The writing of a history has been likened to a game of building blocks and it is rarely the case that any two builders will work out the same pattern. What is interesting to one person is commonplace to another, and if one were to write only of the laudable things and withhold all revelation of faults, the result would be a mere silhouette rather than a true picture.
Dr. Walter P. Brown who came to Lexington in 1853, and who had a natural wit and philosophy rarely equaled was often heard to remark that "Nature has endowed Lexington with more beauty than any place in Michigan. There will be a perfect town here some day."
To make it a perfect town all must unite in adding more blocks to the splendid building established by those settlers of one hundred years ago, and in order to build sanely, with true patriotism, each should get to the root of the town’s history and traditions.
There are probably in Lexington today a number of people who know little about the past history of the village, its early struggles and triumphs. The man who has no knowledge of the history or traditions of his family, his town, his state or his country, and regards these things of no account, can never rise to the higher levels of citizenship.
When in 1805 Sir Walter Scott wrote his "Lay of the Last Minstrel," he inserted this powerful appeal for patriotism:
"Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go mark him well,
For him no minstrel raptures swell,
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish could claim,
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch concentered all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And doubly dying shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonor’d and unsung."
We who live in Lexington today owe a great debt to those before us who forced their way into a vast wilderness to discover its wealth of natural resources, and who wrought it into the village we enjoy today.
What has been done in the past is both an incentive and a challenge to the present generation to carry on to still greater achievements.
We should feel proud in the fact that we are successors of those brave men and women who redeemed from a savage wilderness this splendid region and hung upon it like a jewel of decoration the beautiful village of Lexington.
An earnest endeavor has been made to trace every family and tradition connected with the early history of Lexington. If there are omissions, it is because records could not be found, so those who read are asked to bear with any shortcomings.
It is a fact to be regretted that no great literary genius sprang from the Indian race, for any historian must needs go back to the source from whence has sprung the later commonwealth. With only Indian traditions as a warehouse of knowledge, the record of early events must indeed be meager.
The first Indians who possessed Sanilac County were the Sauks, who later gave way to the Chippewas who came from the Georgian Bay country down Lake Huron to Saginaw Bay, and who were in a more or less constant state of war with the Wyandotte and Iroquois Indians.
The following paragraph is taken from the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, Volume 38, page 453:
"Sanilac, according to Wyandotte traditions, was the name of a chief who took an active part in the early wars between the Iroquois and Wyandottes. Governor Cass has preserved many of these traditions in his manuscripts, and in 1831, Henry Whiting, then a major in the United States Army and stationed for many years in Detroit, published a poem entitled ‘Sanillac’ based upon the hints found in these manuscripts. The poem treats of the love of Sanillac and Wona, and Indian maid living with her father upon Mackinac Island, and of Sanillac’s adventures in warring upon the Mingoes (the name give to the Iroquois by other tribes), the hereditary foes of the Wyandottes, and the finale, after describing a sanguinary battle between the Mingoes and Wyandottes, in which the Mingoes are victorious leaves the fate of Sanillac and his Indian bride uncertain."
The county as originally laid out included Huron and Tuscola counties and was mapped out by Lewis Cass, governor of Michigan territory in 1822, evidence of which is also found in the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collection.
"And I have also thought it expedient to lay out the following county-all the county included in the following boundaries: beginning on the boundary line between the United States and the province of Upper Canada where the northern boundary of the county of St. Clair intersects the same; thence west to the line between the sixth and seventh ranges, east to the principal meridian; thence north to a point ten miles north of the shore of Saginaw Bay; thence northeast to the boundary line between the United States and the province of Upper Canada; thence with the said boundary to the place of beginning; shall form a county to be called the county of Sanilac.
Given under my hand, at Detroit, this tenth day of September, A.D. 1822, and of the Independence of the United States, the forty-seventh. Lew. Cass."
When the Wyandotte Indians were discovered by the Iroquois, a portion of them settled around Detroit and still retained their old custom of dressing the hair in the most fantastic style. When the French explorers saw them, they exclaimed, "Quelles hures!" (what heads). From "hures" comes "Huron" and the lake on which Lexington is situated was called for the tribe.
Intensive research has failed to reveal information as to why Lexington was first called "Greenbush." One can easily imagine that the beauty of the virgin forests prompted the name, and to view it now in summer makes one realize how apropos the appellation.
Mr. W.L. Jenks of Port Huron, a member of the Michigan Historical Commission, has this to say as to why the name "Lexington" was chosen for the early settlement of "Greenbush":
"I believe, although I know of no record evidence to justify it, that the name ‘Lexington’ was suggested by Reuben Dimond. He was a man of intelligence and education, and his mother is said to have been a cousin of Ethan Allen. The request for the erection of a new township would come from the people who were living within its proposed limits, and Dimond would be an outstanding man of those living there."
It is easy to imagine then that the name of the township of Lexington and later the village were suggested by Mr. Dimond because of his connection with Ethan Allen, whose Revolutionary War fame, and the Battle of Lexington, were still in the minds of the early settlers.
Records show that Mr. Dimond was the second white man to settle in this county, and the first Justice of the Peace, holding the first elective office in the county. In 1836 he taught the first school, occupying a small log house a short distance south of the present village of Lexington. He later built a saw mill in Worth township in 1843.
With the advent of the white settlers, the Indians slowly left the county, hence further history of them is limited. In the last days of their habitation, the smallpox broke out among them, and in spite of the efforts of the "medicine men" and supplications to the Great Spirit many Indians died of the disease.
A greater part of the Indian make-up was hostility, and when this was checked, together with their freedom to hunt and fish, they gradually passed away, and where once the smoke of their wigwams curled above the trees, now stands a modern village which in its infancy fostered the growth of this section of Michigan before it became a county.
Just as the Indians subsisted by hunting and fishing, so did the first settlers.
The family of John Smith was the first to settle in Lexington, coming from Canada in 1837. They built a log house on the lake shore, on the site where now stands the home of Michael Meyer.
Mr. Smith had a family of twelve children, and with the aid of his sons made a boat consisting of two large pine logs dug out and fitted together side by side. The Smiths remained until the neighbors became too thick, when like the Arab, he "folded his tent and silently stole away."
The next to come was John Beebe who attempted to locate part of the land south of Huron Avenue and east of Main Street, but failing to do so, sold to Reuben Simons who settled on this land in 1838. He built a frame house, the first in the county, which was destroyed by a fire a few years later. One of Mr. Simons’ children perished in the flames and another son was badly injured. This house stood on the present site of the Methodist Aid rooms.
In 1838, John B. Hyde brought a span of horses and settled north of Lexington. As there was no passage through the timber nor feed for the horses they were traded for a team of oxen, the only yoke in the vicinity. These oxen were used by the neighborhood in general when any hauling was to be done. Neither hay nor corn being raised at that time, and to keep his oxen from starvation, Mr. Hyde was obliged to cut down huge maple trees each evening after returning from work and feed the leaves of these to the animals.
This was but one item in the pioneers’ heroic struggle for life. Fred Hyde and Percy Hyde who live in Lexington are grandsons of this early pioneer.
About this time a temporary fishing dock was built by a Mr. Wild, and a small store near the dock by John A. Wright who was succeeded by Zophar Wright and who was called the first merchant in Lexington. A little later Darius Cole started a store and in company with Mr. Boynton, an ashery.
Isaac Leuty came a few years later and succeeded Boynton in the partnership with Cole.
About this time Samuel W. Monroe and William Monroe came and platted and owned that part of the village which has since been known as Monroe’s plat, and which includes Boynton Street. Preston Monroe who lives in Lexington is a grandson of Samuel Monroe. His father was Andrew Monroe.
Jerould Miller came in 1843, brought some leather and made shoes, being the first shoemaker in the county. He bought land in the northern part of the village and cleared the present Lexington park.
Webster Stevens, another early settler, came here in 1839 or 1840.
When Richard D. Schenick came to Lexington from London, Canada, in 1838, at the age of twelve years, the village included by three buildings, one owned by John Smith, the second by Samuel Monroe, and the other by Zophar Wright. At the time of his arrival Dick had a capital of six cents. Being chiefly in need of employment, he obtained it without delay, and until he was twenty years of age was occupied in the various occupations of those days. In 1846 he established the foundation of the business which later became a permanent one in Lexington. Having been a practiced carpenter, he gradually extended his operations until he was largely engaged in the manufacture of furniture, sash, doors, and other articles of wood, and built a factory, the first of its kind in the Huron Peninsula. It was destroyed by fire in 1879, but immediately rebuilt.
While these men were characteristic early settlers, the causes that led to their settlement and of others who followed are interesting.
A rebellion had started in the British provinces in 1837, partly on account of the dissatisfaction of the inhabitants who settled there after the war of 1812-14 under what seemed to them the very liberal terms of the Canadian government which gave to each settler one hundred acres of land. A large portion of the upper province was colonized by emigrants from the New England states whose sympathies and impulses had been imbued with the spirit of popular government so that they became dissatisfied with British rule. They seized every opportunity for insurrection, and at a time when her majesty’s troops had been called home, the new settlers and their sympathizers made a general movement to make themselves free with a view to annexation to the United states. The scheme was a failure and those connected with it were declared rebels, arrested, and thrown into prison. A number were banished to Van Dieman’s Land, and all who could removed to the United States.
The early settlers were of this class and many had suffered severely on account of their connection with the rebellion. Many of the first settlers here had accumulated fortunes there, but were compelled to leave empty handed and start anew in a wild strange land. Having endured and conquered the forests of Canada, they knew how to do it here, and found the shores of Lake Huron responded beautifully to their efforts. Lake Huron not only afforded a convenient source of communication with Detroit, but its waters yielded an abundant supply of fish. Berries were found in the forests as well as wild game of every variety.
The generation of today has little conception of the mode of life of those early settlers and the hardships which met them on their journey from civilization to their forest homes. The route lay through wild country where swamps and rivers were crossed with great danger. Nights were passed in dense forests inhabited by wild beasts, long weary days and weeks of travel were endured, but their indomitable will drove them on until their eyes were gladdened by a sight of their future home. Before building their cabins, trees had to be felled, and the structures went up a log at a time. Each pioneer helped the other, and the day for a cabin raising was announced far and near.
The old cabins were gradually replaced by frame and brick structures but many of those who attained comfort and luxury in after years were heard to remark that the kindness which prevailed among neighbors in those early days brought more happiness than was attained in after life.
