By Don F. Cochrane
For more than a year Charles A. Spaulding has been writing about other people, from the first white men who invaded Hartford Township and subdued the virgin forests to those folk who are enacting the drama of community life in Hartford today.
His license to scribble facts, historical and personal, for present and future generations to read, has been by virtue of his appointment as historian of Hartford Township in connection with the Van Buren County Centennial Celebration in October, 1929.
Under that license he compiled interesting facts about other humans who have left their impression upon Hartford but scribbled nothing about himself. To rectify that omission it becomes necessary for The Day Spring to write about the historian to make Hartford's history, of which he is the author, the more complete.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mr. Spaulding's life history is not unlike that of other Hartford folk about whom he has written, in its essentials. He was born, schooled, married, has worked and played, and after a residence of 63 years in this community, he still commands a fall measure of the confidence and respect of the towns folks.
That paragraph covers a normal, successful life except as to the "when, where and how" the details that are of biographical interest.
The when and where in Mr. Spaulding's life was October 1, 1856, at Grass Lake, Michigan. When he arrived his parents called him Charles A. At a pioneer country school in the woods near Grass Lake, he learned the rudiments of reading, writing and ruling the schoolmaster doing the ruling.
When he was 10 years of age his parents decided to remove to Hartford. Those parents, who brought Hartford's future historian here, were Mr. and Mrs. Augustus N. Spaulding who became successful and highly respected residents of this township. The family settled on the 160 acre farm two miles south of town, now the Jay Johnson place. That was in 1867. A little later the father bought 100 acres across the road, now R.D. McLean's Beechnut Farm. It was this parcel that was destined to become the Hartford historian's home.
Charles A. Spaulding as a boy of 10 began attending the North Bell School southwest of town. Later, when William Havens built the first brick school house in Hartford on the present school site, Mr. Spaulding transferred his studies to the Hartford Union School as the village school was called. He remembers that on his daily trips to this village he brought his gun along and hunted to and from school. The virgin forests and a few slashings extended all the way from the McLean farm to the village limits, with a clearing here and there where a farm house had been built.
Wild turkeys, partridge, black, grey and fox squirrels and rabbits abounded and Mr. Spaulding hunted them mornings and nights as he trudged back and forth to school. A log across the road from the present Maple Hill Cemetery furnished a convenient hiding place for his gun while he was spending a few hours each day with his school books in town.
Another happy date in Mr. Spaulding's life was December 22, 1880, when as the culmination of a youthful romance, he claimed Miss Katherine J. Putney of Hartford as his bride.
It was just 50 years ago this month that he began the erection of a new home in which to receive his bride in December. That home is part of the present Beechnut Farm house. It consisted of an upright, 16 x 24 and a wing. William Havens, who built many of the structures in Hartford, erected it for $447 and furnished all of the materials.
From the beginning it was a hospitable home. One evening, Rev. F. B. Stearns, former pastor of the Hartford Congregational Church, and his
family drove into the Spaulding farm yard and aroused the family from sleep. The house was already full but the minister and his family were entitled to hospitality.
Mr. Spaulding and his hired man, George Furnham, took blankets and went to the barn to sleep. As he lay upon the hay that night, vainly wooing the goddess of sleep, Mr. Spaulding devised the plans for remodeling and enlarging the house. He put the plans into immediate execution, and it became one of the most spacious as well as most hospitable farm homes in Hartford.
That farm house was the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Spaulding from the date of their marriage in 1880 until 1920, when they moved to their present home on South Center Street. During those 40 years on the farm Mr. Spaulding was a successful farmer. He specialized in potatoes, growing from 10 to 30 acres of the spuds each year and he knew his potatoes.
Although always keenly interested in civic affairs and a staunch Republican in politics, Mr. Spaulding has never sought public office. His first office was that of County Commissioner of the poor some 30 years ago. Incidentally, he is again serving in the same capacity, having been appointed a few months ago by the Board of Supervisors to fill a vacancy.
He was nominated as the Republican candidate for Supervisor of Hartford once, but the "free silver" voters were too numerous then and he met his only political defeat. He has served many terms as a member of the local township Board of Review.
After leaving the farm in 1920, Mr. Spaulding was with the State Tax Commission for four years and had much to do with Michigan's revision of assessed values. His work was principally in the counties comprising the lower half of the lower peninsula.
The local historian has long been a member of the Hartford Congregational Church.
Mr. and Mrs. Spaulding have four children, Mrs. Nora Merriman of Schoolcraft, Chester Spaulding, affiliated with the Carpenter Paper Company at Des Moines, Iowa, Miss Marie Spaulding, a teacher in Grand Rapids schools, and Mrs. Josephine Eddy, of Evanston, Illinois.
It is an exceptionally readable and authentic history of Hartford that Mr. Spaulding compiled, and which was published in The Day Spring in 38 weekly installments. His intimate knowledge of Hartford, his acquaintance with the people of the township, his ability as a writer and his devotion to the task made him the logical author of that history.
Scrapbook makers, who'd have their books complete, may append this if they like, to the "History of Hartford" by Charles A. Spaulding.
