Van Buren Co MI
Decatur Township History
History of Berrien and Van Buren counties, Michigan.
With biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers.
Ellis, Franklin, 1828-1885., Johnson, Crisfield., D.W. Ensign & Co. 1880 Pg 439


Looking North on Main Street, Decatur, MI (1912) - Postcard from Paul Petosky



THE PIONEER TOWNSHIP AND ITS EARLY SETTLERS.

Decatur, known as town 4 south, range 14 west, lies in the southern tier of townships bordering upon Cass County, and enjoys the distinction of being the township that received the first white settler in Van Buren County. Its boundaries are Paw Paw on the north, the Cass County line on the south, Porter on the east, and Hamilton on the west. Originally covering a territory six miles in width by twelve in length, half of its area was sot off to Porter in 1845, so that it remains to-day six miles square.

Decatur is a fine wheat-growing township, and as to general agriculture will compare favorably with any township in the county. The wheat shipped at Decatur station for the six months ending Dec. 1, 1879, aggregated 84,000 bushels. The business of sheep-raising is likewise an important and profitable feature of farming industry. Farmers who pay especial attention to sheep-raising own flocks numbering from 500 to 1000.

Decatur bears the palm as the pioneer township of Van Buren County in point of early settlement, and until 1831 contained within its limits only the family of the man who led the way into Van Buren County as its first white settler,—Dolphin Morris, a resident of Deer Creek, Scioto Co., Ohio, who, accompanied by his father, Henry D. Swift, and Jacob Morlan, came to Decatur, and on the 27th of March, 1829, began to cut logs for a cabin, which he built upon section 36, near the centre of it* southeast quarter. During the first week in April he moved his family into the cabin, and from that time forward remained a settler in the township. Morlan settled in Cass County, while Swift, although he worked for Mr. Morris, did not become an actual settler until 1831. For two years, therefore, Mr. Morris was the only settler iu Van Buren County, although he was not without neighbors in Cass County.

Dolphin Morris' log cabin was a historical structure, and deserved preservation among the pioneer relics of Van Buren. It not only sheltered the first family of white settlers in the county, but beneath its roof occurred the first birth and first death. Within its walls the first sermon was preached and the first school taught, while it enjoyed likewise the minor distinction of being the first hotel in the county. The material structure has passed away, but the spot upon which it stood is well remembered.

Dolphin Morris continued to be a resident in Decatur until his death, in January, 1870. His son Henry lived on the old place until Sept. 28, 1879, when he and his wife were murdered in a mysterious manner. Dolphin Morris split with his own hands the first rail, and turned the first furrow in Van Buren County. Mr. Morris' sons now living are Samuel, Elias, and Amos, the latter residing in Law ton and the two former in Cass County. Elias Morris is now the oldest person living of those born in Van Buren County.

H. D. Swift, who came to Michigan with Dolphin Morris, located a piece of land on section 36, and being without funds to purchase it, held it as a "claim," and selling the claim to Le Grand Anderson in 1831, was enabled with the money thus obtained to buy a tract near at hand, and upon that place ho lived until his death.

George Tittle, a brother-in-law to Dolphin Morris, came from Ohio in 1831, and settled upon 80 acres on section 35, where his son Dolphin now resides. George Tittle died on the old farm in 1866.

Samuel, a brother of Dolphin Morris, came to Cass County in the spring of 1829, and after a residence there of two years settled in Decatur, in 1831, upon section 36. whore he lived until his death.

Le Grand Anderson came from Ohio to Michigan in the spring of 1831, and bought 434 acres of land in Decatur township, on sections 26 and 36, there being in the tract 80 acres of prairie land. Instead of working his own lands, he rented 40 acres in Cass County, on Young's Prairie, and broke it. He returned to Ohio in the summer, and in October of the same year came back to Michigan In close his land purchases. Journeying once more to Ohio, he came back in the spring of 1832 to Michigan, bringing with him on this occasion men and teams, with which he worked his land and put in crops. In the summer of 1832 he brought his family from Ohio, and in November of that year they became permanent members of the infant settlement, Mr. Anderson lived on section 36 which was his home, until his death, in 1869, and which is now the home of his son, L. R. Anderson. His other children living in the township are William and Jane. The only settlers in November, 1832, in what is now Decatur were Lt Grand Anderson, Dolphin and Samuel Morris.(brothers). George Tittle, their brother-in-law, H. D. Swift, and David Curry.

David Curry, one of Decatur's foremost pioneers, was a young unmarried man when, in 1830, he migrated from Indiana to Volinia township, Cass Co., Mich , in search of a new home. He lived in Cass County two years, and marrying, determined to settle in Decatur, where, upon section 34, he entered 160 acres adjoining Dolphin Morris' farm, and whither he removed with his wife in 1832. At that time there were already on the ground Dolphin and Samuel Morris, George Tittle, John Eckenherger, Le Grand Anderson, and H. D. Swift. Mr. Curry's cabin measured 18 by 20, but had neither floor, window, nor door. Puncheon floors were common enough, but Mrs. Curry preferred to have no floor until she could have a better one, and accordingly in the January following their settlement Mr. Curry hauled from Whitmanville, twelve miles distant, some rough lumber with which a floor was laid. Mrs. Curry then enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing that her floor, even if rough, was the only "sawed" floor in the township, and that she lived also in what was then conceded to he the best house not only in Decatur, but on the "Prairie," Mr. Curry lived until 1846, when he was killed by a fall from a wagon. Five of his children still occupy the old homestead, to wit: Jonathan, Joseph Q, Juliette, David Q.,and Elizabeth. David Q. served through the war of 1861-65 as a member of the 4th Michigan Cavalry, and participated in the capture of Jefferson Davis, his souvenir of that incident being a pair of saddle-bags taken from Gen. Reagan, of Davis' cabinet. David Curry's old log cabin, which stood near tho present Curry home, has passed from view, but the old " lean-to" is yet preserved although in a state of decay.

