The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter V
Richfield Township

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



Richfield was originally a part of Lapeer county., it was organized in 1837, embracing within its limits also the present towns of Forest and Davison. It was added to Genesee county in 1843. He earliest settlers of what is now Richfield were received only a little previous to its organization. In the year 1836 nearly all the land in the town was bought up, a very good recommendation of its land for the purpose of settlement. One of the most extensive buys was Thomas L. L. Brent, a Virginian, who explained as the reason for his extensive purchases that he wish to keep the land out of the hands of speculators.

The first settlement was made in 1836 by Rial Irish, of Pontiac, who cut his way through from there over a route known from that time as "the Irish road," over which many other settlers came into this township. He settled on section 19, in the midst of considerable pine, and in 1837 commenced building a mill on Belden Brook to convert it into lumber. This mill property was afterwards sold to

David L. Belden for seven thousand dollars; he began operations in 1839, but, owing to his inexperience and the extremely moderate price at which lumber had to be sold, he was unsuccessful.

Shortly after the arrival of Rial Irish came George Oliver and family, who settled on section 21. During the several years of his residence in the town he made shingles and acted as guide to newcomers who were looking for land. His daughter as the first white child born in the town. With Mr. Oliver came Samuel Johnson, who worked for him awhile, but did not become a permanent settler in the town. Thomas Clark was the third settler. He was a native of Rutland county, Vermont. Early in life he had removed with his parents to Saratoga county, New York , and lived later in Otsego and Jefferson counties in that state. It was from the village of Lyme, in the latter county, that he came to Michigan in 1836 and settled on section 22. A little later the same year came Orsimus Cooley, from Oakland county, to section 20. The next family was that of William Teachout, in 1837, who settled in section 30. In the spring of 1839 Elias Van Schaick and family settled on section 39. A few weeks later came Jeremiah R. Stanard and Argalus Matthews to section 6.

Some of the difficulties to be overcome by the pioneers are shown by what Mr. Matthews had to go through with to get a small quantity of wheat prepared for use. He had no team or wagon, and to get them, had to work one day for the wagon and two and one-half days for the oxen. Then it took him one day to get the oxen, go after the wagon, and get to his home ready for a start to the mill. All the next day was spent in getting to the mill with his grist and then he found that he could not get it ground under two or three weeks. So home he returned and took his wagon and oxen to their respective owners. Three weeks later the performance had to be repeated to get the flour home. Each night that he remained in Flint he had to pay one dollar for his entertainment, so that when he finally cast up accounts, he found that he had given thirteen days' work and two dollars in money to get seven and one-half bushels of wheat ground into flour.


Among others who settled in the town at an early day were:

Asa Davis

William Draper

E. B. Witherbee

Isaac & Phineas J. Tucker

Zebulon Dickinson

Andrew Chappell

John Van Buskirk

Joseph French

Frederick Olds

Francis Davis

Amherst W. Matthews

Alanson Munger

Jeptha Stimpson

Nathaniel Hart

Joseph Morford

William Throop

John Sr., John Jr., & Leander L. Hill

Garrett Zufelt

Stephen Cady

Caleb Lankton

Henry F. Shepard

Nelson Warren

Samuel Elmore

Thomas Dibble

William Munger

Noah Hull

William W. Cyrus

Isaac L. Matthews

Laban & Alvah Rogers

Andrew Cook




The "first things" in the early settlement of a locality always have a special interest. In this town he first saw-mill was completed by William Draper ands E. B. Witherbee in 1838 on section 17. It was the largest and best mill built in the town for a sore of years. The Belden mill was second. The first bridge over the Flint in this town was built in 1848 at the crossing of the Irish road.

As was frequently the case in this part of Michigan, the Methodists were the first denomination to enter the field of religious labor in Richfield, holding serves here as early as 1839 or 1840; among the members of the first class organized were Asa and Martha Davis, Nelson and Elizabeth Warren, and Joseph and Julia Morford. The first school house was built in 1838, in the southwest part of the town. The second was built on the school section, in 1839, and the third in 1843 on section 6.

The first couple married in Richfield were R. E. Potter and Abigail Clark. They were married on the 5th of January, 1840, at the residence of the bride's father, Thomas Clark. The ceremony was performed by Nathaniel Smith of the town of Forest, then a part of this town. The company present on the happy occasion consisted of the families of the parties, George Oliver and wife and Elias Van Schaick and wife. Mrs. Potter died August 19, 1845, leaving three children, the eldest of whom was the first white male child born in the town. The second marriage was that of Caleb Lankton and Maria Teachout, which took place about two years later.

Village centers in this town developed late. Not until 1855, when V. Maxfield and E. R. Goodrich built their saw-mill near the place where the state road crosses the flint, did the first symptoms appear. A tavern and store followed. Much later began the village of Richfield Center, though the first postoffice in the town was established there in the early forties, with Phineas J. Tucker as postmaster.

Of the first town meeting, and of all the proceedings of the town from 1837 to 1857, no records can now be found. From tradition it is learned that the first town meeting was held in a small shanty at Draper and Witherbee's saw-mill. Less than a dozen voters were present. 


The following is a list of the first officers, as near as can be determined:


William Draper

Town Clerk 

E. B. Witherbee


George Oliver
Justices of Peace Orsimus Cooley, Thomas Clark, George Oliver and Nathaniel Smith
Assessors & School Inspectors  George Oliver and Thomas Clark

Commissioners of Highways

George Oliver, William Draper and Thomas Clark


William Rettan


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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