Early History of the Town of Lima
Author: Samuel Clements
A paper prepared for the Washington County
Pioneer Society and read December 7, 1874.
Samuel Clements, Sr. came to the Territory of Michigan in 1825. Louis White copied the narrative from a typed copy in the possession of Harvey C. Clements of Ann Arbor. Samuel Clements, Sr. died June 16, 1866 and is buried in the Parker Cemetery, Lima Township. He was born August 12, 1780 near Seneca, Ontario County, New York. 1st marriage to Catherine Lacy on April 29, 1810. Catherine was born July 30, 1785 and after seven children including a set of twins, she died April 20, 1850. The Clements “took up” about 640 acres in Sec. 15, Lima Township.
About the first of May, 1825, my father, Samuel Clements--late of Ann Arbor, left his family and home, in the town of Seneca, Ontario County, New York, to be, as the expression goes, on a “viewing expedition” to the far west--meaning northern Ohio or Michigan. After an absence of about six weeks he returned and informed us that he had bought a section of land in the Territory of Michigan, in the County of Washtenaw, and including the Forks of Mill Creek, and that we were to remove there as soon as possible.
After the usual auction, to dispose of personal property, and a hasty preparation, our effects were loaded on two wagons and we started for our new home, by way of Buffalo and Lake Erie. There was then but one steamboat on the lake, the Superior--the “Walk-in-the-Water” having been wrecked the season before. The steamboat was not in port when we arrived in Buffalo nor was she expected for several days. We therefore took passage with our goods on board the schooner “Fair Play”, Captain Wessie Whitaker. After not an unpleasant voyage of nine days, we arrived in Detroit safely, with all our effects.
With only the delay necessary to buy two yoke of oxen, some seed, wheat and provisions for the family and to load our wagon, we left Detroit on the 6th day of August, 1825, for our future home in the interior. Our first days journeying brought us to Willard's Tavern below Springwells and near the River Rouge. The second night we stayed with a man named Durm on the Toguish Plains below the present village of Plymouth. The third night, late, we arrived at the home of Mr. Sutton, about five or six miles northeast of Ann Arbor, I think in the town (ship) of Ann Arbor. Here we found hospitality. But our oxen concluded they had penetrated into the interior as far as they cared to and when they were turned loose, instead of feeding and resting, they took up a retrograde march and were not overtaken the next day until they had been pursued six or eight miles. This mishap delayed us so that our fourth night was spent in Ann Arbor at the house of Walker Rumsey. This house was situated on the southside of Huron Street and was built in the hillside near where Niel's building stands. From there we went to Dexter, or as it was then called “the mouth of Mill Creek”, arriving on the east bank of the creek, where the village of Dexter was subsequently built, about ten o'clock, A.M.
There was then standing on the west side of the creek a small log house occupied by the family of Charles B. Raylor, where the men in the employ of Honorable S.W. Dexter were boarded. When we arrived on the east bank, as above stated, we saw a number of men engaged in building a dam across the creek and in framing the timber for the saw mill which was raised soon after.
Having rested here perhaps half an hour, we turned to the left, up the creek, and pursued our way where no wheel had ever marked the soil. Our objective point was the forks of the creek. We reached our destination on August 10th, about four o'clock, P.M. Our wagon was speedily unloaded and a tent formed by sewing four common sheets together was prepared and erected. In this little tent and the covered wagon we lived six weeks, during which time my father provided hay for his team during the winter from the prairie-plowed six acres of land contiguous to the tent and sowed it to wheat and built a log house eighteen by twenty-four feet.
The United States patent for this farm is before me. It is dated September 1st, 1825 and signed by J.Q. Adams, President and George Graham, Commissioner of the General Land Office. It describes the east half and the east half of the northwest quarter and the east half of the southwest quarter of Section 24, also the east half of the northwest quarter and the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 25-all in Township 2 south of Range 4 west-now known as the Township of Lima.
