Early Days In Grand Rapids

By Miss Lucy Ball
Read at the annual meeting, June 27, 1907.

In 1836 my father, John Ball, 1)See biographical sketch, Vol. VII, pp. 496-509, this series. was practicing law in Troy, New York. It was a year when conservative eastern capitalists speculated wildly in western government lands. Some of father’s friends, knowing his love of travel, proposed to him that he take their capital west and buy and sell land on speculation. Father readily accepted the offer.

He left Troy July 31st, 1836, in company with a Mr. William Mann. They crossed New York state by railroad to Utica then by the Erie Canal to Buffalo; from there they went by steamboat to Toledo and Detroit. It took them one week to make the journey. They found corner lots in Detroit too high to promise any advance, so they took the steamboat for Monroe. Father had a letter of introduction from the Hon. Job Pierson, 2)Job Pierson, one of the first board of directors of the Bank of the City of Troy, elected July 10, 1833. a representative of New York state from the Troy District, to the Hon. Austin E. Wing, delegate from the Territory of Michigan, and a resident of Monroe. Monroe at that time claimed to be the business place for all the south part of the state with the best kinds of prospects for growth ; but they decided to go on to Toledo, and also went up the Maumee River to Maumee and Perrysburg, but could not decide to make any purchases. On returning to Monroe, Mr. Mann was taken ill, so, leaving him behind, father determined to investigate government lands that were still to be had in Hillsdale county.

In looking over father’s papers I find a copy of a letter he sent at that time to Mr. Mann. There is no date on it but it was probably written the last part of August, 1836. His first impressions are so original that I will make copious extracts from this paper. There are no entries for the first and second days when he was in Lenawee county.

The memorandum begins thus :

“Third day of Departure: Having fallen in with a Mr. Treat of New York State, going to Jonesville to see a land agent and get land, etc., and finding so poor a chance in Lenawee, I resolved to go to Hillsdale, but on Sunday morning the stage was so full and they went on and left us. But we got onto a load of oats and went as far as Springville, twelve miles, and stopped.

“Fourth Day: First stage full but an extra carried us to Jonesville over hill and by lake, much poor land. My New York companion did not find his agent and was all up a tree.

“Fifth Day : Hired a horse, rode seven miles into T. 6 S. R. 2 W., found a young man that knew the lay of the land, having ranged much. Left my horse, sallied out with him four miles through wood marsh and into a tamarack swamp and there we found the two vacant lots we were in search of, not two inches good land on them.

“Sixth Day : Took horses, went into T. 8 S. R. 2 W., to a Mr. Bird’s, the only settler in the town ; left horses and went into T. 7 S. R. 3 W., and looked at three lots; these some better, though not good, returned, slept in same room with men, women, etc.

“Seventh Day: Started out early, could not find line, so dark, and in half an hour came on to rain hard, came back dripping, laid by till it broke away in P. M., and then went out in wet bush in T. 8 S. R. 2 W., and traveled six or seven miles, saw three lots not worth seeing; came in wet and disheartened.

“Eighth Day: Good weather, went into T. 8 S. R. 3 W., and ranged over land through briars and brambles; came back, took horses and came to young man’s house.

“Ninth Day: Came early into Jonesville, turned shirt, (to those acquainted with father’s immaculateness in personal attire this shows the situation truly desperate), and got your letter, it did me good to learn you were better but found myself quite in the fog to know what next to do, wish ! how much I was with you to see if we could not unravel something. The offices are closed, the land poor and our funds too low for even them.”

The tenth day found Mr. Ball at Jonesville. His discouragement and embarrassment were complete. “Thought of going to the Grand River country, or the Indiana, or the Lord knows where,” but finally, on learning that the offices were closed so there was no buying the lands “they perhaps would not want” and further that specie was only accepted he resolved to return by stage to Monroe, but found that the stage was full. Still by breakfast time an empty wagon came along so he jumped in and came to within four miles of Tecumseh.

“Eleventh Day: Came on to Tecumseh and then was dropped again and found another chance to Monroe, but conceive my surprise and disappointment at finding that you had departed without leaving any word. Yes, they said you did say something but they knew not what. It was cursed provoking I will assure you.

“Twelfth Day: Went with Mr. Bukly (Buckley) 3)This is undoubtedly Gershom Taintor Buckley who was born at Colchester, Conn., March 8, 1780, removed to Williamstown, Mass., when a young man, was in the war of 1812 and was commissioned major of cavalry. In 1836 he moved to Monroe. In 1844 he was appointed register of the United States land office. He died at Monroe on Oct. 16, 1862. Wing’s History of Monroe Co., pp. 311-312. out south on a fine pony to see the country; found it better than I had expected. Is not a lot with a house and thirty acres improved, at $1,000, a good purchase?

