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Crystal Township
Montcalm County, Michigan

Crystal Photographs

Pioneer Life of Chauncey Case



By John W. Dasef, Volume I Illustrated. 1916 B.F. Bowen & Company, Inc. Indianapolis, Indiana.




At the regular session of the board of supervisors, held on March 4, 1856, a petition was presented signed by the following persons: Edward Robinson, George Robinson, William Case, Chauncey Case, John L. Smith, John Vaughan, A: A. Proctor, J. F. Proctor, Enos Drake, George Fox, John White, Judge Stilson, Artenms Taylor, Henry Parker, Eli Davis, Ira Stuart, G. Watt, Barney McGlotay, Charles Howard, D. A. Cornell, John Linkey and James Beck.

This petition was dated on January 15, 1856, and stated that the persons whose names appeared as given above were freeholders of the township of Bloomer and that they desired to have town l0 north, range 5 west, detached from the township of Bloomer and organized into a separate township. They further prayed that the name of this township be fixed by the board of supervisors as Crystal Lake. The petitioners also asked that the house of Eli Davis be appointed as the place for holding the first town meeting; and the judges be Eli Davis, John L. Smith and Henry Parker, The notice for this petition was printed in the Montcalm Reflector, which was a weekly newspaper published at Greenville and at that time edited by Milo Blair. The notice of this petition stated that the petitioners asked that the township be given the name of Crystal Lake, but on examining the original petition it is found that they asked that the name of Crystal be applied.

Crystal lies on the eastern side of the county and is bounded on the north by Ferris township, on the east by Gratiot county, on the south by Bloomer township and on the west by Evergreen.

This township was originally covered by forests of beech and maple timber, and after these were cleared of their trees the fertility of the soil was discovered and that fertile belt which lies in the east part of Bushnell township, and comprises the greater part of Bloomer, extends also into Crystal, reaching to and bounded generally by Fish creek, although the timber to the northland east of this creek was of a mixed variety. This tract, which lies in the basin of Fish creek, as was mentioned above, is the most productive and best-tilled part of the township, and comprises the more wealthy portion of its inhabitants. The township, on the whole, has a great number of good farms and the farming is done on an extensive scale and compares very favorably with any other township in the county.

Fish creek, the largest stream, enters from Evergreen, flows in general in a southerly direction, and enters Bloomer from section 35. It receives a number of small tributaries, the most important of which is the outlet of Mud and Crystal lakes, which are properly a part of a small system extending southeast to Evergreen township. There is a great contrast between these two lakes, as their names indicate. The waters of the one are turbid and filled with floating particles from the muck and decaying mould beneath. Its shores, low and level, are lined for the greater part with sedge and rushes. It is indeed a mud lake. Its name, however, is not more appropriate than that of its fair sister, originally known as Silver lake. But even in an early day, owing to one of those mysterious changes which can be accounted for only by the general consent of all parties, it received the name by which it is now known--namely, Crystal lake. Its waters are clear and beautiful. Its shores, usually firm, in some places rise to elevations of considerable height, covered with oak and pine. A small island, accessible from the shore next to the village of Crystal, furnishes grounds often resorted to by picnic parties and excursionists. Crystal lake covers about eight hundred acres, and is about one and one-half miles in length.


Following are names of those who purchased from the general government and state of Michigan lands situated in their township, showing also the sections upon which they located their purchases:

