Isabella County Michigan




The organization, growth and development of cities and villages in a county is an interesting subject. In a very early day in the history of Isabella county, in fact before there was very much of a population in the county, and very soon after the tide of emigration of the Chippewa Indians commenced toward their reservation in Isabella, there were two parties, John S. Eastman and Francis C. Babbitt, who migrated to what was afterwards known as Isabella City, and they, in connection with A. M. Finch, then Indian agent, platted a port of section 2 and 3 in the now township of Union, and caused the plat to be recorded in Volume 1 of Deeds on page 156, the same being recorded on January 23, 1861. This is the first plat recorded in the county. It flourished for a few years, and then began to decline, as Mt. Pleasant, the county seat, had been located and was only one and one-half miles distant.

Eastman & Babbitt opened a general store there. William H. Nelson, after judge of probate, built and constructed a hotel. In 1857 the Indian mills were built, consisting of a saw mill, the old sash-saw make, with a capacity of about four or five thousand in twenty-four hours.  A grist mill with one run of stone. The power was from a dam across the Chippewa river. Major James W. Long also settled there and carried on business, built a store aafterwards moved it to Mt. Pleasant and the city of Isabella ceased to be a city, and only a few houses now remain to mark the spot once noted as headquarters for the Indians of the tribes of Chippewas of Saginaw, Swan Creek and Black River.

Duncan Carmichael homesteaded the first eighty acres that was settled upon in Vernon township. This was on June 6, 1865, and was located on section 22.  He was piloted into the town and upon the land by the writer of this article and at the time he settled there he was the only white man north of the Indian reservation. Soon thereafter William Phinnessy, William Turbush, J. M. Stough, G. W. Stine, C. Bogan, Peter Alger, John Baker, John Herring moved and settled upon land and made them good homes. Dr. J. H. Maynard was the first physician settling in the township, he settling on section 10 in October, 1867, and doctored and kept "batch" for four years.  The first child born in the town was Isabella Carmichael, born August 19, 1866, and was named after the county.  The first death was Murdock McSwain, who was smothered in a well. The first marriage was B. B. Bigelo to Kittie Stough, on the 4th of July, 1867, who were married by old Father Sheldon, Methodist Episcopal minister.

Everything that was used at that time had to be brought in on the back of a man or an Indian pony, and from ten to fourteen miles. Pork was then twenty-five cents per pound ( a little ahead of present prices), flour twenty-three dollars per barrel, groceries in proportion, and then to be carried ten to fourteen miles over a trail and through the forest.

The first sermon was preached by Rev. Keith at the house of Mr. Shrope, one mile south and mile mile west of Clare, in 1867, and the first Sunday school was organized at the same place and in the same year. John Armstrong was elected superintendent.

 Clare (part) ~ Mount Pleasant (county seat)

 Rosebush ~ Shepherd ~ Lake Isabella 

Census-designated places
 Beal City ~ Loomis ~ Weidman

Other Unincorporated Communities
 Blanchard ~ Sherman City


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