Hillsdale Co MI
Reading, MI (Main Street) (1922) - Postcard from Paul Petosky
Previous to the year 1837 the territory lying in Hillsdale County belonging to the fourth range vest, as designated hy the United States survey, was alt included in the town of Allen. The Legislature of 1837 was petitioned by the inhabitants of this tract of country to divide it into three towns, in order that the interests of the inhabitants of each locality might be better served, the transaction of public business be facilitated, and the long journeys to attend the elections, town-meetings, and meetings of the town board—which necessitated in the case of some citizens a journey of 17 or 18 miles—might be rendered unnecessary. In accordance with the request of the petitioners, the towns of Litchfield and Reading were erected. In the petition the Legislature was requested to call the northern town Columbus, aud the southern one either Troy or Utica, but, as these names had already been used by other towns, that body, without consulting again with (he petitioners, passed the special act organizing the towns under the names of Litehfield and Heading, supposed to have been taken from towns of the same names in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
At that time this town comprised all the territory south of township 6 south, lying in the county, which included the whole of township 7, nearly all of township 8, and a portion of township 9, extending to the Ohio and Indiana lines. The entire population of this territory was but 227 souls, leas than an average of three persons to each square mile.
By the act of a subsequent Legislature, that of 1839, the town was again divided by erecting the territory south of township 7 into a separate town, under the name of Camden, leaving the town of Heading as at present constituted, embracing a territory six miles square, designated in the United States survey as township 7 south, range 4 west. Allen adjoins it on the north, Cambria on the east, Camden on the south, and Atgansce, Branch Co., on the west. lts surface is gently undulating, was originally heavily timbered, is well watered by springs and streams, and is probably the most elevated point in the southern part of the State, if not in the entire lower peninsula. A high ridge of land occupied the eastern part of the town, the culminating point being at Reading village, and radiating from that point to the north and to the southwest. From this ridge the streams diverge in every direction, some of them going south or east and reaching Lake Erie through the Little St. Joseph's and Maumce Rivers, and the rest flowing west or north, and reaching Lake Michigan through Hog Creek and the St. Joseph's River.
In the west part of the town the land slopes rather abruptly, forming a natural basin in which lies a chain of lakes reaching nearly ucross the town from north to south. Near the line, between sections 30 and 31, is the dividing line between the waters which flow south and those which flow north. It is in a marshy piece ofland, and the north and south parts eacli drain in an opposite direction. To the south the waters flow into Turner's Lake, and, passing through two other small lakes, form a branch of the Little St. Joseph's River. The water flowing north forms the inlet to a chain of lakes stretching north nearly five miles, and formerly designated on the survey maps as "Hog Lakes." The principal of these is now known as Long Lake. It is nearly two miles long, and of an average width of a quarter of a mile. The depth is variable, and the bottom either sandy or muddy. Berry Lake lies east of Long Lake and is n tributary to it. Hemlock Lake, deriving its name from the fact that its shores were formerly covered to some extent with hemlock timber, lies across the north line of the town, in section 5. It is irregular in form, covers an area of about one quarter section, and is rather shullow, with a fine, gravelly bottom. Round Lake, a mile east of Hemlock Lake, is of about the same dimensions, but nearly circular in form and of great depth, having been sounded in some places to a depth of 70 feet. The bottom is sandy in some parts aud muddy in others. The rest of these lakes, some ten or more in number, have not been deemed worthy to be invested with names, and indeed, some of them are little more than ponds. These bodies of water ore generally well stocked with fish, and in the spring and fall are covered to some extent with waterfowl, tempting the sportsman to expend time and amunition in efforts to secure them for his use.
The township is noted far and near as being, as a whole, one of the best in Southern Michigan. The soil is generally a black, sandy loam, of great depth and fertility, or a rich, mellow, vegetable mould, formed by the accretions from decayed leaves and fallen timber, and equally as good as the other. Under (his lies a subsoil, from 10 to 15 feet in depth, generally regarded as of a clayey nature, but which seems really to be composed of a mixture of yellow sand and marl, which reinforces the flagging energies of the fields whose strength has been impaired by constant and repeated cropping. A narrow strip of gravelly land of a poorer quality lies along the sides of the valley in which he the lakes, and occasional swamps or marshes border the lakes, but they form a mere fraction of the town. On the northwest side of the dividing ridge wo have mentioned, a good many loose, widely-scattered stones are fonnd, while to the south and cost they arc very scarce. In no part can the land bo truly said to be stony.
