Georgetown, consisting of four townships--5 and 6 N., Rg. 13 and 14 W.,--was authorized by the Legislature to organize as a town in 1839. But it seems that they failed to organize; for we find that, in 1840, the Legislature enacted that Georgetown is attached to Ottawa, if she does not organize.
At first, almost every year witnessed some changes in the limits of the town. These may be traced by reference to the summary of the legislative history, given in another place. First limits are understood to be temporary arrangements. By simple reference to the map, it will be seen that many surveyed townships are divided by the river; and that the towns bordering on the river are composed of fractions of townships.
Georgetown, in its settlement, may be considered an extension of Grandville; and measurably, at the present time, they are identified; as the two villages--Grandville, in Wyoming, and Jennisonville, in Georgetown--are scarcely anything but divisions of the same village, for many years constituting one school district. They are one settlement, with simply the misfortune of being in two towns and in two counties. The history of Grandville is given in its proper place, and in giving it, there was no intentional separation of it from its neighbor, Georgetown. A town line near Grandville was not observed. Now, stepping over that line, and eliminating Georgetown from the Grandville settlement, we note that the first settler was an old bachelor, Lorenzo French, who located in 1835.
Thee first family was that of Lemuel Jennison, who came on with his wife and four children, the same year. Jennison, Sr., lived but a short time, being killed by a tree in 1837. His wife died in 1840. The family, at the present writing (1875), are still all living. Altha, formerly Mrs. Bliss, now Mrs. Johnson, is near Jennisonville; Betsy, as Mrs. B.S. Hanchett, is at Grand Rapids; and the brothers-Hiram and Luman-whose business has ever been, and is, the center and foundation of Jennisonville, are still in the town, and carrying on business at the village, that bears their name.
The early history of Georgetown is about all of lumbering operations. The principal operators were the Jennisons. John Haire, Galen Eastman and the Messrs. Weatherwax. Haire commenced in 1851; built a steam mill in 1856. But little was done in the further part of the town, except stealing lumber. The land, considered worthless for settlement, was sold in large tracts for the pine that was on it. It was a late idea that the land was valuable. When stripped of it pines, it was a public common, resorted to in the season for blackberries. Then Georgetown was alive with those who came from Grand Rapids and other places, to pick the delicious fruit. As the blackberry pickers began to see log houses going up in the blackberry region, they pitied the persons who condemned themselves to perpetual poverty. But the next year showed heavy crops of corn, where it was supposed only blackberries would flourish. And soon were visible the fine fields of wheat and clover. Opening their eyes, and raising their hands, the exclamation was: "Well, who would have thought it!"
Mr. Haire was one of the first to develop the land. He built the first large house and pulled the first stumps in 1855. Having fixed upon a beautiful location, his ambition was to have a model farm. It is now a little interesting to see what work can do, and to witness the philosophical coolness of those who have grappled with the difficulties, despised and overcome them. A ride through the town is interesting. The virgin forest has mostly disappeared. A tract will be passed where the valueless pine is standing, blackened by the fires; the ground covered with what was left after the logs had been taken away--a picture of poverty and desert desolation. Soon we come to a field enclosed, and in crops among the stumps. On the other side of the road stands a "stump machine;" and there, half covering the ground, are the extracted stumps, in all their hateful ugliness. A little further along the road some men are at work drawing these stumps to the side of the fields, and arranging them in a hideous row; and the complacent owner is standing near, with his hands in his pockets, serenely contemplating the scene, and soliloquizing after this fashion: "There’s a fence made for all time! None of your flimsy board concerns that an ox of any spirit would walk right through, and that cost as much as my stump fence. None of you rotting rail fences to be forever repaired, and that must be rebuilt in fifteen years. No, thank God, I have stumps on my farm, enough to fence it; and fenced, it is done for all time; and my fields and cattle are safe. Let them turn up their noses, if they please, at its lack of beauty, just as they do my wife--say she is homely. Lord! Don’t I know her worth? I wouldn’t swap her, homely as she is, for a dozen of your delicate, fancy wives. No! no! give me the substantial and enduring. "Give me a good stump fence!"
That old fellow is not so green after all. The real value of these pine lands is just beginning to be realized, and the owners of them ask no commiseration.
Above it is said that the first operations were in the line of lumber. There was for a long time but a very sparse population. In 1845, we find but 133 persons in the large territory then called Georgetown. In 1860, 196, which would sufficiently show that people were in no haste to establish homes in that place.
There is little credit in being among the early settlers. It was not to go into distant wilds. Civilization had already a strong hold in the Valley, and the river gave easy communication.
In 1843, we find the Jennisons, Freeman Burton, Charles Corey, Mr. E. F. Bosworth, and Stephen Lowing. There were at that time two houses at Jennisonville. Mr. Lowing had a mature family, who have made their mark as prominent citizens in Ottawa county. Lumber brought Lowing.
Soon after 1843, came Seymour Cunningham, Francis Spear, Booth Perry, Jonathan Scott (father of Sheriff Scott), and Andrew Rowles. There is little use in further giving names, for reasons given above.
The first school was No. 1 on Sec. 8. It was organized Sept. 1845; a frame house built at an expense of $112. Miss Ann Evarts (at present Mrs. Angell, of Grand Haven,) was the first teacher. The second school was organized about the same time, and was taught by Miss Bennis (now Mrs. Avery Brittain, of Grandville).
In 1838, Geo. Ketchum built the first mills at Jennisonville--a gang saw mill and a grist mill. He bought much land, and set out to do a big business; but his grist-mill burned. He failed and went to California. The Jennisons bought the water power, and 1,200 acres of land.
Hiram Jennison ran the first raft of lumber down the Grand River.
Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 19 May 2010