“Thirteenth Day: Lounged, etc.

“Fourteenth Day: Lounged and talked at night to Mr. Richard Mann, who came in from Toledo, thought strange not to find you with me.

“Fifteenth Day: Went about the place with Richard Mann.

“Sixteenth Day: Rode out with Mann to see the country, purchased two farms of three hundred and twenty acres.” (This purchase in Monroe proved to be a losing venture.)

The memorandum then gives a description of various pieces of land in T. 7 and 8 S. R. 3 W., being the south part of Hillsdale County. He then adds :

“The above I have seen, yes, and many more that the devil would flee from; no real good ones are left us; besides I have information on which I can rely that the E. ½ of the S. E. ¼, Sec., 7 T. 7 S. R. 2 W., is better than any I have seen, except no water, and if I take it up must pay $2 for they were to sell it to another man. And the N. W. ¼ of Sec. 34, in same township, may not be taken though they say a man has gone after it. It has timber and is well worth taking as any left, they say, and I rely upon it.

“Should the best that I have described be taken, let the whole go to the bugs, for all I care, still I leave the whole to your judgment.”

Mr. Ball arrived in Detroit after this trip the twelfth day of September.

Quite disheartened he returned to Troy. His friends were not at all discouraged and sent him back. A land office had been opened in Ionia for the sale of the lands in the Grand River Valley, and he was told to try his luck there. He returned to Detroit October 1st, bought a horse and started for Kalamazoo by the territorial road. He found company in eastern friends until he reached Kalamazoo, and on the suggestion that they continue with him to Ionia they said that they would not risk their lives and health in any such enterprise, so alone he turned northward, spending the first night at Yankee Springs, where Mr. Lewis had a log cabin. My father in common with all the travelers of that day always paid a glowing eulogy to the hospitality he received at Yankee Lewis’ Tavern. Mrs. Lewis had the best of suppers, and there was the biggest of fires in the fire place to welcome the hungry traveler. The next day he stopped at Mr. Leonard’s on the Thornapple, night brought him at Mr. Daniel Marsac’s at Lowell. Following the Indian trail he reached Ionia the next day. Ionia at that time consisted of a half dozen houses, the land office and a tavern. After studying the maps at the land office he started for Grand Rapids, arriving there Oct. 18th, 1836.

He described Grand Rapids at that time as being inhabited by half French people, who had followed Louis Campau, and half speculators, like himself, and a very lively little place. Mr. Louis Campau’s house situated where the Widdicomb Building now stands, and Richard Godfrey’s 4)Richard Godfrey. Mr. Godfrey’s house was burned and two women burned in it. See sketch of Godfrey, Vol. VI, pp. 331-2, this series; Kent Co. History, p. 821. house, standing on the site of the Aldrich Block, were the most pretentious houses. There were a few small houses on Waterloo, now Market street, and warehouses on the river. The Eagle Tavern was the only hotel; the Bridge Street House was just started. There were also a few houses north of Monroe street, but lots were selling at fifty dollars a foot on Canal and Kent streets, so father thought it no place to speculate in, and immediately started for the woods, locating and purchasing lands in Allegan and Barry counties.

I can not tell all of his adventures in locating land, but one of his trips was in Ottawa county. He and Mr. Anderson started from Ionia, spending the night in Grand Rapids, and before breakfast the next morning went to Grandville. They went to the house of Mr. Charles Oakes, who protested that he could not feed them though he would care for their horses while they went into the woods, but after some urging Mrs. Oakes got them a scanty breakfast. I want to say a word right here of Mrs. Charles Oakes.5)Mrs. Oakes was Julia Beaulieu or Boliou as it was sometimes spelled. Her sister Elizabeth married Mr. Borup. Charles H. Oakes was one of the early prominent traders among the Ojibways, who commenced in opposition to the Astor Fur Co., but was soon bought out and engaged by that company. See Minnesota Historical Collections, Vol. V, pp. 384-5. Mrs. Oakes’ Indian name, as found in the Treaty of Aug. 5, 1826, is Teegaushau. McKenney’s Tour of the Lakes, p. 484. For biographical sketch of both men, see History of St. Paul, Minn., Biography, pp. 38 and 210. Her father was an Indian trader by the name of Boliou of Mackinaw Island. He had married an Indian wife and they had two daughters, who were carefully educated in Mr. W. M. Ferry’s mission. 6)See Ottawas’ Old Settlers, Vol. XXX, p. 573; Vol. IX, p. 238, this series. One daughter married Mr. Charles Oakes of Boston and the other a Danish gentleman by the name of Borup. Mr. Charles Oakes was connected with the Grandville Company that laid out and platted Grandville, being one of the first settlers there. Both families went from there to the Upper Peninsula and afterwards settled in St. Paul,, and became very wealthy and their descendants are still living in that city. This Mrs. Oakes has translated a number of beautiful Indian legends and songs which are to be found in Schoolcraft’s “Algic Researches.”