THE HISTORY OF HARTFORD, MICHIGAN
By Charles A. Spaulding
When the first white settlers began to locate in this section of the county, bands of Potawatomies, Ottawas and a few Chippewas were quite numerous and were roving over the country settling (or rather camping) in different parts in different seasons. In the spring of the year they gathered near the large maple groves to make sugar which they would exchange with the Chi mookie man (white man) for such articles as whiskey, bread and pork. The largest of these sugar orchards was in the southeast part of the town on sections 23 & 24 from the Brown and Dowd neighborhood East to the Sheperd and Johnson's farms. Another was on the north side of the river below Fabius Miles' on Section 12 extending West down the river to the DeLong neighborhood, and several other small groves were in various parts of the town. In the summer season they moved their wigwams to the borders of berry swamps and near good fishing. The largest of these berry swamps was in the south east part of the town on the N.E. quarter of section 35 near Orson Olds. Another was in the N.W. part of town on the W. line and N. of the river. In the fall season they gathered on the lowlands and selected a place for their wigwams in the heavy timber where they were protected from the wind. The game was principally deer, wild turkey and fur bearing animals. The most of the Indians were removed in 1838, however a few remained and some returned and in 1842 were again removed. Remnants of those tribes now live in the N. part of the Township.
About 1829 the lands were first opened for settlement and immigrants from Ohio, Pennsylvania and other Eastern states began to flow in slowly along the St. Joseph River. Several years later settlers began to press back from the river and locate and clear land. At that time the section of country all along the western slope N. of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor was almost a complete wilderness and Hartford was the home only of Indians and wild animals.
About 1835 a noted hunter and trapper by the name of Harvey Saulsbury came first into what is now the township of Hartford and built a cabin of bass wood logs with a roof of bark on the bank of the creek on the S.W. quarter of Section 14. This cabin was the first house in Hartford Township and was occupied by him on the hunting trips in which he ranged the line of swamps from the Dowagiac to the Black River. There were no white settlers for a long distance and this cabin was built as a halfway house between the Northern and Southern points of his range.
His summers were mostly spent at Niles and as the hunting and trapping season came on he started out dressed in deer skin trousers, blouse and slouch hat with his rifle on his shoulder and a load of traps on his back, would make his way to this place and generally remain here till spring, occasionally going to Paw Paw to exchange his furs for articles to sell to the Indians. He continued his hunting and trapping excursions until about 1845.
It is said that two men named Duncan and Sumner in about 1828 before any settlements were in this section, followed up Paw Paw River as far as Watervliet and built a saw mill under the bluff on the south side of the river, using the water of Mill Creek. This was near the mill of the Watervliet Milling Company.
A short time after this three brothers by the name of Stone bought a tract of land in the N.W. part of Hartford township on sections 5 and 8 for the timber. They cleared the land for the logs which were manufactured into lumber at the mill below. This continued for a short time when a flood filled the race way with sand, when they all left and their shanties became an Indian rendezvous. Sumner went to Cass County and was the founder of Sumnerville. The Stone brothers years afterwards sold their lands to Alva DeLong for five shillings per acre receiving their pay in lumber.
The first actual settlers in the township were Ferdino Olds and family consisting of his wife and daughter, Julia, who later married Ansel E. Reynolds. Mr. Olds was a native of Cayuga County, N.Y., migrated to this place in December, 1836, and located land on the middle of the N. half of section 29, where Charles Havens now lives. On coming through to the place the family stopped at the home of Lyman G. Hill (who was the nearest settler and lived in the N.E. part of Keeler Township) while he put up a small log cabin which was completed January 25, 1837, on which day the family moved into it. Here they lived a short time but the family increased so rapidly that a larger house had to be built and a family of ten children was raised.
Ferdino Olds being the first settler was permitted to name the town, which he did, calling in Hartland after his native town in the state of New York, but, learning of another town of the same name in the state, at the suggestion of Mr. Olney, the name was changed to Hartford. Mr. Olds died in October, 1856. His brothers, Hezekiah and John, came soon after. The latter settled on the S.W. quarter of section 29 adjoining Ferdino. Hezekiah was a bachelor and lived with John. Orson settled south of John on the same quarter section and later sold his farm to Sylvester McNitt. Ira and Harry came in later. Ira settled on section 28 on the farm afterward owned by William Day. Ira moved to Keeler Township near the north line. Harry was a carpenter. He lived here a few years and returned to New York. Edwin R. Olds, son of Orson, married Harriet, a daughter of Ferdino Olds, and in 1858 bought the N.E. quarter of section 28 and some time later bought the N.W. quarter of section 27. The house (built of logs and located on the west side of the road) stood about four rods northwest of Jay Johnson's present house. In the spring of 1861 he set out 200 apple trees of many different varieties and in 1867 he set out 800 more, making 26 acres of apple orchard in one block. Probably this was the largest apple orchard in the township at that time. This orchard has always had the best of care, and is owned now by Charles Johnson and is considered one of the best producing orchards in the township. Mr. Olds, his wife and daughter, Nettie, lived on this farm until 1868 when he sold the 160 in section 28 to Augustus N. Spaulding. He retained the 160 section 27 and in the spring of 1868 built a house and horse barn across the road. He then sold 40 acres to Mr. McNitt and 20 acres to a Mr. Carbine who taught the North Bell school during the winter. The next year he sold the remaining 100 acres to A. N. Spaulding who moved the house and barn across the road and the old log house was torn down. This house is now used by Jay Johnson as a tenant house. After selling his farm he removed to Hartford village and built the brick hotel known for a number of years as the Olds House (now the Hartford House). In the year 1878 Mr. Olds engaged in buying stock, grain and wool under the name of Olds, Olney and Co. Mr. Olds retired from the firm in 1884 and later went to Chicago. Henry Hammond was the next settler after Ferdino Olds and located on the S.W. quarter of section 34. He erected a cabin for temporary use in the spring of 1837 where he lived until about the middle of May. He and Mrs. Hammond worked together in building a log house 16 x 22 moving into it as soon as it was completed. In this house January 3, 1838 a daughter was born who was the first white child born in the township. This was Catherine Hammond, afterwards the wife of Hiram E. Stratton.
