The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter V
Forest Township

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



The name of this township, as might be supposed, was derived from its heavy growth of timber. About three-fourths of it was covered with pine, which stood in its natural state for many years. Speculators, who bought up the land for the pine timber, let the trees stand till lumber was worth a price which would warrant them in cutting the timber. At the time the act was passed by the Legislature organizing the township there was some difficulty in fixing upon a name, until a facetious member of the House said, "As it is all woods and nobody lives there, I think we had better call it Forest,' and Forest it was called.

James Seymour entered the first land in this township, March 1, 1836, on section 36. The first land entered by an actual settler was that of Henry Hiester (or Heister), November 9, of the same year, on section 19. Mr. Hiester brought his family here from Livingston county, New York, early in the spring of 1837. For a bout two months the Hiesters were the only white residents of the town. Then the Smith family came. The head of the family was Nathaniel smith, a man of a religious turn of mind, steady and industrious habits and upright, straight-forward, irreproachable character. The first religious meetings in Forest were held at the houses of Mr. Smith and Mr. Hiester. The members of the Smith family grew up in this community and were numbered among the most influential citizens of the town. Next after the Smiths in 1837 came the Begel family, from the town of Howard, Steuben county, New York, at whose head was Stephen Begel. The site of their settlement became later the village of Otisville, on section 21, about which grew up this numerous and useful family of fourteen children.

Other early settlers were Matthew McCormick (1839), an Irish immigrant who had for some time lived in Washtenaw county; Stephen J. Seeley (1841); John Nixon; John Crawford (1842), a native of the county of Antrim, Ireland; James Crawford, John's father (1844); Jeremiah Olds, William H. diamond, John H. Fry and John Darling.

Forest township grew slowly for some fifteen year after its first settlement, on account of the heavy timber and the great quantities of the best lands held by speculators. About 1845-50 the trade in Michigan pine lumber began. In 1851 the Hayes saw-mill was built near the Begel settlement. A boarding-house, store and several dwellings for the mill hands were built. This was the first impulse to the future village of Otisville. John Hayes was from Cleveland, Ohio.


In April, 1843, the first town meeting was held at the house of Stephen Begel.Thirteen votes were cast, with the following results, so far as can be ascertained:


Nathaniel Smith

Town Clerk 

Chauncey W. Seeley


William R. Smith

Justices of Peace 

John Crawford, Nathaniel Smith, William R. Smith, Amos Begel

Commissioners Of Highways 

John Crawford, Nathaniel Smith and Amos Smith

Overseers of Poor 

Amos Begel and Nathaniel Smith


The act detaching Forest from Lapeer County and adding it to Genesee took effect on March 31, 1843, a few days previous to the first town meeting. The reasons for this change of county relations were principally business convenience and ease of communication. The main business of the people of the town centered at Flint, and flint river formed the principal means of transporting their produce and manufactures to their principal market.


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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