The first hotel in the village was built and kept by C.L. Mills in 1840. He traded it a short time later for a farm to James Yake, a cousin of the present owner, who in turn sold it to J.W. Buel whose mother, Mrs. Mary Buel, kept the place until the house was torn down. In 1880 the Hotel Cadillac was built by John L. Woods and opened to the public July 4 of that year. Jeremiah Jenks was the first proprietor and kept it until 1863 when William Wilson took it for a year. Amos James then rented and kept it for two years, when Mr. Woods sold the property to John Cole in 1866. Mr. James, who had been in Port Huron for two years, returned to Lexington and purchased the property, but turned over the proprietorship to his son, Will D. James. Those who succeeded Mr. James were: Messrs. Adams, Secor, Wagg, Hacking, Long.
James S. Yake, the present owner, has restored it to its former position as one of the most popular hotels along the lake shore. Mr. Yake does his own cooking and his fish dinners have brought to him a well deserved fame.
The Parsons House, built about 1860, was purchased by George Henry in 1871 and known as the Henry House. In 1878 a lumber yard was added to the business which continued until Mr. Henry’s death, August 4, 1897. Mrs. Henry died September 15, 1926.
John L. Bell & Son established a drug store in 1848 which was the first in the county. The firm also carried paints, oils, cigars and fancy groceries. After the death of John L. Bell, Sr., his son, John, carried on the business, and he in turn was succeeded by his son, Frank L. Bell, the third generation to carry on the business in Lexington and in the same location.
One of the oldest firms in Lexington is that established in 1849 by John L. Woods who conducted the business for nine years and admitted W. R. Nims as partner, the name of the first becoming J.L. Woods and Company which continued until 1863, when Benjamin Farrington also became a partner, and name changed to Woods, Nims and Company.
After two years Mr. Farrington retired and with him the Co. of the firm name. No more changes were made until 1873 when S.C. Tewksbury purchased an interest and the name changed to Nims, Tewksbury and Company. In 1880 Rudolph Papst purchased the interest of Mr. Nims and the firm name of Tewksbury, Papst and Company was adopted. Mr. Woods retired in 1884 and later Mr. Papst so that the name finally became that of S.C. Tewksbury and Company and remained thus until several years after the Tewksburys left Lexington when Albert E. Sleeper and Arthur Fenton became owners and the firm name A. W. Fenton and Company. Following the death of Mr. Fenton, Frank Wolfel became manager and holds that position at this time.
In 1858 F. L. Walther came to Lexington with his parents and was employed in Hubbard’s mill until 1860 when in company with John L. Fead he built a brewery. In 1865 he purchased the interest of his partner and in 1884 sold the business to Purkiss Brothers who operated it until 1888 when it was destroyed by fire which destroyed seven other buildings including Mr. Walther’s home. The next year Mr. Walther became postmaster which position he held under President Cleveland. After leaving the post-office he conducted a grocery until ill health forced his retirement in 1910. He died April 23, 1913, and Mrs. Walther February 18, 1932.
William Wolfel who came here in 1857 had a meat market in the early days with his brother, Charles. He later worked with his brother, Nicholas Wolfel, in the flour mill. He died in 1906 and his wife, who was Minnie Denzien, in 1903.
The family of Martin and Cornelia Wixson Regan have been connected with the village since Mr. Regan came here in 1868. He opened a bowling alley and later entered the employ of Peter Janette and Rev. Fr. Denissen. He afterward became associated with the J.L. Fead knitting mill. Mr. Regan died August 17, 1926, and Mrs. Regan, December 16, 1920.
Other early business places in Lexington were:
Bernard Miller, merchant tailor, established 1851 was succeeded by his sons, Charles and Henry.
W. M. Grice, saw mill supplies, steam and gas fixtures, guns, revolvers, cutlery, sewing machines and supplies, established 1864.
J.P. Niggeman, jewelry and books, 1863.
Milo Smith, boots and shoes, tinware and bakery, 1864.
F. Komoll, clothing and tailoring, 1873.
Jonathan Frostic, shoe shop, 1873.
John Schmidt, shoe shop, 1878.
F. Hicks and son, only exclusive boot and shoe shop in Lexington, 1873.
Bernard Fox, harness, saddles and horse hardware, 1854.
George H. Mason, 99 Cent Store, dry goods, notions, groceries, Mr. Mason purchased this building from Mrs. Ida Allen in 1882.
Mrs. S. Goulding, millinery store, 1877.
Mrs. C.A. Vasey, notions, 1883.
Clarke’s Store, originally built by Arthur M. Clark, 1858, who later took as his partner his brother, Dr. Ira Clarke. Later the sons of the latter, Ellis and Daniel, became owners. This was a general store in which Mrs. D. Clarke had a millinery department which she had purchased from Miss Martha Vasey who established one of the first, if not the first, millinery stores in the county.
W. T. Lee, groceries, books, stationery, confectionery and notions. He purchased this from Samuel Burgess who established it in 1872.
C.C.L. Sly, furniture, cabinet ware, undertaker and builder, 1878.
Michael Meyer, blacksmith, 1879.
William McIntyre, photographer, 1877.
Andrew Monroe, saloon, bakery and grocery, 1864.
George Lord, baker and confectionery, 1882.
George Oles, barber, 1854.
Charles Miller, barber, 1875.
Fenton and Cruickshank, blacksmith, 1868.
Purkiss and Son, meat market, 1875.
William White, meat market, 1882.
Lexington Bank of B. R. Noble, 1876.
W. Beach and W. Macklem, attorneys, 1865. This firm was formerly Nims and Beach, but C.S. Nims moved from the county in 1882 and was succeeded by Mr. Macklem. The original firm owned and controlled the Jeffersonian which later became the property of Mr. Beach alone.
John Divine, the first attorney in the county, opened an office in 1850. In 1859 W. S. Mills became a partner. Two years later Mr. Mills received an appointment in the treasury department at Washington and Mr. Divine took as a partner Levi L. Wixson. This partnership was maintained for eighteen years when Mr. Wixson was elected Judge of the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit, and J. W. Babcock took his place. Mr. Divine was village attorney for many years and was succeeded in 1879 by Watson Beach who in turn was succeeded by Isaac Wheeler in 1881.
During these early days the mails were driven from Port Huron to Port Austin by stage. Among the first owners of a stage line were Peter Janette and Jeremiah Jenks, who established the line about 1856, being appointed by President Buchanan. On July 4, 1875, William Swackhammer became owner of the line, and assisting him in driving was Alfred Ridley, who, until his death, lived on a farm two and one-half miles north of Lexington.
H.H. Nims was postmaster here in 1861. Upon his death his widow was appointed to succeed her husband and she was succeeded by E.L. Nims, Samuel Burgess, F. L. Walther, William Baker, W. R. Nims, John Papst, Clara Regan, Mrs. Roger Gorton, Miss Inez Peasley, and Mrs. Margaret Stuber.
Gradually other industries started in the town. John L. Fead and Rudolph Andreae built a factory for the production of woolen goods. When Mr. Andreae retired from the business, Mr. Fead took his sons into partnership, the firm name changing to John L. Fead and Sons, and continued until the factory was destroyed by fire twenty-eight years ago. This took from Lexington the several Fead families who moved to Port Huron and built a factory there which is now operated by the sons of John L. Fead.
A foundry was built on Washington Street by a Mr. Crippen on the second floor of which an organ factory was operated by H. Gould and son and became a prosperous concern. The building was destroyed by fire forty years ago on Memorial Day just as the people had started to assemble at the Opera House for the program to be given by the children of the school.
Mr. H. Way built a hotel on the present site of the Michael Meyer home. Other proprietors were Mr. Bedford and John Graham, and when the building was torn down was known as the Franklin House.
A bakery and ice cream parlor was conducted by Fred Hykes. He made his own ice cream which was famous over a wide territory and of which he zealously guarded the recipe.
In 1858 Nicholas Wolfel came to Lexington, and in company with Charles Decker erected a flour mill. They conducted its interests together until Mrs. Decker met her death in the mill by becoming entangled in the machinery, after which Mr. Decker withdrew and Mr. Wolfel managed the mill alone for four years. In 1873 he formed a connection with Gustav Saety. The old mill was torn down and replaced by the building which has recently been razed. A company of stockholders eventually became owners of the mill. A number of these were able to take out in flour the amount of their stock while others held theirs hoping to realize a profit in after years. But after a flourishing business for many years the mill was forced to close its doors. About ten years ago the stockholders or their heirs agreed to place the mill on the market to be sold, a prospective buyer planning to remodel it into a hotel. The proposition fell through and the mill stood in a dilapidated condition until the fall of 1933 when the D. C. Howard Company of Harbor Beach purchased it, razed it, using the foundation for an ice house. They then built a dock and modern fish house on the shore adjoining the property.
Rudolph Papst became connected with the history of Lexington in 1857 at the age of nineteen years. After working in the woods, chopping and hauling wood, he secured employment as clerk in the Hadley grocery store. He later was employed as a surveyor, and in 1861 while working in Huron County with George Pack surveying roads, they camped in the spot which is now Bad Axe. There were relics of former camps at this place, and when Mr. Papst found an old axe and called it a bad one, they decided "Bad Axe" would be a good name for the camp, and cutting a slab lettered it with those words and nailed it to a tree. Mr. Papst’s war record is well known. After the war he held many public offices in the county and was engaged in the real estate business. It has been said of him that he knew every inch of ground in Sanilac County and his services as county official were invaluable. He died January 17, 1912, and is survived by his widow, Eleanor Lewis Papst and one daughter, Alicia.
Charles H. Moore is another man closely associated with early history, coming here in 1854. He engaged in farming and being an able carpenter, he aided in building the first pier on the lake. He later entered the employment of the J. L. Woods & Co. and remained for thirty years. He married Sophia Hodges whose philanthropy became a household word in these parts. The story is told of her that young boys who picked berries in the woods several miles distant from Lexington raced each other to town so as to be the first to reach the home of Mrs. Moore. She made two quarts of berries out of one, paid them accordingly, and always gave them a piece of pie or cake, something they did not get at home. Mr. Moore also ever went about doing good to the needy. The daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Moore, Ella, Emma and Mary, who in after years bestowed upon Lexington the Moore Public Library and the cemetery mausoleum, inherited the kindly benevolence of their parents.