The first white male child born in the township was Luke Conklin, son of Thomas Conklin, born in 1838. Thomas Conklin was a native of Rutland, Jefferson County, New York, and came to Kalamazoo in 1834, but not liking the country returned to New York. In November, 1836, in
company with his brother James and Mr. Sellick, he came back to Kalamazoo. They had with them a yoke of oxen and a wagon. The first night in the wilderness was passed under many difficulties. They felled a large beech tree and build a fire against it cooked their food. They slept on the ground with the wagon box turned over them. Snow fell during the night to the depth of two feet and continued the next day and the weather getting colder they decided to go to Battle Creek. While at Kalamazoo in the Fall of 1836, Thomas Conklin in behalf of himself, James his brother, Mr. Sellick, Burrell A. Olney and James Spinnings, all school mates and associates, entered about 1000 acres of land, most of this land being on Section 33, Hartford. The most of the members of this company were still in the East, and did not come out until the spring of 1837. March 14, 1837, B.A. Olney, who was 25 years old at that time, and James Spinnings, came from the East and they together with Thomas Conklin erected on Mr. Conklin's land a log cabin 12 x 12 in which they lived together six weeks, chopping and clearing land and doing their own cooking.
The furniture was crude in those days as the only tool of the time was an axe. Marsh hay was gathered to fill an old tick to make a bed. The three of them occupied the same bed with two blankets for covering.
About the first of May the party separated and each commenced for himself. Mr. Spinnings lived with Mr. Olney and died May 2, 1841, this being the first death in the township. After getting some land cleared and some corn and potatoes planted, a log house built, Thomas Conklin went East, married and returned to the new home about the first of October, 1837. Mrs. Conklin was a school teacher in the East and there in this new log house the first children of Hartford Township were gathered together and taught by her. Joseph Ruggles who was the first supervisor of Hartford Township was instrumental in organizing this school. Thomas Conklin died January 28, 1888 and was buried in the West Hartford Cemetery.
General Chadwick, Mr. Conklin and Orrin Sukes were the first school inspectors. The first school house was built of logs and was erected in the S.E. part of the township. There were five pupils and the school was taught by Olive Pool who received the munificent salary of $1.25 per week.
About the first of June Mr. Olney returned to Jefferson County, New York and in the September following brought his wife, who was Miss Elvira Ely, to the farm and for about a year did the work of the farm without a team. In the fall of 1838 he purchased a pair of oxen which were used about ten years in the clearing up and logging incident to all new land in a timber country. Mr. Olney was a man of great physical energy and business ability and always kept pace with the progress of his country. He left the farm in 1865 and formed a partnership with G. M. Fisher and I. N. Swain of Detroit, under the firm name of Swain, Olney and Fisher in the village of Watervliet.
Two years thereafter the firm was succeeded by Swain, Olney and Co. Mr. Fisher retiring and George Parsons and W. M. Baldwin entering the new firm. The forming of this partnership and the building of a large saw mill where the Watervliet Paper Mill now stands, and the large lumbering business entered into by them, made a ready market for a large part of the timber in Hartford Township. Parties having timber to sell cut the logs and drew them to some one of the banking places along Paw Paw River. One of these places was north of the village just south of the road bridge where logs would be banked between the river and the road to the south bend of the river and often when this space was filled there would be many logs banked on the west side of the road at this point.
Some time during the latter part of the winter or before the spring thaw Mr. Olney would meet the different owners of these logs by appointment, at the river bank, measure the logs and mark them. When the river was high enough so the logs could be run with safety, the owners of the logs were notified and the logs were rolled into the river. The log runners, as they were called, followed up with their pike poles, broke the jams and worked the logs that had lodged along the river bank at different places out into the current of the river. It was an interesting sight to watch these men at their work. Sometimes one or two of them could be seen coming down the middle of the river each on a log which was almost entirely under water. At first sight a person not knowing what they were doing would think they were walking on the water. They were usually expert at the work although they did get their feet wet occasionally.
Some years later Mr. Olney engaged in buying grain, wool and produce in Hartford and was associated with his son, Horace, and Edwin R. Olds under the firm name of Olds, Olney and Co. Mr. Olney removed to Chicago and there made large purchases of real estate. A short time prior to his death he again took up his residence at the old farm and quietly passed away August 25, 1888, at the age of 76 years, 3 months and 29 days.
Ely Park, Hartford's beauty spot, is the gift of Horace M. Olney to the village, and is named in honor of his mother, whose maiden name was Ely.
Rufus Sayers of Wayne County, New York, was one of the surveying party who surveyed this section of the country and in 1836 he located the N.W. ¼ of Section 24 and made arrangements with a Mr. Wetherby to clear 20 acres for which he was to receive 80 acres of timber land. Wetherby made a clearing, built a log house and lived there for a time, but soon left it. Sayers returned to New York and in 1843 exchanged the land in Michigan with a neighbor Horace Dowd for land there, placing the value of the land at $5.00 per acre. Mr. Dowd was a native of Massachusetts and had emigrated with his father's family to Wayne County, New York in 1828. In 1833 he went to Connecticut and brought home as his wife Miss Mary Barrows. In 1844 Mr. Dowd brought his family to Hartford.
The southeast quarter of Hartford Township was an almost unbroken forest and Lawrence was the nearest town when Horace and Mary Dowd and their little family arrived in 1844 to claim the northwest quarter of Section 24, and to be numbered among the earliest settlers of Hartford.
Incidentally, 80 acres of the original quarter are now owned and operated by a grandson, Arthur J. Dowd, the parcel having been owned continuously by the Dowd family for 85 years.
In 1842 Mr. and Mrs. Dowd were the owners of a farm in Huron, Wayne County, New York. This they traded to Rufus Sours for the quarter section in Hartford. Sours had worked for the government, surveying here, and bought the quarter for $1.25 an acre. In the trade to the Dowds it was valued at $5.00 an acre.