Joseph Van Vise, a resident of Butler Co., Ohio, came to Decatur in 1835, located 80 acres on section 13, and then hired out to work a year for John Eckenberger, a settler then in Decatur. After serving his year Van Hise went back to Ohio, and in the fall of 1836 brought his family out, put up a log cabin on his 80-acre farm, and lived on the place until his death, in February. 1873. His widow and son Jared are now living on the farm. Another son, William K , lives on a place adjoining it on the west. With Joseph Van Hise came also to Decatur in 1836 his brother, William 0. Van Hise, and his father (Oakey) and mother, the parents living with William 0., on section 24. The latter subsequently removed to Cass County, where he now resides.

John Eckenberger, of whom mention has been made, lived two miles south of Joseph Van Hise. He sold his farm to Jacob Charles, of Cass County, and moved farther west, hut returning again to Decatur, died in the township, as did Mr. Charles.

A Mr. Lantrekin, who lived with his family on section 23 in 1836, moved away soon afterwards and was heard of no more. Thomas Scott and family lived in that year on section 13, in a cabin put up by one Johannet, Scott went to Schoolcraft, and becoming afterwards a resident of Antwerp and later of Illinois, died in that State. John W., a nephew of Thomas Scott, came from Ohio to Decatur in the spring of 1837, and worked as a farm laborer until 1842, when he returned to Ohio, married, and in 1844 came back to Decatur and located upon the farm he now occupies.

In the northern part of the township settlements were not made until a comparatively late date, and until even the beginning of the history of Decatur village that section was sparsely peopled. Joseph Van Hise used to say that when he was town treasurer, in 1848, there were but three tax-payers north of Lake of Woods, and to reach them required from him a day's journey, which in the end gave him cash collections to the amount of fifty cents. The first white child born in Van Buren County first saw the light in Dolphin Morris' rude log cabin, Aug. 4, 1830. The child was Lewis Creighton, a son of Dolphin Morris, and the little fellow gave up his young life, under the same roof, December 20th of the same year, this being the first death in the county. In that cabin, too, May 11, 1832, was born Elias Morris, now living in Cass County; the second white child born in Van Huron, and now the oldest of all natives of the county. The first marriage iu the county was that of Elijah Goble, of Cass County, to Eliza Tittle, of Van Buren. John Shaw was the justice who per- formed the ceremony, and Sept. 28, 1833, was the date on which the knot was tied. Daniel Alexander and Margaret Tittle were the second couple married in the county, and set up housekeeping in the old Morris cabin.

Among the trials of the settlers in 1831 was the failure of seed-corn, which threatened much distress, but Dolphin Morris was equal to the occasion. He dispatched one Kirkendall and John Tittle, a lad of fifteen, to Fort Defiance, on the Maumee River, one hundred miles distant, for a fresh supply. They made the distance with a pack-horse, returned one Saturday night with two bushels of seed-corn, and on Sunday morning the settlers turned out and planted it. The crop raised from that planting was about all tho corn they had that year. June 20, 1835, was memorable because of a severe frost, that destroyed almost all the crops except those near the small lakes.

It is told of Dolphin Morris that in 1882 ho started for Niles to mill, and encountering a terrible snow-storm as welt as very bad roads, he was fourteen days making the trip, and when he got home it was with but the fore-wheels of his wagon, his team, and a bag of flour.

A stage-route was opened through Decatur between Cassopolis and Paw Paw in 1838, and was for some years thereafter a much-traveled thoroughfare. Along that line, now covered in part by the valley road, was erected the first telegraph road put up in the State. In Decatur there were on tho road no wayside inns, although Jacob Charles, who lived near "The Spring," kept at times a house of public entertainment.

THE SWAMP ROAD.

In the year 1848, when the growth of Decatur village was sluggish, tho subject of a road through the great swamp was agitated, and in a little while it became apparent that such a road was a vital necessity, since without it there could be no communication with the district on the south and southeast. Boers & Sherwood undertook the construction of the road, which was estimated to cost $2000, the railroad company giving $500 and the villagers $300 towards it. Except for one-fifth the distance, which was planked, the road was built of split puncheons about ten feet in length, laid on pole stringers, and being but a single track, had turn-outs at Intervals. It was a rough thoroughfare, but a great convenience. The first person to cross it towards the south was Miss Hathaway (now Mrs. A. B. Copley), who, arriving at Decatur Nov. 6, 18411, was conveyed by Mr. Goddard, station-agent, over the road to her home, the roadway having been completed three days before. A new road, west of the old one, was built in 1856, and in 1865 material improvements were put upon it, the total expenditures upon the road then amounting to $15,000.

