The town of Deerfield embraces a territory a little more than six
miles square, lying on the north line of the county of Livingston, just
east of the centre. In the United States survey, it is known as
township 4 north, of range 5 east. It is centrally distant from
Howell, the county-seat, nine miles in a northeasterly direction, and is
bounded on the north by the town of Argentine, in Genesee Co., on the
east by Tyrone, on the south by Oceola and on the west by Cohoctah.
It is the kind of land known as timbered oak - openings, and presented
such a peaceful beauty to the eyes of the land-lookers that it is no
wonder they were led to come and settle beneath the shades of its
beautiful oaks. The whole upland of the town was like one immense
grove, where the majestic trees, standing wide apart, let the sunlight of
heaven in upon the earth, to produce the luxuriant growth of grass and
flowers that delight the eye of the beholder. Through the wide
aisles of this forest the startled deer fled precipitately before the
tread of the settler; the saucy squirrels whisked their bushy tails, and
chattered loudly from their high perches in the tree-tops, as if
protesting against the rude invasion of their sylvan domain; the
sober-plumaged partridge crept stealthily from its nest and suddenly
whirred away through the trees; and the shy wild turkeys stole like black
ghosts into the undergrowth, and hid from the sight of their foes.
The general surface of the town is lightly rolling, becoming more hilly in the north west and west parts, and subsiding to more level lands in the central and southern parts. The soil is varied in its character, and distributed somewhat in streaks, running east and west across the town. These streaks are of a light, sandy nature, and between them are corresponding streaks of a heavier soil is well adapted to the cultivation of general crops, and well rewards the husbandman for his toil, and the heavier soil is especially well adapted to the growing of wheat.
The streams are more rapid than is usually the case in Michigan, and two of them furnish mill-seats in their course through this town. The principal stream is the south branch of the Shiawassee River, which enters from Cohoctah near the northwest corner of section 18, runs north to the north line of section 7, then east a half-mile, and then north till it passes into Argentine. Where it crosses a line between sections 6 and 7 the stream has a considerable fall, and affords the finest water-power in the town, and the only one that is utilized. From the Shiawassee, going eastward, we next reach the stream known as Yellow River. The Indian name, which had the same signification and was probably given it on account of the color of its waters, was "Saw-ick-sah." This stream takes its rise to a small lake in the north part of Oceola, which bears the name of Lown's Lake, from an early settler in that vicinity. Another branch of its rises in the south part of section 35, and flows west to about the centre of the south half of section 34, where it joins the outlet of the lake, and the combined streams follow a westerly, northwesterly, and northerly course, till it enters the southern extremity of Indian Lake. It leaves the lake, passing in a northerly course, crosses the county line, and unites with the Shiawassee River in the town of Argentine. Next east of Yellow River we come to cranberry Creek, so called because it had its rise in a cranberry marsh. It rises in section 36, and is the outlet of Payne's Lake, on that section. Its general course through the town is northwesterly, and near a point seven-eights of a mile north of the southwest corner of section 4 it empties into the Yellow River. On sections 15 and 10 it passes through a string of four lakes, and is augmented by their overflow. As we approach the eastern boundary of the town we reach another stream, more particularly described in the history of Tyrone, which is only second in importance to the south branch of the Shiawassee, if, indeed, it does not outrank it. It is North Ore Creek, and enters the town from Tyrone about eighty rods south of the northeast corner of section 13, pursuing a northerly course till it enters Bennett Lake, on the southeast quarter of section 1. It once more leaves the lake, in the northeast quarter of section 2, and, running northwest, crosses the county line into Argentine, where it affords a very fine mill-seat at Argentine village. Its waters join the east branch of the Shiawassee in Argentine. The other streams of the town are little brooks, tributary to these larger streams. The land along these water-courses is generally more rolling than elsewhere, and in some parts the knolls and ridges are almost worth to be designated as hills.
The town has rather more than the usual number of lakes. The largest is called Indian Lake, from the fact that an Indian family lived for many years upon its bank, and was known among the Indians as Portabeek's Lake. It lies west of the centre of the town, and contains an area of about 450 acres of open water. The marshes upon its shore are more or less overflowed at certain times. Most of the lake is on section 17, but its southern extremity reaches a few rods into section 20, and a limb extends north into section 8. Its length from north to south is about two miles, and its average width not far from three-eights of a mile. Its outline is very irregular. Its outlet is the Yellow River. The next one in importance is sometimes called Laird Lake, but should be called Bennett Lake, after William Bennett, the first settler along its shore. The practice seems to have obtained here of calling these lakes by the names of those residing nearest them, changing the name every time the property is transferred to some new owner. This is a reprehensible practice, and should be discouraged. If - as would have been the best way - the Indian names for these lakes and streams could not be learned and perpetuated, it might answer to name them after the first settlers upon their shores; but once named, that name should be continued for all time, unless some more appropriate or better name should be, by common consent, conferred upon them. In this work we follow the rule, as far as possible, to call these lakes and streams by their earliest names, believing that they are the ones that should be preserved.
Bennett Lake is very irregular in form, surrounded, generally, by a wide marsh, and extends for a considerable distance into Tyrone. Its greatest length is from east to west, a distance of a little over two miles and its average width is only about a quarter of a mile, though in places it widens out to nearly a half mile. It contains upwards of 300 acres of open water, exclusive of all marshes. Its western extremity is marked by a bolder shore than those of any other lake in the vicinity. Its outlet is North Ore Creek. It lies on sections 2 and 1 in this town, and 6 in Tyrone.
Ryan Lake lies in the northeast part of section 3, and contains about 80 acres. It is of rounded outline, and its outlet, running from its northwest side, empties into the Yellow River in Argentine. It is longest from northeast to southwest, and is surrounded by marshes. Its name was derived from Joh54\7n Ryan, an early settler in that vicinity.
Leonard Lake lies in the west part of sections 15 and 10, and was named after Samuel Leonard. It is three-quarters of a mile long, and a quarter of a mile in width, and contains an area of about 60 acres.
The rest of the lakes are small, and of comparatively little note. One of them lies across the county line on section 5; another across it on section 2; one lies in section 9, near the southeast corner; one near the sentre of section 36; one near the northwest corner of section 29, one sough of Bennett Lake on sections 1 and 2; two on section 10; and one, sometimes called Cranberry Lake, on the corners of sections 3, 4, 9, and 10. All of these bodies of water are marked by the same general features. They are surrounded by marshes and tamarack swamps, have muddy or sandy bottoms, and average from 30 to 40 feet in depth. They were formerly well stocked with fish, - pickerel, and the different species of bass preponderating, but many other kinds being found in greater or less numbers. Though the fishing is not now as good as when the country was new, still there are enough fish in the lakes to make the sport interesting, if not profitable in a monetary sense, and, to the true sportsman, the question of pecuniary profit is ever one of the minor considerations. In addition to these natural ponds there are two artificial ponds that should be mentioned. The first, and the only one wholly in this town, is the Deer Creek Pond, which overflows about 60 acres, on sections 6 and 7, forming the pond of the Deer Creek mills. The other lies on section 2, and is a portion of the Argentine Mills pond.
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