It cost Horace Dowd the amazing sum of $14 to bring his family, consisting of a wife and three children, and their household goods from Buffalo, New York, to St. Joseph. The trip was made on a two masted sailing vessel, by way of the lakes. The vessel put in at Chicago on July 4, 1844, and that night crossed to St. Joseph to land the Dowds at the port nearest to their destination.
The next day Mr. Dowd found a settler from Keeler in St. Joseph with an ox team. He brought the family to the David Manley home, now the Ralph Hughes place. They were made welcome there as well as at the home of Peter Williamson, who lived a little farther west. They stayed there two weeks, but then moved to a cabin owned by a French trapper on the Lammon farm east of town. This cabin is believed to have been erected in 1828, and said to be the first house in Hartford Township.
By the following February Mr. Dowd had completed a new log house on his own land excepting the doors and windows. They hung blankets at the openings and moved in. Their household goods and farm implements had been brought up the river from St. Joseph on a flat boat.
In this pioneer environment they faced the hardships that befell the early settlers. The nearest railroad at the time was at Marshall, and the nearest town was at Lawrence. There was no road out to the main road, called the St. Joseph Highway and now U.S. 12, until 10 years later.
None of the land was cleared when they arrived, but they soon had a small clearing and by 1850 had planted an orchard of which 14 trees are still bearing.
Mrs. Dowd was an expert weaver, and soon had a loom. She did weaving for the family and for neighbors, and also kept silkworms and sold the raw silk.
The three children in the Dowd family when they arrived in 1844 were Henry, aged 11, Jefferson, 9, and Mary, 6. They spent their lives here. They first attended school in what Hartford now calls the "Pinery".
Later Henry Dowd acquired an adjoining farm. Jefferson had part of the home place, while Mary became the wife of Alfred Brown and lived on the next farm to the west.
The family attended the Baptist Church in Lawrence, and in 1858 helped organize the First Baptist Church in Hartford. It is a coincidence that Horace Dowd, grandfather of Arthur J. Dowd, and Sylvanus Reynolds, grandfather of Mrs. Dowd, were the first deacons of the local church. Jefferson Dowd was the first clerk of the church. The Dowd's also helped organize the first school district No. 4.
The orchard set by Horace Dowd in 1850 was the nucleus of the fruit industry in southeast Hartford. Likewise, it was the forerunner of the present Arthur Dowd fruit farms, one of the fine fruit farms in the township.
The experiences of the Dowd's were not unlike those of other early settlers. They were another of the sturdy families that came into the pioneer wilderness and had a hand in organizing and shaping the destiny of the community.
Smith Johnson was a settler on Section 17 in 1843. He sold out to William Thomas who became a man of some prominence in the community. He is credited with establishing the first mail route from Saint Joseph to Paw Paw. Mr. Thomas was one of the first settlers of Hartford Township and had much to do with the opening of avenues of communication in this section of the state legislature in 1875. Mr. Thomas came to Hartford in 1843 but it was not until 1854 that the mail route was established and he accepted the contract, employing James E. Griffin to drive the route. In 1855 one Dolph carried the mail, and a post office was established at "Hartford Center" with Griffin as the first postmaster. Following the appointment of James Griffin as Hartford's first postmaster, the early postmasters were successively M. F. Palmer, W. A. Engle, Nathan Thomas and J. W. Travis.
Perhaps the only Revolutionary soldier who ever lived in Hartford Township was Francis DeLong who was born in 1760. He and his wife came to the Township of Hartford in 1854 and lived with their children. Mr. DeLong enlisted in the American army of the 13th day of September, 1777. He was taken prisoner by the English forces at Charleston, South Carolina and was held prisoner for five months. He was then taken to the island of Jamaica where he was held for six years when he was transferred to Halifax and detained for one year, then sent to Montreal, and then three months afterwards he and his comrades in captivity were sent to the West Indies to fight the natives, but not being of the requisite stature of an English soldier he was discharged, a stranger in a strange land without money and without friends.
He finally succeed in working his way to northern New York where he married and raised a family of eight children. Three grandsons of the old hero were in the Civil War, Silas, Henry and Nathan DeLong. Freeman Stowe, a great grandson, was also a soldier. Numerous descendants of the old veteran, grandchildren and great grandchildren are residents of the townships of Hartford and Bangor.
He died in 1862 and was laid to rest in the Hartford cemetery in military style in the presence of friends, relatives and a few soldiers who had just been sworn into the U.S. service by C.H. Engle. The scene was an impressive one. 'We are consigning to his grave", says Mr. Engle, "in the presence of the young soldiers one of the last of the Revolutionary heroes who fought for the liberty that was secured to us by such loyals as Francis DeLong".
Alvah DeLong was a settler of the town in 1839. He removed to California where he died. Two of his brothers, Asher and Allen, also became residents of the township.
In the fall of 1837 William Everett and his son, Richard B., settled on Section 26 and about the same time Alexander Newton settled on Section 13.
Ira Allen who was a soldier in the War of 1812 located in Hartford in 1839 having previously been a resident of Lawrence. He died about 1875.
Charles P. Sheldon was also a prominent early citizen of the township and was the first settler on the north side of Paw Paw River. He was several times elected as supervisor and was chosen as representative in the legislature in 1853. Another prominent character, Fabius Miles located three hundred acres on Section 12 in 1844. He also served as a member of the state house of representatives for the session of 1859 1860.