TOWNSHIP ORGANIZATION AND CIVIL LIST.

Under the act of Legislature, approved March 11,1837, dividing Van Buren County into seven townships, Decatur embraced the territory now occupied by Decatur and Porter, and received its name in honor of Commodore Stephen Decatur, a naval hero of the war of 1812. In 1845 the township of Porter was organized from the eastern half of Decatur, each afterwards having a territory six miles square, as at present.

The records of the township dating from 1837 to 1844 are not to be found, and the civil list for that period is, therefore, unobtainable. From 1844 to 1880, however, the records are perfect, and the names of those who have been chosen annually between those years as supervisor, clerk, treasurer, and justice of the peace are given below:

1844. —Supervisor, Stephen Kinney; Clerk, Q. S. Freese; Treasurer, Nathan Cook; Justice of the Peace, V. C. Smith.

1845. —Supervisor, Lyman San ford ; Clerk, Joseph Van Hise; Treasurer, Thomas Scott. Justice of the Peace, Thomas Scott.

1846—Supervisor, Lyman Sanford ; Clerk, James Boyd; Treasurer, Thomas Scott; Justice of the Peace, W. C. Van Hise.

1847.—Supervisor, Lyman Sanford; Clerk, James Boyd; Treasurer, Thomas Scott; Justice of the Peace, W, C. Van Hise.

1848-Supervisor, Lyman Sanford; Clerk, W. 0. Van Hise | Treasurer, James Van Hise; Justice of the Peace, Ralph Mason.

1849. —Supervisor Lyman Sanford; Clerk, W. 0. Van Hise; Treasurer, James Boyd; Justice of the Peace, George B. Sherwood.

1850. —Supervisor, N. Lefever; Clerk. W. N. Pardee; Treasurer, James Boyd; Justice of the Peace, W. N. Pardee.

1851. —Supervisor, W. 0. Van Hise. Clerk, Henry Canoll; Treasurer, James Boyd ; Justice of the Peace, W. 0. Van Hise.

1852. —Supervisor, Lyman Sanford; Clerk, H. Canoll; Treasurer, Hiram Potts; Justice of the Peace, William Campbell.

1853. —Supervisor, Lyman Sanford; Clerk, R. Bardes; Treasurer, J T. Keables; Justice of the Peace, M. P. Merrill.

1854. —Supervisor, Jeremiah Teed; Clerk, K. M. Pool; Treasurer, J. T. Keables; Justice of the Peace, N. J squish.

-1855. —Supervisor, Jeremiah Teed; Clerk, B. M. Pool; Treasurer, J. E. Hollister; Justice of the Peace, John C. White.

1856. —Supervisor, George Bennett; Clerk, E. M. Pool; Treasurer, W. K. Trowbridge ; Justice of the Peace, George Bennett.

1857. —Supervisor, George Bennett: Clerk, J. A. Stafford ; Treasurer, If. Chamberlain ; Justice of the Peace, U. C. Millard.

1858. —Supervisor, J. Teed : Clerk. J. A. Stafford: Treasurer, H. Chamberlain ; Justice of the Peace, 0. T. Welch.

1859. —Supervisor, 0. T. Welch; Clerk, J. A. Stafford; Treasurer, W. R. Trowbridge; Justice of the Peace, E. S. Parker.

1860. —Supervisor, 0. T. Welch; Clerk, W. K. Van Hi«e; Treasurer, Charles H. Keyes: Justice of the Peace, I. W. Powers.

1861. —Supervisor, 0. T. Welch; Clerk, W. K. Van Hits; Treasurer, D. C. Brown; Justice of the Peace, H. C. Millard.

1862. —Supervisor, E. P. Hill; Clerk. Charles Shier, Jr.; Treasurer, M. Hinckley; Justice of the Peace, 0. T. Welch.

1863. —Supervisor, E. P. Hill; Clerk, Charles Shier, Jr.; Treasurer, M. Hinckley; Justice of the Peace, W. K. Van Hise.

1864. —Supervisor, E. P. Hill; Clerk, W. T. Gerow ; Treasurer, 0. W. Geer; Justice of the Peace, George Bennett.

1865. —Supervisor, E. P. Hill; Clerk, W. T. Gerow ; Treasurer, H. A. Northrop ; Justice of the Peace, H. C. Millard.

1866. —Supervisor, E. P. Hill; Clerk, W. T. Gerow ; Treasurer. George Bennett; Justice of the Peace, C. Hollister.

1867. —Supervisor, C. Hollister; Clerk, W. T. Gerow; Treasurer, George Bennett; Justice of the Peace. W. K. Van Hise.

1868.—Supervisor, Eri Beebe; Clerk, L. D. Roberts; Treasurer, Hollister; Justice of the Peace, J. Richards.

1869.—Supervisor, Eri Beebe; Clerk, N. Foster; Treasurer, C. Hollister; Justice or the Peace, H. C. Millard.

1870. —Supervisor, R. Nutting; Clerk, N. Clark; Treasurer, W. B. Trowbridge; Justice of the Peace, C. H. Haskins.