The Sanilac Jeffersonian was the first newspaper established here in 1858 with Charles Waterbury as editor. The "Jeff" remained an outstanding paper in the community and in 1865 passed into the hands of Charles S. Nims and Watson Beach. Mr. Nims went to Harbor Beach in 1882 and Mr. Beach remained the sole proprietor. In 1895 Jaspar H. Keys came to Lexington and taking over the paper, called it "The Lexington News", which he published until his death. Roger Gorton was the next publisher, and after his removal to Carson City, David Hubbell of Croswell purchased the printing machinery, moved it to Croswell, and re-christened the paper the Croswell Jeffersonian. After Mr. Hubbell’s death Harold Baker became publisher. Mr. Baker is a grandson of William Baker who was postmaster in Lexington beginning in 1889.
Watson Beach who came here in 1859 began studying law at the age of eighteen. He enlisted in Co. D, Tenth Michigan Volunteer Infantry of the Civil War and served until March, 1865. In May, 1865, in company with Charles S. Nims, he purchased the "Jeffersonian" which newspaper was operated by Beach and Nims for seventeen years after which Mr. Beach became sole owner. He later entered into a law partnership with Wilford Macklem. He held many offices of trust in the village and later in the county which he served as Prosecuting Attorney and Judge of Probate. He became Circuit Judge of the twenty-fourth judicial circuit which office he held thirty-eight years from February, 1886, when he was appointed by Gov. Alger to fill the unexpired term of Levi Wixson who died in office, until December 31, 1923. Mrs. Beach, who was Frances Waterbury, died May 21, 1893, and Judge Beach passed away May 21, 1927. Four sons survive, Wilbur of Bad Axe, John and George, Lexington, and Fred of Foo Chow, China.
Dr. D.C. O’Brien came here in 1858 and practiced medicine for fifty-five years. He was married in 1876 to Sarah Jenney, and died November 19, 1922. Mrs. O’Brien was prominently connected with the Maccabees in which organization she was Great Finance Auditor and later Great Lieutenant Commander. Ill health forced her retirement and she died November 17, 1923.
Augustine R. Schell was born in Ingersoll, Ontario, November 4, 1853, coming to Lexington with his parents, Robert and Catherine Fitzgerald Schell in 1858. As a young man he was employed as a telegrapher in Port Huron and Detroit, and later entered the employ of S.C. Tewksbury & Co. as bookkeeper. Banking interested him and he became cashier of various banks throughout the state, coming back to Lexington in 1919 as cashier of the Lexington State Bank. To Mr. Schell the writer if indebted for much valuable information. His keen memory of early events, his alert mind and unfailing interest in affairs of the day have aided materially in building not only the foundation of this history but the entire structure.
Dr. Reuben Nims came here in 1854 and remained a year. His sons, William R. and E. L. entered the employment of John L. Woods, the former being admitted as partner in the business. Upon his retirement Mr. W. R. Nims purchased a farm and specialized in the raising of thoroughbred cattle and horses. He was chosen state senator in 1864 and was village postmaster in 1898. He died October 5, 1903, and his widow, Helena Schell Nims, survives at the age of eighty-five. Mr. E.L. Nims died January 28, 1910, and his wife, Rebecca Schell Nims, February 7, 1916.
Dr. John W. Norman was the only dentist in Lexington for many years, coming here in 1867. He was a member of the state legislature from 1893-1896 and held prominent offices in the village until his death November 3, 1909. Mrs. Norman, who was the daughter of Israel and Melinda Huckins, died April 20, 1901.
Physicians who have practiced here were Brown, Oldfield, West, O’Brien, Banting, Schurer, Foster, Fraser, Grice and Estrin.
The village grew rapidly in numbers and importance after 1849, and in 1855 was incorporated.
At the first annual meeting of the electors of the village held at the school house May 7, 1855, in pursuance of an act incorporating the village, Reuben Nims and Isaac Leuty were nominated and elected to act as judges and W.R. Stafford as clerk of the meeting. The polls were open from nine-thirty a.m. to three p.m. and the election resulted as follows: the whole number of votes cast was 74, of which 69 were cast for John Divine for president. The votes cast for trustees were as follows: Watson Hubbard 71, Jacob Buel 57, Hiram Bacon 60, Dr. Reuben Nims 55, Buel Allen 45, John Waterbury 24, David Hubbell 11, Warren Randall 10, William Mills 12, George Allan 1, Langdon Hubbard 1. Accordingly Watson Hubbard, Jacob Buel, Hiram Bacon, Reuben Nims, and Buel Allen were declared elected trustees. The votes cast for assessors were: William R. Stafford 72, Orlan Maybee 63, and Richard Schenick 9 and the first two declared elected. For recorder Albion W. Hand received 58 and William Mills 14, the former being declared elected. For treasurer John McIllravie received 60, Reuben Simons 12, the former declared elected.
The day following the election the common council of the village of Lexington met at the office of the recorder, Albion W. Hand. The law organizing the village was read by the recorder, and the following by-laws were unanimously adopted:
The Common Council of the village of Lexington will meet at the office of the recorder on the second Tuesday in every month at two o’clock p.m. from the first day of June next, to the first day of May, 1856, at which time any person having business to transact with the council will present the same in writing.
It shall not be lawful for any person to keep open a public house or place of resort after the hour of ten p.m. or at any time during the Sabbath except so far as may be necessary for the accommodation of travelers, or to permit idle persons to assemble in such houses, or permit any gaming or drunkenness or anything that may disturb the public peace at any time under a penalty of not exceeding ten dollars for each offense.
Any person causing or permitting any obstruction of the streets, alleys or sidewalks in any manner whatsoever shall forfeit the sum of one dollar for each day’s continuance thereof after being notified by the marshal to remove the same. Provided that nothing herein contained shall prevent any person to use a part of any street for the purposes of erecting or repairing buildings.
No person shall permit any nuisance whatsoever to remain on or in front of his premises under a penalty of one dollar for each day’s continuance thereof, and after being notified by the marshal to remove the same under a penalty of five dollars for each day’s continuance thereof.
Any person hitching any horse, cattle or any kind of team to any shade tree shall forfeit and pay the sum of one dollar for each offense.
Any person riding, driving, leading or leaving a horse or team on or over sidewalks, except for the necessary purpose of cropping, shall forfeit the sum of one dollar for each offense.
Swine shall not run at large within the limits of this corporation. It shall be lawful for any person to drive swine found running at large in the village to the Pound or to shut the same on his own premises and such person shall be entitled to fifty cents per head for all swine so taken, and if the owner shall not redeem such swine by paying all charges, the person taking them up to the Poundmaster shall sell the same within five days after having given public notice according to law.
At this meeting Isaac Leuty was unanimously elected marshal, but he soon removed from town and John McIllravie was elected to fill the place.
At a later date an ordinance was passed prohibiting the playing of ball in the streets and bathing in the lake in the hours of daylight unless clothed in suitable bathing suits, the person offending to be punished by a fine of not more than ten dollars or ten days imprisonment in jail or both.
At the Council meeting on February 4, 1857, a resolution was passed to provide fire protection in the village by forming a Hook and Ladder Company, for which the following were enrolled: Clark Hadley, H.H. Nims, G.W. Allen, Peter Janette, W.S. Mills, W. Hubbard, G. W. Pack, A.B. Nettleton, Bernard Fox, W. Bacon, Silas Davis, A. J. Matthewson, Israel Randall, A.W. Hand, Orlin Maybee, L. Whiting, A.M. Clark, J.C. Waterbury, J.L. Woods, D. Lampman, H. Bacon, W. Ostrander, L. Way, W. Cripp, George Baldwin, N.H. Giles, A. King, J.R. Nims, John Divine, W.R. Nims, C.H. Moore, W.R. Stafford, George Davis, M.A. Kehoe, K.C. Willis, John Simons, R. Graves, J.L. Bell, S. McIllravie, Jeremiah Jenks, H. Squir, Demaline Leuty, C. McCormick, G.W. Carpenter, A. E. Hykes, C. Waterbury, A. Giles, Israel Huckins and John Lutwyche.
The company was empowered to appoint its own officers and draft its by-laws which however must needs be approved by the council.
At another meeting a resolution was passed regarding the laying of sidewalks in the village. These sidewalks were to be under the supervision of the marshal and should be at least four feet in width, built of planks at least two inches in thickness and placed upon substantial blocks of wood at least one in every four feet. The building of walks and the reports of those who were appointed to assist the marshal in building, occupied much of the time at future council meetings for several years and persons desiring to build walks must petition the council to that effect, while those not inclined to build were instructed to do so. The office of marshal was more or less sought after and he was required to give bonds for one thousand dollars as was the recorder. His salary was ten dollars a year.
Meetings of the council during the next few years were intermittent and there are no meetings recorded from October 6, 1864, to May 1, 1865.
In 1868 a resolution was passed to purchase a fire engine from the city of Port Huron for eight hundred dollars. On December 14, 1870, an ordinance was passed organizing a fire company to be known as the Huron Fire Company No. 1 and was composed of the following members: Amos James, Charles H. Moore, Nicholas Wolfel, A.D. McGill, William Springer, Harvey Calkins, Ery Brown, Samuel Hunt, William Baker, O.B. Jacobs, John Merrill, Bernard Fox, Ellis Clark, Daniel Clark, Harry Clark, W.W. Sanderson, John Monroe, Lewis Fenton, J.H. Richardson, George Millard, R.S. Brown, Bernard Miller, A.W. Merrill, S.C. Tewksbury, Rudolph Papst, F.L. Walther, William Lawrence, Richard Forman, Milo Smith, Fred Sharpenstine, Alexander Cruickshank, John Hurson, George Baldwin, Howard Hughes, William R. Johnson, A.E. Leonard, William Wolfel, Reynolds Hicks, Robert Willis, Hubert Eacrett, Peter Janette, Rudolph Andreae, John Duthie, Fred Shubel, James Sheldon, William Andreae, W.D. James, H. Gould, and R. F. Eldridge.