It is believed this is the first entry of public lands in this township. It is certain that my Father's family was the first settled in the town by several years. Our nearest and only neighbor on the east was Ann Arbor, distant eight miles. On the south, Tecumseh, connected with a mission at the mouth of the Saint Joseph river, distant over two hundred miles. During the same autumn, i.e. of 1825, Sylvanus and Nathiel Noble, having sold the farms where they first settled, about one mile north of Ann Arbor, removed to new locations about a mile and a half west of Dexter. They were distant from our home, by direct road, four and a half miles.
The first settlers in the township after us were Capt. Jerome Loomis, who located and occupied the farm now owned by Alexander Dancer. William Baucher, who located and settled upon the farm owned by the late William H. Cook and William Wightman, whose farm joined the one last named on the west. These settlements were made in 1827. In 1828 Hiram Putnam located and settled upon the farm now owned and occupied by John Smith in the town of Scio and distant from my Father's about one and one half miles north and east. About the same time Joseph Arnold and Rufus Crossman settled in the immediate neighborhood of the Messrs. Noble already referred to in the town of Dexter.
In 1829 Hezekiah Riggs bought the land which my Father owned in Section 25 and moved his family onto it at once. He was a blacksmith and was the first blacksmith in the town. In 1830 Marvin Cadwell, Francis Daugherty and James and Thomas Mitchell came into the township. 1831, John Davis, Calvin Winslow, Jacob White, Thomas Haffy, Lemuel Scott, Richard Snell, William Lemroon, Elias Easton and John D. Doan become citizens of the town. In 1832, James and John Mitchell, William McCauley, Mr. Randall, Curtis Hurd, Samuel Cooper and John Harford were added to our population.
The Territorial Road, leaving the “Chicago Turnpike” at Sheldon's in the town of Canton, Wayne County and running a westerly course through Ann Arbor and the point where the Indian Trail crossed Mill Creek, to the mouth of the Saint Joseph river was authorized by the Legislative Council of 1829 and surveyed and established in 1830. This road passed through the points where the cities of Jackson and Marshall and the villages of Albion and Kalamazoo have since been built. These places were located and the county seats were established at Jackson, Marshall and Kalamazoo for the respective counties very soon after. During the ten or fifteen years which followed, until the railroad was constructed, the tide of immigration and travel along this road was immense.
In 1827 the townships since known as Webster, Scio, Dexter and Lima and all the settlements west within the county were organized for township purposes and the “Town Meetings”, for electing town officers and doing town business were held on the first Monday in April in each year at the village of Dexter.
In response to a petition from the inhabitants, the Legislative Council in 1834 organized the present town of Lima into a body corporate and the following is the official record of its first township meeting so far as relates to the election of officers.
“At the first Township Meeting in and for the township of Lima, held at the house of John Harford, in the said township on the first day of April in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-four, by the electors of said township, meeting was called to order by Russell Parker, one of the Justices of the Peace in said Township between the hours of nine and twelve o'clock in the forenoon.
The electors present then proceeded to choose, viva voci, an elector to officiate as Clerk of said meeting; and likewise an elector to preside at such meeting and superintend the same as Moderator. Accordingly, John K. Bingham was chosen Clerk and Oliver L. Cooper as Judge of this election, who severally took the oath prescribed by law.
The meeting being organized and proclamation duly made for the opening of the polls, the electors of the township aforesaid then proceeded to the business of said meeting and the following persons were duly elected to fill the several offices, viz:
Supervisor Russell; Township Clerk John K. Bingham Assessors, Elijah Cooper, Darius Pierce, Lemuel Scott; Constable and Collector Elias Saston; Commissioners of Highways, Rodney Ackley, Samuel Cooper, John Davis, Commissioners of Common Schools: Frederick S. Sheldon, Solomon Sutherland, Oliver L. Cooper; Inspectors of Common Schools, Samuel B. Bradley, Oliver L. Cooper, Darius Pierce, Elkana P. Downer, Deacon G. Willetts; Pound Master, John Harford; Fence Viewers, Curtis Hurd, John K. Bingham.
