HISTORY OF TUSCOLA COUNTY
settlers of Denmark located in the southwest and southeast corners of the
town. In the spring of 1850 Gottleib Amman, Michael Schourtz and
possible one or two others who had emigrated to America, arrived in the
southwest corner of the township and began making an opening in the wilderness
for a German settlement that soon followed.
The first minister in the present town of Denmark was Rev. Denidorfer, who arrived in 1851, and used to hold meetings
in Mr Ammon’s house. In 1852 he organized a church with six
members, which was the first in that township, and one of the earliest in the
In March, 1850, Mr. Joseph Selden entered 160 acres of land in section 25, and accompanied by his son, Charles R. Selden, now treasurer of Tuscola County, came from Wayne County, Mich., that spring and laid the ax at the root of the tree. They built a log cabin, cleared what they could, and that fall put in a crop of wheat.
About this same time John Freeman, who afterward became a resident of the town did some chopping for Townsend North. Mr. Freeman was then an unmarried man and was in Mr. North’s employ.
In the spring of 1851, Mr. Selden removed his family from Wayne County to the wilderness of Tuscola. The journey was made with two wagons, one drawn by horses and the other by oxen, and from Vassar to their cabin the only road was such as had been marked out by lumbermen. The family consisted of Mr. Selden and wife, and four children: Charles R., present county treasurer, J. G., now of Vassar, Mrs. James Saunders, and Mrs. John Johnson, also now living at Vassar. Mr. Selden, senior, was practically the father of Denmark, having been the leading spirit in its organization and in the early management of its affairs, as was also Mr. Charles R. Selden.
After becoming established in their rude home they built a frame barn, the first one built in Tuscola county, outside of Tuscola Township. The raising of this barn was the “event of the season.” North & Edmunds shut down their mill at Vassar, and people of frontier enterprise. Mr. Selden assisted in the development of that part of the county until 1860, when his life labors ceased, his death occurring in December of that year. His age was sixty-one years. He was earnestly opposed to the institution of slavery and had strong faith that good would result from the election of Mr. Lincoln to the presidency. About the last interest he manifested in worldly affairs was in the result of the election, which was the fruition of his political hopes.
A strip of land along the south part of the township was settled by Englishmen, and in consequence came to be known as the English Line. Among those settlers were Joseph Wells, Robert Whittacker, and Samuel Garner , all of whom are still residents of the township. They located their lands in 1853. Benjamin F. Ormsby, an old Revolutionary soldier, located on section 13. In November 1853, John Baker and family, now of Vassar, arrived and took up their abode on section 13. Other settlers followed the trail which had now become distinct, and in the spring of 1854 the first town meeting was held and Denmark appeared upon the map of Tuscola County. The Carrs, Gaunt, Chamberlain, Mallory, and Hicks were also among the early comers.
The life of these first settlers was not unlike that of pioneers generally. They had erected their family altars in the wilderness for the purpose of securing homes and comforts for after years. They expected hardships and were prepared to brave them. Their nearest markets were Flint and Saginaw, both of which were thirty
miles away. To these places they went for supplies. The journeys were made with horses or oxen,
and generally required three days for the round trip. The average larder was supplied with flour,
pork and potatoes, and many a wealthy dyspeptic of the present day would give
his fortune to be able to eat one meal with the comfort and relish experienced
by those who sat down to the homely fare of these pioneer homes.
A few years after the settlement began in Denmark this whole region was visited by a severe frost early in the summer, that cut off everything unable to cope with the freezing power. This occasioned serious loss and some suffering. There were instances where some of the settlers were obliged to subsist for several days upon roots and berries. As a general rule, however, people in this section did not want for food. People were generous and hospitable. The first water-melons belonged to the whole neighborhood, no matter upon whose land they grew. Borrowing and lending was both a custom and a necessity.
After the farmers began to raise a little grain they took it to Vassar to be ground, and when water was to high or mud too deep to go with teams, they would take a half bushel of wheat or corn in bags upon their shoulders and “go to mill.”
David Bacon, on section 14, probably
kept the first tavern designed and kept as such, having all the appointments of
bar, etc. The town meetings were held
there for some time on account of its being a public place. But before that the latch string of every
house was out, and it was so understood by people in want of a meal or shelter
for the night. One of the early stopping
places was the house of Mr. John Baker, on section 13. He arrived with his family in November, 1853. The first month they lived in a board tent,
and then moved into a small board house that had been hastily built. It seemed to be a convenient point for land
lookers and surveyors to stop, and Mrs. Baker’s hospitality was taxed to such
an extent that it became necessary to take pay from those who ate and slept
beneath her roof, as a means of replenishing the larder. Their house was not larger than an average
room in a modern house, but it was not unusual for fifteen or twenty people to
eat at a single meal and be provided with lodgings for the night. The floor was a convenient and safe bed, and
a tier of bunks around the room furnished accommodations that were never
grumbled at. “Mrs. Baker’s” became a
well known stopping place, and although she was obliged to perform all the
varied duties of landlady, chambermaid, cook, waiter, nurse, mother and wife,
her guests were always provided with a bountiful meal and comfortable
lodgings. Sometimes the duties already
mentioned were interspersed with garden work.