But to continue the story of this trip:

They were sent on to Rush Creek where a sawmill was being built, and Mr. Boynton 7)There were three Boyntons, Nathan, Jerry and William. Nathan came first in 1836 and started to build a log house but falling ill he returned to Grandville in August and asked his brothers to finish it for him. This they did. See History of Kent Co., pp. 205, 236, 242. kept a boarding house, to get supplies to take into the woods. Mrs. Boynton had no bread for them, and they were forced to wait while she baked them a loaf of unleavened bread, so with this and some raw beef they started to locate some pine lands of which Mr. Anderson had a memorandum.

They started due west on the section line, and after walking all day, did not find their pine lands, so roasting their beef by the fire, they rolled themselves in their blankets and lay down to sleep as best they could, though the howling of the wolves and the tramping of the deer could be heard all around them. The next day, on going a little farther, they came into a dense forest of beautiful pine and spent the day trying to learn its extent. They slept that night without their supper, saving the little they had left for breakfast. They continued their prospecting the next morning but warned by their failing strength they started north thinking to find a road between Grand Haven and Grand ville. They did strike an Indian trail and some Indians, whom they tried to induce to take them up the river in their canoes, but the Indians were going on a hunting expedition and the silver dollars offered were no inducement to them. So they footed it the best they could and night overtook them again before they reached the settlement. The next morning found them near Grandville, and fortunately there was a supply of food, to which, after being out three days on one day’s rations, they did ample justice.

A little later Mr. Ball returned and located 2,500 acres of pine land. These pine lands had oak openings, and there grew the largest oak that was even seen in Michigan. It was seven feet in diameter and had a clean trunk about seventy feet high with a beautiful spreading top. It was cut down and sent east for navy purposes.

The winter of 1836 and ’37 was an open one and was spent by Mr. Ball in camp or on horseback. He explored through the counties of Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon. At one time he went down the Grand River in a sleigh to Grand Haven and there made the acquaintance of Mr. W. M. Ferry, Mr. Luke White and Mr. T. D. Gilbert, lifelong friends. In the spring of ’37 he was poled down the Grand River by Capt. Sibley 8)This was undoubtedly Ebenezer Sproat Sibley who had from 1830 been interested in the roads which were then being built through the forests. In 1830 he was superintendent for construction of the road from Detroit to Chicago and in 1833, the Saginaw road. In 1838 he was delegated to pay the Grand River Indians their annuity and Charles H. Oakes witnessed the pay rolls. Col. Sibley was born in Marietta, Ohio, June 6, 1805. His father was Solomon Sibley and his mother Sarah Sproat. They came to Detroit shortly after this. Ebenezer graduated from West Point, served under Gen. Scott in the Black Hawk war and commanded troops under Brady in the Patriot war. In the Mexican war he served on the staff of Gen. Taylor as assistant quartermaster and was breveted major for his gallantry at the battle of Buena Vista. He was on duty at Port Leavenworth when on account of ill health he resigned and returned to Detroit, 1864. He married twice; his first wife, Harriet L. Hunt, was the daughter of Judge Hunt of Washington, D. C.; the wedding occurred in Detroit, May, 1831, at the home of Gen. Charles Larned and is described by Friend Palmer in “Early Days in Detroit.” His second marriage occurred March 23, 1843, at Savannah, when he married Maria A. Cuyler, daughter of Judge Cuyler of that city. He died Aug. 13, 1884, leaving two sons, Frederick T. and Henry S. Sibley. See Historical Register and Directory of United States Army; Detroit Free Press, Aug. 14, 1884 > Detroit Daily Advertiser, April 11, 1843; Michigan Courier, May 29, 1833; Early Days in Detroit ~by Palmer; Cullum’s Biographical Register of Officers and Graduates of West Point. and his men, and walked up the beach to Muskegon where he found the Indian traders, Mr. Joseph Troutier 9)Joseph Troutier was the second settler on Muskegon. lake. He was born in Mackinac, Aug. 9, 1812, and resided there until coming to Muskegon in 1835. He traded with the Indians and in 1836 assisted in forming the treaty by which the Indians gave up the lands lying north of the Grand river. Memorials of Grand River Valley, pp. 436-7. and Mr. William Lasley. 10)William Lasley was of French origin, born in Pennsylvania. He early went to Mackinac and settled in Muskegon in 1835, trading with the Indians In 1852 he sold his mill and retiring from business died in 1853. He married Louise Constant, “Lisette,” daughter of Pierre Constant and an Indian woman. She lived to be quite aged in Oshkosh, Wis. They had a son, Henry S. Lasley, a prominent merchant of Montague, Muskegon Co. Memorials of Grand River Valley, pp. 437, 525. The former had a clerk, Martin Ryerson, 11)Martyn Ryerson was born near Paterson, N. J., Jan. 6, 1818. In 1834 he came to Michigan, reaching Grand Rapids in September. He was soon in the employ of Richard Godfrey, and in 1836 (May) he went to Muskegon in the employ of Joseph Troutier. In 1841 he went into the milling business. In 1851 he moved to Chicago where he remained the rest of his life. Memorials of Grand River Valley, pp. 437-9. who afterwards became the millionaire lumberman. On returning to Grand Haven, he came back in a log canoe. Paddling up the river in a log canoe is not the most enjoyable way of navigation, and he got off at Mr. Yeomans’, 12)Erastus Yeomans and his family came to Ionia county in the spring of 1833. See sketch, Vol. VI, p. 303, this series. the only settler on the river below Grandville, stopped there over night and footed it the rest of the way.

