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History and Directory of Kent County, Michigan, Containing a History of Each Township and the City of Grand Rapids, Compiled and Published by Dillenback and Leavitt, County History, Directory and Map Publishers, Grand Rapids: Daily Eagle Steam Printing House, 1870.
Apologies for the large number of question marks in this transcription but it was hard to read the text in the margins of the photocopy this is taken from.
This is one of the western tier of townships, adjoining Chester, Ottawa county on the west, and Algoma on the east, and lying between Alpine on the east and Tyrone on the north.
This township was first settled in 1844, when Lyman Smith -- now residing in Grand Traverse -- settled on section 25, near the southeast part. very soon after, Norman and Edwin Cummings went on section 34, on the south tier, and commenced shopping on the farm now owned by Norman. So far there was no houses (worthy of the name) -- they only having small shanties.
In a short time, Lewis W. Purdy came from Genesee county. settled in the southwest corner of section 28, and erected the first log house in the now thickly settled township of Sparta. Mrs. Purdy was the first white woman in the township. In January 1845, Joseph English and family came direct from England and went just over the line on section 36 in the south part of the township.
Mr. English, although unable to read or write when he came to Sparta, was a man of great perseverance, succeeded, in the course of a few years, in erecting a large steam saw mill, which drew quite a number of men, who bought lots and erected small houses, thereby making a little village, which was called Englishville. This mill being destroyed by fire, Mr. English moved to Laphamville, now known as Rockford, which was then considered about dead.
By buying some of the mills and renting others, he succeeded in getting control of nearly all the mills on Rouge River, from which he shipped a large quantity of lumber to Chicago; but owning to a decline in prices, he failed to make it pay, and was obliged to give up in that quarter, but not until he buy his great energy and venturesome spirit -- infused new life into the whole lumbering district of Rouge River.
He afterwards, with his sons, erected a water mill on the north part of his farm which is now run by his sons, William, Joseph and Richard. The post is still known as Englishville, is about all that remains to remind us of the flourishing little Ville, which will probably again revive, if the Grand Rapids and Newaygo Railroad, which has been surveyed, is constructed, and a stop constructed there.
In the spring of 1845, Mr. Cummings -- the father of Norman, Edwin and ?son Cummings -- came with his family to the place where the sons had previously began.
The parents are long since dead, but the three sons still remain on the line, one in Sparta and the others in Alpine, where they have large farms and good buildings, as the fruits of their early labors in pioneer days.
Mr. Lyman Smith and Mr. Purdy did not long remain residents of Sparta, but the marks made by them still remain.
In June 1845, John Symes, Elihu Rice, and Anthony Chapman met in ? while on their way to Sparta. They were strangers, but soon began comparing descriptions, that the lands they had respectively pre-empted, all lay adjoining, and, going on the principle that "in unity, strength" they, after some consultation, decided on the course they would ? and the next morning Rice and Symes started from the house of Joseph ? and ? underbrush a road from there west, along the present town-line of Alpine and Sparta. Meanwhile Chapman had returned to Mill Creek for provisions. After turning west to the section corner, now known as Rouse's Corners, they turned south? and followed the line between sections 34 and 35. Toward night they were beginning to think of a return to the house of Mr. English, but at that time they heard a wagon approaching, and on waiting for it to come up, thinking it was Chapman, who had come with supplies. They now built a fire by ? of a log, and camped for the night, with the wolves howling around them as they slept; and in the morning completed their road to what was to be their homes.
Mr. Rice's land was on section 27, and Mr. Symes' and Mr. Chapman's on 26, ? trees were found on the line of Symes' and Chapman's land which would ? three corner posts of a shanty; and by putting in one post, and the use of ? boards which had been brought from Mill Creek, a shelter was soon found, to which the families were taken the next day, where they lived together and houses were erected. About this time David B. Martindale, who now lives out east of Sparta village, settled on section 36.
During the following fall and winter, Hiram H. Meyers settled east of Rouge River, on section 24, and soon followed by his father and family from Canada. The family took a large tract of land in the east part of Sparta, where they have engaged quite extensively in lumbering, especially Hiram, John and Myron Balcom near the center of the township, and William Blackall and family southwest of the center. Myron Balcom is now in Missouri, and John, commonly known as ? Balcom, is now living in the village of Sparta. William Blackall has been laid beneath the sod; but his sons, Benjamin and Charles, still remain. He neglected to mention Mr. Clark Brown, who came from the state of New York early in 1845, and is still living on the farm where he first commenced, on the south line of section 33.
In 1846, J. E. Nash, from Massachusetts, settled where he now lives, one mile from the center of the township.
Among the other early settlers who were pioneers in various parts of the township are the Spangenburgs, Amidons, Bradfords, Hinmans, McNitts, Taylors, Stebe?, H. D. Hastings, and Ira Blanchard, most of whom still reside in Sparta. Mr. Lyman Murray settled in Sparta at an early day, but soon removed to ?
Sparta was organized very soon after it was settled. The first annual meeting was held in April 1846, at the house of Clark Brown, on the south line of the township, at which time there were only eleven cast. As the full ticket was ? sixteen officers, there could not have been much opportunity for ?
