Saginaw County


Richland : its sons and daughters

In the tapestry of human experience, history serves as both a mirror and a guide, reflecting the complexities of our past while shaping the contours of our future. This book delves into the essence of history, its significance across the broad spectrum of human society, and its particular resonance within the intimate bounds of Richland Township. It chronicles the township’s journey through time, from its early days dominated by the lumbering industry to its present state, enriched by the stories and contributions of its inhabitants. Through the collective effort of community members and historians, this narrative seeks to preserve the legacy of Richland Township for generations to come, highlighting the enduring importance of local history in understanding our place in the world.

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Centennial Museum draws hundreds. Ladies who were in charge of the Centennial Museum. They are (standing left to right) Mrs. Ed Townsend, Mrs. Cameron Glenn and Miss Anna Hase, (sitting left to right) Mrs. Erdman Wardin, Miss Mary Raucholz, and Mrs. Oscar Bauer.

Richland Township Centennial celebration

The Richland Township Centennial celebration, a vibrant and joyous occasion, marked a significant milestone, commemorating a hundred years of community history with an unmatched spirit of camaraderie and pride. The three-day event was filled with memorable activities, from a talent show kickoff to a grand parade attracting thousands, showcasing the unity and collective effort of the community. Amidst the festivities, the event also offered a moment to reflect on the township’s journey from its pioneering days to its present development, highlighting the enduring spirit of its residents. The centennial not only celebrated the past but also set a hopeful tone for the future, leaving a lasting impression on all who participated.

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An old familiar scene, the R. J. Kade's Meat Market. Ye old-timers, do you recall the sawdust covered floor?

Turn of the Century in Richland Township

This article delves into the transformative first decade of the 20th century in Hemlock, emphasizing the significant changes that reshaped the town’s economy and daily life. With the expansion of railroads and the decline of lumbering, farming emerged as the community’s economic backbone, supported by improved transportation and a burgeoning variety of goods. The narrative highlights the hardworking yet nearly self-sufficient lifestyle of the average farmer, contrasted with the modernization of farming practices over time. Additionally, it reminisces about the era’s simple pleasures, like the anticipation of the merchandise peddler’s visits, and the advent of electricity, showcasing the community’s adaptation to new technologies and the pioneering spirit that fueled Hemlock’s growth and prosperity.

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1906 Fire of Hemlock Michigan

This article recounts the fervor and anticipation surrounding the Fourth of July celebrations in 1906 in Hemlock, where the community eagerly prepared for a day of festivity, marked by parades and decorations. However, the excitement was abruptly overshadowed by a devastating fire in the early hours of July 4th, causing significant damage to the business section of the village and resulting in losses estimated at $15,000. The fire, which started under mysterious circumstances, highlighted the vulnerability of a town without adequate fire protection, relying instead on a volunteer bucket brigade and fortuitous assistance from passing train workers. The incident not only led to the destruction of key community landmarks but also underscored the need for better emergency preparedness.

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Stagecoach Mail

Stage Coach Mail in Early Richland Township

This article traces the evolution of the postal system in Richland Township, highlighting its significance in the lives of early settlers. From the initial lack of communication channels, the establishment of a post office in Hemlock City in 1869 marked a pivotal development, facilitating the exchange of letters and news with distant friends and relatives. The narrative details the progression from stagecoach mail delivery to the integration of mail service with local businesses, and eventually, the introduction of Rural Free Delivery and Parcel Post services. Through the appointment of various postmasters, including the first, Jacob King, and notable figures like William McBratnie, the article underscores the postal service’s role in connecting the community to broader national and international networks, thereby contributing to the township’s growth and integration into the material progress of the nation.

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Philo and Arminda Thomas

Biography of Philo Thomas

This Biography of Philo Thomas, introduces one of the earliest settlers in Richland Township, whose life story is pieced together through external sources rather than direct biographical records. Making his first settlement in 1850 and a subsequent one in 1865, Thomas’s pioneering efforts laid the foundation for future developments in the area. Not only a general farmer, Thomas also owned a blacksmith shop, contributing significantly to the early infrastructure and daily life of his town. His legacy includes a family lineage that continued to impact the community through subsequent generations, with descendants running local businesses. This narrative explores the adventurous life of Philo Thomas, underscoring his role in shaping the community’s history.

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Early Settlers

Biography of Civilian Phelps

This biography of Civilian Phelps chronicles the life of Civilian Phelps, an early settler in Richland Township, who made significant contributions to his community despite facing personal tragedies. Born in New York in 1834, Phelps’s early life was spent farming and teaching before serving in the Civil War. Post-war, he married and moved to Michigan in 1873, where his family endured the smallpox epidemic, resulting in the loss of a child and their home. Despite these hardships, Phelps rebuilt his life, cultivating a successful farm and serving as Superintendent of Schools and Justice of the Peace, exemplifying resilience and dedication to community and country.

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Biography of William McBratnie

This concise biography of William McBratnie highlights his significant contributions to Richland Township’s early development. Born in Scotland in 1834 and emigrating to America in 1851, McBratnie became a pivotal figure in the community, notably as Richland’s first supervisor. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to open a general store in Hemlock City in 1874, which also housed the post office, enhancing the convenience for residents. McBratnie’s civic involvement extended to serving as Postmaster, treasurer, supervisor, clerk, Notary Public, Justice of the Peace, and School Director. His marriage to Armanda Cone, a local schoolteacher, and their adoption of two children, further rooted him in the community’s fabric. Through his business acumen and public service, McBratnie played a critical role in shaping the township’s destiny.

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Churning butter

Biography of Fred Fiting

This article is a brief biography of Fred Fiting, a Prussian wagon-maker who, along with his family, emigrated to America in 1856, eventually settling in Saginaw County, Michigan. Despite initial financial hardships, the Fitings persevered, contributing significantly to the early development of Richland Township through farming and running a ferry. Fred Fiting’s life story is a testament to the resilience and pioneering spirit of early settlers, showcasing their ability to overcome adversity, adapt to a new land, and lay the foundations for future generations. Through the Fiting family’s narrative, we gain insights into the early settler experience, highlighting the challenges, sacrifices, and achievements that shaped the community.

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