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Lovers Lane at Portage Creek 1910

 1876 County History 

Michigan Pioneer Reports

A Brief History of the County from the 1876 Meeting

History of Kalamazoo County
by George Torry

The first 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

Prairie 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 Territory."

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.

March 2d, 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.

The township 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.

March 11, 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.

Mach 6th, 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.

March 21st, 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.

March 22, 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.

February 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 Michigan.

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. 


1846 County History Kalamazoo Mall
1876 County History Kalamazoo Theater Views
 1980 Tornado Kalamzoo Views
 Chronology of Township, Village and City Formation Obituaries from the Pioneer Society Reports
Centennial History and Pageant Program Railroads, Interubans, and Transit History
Historical Markers Index Reminiscences of Kalamazoo, 1832 -1833 by Jesse Turner
History Pages Index Schoolcraft History
Indians in Kalamazoo - Early Letters Vicksburg History Site


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