HISTORY OF TUSCOLA COUNTY
The first settlers of the town of Indian Fields were Charles Stuck, Isaac Crane, Wlater Holmes, Orville Williams, Oliver Dickinson, Elonza Bigelow, Daniel Dopking, Franklin Fairman, Samuel P. Sherman, Amos Andrews, Sr., David H. Andrews, Leman Andrews, William A. Heartt and David Gamble.
Mr. David H. Andrews speaks of the early operations as follows:
"In the year 1851, November 12th, Charles Stuck, of Ypsilanti, Mich., came to this town and commenced on section 20, the north west quarter, to build a house for himself, being aided by Samuel Barlow, who came with him. On the 15th of November of the same year Daniel Dopking arrived, Mrs. Dopking being the first white woman in this town. The roads being very bad and teams hard to get Mr. Stuck on the 17th of November made a raft and went to Vassar for the purpose of rafting lumber up the Cass River to his place. On the 18th he started up the river with the lumber, but soon found it to be up-hill business, and was obliged to abandon the undertaking. Sim Caster, wife and child and brother came on the 20th of November 1851, Mrs. Caster being the second white woman in the town.
"On January 3, 1852, Mr. Stuck resumed his work on the house which he had previously commenced, this time proving successful.
"In 1853 William A. Heartt formed a partnership with Mr. Stuck and notwithstanding the many difficulties under which they were obliged to labor, succeeded in building a mill and making various other improvements which none but energetic pioneers could have accomplished. Mr. Heartt afterward bought Mr. Stuck's interest, and remains proprietor of the place at the present time. Being an enterprising man, he ahs been a great help in opening up and settling the township and surrounding country. It will not be necessary to relate the trials of the early settlers, for none but the pioneers can realize them.
"The first death among the actual settlers was theat of Amos Andrews, Sr., who was away on business in Ohio, where he died on the 31st of August, 1853, aged seventy-two yearsw. He purchased his land in 1850, it being the north half of section 18, in the town of Indian Fields.
"The first marriage was Orvill Williams to Amanda Bigelow, the ceremony being performed by Isaac Crane, justice of the peace.
"The first minister sent by conference was T. J. Joslin, a Methodist, who formed a society of eight members. The names of the members of the class were D. H. Andrews and wife Leman Andrews, G. Kile, Henry Russell, Mrs. Hiller and David Kesler and wife."
The first postoffice in the present town of Indian Fields was at Wahjamega, established in 1859; the next was Tuscola Center, established at Centerville in 1866. A history of each is given on another page.
A BIT OF EXPERIENCE
Some experiences of the late Daniel D. Dopking and wife illustrate life in the early days, which for several years was lonely beyond description. Their nearest neighbor was Isaac Crane, nearly two miles distant. The improvement of new farm required too much hard labor to allow of much recreation, and neighborly visits were not frequent, unless it was necessary to borrow some groceries to last until a trip could be made to Vassar. Christmas and New Year's were seasons of enjoyment, and upon such occasions those who lived many miles apart would unite in the homely festivities.
Owing to the lack of fences, farmers had to "bell" their cattle when they were turned loose, and in buying a "sounder" a farmer endeavored to get one as unlike in tone to that of his neighbor as possible. In the summer of 1854 Mr. Dopking lost track of his oxen, and in hunting for them he was misled by the bell on an ox belonging to Curtis Emerson, of East Saginaw, who was then lumbering on the Cass River. After much tramping, however, Mr. Dopking found his cattle, and started for home, as he supposed. In the course of an hour he realized that he was lost, and hallooing brought no response from home. His oxen finally grew tired and refused to go any farther, so he tied them to a tree with beech withes, and lay down to sleep. None of the wild animals then so numerous disturbed his slumbers and when morning broke he started on a prospecting tour. He struck a road leading somewhere, and as it was blazed a little above breast high (the usual height for section line blazes) he knew that travel on it would bring him to some point from whence he could reach home. Accordingly he untied his cattle and traveled on this road until he struck the Indian Fields and Sebewaing trail. Here a new difficulty presented itself: which way should he go? It was a knotty question to decide, but finally he started toward Sebewaing and traveled some distance: after going far enough, as he thought to reach some point that would indicate his whereabouts, he made up his mind that he was on the wrong track, and consequently retraced his steps along the trail. He finally struck a small clearing that now forms part of the county poor farm, and then he knew where he was, as a lumber road led from them point direct to Wahjamega. He arrived home about 11 o'clock in the forenoon, having been absent from home all the previous day, and found his wife in a state of anxiety bordering on distraction. All through the long night the poor woman had kept he lonely vigil, every half hour or so blowing a mammoth tin horn, in hopes that her husband would hear its sounds and thus guided home. Occasionally she would imagine that she could hear the ox bell, but the hope thus raised died out in despair when Mr. Dopking did not make his appearance. Her greatest fear was that some wild beast had made him its prey, and that no trace of him would ever be discovered. The nearest house was a mile and half, and a night walk of that distance through woods infested with wild beasts was not at all desirable. So the night wore away and morning dawned without a sight of him who was so near and dear to her, and the forenoon passed as did the night. About 11 o'clock the welcome and familiar sound of the bell apprised her of the approach of the cattle, and on looking out she beheld her husband coming up the road. The strain upon her nerves for the twenty four hours had been so great that the reaction from fear thoroughly prostrated her and rendered her as feeble as a babe in arms, and it was hours before she completely recovered self possession.