My father built the first frame barn ever built in the town in 1828. Captain Jerome Loomis, Marvin Cadwell and William Wightman had each erected a small frame house before my Father built his in 1831. The first school in the town was held in an addition to my Father's log house in the south west part of the town near what was known as Bingham's Mill. The school in Lima Center was organized next in order but at what date I am unable to say.
Religious enterprise was almost contemporaneous with the earliest settlements. My first remembrance of religious meetings is of those held at intervals of four weeks at the home of the late G.W. Peters in the town of Scio in the summer of 1826–27 by a Baptist minister whose name I have forgotten. The late Rev. C.G. Clark, a Presbyterian minister, was one of the earliest ministers in this section of the country. He established an appointment for regular meetings every alternate Sunday in the forenoon at the house of Joseph Arnold in the town of Dexter in 1828 or 1829 and continued to preach there for two or three years.
A Baptist minister named Carpenter, who resided on the east side of the Huron a few miles above the village of Dexter, was among the earliest preachers. He held religious meetings at my Father's house every four weeks regularly, for about three years between 1831 and 1834. My Father's house was the first regular meeting place in the town. In the spring of 1832 two young men, members of the Ohio Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Revs. E.H. Pilcher and E.C. Gavit, then traveling what was called the Ann Arbor Circuit, established a regular appointment for preaching, once in two weeks, at the house of Rev. Arannah Bennett and organized a Society there. This is believed to have been the first religious organization in the town.
The Ann Arbor Circuit, as it was then constituted, embraced, in this County, the towns of Ann Arbor, Lodi, Scio, Webster, Dexter and Lima, and in Jackson County, Grass Lake, Leoni, Jackson, Sand Stone and Spring Arbor. The appointments were so numerous as to require of both preachers a service nearly every day in the week. In the fall of 1832, Revs. William M. Sullivan and Luther D. Whitney were appointed to the Ann Arbor Circuit and they established an appointment for preaching at my Father's house every alternate Monday afternoon or evening, thence they went to the house of “Elder Bennett” and preached on Tuesday evening. These were believed to have been the first regular appointments for religious services according to the usages and forms of the Methodist Episcopal Church established in the town.
About this time a Baptist congregation was gathered in the south west part of the yown near Bingham's Mill under the pastoral care of Rev. Dalelson, an old gentleman whose house was in the north east corner of the town of Sharon. They met in the log school house to which I have already referred.
In 1834 or 1835 a Congregational Church was organized at the center of the town, I think under the pastoral care of Rev. H.H. Northrup who divided his labors between this society and one in the village of Dexter. The first Christian minister who lived in the town was the Rev. Arannah Bennett, a local elder of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was a man of considerably more than ordinary native talent, of a very fair degree of culture, pure minded, a deeply pious Christian and a zealous Methodist but at the same time a man of a liberal and catholic spirit. He was a very laborious man, cultivating a large farm during the week time and preaching somewhere in the vicinity nearly every Sunday. In the absence of the regular minister he held religious services among his neighbors at Lima Center and always commanded full congregations. He was ready at every call to visit the sick and bury the dead; and his burdens in this direction were often very heavy as he not unfrequently went from ten to fifteen miles to attend funerals without a thought of fee or reward.
The first church edifice in the town was erected by the Congregational Society in 1842 or 1843. The first Methodist Episcopal Church was completed in 1849. These were the only church edifices that have been erected in the town.
The men of principal prominence in the town during its early history, as I remember them, were Russell Parker, Calvin Chipman, Rodney Ackley, Darius Pierce, Rev. Arannah Bennett, Oliver L. Cooper, Richard Snell, William Cooper, John K. Bingham, Russell Whipple, Dr. Samuel B. Bradley, General Asa Williams, John Bacon, William Crossman and Jacob A. Hoover.
