The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter V
Flushing Township

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



Rufus Harrison has the honor of being the first white settler of flushing township. He settled on the north side of the river near the southeast corner in the fall of 1835. The second permanent settler in the township was henry French, who located on section 36 in the same fall. His brother, Ebenezer, came the next year. Probably the only other permanent settler of 1835 was John Evans , of Manchester, England, who came to Michigan after a brief residence in New York. Others who came before 1840 were Thomas L. Brent, David and James Penoyer, Ezra Smith, Origin Packard and Alexander Barber.

Thomas Brent was one of the most prominent of the earlier settlers, having acquired, before his coming a national reputation and a large fortune. At one time he paid taxes on about seventy thousand acres of land in Michigan. He was Virginian by birth and married a noble Spanish lady with whom he had become acquainted while on a mission to that country in the employ of the United States government. His married life as said to have been unhappy. Before his death he sank his fortune and became "land poor." In 1836 he built a saw-mill near his place on section 3, but a freshet in the following spring destroyed it. This part of the township contained a large acreage of pine and a second mill was soon built, up from the river out of reach of freshets. It is said that nearly every man who settled early in the township worked at some time or other for Mr. Brent, clearing up land and earning enough money to pay for homes of their own. The "Brent farm" was widely known throughout the region.

John Paton, a native of Blackford, Perthshire, Scotland, and later a resident of Paterson, New Jersey, purchased lands on section 22 and 27 as early as 1834, but did not settle until 1837. He had come to America in the spring of 1827. In 1843 Mrs. Paton wrote a letter to a friend in England, which is worth repeating as typical of pioneer conditions in Flushing township at that time, being written during the closing days of the famous "hard winter."

Flushing, Near Flint river, April 6. 1843.

I will not attempt to apologize for not writing earlier, but let the simple truth suffice. I have had four letters, I may say, written (one entirely finished), but lacked funds to post them. It is easier to release a dozen letters than to prepay one. For the one they will take produce, for the other they exact cash, and that is a very scarce article here, for our business is carried on mostly by barter. WE sold about two hundred dollars' worth of stock in the last year and it was with great difficulty we got six dollars in cash. Times have been very hard and I fear not yet at the worst. According to accounts that can be relied on, we have had the hardest winter that has occurred for fifty-four years. It commenced in October and is now snowing; the snow in the woods is from two to three feet deep. But we don't suffer on the timbered land anything like those on the oak-openings, as regards out stock, although wqe are destitute of anything in the shape of fodder in our barns, for we have the woods to resort to, where there is plenty of maple and basswood, and we cut them down, and the cattle feed on the tops, and look pretty well where they are well attended to. But we hear of cattle dying in all directions and of some farmers knocking the whole of their cattle on the head, to save them from a lingering starvation, after feeding out all their store; others sustaining them on flour victuals, all other being exhausted. Last winter (i.e.1841-42) we had an unusually open season and a very early spring. Our fields never looked so well--fruit trees in full bloom--and all seemed cheering in the month of April, but out hopes were soon blighted. We had severe frost in May, which cut off our blossoms, and, what was still worse, our corn; then a tedious drought succeeded, which almost burnt up the wheat--at least stunted it so the straw was worth little; then, to finish, when it was in the milk, there were sunny showers that struck it with rust--the late-sown suffered most * * * * I am happy to say I have enjoyed better health this winter than I have since I came in the woods (over six years), and, if the tormenting ague will keep away, I will excuse it. It is a singular thing to find, one part of the day a person will feel able to go about and do a little work, and another part not able to rise from the pillow and as crazy as can be. Such has been hanging on me four years. New settlers generally have it, but after they get acclimated it si very healthy. Considering the hard times, our county is settling very fast. There are six families from Stockport settled near to us and there are several more coming out from there this spring. We have let a brick-ground to two of these. I must tell you we have had the good luck to find a coal-mine on our farm, but we have not been able to ascertain its extent; it is of excellent quality. We sold seven dollars' worth of it last fall when we found it. Things generally prosper with us since I last wrote you.

About 1840 there began to form in the northwestern part of the township the "English settlement." In that fall came John Reed and James Bailey, soon followed by Samuel and James Wood, of Lancashire, and Mary Vernon, who became the wife of Samuel Wood, and her father, John Bailey, who was the father also of James Bailey. Later there settled Thomas Hough, Sr., and J., Richard Bowden, William Bailey and Thomas Newell, all of the same nativity. Most of them had been farmers in the old country, but their newness to pioneering in a western wilderness led to some amusing experiences.

A good story is told by John reed, who had a fiery temper which was not always under control. On one occasion he became angry with his cow and rove her away into the woods to the north, kicking at her at every step, until finally both were tired out. He had tried to turn her back at first, but she was obstinate and that roused his ire. His boot came up at the same time with his ire and when at last he stopped to rest he found himself in a strange neighborhood, lost in the forest. He finally pulled off one of his boots, milked the cow in it, drank the milk and lay down on a log, where he was found the next day by the neighbors, who had instituted a search for him. He had fought mosquitoes l night and looked somewhat the worse for wear.

The beginnings of Flushing village are marked by the purchase of the water power there by Horace Jerome, from St. Clair, Michigan in 1836. Jerome was working in co-operation with Charles Seymour, of Litchfield county, Connecticut. The frame of the mill was put up in the summer of 1837 and in 1838 one saw was in operation. In 1840 Seymour, in company with Benjamin Bowers, built the first grist-mill in the place, on the sire of the later Flushing mills. In the same year Seymour platted the village, on both sides of the river.

Horace Jerome is connected in Flushing's history with the ill-fated "wild-cat" institution, "The Flint Rapids Bank," of 1838. The experiment resulted in such ill repute for its sponsors that soon after failure Jerome left the region and did not return.

Flushing township was organized in 1838; the early records being lost, no account can be given of the earliest official history of the township.

The first religious society in the township was formed in the English settlement, where the pioneers were mainly Methodists. A class was formed soon after the first arrivals and the first meetings were held in James Wood's log house. Their first preacher was a Mr. Whitwam and their first class leader was James Wood. A church was not built, however, until 1864.

Marshall Talbot taught the first school in the township as it was then, just across the present boundary in Mount Morris. At the English settlement a school house was built in 1845.


History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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