In the spring of 1837, Mr. Ball took up his residence permanently in Grand Rapids, boarding at the Eagle Tavern, which was then kept by Louis Moran. 13)The Moran family were of French extraction, coming to Detroit soon after Cadillac. The homestead was on Woodbridge St., and was demolished only a few years since. Louis went to Grand Rapids in 1833 to work for Louis Campau. He kept a tavern at Scales Prairie and then moved to Grand Rapids in the Eagle, a log tavern very primitive, the beds being of prairie grass called prairie feathers. In 1837 he met with reverses and cheerfully became a teamster. After his father’s death he acquired considerable property. He married a daughter of Judge May. He was obliged to make many trips to Detroit to change his notes and drafts into specie as President Jackson had decreed that only specie could be exchanged for Government land. He took this trip in as many different ways as was possible, the two principal ones being either by Battle Creek on the territorial road, or by the northern route, as it was called, which from Detroit brought the traveler the first day to Kingston, the next to Mr. Williams’ 14)Alfred L. Williams purchased of the government in August, 1831, and settled upon it soon after. John I. Tinklepaugh was the first settler and farmer who brought his family with him into this country. See Vol. II, p. 479, this series; Histo/y of Shiawassee County, Vol. XXXII, p, 247, this series. on the Shiawassee, the next to Mr. Scotts’ 15)Capt. David Scott, see vol. V, pp. 325-326, this series. on the Looking Glass, these being the only settlers in Shiawassee and Clinton counties. At one time he stopped at Mr. Edward Robinsons’ 16)Edward Robinson was one of seven brothers, one of them, Rix Robinson. He came to Michigan upon the advice of his brother Rix, bringing his family with him, in a party of forty-two persons. See sketch of Rix Robinson, Vol. XI, p. 186, this series. who lived in a log house a mile below Ada. He had a baker’s dozen of children but still welcomed the traveler to his small quarters.

This continued travelling soon made him well known to all the isolated settlers in Michigan. It was also known that in politics he was a Democrat or Jackson man, having first voted for Andrew Jackson in 1824. In the fall of 1837 Governor Mason was up for re-election and Mr. Ball was nominated on the same ticket for State Representative for the unorganized counties of Ottawa, Kent, Ionia and Clinton. I find among father’s papers a curious old dodger gotten out by Mr. Mason’s opponent, Mr. Trowbridge, in which the settlers on government land were warned that they would be arrested if Mason was re-elected; it reads as follows :

SETTLERS
BEWARE !

Conrad Ten Eyck, U. S. Marshal, left Detroit yesterday for the Grand River Country, for the pretended object of electioneering for Stevens T. Mason. It is well known here that his real object is to arrest the Settlers on the Government lands. Be on your guard, he has a large lot of blank capias, and after the election, every Settler will be brought to Detroit.

Daniel Goodwin Esq., U. S. District Attorney, was seen on Saturday several times with Ten Eyck. Some forty or fifty persons have already been arrested by Mr. Titus, one of Ten Eyck’s deputys !

Gov. Mason has no doubt been advised by Ten Eyck of this movement. Settlers, are you willing to be dragged from your homes and brought three hundred miles, at this season? If you are not, Beware – beware of Conrad Ten Eyck, U. S. Marshal, and Silas Titus, his deputy.

Ten Eyck is the same man who has tried to rob the state of $13,000, for the passage of the rail-road across his farm. If Trowbridge is elected he cannot get it. He will dupe you and then arrest you. Mark him well.

Detroit, Oct. 30, 1837.

The only polling place for Ottawa County was Grand Rapids. Seventy men came down the river on a steamboat and marched in line to the polls. Father received 397 votes out of the 505 cast. He was the third representative from the district after the organization of the state government, the first being Maj. Roswell Britton from Grandville, Judge John Almy of Grand Rapids, being the second.

