Early History of Gilford

Contributed by Debbie Axtman. Extracted from, "The History of Tuscola, MI," H. R. Page and Co., Chicago, 1883, p. 196.


By referring to the list of land entries, it will be seen that the land was located in the present town of Gilford, as early as the year 1849, by Elijah Clark, George and Oscar Mapes and Benjamin Griswold. The wilderness, however, was allowed to remain undisturbed by the encroachments of civilization for about two and one-half years longer. Mr. Clark and wife were stopping at Levi Rogers’ house, in Juniata, in the spring of 1851. He was ambitious that his wife should be the first white woman in the town that was to become their home, and hearing that Samuel French and family were on their way to the township, that is now Gilford, he resolved to push ahead and secure the coveted honor for his wife. Joseph Selden was at that time located in his new home, only a short distance from Mr. Rogers, and had two teams. Mr. Clark engaged Charles R. Selden to take their ox team and move his family and worldly effects to the site of their future home. There were no roads and it was at the general breaking up time in the spring. Part of the way there was snow, but a greater part of the distance mud was deep and water deeper. The modern teamster would have mired his team and abandoned the undertaking, but the pioneer journeys were not made along highways, and neither trackless forests nor bridgeless streams were appalling or unfrequent. Late in the afternoon, one Friday, they arrived at their destination. A house was partially built, but had no roof, and putting a few boards up against one side of it, they fixed shelter for the night. The next day Mr. French and family arrived. The day following being Sunday, it was spent in a visit of the old-fashioned sort, such as two families in the wilderness, the only inhabitants of a township, would be likely to have. Mr. French bought his land of Daniel Haines, of Arbela.

During the summer that followed these two families were monarchs of all they surveyed, and a good deal more, for they were the sole inhabitants of the township, and the range of their vision was circumscribed.

Mr. Clark’s family appears to have been emphatically pioneer, not only as regards first settlement but in its contribution to first events. In May, less than two months after their arrival, Mrs. Clark presented her husband with a son, and Winsor Clark headed the list of births in Gilford. The first marriage in Gilford was that of James Spencer and Marcia Clark.

In the fall of 1852 Jesse Mapes, his sons Oscar and George, and his son-in-law, Quintus Foster, settled in the township. Soon after the number of inhabitants was increased by the arrival of Joseph, Emanuel and James Spencer. They came in January 1853. In February, John A. Hayes came with his family and moved into the house with Mr. Clark’s family as had also the Spencers. About this time Hamilton Hobart, an enterprising farmer and a worthy Christian, arrived with his family, and was an active member of society until his death in 1867.

In the fall of 1853 Mr. Griswold moved with his family into the house with Mr. Clark. Mr. Hayes and the Spencers having previously moved into dwellings of their own. James B. Thompson and Henry Van Patten came during this year.

In 1854 H. P. Atwood, now of Caro, became a resident of Gilford. His health had become so feeble that he was unable to continue the study of law and he went to Gilford to try farming. He had been a resident of Ingham County and had made up his mind to try farming. Mr. Hobart, who had already settled in Gilford, was a brother-in-law and had several pieces of very choice land. Mr. Atwood made a trip up there and being favorably impressed with what he saw, purchased 160 acres, and went back after his family. From Vassar, they made the trip with an ox team. It was in June and mud was deep and flies terrible. When within five miles of Mr. Hobart’s the oxen laid down from sheer exhaustion, the blood streaming from their nostrils, so vicious were the attacks of the files. Leaving their team and wagon load of household articles in the woods Mr. Atwood took their babe in his arms, and, followed by his wife, they continued their journey on foot. When about a mile from Mr. Hobart’s they were met by him, he having heard that they were on the way. Mr. Atwood began farming, but being a lawyer, although not yet admitted to the bar, most of his time was occupied in legal business and assisting in town affairs. In the fall of that year he was elected to the legislature, and the next winter was spent in Lansing. The summer of 1855 he stayed upon his farm and the next fall sold out to Mr. E. Battille and moved to Vassar.

Mr. Batille moved into the township the winter of 1858 and remained in that part of the township until 1860 when he moved to the north part of the town.

The first Sunday-school was organized in the spring of 1856 and Mr. Batille was its first superintendent, in which capacity he continued until he moved from that part of the town. A Sunday-school had been taught to that time by Mrs. Hobart.

The first death in the town was that of Jesse Mapes. There was not a minister within reach to preach a funeral sermon. A hymn was sung, a prayer offered by Hamilton Hobart, and the dead was buried. The widow of Mr. Mapes died soon afterward.

Mrs. Sophronia Hall, daughter of the late John A. Hayes, was the first female child born in Gilford. The date of her birth is December, 1853.

The early preachers in Gilford were Elders Klumph, Andrews and Warren.

Contributed by Debbie Axtman

September 1998

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Last Updated August 1998

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