The council authorized the removal of the toll gate in 1871 at the western limits of the corporation on Huron Avenue which was considered a nuisance. In the same year a committee was appointed by the president, Watson Beach, to negotiate for a lot on which to place a building to be used as Town Hall and Engine House, and a contract was entered into with John Fitzgerald for the purchase of a lot in Monroe Plat at a price not to exceed eight hundred dollars. Some time later a committee from the Masonic Lodge submitted a proposal to the council to give the corporation an undivided interest in their lot for building purposes and stated that they wished to build a hall in connection with the corporation. A committee from the council was appointed to confer with the Masonic committee and later presented a proposition from that society in which it offered to deed an undivided half interest in their lot to the village for the purpose of building a town hall, engine house and Masonic hall, the village to build the first and second stories, the lodge to build the third story and roof it. The lodge would own and occupy the third story having right of way thereto, the village to own the first and second stories and basement, the building to be constructed during the
year 1876. The report was accepted and the committee discharged. The question of erecting this building was submitted to the electors of the village, and the result was a unanimous vote favoring it without limiting the expense, whereupon the president, Levi Wixson, appointed Ellis B. Clark, Israel Huckins and F.L. Walther, councilmen, to act as a building committee. Bids for the erection of the building were called for, and that of Ery Brown and H.J. Parker accepted.
A new state law passed in April, 1875, regarding corporations made it necessary for Lexington to reincorporate and a new village charter was approved by the state legislature February 19, 1887. The time of the annual election was fixed for the second Monday in March and required legal voters to register before voting, the board of registration to consist of the village clerk and two trustees.
Dr. A.M. Oldfield was appointed health physician in July, 1882, and in April, 1887, Dr. Walter P. Brown was appointed to succeed Dr. Oldfield.
In 1887 the salary of the village marshal was fixed at one hundred and fifty dollars per year and his duties to consist of "looking after the peace and quietness of the village, suppressing rows, caring for council room, notifying trustees of time of meeting, lighting and firing the engine room, and lighting the street lamps."
The following is a list of the village presidents and clerks from 1855 to 1934:
Presidents Date Clerks
John Divine 1855 Albion W. Hand
Hiram Bacon 1856 W. R. Nims
John Divine 1857 Demaline Leuty
A. E. Chadwick 1858 S. R. Nettleton
Hiram Bacon 1859 J. J. Buck
John Divine 1860 A. E. Chadwick
Jeremiah Jenks 1861 Watson Beach
John Divine 1862 Levi Wixson
Levi Wixson 1863 Ery Brown
Levi Wixson 1864 Ery Brown
Watson Beach 1865 Samuel Burgess
Philip Wixson 1866 Arthur M. Clark
Philip Wixson 1867 J. E. Cady
Philip Wixson 1868 Watson Beach
Myron Northrop 1869 Robert Brown
Levi Wixson 1870 Robert Brown
Watson Beach 1871 Ellis Clark
Philip Wixson 1872 Ellis Clark
Levi Wixson 1873 Ellis Clark
Levi Wixson 1874 Ellis Clark
Amos James 1875 Charles S. Nims
Levi Wixson 1876 Robert Brown
R. Nims 1877 E. B. Clark
Nicholas Wolfel 1878 E. B. Clark
Nicholas Wolfel 1879 J. P. Niggeman, Jr.
Rudolph Papst 1880 J. P. Niggeman, Jr.
Rudolph Papst 1881 J. P. Niggeman, Jr.
Rudolph Papst 1882 J. P. Niggeman, Jr.
Rudolph Papst 1883 J. P. Niggeman, Jr.
Philip Wixson 1884 J. P. Niggeman, Jr.
Rudolph Papst 1885 John W. Fead
George Henry 1886 John W. Fead
George Henry 1887 Orien Moore
George Henry 1888 Orien Moore
John Bell 1889 John W. Fead
John Bell 1890 John W. Fead
Daniel Clark 1891 Wilbur Beach
Presidents Date Clerks
Daniel Clark 1892 Charles Hayward
Rudolph Papst 1893 Elmer Graham
Albert Sleeper 1894 John W. Fead
Daniel Clark 1895 John W. Fead
Albert Sleeper 1896 Alfred J. Howey
George Smith 1897 John Beers
John Bell 1898 John Beers
Lewis Fenton 1899 John W. Fead
Daniel Clark 1900 Grant Smith
Monroe Howell 1901 Grant Smith
Daniel Clark 1902 Grant Smith
Daniel Clark 1903 Grant Smith
F. Meyer 1904 George Kinney
William L. Fead 1905 George Kinney
Alexander Cruickshank 1906 George Kinney
Daniel Clark 1907 George Kinney
Daniel Clark 1908 George Kinney
Grant Smith 1909 George Kinney
Grant Smith 1910 George Kinney
Grant Smith 1911 George Kinney
Frank Sheldon 1912 George Kinney
Frank Sheldon 1913 George Kinney
Frank Sheldon 1914 George Kinney
Frank Sheldon 1915 George Kinney
Frank Sheldon 1916 George Kinney
Daniel Clark 1917 George Kinney
Theodore Wixson 1918 George Kinney
W. L. Sheldon 1919 George Kinney
W. L. Sheldon 1920 George Kinney
W. L. Sheldon 1921 George Kinney
Grant Smith 1922 W. P. O’Brien
W. L. Sheldon 1923 W. P. O’Brien
Herbert W. Emigh 1924 W. P. O’Brien
John Ellis 1925 H. H. Walther
John Ellis 1926 H. H. Walther
John Ellis 1927 H. H. Walther
Arthur Fenton 1928 Frank Sheldon
Arthur Fenton 1929 Frank Sheldon
Arthur Fenton 1930 Frank Sheldon
Michael Meyer 1931 Melvin Dingman
Michael Meyer 1932 Melvin Dingman
Michael Meyer 1933 Melvin Dingman
Michael Meyer 1934 Melvin Dingman
A special act of the Legislature in 1848 authorized the separate organization of Sanilac County and fixed the county seat at Lexington. By the same act the sheriff was authorized under the board of supervisors to furnish suitable offices for county purposes and a place for holding court.
The offices were located in various places until 1857 when a building was erected on what is known as the Oldfield property on West Huron Avenue.
The county seat remained in Lexington thirty years, and one of the greatest political upheavals in the history of the county was caused by its removal to its present location at Sandusky.
The fact that three attempts were made before it was accomplished is proof that the feeling in regard to its removal was keen, and the smallness of the majority by which the final triumph was made was in itself a protest. Both sides were on the verge of desperation. The first resolution to remove it was passed by the Board of Supervisors in 1870, but an injunction was procured to stop the clerk from posting the notices.
Because of the irregularity of the proceeding the subject was dropped for two years when a second attempt was made by the Board of Supervisors and the resolution was submitted to the electors at the April election. Those favoring the removal had a small majority. The county officers were notified that the county seat had been removed to Sandusky and ordered to go thither with the records, but the officers saw it differently and decided to remain where they were, for the time being at least, since some of the notices lacked dates and others lacked signatures.
The matter was laid before O’Brien J. Atkinson, a lawyer of Port Huron, who advised the board to again bring the matter to a vote. This they did, and in April, 1877, the majority vote was in favor of removal, the total poll showing 1,314 for, and 1,201 against. In due time a loan of twenty thousand dollars was authorized for the purpose of building a court house at Sandusky and in January, 1880, the task of removing the county seat was accomplished.
An ill feeling existed between county Democrats and Republicans for a time, the effect being to weaken the latter party, but in after years it again became the leading political party.
In 1871 it became necessary to appoint a night watchman to guard the village from the forest fires which threatened and the foreman of the fire company was instructed to have his men in readiness for trouble.
On Tuesday, October 10, the fire of 1871 had reached Lexington and the entire population turned out to fight it. The village lay helpless with her citizens in suspense when a bountiful rain put the fire under control. Boats brought many fugitives of the fire from other sections, and the people here cared for them in every way.
The annual county fair which was scheduled for that week was postponed as every person was needed to guard against further danger.
While the town escaped the forest fires that year, a more despicable source arose the following week, that of incendiarism. On October 17 an alarm was sounded and it was found that the warehouse of Potter and Wixson was afire. The flames spread rapidly and all hope of saving the town was abandoned when once more the heavens opened and the rain descended. The loss reached twenty thousand dollars. Day after day fires broke out in a mysterious way, causing heavy losses to Michael Meyer’s blacksmith shop, the barns of Nicholas Wolfel and Jesse Howey, and the livery barns attached to the Cadillac Hotel.
There was much excitement and a general suspension of business. Finally a boy about seventeen years of age was found who could not give an account of himself, and he with a man similarly conditioned were arrested and the fires abated.
Ten years later a deadlier fire swept the country starting in the timber which had been deadened by the fire of 1871. On September 5 the fire swept like a cyclone across the sky. The wind blew a gale and fanned every ember until there was nothing left to burn. Darkness settled like a pall over the earth, coming on gradually like an eclipse, and many consulted almanacs to see if this was not the cause, and failing to find one scheduled, thought that the end of the world was at hand. It had for many, for it is said that three hundred persons in the fire territory perished in the flames. A detailed account of the fire would fill volumes, and although Lexington escaped the flames, for days and weeks thick smoke settled over the village and many of its citizens had friends and relatives in the path of the fire who were rendered homeless and some burned to death. Lexington quickly started relief work and beside sending aid, cared for many who had fled from the fire region.
The educational interests of the village merit special attention, as they have kept pace with other matters. If the history of the first schools was all written, it would be a record of toil and zeal upon the part of pioneer teachers and of sympathy and encouragement from the hardy toiling parents. In many instances the settlers’ desire for schools so far exceeded their ability to support them that first schools were sometimes held in family kitchens or deserted log huts. When school houses were built in the neighborhood of sawmills, the population was of a transient character, and the schools were not prosperous.
An instance is related to show the desire of the pioneers for education for their children. A school commissioner was asked to visit a locality to grant a legal certificate to a certain lady to teach. Upon arriving at the log building, he found a woman seventy years of age toiling among her own grandchildren and other youngsters, not for the money, but that they might not grow up in ignorance.
If school records prior to 1860 were kept, they have not been found, but that a board of trustees existed is shown by the fact that at the first annual meeting recorded September 24, 1860, that Jeremiah Jenks and John C. Waterbury were elected to fill the vacancies occasioned by the expiration of the terms of L. J. Whitcomb and Watson Hubbard. Israel Huckins, the moderator, presided at this meeting.
The first teacher of whom there is a record was Arthur M. Clark, 1854 to 1858, and others who closely followed were: A. R. Stowell, Miss Mary Schell, Miss E. H. Long, J. Hoke, S.S. Benedict. There were but two teachers each year and as specified in the minutes, "There shall be two departments, one taught by a male and the other by a female teacher."