Indian Fields was organized under a resolution adopted by the board of supervisors at a meeting held December 28, 1852, The territory comprised townships 12, 13 and 14 north, of ranges 9, 10 and 11 east. The boundaries of the town were changed from time to time as new towns were organized, until township 12 north, of range 9 east, composed as at present, its organized territory.
On the 7th of January, 1853, Matthew D. North and Chancey Sherman, highway commissioners of the township of Vassar, laid
the first road in this town described now, as follows: Past the houses of D. D. Dopking and C. J. Hooper to the corner of D. Kenyon's place, thence north one and one-half miles in Almer. This township was then under the jurisdiction of Vassar, that township having been organized in the winter of 1851.
The first election was held April 4, 1858, at the house of Isaac N. Crane, near the bank of Cass River on the ground familiarly known as Indian Fields. The inspectors of this election were Isaac N. Crane, Daniel Dipking and Christian Shadley. The following officer were elected: supervisor, Daniel Dopking: clerk, Samuel P. Sherman; treasurer, Isaac N. Crane; school insepector; Christian Shadley; directors of the poor, Christian Shadley, John Corte, Sr.,; commissioners of highways, Oliver Dickenson, Alexander Belmer, Christian Shadley; justice, Samuel P. Sherman; constables, Oliver Dickinson, Franklin Fairman, James Archer.
At this election Christian Shadley and William A. Heartt were candidates for the same office, and the vote being a tie, they tossed hats to see who should serve the town in the capacity of school inspector. Mr Shadley won, and entered upon the duties of the office. AT this time there were more offices than candidates, a circumstance not recorded outside of pioneer history. It will be noticed that at this first election Mr. Sherman was elected to two offices, Mr. Dickinson the same, and Mr. Shadley to three. Civilization has remedied that inconvenience and a candidate will now rise to the surface at the slightest moving of the waters.
The whole number of votes cast was eighteen, and the voting precinct covered three hundred and twenty-four square miles. Whether the ticket elected was Democratic or Whig does not appear. At this meeting it was decided by the electors to levy a tax the same year of $250 for the improvement of roads, a fact worthy of note with only eighteen resident tax-payers.
From this germ have grown the excellent highways for which the town is justly noted. The residents of that day appear to have been persons of energy and commendable public spirit, determined to open the way for civilization and progress. At this first town meeting it was voted that the next township meeting should be held at the house of Samuel P. Sherman.
On the 20th of June following, the prohibitory liquor question was acted upon throughout the State, and a meeting held at the house of Mr. Crane. The whole number of votes polled was eleven, with eight in favor of the passage of the act and three against it.
On the first tax roll of this township there was spread the aggregate sum of $468.50, this being the amount charged up to the township treasurer, December 9, 1853, as follows:
State tax .. $ 2.19
County tax . $113.31
Town tax . 60.00
Highway tax 250.00
School tax 28.00
Collection fee ... 10.00
The town board held a meeting September 17, 1853, and issued wolf certificates to Samuel P. Sherman and the Indian Koc-a-chese.
The annual meeting in April, 1854, was held at the house of S. P. Sherman. The greatest number of votes cast was twenty-six. It was voted to raise $250 for improvement of public highways.
In 1855 the annual meeting was held at the house of David H. Andrews. Twenty six votes were polled. The poll list given in the town clerk's journal is as follows: William Heartt, J. N. Brock, Henry S. Lovejoy, E. Delling, Andrew Lovejoy, Daniel W. Johnson, Jared Simmons, Orville Williams, A. Bigelow, John Holmes, Wakeman Goodsel, Giles Grovner, Alexsander Trombley, Franklin Fairman, Leman Andrews, Thomas Copram, Sylvester Dodge, David Gamble, Oliver A. Dickinson, John Masne, Hiram Allen, Henry E. Kusel, David Kesler, Daniel D. Dopking, Charles Stuck, David H. Andrews.
