History of Kalamazoo County
by George Torry
settlement of Kalamazoo county dates back to 1828. In the. fall of that
year, Bazil Harrison with his family of sons and daughters, with a
desirable collection of household goods, arrived on Prairie Ronde and
settled on the timbered marsh by the side of a little lake, which he
called after his name. Harrison was born in Maryland; went when young to
Virginia, then to Pennsylvania, then to Clark county, Ohio, and in his
58th year came to Michigan where he lived till August 30, 1874, dying at
the great age of 103. He was a nephew of Benj. Harrison, one of the
signers of the Declaration of Independence, and cousin of President
Harrison. He was a model pioneer, and lived loved and respected by all. He
was our first county judge. He is the hero of one of Cooper's most
thrilling stories -- the Bee Hunter. With Judge Harrison came his
son-in-law, Henry Whipple, and a man named Davidson; and in the following
winter, Abram J. Shaver, a very eccentric character and Erastus Guelford;
and to the new settlement were added William Duncan, Christopher Bair,
George Brown, Abner Calhoun, John Inslay, and others; so that by the
spring of 1830 there was a circle of settlers about the border of Prairie
Ronde, and at the island in Schoolcraft, numbering some sixty families,
including Dr. Nathan N. Thomas, E. Lakin Brown, Delamore Duncan, Dr. David
E. Brown, Henry and Pelick Stevens, Abial Fellows, Stephen Hoyt, Rev.
Benj. Taylor, Jas. BAIR, Robert Trakes, E. H. Lothrop, G. V. N. Lothrop,
and others, arrived. A township organization, the first in the. county,
was formed, and on the 4th of April a meeting was held at the house of
Abram Calhoun, at which Edwin H. Lothrop (brother of G. V. N., Lothrop, of
Detroit) was elected supervisor, Hosea B. HUston township clerk, and the
other offices filled. In June, 1829, Titus Bronson came to the site of the
present village of Kalamazoo, and soon built a shanty, preempting a large
share of the plain upon which the village is located, the little hamlet
being named Bronson, after its founder. In 1830, a man named Nathan
Harrison, son of Bazil, settled on the banks of the river near the foot of
Main street. Soon after came Wm. Harris, William Mead, and Elisha Hall.
Supplies were obtained from the French trader whose "post" was on the east
bank of the Kalamazoo river, where is now the site of the Riverside
Cemetery. In 1831, Dr. Jonathan Abbott, David S. Dillie, Elias and John
Mead, Hosea B. Huston, Rodney Seymour, Gen. Justis Burdick, and Cyren
Burdick. On Gull Prairie, in 1830, a colony from Ohio, headed by Col.
Isaac Barnes, was located, from which came in after time some of the most
prominent men in the county, though
Ronde has given its share and more of eminent citizens. This Gull Prairie
colony consisted of Col. Isaac Barnes, Win. Giddins, John Barnes, Seldon
Norton, James Potter, Orville Barnes, Cornelius Northrop, Hazael Hoag,
Orlando Mead, David S. Dillie, Wm. Logan, Wm. Jones, John F. Gilkey,
Mumford Eldred, Jr., Levi S. White, Calvin White, Samuel Brown, Simeon
Mills, Isaac Briggs, Philip Gray, Philip Corey, Samuel Boyles, Win.
Plummer, and A. S. Parker
By an act of the Legislative Council of the Territory, approved October,
29th 1829, the boundaries and name. of Kalamazoo county were fixed and by
an act approved November 4th, 1829, "the counties of Kalamazoo,, Branch,
Barry, and Eaton, and all the country lying north of township four north
of the base line, west of the principal meridian, south of the county of
Michilimackinac and east of the line between ranges twelve and thirteen,
and of Lake Michigan where said range line intersects tile lake, shall be
attached to and compose a part of the county of St. Joseph.''
By another act approved the next day, viz.: November 15th, 1829, "the
counties of Kalamazoo and Barry and all the country north of the same,
which are attached to and compose a part of the county of St. Joseph shall
form a township by tile name of Brady, and the first township meeting
shall be held at the house of Abram J. Shaver in said township." The first
township organization of this region was named Brady, and ante-dates the
subsequent and simultaneous formation of Arcadia and Brady townships
within the county limits.
By an act approved July 30, 1,830, the eight townships constituting the
north half of the count y were organized as one township under the name of
Arcadia, and the eight townships constituting the south half were
similarly organized under the name of Brady.
By all act approved also on the 30th day of July, 1830, 'Kalamazoo county
was organized and to it were attached, for judicial purposes, the counties
of Calhoun, Barry, and Eaton. Bazil Harrison, Titus Bronson, and Stephen
Hoyt were the first judges of its county court, and Wm. Duncan was its
clerk, all having been, commissioned by Governor Cass tile same year. By
the provisions of the act the first term of the county court was held at
the house of Abram J. Shaver located on the west side of Prairie Ronde, on
the "third Monday of October" of the same year, and by a provision of the
act permitting it, its sessions were adjourned to the school house near
John Insley's, in Brady township, also on the west side of Prairie Ronde.