It was in the middle of the summer before Grand Rapids began to feel the effects of the great financial panic of 1837. It was so far away from the center of civilization that it was several months before it felt the depression that was effectiijg the eastern cities. When it came time for Mr. Ball to take up his duties in Detroit he practically had no business to leave behind him for buying and selling of land had ceased. So all he had to do was to put his effects in a saddlebag and mount his horse. He left Grand Rapids December 15th arriving in Detroit the 23d. He put up at the old National Hotel, where the Russell House now stands. (The Pontchartrain in 1911). At first he had a room to himself, but as the hotel grew more crowded he was requested by the landlord to receive a roommate. It proved to be Mr. Barry, afterwards Governor Barry. This incident had a bearing on the growth of Michigan as will be seen later.

The sessions were held in the old Territorial Hall. Mr. S. K. Bingham was made the speaker of the house. The Democratic party was in majority both in the senate and the house. Their first work was a continuation of the revision of the laws started by the previous legislature. This was a period in our state history when there was state ownership of the railroads. 17)It was not until 1846 that Michigan had sold out the last of its railroads to private corporations. Michigan as a Province, Territory and State, Vol. III. The previous legislature had authorized a state loan of five million dollars for internal improvements, and its first use of this money was to purchase the Detroit and St. Joseph Railroad that obtained its charter from the territorial government in 1832. Only thirty thousand dollars had been expended on it.

The legislature then took up the work of appropriating money to the three roads and two canals that were to cross the State. They started the survey for these roads, and much time was consumed by contesting claims of aspiring villages on the different lines. The line to go through the central tier of counties would have been glad to have monopolized the whole. That everything was not smooth may be seen from the following memorial, which I found among Mr. Ball’s papers.

“To the Members of the Senate and House of Representatives
of the State of Michigan :

Gentlemen : As a reply to the many and varied assertions of interested persons, that we are opposed to the Southern Railroad, we distinctly state, that as delegates from Niles and that portion of Berrien County on the Northern Survey, we, and those we represent, will go as far to sustain the integrity of the Southern Railroad, established by the Legislature, as any person or persons can, having at heart the best interests of the State, her well known policy, and the views of her citizens.

Respectfully,

JACOB BEESON18)Jacob Beeson was receiver of the land office of Detroit, 1861-1865, and president of the Board of Trade in 1875. See sketch, Vol. VIII, p. 23, this series.
ERASMUS WINSLOW
JOSEPH N. CHIPMAN” 19)Joseph N. Chipman. See sketch, Vol. XVII, p. 395, this series.

The name of the Detroit & St. Joseph Railroad was changed to the Michigan Central^ and had progressed as far as Ypsilanti. The following is an invitation to the legislators to take a ride to Ypsilanti but on their return there was an accident some two or three miles out of Detroit and they had to foot it in.

“Office of Internal Improvement
Detroit, Feb. 2, 1838.

Sir: The Commissioners of Internal Improvement respectfully invite you to take a seat in the cars, which will leave the Depot at the Campus Martius tomorrow morning, at ten o’clock, for Ypsilanti.

By order of the Board. To Mr. J. Ball. J. BURDICK, President.”

I find still another invitation at this same period, which I will also give:

“Railroad Ball

The managers respectfully solicit the Company of Mr. John Ball and Lady at Mr. J. A. Collier’s Hotel, in Dearborn, on Thursday, 15th March, 1838, at 6 o’clock, P. M.

Managers.

Wm. Ten Eyck
A. B. Gibbs
E. D. Lord
H. S. Levake
A. H. Howard
J. L. Ankrim

Detroit, March 12, 1838.

The Locomotive and Car Governor Mason, will be in readiness, at 5 o’clock, to convey the Company to the House.”

These three railroads projected at that time by the State Legislature afterwards passed into the hands of private corporations and became our Southern Michigan, Michigan Central and Grand Trunk roads. I must not forget to add that thirty thousand dollars was laid aside to improve the navigation of the Grand and Maple rivers.

Mr. Ball was on the committee on education; the laws establishing the schools and University of Michigan had been passed in the first State legislature and there were many petitions for using the educational fund for sectarian colleges and schools, to which he was much opposed. The state library was already begun, and I find among his papers the report of Mr. O. Marsh, 20)Orin Marsh. See Vol. XXXVI, pp. 621-629, this series, letters, sketch and portrait. the librarian, and the list of books that had been purchased by an appropriation of $2,000.