Section 1--Aaron W. Roby, John D. Trowbridge, Martin Baer, Robert Brown, Joseph Rounds, Philip Krain, Samuel Burtch, John W. Osterhouse. Section 2--Harvey Westfall, Valentine Williams, Samuel Spencer, Benjamin McCloskey, Hiram C. Buck, Henry Parker, Jacob Houseman.
Section 3--John White, Edward Hogan, James J. Belden, Darius Bogart, Charles Richardson, Jesse Stewart, Emma Ripley.
Section 4--A. L. Soule, George Fox, Elmore Burrows, Henry Burrows, Bartlett Clark, FrancisHawkens.
Section 5--Chauncey Stebbins, Thomas Cornell, James Culver, Levi Harrod, Daniel S. West, H. Davis, Andrew J. Tissue.
Section 6--Mary and George Edick, Patrick Fox, Levi Harrod, Samuel Kemp, George Gideon.
Section 7--James R. Langdon, Patrick M. Fox, Erastus Wilcox.
Section 8---James R. Lungdon, Mathew H. Fox, John Fowler, Henry Kemp.
Section 9~Michael Lane, E. Drake, Eli Davis, Daniel A. Cornell, James J. Belden, Franklin S. Ferris.
Section l0--James R. Langdon, W. S. Coon, Daniel A. Cornell, James J. Belden, Franklin S. Ferris.
Section11--Eli Drushell, John C. Blanchard.
Section 12-John F. Gilkey, Myron Kendall. William W. St. Clair, W. Gingery, Joseph Rounds, John C.. Blanchard, Bezaleel Lock, J. B. Taylor, WilliamErey.
Section I3--John F. Gilkey, Myron Kendall, Michael Fry, Oliver Cunningham, Floyd Palmer, Joshua Bogart, John C. Blanchard, Barber Dickinson.
Section I4--Zimmerman Watts, Solomon Drushell, Peter Snyder, Francis H. Brown, RichardSinkey.
Section I5~James R. Langdon, Joel Parker, Adam Hosteter, Ira Stewart, Ezra Stewart.
Section 16---Augusta Bean, Alfred A. Proctor, Joseph F. Proctor, Benjamin F. Proctor, Augusta Proctor, Anson Sherwood, Richard L. Robinson,Henry Morgan, Aaron Brown, Henry F. Brown, John F. Steffey, Samuel Burtch, H. H.Steffey.
Section 17--James R. Langdon, John N. Fowler, Peter B. Stiven, Jud Hall.
Section I8 --James R. Langdon, Daniel Hatter, Stephen F. Page, May J. Hill, John N. Fowler, Asa Ward.
Section 19--James R. Langdon, Frederick Hall, John N. Fowler, Daniel Hill, Asa Ward, Hiram Bowen, Thomas S. Pew.
Section 20--James R. Langdon, Jonas Ashley, William R. Page.
Section 21--James R. Langdon.
Section 22--James R. Langdon, Jesse Tenney, Solomon Drushell, John C. Blanchard, Frederick Hall, Warren Sherwood, Francis Brown, Peter Burke, B. F. Fuller.
Section 23--John M. Gordon, Sally M. Cornell, Simon D. Defuy, Martin Eckart, Joseph Kneer, John A. Stout, V. E. Casper, V. B. Luce, Emma A. Ripley.
Section 24--John M. Gordon, F. Smith, Zadock Heath, John McIlwain, David Tryon, J. B. Taylor, WilliamErey.
Section 25--S. L. Stone, Sylvester Bronson, F. Smith, David Alverson, G. Wilmarth, John C, Blanchard.
Section. 26--John M. Gordon, James L. Shinabarger, Jesse Tenny,
Section 27--James R. Langdon, John M. Cordon, Harvey Westfall, Isaac Morse, William Hatfield, Jacob Huffman.
Section 28--Don C. Hawley, David B. Webster, Sally Fish, Lucius B. Irish, Harvey Westfall, F. Hail, James Kennedy
Section 29--James R. Langdon, Harvey Westfall, Fred Hall, Stephen Page, Jonas Ashley, William S. Goff, Harvey W. Rice.
Section 3o---Harvey W. Rice, Alonzo Rice, William Goff, W. R. Page, Warren Brown, William Case, John Vanghn, John L. Smith. Chauncey Case, John N. Fowler, David Hill.
Section 3I--Abel C. Ross, T. R. Butler,-Thomas Coulson, John Bancroft, Parmenio Long, Edward Murray, John N. Fowler, George Bogart, John Bancroft.
Section 32--James Forman, Edward and George Robinson, Joseph Green, Abel Ross, Jonas Ashley.
Section 33--James L. Glenn, Daniel Falk. Henry Gettman, Dennis Wolverton, Thomas H. Arnold, Jonas Ashley, Richard Sinkey, David Hoffman, HannahSlanker.
Section 34--Clifford. S. Phillips, M. W. Alvord, Jesse M, Beck, William Hatfield, Philander Wood, John Sinkey, Thomas S.Pew.
Section 35--W. H. Smith, Sylvester Bronson, Langdon Bentley, James L. Shinabarger, D.Alverson.
Section 36--- Epaphroditus Ransom, William H. Smith, S. L. Sone, Sylvester Bronson, James R. Langdon, Thomas Hubbard, Jr, John C. Blanchard.