It is recorded that at a caucus held at the house of William A. Heartt, March 29, 1856, it was unanimously voted to remove the town meeting from the house of D. H. Andrews to the house of William A. Heartt.
Ath the annual election in 1857, twenty-three votes were cast. November 10th of this year a meeting of citizens was held at the house of William A. Heartt, for the purpose of voting for the raising of money to defray current town expenses, and to decide what action should be taken with reference to building a bridge across Cass River, on section 20, in town 12 north, range 9 east. It was voted to raise one hundred dollars for defraying town expenses, and also that the sum of two hundred and fifty dollars be raised for building the bridge above mentioned.
The first township caucus recorded for the nomination of town officers was held in March, 1858, at which it was voted to order printed ballots for use at the next election. This was a long stride forward and indicated that a spirit of progress was laying hold upon the minds of the sovereigns of Indian Fields. At the election in April of this twenty-five votes were cast.
The first action of the town with reference to a public burying ground was had at the annual meeting in April, 1859, when Chester W. Briggs, Franklin Fairman, David Gamble, Amasa Faulkner and William A. Heartt were appointed a committee to ascertain where and at what price a suitable lot could be obtained for a burying ground. The board was authorized to purchase the same, if in their opinion the location was a desirable one, and provided the amount of land selected was not less than two acres, and the price not more than fifty dollars. The committee were subsequently authorized to make a purchase, and at the annual meeting in April, 1861, reported that they had purchased a piece of land of Daniel D. Dopking, on the southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of section 17, containing something more than two acres, for the sum of fifty dollars.
The liberties of swine were first restricted by the board in April, 1857, when it was voted that hogs should not run at large.
A pretty good idea of the residents of Indian Fields in April, 1860, may be had from the following list of electors who voted at that election:
William E. Sherman, Samuel P. Sherman, H. G. Alvord, James M. Frost, Isaac Holmes, Baxter Marr, J. C. Lester, Amasa Albert Schmidt, Alanson Bigelow, Alexander Cooper, W. H. Delling, J. N. Brock, David Cutler, Chester W. Briggs, Giles Grovenor, Oliver A. Dickinson, Joseph Gamble, Alexander Stewart, John Sherman, Hiram Allen, Isaac N. Crane, David Gamble, Alpheus Marr, D. H. Gould, Amos H. Andrews, Joseph J. Fuller, Charles Austin, Melvin Gibbs, James Lyon, David H. Andrews, Hiram Austin, H. J. Carpenter, H. D. Sauders, James Beckham, William A. Heartt, Daniel D. Dopking, Franklin Fairman, Daniel L. Maxwell, B. F. Nettleton, T. Mansil.
At the presidential election in November, 1860, party lines were pretty clearly defined. The whole number of votes cast for the general ticket was thirty-nine, of which thirty-two were Republican and seven Democratic.
In December, 1861, James W. Spencer was empowered to accept bids and contract for the chopping, clearing and fencing the
Cemetery ground recently purchased of Daniel D. Dopking, the work to be completed on or before September 1st. The contract was let to Matthew S. Dickinson for the sum of $109.50. The work, however, was not finished until some time in 1865.
The annual meeting in 1863 met at the house of Melvin Gibbs in Centerville, February 20, 1864, when the board was authorized to issue bonds to the amount of $200 for the purpose of hiring volunteers to fill the quota of the township. The resolution was carried by a unanimous vote.
In 1865 the cemetery grounds were laid out into lots and the price to residents of the township fixed at $3 per lot. In June of this year the Board of Health took measures to prevent the spread of small-pox, and employed Stephen R. Cross to take care of Indians exposed to that contagion.
At the annual election in April, 1866, ninety-three votes were polled. The removal of the county seat was voted upon at this election and the vote stood seventy-nine for the fourteen against removal.
At the annual meeting in 1868 it was voted to raise $600 for the erection of a bridge across the Cass River, near the mouth of Sucker Creek.
At the presidential election in November 1868, one hundred and sixty-four votes were polled, of which the Republican ticket received ninety-six and the Democratic ticket sixty-eight.
At the State election in November, 1870, one hundred and ninety-one votes were polled for governor, of which Henry P. Baldwin received one hundred and four and Charles C. Comstock eighty-seven.
The war record of Indian Fields is specially deserving of notice. The town never sent a drafted man to the army, and there was never but one draft, which was to fill a quota of one man, and was filled by a volunteer. Within three years after the close of the war the town paid it entire war debt.
