Big Rapids, MI

Mecosta County

G. R. & I Depot 1911
Contributed by Paul Petosky

Township of Big Rapids

The township of Big Rapids, containing the city of the same name, is an exact Congressional township, being township fifteen north, range ten west. It contains 23,040, of acres of land, of which as large an amount is under cultivation as in any other township in Mecosta County. It is intersected by the Muskegon River, which flows in a winding course south through the eastern part of the township. Flowing cast through the northern part, and emptying into the Muskegon at Big Rapids, is Mitchell's Creek. In the southern part are Cold Spring aud other small creeks, which flow into the Muskegon. Big Rapids is pre-eminently the railroad lownship of the county, being traversed by three lines,—the Grand Rapids & Indiana, the Detroit, Lansing & Northern, and the Chicago & West Michigan (formerly the Muskegon & Big Rapids).

The township was organized in 1858, under the name of I,eonard. Luther Cobb, was the first Supervisor. In 1865, by act of the Legislature, the name was changed to Big Rapids. The first white settler of the township was John Parish, who located on section 14, in 1851, and was also one of the first two settlers in the county. Many of the first events in the county occurred in this township. The first first birth in the township and also in the county was that of Alice Brockway, daughter of William and Margaret Brockway, Feb. 12, 1853. The first marriage in both township and county was that of Silas Moore and Sally French, solemnized by Elder Kelley in the fall of 1854. ' The first frame dwelling was the two-story boarding-house built by Warren & Ives in 1857. The first mill was the water-power saw-mill built by the same parties in the spring of the same year. This was the first frame structure in town; and a run of stone afterwards added, made it the first grist-mill in the county. The first schoolhouse was a two-story frame building, erected in 1859, on the corner of Michigan avenue and Oak street, in Big Rapids, and afterwards known as the First Ward School-house of the city. The first school was taught by Mrs. Mary Fuller, in the summer of 1860-

The population of Big Rapids (then Leonard) Township in i860 was 317; in 1864 it was 342; in 1870 it was 465; and in 1880 it was 549-. It had 2,440 acres of improved land in 1878, and 2,239 acres in 1881. The decrease is only apparent, and is due to different standards used in different years. The equalized valuation of real estate and personal property in 1859 was $161,279.36; and its present valuation is 8312,700, This of course excludes Big Rapids City. The total vote in November, 1882, was 87.

Portrait and Biographical 1883