1871. —Supervisor, R Nutting; Clerk, N. Clark; Treasurer, W. B. Trowbridge; Justice of the Peace, William Hall.

1872. —Supervisor, R. Nutting; Clerk, J. 0. Haynes; Treasurer, D. Squier; Justice of the Peace, 0. W. Field.

1873.—Supervisor, R. Nutting; Clerk, J. 0. Haynes; Treasurer, D. Squier; Justice of the Peace, J. W. Lewis.

1874. —Supervisor, R. Nutting; Clerk, Samuel Ellis; Treasurer, A. N. Chamberlain; Justice of the Pease, George Bennett.

1875. —Supervisor, R. Nutting; Clerk. Samuel Ellis; Treasurer, A. K. Chamberlain ; Justice of the Peace, J. Ransford.

1876.—Supervisor, R. Nutting; Clerk, Samuel Ellis; Treasurer, A. N. Chamberlain ; Justice of the Peace, J. O. Haynes.

1877.—Supervisor, R. Nutting; Clerk, J. 0. Haynes; Treasurer, A. N. Chamberlain; Justice of the Peace, W. Pritchard.

1878. —Supervisor, R. Nutting; Clerk, J. G. Haynes; Treasurer, A. N. Chamberlain; Justice of the Peace, N. S. Rathbun.

1879. —Supervisor, R. Nutting; Clerk, J. I. Sherman; Treasurer, A. N. Chamberlain; Justice of tho Peace, W. K. Van Hise.

Decatur had in 1874 a population of 2306, and in 1879 an assessed valuation of $523,300.

DECATUR VILLAGE.

Until 1847 the present site of the village of Decatur was simply a hunting-ground, and a favorite place of resort it was for the Nimrods of the time as far back as 1834, while near at hand, on the banks of Pickerel Lake, anglers gathered from far and near, for the waters of that lake were in the olden time very abundantly supplied with fish. In 1847, Beers & Sherwood, of New York City, had acquired government grants for 5000 acres of land, in which was included the site of the present village of Decatur, and when the Michigan Central Railway began to push its way westward from Kalamazoo they determined to lay out a village on the line and call it Decatur. They donated land for depot buildings, which were put up in 1848, in which year also the railway was completed from Detroit to Niles. October 7th of that year an excursion-train from Detroit to Niles, in celebration of the opening of the road, pawed through Decatur.

The village did not, however, begin its growth until 1849, when it was platted according to the original design, and christened Decatur. C. S. Tucker, who had been boarding railroad hands in a shanty south of the depot, opened a boarding-house in a building previously used by Beers A Sherwood as an office, which stood upon tho place now occupied by the Duncombe House. In the same year a number of village lots were occupied, and stores were opened by A. H. Dixon, Goes k Dixon, and T. E. Phelps, in the order named. Hiram Lee, now living in the village and resident longest therein, bought the first village lot, in 1848, before the village was platted. It was designated as the third lot west of the public square. The completion of the swamp road, in November, 1849, opened communication with a hitherto unapproachable tract of country, and gave to the new village a decided impetus. The first village school-house was built in 1848, and school was taught in it during the winter of 1848—19 by Miss Sarah Cook, whose pupils numbered 20.

Trade, Past and Present.

In 1854 the present business centre of the village was occupied by a drug-store, two general stores, and one dry-goods store. Jan. 1, 1880, the village population was closely estimated at 2000, and, in the matter of mercantile trade, there were five general stores, two hardware-stores, two drug-stores, five grocery-stores, one furniture-store, one shoe-store, and various small business stands. Ten brick store buildings of some pretensions embellish the main street, and bestow upon the town an air of substantial thrift. Decatur is famous us a great "trading town," and is likewise an important grain-purchasing point, and makes large annual shipments by railway, as will be seen in a table of statistics printed elsewhere.

In the earlier history of the village, when no man dared venture upon opening a store, trading was done at Kalamazoo or Paw Paw. Dixon's store, which stood where Hathaway's store now is, was esteemed a fine establishment for that day,—indeed, some thought it rather finer than was needed. Theodore Phelps' store stood on " Chadwick's Corner," and was ultimately converted into a hotel, known as the Downs House. In 1851 the main street of the village boasted the stores of A. H. Dixon, Theodore Phelps, and E. Ingalls, and a bar-room, kept by Robert Willis. Willis was then known as tho wealthiest man in Decatur, but subsequently his prosperity declined and he sunk to poverty.

Henry Canoll was keeping a drug-store in the building put up by Dr. Bartholomew, and on the corner now occupied by the Duncombe House L. R. Barker was keeping the Decatur House. Barker had taken the place originally set up by Charles Tucker as a railroad boarding-house, added a front, named it the Decatur House and made it a reputable hotel.

At that time the spot now occupied by the thriving village of Decatur was literally in the woods, and the sight of deer and wolves in the very heart of the village is said to have been no uncommon one.

George Sherwood, an employee of Beers & Sherwood, was one of the first justices of the peace in the village, and with William N. Hardee practiced law whenever occasion required, but occasions of (hat sort were not plentiful enough to call for extraordinary exertion.- on their part. In 1850, Beers & Sherwood engaged Nathan Wilcox to put up a steam saw-mill near the village. A whisky-distillery subsequently took the place of the mill, although its career was brief.