Adonirum J. Dyer came to Hartford in 1850 and engaged in teaching. In 1853, with a small company, he crossed the plains to California with ox teams. They were six months in reaching the Pacific Coast. He was instrumental in building the first store in the village of Hartford, which was afterward remodeled and fitted up for a hotel and was widely known as the Rassett House. The post office block now occupies the same site.
Returning from California in 1855, Mr. Dyer became the manager of Cross and Andrews saw mill, sometimes shipping as much as 150,000 feet of lumber in cribs floated down the Paw Paw River to Saint Joseph, thence across the lake to Chicago. Millions of feet of lumber and logs have been thus floated downstream. Mr. Dyer was a charter member of the First Congregational Church of Hartford and gave liberally when the church was built in 1886.
Joseph Ruggles of Huron County, Ohio, when a young man had been teaching school in Pennsylvania and while there became acquainted with and later married Miss Sylvia Brown. They had seven sons, Fernando, Freeman, Martin, Lewis, Lyman, Eli and Wesley. Mr. Ruggles' son Fernando, came to Michigan in 1838 and in 1839 Mr. Ruggles fitted up two covered wagons, loaded his household goods, etc. in one and the family in the other. Both wagons were drawn by oxen. The roads were muddy ,and it took them two weeks to drive through to their destination which was the E ½ of S.E. ¼ of Section 31, T 3 S, Range 16 W. The township was then without a name but was later called Hartford, in Van Buren County, Michigan.
There were at this time but few settlers in the township, namely
Ferdino Olds, Henry Hammond, Burrell A. Olney and Thomas Conklin. Mr. Ruggles and his two sons, Freeman and Martin, were charter members in the organization of the township and he was the first supervisor of Hartford Township. Schools had so far been supported by the men who sent the children to school. At the end of each term the payroll was made out. The man who sent five children paid, say, fifteen dollars, while the man sending one paid three dollars. One man might be rich and would have no children so would have no payment for school, and yet his property was made valuable and saleable because of schools. Mr. Ruggles advocated that all real estate and other property be taxed because all property was equally benefited by schools. The matter was to be settled by vote in the school district and the strife between neighbors was most bitter. One neighbor went so far as to say that he would like to tie Mr. Ruggles to a tree and leave him there until the woodpeckers picked his eyes out. The vote was taken and the tax carried the day.
Eli Ruggles, son of Joseph Ruggles, tells about the little preacher as follows: "About the year 1849 the teacher told us to tell our parents that there would be preaching in the school house at seven o'clock. Very seldom was such a notice given out and we did not forget. Old and young, big and little were there at the house. A little fellow entered the door, took off his overcoat with a vim, walked briskly behind the desk and gave out a hymn and we tried to sing but we had to giggle he was such a little chap and every move was energy as though there was a small steam power somewhere propelling him to action. He began to preach and as he advanced in argument and earnestness and warmed up with his thoughts and rapid flow of words, he pulled off his coat, laid it on a chair, not stopping a moment in his flow of words. Then as he farther advanced, off came his necktie and collar, and wicked as it was, we had to giggle again. But evening after evening his earnest presenting of gospel truth to us was so convincing that we forgot to notice his being little, and expected to see coat, collar and sometimes vest, laid aside as he talked to us of sin, of righteousness and a judgment to come. Yes, he was little, but he was big enough to hold up Christ before us, and through him, as in a mirror, many of us saw ourselves as God saw us, lost unless redeemed."
Soon there was a Free Will Baptist society formed there. In the spring time the question arose where could the site of baptism be administered? There was no lake near and with Baptists there is but one method of baptism, immersion. Meetings had been held at Hartford and
there were some converts. A temporary dam was built across Pine Creek about one half mile west of Hartford and one Sabbath there gathered on each bank the people from the whole surrounding country. Brother Eastman, our little minister, was too small so Elder George Fellows, a former teacher of my brother Lyman's at Niles, took fifteen of us one at a time into the stream and there in the name of the Father baptized us in that faith, saying, 'Ye are buried with Christ in baptism".
Eli Ruggles also tells of Hartford's first Fourth of July celebrated as follows: "It was agreed that the Fourth of July should be celebrated in our neighborhood. Ground was selected in Thomas Conklin's woods near the road. We all went there, cleared away the brush and built the platform for orator and singers. The farmer men and women, boys and girls, some mated and some mismated, came, some in four horse wagons, some in two-horse wagons, some by foot and across lots, but they came, and the cannon came clear from Paw Paw".
"Philetus Hayden was the orator and he orated as well as it is done even in this modern age. The cannon had announced the rising sun, the coming of the orate, and now saluted the thirteen states. On the stand attuning their voices to "My Country Tis of Thee" and "Hail Columbia" are
three Conklins, two McNitts, five Ruggles and five others. J.B. Adams leads with his clarinet. The orator has got down to earth again from his flights of fancy and bang goes the cannon. A cry is raised, some one is groaning on the ground and it proves to be the gunner, the tallest man in the crowd. George Washington Williams, his thumb is gone and his hand badly mangled." (Mr. Williams figured conspicuously in Fourth of July celebrations in Hartford village during the seventies, always holding a prominent place in the Snolagoster Parade.)
In the year 1840 the legislature enacted that Town 3 south of Range 16 West should be set off and organized into a township by the name of Hartford and that the first official meeting should be held at the house of Smith Johnson on Section 17. At the following presidential election held November 2 and 3, 1840, eighteen voters were polled in the township, twelve Democratic and six Whig. The citizens who exercised their right of franchise on that occasion were Alexander Newton, Cornelius Williams, Peter Williamson, Henry Hammond, Smith Johnson, Burrill A. Olney, Richard B. Everett and Joseph Ruggles, who deposited their ballots on the first day of the election, and Ira Allen, Fernando C. Ruggles, Caleb Johnson, Hezekiah Olds, Martin Allen, Paul Wilcox, Clark Laphem, Thomas Conklin, James Spinnings and Ferdino Olds on the second day.
