HISTORY OF MONTCALM COUNTY, MICHIGAN
ITS PEOPLE, INDUSTRIES AND INSTITUTIONS
By John W. Dasef, Volume I Illustrated. 1916 B.F. Bowen & Company, Inc.
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
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.
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.
ORIGINAL LAND ENTRIES
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
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,
Section 5--Chauncey Stebbins, Thomas Cornell, James Culver, Levi Harrod, Daniel S. West, H. Davis, Andrew
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.
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.
12-John F. Gilkey, Myron Kendall. William W. St. Clair, W. Gingery, Joseph Rounds, John C.. Blanchard, Bezaleel Lock, J. B.
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,
Section I5~James R. Langdon, Joel Parker, Adam Hosteter, Ira Stewart, Ezra Stewart.
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
Section 20--James R. Langdon, Jonas Ashley, William R. Page.
Section 21--James R. Langdon.
R. Langdon, Jesse Tenney, Solomon Drushell, John C. Blanchard, Frederick Hall, Warren Sherwood, Francis Brown, Peter Burke, B.
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.
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.
Epaphroditus Ransom, William H. Smith, S. L. Sone, Sylvester Bronson, James R. Langdon, Thomas Hubbard, Jr, John C. Blanchard.
SETTLEMENT OF CRYSTAL TOWNSHIP
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
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.
BUSINESSMEN OF CRYSTAL
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.