In 1862 E. B. Cottrell was hired "at wages not to exceed those of the previous winter," and Miss Harriet Waterbury "at wages not to exceed eighteen dollars a month." That year John Divine was moderator and Jeremiah Jenks director with John L. Woods, W. S. Mills, Bernard Fox and Robert Schell trustees.
According to the school census taken September 1, 1862, there were two hundred and sixteen children in the district for whom an assessment was made at the rate of fifty cents per pupil to be collected in the village taxes.
Various resignations of members of the board, and electing others to fill the vacancies took up much of the time at school meetings for several years.
Until this time the school house stood between the Stafford and Hayward homes, or near the corner of Main and Simons Streets. In 1866 a notice was served on the school board by the voters of the village to take action regarding the building of a new school house "suitable for the present large numbers of scholars and the prospective growth of the village."
The notice was signed by Philip Wixson, John Divine, Samuel Burgess, Levi Wixson, Watson Beach and E. L. Nims. In 1867 at a special meeting of the voters of the district, it was voted to purchase ground and build a new school house, which when finished was erected on the site of the present school house.
In 1866 and 1867 Miss Martha Elston and Miss E. B. Dixon were employed as principals, but at a meeting which followed the board decided to hire men as principals and in 1872 the salary of the principal was raised to one thousand dollars per year.
Mr. S. Priest was the first male principal, and among those who followed him were George Parker, Paden Macklem, Lewis D. Wilson, C.E. Swift and C. H. Naylor which included the years until 1898.
In 1891 a petition was presented to the board of education to build a new school house, and to purchase property to enlarge the school campus. At a special election called July 31, 1891, a unanimous vote favored the petition. During this time the following composed the board of trustees: George Henry, John Norman, F. L. Walther, Ira Arnot, and John L. Fead. The new school house was ready for the fall term in 1892, the old building having been removed to the then grounds of the Fair Association, and later razed when the place became a public park.
During the years the school has been on the accredited list of the colleges of the state. About 1910 it lost its high standing which was again regained in 1925 through the efforts of Lowell J. McDougal, superintendent. The present superintendent is Mr. Harry Schwartzentraub.
SOCIETIES AND INSTITUTIONS
The first society to organize in Lexington was Lexington Lodge No. 61, F. & A. M. in 1853, with Hiram Bacon the first Worshipful Master. For a number of years this was the only Masonic Lodge in the county and at one time had a membership of more than two hundred, but other lodges organized and drew members from Lexington Lodge. In 1865 Damascus Chapter No. 41, Royal Arch Masons, was chartered and Arthur M. Clark was the first high priest. In 1867 Lexington Commandery No. 27, Knights Templar, was chartered with George Smith the first eminent commander.
Methodist Aid Society
The first Ladies’ Aid Society was organized in September, 1873, as a "Methodist society irrespective of denomination, designed for the benefit and maintenance of religious worship." The first president was Mrs. Levi Wixson and Mrs. W. Lee, the first vice-president. This society has continued through the years, the work being kept up by the faithful ladies of the Methodist Church until it stands today as one of the strongest church societies in the village, with Mrs. Frank Macklem as president.
The Atheneum was the next society of women and was organized December 12, 1878, with the following charter members: Mrs. Watson Beach, Mrs. J. M. Gaige, Mrs. M.E. Janette, Mrs. W. T. Lee, Miss McDonald, Mrs. Messmore, Mrs. C. T. Nims, Mrs. E.L. Nims, Mrs. W. R. Nims, Mrs. B. R. Noble, Mrs. J. W. Norman, Mrs. R. A. Schell, Miss Helen Schell, Mrs. L.L. Wixson, Miss Elizabeth Wixson. The society became federated with the Michigan State Federation of Women’s Clubs November 9, 1897. It is a member of the county federation and also the Michigan Federation of Music Clubs. It entertained the Port Huron district branch in October, 1924. On December 12, 1923, the Atheneum celebrated its forty-fifth anniversary with a reception and banquet which was attended by many former members. It was a sad coincidence that on the night of the celebration of the forty-fifth anniversary of the Atheneum while the members were enjoying a banquet at Hotel Cadillac the home of Mrs. Janette and Mrs. W. R. Nims, charter members, burned to the ground. Few things were saved from the fire, the loss including clothing belonging to house guests who had come for the Atheneum party.
The fiftieth anniversary was observed in December, 1928.
Miss Inez Peasley is the present president of the society and Mrs. Grant Smith, president-elect.
Lexington Alumni Association
The Lexington High School Alumni celebrated in June, 1925, the fiftieth anniversary of the first graduation.
The alumni association was organized in 1892 under the leadership of C. H. Naylor, superintendent of the school from 1889 to 1898 and in January, 1893, a constitution and by-laws were adopted, and revised in 1898. Miss Minnie Meyer was the first president.
That the graduates of the Lexington High School have made good can not be doubted after watching the success they have achieved in their chosen work. Doctors, dentists, druggists, lawyers, judges, bankers, clergymen, college professors, business men, secretaries of business corporations, school teachers, musicians and many others have reflected credit upon their alma mater.
The first diplomas issued were printed on parchment with Gothic lettering done by Miss Helen Schell. Some time later Miss Jessie Hunt (Mrs. R. Humble) did the lettering on the diplomas which were eventually printed by machine. The class of 1887 under C. E. Swift and class of 1898 under C. H. Naylor consisting of eleven members were the largest until 1931 when the number reached seventeen. An annual banquet and reunion was held each year until 1905, when, because of a seeming disinterest on the part of the members they were discontinued. Through the efforts of Mr. McDougal in 1924 a banquet was held the night following the graduation exercises at which plans were made for a picnic during the homecoming in August of that year, and the coming fiftieth celebration in 1925. Many old members attended the banquet that year. A reception preceded the banquet which was served by the Ladies’ Aid of the M. E. Church in the Fireman’s Hall.
Since that time the annual reunion has been held, many old graduates coming back for the occasion. Mrs. Roscoe Wixson was the president for 1934 and Thomas Walton is president-elect for 1935.
H. H. Nims Post
The H. H. Nims Post No. 118, G. A. R., was organized in March, 1883, at Lexington with the following officers: Post Commander, Rudolph Papst; Senior Vice Commander, George Henry; Junior Vice Commander, Josiah Reynolds; Quartermaster, John Wyllis; Officer of the Day, H. H. Huffman; Adjutant, Oliver Yake; Surgeon, J. J. Bayed; Chaplain, J. B. Lucas; Sergeant Major, Watson Beach; Quartermaster Sergeant, John Papst.
St. Denis Sewing Society
St. Denis Sewing Society was organized during the pastorate of Rev. Fr. Denissen. Mrs. Peter Janette was the first president and her sister, Mrs. W. R. Nims now presides with the assistance of her niece, Mrs. Grant H. Smith.
Ste. Anne’s Guild
Ste. Anne’s Guild, whose president is Mrs. J. M. Shipley, was formerly known as the Ladies’ Aid Society of the Episcopal Church and was organized during the rectorship of Rev. Abram Flower.
Advent Christian Aid Society
The president of the Aid Society of the Advent Christian Church is Mrs. F. D. Peters.
Lexington Literary Society
That a literary society was organized by men of the village in 1885 is shown in the secretary’s book of the organization. The record shows that some women were admitted later, the roll being as follows: Watson Beach, J. W. Babcock, G. B. Benedict, Wilford Macklem, John Farley, Elida Cady, Rev. A. Wilson, Wilbur Beach, D. E. Hubbell, J. G. Hunter, Hiram Anderson, Arthur Fenton, H. B. Pierce, Helen Schell, Allie Avery, Minnie Meyer, Myra Arnot, Cynthia Macklem, Ira Arnot, Effie Fenton, Maggie McGill.
As only four meetings of the society are recorded, little is known about its activities.
Lexington Dramatic Club
Between the years 1875-1880 the Lexington Dramatic Club was formed, which revealed much talent among its members. Amateur theatricals were produced with much success for a number of years. Among the members were: H. H. Huffman, F. Kirkpatrick, Robert Brown, Asa Brown, Nora Buel, Emma Walther, Lucy Buel, Miss Smythe, Elizabeth Wixson, Kate Graham, Anna Kilbourne.
It may not be generally known but in the autumn of 1870 very creditable steps were taken to form a library association in Lexington. With Charles S. Nims as president, Charles Partridge as treasurer and Anthony Brunk as librarian. The rooms were located in the Fox Block and about a hundred and fifty dollars subscribed as the initial contribution. This sum with that already received from the legal appropriation was expected to purchase books and periodicals for a reading room, and also defray the current expenses for the ensuing year, the idea being that the library should be free. No charge was to be made for its use but citizens were allowed the privilege of contributing to its support. The library was kept up on this plan for about two years but was never a success, and the books were finally stored in the bookcase in the public school where because of the lack of systematic arrangement for the loaning of books they disappeared one by one.
January 17, 1934, marked the thirty-first anniversary of the presentation to the village of the Moore Public Library. The source from which has sprung this institution was the J. L. Woods Library of Oscoda where Mr. Woods had extensive lumbering interests. He placed the books there for the intellectual improvement of the many men employed by him, their families likewise enjoying the privilege. After that town was abandoned as a lumbering center and after Mr. Woods’ interests had been removed, the library was neglected, the people losing sufficient interest to care for the books. At Mr. Woods’ death Mrs. A. E. Sleeper, Mrs. Ella Hanley and Mrs. Emma Myers, his nieces, decided to bring the books, about 1,300, to Lexington where so many of Mr. Woods’ younger days were spent and where his interests had been. This was in 1900 and Mrs. Sleeper and Mrs. Hanley asked Mrs. J. W. Norman, Mrs. D. C. O’Brien, Miss Jessie Hunt, Mrs. W. R. Nims and Miss Anna Henry to help unpack the books and arrange them in cases. They were placed in the Atheneum rooms which were then over the Lexington State Bank and put into the custody of that society. The Atheneum each year elected a library committee on which Miss Anna Henry served continuously, among other members being
Mrs. O’Brien, Miss Hunt and Miss Maud Meyer. The public had access to the library on Saturday from nine a.m. to ten p.m. and paid fifty cents a year for the privilege. Upon the death of Mr. Charles Moore his three daughters, Mrs. Sleeper, Mrs. Hanley and Mrs. Myers, purchased the John Divine law office building, remodeled it into a library and club rooms, added several hundred books to the Woods’ collection which they moved into the new building and asked Miss Anna Henry to act as librarian. With the assistance of Miss Blanche Bates the books were placed in order and on January 17, 1903, at a public reception the three sisters presented the splendid gift to the village and the Atheneum Society as a memorial to their father. The day was a memorable one in the history of Lexington. In the absence of Mrs. Hanley and Mrs. Myers, Mrs. Sleeper presided assisted by her husband who was then state senator. The ladies received the school children from ten to twelve and after viewing the rooms they were presented with bags of candy. From two until four the public was welcomed and the ladies dispensed hospitality and served refreshments of coffee, sandwiches and cake provided by the donors. From six to ten p.m. the ladies of the Atheneum received their friends and the
library board. Speeches were made in the library by Rev. R. C. Wall, Dr. D. C. O’Brien, and Judge Watson Beach, after which the company repaired to the Atheneum rooms for a social chat and refreshments. Under the efficient librarianship of Miss Anna Henry the library became an institution such as few towns enjoy. Miss Henry remained until her marriage, October 10, 1911, to Mr. Eldon H. Smith. The day following Miss Florence Walther was appointed to act in her place and has served continuously since that time. The register shows that 2,497 persons have borrowed books from the library. There are 5,597 books on the shelves, the average yearly circulation being 8,500.
