FROM THE ARCHIVES: Panhandle region: Prospering and flourishing
The series of articles taking a look at the Montcalm County of more than 140 years ago wraps up today with the four townships making up the “Panhandle” region of Montcalm County.
First to be established was Pierson Township in 1857. Greenville Independent correspondent “A.D.R.” reported in early spring 1866 on various activities in the township: “The new saw in Harrington’s Steam Saw Mill is now doing a good business, for the first time since Mr. Willett was caught in it.
“Farmers and others are making preparations for sugar making.
“Lumbering is over here. The snow in the roads has nearly all gone, but there is plenty in the woods.
“Our winter school (District No. 2), taught by Miss Carrie Brown, closed on the 10th. The progress made during the term is honorable to both teacher and pupils.”
A week later, T.S. Peck also commented on the upcoming maple sugar season: “It is estimated upon good authority that there will be seven thousand maple trees tapped in this township this spring. Now, three pounds of sugar to a tree is not an uncommon yield. But allowing that each tree shall yield one pound, we shall produce in this township alone three and a half tons of sugar.”
Later that year the Independent reported: “Pierson is prospering finely. A correspondent says, ‘Our population is steadily increasing. A new school district has been organized. More or less building is going on. Our principal improvement is in clearing land. There will be nearly 150 acres of wheat sowed the coming fall on new land in the southern part of the town. Others are chopping to clear off next year.’”
Peck was heard from again when he reported in 1870: “Pierson is improving. After being absent six weeks, I find, on my return, about as much change as I found in my native town in York State after an absence of fifteen years.
“Mr. Watkins is now putting up a new saw mill at this place. There is lumber on the spot for three new buildings, and other lots have already been sold.”
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Winfield Township was established in 1861. Five years later Independent correspondent A.D.R. reported, “The population of this town has more than doubled in the past year. Improvements in chopping, clearing, building, etc., are being made in every direction.
“For the last few weeks — in fact, all the spring, we have had no rain, while the hot days, cold nights and northerly winds have had the effect to thoroughly dry the earth, hindering the farmers from putting in spring crops, but the heavy rains of the 27th and 28th May had a reviving influence on both man and beast.
“The wheat looks first-rate now. If nothing injures it from this time, we shall have a good crop to harvest. The late severe frosts have done little damage.”
Two years later a report in the Independent noted, “Large farming improvements are being made in the woods. The town of Winfield especially has taken great strides in improvement within three or four years. In several places there are now from 50 to 150 acres well improved where but five or six years since was a dense growth of heavy timber.”
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Maple Valley Township, established in 1864, was reported by the Independent two years later as flourishing: “The township of Maple Valley, although one of the newest, is one of the most flourishing towns in this county. A large business in lumbering is done on the south bank of Tamarack Creek.
“Messrs. E. Trufant & Co., of Montcalm, are building a water saw mill on Section 35 in the town of Maple Valley. Although the locality is some distance from a settlement, the superiority of the fine timber which can be obtained there will bring many buyers of pine lumber thither.”
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Reynolds Township was organized in 1869, being with Richland Township the final two organized in Montcalm County. Less than a year later, this report appeared in the Independent, submitted by a correspondent signing himself “H—.”
“The newly organized township of Reynold, although away out in the cold northwest corner of Montcalm, is by no means an insignificant sister. The five months that have elapsed since her organization have sufficed to greatly increase her population as well as her financial resources.
“Farmers are settling in very fast, and villages are springing up on every hand. The Grand Rapids and Indiana R. R. passing through the eastern part of the town will be the source of great improvement and much prosperity to her inhabitants.
“Reynold City, situated in the east central part of the town, is destined, on account of its many advantages in point of soil, timber, location, etc., and its daily communication with nearly all points of compass, by means of railroad and stages, to be a town of considerable importance. It is now growing rapidly. Reynold, as well as all other points between Cedar Springs and Morley, expects to be intersected by the Ionia and Pentwater R.R. If such should be the case, Reynold must soon rank second to no town in the country.
“Howard Station, situated in the southeastern part of the town, is a point of considerable importance at present, and probably will be for some time as a lumber depot. Mills are being built there which bid fair to do something in the way of manufacturing lumber and shingle. On account of the low grounds surrounding and the close proximity of Rice’s Station on the south and Reynold on the north, Howard will not, in all probability, rival Chicago at a very early day.
“A few years will do a great deal for the township of Reynold. With all her natural and artificial advantages added to the industry and enterprise of her citizens, she is destined to become one of the most wealthy and prosperous townships in Montcalm County.”