In the month of June, 1852, John Smith and his brother, Humphrey, came to Montcalm county in the employment of A. Rust & Company, who at the time were engaged in the lumber trade in Marine City, and for whom they were looking up pine lands. The brothers traveled through the eastern part of Montcalm county, and coming to the shore of Crystal lake, were delighted with the beautiful sheet of water, and camped and remained here from Saturday until the following Monday.

This journey led John W. Smith to return and take up his permanent abode in the township the following year. His life previous to this time had been somewhat checkered. He was born in Onondaga county,. New York. whence be came to Michigan in 1840. He stopped in the town of Superior, Lenawee county five years, and then moved to Grand Rapids. The first time he visited Jackson it consisted of but one house. Grand Rapids had one frame house completed and two in the course of construction on the east side of the river, and on the opposite side the Indians, who were afterwards removed under their missionary to Prairieville, in Barry county, had a little village, built for them by the government. Mr. Smith remained but two years in Grand Rapids, and then moved to Easton, Ionia county, where he subsequently married the widow of George Case, who had settled there in 1834. Mr. George Case had already begun to lay out a village on his land bordering Grand river, when in endeavoring to ford the river to go to Grand Rapids, he was drowned. Mr. Smith remained in Easton until he came to Crystal, as before stated, in 1853. He built a log house on the west half of the northwest quarter of section 28. This was the first house in the township. About the same time George and Edwin Robinson, brothers, came in and built a cabin on the southwest quarter of section 32. It is asserted that these young men, not being accustomed to the howling of wolves and the other accompaniments of frontier life, made neither door nor window in their cabin, but covered the roof partly with shakes, leaving an opening in one end which served as both, and through which they passed by means of a ladder.

During the spring of 1853 John W. Smith cleared up about an acre of land and planted it to potatoes and other small crops. All but the potatoes were a failure, these yielding one hundred bushels, which, considering the ground planted and their importance the following winter, was a valuable crop. On the 27th of September his wife and her three sons came to the township. The sons were young men, and each located eighty acres of land, side by side, on section 29. Mrs. Emaline (Doty) Smith was the first resident white woman in the township of Crystal.

Chauncey Case settled upon the east half of the northwest quarter, and on adjoining farms west his brothers, William and James, settled. This first land was entered in exchange for the farm settled by George Case, in Ionia county.

Late in the fall of 1853 the family of John Bancroft and a man named Colton came to the township. They entered three forty-acre lots on section 31. Colton remained but a short time, and then returned with his family to Jackson county. John Bancroft remained until his death. Robert Bancroft, who was born in January, 1855, was the first white male child born in the township. The same day a daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. Judge Stillson, which was the first girl born in the township.

Judge Stillson and James Beck had reached the township in the early spring of 1854. Stillson settled on the east half of the southeast quarter of section 23, but he subsequently returned with his family to Jackson county. James Beck entered the southeast quarter of section 34, by means of a land warrant received by his father for services in the Mexican War. He divided the land with his sister, who was the wife of WiIllam Swarthout, and who remained in the township but one year, and then returned to Jackson county. Mr. Stillson and Mr. Beck together built a temporary shelter on the latter's farm into which the two families moved until Mr. Stillson's house, which was the second in the township, was completed.

George Fox and his son-in-law, John White, arrived in 1855. The former entered the south half of the southeast quarter of section 4 and the north half of the southeast quarter of the same section. He died in ,the village of Crystal in 1879. John White took up corresponding parts of section 3.

Hiram C. Stewart, a native of New York, but a resident of the southern part of Michigan for a number of years, came to Crystal in the fall of 1855 and completed a log house commenced by Chauncey Case, into which he moved and lived until he could build one for himself. He was the first town clerk of Crystal, and held the office until his death, which occurred in 1859. He purchased a farm on section 28 from a Mrs. Bunnell, of Lyons. Mr. Stewart had a wife and seven children, John Sinkey was one of the first settlers in the south part of the township. H. L. Parker, later a resident of Roscommon county, was among the first to settle in the northeast part.