The organizing of townships took up considerable time. The number of townships was quadrupled in Mr. Ball’s district, and Grand Rapids was incorporated as a village. It was this winter that the Canadian Patriot War 21)Patriot war. See paper by Levi Bishop, Vol. XII, p. 414, and by Robert Ross, Vol. XXI, p. 509, this series. occurred that helped to bring emigrants to Michigan. General Scott came to Detroit on business connected with this war on a steamboat during a January thaw. That thaw occasioned a great flood in Grand Rapids, quite as large if not larger than anything it has experienced in these days.

The Legislature did not adjourn until April 7th. Mr. Ball sold his horse and returned in a wagon to Grand Rapids in company with Mrs. O’Flynn, Mrs. Watson and Miss Lucy Genereau, 22)Lucy Genereau (Genereux) was the first wife of John F. Godfrey, son of Gabriel and Betsy May Godfrey. She was one-quarter Indian and educated by Louis Campau and wife. (John Godfrey’s first wife), ladies wellknown in pioneer days. The passage took them six days, but they had such a good social time that the journey did not seem long. On arriving home he found things sadly changed, Grand Rapids was no longer the lively little place he found when he first went there. A blight had fallen on Michigan, its lands and its finances were at a discount, for this was the time of wildcat banking. The People’s Bank of which Mr. Louis Campau became president, had commenced operations, but not having the required specie on hand when the bank commissioner called, this commissioner, Mr. D. V. Bell, after giving them a month’s grace to raise the funds, put it in the hands of a receiver, appointing Mr. Ball. The summer was passed in winding up that business. He made but one trip at that time and that was to Port Sheldon, 23)See Vol. XXVIII, p. 527, this series. a village that was started by Philadelphians and was expected to outrival Grand Rapids. Everyone was leaving Grand Rapids that had money enough to get away. Mr. Ball went east to visit but returned for he was in love with Michigan and thought that there was no more beautiful site in that State than at Grand Rapids.

The United States Congress of 1841 offered to new Western States five hundred thousand acres of land to be used for internal improvements. Michigan gladly accepted this offer in its next session. Mr. Barry was then governor, and knowing Mr. Ball and his experience as a woodsman, he asked him to select some lands in the southwestern part of the State. Mr. Ball had hardly enough business in his law practice at that time to prevent him from accepting the offer, which he gladly did, happy for a chance to get into the woods again. He asked the governor for some advice as to whether he should make these selections near the settlements or down the lake, and whether they should be farming or pine lands. He answered that he would leave it entirely to his judgment. He started out exploring, taking Frederick Hall, 24)Frederick Hall was register of deeds in Ionia county in 1843-4. He died about 1884. See sketch, Vol. Ill, p. 489, this series. of Ionia, with him and James Lyon, son of Judge Lyon of Grand Rapids. On his first trip he explored the eastern part of Ottawa County, north of Grand River. He found most of it first class beech and maple lands. Then he made a trip to the Muskegon river to see the prairies near Croton, but found them only pine plains. He then struck Flat river and explored around where Greenville now is. Luther Lincoln 25)Luther Lincoln and his son, a boy about twelve years old, lived near the junction of the Flat river and Black creek, where he built a mill. He was eccentric and before his death his mind was clouded for several years. His son went to Kent county after his father’s death and was killed by lightning. Montcalm and Ionia Counties, p. 473. and sou were then the only inhabitants of Montcalm county. He also explored as far as the Pere Marquette river, following the Indian trail to Muskegon Lake, where he found one sawmill and a half dozen houses. Swim ming his pony across the head of the lake after a boat, and doing the same at White Lake, where Mr. Charles Mears 26)Charles Mears was born in Massachusetts in 1814 and took up this claim in 1837, engaging in the lumber business with his brothers. In 1850 he left Michigan and in 1875 moved to Chicago. See sketch in History of Chicago by Andreas, Vol. II, p. 692. was the only settler, he struck the lake shore at the Clay Banks, where he found Indian planting grounds. He returned by an inland route, and thought this trip one of the hardest he had ever made.

After giving a good deal of thought to the matter he decided to report sections of land nearest the settlements. This was opposed by some people, they fearing the State would hold the price of these lands so high that it would impede immigration, but Mr. Ball reasoned that the State’s indebtedness was so widely diffused among its inhabitants that enough pressure would be brought to bear upon the legislature to put the lands on the market at a reasonable price. The result showed that his opinion was good. He selected nearly four hundred thousand acres of the five hundred thousand of improvement lands. He made his selections rie^r the settlements and it resulted as he anticipated. The legislature of 1843 passed a law putting the price of these lands at $1.2.”. They were payable in State dues, which at first could be bought at forty cents on the dollar.

The settlers who had previously “squatted” as it was then called, on the lands that had been purchased from the Indians north of the Grand River by the Washington treaty of 1830, and that were surveyed in 1839, had remained with fear and trembling that they might lose their improvements.

Most of them were too poor to purchase their farms at that time and some of them even raised money at 100 per cent to do so. But they now saw their advantage and came to Mr. Ball to select their lands though at first they w r ere afraid he might select them.