The first carpenter and joiner to locate in Decatur village was L. T. Olds, who came July, 1849, and who was for five years one of the only two mechanics plying their trades in the village. In July, 1819, the railway-depot, the kitchen of what was afterwards Barker's Hotel, and three dwellings comprised all there was of Decatur village. During the first five years of its existence the village was increased by about 75 new buildings, — 12 of which were erected by Robert Willis as tenements. L. T. Olds (above mentioned) and Mary Elliott, who were married by 'Squire George Sherwood, May 18, 1850, were the first couple married in the village.

Village Physicians.—

Decatur's first physician was Dr. Bartholomew, who put up in 1848 a small office and drug-shop on Railroad Street,—the building now doing duty as Shelter's Hotel. Dr. Bartholomew remained but a short time before taking the California fever, and went away to the Pacific slope. He now resides in Keeler. During Dr. Bartholomew's time, and subsequent thereto, Dr. Wells, of Little Prairie, visited Decatur frequently to teach a singing-school, and occasionally practiced also the healing art in the town. In 1851, Dr. J. T. Keables opened an office in Decatur, and since that time has practiced medicine in the village continuously. Dr. Foster, of Climax Prairie, made a location in Decatur about 1855, but made his stay a short one. For some years Dr. Keables had the field to himself, and, like all physicians of the day, practiced over a wide extent of territory. The physicians of Decatur now number six,—Drs. Baker, Broderick, Dillon, Keables, Rogers, and Rose.

Town Hail.—One of the most imposing architectural features in the village is the town hall, in which the post- office has roomy quarters, and where the township and village authorities have their offices. A commodious public hall gives accommodation for public entertainments, as well as town-meetings. The structure is of brick, measures 37 feet front by 72 deep, was erected in 1870, and cost upwards of $11,000.

The Union School—The school in School District No, 4 (embracing Decatur village) was organized in 1862 as a graded school. In 1863 work on a new school building was begun, and in September, 1864, sessions were held in the edifice. It is of brick, of handsome and substantial appearance, cost $12,000, employs 7 teachers, has an average attendance of about 400, and requires for its annual support about $4300.

The post-office was established about 1852, and George Sherwood appointed postmaster. W. N. Pardee succeeded Sherwood, and Charles N. Poor iu turn followed Mr. Pardee. After him Theodore Phelps was the incumbent. Upon his death his widow was appointed his successor, and following her Eri Beebe filled the place, which he relinquished to J. W. Rogers, the present occupant. The office receives and delivers four daily mails, and twice a week receives and delivers a stage mail. The sale of stamps, envelopes, etc., average about $600 each quarter, money-orders issued average $1300 each mouth, and money- orders paid about 8600 during a like period.

The Village Press.—
Decatur's earliest newspaper was called the Van Buren County Tribune, and its earliest publisher T. O. Sweet. Tho Decatur Clarion, edited by Moses Hull, was the successor of the Tribune. These and other newspapers will be found mentioned more fully in the general county history.

Village Incorporation.—
The village of Decatur was incorporated by the board of supervisors Oct. 11, 1859, and reincorporated by Legislative act approved March 16, 1861. The first president of the village was Iv P. Hill, and the first recorder Orrin S. Welch, both of whom were elected in 1859. The earlier records of the village are somewhat imperfect, and the list of those who have been chosen presidents, recorders, treasurers, and trustees each year can be given only from 1862 to 1880.

1862.—President, E. P. Hill; Recorder, Charles Shier; Trustees, Hiram Cole, Myron Hinkley, J. H. Wallace, Carlton Wheeler, Charles Poor, John Tarbell.

1883.—President, J. Teed ; Recorder, C. J. Poor.

1864.—President, C. Wheeler; Recorder, L. C. Noble.

1865. —President, C. Wheeler; Recorder, W. T. Gerow.

1866. —President, B. P. Hill; Recorder, W. T. Gerow; Treasurer, William Hodges; Trustee*, E. L. Hawkes, R. Nutting, J. B. Higgins.

1867. —President, J. H. Moore; Recorder, W. T. Gerow; Treasurer, E. D. Clark; Trustees, 0. S. Abbott, U. A. Northrop, D. C. Rogers.

1868. —President, J. M. Moore; Recorder, W. T. Gerow ; Treasurer, E. D. Clark; Trustees, J. B. Higgins, R. Nutting, E. L. Hawkes.

1869.—President, E. P. Hill; Recorder, W. T. Gerow; Treasurer, B. D. Clark; Trustees, 0. 8. Abbott, M. Hinckley, J. S. Dowd.

1870. —President. James Haynes; Recorder, David Squires; Treasurer, J. P. Warner; Trustees, W. Tuttle. Jr., D. W. Stevens, Jacob Kissel.

1871. —President, Eri Beebe; Recorder, H. C. Church; Treasurer, W. E. Trowbridge; Trustees, H. Nutting, A. A. Abbott, D. C. Rogers.

1872. —President, E. Beebe; Recorder, A. A. Abbott ; Treasurer, W. B. Trowbridge; Trustees, Thomas Browning. William Tuttle, W. Russell.