Women’s Civic Improvement Association
It had for long been the desire of Mrs. Alexander Cruickshank to organize a civic improvement branch of the Atheneum, and after returning from several state federation meetings, she would urge upon the society to take up the work which at that time was comparatively new for women’s organizations. So when on January 5, 1909, the Lexington Improvement Association invited the ladies of the village to meet with them to discuss plans for a woman’s auxiliary, Mrs. Cruickshank was instrumental in urging the women of the town to attend.
At this meeting temporary officers were elected and a motion was made to consider the proposition for one week, and on January 11 the fourteen ladies met at the Opera House and the Women’s Civic Improvement Auxiliary was organized and the following officers elected: President, Mrs. Alexander Cruickshank; Vice-President, Mrs. M. E. Janette; Recording Secretary, Mrs. Emarette Wilson; Corresponding Secretary, Mrs. Lela Allen Smith; Treasurer, Mrs. Charles Crosby, and these ladies with the following signed the constitution and by-laws as charter members: Mrs. E. L. Nims, Mrs. J. A. Fraser, Mrs. W. R. Nims, Mrs. Thomas Dryden, Mrs. Mary Smith, Miss Anna Henry, Miss Mary Meyer, Mrs. John Bell, Mrs. J. A. Nichol and Mrs. M. J. Cruickshank. In March a request was made of S. C. Tewksbury for the use of the lot on the corner of Huron Avenue and Main Street as a park to be kept by the Auxiliary. The request was granted and plans were made to at once put the lot in shape. Permission was obtained from the council to plant trees, and a number of farmers generously donated their services to haul earth for filling in the space. Beds were laid out, flowers planted, and a row of spirea bushes was presented by Mrs. Lela Allen Smith which have become one of the beauty spots
of Lexington in spring and serve as a fitting memorial to this woman. The Auxiliary became active in many ways and during the years following its organization was instrumental in bringing about excursions to Detroit on the D. & C. and White Star lines, started the movement toward better roads, bought waste paper baskets for the streets, co-operated with the Lexington Improvement Association in securing suitable persons to operate the club house at Lexington Beach. A piano was purchased for the Opera House in 1911 and presented to the village with the understanding that the Women’s Civic Improvement Auxiliary should have use of the Opera House free of rent, whenever it so desired. In July, 1913, a concert was given to raise funds for a village flag, which was purchased and presented to the village during the G. A. R. encampment in September of that year. The presentation was made by Mrs. Mary Janette, and the speech of acceptance by the village president, Frank J. Sheldon. During the three days of the encampment the members of the W. C. I. A. served meals to the veterans and their families, under the direction of the president, Mrs. D. C. O’Brien. With the disorganization of the Lexington Improvement Association the women’s society voted to change
from an auxiliary to an independent organization and become known as the Women’s Civic Improvement Association.
Its most recent activities have been the purchase of chairs for the Opera House and the redecoration of its stage. The annual dinner for the G. A. R. on Memorial Day, the caring for the park and much philanthropic work have become the established customs of the association. Funds necessary to carry on the work were raised largely by the giving of dancing parties each Saturday evening during the summer.
Another flag was purchased and in 1927 a band stand was erected at a cost of seven hundred dollars.
Discouraged by lack of public support the association is in rather a dormant state at the present time, but a few loyal members stand ready to render civic aid when the occasion arises. The present president of the organization is Mrs. F. D. Peters.
The pioneers were a godly people, and coming from Christian families they were eager to establish places of worship in the new land.
Priests of the Roman Catholic Church had been laboring among the Indians, and as white settlers of that faith began to come, priests from various places visited the settlement at intervals until in 1870, Reverend Father P. J. De Smedt was appointed the first resident priest. In 1872 Rev. Christian Denissen was appointed pastor and services were held in various places until a church was built in 1882 on a site donated by Fr. Denissen, and was called St. Denis Church. Prominent among the members of the church were Mrs. R. A. Schell and daughters, Mrs. Peter Janette who played the organ, Mrs. W. R. Nims, Mrs. E. L. Nims, and Miss Helen Schell.
During the stay of Fr. Denissen he held services in other towns. Later a church was built at Croswell where the priest now resides, supplying Lexington, Port Sanilac, Peck, Jeddo, and Sandusky.
Rev. Fr. Leo J. Zindler is the priest at the present time and his assistant, Rev. Fr. Martin Gallagher. Among those who preceded these were Raev. Frs. Larkin, Roberge, Dion, Hebert, Dunnigan.
As soon as there were sufficient hearers, a sermon was preached by Elder Thomas Huckins, a Free-Will Baptist minister in 1839 an is said to have been the first Protestant sermon preached in Sanilac County.
The Baptists built the church, which is now occupied by the Advent Christian denomination, during the pastorate of Rev. Abram Sloat.
This church was later occupied by the Congregationalists, whose first pastor was the Rev. Talmadge Waterbury. In 1866 Rev. Charles Spooner was pastor, and Israel Huckins, Samuel Burgess, Joseph Moss, Watson Beach, Ery Brown and Clark Hadley trustees. Other pastors who followed Rev. Spooner were: Reverends C. Spittigue, Dr. Buthrick, William Woodmansee, J. Husted.
This church was also occupied by the Presbyterians, prominent members of which were the Norman, Waterbury, Hinkson, Shipley and Keys families.
The Advent Christians were first represented by Elder George Wright in 1869. At a later date Rev. Oliver Yake was pastor and continued as honorary pastor as long as his health permitted. Reverends Samuel Bennett, Harry Patterson, Anna Purinton and Oscar Allen have served the church as pastors, and the Rev. Purkiser is now in charge.
Upon the arrival of the Rev. A. B. Flower in Lexington in 1868 he found that a few funerals had been held and several marriages solemnized by a clergyman of the Episcopal Church. A Sunday School had been established by Rudolph Papst and J. S. Richardson, the scholars coming from church families.
After Rev. Flower’s arrival services were held in the Town Hall and other buildings until the present church was built in 1874 under the leadership of Rev. Flower. Among those who followed Rev. Flower were Reverends W. H. Smythe, B. Carey, J. W. Armstrong, W. F. Jerome, Robert Fletcher, R. C. Wall, Octavius Edgelow, B. J. Baxter, Harold R. Flower, a cousin of the first rector, L. Mitchell, Herbert Butler, William Fulcher, E. B. Jermin, H. R. Williams, H. A. Wilson. Rev. John A. Alford has been rector of the church the past five years. The early families connected with the church were: Clarke, Bell, Colbeck, Miller, Henry, Cruickshank, Lewis, Walther, Vasey, Papst, Wixson, Kennedy.
Rev. Mr. Noble, the first Methodist missionary, was succeeded by Rev. H. N. Brown under whose leadership a church was built in 1850 where the aid rooms now stand. Those who aided in the establishment of the church were: Allen Atkins, Ebenezer Raymond, Darius Cole, Joseph Pety, Henry Young, James F. Buel, and Isaac Leuty. A parsonage was built and donated to the church by Mrs. Maria Pack.
The old church was replaced by the present structure in1890 when Rev. J. W. Campbell was pastor.
Other pastors of the church have been: Reverends Lowe, Brown, Salmon, Lowry, Gregory, Priestley, Sparling, Coats, Nankervis, Brugh, Wood, Davis, Lomas, Johnson, Chapman, Mathews, Goodrich, Gordon, Harris, Chase.
Music and Musicians
Sometime previous to 1860 a fife and drum corps was organized in Lexington under the direction of Watson Bisbee. This corps played at numerous affairs, especially on patriotic occasions. It is said of Mr. Bisbee, who was tall of stature, that he led his organization with all the dignity and majesty of Sousa, and that all the children in town and those from the surrounding country were happy could they but watch Mr. Bisbee and follow him about on the occasion of parades.
In 1868 the Council voted to expend seventy-five dollars as part payment for brass horns to be used by a band which had recently organized with Philip De Geer as director, the horns to be and remain the property of the village. The band became a famous one. The following list contains as many names of members of that first band as could be ascertained: Philip De Geer, Leader; Rens De Geer, Horn; Andrew Huckins, Horn; Miller Huckins, Horn; Olaf Amundsen, Horn; Charles Amundsen, Snare Drum; Charles Wolfel, Bass Drum; William Wolfel, Horn; Jack Williams, Horn; Tom Symington, Horn.
In 1880 the following members of a band signed a resolution with the Common Council to keep in order the instruments, uniforms, and equipment used by them so long as they were members, and to return the articles upon leaving: J. H. Madill, Charles Niggeman, Hubert Eacrett, Charles H. Lever, Rudolph Andreae, William Andreae, Louis O. Kirstine, John Schmidt, George M. Bice, William Fead, John Robinson, Charles Hayward, Henry Miller, Edwin Papst, Alex K. Willverison, A. J. Lucia, John L. Gould, Henry Warnica, E. L. Fox, Henry Saety, George W. Frostic, Amos Pierce, Mr. George Bice conducted the band until the arrival of Charles G. Crosby under whose direction a co-ed band was organized and which played for affairs in different parts of the state. Mr. Crosby left Lexington for a time and returned to Calumet, his former home, to direct a band there. During his absence Miss Carol Nichol directed the band. Mr. Crosby returned to Lexington and again took up the direction of the band, which though handicapped for players during the winter, renders open air concerts Saturday evenings during the summer, being assisted by out of town talent.
