Maple Valley Township

Montcalm County

This township is the southeast quarter of the original township of Pierson, of which it formed apart until 1864 It presents much diversity of soil and timber. The hardwood varieties are confined principally to the north half of the township, while the south half contains large tracts of pine, which are being rapidly exhausted. The water systems which drain the township flow north into Tamarack Creek and south into Flat River.

There are a number of lakes, of which the largest is the Muscalonge, which is situated principally on section 26, and whose outlet furnishes a water-power just below the village of Trufant. Into this stream flow the waters of Cranberry Lake, on section 26, and the small lake on section 22. The two lakes are connected by a small stream. On the latter lake is the saw-mill of Barnard & Co., which has a capacity of forty thousand feet of lumber per day. A tramway is used to convey tho lumber from the east part of the township to the mill. Two small lakes in the southwest part empty into Black Creek, on section 30.

This and section 31 are almost entirely covered with low land. A part of sections 24 and 25 is also low and swampy. Black Creek, which drains the west part of the township, rises on the south part of section 9, and flows southwest and south and enters Kent County, and finally reaches Flat River in the township of Montcalm. Near the village of Coral, on section 8, are also two small lakes.

There are several other small bodies of water in various parts of the township, some of which are drained by a stream which flows in a northwesterly direction and empties into Tamarack Creek. The Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad runs diagonally through the township, furnishing ready means for the shipment of produce from its four stations, which are Colwell, Maple Valley, Trufant, and Coral. The latter is largest, having a population of about seven hundred.

The township is bounded on the north by Winfield, on the east by Pine, on the south by Kent County, on the west by Pierson, and in the United States survey was designated township number 11 north, of range 9 west.


The permanent settlement of Maple Valley began in 1858, when Heber Cowden, with his family, settled on the northwest fractional quarter of section 11. He was a native of Washington Co., N. Y., whence he came direct to Jackson Co., Mich., in 1835, where he continued to reside until 1858. On coming to Maple Valley he built a cabin and began a clearing, and continued to reside on this land until his death, in 1862. His death was the first in the township. Mr. Cowden was a well, hearty man, but one day, coming in the house from his work, complained of feeling ill, and in five minutes he died of heart disease. The funeral took place at his cabin, which still stands on the bank of Cowden Lake. He was buried on his own land, near the lake, in a beautiful spot, now marked by a few rails, which are a part of the fence by which it was formerly inclosed. Of his children, of whom he had five, none now remain in the township. His wife now resides with one of her daughters.

Michael Whalen came to the township about the same time. He entered the southwest quarter of section 31 and the west half of the southeast quarter of the same section. Soon after his brother Simon came in. Neither was then married, and both are now dead.

In June, 1858, £. J. Blanding, of Livingston Co., N. Y.t and his father-in-law, Howland Soules, of Vergennes, Kent Co., came to Maple Valley, which was then a part of Pier- son. The latter selected several tracts of land, but did not become a resident. Two of his sons, James P. and Benjamin Soules, subsequently settled in the township, but at the time they entered their land several settlements had already been made.

James and Jacob Ferguson, John, James, William, and Patrick Cody, and Patrick Lynch all settled in the township previous to 1858, and all became permanent residents. James Ferguson settled on section 18, his brother Jacob on section 7, the Cody brothers, who were direct from Ireland, on section 15, where they still reside. Patrick Lynch settled on section 8. His daughter Mary, who was born in the summer of 1861, was the first white child born in the township. She still lives with her father. In the fall of 1860, K. J. Blanding came in and settled on the land which he had entered two rears previous. Tho lumber of which the floor of his cabin was made was hauled from Denmark, seventeen miles distant. In 1863, Mr. Blinding enlisted and served in the Tenth Michigan Cavalry as sergeant, and was subsequently promoted to lieutenant. In the mean time several other families had reached the township. Daniel Appleby settled with his family on section 7, and Peter Wood located just beside him. Neither now lives in the township.