1873. —President, H. J. Hendryx; Recorder, E. A. Blackman; Trustees, R. B. Nicholson, F. N. Chadwick, R. Nutting.

1874. —President, U.J. Hendryx; Recorder, B. A. Blackman; Treasurer, S. N. Thomas; Trustees, Thomas Browning, K. P. Hilt, Walter Russell.

1875. —President, Eri Beebe; Recorder, Jerome Coleman ; Treasurer, S. N. Thomas; Trustees, L. F. Rawson, David A. Squier, John L. Harrison.

1876. —President, U. A. Northrop; Recorder, Samuel Ellis; Treasurer, S. N. Thomas; Trustees, A. N. Chamberlain. L. D. Roberts, Henry Bull.

1877. —President, Lucius Nutting; Recorder, R. B. Nicholson; Treasurer, S. N. Thomas; Trustees, M. Hinckley, George Bennett, B. P. Haggles.

1878. —President, Lucius Nutting; Recorder, Charles W. Barrett; Treasurer, S. X. Thomas; Trustees, L. D. Roberts, Dennis Jordan, William Pritchard.

1879.—President, E. P. Hill; Recorder, A. B. Johnson: Treasurer, 8. N. Thomas; Trustees, A. B. Copley, William Tuttle, L. P. Rawson.

Railway Shipments.—
Decatur is an important wheat and lumber shipping-point, and as a matter of interest a table is presented showing the shipments at the station of the three leading articles of grain, lumber, and stock fur the six months ending Dec. 1, 1879, the figures in each ease representing car-loads.

MONTH - GRAIN - - LUMBER -- STOCK June......... 31 - 23 - 2 July......... 10 - 22 - 0 August........70 - 15 - 9 September....58 - 22 - 12 October.......68 - 19 - 17 November...... 3 - 13 - 13 Totals.... 240 - 114 - 53

During the year 1878 the shipments of apples at Decatur station aggregated 10,000 barrels.

Manufactures.—There is at the village of Decatur a manufacturing interest of considerable importance, which contributes is no slight degree to the prosperity of the town.

M. Hinckley * Co. occupy about two acres of ground for a barrel and stave manufactory, and employ from 25 to 40 men. They turn out about 3,000,000 staves yearly, and an equal proportion of barrel-heading, besides making about 10,000 apple-barrels and 5000 packing-barrels. The works were established in 1858 by Jones & Chapin, and since 1871, Mr. Hinckley, of the present firm (which was organized in 1870), has been interested us a partner. Daggett & Percy, of Chicago, are doing a very flourishing business at Decatur in the manufacture of wooden butter- plates, fruit-packages, fruit-baskets, etc. They occupy a building formerly used by R. Hoppin & Son as a tannery, and have been engaged since January, 1879, in the present enterprise. About 20 men are employed. The manufactory is in charge of Mr. Charles King, who is the representative at Decatur of the owners.

John M. Conkling & Brother carry on a foundry, which was built in 1870 by Mason & Herring. The present firm took possession in 1876, and since then have been steadily employed in the manufacture of plows and iron castings of all kinds.

The other manufacturing industries are Charles Duncombe & Co.'s grist-mill (with five run of stones), built in 1867 by Abbott & Matthews; J. J. Baloomb's custom grist-mill, with two run of stones; H. B. Babcock's planing-mill, and the saw-mills of Bull & Ackley and Enoch Hopkins.

Bank.—

Previous to Oct. 15, 1870, Decatur village had enjoyed only such limited banking facilities as were furnished by the private banks of John Tarbell and Joseph Rogers. On the date above noted the First National Bank of Decatur was chartered, with a capital of $70,000, the first directors being Messrs. Charles Duncombe, C. W. Fisk, A. B. Copley, Levi B. Lawrence, E. P. Hill, 0. S. Abbott, and A. S. Hathaway. A. B. Copley was chosen president and E. P. Hill cashier. The capital of the bank is now $50,000 ; its circulation, $45,000; deposits, $45,000; loans and discounts, $55,000. In 1873, Mr. Charles Duncombe put up a fine brick building for the use of the bank, which the institution subsequently bought. The president of the bank is A. B. Copley and the cashier L. D. Hill.

SOCIETIES AND ORDERS.

Decatur Lodge, No. 99, F. and A. M., was organized Jan. 14, 1858, with 23 members, after having worked under dispensation a year. Under the charter H. Canoll was Master; M. Winner, 8. W.; and J. E. Hollister, J. W. Of the 9 members of the lodge when it was constituted 8 of them were Hubbell Warner, Loomis Warner, James F. Avery, M. Winner,- Barney,- Sloan,

H. Canoll, and Edward Harris. The membership is now 30, and the officers as follows: Enoch Hopkins, M.; George Pollard, S. W.; Charles Schuster, J. W.; William Meade, Sec.; H. A. Northrop, Treas.; Marvin Hinckley, S. D.; Warren Botsford, J. D.; M. Winner, Tiler.