The second term of the court, however, was held at Kalamazoo. In January,
1831, the county seat was located, by commissioners appointed by Governor
Cass at Bronson, and this location was officially confirmed by
proclamation of Stevens T. Mason, Secretary and acting Governor, on the
12th day of May, 1831. The precise location of the court house is thus
described in the report made by the commissioners to Governor Cass.
"A spot was selected on all eminence near the center of the southwest
quarter of section fifteen, town two south, of range eleven west, owned by
Titus Bronson, Esq." "Mr. Bronson has agreed," says the report, "to lay
out a village and place upon the proper records a plan or map thereof,
duly acknowledged with tile following pieces of land properly marked and
set apart in said map or plan for public use, viz.: One square of sixteen
rods for the court house; one square of sixteen rods for a jail; one
square of sixteen rods for an academy; one square of eight rods for common
schools; one square of two acres for a public burial ground and four
squares of eight rods each for the first four religious denominations that
become incorporated in said village agreeable to the statute of the
By an act
approved June 29th, 1832, the township of Richland was set off from
Arcadia and made to consist of the four townships now called Richland,
Ross, Comstock and Charleston, and its first election was held at the
house of Caleb Eldred, who recently died, venerable in character and in
years. On March 7th. 1834, the township of Comstock was set off from
Richland, and made to consist of what is now Comstock and Charleston, and
also of Climax, set off from the township of Brady. Its first election was
held at the house of James Bennett. Comstock's first settlers Wm. Tolland,
Nathaniel Matthews, Ralph Tuttle, Sherman Cummings, George Townsend, Caleb
Eldred, Samuel Percival, Hiram Moore and others in 1830 and Horace H.
Comstock and others in 1831.
1836 the name of the township of Arcadia was changed to Kalamazoo. March
23d, 1836, the township of Pavilion was set off from the original Brady
township, and was made to consist of what is now Pavilion and Portage, and
its first election was held at the house of Moses Austin.
of Pavilion was first settled in 1834 by Caleb Vorce, soon followed by
Chester Johnson and Elijah Smith, and at the same date Prairie Ronde, as
it no remains was also set off from Brady, and its first election was to
be held (for so reads the act) "at the house of Abram J. Shaver." It has
therefore the honor, first of all the townships in the county, of being
thought able to stand alone.
1837, Cooper was set off from old Arcadia, -- now Kalamazoo, -- township,
and was made to consists of what are now Cooper and Alamo. Its first
election was held at the house of Elijah Woodworth. Cooper (named for the
novelist) was first settled in 1834 by dr. D.E. Demming, and in the
following year he was followed by Allen Smith, Jas. Ferguson, Patrick
Bunberry, Mason Matthew, Joseph Skinner, Ephriam Delano, Barney Earl, and
others. All the foregoing townships were organized by acts of the
Territorial Legislature. In 1837 Michigan was made a State; and by an act
passed by the State Legislature and approved December 30, 1837, Climax was
set off from Comstock, and its first election was held at the house of
Daniel B. Eldred.
1838, Alamo was set off from Cooper, and its first election was held at
the house of Seth C. Whitlock. The first in Alamao were Solomo Case, Wm.
Finch, Julius Hackley, the Messrs. Whitlock, Robt. Densmore, Mahlon
Everett, and George Kirtland all in 1835. The first in Brady settled in
1835, and were Lorenzo Stowell, Benjamin Tuttle, Bradley Williams, Elisha
Doan. Portage was set off from Pavilion and its first election was held at
the house of Elijah Root. In 1830 Portage became the home of Herring,
Mead, and Harris, and were followed in 1831 by Jonas Woodard, John E.
Howard, the Cooleys, Caleb Sweetland, the Eastlands, Moses Austin, and his
sons Wm. G. and Benj. F. Charleston was set off from Comstock and held its
first election at the house of Wm. Earl. Charleston was first occupied by
Wm. Earl in 1831, and among those that soon followed were Wm. Harrison,
Lovell and Hiram Moore, Wm. Eldred, Robert Burdick, Robert and Jos.
Whitford And Asa Gunn. Texas was set off from old Brady, and its first
election was held at the house of Albert G. Towers. The township of Texas
was settled about 1834 and 1835 by Wm. Harris, Eli Douglas, the Rix
family, O.C. Hill, A.G. Towers, John J. Howard, James Weed, the McElroys,
Hopes, Wagers, Luces, and others.
1839, Ross township was set off from Richland and its first election was
held at the house of F. D. Pierce. Ross was entered in 1831 by Barnes and
Lake and soon after they were followed Horace H. Peck George Torry, Dr. U.
Upjohn, and others.