The present township of Tyrone was attached to Sparta from the time it began until 1855.
FIRST TOWNSHIP OFFICERS
Supervisor -- Lewis W. Purdy. Clerk -- John M. Balcom. Treasurer -- Myron ?
At a subsequent annual election, John M. Balcom was elected to the office of Constable by one vote.
The township meetings are now held at the school-house in the village of Sparta.
OFFICERS IN 1870
Supervisor -- Volney W. Caukin. Clerk -- Ervin J. Emmons. Treasurer -- Charles C. Eddy. Justices -- A. B. Cheney, Volney W. Caukin, Albert Finch.
The general surface of Sparta is high and rolling, and it contains but little waste land.
There are several small swamps in various parts of the township, but none of much account, except in the north and northwest parts.
On sections 2 and 3 is a swamp of some extent, requiring the services of the Drain Commissioners. Also a series nearly or quite connected, extending across section 4 and 5, and passing off into the south part of Tyrone. There are two quite extensive swamps which commence on the west part of section 6, and run west into Chester. Between them is a ridge, well known to those accustomed to travel the G. R. & Newaygo State Road, as the Hog-back Hill. The highest hills and deepest valleys are in the northwest; still it contains some nice farming lands as are to be found in the township.
The timber is mostly beech and sugar-maple, with some pine in the northwest and southeast parts. There is some hemlock interspersed with the pine in the northeast. The soil is generally a rich loam, suited to the production of wheat, corn, oats, grass, potatoes, etc. Nearly all kinds of fruit which can be raised in the country, do well here.
Among the large farms of Sparta, we would mention that of Mrs. John M? in the southwest part of the township, which contains 280 acres, and that of Elias Darling, further north on the same road, containing 320 acres. The ? farm of Moses Bradford is now divided between his sons, Jason and ? The farm formerly owned by Nathan Earl, is now owned by his son-in-law Charles M. Chapman. Norman Cummings has 240 acres on the south township line, which is, however, in two separate parcels.
Rouge River is the principal stream of Sparta, entering it on section 1, for Tyrone, and passing south and southeast through the east tier of section ?, thence out to Algoma, from the east part of section 25. It is used running logs, having been cleared for that purpose nearly twenty years ago, through the township.
Ball Creek, which has been considerably used for logging, enters Sparta from Tyrone, near the central part of the line, and flows in a southeasterly direction across sections 3, 2 and 11, into Rouge River, of which it is the principal branch from this township.
Nash Creek, formed by several small branches from the west, flows through the central part, and empties into Rouge River on the southeast corner of section fourteen.
? Creek rises in the southern part of the township, and flows northeast-? ? Rouge River, on the southwest corner of section twenty-four.
A small stream, sometimes known as the River Jordan, comes in from Alpine, and flows in a northerly direction across sections twenty-five and twenty-six and ? into Rouge River near the center of the latter section.
Two small streams empty into Rouge River from the northeast, on section one, ? outlets of a chain of lakes in the west part of Algoma. These streams have been used for running logs.
The village of Sparta, not yet incorporated, is a flourishing little town of about ? inhabitants, located on Nash Creek, one mile east of the geographical center of the township, and 15 miles from Grand Rapids. This place was first settled by J. E. Nash, in 1846, and for some time known as Nashville. It now contains a post office, known as Sparta Center, two churches -- Baptist and Methodist Episcopal -- both of which were erected in 1866, at a cost of about $3,000 each, a good? saw mill, five stores, two blacksmith shops and one wagon shop; also a very good hotel, known as the Sparta House, and kept by John M. Balcom. But ? no graded school building has been erected even though it is greatly need. A small, frame, district school house, erected in 1849, is the only public school building in the place. A good select school is kept during the winter months by Mr. Amherst Cheney. The steam saw mill already mentioned, is now owned and operated by Wm. Olmsted and Sons. It has a planing machine attached; also a run of stone for grinding flour and fee.
on the west line of Sparta, is sixteen miles from Grand Rapids, on the Grand Rapids and Newaygo State Road. It was first settled by John Pintler, who came ? from the State of New York, in 1846. In 1848, a Mail Route was established from Grand Rapids to Newaygo, with a Post-office at this point, under the name of Pintler's Corners, Mr. Pintler being the first postmaster. In 1859 the name of the place was changed to Lisbon. The first goods sold from a store in this place ? by Miner Atherton, in 1855. In March, 1869, it was regularly incorporated as a village, including half a mile each way from the northwest corner post of section 20. It will be noticed that this includes half a section -- or, more properly, two quarter sections -- from the township of Chester, Ottawa county; but, as the village is under the jurisdiction of Kent county, we will include the whole in our History and Directory.
The village now contains nine stores, three blacksmith shops, two wagon shops, a hotel, a good, two-story frame school house, and three good-sized frame ?; also a good steam grist mill, and a saw mill.
The Hotel is a good, frame building, owned and kept by Lorenzo Chubb.
The Graded School building, erected in the summer of 1869, is a good, substantial ? structure, two stories high, 36x46 feet in size, and cost $2,700.