John Burke, from Wayne county, Michigan, to which place his parents moved in 1826, and where he lived until his twenty-seventh year, came to Crystal in July, 1856, and bought the northeast quarter of section 34, of W. C. Oliver, of Ronald. He was accompanied by his parents, who lived with him until their death. The tract upon which he settled was entirely new and without any improvements, and in order to reach the land he was obliged to make a road from the center of Bloomer, about three miles distant, there being at this time only a trail leading north from this place.

Barber Dickinson was among the early settlers in the northeast part. He was born in New York, whence he came to Eaton county, Michigan, in 1853, and afterwards lived successively in Bushnell and Bloomer, coming to Crystal in 1856. He entered forty acres of government land and continued to reside in the township until his death which occurred in 1869.


In 1854 the people of Crystal made preparations to celebrate the Fourth of July, and at the appointed time assembled with baskets filled more with substantials than with delicacies, and crossed over to the island in Crystal lake in an Indian's skiff. The fame of this lake had already been carried far by hunters and land seekers, and the people of Bloomer not infrequently visited it for pleasure. Upon this occasion two men equipped to fish entered a boat, and upon nearing the island were hailed and invited to share the hospitalities of the occasion, Upon landing, Asa Ward, of Bloomer, one of the men, introduced his companion as Elder William Evarts. The people thought it in keeping with the occasion to dedicate the beautiful island by an oration, and Elder Evarts was prevailed upon to mount a platform of sticks and bark and speak, which he did to the satisfaction of the entire company. Mr. Ward soon after became a resident of Crystal and at the time of his death was treasurer of the township.

The oration of Elder Evarts on the Fourth of July led to the first religious meeting in the township, which was held at the house of John Smith in September following. Mrs. Smith invited Mr. Evarts to come and hold meetings there whenever convenient, but being at the time a resident of Bloomer and engaged in farming, the distance, the almost impassable condition of the roads at certain times, and other duties prevented him making any permanent arrangements at Crystal, although he conducted services there several times subsequently. The next year Peter Burke, a member of the United Brethren church, preached in the same place.

The first frame building in the township was a small barn built by John W. Smith in the fall of 1854. His house was among the first frame structures in the township.

On Christmas eve of 1856 the first wedding in Crystal was celebrated, the contracting parties being Henry L. Parker and Sarah Jane Davis. Justice Smith performed the ceremony. Henry Parker had come to the township in 1853 and devoted much of his time to hunting. His skill with the rifle was proverbial, and by means of it supplied the little settlement with venison. Once, in company with another hunter on the shore of a small lake between Crystal and Evergreen townships, he made an extraordinary shot and killed a loon far out in the water. From this incident the lake known as Loon lake took its name. He pre-empted land in the south part of the township, but sold subsequently and removed to Isabelle county. Eli Davis, father of the bride, settled on section 9 in 1854.

The night of the wedding the ground was covered deep with snow, and the roads being passable, several sled 1oads from Ionia came to the ball which lasted until the wee small hours. The justice and his wife came on a sled made of planks and drawn by a yoke of oxen. Music for the occasion was furnished by A. A. Proctor and his brother, F. J. Proctor, who had previously settled on section 16. The large log house just built by Mr. Davis had not yet been partitioned, and furnished a good room for the ball, which was one long remembered. The Proctor boys opened the first blacksmith Shop in the township.

The first death was that of Eli Davis. He was buried near his house on section 16, but his remains have since been removed. The funeral sermon was preached by Peter Schlappie, of Ferris. At the town meeting of 1857 it was decided to raise twenty-five dollars for the purpose of buying or leasing suitable grounds for burial purposes, these grounds not to exceed four acres in extent; and the town board was authorized to select and pay for the same. The committee selected four cemeteries, but only two were put in use, and at the town meeting held at the house of A. A. Proctor the work of clearing the one on section 18 was given to Asa Ward, and the other, on section 30, was left to William B. Gamble. These were bought and put in order at a cost of fifteen dollars each.

