Village of Byron

Byron, MI (Ann Arbor Depot) (1915) - Contributed by Paul Petosky



The village of Byron was incorporated April 1, 1873. Its first officers were : President Charles H. Lemon; clerk, James Sleeth; assessor, Jazeb Close;  marshal, David M Tillman; trustees, Chauncey Wells, William F. Close, Orlando Lee, Elijah B. Welch, Adam Betterly, and Isaac Barnum. The present village officers are: Fred S. Ruggles, president; Richard O'Hern, clerk; Elmer L. Haviland, treasurer; Frank R. Lawrie, assessor; and John Davidson, Ray Chaffee, Charles Anderson and Floyd Downing, trustees.

The corporation of the village comprises the adjacent greater sections of 13, 14, 23 and 24, which territory was located by Judge Samuel W. Decker, July 13, 1824. The patent conveying the same to him is dated October 20, of that year.  June 21, 1836, Judge Dexter transferred the lands to Major F. J. Prevost, C. Smith, P. L. Smith and S. S. Derby, who formed as association known as the Byron Company.

The village is situated at the junction of two branches of the Shiawassee river and as soon as the Byron Company was fairly organized, work was started to build a dam across the east branch of the stream, the first dam being completed late in the fall of 1836. The company also built a log house for a boarding house for their employees. This building, which was completed in September, 1836, was the first building erected in the village. The energy of the promoters of the company induced other settlers to cast in their lot with them, and a thriving  trading post sprung up, which gave rise to the hope that the village might eventually become the county seat. When the county was organized, however, Byron was too much to one side, and its aspirations could not be realized.

In 1840 Byron contained five families, and a postoffice was established with Major Prevost as postmaster. Prior to that time mail was brought from Holly, but soon thereafter a stage line was established from Pontiac to Ionia, which brought mail to Bryon until the completion of the railroad from Ionia. Holden White succeeded Major Prevost as postmaster in 1842, and started the first general store in the village.

Dr. Abner Sears was the first physician locating in Byron, in 1838. The first attorney was Corydon Lee. The first flouring mill was completed in 1842, the proprietors being Bowman W. Dennis and Sullivan R. Kelsey. They also opened a store, the second one in the village. The first hotel was the log cabin referred to , intended for a boarding house for mill hands. A Mr. Sadler took possession of it and hung out the sign "Cottage Inn" which continued to be the name until 1847. The Byron Hotel was built about 1841.

The first regularly organized religious society in Byron was that of the Christian church, Rev. John Cameron being the first minister, in 18409, though several families had united for worship for two years prior to his coming. The Methodist church was organized in 1853, but ministers of that denomination had preached in Byron since 1836. Rev. Riley C. Crawford, who is still living here, was one of the preachers prior to 1850. The Presbyterian church was organized by Rev. Seth Hardy June 24, 1845. A Baptist church was organized at an early date, but declined and was reorganized October 6, 1866, as the "Baptist Conference of Byron and Cohoctah." The church edifice was constructed in 1873, and remodelled in 1899. The first pastor was Rev. Thomas H. Cary.

Byron Lodge No. 80 Free and Accepted Masons was organized in 1856 and has a present membership of one hundred and forty-three. Its officers are as follows: Guy Braden, worshipful master; Herbert Whitehead, secretary; Clark M. Buell, treasurer.

Byron Lodge No. 349 Knights of the Maccabees was organized in 1890 and its first officers were: Jay D. Royce, commander; Fred Carpenter, lieutenant commander; Thomas A Lawrie, record keeper, and Albert F. Hunt, finance keeper, and Albert F. Hunt, finance keeper. The present officers are Fred A. Lewis, commander; Asher Hyatt, lieutenant commander; Lyle Downing, record keeper, Elmer Haviland, finance keeper.

D. G.  Royce Post No. 117, Grand Army of the Republic, was organized in 1883, its first commander being Solomon S. Tower. The present commander is Luther C. Kanous. There are also the Woman's Relief Corps, Order of the Eastern Star and Ladies of the Maccabees, besides various clubs and societies organized for educational and other purposes.

The first school was taught about the year 1840, and the first school meeting was held in 1843. The first school house was built in Byron in 1845. The union school building was constructed in 1865 at a cost of two thousand dollars and used until the present brick building was erected, in 1899, at a cost of six thousand dollars.  Among the former superintendents may be mentioned Samuel W. Baker, Edwin M. Plunkett, Devere Hall and George R. Brandt. The present teachers are O. D. Hoag, Kathryn Bowen, MInnie Winans and Berenice Phipps. The members of the school board are A. L. Bramack, moderator; Clark M. Buell, director; Myron H. Redmond, treasurer; William Dyer and Herman J. Meier.

The first store in Byron was opened by Holden White, in 1842, in the building opposite the Byron Hotel. Nicholas Gulick, who came to Byron in 1843, was for a time a clerk in the store of Holden White and afterward, buying a small stock of goods at the start, he continued in business for many years. Mr. Gulick was school director for a long time, held various offices in the village and township and was a representative in the state legislature in 1852-4.

Following the advent of the Toledo, Ann Arbor & Northern Michigan Railroad, in 1885, a number of brick stores were constructed, all of which were occupied by dealers in various articles of merchandise, who are doing a profitable business in their respective lines.

Byron is surrounded by a prosperous farming community, but has no large manufacturing interest. The illegal bonus with its accompanying benefits, has not been employed unless we may except the private donations of a large amount of money and land for right of way given to aid in the construction of the Ann Arbor Railroad.

The State Bank of Byron, which, in 1905, succeeded the Exchange Bank, that had been conducted for a number of years by Albert F. Hunt, is capitalized at twenty thousand dollars and is doing a deservedly large business.  The president is Luther C. Kanouse, and the cashier F. William Nothnagel.

The Byron Herald established about 1895, by the late James Sleeth, is now conducted by William McDonald and enjoys a large advertising patronage.

Byron now has a population of four hundred and fifty and is an excellent trading point. Its officers are: President, Dr. A. L.  Brannack; clerk, Richard O'Hearn; treasurer, John Fritz; accessor, F. R. Lawrie; trustees, Herman C. Walker, John Davidson, G. W. Downing, D. R. Benton.

Source: Past and present of Shiawassee County, Michigan, historically: together with biographical sketches of many of its leading and prominent citizens and illustrious dead.  Lansing, Michigan: Mich. Historical Publishing Association, [1906] pp. 123-126.



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