Decatur Chapter, #75, R. A. M., was organized Jan. 10, 1871, with 10 members, of whom Horace Arnold was H. P.; James Haynes, K.; and E. R. Farmer, Scribe. The membership is now 16, and the officers: H. A. Northrop, K. and Acting H. P.; Enoch Hopkins, Scribe; Henry Bull, Acting Sec.; S. N. Thomas, Treas.; L. D. Roberts III V.; Orrin Hodges, 2d V.; Loomis Warner, 1st V. The lodge and chapter occupy a handsomely appointed room in Chadwick's block, Decatur village.

Sprogue Lodge, No. 113, I 0. 0. F., was organized Oct. 28, 1867, with 5 members. The membership in January, 1880, was 50, when the officers were Norman S. Hammond, N. G.; Peter Pardonnet, V. G.; George W. Wait, R. S.; Johnson Parsons, P. S.; Benjamin Adams, Treas. Regular sessions are held every Tuesday night at Decatur village.

Decatur Grange, No. 346, was organized in June, 1875, with 60 members. L. R. Anderson was the first Master, -Thomas the first Secretary, and Jonathan Curry the first Treasurer. The officers Jan. 1, 1880, were Oscar Cad- well, M.; S. Roberts, Overseer; James Cadwell, Steward ; John Lewis, Assistant Steward ; C A. Moulton, Sec.; Mary Powers, Chaplain; Julia White, Sec.; William Powers, Treas.; Mrs. Blades, Ceres; Mrs. Lurkins, Pomona; Mrs. Kidder, Flora; Mrs. Lewis, Lady Assistant Steward. The membership is now 54. Regular sessions are held once in two weeks in Trowbridge's hall, Decatur village.

The Decatur Reform Club.—

A strong temperance movement was inaugurated in Decatur in the spring of 1877, by 0. D. Beebe, of Kalamazoo, and II. C. Rogers, of Dowagiac, and so popular did the new departure become that when the Rogers Reform Club was organized in Decatur village, April 15, 1877, upwards of 800 persons were enrolled as members. A reading-room was opened in the village, and subsequently the name of the club was changed to the one it now bears. The reading-room, which is still maintained, is free to all, and is a place of pleasant and profitable resort. The club membership numbers now about 300, and includes many prominent people. The officers for 1879 are Charles Labardy, President; J. H. Tuttle, Secretary; A. 0. Copley, Treasurer.

CHURCHES.

In 1831 public religious worship was held occasionally in Dolphin Moms' log cabin, and after that there was preaching in George Tittle's house and Le Grand Anderson's barn. Methodist preachers were itinerating through Michigan in those early days, and they stopped here, there, and at all places where the presence of new settlements promised a field for labor. Among the earliest Methodist preachers who held services in Decatur were the Revs. Felton, McCool, Cobb, and Elder Meek, an exhorter, There happened along also, once in a while, Baptist preachers and those of other denominations, but the names of these latter have not been preserved. A Methodist Episcopal organization was effected in 1834, and July 27th of that year a first quarterly meeting was held at George Tittle's.

Beyond tho limits of Decatur village there is but one church building in the township,—that of the colored Baptists, in the northwest. Although small, this church congregation supports preaching once a week. There are in the south part of the township two church organizations, —Disciple and Methodist Protestant (worshiping in school- houses),—which are in a flourishing condition.

The First Presbyterian Church of Decatur village was organized by rev. Marcus Harrison, an evangelist, Feb. 1, 1852, with the following members: Lydia Harrison, Mrs. Eli Rich, and Joseph McClintock, three in all. Mr. Mc- Clintock, who was chosen ruling elder, is still living near the town. Mr. Harrison concluded to make Decatur his home after organizing the church, and continued to preach for the little band during the ensuing three years. Jan. 4, 1853, the church was attached to the Kalamazoo Presbytery. During Mr. Harrison's ministry he bought a village lot and erected upon it the frame for a school-house and meeting-house. The lot and building frame he set apart to be donated to the First Presbyterian Church Society when it should be formed, and the society being organized during the pastorate of Rev. Samuel Fleming, who succeeded Mr. Harrison in August, 1855, the building of the church edifice was pushed forward, and Sept. 18, 1856, the house of worship, the first one in the village, was dedicated, the dedication sermon being preached by Rev. A. C. Tuttle, of Paw Paw.

The succession of pastors following Mr. Fleming includes Revs. T. C Hill, S. R. Bissell, W. T. Bartle, J. J. Ward, E. M. Toof, E. P. Goodrich, Henry Hoyt, and C. W. Wallace. The elders are Joseph McClintock (who has served as deacon and elder since the organization of the church), W. E. Trowbridge, E. P. Hill, D. Hodges, and Jerome Coleman. The deacons are Joseph McClintock, W. E. Trowbridge, and D. Hodges.

The original church building was sold in 1869 to the Universalist Society, which, dissolving in 1877, disposed of the structure to the Catholic congregation, by whom it is now used. The Presbyterians replaced their old house of worship with the fine large church now in use, and expended upon it upwards of $6,000. The church has now a membership of 102, and in the Sabbath-school, of which Jerome Coleman is superintendent, the average attendance is 150. The number of members received into the church since its organization is 219. The church trustees are J. M. Conkling, Henry Upton, mid John Pollock. 1). Hodges, tho clerk, has occupied that place since 1864.

