The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter V
Grand Blanc Township

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton

 

GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP.

The oldest land entries in the present Grand Blanc township were made July 17, 1824, by parties from Livingston and Ontario counties, New York. From Livingston were William Thompson and Charles Little; from Ontario, Samuel B. Perkins. The purchases were made on section 9, 10, and 15, amounting in all to five hundred acres. Section 15 was the first section to be entirely bought up, the last purchase being made prior to July 4, 1829. The lands of the entire township had been taken up by 1836, excepting, of course, section 16, which was school land.

The first white settlers in Grand Blanc were Jacob Stevens and his family, who came to the township in the spring of 1823. Besides Mr. Stevens and his wife, the family consisted of two sons and five daughters. They had arrived in Detroit from New York in august, 1822, and first settled in Oakland county, on the Saginaw trail, where they made some improvements; but finding their land title defective, they sold out and removed to Grand Blanc. A letter written by Mr. Stevens in 1825 may be given as typical of the experiences of a settler removing with his family from "York State" to Genesee county in these early days:

Granblaw, July A. D. 1825.

Honored parents--The period since I wrote you I acknowledge is a long one; and I have not sufficient reasons to offer to justify so shameful a neglect. Various, indeed, have been the changes and vicissitudes of my life since that time. An attempt to describe them in a single letter would be unavailing. No family, perhaps, the size of mine can have enjoyed better health, say for twenty years past. Our doctor bills have scarcely exceeded that number of dollars.

I sold my farm in Lima, soon after the close of the war, for four thousand dollars. I was some in debt, and my intention was to have waited a few years to see what the turn of the times might be, and then purchase somewhere quite within the bounds of my capital; but fate or fortune determined otherwise. The family soon became uneasy at having no permanent home of their own. Indeed, I disliked a state so inactive myself, and determined to purchase, and did, to nearly the amount of my money. It was well laid out, but at a bad time.

I was sensible a depreciation on property must take place, but put it off till by and by, and some way or other was blind to its approach. The farm admitted of great improvements being much made, and a good house among the rest would be very convenient, and, accordingly, the best means were had were taken to procure materials, viz: stone, brick, lumber, etc. About this time the amazing fall in the value of real estate, as well as all other property, and the many complaints from other people,. Whom I thought forehanded, but in debt to me, was alarming. I told Rufus (who seemed the boy destined to live at home) my fears, and I thought we had better sell off our lumber, etc. and endeavor to back out. Naturally ambitious, this idea he could not brook. He preferred to drive the building and risk the consequences. We finally did and it is only necessary to observe that it flung us completely in the background in bad times. Since that we have had many shifts and but few shirts. Too proud to be poor among my old friends, I determined to try a new county again. Michigan seemed the most proper, being about the same latitude and easiest of access. We arrived in Detroit the latter part of August, 1822, with about eight hundred in cash and some other property. Misfortune, however, seemed unwilling to quit us at this point. Rufus had been in the country one year previous to this and had contracted for a piece of land, second-handed, and had done considerable labor on the same. This place was about twenty-five miles northwest of Detroit [probably in the vicinity of Pontiac], and what to do in this case was a material question. Our expenses drew hard upon our little capital, and to spend more money and more time there was preposterous. Eventually, we agreed to try another venture. At this time there were tropps stationed at Saginaw, a place about seventy-five miles northwest of Detroit, and on our route. A settlement had been commenced there and the spirit of settlement seemed bent for the northwest. We sold our improvements to Mr. Oliver Williams, and took his note for Thirty-five dollars, for five years, reserving the use of the house for one year. In March, 1823, Rufus and I started to explore to the northwest. We were much pleased with the country and prospects at this place. The road thus far had no obstacle to impede a team with a reasonable load for any country, and at this time was considerably traveled by officers, traders and settlers at Saginaw. We believed that an establishment here not only be beneficial for ourselves, but convenient for travelers and emigrants.

It is an old Indian settlement, situated about twenty miles from our first place, and about the same distance from the farthest white settlement northwest of Detroit. There are some French families seven miles of us [Flint], and no more until we reach Saginaw. Rufus and I flung up a small log house, and on the 23d of May, 1823, Eunice, myself, two youngest children, Rufus and Sherman, with a good team, and as many goods as would make us comfortable, arrived here. We cleared, plowed and sowed with wheat and oats about ten acres, completing the same June 10th.