Previous to 1835 this country was a wilderness in which the Indians roamed, hunting and Ashing, and occasionally cultivating a little patch of corn in some spot where the falling of trees, or some other cause, had exposed a little of the virgin earth to the warm embrace of the sun. and the only white men whose feet had trodden the forest fastnesses were the hnntere, trappers, traders, or surveyors, whose business had culled them hither. Among these was a trader, half merchant, half hunlcr, by the name of Rice, who lived at Perrysburgh, Ohio, near the site of the present oily of Maunieo. He was a bachelor, a peculiarly shrewd and intelligent observer of everything falling within his notice, and boasted that he had an acquaintance with every township, stream, and lake in the Territory of Michigan. His occupation had taken him to every part of the State, and his habit of observation being known, his judgment was often asked for by those purposing purchases of land in this State. Near him were located several families from the western part of the Slate of New York, who were
becoming very much dissatisfied with their situation on account of the lands being so low and wet and the climate so unhealthy. They asked Rice where was the best and nearest government land that was open to settlers and he told them that this town embraced the best lands he knew of, and advised them to take up land and settle here. In accordance with his advice several families, including those of John Mickle, Eleaser Gleason, William Berry, Ephraim Willsie, Charles Powell, and others, removed and settled in this favorable location. The lands proved to be so desirable that the growth of the settlement would have been exceedingly rapid but for the fact that large tracts hud been entered by eastern capitalists for purposes or speculation. This is shown by the fact that the two first settlers, who came only five weeks apart, were obliged to sctde on furms six miles distuut the one from the other. In spile of this drawback the settlers continued to come in respectable numbers, and finally, in 1837, it was thought that there were enough of them to warrant the formulion of the town, though at the first meeting two of them were obliged to accept two offices each, three of them three each, and one, John Mickle, walked off with the honors, emoluments, and official responsibilities of four different positions.
The first settler was John Mickle, Oct. 5, 1835. Eleazer Gleason, with his wife, one child, and his wife's brother, Wm. C. Berry, and Charles Powell and his younger brother, William Powell, followed in November, and Ephraim Wiltsie in December of the same year. In January, 1836. William Berry, Horace Palmer, Rensselaer Sutliff, and Charles Lee came (all except Palmer, who was single) with their families. In February following, Mrs. Lee and child died, and Mr. Lee left the town. In April, Wright Redding, Ammi Carpenter, and his mother came in May, Jarvis Mason; in June, Jefferson Kellogg and George W. Helsted; in October, Sylvester Whaling and Peter Belts; and in November, Newman Curtiss. These were the principal electors in the organization of the town.
In April, 1837, George and John Fitzsimmons, father and son; in May, John and Asahel M. Rising, father and son; and through the summer and fall, Jonas P. Gates, Jonathan Odell, William Tuppan, Lewis A. Keith, William Meek, Hiram Wiltsie, William Van Horn, Sidney Bailey, Benjamin Lewis, and Gamer Archer. In 1838, Martin Wigent, David D. Prouty, William and Chester Morey, Warren Chaffee, Bazaliel Palmer, Loreiiso and Bingham D. Abbott, Charles Hughes, Dauiel Kinnc. Robert Berry, Stephen Webster, Thomas Berry, John Fritts, A. H. Bartholomew, George Brown, Oscar Whitney, Mrs. Betsey Moses, Jacob Valentine, Ralph Bailey, Melvin Bailey, Almon Nichols, and a Mr. Sears; and in 1839, Ephraim P. Purdy, James A. Galloway, James C. Galloway, Elmer and Heman Hawse, Elmer Bacon, Horace Avery, Henry Holdridge, Roswell and Royal Merriman, Daniel Murray, John Dopp, and two brothers by the name of Hill settled in the town, very nearly in the order here named. These were strictly pioneers of the town, each taking up a farm in the forest and at once entering upon the laborious task of clearing and fitting it for cultivation.
Among the later settlers we find W. R Kidder, Smith Wilbur, Harrison Bailey, Elihu Warner, in 1840; George Campbell, Cornelius B. Reynolds, in 1842; John Cole, Charles Kane, Jefferson Stout, in 1843; Henry K. Abbott, Ebeneaser L. Kelly, Augustus F. Vaun, Samuel Whaley, in 1844; Asa Warner, George Youngs, in 1845; Frederick Fowler, Israel Thatcher, in 1846; Abigail Dopp, Barney Reynolds, in 1847; and Isaac H. Kellogg, Giles Castle, John B. Southworth, and his two sons, and M. H. McClave, the exact date of whose coming is not known to the writer of this sketch.