The first school in Indian Fields was taught in the winter of 1857-8 by Miss Ruth Sherman, now Mrs. Gamble, of Cass City, in a little building which had just been built by Peter D. Bush, and which stood a few rods southwest of what is now known as the Wilsey Mill. Mr. Bush lived at the time just across the line in the town of Almer, but near what is now Caro. There were a number of children who wanted to go to school, and at that time there was no organized school district in the town of Indian Fields. Mr Bush go lumber at Wahjamega, and went to Pontiac after a stove, glass and sash. School was taught that winter, and the following spring the building burned. As this school was the foundation, or rather the first start of the Caro schools, the subsequent history is given in connection with the village.
The first meeting of School District No. 1 was held May 1, 1858. David Gamble was chosen chairman and J.K. Heartt, secretary. The following officers wee elected; Moderator, William A. Heartt; director, J. K. Heartt; assessor, Daniel Dopking. There being a disagreement as to location of school-house site, no school was at that time organized, nor until 1863, when a school was opened in a shanty at Wahjamega, Miss Martha Wilcox being teacher. She was engaged for a school to commence January 1, 1863, and continue three months, at a salary of $2 per week and board around.
School Districts 2 and 3 were organized about the same time. The Union or Graded School District was organized in 1867, and comprised the whole of sections 1, 2, 3, 4, the north half of section 9, the whole of sections 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, the north half ald the southeast quarter of section 15, the east half of sections 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 33, 34, 35 and 36. This was designated as the Centerville Union School District.
From the annual school report of the town of Indian Fields for the year ending September, 1882, the following facts are obtained; Directors for the ensuing year, Wm. A. Heartt, Orestes Purdy, W. L. Rogers, Wm. B. Sweet, Ebenezer Beardsley and James H. Conner. There are five whole districts and one fractional, with one brick and six frame school-houses. Number of children of school age, 690; attending school during the year, 539. There is one graded school in the town.
YEAR SUPERVISOR CLERK TREASURER COMMISSIONER
1883 Frank h. Thomas J. Ralph Gillespie Jas W. Spencer Wm. L. Rogers
1882 Henry G. Sherman J. Ralph Gillespie Jas W. Spencer Marcus L. Norris
1881 Henry G. Sherman J. Ralph Gillespie Gilbert Johnson Preston C. Purdy
1880 Marcus C. Robb J. Ralph Gillespie John D. Knight William Thomson
1879 Marcus C. Robb Jas S. Gillespie John D. Knight H. G. Sherman
1878 Jas W. Spencer Jas S. Gillespie Marcus C. Robb H. G. Sherman
1877 Jas. W. Spencer Jas. S. Gillespie Marcus C. Robb H. G. Sherman
1876 Geo. W. Howell W. L. Rogers Marcus C. Robb J. C. Townsend
1875 H. P. Atwood N. M. Richardson A. M. Judd J. C. Townsend
1874 Hubbard S. Lee Henry S. Johnson A. M. Judd J. C. Townsend
1873 Clark Hooper Henry S. Johnson R. Purdy H. S. Lee
1872 C. P. Black Thomas A. Mills R. Purdy Jas. C. Townsend
1871 C. P. Black Thomas A. Mills R. Purdy John H. Weale
1870 J. R. Hooper H. G. Chapin Joseph Gamble Henry Church
1869 J. R. Hooper H. G. Chapin R. Purdy S. R. Cross
1868 J. R. Hooper Joseph Delling R. Purdy S. R. Cross
1867 J. R. Hooper S. C. Armstrong R. Purdy A. P. Cooper
1866 Jas W. Spencer A. N. McConoughey John T. Ross Joseph Morrison
1865 Jas W. Spencer A. N. McConoughey D. D. Dopking John T. Ross
1864 Jos W. Spencer J. M. Hooper T. B. Blackwood Orville Williams
1863 Jas W. Spencer Marvin B. Gibbs S. P. Sherman Joseph Morrison
Peter D. Bush
1862 Jos. W. Spencer Wm E. Sherman S. P. Sherman David Gamble
1861 Wm A. Heartt Henry D. Saunders Horace G. Alvord James M. Frost
1860 Melvin Gibbs Daniel D. Dopking S. F. Dickinson J. C. Lester
1859 Melvin Gibbs E. H. Hudson S. F. Dickinson Jos. J. Fuller
Wm. A. Heartt
1858 Melvin Gibbs Josiah K. Heartt Wm. A. Heartt O. A. Dickinson
1857 Melvin Gibbs Josiah K. Heartt Wm. A. Heartt David H. Andrews
1856 Wm. A. Heartt Daniel D. Dopking Josiah K. Heartt Wm. A. Heartt
Daniel D. Dopking
1855 Charles Stuck Daniel Dopking Giles Grovner D. H. Andrews
1854 Daniel Dopking Christian Shadley David Andrews Alex Belmer
1853 Daniel Dopking Samuel P. Sherman Isaac N. Crane Oliver Dickinson