In the fall of 1861, Charles Parker came to the township and settled on section 7. He bought also the west half of tho northwest quarter of section 9 from Charles Wilson, who settled in Pierson. Mr. Parker bought this eighty acres for the pine which grew upon it, intending to float it down Tamaruck Creek, and, in pursuance of this plan, he put a considerable number of logs in the river. But the mill company of Howard City, considering this an imposition on them, brought suit against the lumber company for damages, and the practice of rafting logs was prohibited. Hence, when the saw-mill of Morris and Henry Stamp was completed, Mr. Parker commenced the manufacture of lumber. And when the Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad was completed through here he laid out the village, which he called Coral. Wilson had cleared about an acre of land and built a log cabin, which is still standing. This was the first house in this vicinity, and was built when the country was a mere wilderness. The next was a log house built by Parker for his men while he was engaged in taking out logs. This mill, which had a capacity of twenty thousand feet per day, was the beginning of the business interests of the little village. It was burned, however, in 1874. Clayton Wood soon after bought a lot, built a small house, and opened a light stock of goods. This was the first store in the township. But he soon railed in business and turned his attention to farming, but subsequently removed to Dakota. The development of the village from this time was rapid. James Parks came from Indiana and opened a blacksmith-shop. Frankinberger opened the next store.

The saw-mill and dryer built by J. Potter Hart in 1872 had a capacity of forty thousand feet per day. It continued in full operation, turning oat an immense quantity of lumber and employing from forty to sixty men, until the pine was exhausted and the mill removed, in 1880. It is now owned by Clark, Hinkle & Morse. The stave factory, now in active operation, was first built for a shingle-mill, and as such was used until, as before stated, the pine was all made use of.

The flouring custom-mill was built by George Highlander, It has one run of stone for feed and one for flour. Coral now has a population of seven hundred, and, besides the business-places already mentioned, has three hotels, several general stores, and other small places of business. Charles Parker, its founder, remained in the township until 1880, when he removed, with his family, to Oregon.


Congregational Church of Coral.—On Thursday, Nov. 7, 1872, the first meeting having for its object the organization of a Congregational Church at Coral met at the house of Deacon Harvey Woodruff. After due deliberation in regard to the expediency of forming a society, in which were discussed the probabilities of success, it was decided by those present to make the effort. It was also decided to call an ecclesiastical council to meet in Coral on the 23d of November following.

Charles Parker and James R, Taylor were appointed a committee to invite the societies at Croton, Greenville, and Portland to take part in the exercises. In the mean time, these and other preliminaries being completed, on the 24th of November, 1872, the society was organized and the following names enrolled: Charles Parker, Mrs. Isabella Parker, Isaac Mattison, Mrs. Adriance Miles, James R. Taylor, Mrs. Mary E. Taylor, Mrs. Sarah McDonald. The next day the officers were elected: J. R. Taylor, Isaac Mattison, J. C. Richards, Deacons; J. R. Taylor, Secretary; Isaac Mattison, Treasurer. J. A. Worden was invited and served the first year as pastor, for the society. The chapel was erected in 1875, at a cost of fifteen hundred dollars. It was dedicated by Rev. Eaton, Nov. 26, 1876. Rev. S. Snyder preached the closing sermon. The present membership is fifty-eight. The church-property is valued at fifteen hundred dollars.

Methodist Episcopal Church.—The society of this church was organized in the fall of 1862 by Rev. David Gilbert, of Oakfield, Kent Co., and consisted of the following members: K. J. Blanding, Mrs. Jane Blanding, Elias R. Ferguson, Jane Ferguson, Martin Phillips and wife, James Ferguson. These persons held their meetings at the house of E J. Blanding, and Mr. Gilbert continued to conduct the services. He was the first minister having a regular appointment in the township. This class has continued its exercises, with an intermission of but a few months, until the present time, for the present organization may properly be considered but a continuation of that class. In the spring of 1872, Rev. J. W. Faucett was assigned to this charge. He at once agitated the question of building a church, and succeeded so far as to get a building up and inclosed. But it was not finished until 1879. Rev. Mr. Joslyn, of Albion College, preached the dedicatory sermon in February, 1873. A collection was taken at that time for the purpose of completing the edifice. Rev. Mr. Haviland is the present pastor, and the membership is twenty-four.


The first school district was set off by the school board of Pierson in the fall of 1860. It comprised the northwest quarter of the township. The first school-meeting was held at the house of E. J. Blanding, on section 7. He was elected director, Clayton Wood moderator, and James Ferguson assessor. No school was taught during the winter. In the following spring a log cabin eighteen by twenty-four feet was built on the southeast corner of the northwest quarter of section 7, on land owned by Howland Soules. Elizabeth Parker, now the wife of Peter Taylor, taught the first school, which lasted three months. She had seven scholars from the families of James and Jacob Ferguson, Charles Parker, and Clayton Wood. She received three dollars per week, and boarded around with the patrons of the school. A grand Fourth-of July celebration was gotten up during this summer, at which Charles Parker and E. J. Blanding orated, while their families were the interested audience. This was the only district formed previous to the organization of Maple Valley. The next district formed comprised the central portions of the township.