Of John Mickle. The first settler, it may be said that he has attained a ripe old age, and surrounded by kind friends and a comfortable competency of worldly goods is reaping the fruits of an industrious, steady, and useful life. He came from Oswego, N. Y., in and after living four years a few miles from Maumee, Ohio, removed to this town in the fall of 1835, arriving at his farm on the 5th of October. He was accompanied by his wife and one child, and a hired man named Ephraim Wiltsie. They came from Jonesville by way of Sand Creek, and opened the first road to the south from that point. He purchased of the government the south half of section 3, and assisted by Almon Nichols, of Fayette, and a man named Wagner, built his first log house or shanty near a spring about sixty rods north of the section corner. This cabin was built of unhewn logs, and his dimensions were 19 by 23 feet. While living in this shanty. Mr. Mickle was often called upon to entertain land-lookers, and also furnished a temporary home for the families of no less than thirteen settlers while they were selecting their lands and building homes of their own. Three years later this shanty was replaced by a fine blockhouse, built almost entirely of black-walnut logs squared to the size of eight inches, and which was at that time and for several years after the best house in the township. It has since been clapbourded and is still standing, being occupied by Daniel W. Mickle, a son of the first settler. The first death of a while resident in the township occurred in October, 1836, and was that of an infant child of Mr. Mickle. His wife died in 1839, and he then married Mary Fitzsimmons, the eldest daughter nf George Fitzsimmons, a subsequent settler. This was the first wedding in town, and has proved a happy one to all concerned. Soon after his arrival. Mr. Mickle hired Horace Palmer, Jefferson Kellogg, and Ephraim Wiltzie to help him in the work of clearing his land, commenced cutting the timber about his house, and in the following spring had several acres ready In plant and sow, and along with his other crops sowed some apple-seeds he had brought with him, and from them raised the first orchard in the town. He was an early partisan in political mailers, and was allied to the Whig school until the Republican parly sprang into being, since which time he has been an earnest and consistent supporter of its principles. Ever prominently interested in matters relating to the prosperity of the town, he has often been culled to serve the people in a public capacity. As early as 1842 he was chosen to represent the county in the State Legislature in the capacity of representative. In 1841 he was elected associate judge of the Circuit Court of the county, and in 1851 was again elected second judge. He was an early member of the Baptist Church, and has contributed largely to its success. Many of the early meetings of that church were held at his house. His family consisted of fifteen children, five of whom died in early life; two, Mrs. Mary Carey and George, died in Reading after reaching maturity; and eight are still living, —-Eugene iu California, and John Q., Henry C, Daniel W., Benjamin K., Luther, George L., and Elias R., in this town.
Eleazer Gleason, with his wife and one child, followed the route opened by Mr. Mickle, and settled on the northeast quarter of section 33 in the early part of November, 1835. He was from Seneca, Ontario Co., N. Y. and had lived one year near Maunee City, Ohio. His first son, William, was born in the winter of 1836 and was the first white child born in Reading. He is now living in Iowa. One other child, a daughter, died in her girlhood, and the other eight children are still living, Eleazer H., Mrs. Mary Woodard, Ida, and Mrs. Harriet Potter, in Reading; Charles and Loviuas in Allen; Mrs. Jane Bristol in St. Joseph County; and Alvaro F. in New Mexico. Of Mr. Gleason we can say that he has always been one of the reliable citizens of the town, a practical and successful farmer, and by his unobtrusive manner aud the strict integrity of his character has always deserved, as he has ever received, the love and esteem of his neighbors. He was the first tax collector of the town, and held the office of assessor us long us any wore elected by the town, with the exception of one year. He is still living on the farm he first settled.
William C. Berry, who accompanied Mr. Gleason, was the eldest sou of William Berry, and upon his arrival here commenced work at clearing his father's land. He is still living in town, and is a successful farmer.
Of Charles Powell we can only say that he was elected supervisor in 1838. In 1841 was elected county treasurer, aud after serving in that position two years removed from the county, and is now living at Omaha, Neb.
Ephraim Wiltsie first came to this town with Mr. Mickle in October, 1835, but soon after returned to Ohio, and brought his family here in December of the same year. He was a quiet, industrious farmer, and not given to much meddling with public affairs. He now lives in an adjoining town, respected and beloved by his neighbors.
Of William Berry it may be said that he was one of the substantial men of the town, was the first town clerk, and also one of the first justices of the peaee. In the discharge of his public as well as private duties he was always faithful and conscientious, and, by his investments in land, his careful business management and his thorough farming, was enabled to leave a competency to his numerons family. He was thrice married and had thirteen children, eleven of whom survived him, — William C, Mrs. Ekeazor Gleason, Mrs. Emma Russell, Mrs. Mary Meigs. Thomas, Gardner, John, J. Byron, and Richard reside in this town; Henry in Camden, and Mrs. Hannah Barber in Algansee, Branch Co. Horace Palmer did not, strictly speaking, belong to the emigration of 1836, although he came here first in January of that year. He was then a single man, and bought a piece of land and commenced clearing it, but soon after returned to Chautauqua Co., N. Y., was married, and in 1836 came with his wife and settled in this town. He is still a resident, having a fine farm in the north part of the town, on section 10. With this exception the settlers of 1836 have either emigrated or died, not one of them remaining to tell the tale of their trials and privations endured in the work of reclaiming this rich country from tho dominion of the forest.