Of musicians Lexington has always had a number of able ones. To Mrs. Janette, as Mary Schell, goes the distinction of having had the first piano in the village, and those who passed by stepped softly so that they might hear the instrument as she played, or taught others to do so. Mrs. Janette ever retained her interest in music and until the time of her death charmed her audiences by her skill and technique.
Mrs. John Norman is another musician whose untimely death will ever be regretted by those who knew her. Her untiring efforts in drilling others for the rendition of operas and oratorios were marvelous to those who beheld for her health was never too rugged. Under her direction "Queen Esther" was produced several times. Leading roles were taken by Arthur M. Clark, Bernard Miller, Mr. Huckins, Mrs. E. L. Nims, Mark Norman, Bertha Miller, Frances Oldfield, Frances Bell, Anna Kilbourne, and Alice Hayward. She also directed "David, the Shepherd Boy," with Lew Houghton in the title role. Miss Laura Cruickshank, Bertha Miller, Mary West, Eldon Smith and others were in the cast. "Jeptha and His Daughter" was also under her supervision with Bert Hacking, Frances Sparling, Ray West, Nora Hacking and Charles Norman in the leading roles.
Still another of the best musicians was Mrs. Daniel Clarke. Her skill at the piano every thrilled her hearers and her ability as an accompanist made her very popular with singers during the days that are past. She was organist at the Church of the Good Shepherd many years, and her retirement from public life has ever been regretted.
George B. Sturgis, a teacher of voice, violin and piano, helped many a pupil along the road to success. He conducted a singing school in Lexington for a number of years. He left Lexington for the home of his boyhood near Peck where he died some years ago.
The musicians above mentioned with several others were instrumental in organizing the Musical Union which flourished for many years, and which helped young musicians overcome stage fright by being asked to perform at informal meetings.
From the lonely forests of "The Thumb" no human voice responded to the calls of the Black Hawk or the War of 1812, owing to the fact that there were no settlements in the county until about the close of the Black Hawk War, and the inhabitants of this beautiful peninsula were "lulled in the cradle of peace" until the Civil War broke upon them. Though there had been years of warning, the pioneers were unwilling to trust their senses, but once the unwelcome news of Sumter was vividly before them, they stood up ready for the trial. When Bull Run confirmed the uncertainty and magnitude of the war, the spirit of Sanilac warmed into activity and the call for volunteers was answered with her voice in the chorus, "We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more."
The "Sanilac Wolverines" was the first military company to come together, though a few volunteers from this county had joined the Second and Seventh regiments. The name was soon changed to "Sanilac Pioneers," but the company was better known as Company D, Tenth Michigan Infantry. Captain Israel Huckins made the first effort to raise the company and after a few days canvassing found a ready response from about sixty of the best citizens. The necessary preparations were made and on Tuesday, November 19, 1861, the company was ready to step at the tap of the drum into active service. The company took passage on the steamer "Forester" enroute to Flint, the rendezvous for the regiment. The night was dark and windy, yet there were many citizens from all parts of the county down at the dock at Lexington to see the "Forester" swing off with her load of brave men on a journey from which there was such uncertain return, and to add a "God bless you." As the last rope was pulled in, three times three hearty cheers were given to those on deck who responded with a prolonged hurrah for the flag. The company was filled to its maximum quota in January, 1862, with the following list of officers: Captain, Israel Huckins; First
Lieutenant, H. H. Nims; Second Lieutenant, G. W. Jenks; First Sergeant, Richard Teal; Second Sergeant, Rudolph Papst; Third Sergeant, C. R. Bunker; Fourth Sergeant, Watson Beach; Fifth Sergeant, Henry Wideman; First Corporal, Watson Bisbee; Second Corporal, Robert Lewis; Third Corporal, C. M. Cross; Fourth Corporal, T. J. Springstein; Fifth Corporal, Lemuel House; Sixth Corporal, Stephen R. Moore; Seventh Corporal, Hugh McCaffery. Many of these officers were afterwards promoted and a few assigned to other companies. The company left Flint for Pittsburg Landing with the regiment April 22, 1862, having a full roster of one hundred and three men and officers.
After numerous engagements the regiment reached Nashville where it remained until July, 1863, but was again summoned into action and engaged in many battles until the twenty-fourth of May, 1865, when after participating in the grand review at Washington it was mustered out of service July 19 at Louisville, Kentucky, arrived at Jackson, Michigan, on the twenty-second and disbanded on the first of August. Its losses were two hundred and ninety-nine, numbering four officers, fifty killed, three officers and twenty-six men died of wounds and two officers and two hundred men died of disease.
When the call for more volunteers was made in July, 1862, about three thousand dollars was raised in the county, and the Twenty-second Michigan Infantry was formed. Among those who enlisted from Lexington or who afterward came here to live were: Israel Huckins, J. B. Lucas, John Surbrook, Oliver Yake, Ralph Potts, Rudolph Papst, Lemuel House, James J. Boyd, William Dawson, John Papst, Frank Carman, William Murray, William Ellis, Nathan Dawson, Harvey Baker, H. H. Huffman, George Henry, John Willis, John Walker, Frederick Hykes, Michael O’Brien, Alfred Henry, Allen Worden, William Gould, Duncan Smith, Thomas Purkiss, George Gardiner, Henry Wideman, Walter W. Smith, William Wolfel, Stephen Gardiner, H. B. Morrison, B. F. Richards, Samuel Crone, Frederick Keohner, Samuel Bennett, Albert Alton, Samuel Utley, Nelson Utley.
About the same time of the forming of this company, Lieutenant H. H. Nims was promoted to a captaincy and recruited for Company K from Sanilac and Huron counties for the Tenth Michigan Infantry, returning to the regiment in April, 1863. The boys for the Twenty-second were enrolled as Company K with Alexander Galbraith as captain, and on September 4, numbering nine hundred and ninety-seven strong, started for Kentucky under the command of Col. Moses Wisner, ex-Governor at that time. They were engaged with General Thomas at Chicamauga, and in his report of the Twenty-second there Col. Le Favour said, "At the second charge the rebels drove the brigade to the bottom of the hill. It was reformed, marched up, and again took the crest. The regiment was out of ammunition and word was sent to General Whittaker to that effect. ‘You must use your steel’ was the reply. The regiment rushed forward with fixed bayonets and empty muskets under a terrific fire of musketry, received the counter charge of the enemy, repulsed and drove them at every point." Among other encounters the Twenty-second was with Sherman on his famous march to the sea, and was finally mustered out June 20, 1865.
The Sixth Michigan Cavalry and the Twenty-fourth Infantry also received volunteers from Lexington, and when the draft came, it had little claim in this county. When that dread conscription came, William S. Mills was appointed commissioner of this county and Walter P. Brown, surgeon, but there were only about forty men to be drafted, and the required number was raised by volunteers before the time appointed for the drawing. Hence the trouble and embarrassment of those who had fled to Canada or the woods went for naught only incurring upon them the just odium of all who were manly enough to remain at their posts.
The women were not slow to recognize the necessity of their assistance during these trying times and soon there was formed a Soldiers’ Relief Society in Lexington. This society was very earnest and energetic in doing all that could be done by woman’s hands for soldiers in need, and many boxes of clothing, bedding, food, knick-knacks, and newspapers were sent to the hospitals and camps of the Michigan boys. Many a wounded soldier thanked God that the country had such women.
Capt. H. H. Nims who left Lexington as First Lieutenant of Company D, Tenth Michigan Infantry, participated in the active service in which his regiment was involved until July, 1862, when he was detailed for recruiting service in Michigan. Shortly after his arrival in Lexington he received official notice of his promotion to a captaincy, and the following April left to rejoin his regiment. He was engaged in many fights and skirmishes until the attack at Jonesboro which resulted in the fall of Atlanta. After regaining the inside of the fortification, he received the wound from which he died September 2, 1864. He was buried at Jonesboro but after the war his remains were disinterred and brought to his old home in Lexington and his laurelled name lives with those who have died that liberty might live. The H. H. Nims Post, No. 118, G. A. R., was organized in March, 1883, having been named in honor of the beloved captain.
For thirty-three years peace reigned throughout the country, when on February 15, 1898, the sinking of the Maine in the harbor at Manila Bay with a loss of two hundred and sixty-six of her officers and crew precipitated the Spanish-American War which had been brewing since 1895. Inbued with the spirit of his father who had fought in the Civil War, Rudolph Papst, Jr., was the first Lexington boy to enlist. His experience is best told in his own words, in a letter received from him in February, 1928:
"I received or rather Father did a dispatch from Lieutenant G. H. Brown that if I wanted to enlist in Company F 33 to be at Port Huron the morning of May 10, 1898. I heard the glad news when I arrived home for supper.
"I didn’t have very much time to bid my friends good-bye but I did the best I could. Everyone I saw could not believe that I was really going to war. Some of the ladies took on dreadful. I thought that was a bad way to send a kid off.
"I left Lexington on the morning stage and took the train for Port Huron, arriving at Lieutenant G. H. Brown’s office about noon.
"He also was surprised as he didn’t think I’d show up. He was glad to see me just the same. He gave me some papers to take over to the doctor who said I was all O.K. I stayed all night at Hotel Union and left Port Huron the next morning on an early train with several other recruits, arriving at Island Lake Camp about noon.
"I was sworn into the U.S. service that same afternoon, May 12, 1898. The officers of the company were: Captain, Joseph F. Walsh; First Lieutenant, Geo. H. Brown; Second Lieutenant, H. McKenzie; First Sergeant, James Stewart.
"Between May 12 and June 1 we were in camp at Island Lake, Michigan, afterwards at Camp Alger, Virginia, about ten miles from Washington, D. C. We were in pretty bad shape before we left Camp Alger in regards to clothes as we had only old clothes in the first place.
"Leaving Camp Alger we arrived at Cuba, June 26, and landed the next morning in small boats. We sailed over on the U. S. s. Yale and returned home on the U. S. S. Howard. We were on the island about two months. We were in two engagements on the second and third of July and saw the great sea battle on that Sunday morning.
"When we embarked on the Howard to return home they took us up the coast so that we could see all that was left of the Great Spanish fleet.
"I don’t remember the date of my return home but as you remember it was a Sunday night and the first place I wanted to get to was my own church. I tried to get into a seat without anyone’s seeing me, but I didn’t do it very well and poor Rev. Wall stopped in his prayer.
