Monroe Co. MI


Summerfield was settled, in or about 1820, among the first settlers being Seth and Polly Walla, Louis, Morris and Russell Wells, Lucy, Olive and Electa Wells, who settled a short distance east of the present village; John N. Wadsworth, Richatd Peters, Elihu Ward. Rich- and Peters came here in 1824, settling On section four, nearly opposite the present railroad station of Petersburgh, and in his house the first white child, Charles Peters was born March 17, 1826.

The first school house in the township was a log structure on the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section thirty-four, on what is now known as the Tremain farm (then the Louis Wells farm). It was started by subscription about 1827. In 1831 the building becoming overcrowded a school house was built on the east part of the Wadsworth farm on section thirty-five, and one in the village on the corner of Elm and River streets, about forty rods south of the bridge, both log. The latter was replaced in 1836 with a frame building, on tho corner of Elm and Saline streets, which was opened by Alonzo Bigeby in the winter 1836-7, and remained until 1869, when it was moved to the eastern part of the village converted into a dwelling house, and the present graded school built at an expense of $1,400. There are at present nine school districts in the township, each having a very commodious school house. The total enrollment of the schools its 571 scholars, with abating capacity of 634, and an average attendance of 440. The valuation of the buildings is about $20,000. The first township meeting was held in the house of "Mrs. Polly Wells, a short distance cast of the village, having adjourned to there from the house of Morris Wells.

The first bridge of which we find any recollection was built across the Raisin in 1828, by Benjamin Davis, prior to which Richard Peters ran a ferry-boat, by means of which both wagons and men were taken over the river.

The first saw mill was built in 1829, east of the present water mill, and became tho property of Cole & Wing in 1836. In the spring of 1882, J. P. Becker commenced operations tending to the establishment of steam flouring mill, and with Myron B. Davis the business was briskly carried forward. They first began to grind in December, 1883. The main building is 45x50 three stories high, and a sixty-horse power online for motive power. The roof is of iron, and the building a substantial edifice, an nearlv fire-proof as possible. Shortly after Mr. Lantz purchased the interest of Mr. Becker, and the mill is now under the control of Luntz & Davis. In 1832 the only doctor in the township of Summerfield (including Dundee) was “Aunt” Sina Parker, grandmother of the Hon. Burton Parker, to whose skill as as physician, many still living in the township can bear testimony, she being very successful in handling the diseases then incident to the country.

The village of Petersburgh is situated on the River Raisen a little north of the center of Summerfield township, on the Detroit branch of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad about midway between Adrian and Monroe. The village was originally the farm of Richard Peters (from whom it was named) and deeded by him to Thomas T. Cole and Austin E. Wing in 1836, by whom the village was platted.

The village is nicely laid out with broad streets, thickly shaded with evergreen trees, the streets crossing at right angles east and west. The corporation is laid out into blocks of about three acres each, and are uniformly graded and welt provided with sidewalks. For communication with the outside world the Lake Shore road runs three passenger trains each way daily on the Detroit division, while telegraph and express facilities are much better than in many places of greater pretensions. The postoffice was opened in 1826 and named Petersburgh after Richard Peters, the first postmaster, who held the office until 1845.

The history of the Methodist Episcopal church of Petersburgh in its early day is so closely connected with that at Dundee, that the history of the latter is substantially that of the former up to about 1850. The meeting at which the first class was formed, of whose names only that of Mrs. Bartlett and Mrs. Russell can be recalled, was held early in the summer of 1837 in “Uncle Dave" Russell's barn, and continued there till the inclemency of tho weather compelled them to meet in the school house. As it was connected with the Dundee mission, the same preachers had charge until 1850, when it was divided and attached to Palmyra. In 1856 a lot was donated for church purposes by Austin E. Wing, and a church built the same year, in 1859 it was made a charge by itself, and so continued until 1874, when it was united with Deerfield. The present membership in sixty, with a Sunday- school having an average attendance of about fifty, with Elihu Wadsworth superintendent.

The Free Methodist church in Petersburgh was organized in February, 1887, in the house of B. F. Rose, Rev. W. Cochrane pastor in charge. In 1886 a church was built at a cost of about $700, which was dedicated October 6, 1887, at which time a Sunday School was organized, with E.F. Tremain superintendent. The present, church membership is twenty-one.

The Church of Christ was organized in the spring of 1878, The flock had for its shepherd in 1878-9, Elder E. W. Gordon, and J. J. Harris from 1880 to 1884, since which they have only had evangelical preaching at intervals, although each Sabbath holding Sabbath- school and social meeting. In 1879 the society built a frame church, which was dedicated the first Sunday in June by State Evangelist Sias.