Following is a list of the name of those who have filled the office of supervisor since the township was formed in 1840: Joseph Ruggles, Burrill Olney, Charles P. Sheldon, Sylvester G. Easton, William Thomas, Roswell Hart, Lyman Bridges, Howland C. Taylor, Thomas J. Johnson, Jesse Thomas, Stephen Dolle, Henry Spaulding, Archibald P. McWilliams, Howard Lobdell, John Ryan, John McAlpine, Jasper H. Thompson, Charles E. Anderson, Stephen Doyle and Moses Cullom, the present incumbent.
The first Protestant sermon preached in the township was by Rev. John Hammon a Baptist traveling missionary, father of the late Henry Hammond and Mrs. Broadhead.
The first wedding occurred at the home of Ferdino Olds on September 22, 1844, when Thomas Kemp of Bangor was married to Mehitabel Cone, a sister of Mrs. Ferdino Olds. At about the same time, James Griffin and Lucy Allen, daughter of Ira Allen, and Edward Ebar and Abagail Mellin were married at the home of Ira Allen. William Thomas and Burrill A. Olney were present and both being justices of the peace, each married a couple and divied the honors and the fees. The bridal parties went to Watervliet on foot where they joined Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Kemp and all held their wedding feast together.
William Anderson came from Warren, Ohio to Lawrence in 1859, bought a saw mill on Brush Creek, operated it for about two years, and a little later in connection with Mr. Henry Stebbins built a grist mill on the river in Lawrence. About two years later he bought Mr. Stebbins out and continued to run it until 1868 when he came to Hartford and bought a saw mill where the old Anderson mill now stands, just north of the village.
There were two sets of upright saws in this mill. Mr. Anderson took one set out and built a grist mill in its place and continued to run the saw mill until 1897 when the property was turned over to his sons, Ed and Julian Anderson. In 1900 the other set of saws was taken out and an electric light plant put in its place. This plant furnished Hartford with its first electric lights and was used until 1910 when the present system was installed.
While in Lawrence during the '60's Mr. Anderson purchased many thousands of feet of white wood logs at $3.00 and $3.50 per thousand, delivered at the saw mill. He sawed these logs and the lumber was hauled to Decatur and sold for $8.00 to $10.00 per thousand. He also purchased many feet of black walnut logs for $4.00 per thousand. These logs were sawed at the mill, the lumber hauled to Decatur and sold for $12.00 per thousand feet.
Some of the older residents who are living in the south part of the county will remember that Decatur was quite a busy town in the '60's. Wheat was the farmer's money crop (or mortgage lifter, as some called it) at that time and the farming country tributary to Decatur produced many thousands of bushels of wheat. A farmer who lived 16 or 18 miles away in Hartford, for instance, and who arrived at Lyman Rawson's elevator in Decatur about 11:00 a.m. would find himself in about the same predicament as the man who waits until December 31 to secure his automobile license. Many times he would find from 15 to 20 loads ahead of hi him waiting to unload. If he had brought his dinner from home he could eat it while he held his place but the team waited for its feed until after he had his load unloaded and he was sure to arrive home long after dark tired, cold and hungry. This was all changed in the year 1870 when the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad was built, for the Hartford farmer could make from two to five trips to market in a day instead of one long weary trip to Decatur. Eight or ten years after this the farmers began setting out peach orchards, apple orchards, cherry orchards, vineyards and all kinds of small fruit, and now we see hundreds of acres of beautiful 'well kept orchards where once the golden grain used to wave. At the present time there are many empty bins in the wheat elevators but most of the elevator men are selling coal and farmers are drawing coal away from the elevators. I am wondering if the young folks of today are aware that as recently as 1880 there was no coal burned in Hartford Township except in the blacksmith's forge. At that time the majority of the farms had wood lots and some of them even yet were clearing some portion of their farms and it was they who furnished the residents of the village with wood with which to cook their meals and heat their homes, and a cord of beech or maple body wood 18 inches in length delivered in Hartford cost the consumer $1.00 for green wood and $1.25 for dry.
In the early forties before the Michigan Central Railroad was built through Decatur and Dowagiac in 1847, the grain was sown between the stumps and harvested with a cradle and threshed by horse power, drawn to Paw Paw River and put on flat boats and floated down the river to St. Joseph. Mr. George DeLong and his brothers, John and William, operated one of these boats at this time.
In 1854 Roswell Hart, a native of Connecticut emigrated to this place having purchased of Courtland Palmer of New York, the N.W. 1/4, of Section 15. A part of this farm is in the Olds addition to Hartford. Mr. Hart was supervisor from 1871 to 1874 inclusive. In 1875 Mr. Hart moved to the southeast quarter of Section 14 where he spent the remainder of his life.
Martin Ruggles (son. of Joseph Ruggles) was a carpenter and bridge builder and was boss man to drive the piling for the grist and saw mills and two bridges at Watervliet and he built these bridges. Later he bought a farm on Section 17 on what is now U.S. 12 across the corner from the school house known as the Thomas School. He taught this school several winters and was then elected county clerk by an overwhelming majority about the time the War of the Rebellion began. He then moved to Paw Paw, served one term of three years and was elected again for another term. Failing in health after he served about one year of his second term he gave up his work as county clerk and returned to his farm. He died at the age of 41 years and was buried in the West Hartford cemetery.