Of the emigration of 1837 we find George Fitzsimmons soon assuming 8 prominent position in the conducting of the public affairs of the town. Elected treasurer of the town in 1S39, he served two years in that position, and in 1840 was chosen a justice of the peace. This office he held for sixteen years, the last twelve, commencing in 1851, continuously. In 1851-52 he was a representative in the Stale Legislature. At a later date we find him contributing largely of his influence, energies, and money to secure the building of the railroad through the town. He was one of the early members of the Baptist Church, and its stability aud permanent success was largely due to his efforts and to his generosity. He was from Rose, Wayne Co., N. Y., and with his eldest son, John, walked from there to Fairport, O. on Lake Erie, where they took boat for Detroit. In May following Mrs. Fitzsimmons and her family, with two wagons loaded with household goods, came through Canada, via Buffalo and Detroit, arriving at this place on the 2d of June. The wagons were drawn by oxen, and they drove two cows to stock the new farm. Mr. Fitzsimmons first purchased the northeast quarter of section 26, and, as opportunity offered, added to it until he owned 560 acres. One of the earliest (if not the very first) religious meetings held in this town was a prayer-meeting held at his house, and attended by his family and the family of John Rising, in May, 1837. He died Oct. 9, 1870, loved and respected by all who knew him, and leaving six children, five of whom are living in this town, and rank among its best and most enterprising citizens. They are John, George, and A. M. R. Fitzsimmons, Mrs. Mary Mickle, and Mrs. Catharine Palmer. The other son, Vincent, was at that time living at Honolulu, Sandwich Islands, where he was editor and proprietor of the Honolulu Gazette, the government organ. He died about 1872.
John Rising is said to have been quite peculiar in all his ways. He came to the town with a large family of sons and daughters, and with means to purchase sufficient land to settle them all. His improvements were readily made, and he was soou in a position of comparative independence- and was recognized by bis neighbors as a well-to-do farmer, he was a Methodist and brought his religion with him into the forest, and he is no doubt rightfully credited with being the father of the sect in this town. His house was always opened fur religious meetings when no more convenient place was found, and the hard-worked itinerant always found bountiful hospitality und a warm welcome when he crossed its threshold. Neither did he hesitate, or falter, or relax his efforts, until the full privileges of the church were all firmly established in the town.
Jonas P. Gates was a carpenter and joiner by trade, and came from the town of Seneca, Ontario Co., N, Y., settling on section 14. He was one of the most energetic and thorough farmers ever living in the town.
Sidney Bailey came from Lodus, Wayne Co., N. Y., und settled on the west half of the northeast quarter of section 32. He died there some twenty-eight or thirty years ago. His only surviving child is Mrs. Catharine Mallery, who lives in town.
John Fitzsimmons and Asahel M. Rising are now prominent farmers in the town, and Garner Archer in an adjoining town. The rest of the emigration of 1837 have mostly emigrated or died.
The emigrants of 1838 were largely of a class of enterprising and energetic young men, generally of limited means, but of great moral worth, well fitted to carry forward the work, the foundation for which had been laid by the pioneers. These entered with zest upon the work before them, and the well-tilled farms, the fruitful orchards, the elegaut dwellings, and the commodious farm buildingthat grace and beautify (he town, show how well they performed (heir tasks, and with what measure of success their labors were rewarded. While lack of space forbids any detailed history of these men, we feel called upon to refer more particularly to some of them, even at the risk of having our remarks looked upon as invidious.
The most prominent of these was Daniel Kinne, who came from Eric Co., N. Y,, and settled on section 21, on the farm now in the possession of his heirs. Upon his arrival here he at once took a prominent rank and was soon called to official position. He served as supervisor (for five years), justice of the peace, town clerk, and commissioner of highways. In 1845 he was elected associate judge of the county; in 1817, a representative in the State Legislature; and in 1851, a member of the Convention to revise the Constitution of the State. In each of these positions he displayed marked ability and rare good judgment in all his acts. At a later period these same traits and the energy of his character made him a conspicuous figure in movements to develop the resources and promote the interests and growth of tbe town. Among these wo make mention of the plank-road from Reading to Hillsdale, the cheese-factory in Heading, and the Reading Manufacturing Company, designed for the general manufacture of household articles. By over-exertion in his last enterprise he contracted a cold, which resulted in his death in a distant State, far away from home, family, and friends. His many virtues will long be held in tender remembrance by the cilitens of Heading.
Lorenzo and Bingham B. Abbott, two brothers, the first from Vernon, Conn., and the last from Cayuga Co., N. Y., after living a short time at Maumee, Ohio, settled here in tbe fall of 1838, on section 27. Of Lorenzo's family three sons, Sylvester, Arthur, and Remus, and one daughter, Mrs. Amelia Bartholomew, are living in town. Of Bingham D.'s family one daughter, Louisa, and two sons, John and Oscar, live in Reading, and two sons, Webster and Hascall, live in Texas. Both of these pioneers are still living, the former an honored aud respected citizen and successful farmer of this town, and the latter has very recently removed to Texas,
Of Stephen Webster we may say that he came from Seneca township, in Ontario Co., N. Y., and settled on the farm he now occupies. He has taken an active part in the conducting of town affairs, and has served as supervisor five years, and also has held other offices in the town. Thomas Berry was one of the earliest hotel-keepers in Reading, and was the first tax collector after the town of Camden was set off. Holding that office three years. He was the proprietor of the northwest quarter of Reading village, and is still living on a part of the farm he first took up.