Mr. Ball had to receive his pay, too, in State warrants, which was unexpected by him, and on his complaining to Governor Barry he was answered that the law provided only such funds for that purpose, and that he should have noticed the provision of the law before. The governor suggested that he indemnify himself by making some good purchases with what funds he had. These lands were first offered for sale in August, 1843, at the State Land office at Marshall. Mr. Ball was there and bought some lands for some of the settlers who had furnished the means. That was all the sales that took place at that time. No one offered to purchase them on speculation.

Up to this time all the emigration was going past Michigan to Illinois and Wisconsin, but, hearing that there were selected lands in Michigan to be had at a reasonable rate the emigrants stopped and looked at them. Mr. Ball kept a run of all the sales in the land offices and had corrected plats. He was there to meet the emigrants and give them his knowledge in regard to the lands, so most of them, although they came just to look, remained and others followed them.

Mr. Ball was tired of living in the backwoods alone and threw his whole heart and soul into the work of detaining these emigrants. It is the saying among the old settlers that anything he undertook generally succeeded. Anyway the flood of emigrants began to come in. He aided them in every way possible, not only with advice but with money, for but few of these early farmers could boast of five hundred dollars, and many of them had not enough to buy their places. Many times he would make the payments for them and give them time on his fees.

How warmly and kindly he spoke of these first settlers who built their log cabins and cleared the forests, their wives, too, playing their parts as well as the men, and after a few years of privations and hardships they found themselves in possession of farms, houses, cattle and horses. This kindly feeling towards these farmers was fully returned by them. I think it was about this time that he gained the affectionate title, by which he was so well known in southwest Michigan of “Uncle John.” He took as much interest in their prosperity as if they were his own family and they all looked to him for advice and assistance. It was under these circumstances that he gained the reputation, and I think justly, of having done more than any other man of early times to promote the settlement of the Grand Eiver Valley.

Source: Collections and Researches made by the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, vol. XXXVIII. Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers, Lansing, Michigan, 1912.

References   [ + ]