The Evangelical Lutheran St. Peter’a congregation of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession was formed in 1876 by the Rev. F. Iske; then pastor at Ida. who commenced preaching in Petersburgh in 1875. The Rev. Christian Hager was installed pastor in August, 1876, in which year the congregation built a church at an expense of nearly two thousand dollars, which was dedicated November 10, 1876. The Rev. Duever followed in August, 1878, and later the present pastor. Rev. J. Krueger, was installed. At present there is a membership of thirty-four families represented by one hundred and fifteen communicants, in the congregation. The church has a parochial school with forty scholars, and a parsonage adjoining the church, valued at eleven hundred dollars. At the close of the war the only brick building in the village waft a email blacksmith shop on Center street, west of Saline street; now there are eight brick dwellings, two brick blocks of store* and offices, a brick church, a brick school house, and a brick grist mill, being an increase of from $300 in 1865, to upwards of $50,000 in 1888. During this time nearly one-half of the village has been built up, in fact all that portion on Center street, east of Division, and south of Walnut, with the exception of one house. At the present time the population numbers over six hundred. During this time newspapers have been printed by several parties, the pioneer effort being the Avalanche, by Henrv T. Gage & Co,, which was started in June, 1871, continuity until the fire of September 4, 1872, when it was suspended. This was followed by J. 0. Seeley with the River Raisin Clarion, which after about a year, was closed out by mortgage fore- closure. In May, 1880, Ira D. Boardman issued the first number of the Bulletin, which to all appearances has come to stay, as its circulation is 700 and in encasing. Politically it is independent. The Journal was started November, 1883, by a stock company, consisting of John O. Zabel, Dr.Frank Willett, Eugene Cornell and Willey K. Gonsolus, February 25, 1884, fire suspended the issue for about three months, -when O. C. Bacon & Brother, having purchased all that remained after the fire, resumed the issue, and continued until March, 1887 when the plant became the property of E. A. Gilbert

Among the older residents of Summerfield perhaps none are more worthy of mention than Helen M. Russell, the widow of James I. Russell, who was for many years closely identified with the early history of Summerfield. She was born in Oneida county, New York, March 7, 1819, and with her parents, David and Wealthy (Dewey) Curtis, came to Summerfield (now Dundee) in 1833. In the summer of 1839 she kept school in the first frame school house ever built in the township, and December 8, 1840, married James I. Russell, and began housekeeping in a little log cabin on section 16, on which farm she lived until Mr. Russell's death, February 1, 1882. when she purchased a house in the village of Petersburgh, into which she moved the next April.

In speaking of her life, which for nearly half a century had been spent on the old farm, she has just reason to be proud of the family which she has there reared. The oldest, James Otis, born February 10, 1842, was offered an sacrificed on the altar of big country, enlisting in the Sixth Michigan Heavy Artillery, and dying in the hospital at New Orleans, November 27, 1864, after pacing through many hard-fought battles; Jane Ann, born April 23, 1844; Alonzo C. born November 27, 1847, died September 17, 1849; Horace Ismam born February 11, 1850, now a train dispatcher in Oregon; Henry Wayne, born April 3, 1852, now a mining superintendent, in Mexico, Mary Wealthy, born May 4,1854, died October 1854; Newton Buchanan, born September 18, 1855, and now living on the old farm; Orra Hull born November 18, 1858, now one of the lending hardware merchants of the township; and Eugene, born February 9, 1860, and for some years past, township clerk.

Of Mr. Russell we would say that up to the time of his death, February 1, 1882, he had always been a respected and honored citizen. born in Jay, Essex county, New York, June 24, 1812, he came to Summerfield at an early date, and was the last survivor of the number who voted at the first election in the township. He drove the first team through to Toledo, and helped construct the first dock in the “Corn City.” Although devoting his time chiefly to farming, he always manifested a lively interest in the various improvements and issues of the times, serving as supervisor four years, and as representative one term, as well as most of the minor offices in the township. As a public man his record was clear; as a private citizen he was a genial whole souled gentleman, well and favorably known to nearly everyone in the section of his home. Possessed of fine social and conversational talents, he was always a welcome addition to any company, never failing to add a large degree of pleasure by his jovial good humor and fund of information and anecdote. At his funeral was one of the largest turn-outs ever seen in Summerfield, the business houses in Petersburgh all being closed during the hours of his funeral.
Talcott E. Wing's History of Monroe County, Michigan (New York: Munsell and Company, 1890).