Of Ralph Bailey it may be said that he was a man of energetic character, strict integrity, and good business capacity. A carpenter by trade, he became a successful farmer, and accumulated a fine property. His worth was speedily recognized by bis neighbors, and at the next town-meeting he was elected supervisor, and, with (ho exception of the year 1872, continued in that office during the next seven years. He was a native of Massachusetts, and lived for a time in St. Lawrence and Wayne Counties, N. Y., and Lenawee Co., Mich., before settling here. He died about ten years after his arrival. Two sons, Harrison and Washington, are still living and rank among the substantial citizens of the town.
Almon Nichols settled in the town of Fayette in 1834, and removed here in 1838. He was quite a hunter, and during his pioneer life killed many wolves. One day he heard his dog barking furiously in the woods near his bouse, and running to the spot, found him engaged in battle with a large wolf that had taken refuge in a large hollow log. Encouraged by his presence the dog renewed the battle and "carried the war into Africa" by plunging into the log, where he got his jaws locked in those of the wolf, and was unable to either advance or retreat. Imitating the illustrious example of the famous Putnam, Nichols crawled into the log and pulled out the wolf, making the dog act the part of the rope, and soon put an end to the wolf's existence by a few strokes of the ever-ready axe. He is now living in the western part of the town, and has the name of having been the best chopper that ever lived in town.
There are many others of those who settled here within the first five years of the town's existence, who have filled honorable positions and discharged responsible trusts connected with the administration of township affairs, or are still active participants in the daily affairs of life, whom we would gladly mention did space permit and had we the necessary facts lo do so. Still we may safely say that, as a class, the settlers of this town would rank well with any in the State in point of intelligence, virtue, industry, thrift, and public spirit. By their fruits ye shall know them, and we will let the thriving township and beautiful, enterprising village they have built up by their efforts speak with eloquent tongue and forcible words of their public and private virtues.
The first town-meeting met at the house of Judge John Mickle, on the 3d of April, 1837, in accordance with the provision of the act creating the town, and was adjourned to Sylvester Whaling's. The meeting organized by choosing William Berry, Moderator; James Fowle, Clerk; and John Mickle, Inspector of Election. The following officers were then elected, viz.: Supervisor. James Fowle; Towu Clerk, William Berry; Collector, Eleazer Gleason; Justices of the Peace, John Mickle, James Fowle, Samuel S. Curtiss, William Berry; Assessors, Samuel S. Curtiss, Eleazer Gleason, John Mickle, Wright Redding; Highway Commissioners, Charles Powell, John Mickle, James Fowle; Poor-Masters, William Berry, Samuel Seamans; School Inspectors, Charles Powell. John Mickle, Timothy Lurrabec; School Commissioners, Frederick Perring, Kason T. Chester, Rensselaer Sutliff; Constables, Eleazer Gleason, Oliver R. Cole, George Halstead. Several of these officers lived in what is now the town of Camden. Without following closely the political history of the town, we may briefly state that from its first orgunixation it was uniformly Democratic for many years, until the political principles of the Whig party, expounded and exemplified by such men as Judge Mickle aud Ephraim Wiltsie, who were, for a time, the only members of that party living in the town, grew upon the minds of the people and at last triumphed over their opposcrs. For many years the political balance was very evenly adjusted, a half-dozen votes often sufficing to change the result in favor of cither party. Upon the organization of the Republican party its principles of equal and exact justice to all, aud of opposition to the greatest blot upon our civilization,—American slavery,—won for it a warm and hearty reception, and gave it the political control of the town which it maintained undisputed until the election in tho spring of 1878, when the National Greenback party elected their ticket by a good majority. At the fall election, however, Nov. 5, 1878, the Republican ticket received a plurality of about 25.
At the first fall election, that of 1837, the full vote polled in this town was 41, and nearly half of those voters lived in what is now another town. So rapid has been tbe growth, that at tho last election above mentioned, 581 votes were cast, showing au average increase of over 2400 per cent.
The population has increased from about 127 in 1837, to upwards for 2000 in 1878.
The assessed valuation has iucreased from $137,078, in 1837, to $428,700, in 1878.
The settlers of this town came mostly from Western and Central New York, or from the New England States, and brought with them the ideas, beliefs, and practices of their fathers. They believed strongly in the doctriue of free education, and also in a liberal expenditure of labor and means in carrying on public improvements. In the work of building school-houses, opening highways, and building bridges they were energetic, and as this work naturally made taxes somewhat high, many non-resident owners of land were thereby forced to dispose of their land to actual settlers, and this assisted in the rapid development of the town. Up to the year 1840 but few roads had been laid out and improved. There was one principal road,—that opened by the first settlers,—leading from Jonesville, the county-seat, by way of Sand Creek, and entering Reading on the west line of section 2, from whence it followed the section line, with one or two changes of direction, to the Ohio line. From this main roud others branched off each way, leading to the different settlements. There was considerable ugituliou ubont this lime of the questiou of removing the county-seat from Jon an'i lie to Hillsdale, or some other point nearer the centre of the couuty, and the citizens of Hillsdale and Heading made an effort to secure the building of a road from Hillsdale through Heading to tbe Indiana line. The Legislature passed an uct authorizing the laying of a State roud on (he route proposed, and appointed Halph Bailey. George Pitzsimiuons, and Barron B. Willetts as commissioners to carry the act into effect. The road wus partially opened by those living along the line, and was the means of opening a new market and point of trade to the people of this region, who had previously been confined to one market, that of Jonesville. The nearest mills were found at Jonesville to the north, Coldwater to the west, or Adrian to the east; and frequently, in times of scarcity, the settlors were compelled to go as far west as White Pigeon, or as far east as Tecumsch, to get supplies of flour aud meal. Trade with the Indians enabled them to get supplies of incut and maple-sugar of a somewhat doubtful character. These Indians were peculiar in their dealings, taking nothing but silver in exchange for their goods. Neither gold nor bank-notes would suit their requirements.