The school in the village of Coral was first taught in a little frame building which stood on the south side of the railroad. But the rapid growth of the village rendered this impossible to accommodate the scholars. Accordingly the question of building a new house was agitated, and culminated in calling a meeting, at which a building committee of five citizens was appointed, and three thousand dollars was voted to build a house, which was completed in 1873, and cost between three and four thousand dollars. The school is graded, and is now in charge of Charles Tucker.


The first township-meeting of Maple Valley was held in the shingle shanty of Seth Moen, on section 1. The meeting bad been appointed to be held at his house, but he having moved away it was adjourned to the place above mentioned.

Maple Valley at this time comprised town 12 north, of range 9 west, now the township of Winfield. There were at that time eighteen voters in the two townships.


The supervisors, clerks, treasurers, and justices of the peace elected annually for the years 1864 to 1880, inclusive, are as follows:


1861-67, Charles Parker; 1868, Philo B. Ingham; 1869-70, Henry Sump; 1871, Samuel Wiseman; 1872, D. L. Shook; 1873-74, Charles Parker; 1875-79, A. C. Fisher; 1880, William Birkett


1864, Charles Parker; 1865, James S. Ferguson; 1866, R. Rain; 1867, J. B. Fletcher; 1868-69, Alvin Darls; 1870, Henry Cowden; 1871, AMn Daris; 1872, B. J. Blanding; 1873-80, John Haleomb.


1864, James Cody; 1865, Jacob Ferguson; 1866, Isaac Mattison; 1867, Peter Kain; 1868, William Cody; 1869, Peter Kain: 1870, Isaao Mattison; 1871, Henry Cowden; 1872, Edwin Meads; 1873-74, J. C. Richards: 1875-76, D. L. Shook; 1877, Isaac Morris; 1878, Richard Kearney; 1879, T. O. Northrup; 1880, R. Kearney.


1864, Miohael Whaler), William Cody, Charles Parker, William Sheehan; 1863, William Sbeehan; 1866, Charles Parker; 1867, Charles Condon, William Cody; 1868, E. R. Ferguson; 1869, James 8. Morrison, Cyrus Hincmman; 1870, Emory J. Blanding, James I. Parks; 1871, R«v. It. M. Wright, Andrew Acker; 1872, J. P. Taylor ; 1873, T. H. Stimpson, Samuel Wiseman; 1874, S. Belgrare, C. M. Slawson; 1875, E. J. Blanding, J. D. Van Tassel; 1876, Charles Baldwin; 1877, Sylvester Belgravos, John Skech; 1878, G. B. Lewis, W. M. Parsons; 1879, J. R. Taylor; 1880, James Starks.


This village is laid out on land entered from government by Mr. Trufant, who built a saw-mill here in 1872, which was the first run by water in the township. He sold out to J. B. Hileman and Jacob Hessert who built a steam saw-mill on the site of the old one. They have since added a shingle and planing-mill, and now employ eighty men. They average forty thousand feet of lumber and forty thousand shingles per day. Their planing-mill is one of the best in the county. There are now four mills in the vicinity of Trufant, some of which will not continue in operation more than a few years. The firm of Hileman & Hesser laid out the village in the year 1874, and named it after Mr. Trufant, the first settler of this land, who removed to Mount Clemens and there died. The first building erected was a boarding-house built by this firm and run by Samuel Barr. In 1872, T. H. Stimpson put up a building for a hotel. He was a member of the United Brethren Church, and subsequently went to preaching. The first store was opened by Herrick Fox. He built a small house and opened a light stock of goods, but did not remain long in the business. Philip Wilson opened a stock of goods in 1873, and remained in business but four years. Frank Seymour started in the mercantile business in Trufant in 1875, and closed out in 1880. George H. Cowin opened a stock of drugs in 1877, and still continues in this business. Dr. J. T. Joslyn was the first physician to locate in Trufant. He remained but a year, and then returned to Guernsey. He was succeeded by Dr. Hammond, who is still a resident of the village. The death of Elmer Howey in 1872 was the first in the village.


This hamlet is situated principally on land owned by William Fitzgerald, in section 15. He told eighty acres to R. Kearney, who laid out the village in 1872. The sawmill at this place had been built by Babcock & Ferguson in 1870. Soon after the village was laid out, Dr. Slawson, who was also the first postmaster, built a store-room and opened a stock of goods. He remained in business some years. The hotel was built by Horace Sturtevant. There are now one hotel and one general store in the village. The population is about fifty.

Backgrounds By Marie