The Church of the Holy Family (Roman Catholic).— About 1855, Rev. Mr. Koopman, a Catholic priest of Marshall, visited Decatur village, and arranged with the few families there and in the vicinity professing the Roman Catholic faith to hold religious services there once in three months. The first meeting was held iu the house of Henry Brown, whore Father Koopman preached four or five times, and after that, when Mr. La Belle, of Kalamazoo, took charge, the place of worship was transferred to the house of Mr. Dennis Jordan, which remained tho church for ten years afterwards, or until the congregation gaining strength more commodious quarters were necessary, and so public halls were used. In 1877 the church edifice formerly used by the Universalist's, and before that by tho Presbyterians, was purchased. Father Le Belle preached once in three months for about twelve years, and was succeeded by Fathers Sweeney, Herbert, and Roper, from Silver Creek. Father Wernert, of Paw Paw, has been in charge about a year, and holds services once a month. The attendance includes about thirty families. The church trustees are Daniel Kearney, James Howland, and James Cregan.

First Methodist Episcopal Church of Decatur.
The early records of this church having been lost, the date of its organization cannot be positively fixed, although it is generally believed that the class was first formed in 1856; at all events, it is known that in 1857 it contained but 7 members. Of those who joined the first class none now live in the village, and personal recollection even of curly events cannot therefore be utilized. In 1860, however, the church had grown considerably in strength, and in that year a commodious church edifice was erected. The church embraces now three points, to wit: Decatur, East Decatur, and South Hamilton, of which the combined membership is 200. Rev. Mr. Carlisle, the present pastor, preaches at Decatur twice each Sunday.

The present officers of the church are as follows : Class- Leaders, E. F. Ruggles, W. C. Acton; Trustees, Thomas Browning, William Blowers, William Powers, J. Parkhurst, H. B. Clapp, W. H. Clark, J. F. Barry, E. F. Ruggles, William 0. Acton, Stewards, J. N. Peters, W. M. Blowers, W. U. Clark, Thomas Browning, T. Threadgold, William Powers, J. M. Lombard, 0- Beach.

The Sabbath-school, which has on its rolls tho names of 170 scholars and an average attendance of 120, is in charge of E. F. Ruggles, the superintendent, assisted by 18 teachers. The volumes in the library number 220. A Protestant Episcopal Mission, attached to St. Mark's Church of Paw Paw, has existed in Decatur since 1877. Services have been held in Trowbridge Hall once in four weeks, the average attendance being about 30.

SCHOOLS The first school taught in Decatur was opened in 1835 in the house of Dolphin Morris. The teacher was William Alexander, and of his 20 pupils, several were from Cass County. Anderson was a relative of Le Grand Anderson, and coming from Virginia to visit Anderson, was persuaded to stop that winter and teach school. After a winter's term he went back to Virginia. John McKinney, of Porter, was a teacher in Decatur iu 1837. Jonathan Curry, now living in Decatur, was one of McKinney's pupils.

Appended is a table of statistics relating to the schools of Decatur, from a report for the year ending Sept. 1, 1879 :
Number of districts (whole, 6: fractional 1)... 7
"" " children of school age........... 753
Average attendance.............................. 65l
Number of school houses (brick 2, frame, 5)..... 7
Value of school properly.....................$19,900
Number of teachers employed..................... 22
Amount paid teachers' wages.................$3378.43
Total expenditures........................ $5,412

The school directors in 1879 were L. R. Anderson, W. K. Van Hise, E. F. Chappell, I. L. Harrison. F. Carpenter, A. M. Lyle, and Wm. Cole.

INCIDENTS.
The Morris Murder Mystery.
One of the remarkable tragic sensations of the West during 1879 was the mysterious murder of Henry Morris and his wife at their residence on section 35, iu Decatur township. On the morning of Monday, September 29th, the dead bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Morris were found lying in their home, where they had been shot down the previous night by an unknown assassin, whose identity has to this time remained hidden despite the most earnest efforts towards his discovery and the offering of large rewards to stimulate his pursuers. The mystery surrounding tho tragedy was deepened by the evidence that a desire for plunder had nothing to do with the murder, since nothing of value was carried away, although valuable property was within easy reach. Van Buren County offered a reward of $2000 for the capture of the murderer, but the constant exercise of the powers of the country's most skillful detectives has thus far brought nothing to light.

The Meteor Commotion
The meteor of 1861 is well remembered on the south side of the swamp in Decatur, and the excitement it occasioned for a time is an almost fresh incident in the minds of many. Indeed, one valiant householder, with the knowledge of the newly-fledged Southern Rebellion keen upon him, made sure that the meteoric explosion was simply a rebel advance upon Decatur households, and rushing into his home with the cry, "The rebels are shelling us!" ho proceeded to barricade doors and windows, put his family under arms, and, with musket in hand, declared that he was not only "ready for them," but that he would pledge himself to whip a dozen rebels single handed. After a while he found out the true cause of his alarm, just as people in the neighborhood found out how he had laid himself out for war. It was a rich incident, and furnished food for merriment long afterwards.

Biographical Sketches ..

COPLEY, Alexander B.
BAKER, Charles T.
MORRIS, Dolphin