Freeman Ruggles, son of Joseph Ruggles, bought a farm on Section 31 west of his father's farm. He was a carpenter and lived to old bachelorhood before being married. He later bought land on Mill Creek
about two miles southwest of his father's farm and built a saw mill, cleared land, cut roads and kept the saw mill running most of the time. After a few years he tore down the old log house and built a new frame house. About this time he met a good, smart, sensible woman teacher.
They were married at her father's, David Woodman's, just east of Paw Paw. Mr. Ruggles took his bride to his new home where they lived many years till they sold out and moved with the addition to his family of one son and three daughters, to Hartford Center. The son, Eugene Ruggles, attended school in Hartford and was the first graduate of the Hartford High School. He afterward received a medical education and became quite a noted physician in Chicago. He had many friends in Hartford and also in Paw Paw. He died about two years ago and was buried in Maple Hill Cemetery, Hartford.
Patrick Finley came from Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, and settled on the S.E. 1/4 of Section 35, Bangor Township, in November, 1854, where he resided until the spring of 1864 when he moved to the east 1/2 of the N.E. 1/4 of Section 11 in Hartford where he resided until his death in 1887. Both of the above tracts of land are still owned by the sons of Mr. Finley. About 20 acres of the Bangor tract was cleared and under cultivation when he came into possession. The Hartford tract was an unbroken wilderness when purchased in 1869 but was cleared and under cultivation before his death.
Patrick and Mary Doyle located in this township in 1857, coming here from Palmyra, New York, where they lived for several years and where three of their children were born, viz: Thomas A., Mary A., and Edward. They located just North of the Paw Paw River near what was then known as the Andrews Saw Mill (now the Anderson Electric Light Plant), in which Mr. Doyle worked for a year to two. Mr. Doyle then bought the farm known since as the old Doyle Farm on Section 11 east of the mill and moved upon it. At that time there was no laid out road by this place and only about three acres cleared on the 128 acre farm. This clearing was not where the family wished to live, so a log house was erected in the woods several rods west of the clearing. It has been related by Mrs. Doyle that the first night they stayed in the new mansion the wind blew so hard that the family could not sleep for fear that the trees might be blown down upon the house. The next morning Mr. Doyle cut down all the trees that would reach the house if they fell. On this farm in the log house was born another son, Stephen A., who is now a resident of the village of Hartford, he having lived in the township and village all his life. He states that he did not do as Isaac Castleman did wait until five years old before locating here. He says that it was a good enough place for him to take his abode right from the start.
The family pulled together until the spring of 1864 when through some mishap Mr. Doyle lost all he had paid on the farm, having bought it on contract. The Civil War was then on in full force and Mr. Doyle enlisted in the spring of 1864 and was killed in the battle of Dallas, Georgia, on the 27th day of the May following. Mrs. Doyle then bought the farm again on contract and lived in the woods with her four children, the oldest nine years old and the youngest four, without any laid out road for years. Cleared the land and erected buildings thereon as fast as she could get means to do so. A good share of her means were obtained from the sale of logs from the farm that were banked on the Paw Paw River and from the sale of hogs that she fatted on beechnuts The children grew up on the farm and married one by one except the youngest who moved to the villager. The daughter married, went West and died in Boone, Iowa, The mother died in 1910. The sons, Thomas, Edward and Stephen are still living. The family encountered many hardships. Mrs. Doyle has related that the wheat they raised during several of those years was taken by her and the oldest son, Thomas, with an ox team by the trails through the woods to Decatur to be sold. They had to leave about midnight, and if they had good luck and the oxen did not get too leg weary, they would generally get back home about midnight the next night. It was years before a highway was laid out either north or west of the farm out to the main roads and years before any other family located on that road.
In the days before the laying out of the highway mentioned, the family, in order to get to town, had to go on the trails through the woods to the road north, then west via what is now called Stoughton's Corners and then south to the little village. It might be interesting to contrast that mode of living and travel with the present, still all seemed to enjoy themselves more than now.
Eli Ruggles tells about Gilbert Conklin's "pretty cub" as follows: "The table was surrounded by the men who were clearing land. I was helping mother and was sent out to get wood and chips. I heard a man hollering with all his might far away in the woods; the evening was then approaching and what little air was then stirring came from the same direction as the calling. I reported at once and out came the men and listened, yes that man is certainly in great trouble and a long way off. My brothers, Lyman and Martin, and Russ Parker took dog, gun and axe and away they ran. There was a wagon road in that direction to Waterford (now Watervliet). About twenty minutes later the hollering stopped and an hour later the men returned saying that they could not find him that they got near to his calling; then the calling stopped and they called and hunted, but to no avail. The next day from school we got the report and later got this statement from Gilbert Conklin. "I was returning home from Waterford on foot with a bundle of groceries tied in my bandanna (silk handkerchief) when a smallish animal came into the road in front of me, and I said to myself what kind of a chap are you anyway? It's a little cub as sure you're born and a pretty cub, you are too. I believe I will catch you and take you home with me, so I grabbed for him, he ran, took a short circle in the brush and was just crossing the road again when I grabbed him. He squealed and then I heard a rustling in the brush and leaves a few rods ahead and there sprang into the road the mother bear coming with open mouth showing two rows of sharp teeth. Now its a fight or die with me and no club at hand and not a second to lose. I sprang up a sapling climbed with a vengeance, and a bear climbing for a vengeance was tight at my heels. I thought to kick her head but she might grab my foot in her mouth, then I broke off a limb and pounded her head but she only climbed a little closer to me. I yelled a long time but only echo answered. Finally the bear tired of hanging to so small a sapling, climbed down, went two or three rods distant, stood up on her haunches, opened wide her mouth, reached out her fore paws as if to say, "I'd like to hug you". Her eyes shone like balls of fire, for it was then getting dark. She then climbed a maple tree that bent right over the road where the cubs had preceded her. Then I climbed down but dared not go home but took to my heels back to Waterford, every moment I would look back to see if that black brute was on the chase.