One night after digging and carrying to the pit
twenty-one bushels of potatoes with the aid of her little son, three men came
for supper and lodgings one of whom was Mr. Pettibone,
a well known surveyor of that day.
The meal was provided, and the only beds in the house given to the
guests, while the family slept upon the floor.
Mr. Pettibone objected to such an arrangement,
but was overruled. He declared that he
would not stop there again if he was compelled to occupy a bed while a woman,
who had dug potatoes all day, slept upon the floor; and he carried out his
One day two men drove up to the house and called for whisky, but soon found they were at the wrong place for commodity of that kind. The Bakers were strong temperance people, and Mrs. Baker told her husband that something was wrong, or else whisky would not have been called for at their house. At last she happened to think of the deer’s horns that Mr. Baker had put up in front of the house, and which were a well known tavern sign.
Seeing them the travelers supposed that a full assortment of the usual tavern commodities were kept “constantly on hand.” The deer’s horns were taken down, and were never more seen adorning the front of the Baker premises.
EARLY PREACHING AND SUNDAY SCHOOLS.
Three or four years after the settlement of the
eastern portion of the township began, Elder Mitchell made visits to Watrousville, and upon one occasion Mr. and Mrs. Baker
walked there, a distance of three and one-half miles, to invite him to their
house to arrange for a religious meeting.
He accepted their invitation, and returned with them, Mrs. Baker riding
his horse and he accompanied Mr. Baker on foot.
At this visit he made an appointment to return and preached in two
weeks, the meeting to be held at Mr. Baker’s house. The appointment was kept, and that meeting
was the first public worship in that part of Denmark. About that time Mrs. Baker carried on a
Sunday-school at her house. The children from the whole neighborhood assembling for that
purpose. Placing the chairs in a
circle, Mrs. Baker gathered the school about her, and performed the duties of
superintendent, chorister and teacher.
The first regularly organized Sunday-school was established by the American Sabbath-school Union, at the house of Mr. Henry Carr, in the spring of 1856. The house was what was known as a block house, with two large rooms. The use of one was given for the Sunday-school. Mr. Carr was not a professor of religion, but Mrs. Carr was a devoted Christian woman. Mr. Matthew Wilkinson, an Englishman, who had been in this country but a few years, was elected superintendent of the school. He was not at that time a professor of religion, but he took hold of the matter with a great deal of interest and earnestness, and the school was prosperous under his management. The children used to gather from all parts of that section, some traveling a distance of five or six miles, thus setting an example which might be studied with profit.
OUT OF BREAD
In the fall of 1850, Mr. Joseph Selden and his son, C. R. Selden, were putting in some wheat in the little patch they had cleared. The family had not yet arrived, and they were keeping bachelor’s hall in their shanty. Their bill of fare was not complicated, and bread was an essential part of it. This they were in the habit of getting at Vassar, where they had it baked at North & Edmund’s boarding-house. But one time the machinery of the bakery was stopped by the continued obstinacy of the yeast, and no bread could be provided. The Denmark farmers lived on potatoes and salt for a number of days until the Vassar yeast could be induced to elevate itself. The fragrance of newly baked bread was wafted to the fasting couple over the town line, or by some other means they learned that again there was manna in the wilderness, and the next morning Charles took a meal bag and journeyed down to Vassar before breakfast. Filling his sack with loaves of bread, he shouldered it and started for breakfast, three miles away. The aroma of the fresh bread would steal out of the sack and insinuate itself into his nostrils with provoking persistency, but he remembered that his father was waiting at home with an appetite as keen as his, and he pushed through without a stop. That morning’s breakfast, with its three courses of potatoes, salt and bread, was a banquet such as man partakes of but few times in his life.
The first postoffice in the west part of the town was at the German settlement, and was called Richville. The office is still continued, and Henry Liepkert is postmaster. The first in the east part of the town was at Carr’s Corners, and Henry F. Carr, now dead, was postmaster. The office is still continued, but the name has been changed to Denmark, and the present postmaster is Reuben Alexander. The other postoffice is at Gates or Reese, as the village is now called, and is spoken of in connection with the village.
From the annual school report of the town of Denmark for the year ending September 4, 1882, the following facts are obtained: School directors for the ensuing year: Frederick Wirth, Eugene Willson, George Robinson, Thomas Gulliver and D. G. Wakeman. There are four whole and three fractional school districts, with two brick and three frame school-houses. The whole number of children of school age is 528; attending school during the year, 387.