"I was mustered out at Port Huron, December 30, 1898. I guess I was the only Lexington boy who saw active service under fire." Mr. Papst died February 8, 1934.
Bert Eacrett, Sam Munroe, Will Oles and Frank Snyder also enlisted in the Spanish-American War.
The singular coincidence that the sinking of another ship should precipitate our entrance into another war of which the boys of ’65 had never dreamed, will ever bring a shudder to those who lived through the days from 1914-1918. There were those who hoped that the United States would not feel called upon to enter the World War, but after overlooking many insults, the sinking of the Lusitania, May 7, 1915, which cost the lives of one hundred and fourteen Americans, precipitated the crisis.
Lexington had loyal young men who were eager to serve their country and soon they were in training in camp while some went over seas. These were: Charles S. Clark, Fred Cummings, Lee Sheldon, Lloyd Sheldon, Martin Drost, Fred S. Dingman, Cyril Kennedy, Stanley Kipp, Frederick Kotzke, Roy Macklem, Lawrence McKenna, Warren Parker, Jerome Wellerritter, Roscoe Purkiss, George Bascom.
Miss Ethel Henry who was born in Lexington and lived here until after her graduation from high school, was the only young woman upon whom Lexington has a claim, who served as a nurse during the war. She enlisted in Detroit, where she had graduated as a professional nurse from Harper Hospital, and went over seas with Army Nurse Corps, Base Hospital No. 17 services of supply with the American Expeditionary Forces. She received a French medal of honor of silver, March 18, 1919, from the Minister of War.
Death took its toll from the small number of Lexington boys who enlisted. Ira Yake, Harlow Avery, Arthur Nunn and Fred Marriott gave their lives for their country and now rest with the honored dead. The remains of Ira Yake were brought here from France for burial and were accorded all possible military honors. The post of the American Legion which was organized in Lexington as the Ira Yake Post, attended the funeral in a body.
With the world wide peace movement there is little hope that Lexington will ever again be called upon to give of her sons in so cruel and wasting a thing as war.
The women of Lexington joined the Red Cross and did noble work for war relief. The Methodist Aid rooms were used for Red Cross headquarters where vast quantities of work were turned out.
While it is not the object of this history to record Lexington township events, there are three cemeteries near Lexington which are closely associated with its early settlers.
What is known as the Dimond cemetery lies one and one-quarter miles south of the village on the ground originally owned by Judge Reuben B. Dimond who is buried there. The marker, which lies flat and almost buried by grass and weeds, bears the inscription, "R. B. Dimond, died March 29, 1852, aged 51 years." Beside the grave of Mr. Dimond is a marker with the inscription, "Sidney Dimond, died April 7, 1815, aged 9 months."
If Mr. Dimond suggested the name, Lexington, for the village, how fitting it would be to erect a monument on his final resting place.
On the land adjoining the Dimond cemetery lies the Stevens cemetery on land originally owned by Joel Carrington, the first white man who settled in the county, and later by Webster Stevens who was buried there in 1884.
In 1853 the township board voted to buy an acre of ground at fifty dollars from Louis Sherbernaw for a burying ground and the next year a half acre adjoining at twenty dollars from Israel Huckins. This cemetery lies three miles west of Lexington and is known as the "Huckins" cemetery. In it lies buried Rev. Thomas Huckins who was born in 1795 and died in 1853. He fought in the war of 1812 and was the father of Israel Huckins, a Civil War soldier, and great grandfather of Mark, Charles and Arthur J. Norman of Lexington.
At the same meeting of the township board it was voted to "fence the burying ground in the village of Lexington." This is apparently the old cemetery which lies at the southwest corner of the village, and which must have been staked before the Huckins cemetery, as the oldest marker on which the date is decipherable bears the inscription. "Julia A. wife of Amos Hykes, daughter of Aaron and Candace Baker, died February 5, 1852."
About 1864, S. C. Tewksbury and J. A. Waterbury gave to the village an acre of ground to be used as a place of burial for the soldier dead of the Civil War. The first person to be buried there was Capt. H. H. Nims who died of wounds during the war. Gradually the newer cemetery became the place of burial after the older became fully occupied, until it was necessary to purchase more land and now covers five acres. A handsome mausoleum was built at the entrance to the cemetery seven years ago by Mrs. A. E. Sleeper and Mrs. Ella Hanley as a memorial to their sister, Mrs. Emma Myers.
The ground for the Catholic cemetery which lies one mile north of the town was donated by Richard Wagner. A few years later Mr. A. R. Schell purchased a rod of land surrounding the original plot of ground and donated it to be added to the cemetery.
No history would be complete without a record of the men and women now living in Lexington who have passed the age of fourscore years and who are not mentioned in the preceding chapters.
Mrs. Amanda Keys, widow of Jaspar H. Keys, is Lexington’s oldest resident. She was born October 11, 1846, in Indiana. Mr. and Mrs. Keys came to Lexington in the summer of 1895 when Mr. Keys became publisher of the Lexington News. He passed away February 11, 1913.
Mrs. Mary A. Fead Mitchell was born in the township of Worth, August 29, 1849, in a log house in the wilderness. She married Hilman Hatton who died July 10, 1858. They had two children, Mrs. Mittie Wilson of Romulus, and Wilford Hatton of Lexington. Her second marriage was to Joseph Mitchell who died a few years ago. In an interview with Mrs. Mitchell she recalled many interesting things relating to early days here. She spoke of the difference in the dinners served at Hotel Cadillac when it was a two-log building, and those served now. In the early days the menu consisted of bread, black-strap molasses, beans, salt pork and dried apple pie.
Mrs. Hannah Shierman Kessel was born in Germany in 1851 and came to Michigan in 1867. She married Frank Kessel of whom it has been said that he was one of the best carpenters in Lexington, many homes and public buildings now standing as silent memorials to his artistry. Mrs. Kessel has eight children.
Elmer Sheldon, son of John and Sophrona Sheldon, was born on a farm northwest of Lexington, February 20, 1853, and followed the occupation of farmer until the death of his father when with his mother he moved to Lexington in 1903. Mr. Sheldon has remained a bachelor.
Mrs. Jennie Kennedy, widow of Thomas Kennedy, was born in New York June 19, 1853, and came in 1869 to Lexington where Mr. Kennedy worked in the Partridge hoop and stave factory and later became one of the town’s leading painters and paper hangers. Mrs. Kennedy has eight children.
Albert Yake, whose eighty-third birthday will be observed during the Centennial, July 21, came here in a covered wagon with his parents in 1854. He helped to clear the forests and in later years became a farmer. Mrs. Yake, who was Isabella McKenzie, was born in Croswell in a house on the site of the present Croswell cemetery.
Neither would it be complete without a short sketch of those who have been outstanding in their chosen vocations and who either live here now or claimed Lexington as one time residence.
Albert E. Sleeper, who was born in Bradford, Vermont, December 31, 1862, came to Lexington in the fall of 1884. After several years spent in the employ of S. C. Tewksbury & Co., and of which firm he later became a partner, he launched into the banking business and became director in the banks at Yale, Bad Axe, Marlette, Ubly, Applegate, and Lexington. After his marriage to Miss Mary C. Moore, July 30, 1901, he moved to Bad Axe. He was senator of the twentieth district from 1901-04 and elected state treasurer in 1910. He was elected governor of Michigan in 1916 and 1918. Mr. Sleeper died at Bad Axe, May 13, 1934, and was brought to Lexington for burial. His funeral was perhaps the largest of any ever held here, and was attended by Governor Comstock, ex-Governors Brucker and Groesbeck, the state militia, the several orders of the Masonic fraternity and school children who marched in a body. Thus the young man who came to Lexington penniless found his last resting place here amid the homage due one who had been accorded one of the highest honors in the state.
Louis H. Fead was born at Lexington May 2, 1877, the son of John L. and Augusta Fead. He graduated from the Lexington High School, then went to Olivet College and later to the University of Michigan where he graduated in 1900. He practiced law at Newberry, Michigan, and served as prosecuting attorney of Luce County from 1901-1913, and as judge of the eleventh judicial circuit from 1913-1928. He served overseas in the American Red Cross during the World War. He was appointed a justice of the supreme court of Michigan, February, 1928, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Justice Flannigan, and at the general election November 6, 1928, was elected to fill the unexpired term. He became chief justice at once which office he held for the balance of the year 1928. He was re-elected April 1, 1929. Mr. Fead is married and has three children.
Walter S. Wixson, son of Phillip L. and Helen Smith Wixson, graduated from the law department of the University of Michigan in 1883. After successfully practicing law for a number of years, he became prosecuting attorney of Tuscola County and was appointed circuit judge a few months before his death in February, 1928.
John Beach, son of the late Judge Watson Beach, graduated from the Lexington High School in 1888 and from the University of Michigan in 1896. He did post graduate work at the U. of M. and at the University of Colorado in Boulder after which he started teaching at Mt. Morris, Illinois. He later taught at Ft. Worth, Texas; Huntingdon, Pennsylvania; Fargo, N.D., and for the past fourteen years has been professor of Greek and Hebrew at Aurora College, Aurora, Illinois.
George D. MacComb is another graduate of the Lexington High School who has climbed the ladder of success by his own efforts. Upon leaving school in 1900 he began the study of music until he stands today as a prominent musician in these parts. He is director of the Shubert Club, St. Stephen’s Church choir and the Baptist church choir of Port Huron, and his services as soloist are eagerly sought not only in Port Huron but throughout the district.
Grant H. Smith was a member of the graduating class of 1895 of the local school. He became interested in farming and the raising of fine livestock. After holding a number of public offices he was elected Judge of Probate for a period of twelve years. He was appointed chairman of the Sanilac County Centennial celebration held in Lexington this year, a position he has filled in a most conscientious and painstaking manner.
Just as fishing was one of the chief occupations of the early settlers it has continued through the years, and is still an important industry. Michael Meyer, son of Michael Meyer, Sr., an early settler, has been in the fishing business since leaving the employ of the Clarke store. Mr. Meyer has time from his work as fisherman to attend to village affairs as its president, after serving several terms as councilman. He is also president of the Eastern Michigan Tourist Association.
Nor are the successful ones all men. Miss Minnie Franke, who graduated in 1887 at the age of sixteen, was a successful teacher until her retirement a few years ago. After teaching in Lexington, she attended the Ferris Institute and taught there. She later went to Detroit where she taught twenty years, then returned to Lexington where she now resides.