At the time of the settlement of Crystal, Hubbardston was the nearest post office. On July 4, 1857, Alanson Snow, after whom Snow's Corners, in Ronald township, Ionia county, was named, took the contract for carrying the mail from Ionia to a station in Isabella county then known as New Albany, and later called Salt River. He followed this route nearly four years, most of which time he carried the mail himself, but was occasionally relieved by his son, Richard Snow. The trip was made on foot, the impassability of the roads rendering it impossible to use a horse. He left Ionia with the mail Tuesday afternoon and reached Snow's Corners the same night. He took dinner with John W. Smith on Wednesday, and finished the trip to New Albany and returned home by the next Saturday.

The first post office in the township was kept by A. A. Proctor in his house When Mr. Proctor removed it was kept by his brother, Fernando Proctor.


The village of Crystal is situated near the east shore of the lake. The first settlement in this vicinity was made by Enos P. Drake who in the year 1857 built a small dwelling house and saw-mill, the latter on the outlet of Mud lake. Drake built the first mill. The first framed building was the Eagle hotel. The village was laid out by Asa Ward on land owned by Mr. Burtch and Mr. Drake.

Beautifully situated in the northeastern part of Montcalm county in a very picturesque valley is a lake called by the people in that part of Michigan, Crystal lake. As the name implies, the lake is like a crystal, and as the sun shines on its pretty waters it acts more as a mirror. On the southeast shores of this body of water, which is considered small in comparison with some of the lakes of which Michigan boasts, although it covers about I,000 acres, is the village of Crystal, the seat of a thriving, hustling, agricultural section.

Crystal has about 500 inhabitants, possesses practically everything a city of ten times its size has, but it is not incorporated and progresses famously with the administration of its affairs by some real live boosters of which a much larger community might well be proud. Farming and the summer resort is what makes the village, and those who call Crystal their home are ever alert to take advantage of any opportunity which presents itself to further civic interest.

Since Crystal was founded on April 1, 1868, there have been at least a dozen surveys into the village by various steam and electric roads, and each time just when the fond hopes seem about to be realized, negotiations are declared off. The townspeople do not sit down and wait, praying for another survey, but with renewed vigor direct their efforts to make the village a magnet that will eventually attract some promoters to come through there with the necessary railroad to the larger state cities. Just at the present time a survey is being made, possibly the thirteenth, maybe the fifteenth, but the fact remains one is going through now and within a very short time it is believed that the road will be constructed.

To the visitor it seems a wonder that someone has not as yet awakened to the possibilities of developing that rich agricultural district in and around Crystal. True there is a road at Butternut, five and a half miles away, but this makes it more difficult for the farmers and villagers to market their products and secure their shipments. The automobile is meeting the long felt want in some respects as the hotel in Crystal, and it boasts of three, which provide auto bus service to and from Butternut by all trains and to Vestaburg by appointment, so the village is not so isolated as one might suppose. Then, too, prosperity has smiled upon the townspeople and the farmers, so many have automobiles for pleasure and business. Travel is not difficult over the country roads; a liberal supply of gravel has made the highways excellent.

To get to the story of the village proper, Crystal is not incorporated, the citizens enjoying the freedom of their own government, and meeting en masse when the occasion arises for whatever seems the betterment of affairs. For the guest Crystal has three hotels, the Park, on a bluff overlooking the lake, the Lakeside, only a stone's throw from the shore line, and the Shafter House, on Lake street. The latter is open the year around, but the two former close with the resort season some time in September.

Naturally in a place of this class, banking takes a prominent part, the State Bank of Crystal recently occupying its new home on Main street, serves the community well. It began as a private institution under the management of honest and capable officials, and has recently been incorporated a state institution.

The postmaster, J. M. Lascelle (LaSalle?), under recent legislation enacted by Congress, holds his position on a life tenure. No political changes can retire him. Rural free delivery routes supply the rural communities with mail. The necessity of walks a few years ago was the bone of contention among the villagers and at a mass meeting it was decided to construct cement walks, and now Crystal has two miles of cement walks, an excellent showing for a village of half a thousand people.

There are many forms of business enterprises in Crystal, and each offers a complete stock in the particular branch it represents. There are three groceries, one drug store, one jewelry store, two hardware stores, a bazaar, garage, photo studio, confectionery, two blacksmith shops, wagon shop, flour and two feed mills, cheese factory, electric light plant, telephone company, a live weekly paper--the Crystal Mail, published by C. W. La Du, ex-state oil inspector.

