This article delves into the early history of Richland Township, focusing on its first settlers amidst the virgin forests of Michigan. It paints a vivid picture of the challenges faced by pioneers like Lemuel and Martin Cone, who navigated a landscape devoid of roads, landmarks, or legal boundaries, to establish the foundations of the community. Through detailed biographies, the narrative explores their contributions to the township’s development, including governance, education, and agriculture, while also touching on personal aspects of their lives and legacies. The account underscores the transformative role these early settlers played in shaping the area’s destiny from wilderness to a structured community.
First Settlers of Richland Township, Michigan
By Lorenz H. Loesel
Before we study the biography of the first settlers, let us visualize to ourselves Richland and its surrounding area as a virgin forest. A trip to remote areas of Upper Michigan may aid in giving us a fair mental picture of what may have confronted the early pioneer in this then wooded forest. In addition, we must realize that there were no roads, no white man’s landmarks, and no legal boundaries; merely forest with its animal life. “There were probably some Indians who roamed along Swan Creek, Tittabawassee River, and small water bodies but these Indians were ready to relinquish this area to the white man.
We are now ready to view the biography of two men who were the first actual settlers. We will meet these men again and again as the history of Richland Township develops in the early 1860s. These men and other early pioneers are the ones who gave rise to our township government, churches, schools, lodges, settlements, and similar institutions within our community.
Quoting from records, we read: “Lemuel Cone is native of Vermont, where he was born in 1800. His father and mother, Lemuel and Dolly Cone, are natives of Scotland and came to America the year before the Revolution, and died in New York State. During the War of 1812, he enlisted at the age of thirteen years and served till the close of that war. He was in the Black Hawk War in 1832 and served till its close. Being wounded there, he carried a ball in his body ever since. After the war, he went to Ohio and was farming there for 15 to 20 years, when he came to Michigan and settled in Monroe County, and then in Shiawassee County, after which he came to Saginaw County and settled in what was then called Saginaw Township, but afterward had the honor of naming it Richland Township. In 1854 he bought 160 acres of land from the government, but did not settle until 1857, when with his brother, Martin Cone, who also took 160 acres, he began the first clearing in that township.
Lemuel Cone was married four times. His first wife was Elizabeth Tyler, a native of Ohio, by whom he had four children, only one of whom is living — Malinda, who married Barnett Putnam, a resident of Shiawassee County. His second marriage was to Sarah Rice. Five children were born of this marriage, but only two are living — William, the oldest, who married Rebecca Cole, and Winfield who resides in the place. Since he has been in the township he has most of the time held some office, one of the positions being that of Highway Commissioner. Mr. Cone has done well by each of his children, giving them a good start in life. During the Mexican War, where he served three years, he was a Lieutenant, and at one time had charge of a company. He was in the battle of Mexico under Generals Scott and Taylor.”
The previous account of Mr. Cone’s biography checks fairly well with other available accounts. There is one item which I feel is not in full accord with some other records. Namely, Mr. Cone is credited for naming our township Richland. Personally, I feel that there is no sufficient proof that Lemuel Cone did give Richland Township its present name. However, we will let the matter rest until we discuss it at the first Township Board Meeting.
Mr. Cone’s house probably stood on the same site where Godfrey Fritz’s house is located. Mr. Fritz related to me that when he settled there he found an old house standing almost on the exact place where his house presently stands. Apparently, this was the highest spot where an early settler would locate a dwelling. Mr. Fritz recalled that the area west of his house was still swamp and much work had to be done before the land could be worked. We must bear in mind that the early settler had to erect his cabin or shack on high ground in order to avoid the high waters in early spring and late fall seasons. Mr. Fritz also noted that there was a dug well which probably had been dug by Mr. Cone. An atlas of Saginaw County of 1877 gives a similar description and location.
Miss Mary Raucholz said that her father, John Raucholz, worked for Mr. Cone. According to Miss Raucholz, Mr. Cone must have been a very successful hunter and trapper. He taught her father the art of molding bullets and tracking game. After Mr. Raucholz had reached the age of fifteen, he would accompany the Cone brothers on their northern hunting trips and serve as cook. We must realize that many of these early pioneers were commercial hunters. As soon as the plank road had been built, much of this game was sold to the hotels in Saginaw. After the railroad had been completed in the 1870s, deer and small game were shipped as far as Detroit and Chicago.
The other early pioneer that settled at this time was Martin Cone who was listed as a general farmer, doctor, and resided in section 22. These two brothers, Martin and Lemuel Cone, were close neighbors and had the first schoolhouse in the immediate neighborhood.
Martin Cone lived where Leonard Pretzer’s farm is located. The actual site of Martin Cone’s house is about thirty rods east of Mr. Pretzer’s farm. Again, as we view this area, you will note that Mr. Cone built his house on the highest ground within that section. Mr. Pretzer stated that there was an old house, dug well, and an L-shaped barn when they bought the place. In fact, Mr. and Mrs. Pretzer lived in the original Cone house for several years. Later they moved this house to its present site and more rooms were added to the structure.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Cone was titled as Dr. Cone. Here we have our first resident physician in the community. One day while I was talking with Mrs. Ferdinand Koeppen, she remarked that people in the community referred to him as Dr. Cone while the German-speaking settlers spoke of him as Herr Doktor.
Both men, Martin and Lemuel Cone, are buried in the Richland Cemetery. Apparently, both men established their homes in 1857 and took an active part in the development of this community. After a rich and colorful life as pioneers, their dates of death were very close: Martin Cone (Died February 24, 1882) and Lemuel Cone (Died February 26, 1882).
- History of Saginaw County, Michigan, 1882.
- Atlas Of Saginaw County, Michigan, F. W. Beers & Co., New York, 1887.