Next morning men with guns and dogs returned with me to the scene of battle. There was the much scarred sapling, there were shreds of my red bandanna handkerchief, but where were the groceries? The dogs took the trail and the bear was killed near Coloma. I arrived home with sore legs and very tired."
The sapling was left standing for many years after the adjoining timber was cut down and many persons have gone to view the scarred sapling where the bear treed Gilbert Conklin. Mr. Conklin was one of Hartford’s prosperous farmers and owned a farm on Section 28 adjoining the Edwin Skinner farm on the west. He was the grandfather of Mr. Elmer Conklin and other Conklins too numerous to mention.
During the year 1844 Ralph Taylor and his sons Howland C. and Emery O. and three sisters, native of Rutland, Jefferson County, New York, settled on the S.E. ¼ of Section 4 and Austin Beaman of St. Lawrence County on land adjoining on the west. Mr. Taylor resided in Hartford 28 years and died at the age of 83 years. Emory O. Taylor gives some interesting facts in regard to pioneer life in the northern part of the township in the early forties as follows: “Our first day in Hartford Township we had dinner with Charles P. Sheldon who lived on Section 2. My brother, Howland C. Taylor, had previously purchased the W. ½ of S.E. ¼ of Section 4 and we started out after dinner to find this land (which he had never seen). We followed an Indian trial and found the witness trees between Section 3 and 4 at the S.E. Corner, then by following the section line west eighty rods we found my brother’s land. There were only sixteen families living in the township at that time, and only two living north of the Watervliet road, viz. Charles P. Sheldon and Fabius Miles. We soon had a shanty up and were keeping “batch”. Pork and flour were very scarce and we lived one week mostly on johnny cake and stewed pumpkin. The 10th of December snow fell about eight inches deep and remained about two weeks. We had not more during the winter."
"We hired S.G. Easton to dig us a well. He came from home in the morning, three miles, to our place and commenced digging the well. My brother and I cut a white oak tree the same morning and got out curbing while one man tended the digger and at night the same day Mr. Easton had dug to water, twenty feet, had the well curbed and went home. He came back in the morning and sunk a box which completed the well.
In January we dug a cellar, built a log house 18 x 24, and put on the roof By that time we began to think about making maple sugar and commenced making our sap troughs. We made two or three hundred. The next thing necessary was a kettle in which to boil our sap. I was told one could be purchased in Cassopolis and was directed to go east on the Watervliet road until I came to an Indian trail leading from a settlement of Indians north of C. P. Sheldon's through to Keelerville and from there to Cassopolis. This trail crossed the river near the Miles place and crossed the Watervliet road between Josiah Hill's and the town line, bearing its course south. I found the trail but soon lost it not being accustomed to the woods. I then found the section line north and south between Hartford and Lawrence, and with a good deal of difficulty in traveling around marshes and swamps and hunting up the line again. I finally got through to Keelerville about noon, tired and hungry. (Keelerville at that time, 1836, was located in Section 13 on the old Territorial Road near the east township line, where a village was platted by Wolcott H. Keeler, who built a large house and entertained travelers. The same year a post office was established there where it remained for twenty years, when in 1856 it was removed to the center of the township.
I concluded from the time I had been traveling that I must be within five or six miles of Cassopolis, but found by inquiring that I had over 20 miles yet to travel. I got my dinner and then struck out pretty lively for Cassopolis where I arrived at dark. The next morning I went down to the ashery and found a potash kettle for sale which was cracked and not fit for their use. They offered it to me for $15.00 and I concluded it would answer my purpose so paid them $5.00 and started for home. I had hired one of Mr. Hawks' boys with team to haul it in. Mr. Hawks lived on the Watervliet road a little west of the county line. The second day we returned with our kettle which weighed 900 lbs. The next day after I started for my kettle my brother commenced tapping the bush. This was on the 18th day of February and when we arrived the troughs were running over with sap. We soon had our kettle placed and by March we had made 500 lbs. of sugar.
Some years later Emory C. Taylor moved to Cass County and Howland C. moved to Section 17 on the Hartford Watervliet road where he owned a large farm and was considered one of Hartford's foremost farmers. He was at one time supervisor of Hartford Township. He was married to Miss Emma Goodenough of Arlington, Michigan on June 4, 1857. They were the parents of two children, Eva who married Howard Lobdell and lives on Maple Street, and Bayard, who passed away in 1887 at the age of nineteen years. Mr. and Mrs. Taylor resided on their farm until 1887 when they moved to the village where they spent the remainder of their lives. Mr. Taylor passed away June, 16, 1894 and Mrs. Taylor on June 22, 1910.
Hartford Township had a open well scare eighty years ago similar to the one which happened in Allegan County last year. It happened on the Joseph Ruggles farm in 1848. Stillman F. Breed who was teaching school in the neighborhood at that time tells about it as follows: It was in the month of February one beautiful, clear Sabbath day after the family had returned from church services when Eli Ruggles, a youth of fifteen went to the well with his younger brother and sister, Wesley and Mariah, after a pail of water and lost the bucket. His mother had gone to the nearest neighbors. Eli, with the assistance of his father, who was a large, athletic man but blind, by means of a rope and windlass, was lowered into the well, which was 22 feet deep, to recover the bucket. Reaching the bottom he placed his feet on the opposite sides of the well, when one of the stones dropped into the water then another and another in rapid succession, when Eli called to his father to wind the windlass and himself sprang up the rope with all his might, but when half way out the stones closed in upon him to the depth of three feet above his head. With position erect and both hands in which the rope was clasped, above his head, stones below, above and all around