Mrs. Stevens and the children then returned, and one of the girls kept house, and so through the season. At this time we felt morally certain of having neighbors the next spring; but here, sir, I must inform you that the government saw fit the winter following to evacuate the post at Saginaw, which measure has, so far, completely paralyzed all settlements to the northwest, turning the tide of emigration which has been very great, to the south and west. This was, indeed, very discouraging, but for us there was no fair retreat. * * *

After speaking of his Indian neighbors, who were very friendly, he concludes as follows:

Several purchases lave lately been made of premises adjoining us, and , we have little doubt, will be settled next spring, and preparations seem to be making once more for a settlement at Saginaw. We have this year one hundred and seventy shocks of wheat and about nine acres of corn, the stoutest growth of corn I ever raised. If nothing befalls, I anticipate fifty bushels to the acre. We have two yoke of oxen, two horses, five cows, plenty of hogs, and a number of young cattle, and such is the country that they keep fat summer and winter. The winters are surprisingly mild. Last winter, in fact, was no winter at all. We did not spend three tons of hay with all our stock. A large portion of the country is openings, and the cattle get their living in old fog and basswood sprouts in the swales. The greatest country for wild food and hay I ever saw. We can summer and winter any number of cattle of we had them. Blue joint is the principal grass in the low meadows. On the higher parts is found considerable red-top and foul meadow grass. Jemima has a family, and lives in the state of new York. Horatio and Augustus are merchants in that state. Horatio, I understand, is quite forehanded. Augustus is also doing well. Eunice and Charlotte are there at present on a visit. Patty keeps school this summer in the territory. The rest of the family are in the woods.

Jacob Stevens was than a man of fine proportions, about sixty years of age. As is said by one who knew, "He was a true type of the gentlemen of the old school, to whose moral and physical courage as a pioneer was united a rare intelligence marked by a literary taste, showing itself conspicuously even in the few scattered remnants of his correspondence, which have come down to this day." About 1831 he returned to New York, with the majority of his family, where he passed the remaining portion of his life.

Rufus W. Stevens, his son, traded with the Indians in a log house situated on the site of the later Grand Blanc Hotel. He became the first postmaster of Grand Blanc. In 1830 he commenced a saw-mill, and soon after a grist-mill, on what became known as the thread Mill property. These mills performed a most important function, for years supplying all the people living between Pontiac and Saginaw. In the early thirties Stevens moved to flint and became identified with the milling interests there.

In October, 1825, Edmund and Rowland B. Perry entered lands situated upon sections 11 and 14. In the following February, Edmund removed some of his family here form Avon, Livingston county, new York, and the rest of the family in 1826. He was a native of Rhode Island, an educated Quaker, possessed of great energy and force of character, a respected citizen and a kind friend who believed in doing good without ostentation. His granddaughter, Isabelle, was the first white child born in Genesee county.

 

Other settlers of Grand Blanc prior to the winter of 1830-31 were:

Edward H. Spencer

William Roberts

George E. Perry

Judge Jeremiah Riggs and sons

Joseph McFarlen

Jeremiah Ketchum

Caleb S. Thompson

Jonathan Dayton

Caleb Embury

Ezekiel R, Ewing

Washington Thompson

Phineas Thompson

Judge Jeremiah R. Smith

Silas Smith

R. T. Winchell

Clark Dibble

Jonathan Davison

Pearson Farrar

 

Caleb S. Thompson relates that at the time of his arrival in 1829 there were about forty-five persons in Grand Blanc, all of whom, with one or two exceptions, were Avon, Livingston county, New York. Edward H. Spencer had a rough log house and about one acre cleared and planted to corn, potatoes, etc. the Stevens had some forty acres under cultivation and there were some fifty or sixty acres in cultivation in the Perry settlement. Judge Riggs and his sons had also made a good beginning. Thirteen lots lying along the Saginaw road and seven lots on Perry street had already been purchased and ten more eight-acre lots were entered during the remaining part of the year 1829. The Saginaw road was laid out and staked so that it was easy to find it, but not work had been done upon it. The traveled highway, which followed the Indian trail, went rambling around through the woods, avoiding hills and swamps, and was quite a comfortable wagon road. The streams and low places had been bridged some time previous by the United States soldiers stationed in garrison at Saginaw.

After 1830 settlers began to come in rapidly, mainly from western New York.

 

In 1833 the township was organized, and the first election, which was held at the house of Rufus W. Stevens resulted in the choice of the following officers:

Supervisor

Norman Davison

Clerk

Jeremiah R. Smith

Assessors

Rufus W. Stevens, Lyman Stow and Charles Butler

Justices of the Peace

Norman Davison, Lyman Stow and Jeremiah R. Smith

Constable and Collector

Augustus C. Riggs

Highway Commissioners

John Todd, Edmund Perry and Jonathan Dayton

Constable

Elijah N. Davenport

Trustees of School Lands

Loren P. Riggs Clark Dibble, and James W. Cronk

Commissioners of Schools

Jeremiah Riggs, Jeremiah R. Smith and Norman Davison

School Inspectors

David Mather, Paul G. Davison and Caleb S. Thompson

Director of the Poor

Edmund Perry

Overseers of Highways

District 1

George Oliver

District 2

Jonathan Davison

District 3

Norman Davison

District 4

Ira Dayton

 

The village Grand Blanc was one of the earliest village centers in the county. As early as 1826 a post office was established, with Rufus w. Stevens as postmaster. His house was also the first public tavern in the place. The first regular store was opened by Robert F. Stage and Ira D. Wright in 1835, with a stock valued at twenty thousand dollars, though this was removed to Flint in 1836. The first school was a small frame building built by Edmund Perry, Sr., about 1830, and Miss Sarah Dayton taught the first school there. The earliest church societies were the Baptist, Congregational and Methodist, all organized by 1835, with goodly congregations.

 

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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