FROM THE ARCHIVES: ‘The village among the pines’
Stanton came into existence in 1860 when, after quite a battle, the county seat was approved to be moved from Greenville to a location at the geographical center of the “old county,” what is now the east 16 townships of Montcalm County. Property was purchased in 1861 from Fred Hall of Ionia for $50, and in appreciation of his generosity, the new town was named Fred. The name was changed to Stanton in 1863 at Hall’s request to honor Edwin Stanton, secretary of war under Abraham Lincoln.
The new county seat was established in a pine forest, four miles from the nearest neighbor. Clearing was begun at once and a courthouse constructed. The first meeting of the board of supervisors in the new building took place on Jan. 7, 1862. There were no other buildings in town at that time.
The board voted to allow county treasurer Levi Camburn to use part of the courthouse for a dwelling so the county offices could be transferred from Greenville. So Camburn’s family became the first to settle in Stanton.
Growth of the community was rapid. Just four years later, in April 1866, some notes about Stanton were published in the Greenville Independent courtesy of a correspondent who signed himself “Boreas.”
“Business is being rapidly pushed forward at the opening of spring. Messrs. Turner & Co. are hard at work on their large mill near the Court House. About 40 new dwellings are already under way this season.
“We hear of a new saw milll about to be started on section four of Day township.
“Messrs. Case & Co. are already at work on their new machine shop. Childs & Smith are driving away at their new hotel, and we confidently expect soon to be a ‘spot’ on the earth.”
Two months later “L.C.” provided this report about Stanton:
“Our village is improving rapidly and presents quite a business appearance. The new saw mill will be ready to use in about a week. Forty new dwellings are under way, and the frame is up for a sash and door factory. St. Johns & Hollinger are building a shingle mill here.”
A few miles south of Stanton, the first dry goods store opened in 1864 in what would become the village of Sheridan. Growth in that community was rapid too. Just two years later the Independent reported, “Sheridan is keeping pace with other places in material growth and prosperity. It now has two hotels, two stores, one steam saw mill, one shingle mill and one blacksmith shop. J.H. Forbes is putting up a new store, and Erastus Brown will construct a new steam saw mill this summer. Several buildings are being built. The pine in the region is of the best quality and is in a great abundance.”
A closer look at Stanton in the mid-1860s is provided by the Independent’s editor, E.F. Grabill, who visited the village in February 1867. He reports:
“For a long time we had cherished a desire to visit our county seat. But business detained us. Last Thursday evening we accompanied a choir of singers under the conduct of Prof. Crowell and arrived in ‘the village among the pines’ about 5 p.m. It is called 17 miles from Greenville to Stanton. If all the convolutions of the road through the woods were added, the distance would be more accurately estimated.
“The village is very young. Four years ago the Court House, the Stanton House, and perhaps one or two dwelling houses comprised our County Seat. Now there are 125 dwelling houses, 75 of which have been put up within a year. The population numbers about 400. Three stores do the bulk of the business in merchandise, while manufacturers are represented by four steam saw mills, two shingle mills, planing machine and a sash and door factory.
“The school house is a fine institution and speaks well for the enterprise and public spirit of the place.
The building, which is the largest and best school house in the county, has had the effect to invite thither not a few immigrants. A church and a school house in a new village speak volumes in commendation of the character of the inhabitants. Stanton has the good school house; we hope soon to hear of the erection of a church. For the present, religious services are held in the school house and court house.
“A large hotel is being finished and will probably be opened the last of this month.
“We would not neglect to commend the example of Stanton in respect to Temperance. Not a drop of spirituous liquors is sold in the village, and as a consequence good order and harmony are characteristics of the place.
“Our party received excellent treatment from the host and hostess of the Stanton House. We shall not soon forget the excellent supper provided for our refreshment after our long ride. The acquaintance we formed with Stanton and its people was of a pleasing nature.”