous and this was thought to be a favorable location for a village. The situation was in every way desirable, and the project would seem to have been fraught with promise. In 1861 they succeeded in getting a postoffice established under the name of Burnside, there being another office in the State by the name of Richland. This office furnished the mail for Centerville for several years. E. P. Randall was the first postmaster, and kept the office in his log house. He kept the office for about three years and then turned it over to Dr. Orr. During the last years of the war, the newspapers would be taken from the office over to the school-house, where the people of the neighborhood would assemble about once a week, and listen to the reading of the news by some one of the number present.
The postoffice was continued until the summer of 1866, when Centerville, having distanced its rival in the race for metropolitan fame, secured the postoffice and the one at Richland was discontinued.
About the time the Burnside postoffice was established E. P. Randall and Justus Blakely started to build the mill already mentioned. They got out the timbers, but on account of the war, did not proceed further with the work. A few years later it was sold to Alfred Weldon who finished building and operated it a short time, when it was abandoned, and has since been going to decay.
The projectors of Richland failed to get the wheels of their enterprise in motion, and the village was never built.
Since the discontinuance of the Burnside postoffice, there has been no postoffice in Almer, most of the inhabitants being patrons of the office at Caro.
Several years ago remains of Indians were frequently found upon a portion of Alfred Weldon’s farm, in this township, and everything indicated its use as a burial place by the former inhabitants of the country. It is situated on a high piece of ground near Cass River, and the earth having been washed away by the high water, parts of skeletons were brought to view. In the center of this piece of ground was a high knoll which often attracted attention and aroused the curiosity of some to know why it was made there and what it contained. Otis W. Leonard resolved to fathom the mystery, and commencing work with a spade, he had not dug more than three feet before he discovered the secret. From a hole about two and one-half feet in diameter and at the depth above mentioned, he succeeded in taking out half a dozen skulls and a great quantity of bones belonging to different parts of the human frame. Digging in different parts of the knoll he found the same everything indicating that the bodies were placed in a sitting position and always facing the east. The knoll was about twenty –five feet in diameter and about three feet high. On this knoll or a little on one side stood a large pine stump that must have grown after the remains were deposited there, as a number remembered a part of the tree standing, and always in an upright position. The roots ran in such manner into the ground as to leave no doubt that it had grown after the knoll was made. The Indians are supposed to have belonged to the Chippewas tribe. Some Indians were questioned in regard to the place, but nothing could be learned from them. Their only reply would be, “Don’t know, may be bad Indian.” It seems probable that this point is where a battle occurred at an early day. Such a tradition existed among the earlier inhabitants of the Indian village of the Indian fields.
The early preachers in Almer were Revs. Warren and I. J. B. McKinney. Meetings were held first in private houses and afterward in school-houses.
From the records we learn that at a meeting held by the Cass River circuit at the church in the township of Almer May 29, 1863, the following were elected as trustees of the Methodist Protestant Church of the Cass River circuit in the township of Almer, viz.: Christian Shadley, S. Botsford, H. D. Seeley, Peter D. Bush, and Henry D. Hamilton. This church continues its existence in the town, holding meetings in school-houses. The present pastor is Rev. E. B. Sutton.
At a meeting held in town of Almer June 10, 1878, for the purpose of incorporating a Free Methodist Church, Chauncey G. Slayton, Alford Hall and Alex. McNeil were elected trustees to be known as “The Trustees of the Caro and Novesta circuit of the Free Methodist Church.” This was the first legal organization of the society. Subsequently a neat church edifice was built in the northeast portion of the town, in which services are regularly held.
The Caro and Almer Free Methodist Church embraces an appointment in Wells and Akron and two appointments in Almer. The charge was organized about six years ago. The membership is about twenty-seven. The present pastor is Rev. W. H. Iles.
At an early day a building was begun by the late Samuel P. Sherman, for a Universalist Church. It was situated in the south part of the town and was never completed. At the time the county seat was located at Centerville, the frame was moved down and used in the construction of the court-house.
The first school inspectors of Almer were Aaron Dickinson and Edward Belmer. Their first meeting was held September 15, 1855, at which time they organized School Districts Nos. 1 and 2.
School District No. 3 was organized in October, 1856.
The first teacher’s certificate recorded in the clerk’s book is dated December 8, 1856. It sets forth that “The board of inspectors having personally examined Otis W. Leonard and having ascertained his qualifications in respect to moral character, learning and ability to instruct a primary school, do hereby certify that he is
duly qualified for that service, and accordingly licensed to teach primary schools in said township for two years,” etc.
School District No. 4 was organized December 16, 1856.
The second teacher’s certificate recorded was issued to Lydia A. Richards, May 16, 1857.
July 11, 1857, Aaaron Dickinson delivered the first purchase of books for the township library, amounting to $50, he having been authorized to make the purchase.
In 1859 the question as to whether the library should be continued a township library or made a district library was submitted to a vote at the annual election, and decided in favor of the latter by a vote of thirty-nine to four. At a meeting of the board of school inspectors held April 16, 1859, a division of the books and money belonging to the library was made as follows:
No. District. No Children. No. Volumes. Amt. Money.
1 25 19 $16.46
2 24 18 17.80
3 6 8 4.10
Total 72 58 $50.00
The report of the school inspector of the town of Almer for the year ending September 4, 1882, shows that the directors for the ensuing year were E. R. Cookingham, A. J. Dale, H. D. Hamilton, W. W. Klne, Hiram S. Lewis, Thomas Imerson. There were six school districts and the same number of school buildings, two of which were of brick. Number of children of school age, 35; number of children that attended school during the year, 287.