1.See biographical sketch, Vol. VII, pp. 496-509, this series.
2.Job Pierson, one of the first board of directors of the Bank of the City of Troy, elected July 10, 1833.
3.This is undoubtedly Gershom Taintor Buckley who was born at Colchester, Conn., March 8, 1780, removed to Williamstown, Mass., when a young man, was in the war of 1812 and was commissioned major of cavalry. In 1836 he moved to Monroe. In 1844 he was appointed register of the United States land office. He died at Monroe on Oct. 16, 1862. Wing’s History of Monroe Co., pp. 311-312.
4.Richard Godfrey. Mr. Godfrey’s house was burned and two women burned in it. See sketch of Godfrey, Vol. VI, pp. 331-2, this series; Kent Co. History, p. 821.
5.Mrs. Oakes was Julia Beaulieu or Boliou as it was sometimes spelled. Her sister Elizabeth married Mr. Borup. Charles H. Oakes was one of the early prominent traders among the Ojibways, who commenced in opposition to the Astor Fur Co., but was soon bought out and engaged by that company. See Minnesota Historical Collections, Vol. V, pp. 384-5. Mrs. Oakes’ Indian name, as found in the Treaty of Aug. 5, 1826, is Teegaushau. McKenney’s Tour of the Lakes, p. 484. For biographical sketch of both men, see History of St. Paul, Minn., Biography, pp. 38 and 210.
6.See Ottawas’ Old Settlers, Vol. XXX, p. 573; Vol. IX, p. 238, this series.
7.There were three Boyntons, Nathan, Jerry and William. Nathan came first in 1836 and started to build a log house but falling ill he returned to Grandville in August and asked his brothers to finish it for him. This they did. See History of Kent Co., pp. 205, 236, 242.
8.This was undoubtedly Ebenezer Sproat Sibley who had from 1830 been interested in the roads which were then being built through the forests. In 1830 he was superintendent for construction of the road from Detroit to Chicago and in 1833, the Saginaw road. In 1838 he was delegated to pay the Grand River Indians their annuity and Charles H. Oakes witnessed the pay rolls. Col. Sibley was born in Marietta, Ohio, June 6, 1805. His father was Solomon Sibley and his mother Sarah Sproat. They came to Detroit shortly after this. Ebenezer graduated from West Point, served under Gen. Scott in the Black Hawk war and commanded troops under Brady in the Patriot war. In the Mexican war he served on the staff of Gen. Taylor as assistant quartermaster and was breveted major for his gallantry at the battle of Buena Vista. He was on duty at Port Leavenworth when on account of ill health he resigned and returned to Detroit, 1864. He married twice; his first wife, Harriet L. Hunt, was the daughter of Judge Hunt of Washington, D. C.; the wedding occurred in Detroit, May, 1831, at the home of Gen. Charles Larned and is described by Friend Palmer in “Early Days in Detroit.” His second marriage occurred March 23, 1843, at Savannah, when he married Maria A. Cuyler, daughter of Judge Cuyler of that city. He died Aug. 13, 1884, leaving two sons, Frederick T. and Henry S. Sibley. See Historical Register and Directory of United States Army; Detroit Free Press, Aug. 14, 1884 > Detroit Daily Advertiser, April 11, 1843; Michigan Courier, May 29, 1833; Early Days in Detroit ~by Palmer; Cullum’s Biographical Register of Officers and Graduates of West Point.
9.Joseph Troutier was the second settler on Muskegon. lake. He was born in Mackinac, Aug. 9, 1812, and resided there until coming to Muskegon in 1835. He traded with the Indians and in 1836 assisted in forming the treaty by which the Indians gave up the lands lying north of the Grand river. Memorials of Grand River Valley, pp. 436-7.
10.William Lasley was of French origin, born in Pennsylvania. He early went to Mackinac and settled in Muskegon in 1835, trading with the Indians In 1852 he sold his mill and retiring from business died in 1853. He married Louise Constant, “Lisette,” daughter of Pierre Constant and an Indian woman. She lived to be quite aged in Oshkosh, Wis. They had a son, Henry S. Lasley, a prominent merchant of Montague, Muskegon Co. Memorials of Grand River Valley, pp. 437, 525.
11.Martyn Ryerson was born near Paterson, N. J., Jan. 6, 1818. In 1834 he came to Michigan, reaching Grand Rapids in September. He was soon in the employ of Richard Godfrey, and in 1836 (May) he went to Muskegon in the employ of Joseph Troutier. In 1841 he went into the milling business. In 1851 he moved to Chicago where he remained the rest of his life. Memorials of Grand River Valley, pp. 437-9.
12.Erastus Yeomans and his family came to Ionia county in the spring of 1833. See sketch, Vol. VI, p. 303, this series.
13.The Moran family were of French extraction, coming to Detroit soon after Cadillac. The homestead was on Woodbridge St., and was demolished only a few years since. Louis went to Grand Rapids in 1833 to work for Louis Campau. He kept a tavern at Scales Prairie and then moved to Grand Rapids in the Eagle, a log tavern very primitive, the beds being of prairie grass called prairie feathers. In 1837 he met with reverses and cheerfully became a teamster. After his father’s death he acquired considerable property. He married a daughter of Judge May.
14.Alfred L. Williams purchased of the government in August, 1831, and settled upon it soon after. John I. Tinklepaugh was the first settler and farmer who brought his family with him into this country. See Vol. II, p. 479, this series; Histo/y of Shiawassee County, Vol. XXXII, p, 247, this series.
15.Capt. David Scott, see vol. V, pp. 325-326, this series.
16.Edward Robinson was one of seven brothers, one of them, Rix Robinson. He came to Michigan upon the advice of his brother Rix, bringing his family with him, in a party of forty-two persons. See sketch of Rix Robinson, Vol. XI, p. 186, this series.
17.It was not until 1846 that Michigan had sold out the last of its railroads to private corporations. Michigan as a Province, Territory and State, Vol. III.
18.Jacob Beeson was receiver of the land office of Detroit, 1861-1865, and president of the Board of Trade in 1875. See sketch, Vol. VIII, p. 23, this series.
19.Joseph N. Chipman. See sketch, Vol. XVII, p. 395, this series.
20.Orin Marsh. See Vol. XXXVI, pp. 621-629, this series, letters, sketch and portrait.
21.Patriot war. See paper by Levi Bishop, Vol. XII, p. 414, and by Robert Ross, Vol. XXI, p. 509, this series.
22.Lucy Genereau (Genereux) was the first wife of John F. Godfrey, son of Gabriel and Betsy May Godfrey. She was one-quarter Indian and educated by Louis Campau and wife.
23.See Vol. XXVIII, p. 527, this series.
24.Frederick Hall was register of deeds in Ionia county in 1843-4. He died about 1884. See sketch, Vol. Ill, p. 489, this series.
25.Luther Lincoln and his son, a boy about twelve years old, lived near the junction of the Flat river and Black creek, where he built a mill. He was eccentric and before his death his mind was clouded for several years. His son went to Kent county after his father’s death and was killed by lightning. Montcalm and Ionia Counties, p. 473.
26.Charles Mears was born in Massachusetts in 1814 and took up this claim in 1837, engaging in the lumber business with his brothers. In 1850 he left Michigan and in 1875 moved to Chicago. See sketch in History of Chicago by Andreas, Vol. II, p. 692.

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