At that time the census showed that the population of the town had risen to 331, and the people began to ask for mail facilities, the need of which they had felt for a long time. Quite a general move was made to have a post-route established, and to have John Mickle, the first settler in town, a prominent man, and one politically in harmony with the national administration, appointed as posiuiaater. Those having the matter in charge did not move as promptly as they might have done, nnd some other citizens, like the "enemy" "who" sowed tares while the husbandman slept," took advantage of their moderation, slipped a petition, numerously signed by citizens of Adrian and vicinity, into the hands of the department, and had the mute established, the contract for carrying the mail lot, Ralph Bailey appointed as postmaster, and Daniel Kinne as deputy, before tbe other party got an inkling of the course affairs were taking. This result Was partially brought about by a rivalry that eiisted between two neighborhoods, the one located on the Jonesville road in the north part of the town, and the other on the State road in the south part of the town, and a little nearer the geographical centre. It was also charged that this was the work of a ring of which Ralph Bailey, George Fitzsimmons, and Daniel Kinne were prominent members, a fact which they did not deny and which they would not willingly have had disproved. The route thus established led from Hillsdale to Reading, and George Fitzsimmons carried the mail for $26 a year, making one trip each week. The route was afterwards extended to Willow Prairie (now Fremont), in Indiana.
In 1847 the State apportioned to Hillsdale County a share of the lands granted for internal improvements in the State, and the county devolod it lo the work of completing the Hillsdale and Indiana turnpike. Solomon Sharpe, Esq., was appointed commissioner, the work was done by people alone the line, and the lands were taken in payment there for.
Up to and including; the year 1850, the population of the town was wholly rural and engaged in agriculture. - There was not a store, grocery, or hotel in the town, and scarcely a mechanic. Looking back from that time we see that many had settled quietly, grown into positions of prominence, and become influential citizens of the town, and were ready to enter upon any effort to develop its resources and increase its prosperity and growth. They began to feel the need of a common business centre, of better church facilities, of more convenient places to trade, and of a development of the manufacturing interests. Of course, the first move was to determine upon a site for the proposed village. Common consent seemed to point unmistakably to the locality known as "Basswoud Corners," which derived its name from the fact that about 10 feet southwest of the corner of sections 22, 23, 26, und 27, stood a clump of 7 basswood-trees, each about 20 inches in diameter, and all growing from one stump. A short distance east of tho comer, a blacksmith-shop, one of those inevitable precursors of a village, had been built by Horace Billings, on land bought of George Young, in 1846, on the present site of the "McConnel House." In the summer of the same year, Morris Inglesby had erected a shop for the manufacture of grain and tea, on the site where the "Reading House" now stands, and a year later, Dr. William Hullinger erected the first frame dwelling in the future village, just north of the cradle-factory. Dr. Hullinger was the first practicing physician in the town. As this place was the junction of the State and the Jonesville roads, it was thereby rendered the most couvenient point for a village. Already a charter bad been obtained for a company known as the "Hillsdale and Reading Plank-road Company," with the iutentiou of layiug a plank-road on the State road between this place and Hillsdale. The stock was largely taken by citizens of thin town and others living along the line or in Hillsdale. It depended, however, for its success, upon the energy and perseverance of citizens of Reading, among the most prominent and active of whom were Col. Frederick Fowler, Daniel Kinne, George and John Fitzsimmions, Nelson M. and William F. Turner, and others. This enterprise was completed in 1855, and after running a couple of years proved unsatisfactory and was abandoned. In view of the benefits anticipated as the result of the completion of this work, David I). Prouty aud Thomas Fuller, who owned the lauds on sections 20 and 27 coming to the corner, had platted a village on their lands, had it surveyed into lots and streets, and placed ou record in the register's office. In the summer of 1852, William F. Turner und George Young built the first steam saw-mill in the town, on the site now occupied by Col. F. Fowler's carriage-shop. This mill was removed to Allen some thirteen years afterward. In 1853, Dr. Hullinger purchased the cradle-factory, moved it back from the street, and on the same site erected a hotel, which was, with the exception of a small tavern kept ou section 30 by Henry Holdridge, the first in the town. This hotel, together with his resideuce, was burned before it was fully completed, but was rebuilt the following year as the Readiug House, and has coutinued one of the principal hotels of the place, in the hands of different proprietors, down to the present time.