These men, as I remember them, will compare very favorably with their successors. They were men of real worth, of fearless enterprise and public spirit, of tireless industry and independent thought. Their surrounding circumstances may have stimulated these virtues and no doubt did very largely. But the fact that they voluntarily entered into these circumstances is evidence that they possessed inherently those essential elements of character which assured and gave them success. A coward never runs into danger voluntarily and a lazy man never seeks a place where he must work or starve. Let their memory be gratefully cherished by those who have entered into their labors and enjoy the garnered fruits of their privations and toils. Many of them are now dead; and those who remain have lost their early fire and vigor and now totter in the decrepitude which age and their former exposures and toils have brought upon them. I now find myself a stranger in my early home, rarely meeting anyone I know in the place where I once knew every man, woman and child.
Of the principal men in the Congregational Church, I recall William Cooper, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Markell, Rufus Grossman, Deacon G. Willetts, David Dixon, Mr. Ward and W.A.L. Shaw. Those of the Baptist Church, Hiram Gregory, Calvin Chipman, and William Lemmon. Those in the Methodist-Episcopal Church, Rev. Arannah Bennett, Oliver L. Cooper, Elias Westfall, Richard Snell, Hiram Andrews, Joshua Cushman and Abram Arnold.
The first Physician who located in the town to practice his profession was Dr. William Bassac, now of Manchester. Dr. Samuel B. Bradley came into the town several years before Dr. Bassac but he did not practice much and did not desire to. He had retired from practice before coming here and settled upon a farm when he came, intending to follow farming for a living but he died after a residence among us of only two or three years.
Mr Father's farm was on what was called the St. Joseph Indian Trail where it crossed Mill Creek. Large companies of Indians came and went along this trail in the early times of this section of Michigan, on their way to Malden, now Amherst-burg, in Canada, for their annuities, or “presents” as they were called, from the British government for services in the War of 1812. I have seen as many as seven hundred in a company. They did not, however, go in such large “droves” as they were called but in companies of from ten to thirty or forty. The east bank of the creek where the trail crossed it was about thirty rods distant from our house. This point was the usual camping grounds for these traveling bands. They were uniformly peaceable and orderly, showing as little disposition to trouble people along their route as ordinary travelers.
There were also large numbers of Indians living in the country around us. They generally lived in small companies, sometimes a single family by itself, but oftener in groups of from three to six lodges. They were frequently encamped for weeks together within a few rods of our house and came to our house at all hours by day and night for trade or hospitality. They were generally peaceable and respectful, sometimes, however, when intoxicated, they were insolent and ugly. On one occasion two Indians came to our house drunk. My Father was absent and my Mother was alone with the children, there being no men near. The Indians were very insolent, demanding food. This, at the time was very scarce, but my Mother, who was frightened, gave them pork and potatoes but this did not satisfy them. They wanted bread. Of this we were entirely destitute at the time. They became so rude and insolent that my Mother, becoming greatly alarmed was about sending two of my sisters, little girls-one ten and the other twelve, to Dexter at evening twilight for help. But before they started she thought to give them something to eat and accordingly, kneading a cake, placed it in the spider before the fire to bake. The Indians watched this cake intently and as soon as it was nearly baked one of them seized it and wrapping his blanket around it, they both bolted for the door and mounting their ponies with a savage yell of triumph, galloped away. My Mother, relieved of her annoying guests, proceeded, with the aid of the children, to barricade the door and window so strongly that it would have required a Roman battering ram to affect an entrance. After this she made another cake and gave us our supper. Our guests gone, we slept quietly during the night, nor did either of them ever return to our house.
On another occasion an Indian came to our house intoxicated while the men were all away from home, except my brother-a lad about fifteen at that time. He demanded whiskey. When told that we had none, he seemed incredulous and proposed to search the premises. He started to go into the chamber up the ladder by which we ascended. My brother, seizing a two-tined pitchfork which happened to be standing at the door, displayed its glittering prongs in such a threatening manner when Mr. Indian suddenly gave up his search and, concluding we might have told the truth, walked quietly away.
TO BE CONTINUED