1839, Oshtemo was set off from Kalamazoo, and its first election was held
at the house (for so says the act) of "Mr. Lake." In 1829-30 Enoch Harris,
a highly intelligent and respectable colored man, made the first
settlement of Oshtemo. Elias and Anthony Cooley soon following, also John
Haseall, Niel Hinds, Clark Kellogg, Isaac and Wm. Gibbs, and Benjamin
Drake, the. latter being the first settler on Grand Prairie.
16th, 1842, the name of Brady township was changed to Schoolcraft and the
two towns now called Brady and Wakeshma were set off from the former
organization of Brady, or what was left of it, and to them was given the
original township name of Brady, and its election was held at the house of
Robert Jenkinson. Wakeshma, by an act approved March 25th, 1846, was set
off from Brady, and held her first election at the house of Jacob J.
Gardner. Wakeshma was the last to be settled and organized, but it is now
no laggard, having already passed in wealth and population several of its
older sisters. Among its first settlers were Jacob J. Gardner. Benj.
Atwood, and S. Freydenburg.
In 1834 Mr.
Henry Gilbert removed the "Michigan Statesman" from White Pigeon to this
place, and changed its name, to "Kalamazoo Gazette." In 1838 the
"Kalamazoo Whig" was established, and soon gave place to the "Western
Banner" that lived and throve during the campaign of 1840, and soon after
flitted existence. In September, 1844, the "Kalamazoo Telegraph" was
established by H. B. Miller (now Buffalo Miller of Chicago), and in
November of the same year Geo. Torry became a part owner and editor,
remaining connected therewith till 1850. The railroad was finished to this
place early in February, 1846, at which time Kalamazoo contained a
population of nearly 3,000. The college was established here in 1838, -
first as a branch of the State University, and afterward as a college
under Baptist auspices.
The early settlers of the county
were men of intelligence and enterprise, with such leaders as caused
schools and the amenities of older counties to spring up abundantly.
Hosea B. Huston established the first store in Kalamazoo village in
1831, Hon. E. Lakin Brown and Thaddeus Smith being his partners, the
main store of which this was a branch having previously been
established at Schoolcraft. Dr. Abbott was first postmaster and
physician. General Justus Burdick, Lucius Lyon, and Thos. C. Sheldon
early became joint proprietors of Kalamazoo village. They, with Hon. H.
G. Wells, E. L. Brown, and the Smiths of Schoolcraft and Prairie Ronde,
did much to lay broad and deep the foundations of the county in the way
of advancement and civilization. In 1834 the land office was removed to
Kalamazoo, and the village grew rapidly under the influence of the land
speculation. T. W. 'Willard, Theo. P. Sheldon, Lawrence Venderwalker,
Cyrene and Justus Burdick, Hosea B. Huston, the late Gov. Ransom and
Sam. H. Ransom, A. T. Prouty, Horace Starkweather, Alex. Cameron,
Stephen Vickery, Abraham Edwards, the Atlees, Emor Hawley, Frederick
Booher, Cyrus Lovell, Henry Gilbert, H. H. Comstock, John Hascall,
Anthony Cooley, Caleb Sweetland, Caleb Sherman, Rev. Mr. Robe, the
first minister here, Robt. McIntosh, Titus Bronson, Deacon Heydenburk,
John P.Marsh, Rev. Cyrus Woodbury, Cvrene Burdick, Rev. Jeremiah Hull,
L. H. Trask, F. W. Curtenius all the men composing the colony at Gull
Prairie, and settlers in other parts of the county, contributed their
full share to the early opening of the wilderness here and making its
fame known abroad. The Kalamazoo House was opened in 1832. Several
stores were soon after established. Mechanics of various sorts located
here and found plenty to do; the soil yielded abundantly, and
prosperity shone upon the colony till after the land speculation in
1835, 36, and 37, and here was one of its liveliest centers. Courts
were established. Such lawyers as Gov. Ransom, Chas. E. Stuart, Joseph
Miller; Jr., Cyrus Lovell, N. A. Balch, and others found work and fees
in the wide circuit of that date, embracing nearly all of western
The growth of Kalamazoo county has not been rapid, but it has. been steady
and healthful. The population is now 32,284, and its people are as
thriving and prosperous as in any county in the State. The land is very
fertile, the timber is abundant, the character of the buildings and the
improvement of the farms is first class, and the model farmers of Michigan
live here. There are three large villages, Kalamazoo, Schoolcraft, and
Galesburg, and several smaller ones like Augusta, Yorkville, Gull Corners,
Ashland, Climax, etc. Kalamazoo village has now a population of 13,000,
and is steadily increasing. Verily the pioneers in looking back over the
40 years they have spent in this land may well feel proud of their
efforts, their labors, and their influence, in beholding the high state of
civilization, the excellent condition of society, and the material wealth
and prosperity which Kalamazoo county now possesses.