Educationally the people of Crystal have not overlooked the welfare of their children. There is a full twelfth grade school, a diploma from which admits to the smaller colleges of the state. Crystal has four churches, the Congregational, Baptist, Methodist and United Brethren. Fraternally, one can find as much of a diversity as in the religious field. There is a Masonic lodge, and a chapter of the Eastern Star, the Farmer's Granges Gleaners, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs andMaccabees.

A booster of the village is Otis A. Sanford, and it was mainly through him that many of the improvements of the village were brought to a successful culmination. Mr. Sanford is too modest to take any credit for the work, and when asked who it was who put through the many improvements, he says the boosters of Crystal. But Mr. Sanford has many friends in the village who are willing, to give him the credit deserved. Mr. Sanford organized the Crystal Telephone Company, with a capital stock of $2,500. It serves nearly two hundred subscribers. Work is now going on to increase this number, and the Crystal boosters who have secured the right to connect with the Valley Home Telephone Company for state service are not going to quit until they have secured the same privileges with the Michigan State Telephone Company.

One great asset which the village has is the self-sustained lighting plant. Crystal has twenty-four-hour electric service. The plant is operated with steam power, is not surpassed in the state, and as far as can be ascertained, in the United States. Where water power is used the case is different, but at Crystal generators are operated with steam. At ten o'clock at night the power is furnished with storage batteries, and they are also used after the plant closes Saturday night and until it opens Monday morning.

Leaving the main street of Crystal and turning on to Lake street it is but a short distance down the side of the hill before one has a glimpse of the lake. It is a pretty body of water, fed from springs which are distributed all around the lake bed. The lake has a sandy bottom, affording delightful bathing. One may wade a great distance before reaching a depth greater than six feet. The lake is comparatively shallow, but there is one place about three-fourths of a mile from the resort where they never have been able to locate bottom. This may be just a myth, but you will have to take it for what it is worth.

On the southeast and northeast shores of the lake are very fine summer cottages, nothing special but very cozy, providing the usual comforts of a sun ruler resort. On the southeast shore many of the cottages are owned by people who occupy their own during the warm months. On the northeast shore is a group of cottages, possibly two hundred, known as Crystal Heights, It is an association and has been incorporated. The Park hotel is situated among the cottages at the end of Lake street near the lake shore. At the end of Lake street, near the lake shore, there are a number of pavilions.. Some are operated by residents of Crystal, while others are leased to parties who have made their summer homes in Crystal for the past fifteen to twenty years.


B. F. Smith, proprietor Lakeside Hotel; O. A. Sanford, manager Main Street garage; W. Y. Beard, proprietor Park hotel; Bert Silver, manager Silver Family theater; Edward Nolty, boat livery; R. H. Padcliff, ice cream pavilian; Peterman Brothers, proprietors bathing beach; B. F. Shafter, proprietor Shafter hotel; F. T. Kimball, general merchandise; C. DeYoung, hardware and supplies; Z. D. Rule, dry goods and groceries; J. D. Smith, pure drugs and chemicals; Sturgis & Son. meats and general merchandise; George Holcomb, manager Crystal Cheese Company; William S. George, manager Crystal Telephone Company; R. B. Smith, physician and surgeon; Blackaller & Bennett, opera company; Orcutt & Son, general hardware; E. H. Marcy, furniture and funeral director; W. J. Reed, boats and cottages; Frank Morgan, barber shop; V. C. Canouts, jeweler; E. A. Durkee, Lakeside Park; Oscar Shires, well drilling and repairing; J. M. Lascelle, postmaster, insurance; Bank of Crystal, general banking business; Lee Terwilliger, blacksmithing and repairing; L. H. Gearhart, cement blocks and tile; J. C. Sigsbee, carriage painting and repairing; J. S. Parker, blacksmithing and repairing; C. W. LaDu, editor Crystal Mail; H. S. Preston, photographer; Charles Woodbury, cottages and boats; Carl Benthine, ice and drayage; Thomas Young, proprietor opera house; Louis Steele, variety store.

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