About the same time that the hotel was first started, Nelson M. Turner erected a building, still standing, on the northeast corner of Main and Michigan Stroots, aud filled it with a stock of goods, such as is usually kept in country stores. This was the first building in Readiug that was used solely for mercantile business, and is properly credited with being the first store in town. About this time James and Johu Orr, of New York, opened a pretty good stock in a building on the southeast corner of Main and Michigan Streets.
In 1856 the second era in the commercial existence of the village was ushered in by the arrival in town of Messrs. L. S. Parmalee & Co. and Messrs. Cone & Keiser with large stocks of well-assorted goods, which they opeued to the public; and by the building of a steam grist-mill by N. M. and Wm. F. Turner and Alvin Griffith. Before this mill was completed, Mr. Griffith purchased Messrs. Turners' interest, and completed and operated it himself for some time. It was the first, and still remains the only grist-mill in the town, and after passing through the hands of several persons, is now owned and operated by Sanford Stiles.
Jasper A. Waterman in that same year started a shop for the manufacture of pumps, it being a fine poiut for that business, because of the abundance of excellent timber for that purpose. He some years later added the making of cheese-boxes to his business, and quite recently has invented n new and novel mode of manufacturing barrels and kegs. His improvement, which is covered by letters patent, consists iu cutting from the circumference of the log a continuous sheet or scroll in the form of a finished stave. This is afterwards cut into staves of a width to form a barrel from two of them, and then finished by being hooped in the ordinary manner. This method saves a large percentage both in labor and in material, and is of great value. The shop now furnishes employment to from 6 to 10 persons, and turns off from $5000 to $15,000 worth of manufactures each year.
From this small beginning Heading has grown to its present rank. Its growth from that time wus quite rapid for several years. There were constant new arrivals, and new enterprises sprang up on every hand. Mechanics came in, and manufactories were called for to supply the demands of the people of the village and the surrounding country.
The necessity for better church privileges resulted in the erection of the Methodist church in 185-, and this was followed in 1858 by the Free Baptist church.
As the village increased in size, it became evident that to promote its growth and development, a closer and more rapid communication with the commercial world was necessary, as without it the activity and enterprise of the place would be circumscribed and limited, and the village be a tributary to Hillsdale, which was even then a thriving and important railroad town and the county-seat. The project of building a railroad from Jackson, in this State, to Cincinnati, Ohio, to run through Fort Wayne, was at this time being agitated, and to it the same minds that had conceived the building up of tbe village turned their attention, with a view to secure tbe building of tbe road on a route running through this place. The preliminary survey demonstrated that the route from Jonesville to Reading necessitated a heavy grade, and that a much easier grade could be found by keeping farther cast and following the valley of the Little St. Joseph, passing through Hillsdale and Cambria Mills, and thus reaching the headwaters of Elk River, in DeKalb Co., Ind. But opposed to the easy grade was the necessity of reaching such important points as Reading and Angola, and Waterloo, in Indiana. A further inducement was the material aid offered by these places. This town bonded in aid of the railroad to the amount of $15,000, and its citizens subscribed for $60,000 worth of its stock, thus securing the road, which was built through the town in 1868-69. The first regular train running from Jackson arrived in Reading on the 9th of November of the latter year.
Among the most active promoters of this undertaking we find George, John, and A. M. R. Fitzsimmons, Col. F. Fowler, Daniel Kinne, H. H. Chapman. G. G. Cone, L. S. and H. P. Parmalee, John Fritts, J. A. Waterman, Thomas Berry, and others. The wisdom of this undertaking was made at once apparent by the fresh impetus it gave to business, and the additional inducements it furnished for mechanics and business men to locale here. The farmers were at once benefitted by the opening of a market at their very doom, and the saving to themselves of the heavy cost of marketing their surplus produce that had heretofore proved so onerous a burden. At once, too, there was a demand for better buildings to accommodate the business tucu of the town, and in response to it, Mr. H. B. Chapman, Mr. L. S. Parmalee, and Mr, S. C. Dodge united to build the first brick business block, which was speedily completed and occupied. This marked the third era in the busiuess life of thu town, and the increased prosperity induced the erection of other fine, substantial brick blocks, of which there are now seven in town, accommodating fourteen firms, engaged in various branches of trade. The business of the village is believed to have been quadrupled by the building of the railroad, and the population more than doubled. The residences of the citizens both in village and town have undergone a great change, und in beauty and worth will rank well with any village or town in the Slate of similar advantages in point of wealth aud populatiuu. This result is due largely to the taste and liberality of her energetic and public-spirited business men. Among others we may mention Mr. H. B. Chapman, who being the proprietor of one of the additions to the village, has contributed largely by the erection of good business blocks and convenient and tasty dwellings. It was his choice to dot his plat with numerous fine dwellings before offering the lots for side. There are, at present, five very respectable churches iu the town, the four in ihc village having been erected in the following order: Methodist, Free Baptist, Baptist, and Presbyterian. Tbe schools of the town are twelve in number, and are well sustained by the people. The graded union school of the village is especially worthy of commendation. This was changed from a common to a graded school in 1872, steps were taken toward the erection of a new school-building, which was accomplished in 1873, at a cost of $10,000. School was commenced in the new building, Nov. 4, 1873. The district issued bonds to raise the necessary funds to build the school-house. The building stands Eve rods back from the cast line of Chestnut Street, and faces Silver Street, It is built of brick, is three stories high, with a basement,und contains four school-rooms capable of accommodating five hundred pupils. The third floor is reserved for a hall. The building was erected under the supervision of S. J. Woodard, K. W. Case, and H. K. Barker. The school has on its rolls at present about two hundred scholars under the charge of four teachers, and is an institution of which the village may well be proud. The present Board of Trustees is composed of A. B. Strong, M.D., Assessor; G. G. Clark, Moderator; H, P. Parmelee, Director; B. P. Tinklmm, A. M. It. Fitzsimmuns, and George W. Fitzsimmons.
In 1873, in accordance with the wishes of her citizens, the village of Reading was incorporated by a special act of the legislature, passed April 12. The territory included in the corporation was one mile square, the centre being at the corner of sections 22, 23, 26, and 27. The first election was appointed at the school-house, but was adjourned to the Howder House (now the McConnel House).
Aside from the business enterprises already spoken of, we now find several others worthy of notice, which we "ketch as briefly as possible The Colby Wringer Company'a works were erected in 1872, by the suUcriptions of the citiions of Heading, and cost about $20.000. The company was formerly located at Watrbury, Vt., but in January, 1873, began here the manufacture of the Colby wringers and washing-machines. A part of the building was also occupied for a lime by the Rending Manufacturing Company, before referred to. Upon the breaking up of that company, their branch of manufactures was taken up and continued by tbe Colby Company. The manufacturers now amount to about $30,000 per annum, and employment is furnished to about 25 men. Besides this, considerable piece-work is done outside the shop. The works are run by steam power supplied by an engine of 45 horse-power, and "consume annually from one-half to three-quarters of a million feet of pine, black-walnut, oak, and maple lumber. The office of the company is in Vermont, and the Works here are in charge of J. R. Junes, Superintendent.
Thomas' Ink- and Blueing-Factory was established here in tho spring of 1872. It bad been run in a small way for three or four years at Waterbury, Vt., but soon after the opening of the works here, it began to grow in importance, and now ranks as the foremost of the business establishments of the place. The sales during the past year have aggregated about $75,000. From occupying a space of 16OO square feet the buildings have grown until they now cover an area of about 15,000 square feet, and the help employed has risen from 4 in number until nearly 50 hands are employed at the works, beside the agents who arc engaged in selling the manufactures throughout the country. Thomas' inks are now in use in all the departments of the Government at Washington, except th3 War Department. Levi H. Thomas is the owner and was the originator of the enterprise.
The Reading Cheese-Factory was built in 1866-67, by Col. Frederick Fowler, Dauiel Kinne, John Fitztimmons, and L. S. Varmcluc, and has boon in successful operation since that time. The most prosperous reason was that of 1872, when the sales aggregated over $22,000. The past year the sales aggregated about $6000.
In 1874, J. D. Warner started a medical dispensary in Reading for the manufacture of a cough-remedy, known as "Warner's White Wine and Tar Syrup." The business has increased till the sales amount to about $10,000 per annum, and furnish employment to about five persons besides traveling agents.
In June, 1877, a new business was introduced here by Mr. Stiltman Parker, which is that of tanning and making up buffalo-robes. The tannery has a capacity of 2000 robes per annum, and employs about 20 hands. The business is conducted under the management of Mr. R. Wilbur. The first and only banking institution in town is the Exchange Bank, of Chapman & Co., which was organised in March, 1873, by II. B. and A. R. Chapman. It was for some time carried on in the hard ware-store conducted by Mr. Chapman, but is now removed to fine and convenient renins in the new block recently erected, and is doing a good business, furnishing the business men of the town the facilities that go so far to make up success.
We may summarise the present business of the village by briefly stating that there are about 25 stores and shops, 2 hotels, 2 liveries, about 25 manufactories and mechanics' shops, and several firms and individuals dealing in grain and produce; in all, representing ;15 different branches of industry. Few inland towns can make as good a showing, and we can justly say that it is owing solely to the energy and liberality of the citizens, who have worked for the general good instead of the promotion of selfish ends. Two of those, whom we have not particularly referred to before, are deserving of a more special mention from their having also been called upon to serve the people in the capacity of legislators. We allude to Frederick Fowler, who was a member of tho House in 1857, and of the Senate in 1865, and who earned his military title by noble service in the Union army, and to Rev. L. S. Parmelee, who was a member of the House in 1867, and has served as postmaster since I86l, with the exception of the administration of Audrew Johnson.