The Crooked Lake Review

Winter 2006

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Mendon — The Early Years

The Journey of Timothy Howland


John G. Sheret

In the third quarter of the 19th Century, numerous families, whose parents had settled in the Town of Mendon in the early part of the century, relocated to the fertile farm lands of the State of Michigan. An excellent example of such a move is Isaac H. Colvin, Jr., who in 1860 moved his wife and four children to a farm that he purchased in that state.

Isaac was the son of Isaac Colvin, Sr., born in Danby, Vermont, in 1789, and, who at the age of six, moved with his parents to the Town of Lima, Livingston County. By the year 1835 he had purchased a 110-acre farm on what is now Sheldon Road in the Town of Mendon.

Home of Isaac H. Colvin, Jr., prior to his move to Michigan in 1860. The one-hundred-ten-acre farm was owned by descen-dants of the Colvin family until 1941. (Lithograph from 1877 History of Monroe County)

At the time Isaac Jr. moved to Michigan, Timothy Howland was employed by the Colvin family and lived in a tenant house a short distance down the road from the main farm house.

On September 26, 1878, Timothy's daughter, Georgiana H. Howland, married Erastus T. Harris who owned a large farm across the road from the Colvin farm. Erastus acquired the farm from his mother Rachel Ann Harris, daughter of Joseph Townsend who had settled on the land in 1832.

Home of Erastus T. Harris who married Georgiana, daughter of Timothy Howland. Later home of his grandson, Alfred Euler, the fifth generation of the family to own the ninety-acre farm. (Lithograph from 1877 History of Monroe County)

After his mother's death in 1967, the farm passed to Alfred Euler, the fifth generation of the same family to live on and work the land purchased by his great-great-great-grandfather so many years ago. I had the pleasure of knowing Alfred as a friend and country neighbor. In the years preceding the sale of the final acres of his farm in November 1992, I was a frequent visitor at his house, often taking the fifteen-minute walk through the dense woods situated between my property and his farm, rather than driving around the block a mile and a half to his driveway.

In March of 1983, he loaned me a hand-written journal in which Timothy Howland recorded a trip taken to Michigan during the winter and spring of 1869 to visit his relatives, friends, and Isaac Colvin, Jr. Unfortunately, the only date in the journal is January 10, 1869, the day on which he began his trip.

I have made no attempt to correct any of the spelling or punctuation as I copied Timothy's journal. What appears below is a literal representation of that document. I have noted the occasional illegible words with ????.

Started from Roch. at 6 o'clock. Cars overflowing with human freight. Got to the suspension bridge at 9 o'clock precisely. Could see the boiling foam as it passed under our feet at a distance of about six rods. I wished for Georgie [Timothy's daughter] were at my side to help enjoy that sublime scene. In the distance at my left, perhaps two miles, I could discover the Falls in their grandure. It was indeed a sublime sight, there in the stillness of the night with no one I knew to ???? with me in the entertainment. While crossing the bridge a gentleman of perhaps 70 years of age, spoke and said that if we go down here, it will be the last of us. But as we neared the opposite shore he opened his mouth again, to inform us, that we were all safe.

In the heat of his last words. I thought I could discover from the countenance of a lady that sat near me the words "Thank You."

Well on we go. The next thing of importance that I discovered was a lady with three children. She had been on a visit to Main, lived in Iowa and on her return home. She made some musick. The smallest boy wanted to lie down. He was sleepy. ???? down in the seat says the mother, so down he goes, run his legs through the seat. He was in the seat by the door. I told her the boys legs would get hurt if she did not see to him. She immediately made for him, hit a slap bringing him to his senses. Now says one, my knees ache, here rub some brandy on them, which he did, then taking the bottle herself took a nice drink. Little girl says, ma give me a drink. Well let me put some water in first which she did, then gave her a drink. I thought that was a way to bring up children.

At Detroit, half past seven, steamer waiting, passengers in one continual string going aboard. Steamer underway Oakamus Station east of Lansing. Nearing the Michigan Shore, landed at nine. ???? for Holly. Saw nothing in particular but tamarack swamps for miles. At length came in sight of land at which I came near throwing up my ????. In a few moments Holly hove in sight. I stepped from the cars [railroad] and walked strate to the warehouse, found John in. He looked up as I entered saying uncle Tim if that ain't you. Henry was not in. It was but a few minutes however before he entered. I kept my hat down on one side of my face. He did not recognize me. After a short time I spoke (he was talking with a man about some ????). I said I have a load of ???? in York State I well sell you. He looked up and walked towards me with his mouth drawn on one side, and says tim, how are you?

On the ???? of this we went to the house and I saluted the family not forgetting the baby, which, by the way, is fine looking. With a two day visit at Holly very pleasantly occupied I shipped myself and John for Saginaw at which place we arrived on Saturday the twenty ninth at about 8 o'clock, found Moses at the Depot ready to greet us with a short walk of about eight rods, we reached the residence which is a neat place with a home like look. It is painted a peach blow color trimmed in brown. We found it lited with gass. Did I think the company was a little gassy. Well, we run and rode all over Saginaw, not forgetting to visit the Sawmills. Their are fifteen in number all of which are propelled by steam and cut 40,000 [board feet] each per day. Saginaw is a low sickly place full of businessmen. Well on board the cars again with Moses in company for Holly. found Doc Curran and Carry at Henry's. Doc and Moses have concluded to go with me to Grand Haven so we started at 12 o'clock for the west, stoped at Spring Lake Village, got our ????. Found the captain of the Spring Lake Steamer at the Public House ready to start out for Fruit Port. After he found we wanted to visit Fruit Port he went long in finding one of the owners of that land and gave him an introduction to us.

Oh how pleasant he was. Men always are when they have property to sell. Strange isn't it. We had a splendid time sailing up to Fruit Port Village which is a village of about 20 inhabitants. On our return trip a Lady came on board part way up the Lake. The owner of Fruit Port gave her an introduction to Moses as he was near where she came on. They had a jolly time. She being a very great talker, she held him in close conversation all the way up to port in ????. doc said Howland and himself took Moses along on our expedition to give character to the concern, as he was large and fine looking which remark brought out a sound laugh from the company. The next place we visited was Grand Haven, a very pretty place on the shore of Lake Michigan. From their, we took the boat for Musheegan [Muskegon] which place is about 18 miles up the Lake and inland about ????. It is said to be the great business place on the shore of the Lake. It is certainly a very smart town. It runs 28 saw mills at an average of twenty saws, each capable of cutting 50 thousand feet of lumber each per day. We hired a team and drove out in the country til we came to the end of the road which was about three miles out. On our return we met a man that we questioned some in regard to health. M [Moses] asked him if their was an Ague in the Neighborhood. He said their was a little. M says you have it don't you. He said, well yes. I have had a few fits. I thought so, M said, your countenance shows it.

Well we returned to Grand Haven in the Evening, and the following day started up the river for Grand Rapids. We took the steamer Muskegon, had a very fine sail. It is about 40 miles from Grand Haven to Grand Rapids. The better part of our journey was through a beautiful country, the river was grand, in a word majestic. We arrived at Grand Rapids about 5 o'clock. Their we had to separate. Doc to hunt up his wife, as she was supposed to meet him their. Moses to return to Saginaw and myself to start for Coldwater. For the first time then, I felt a little lonely but soon recovered and I got in company with a gentleman that I found quite interesting. He inquired if Wheat was looking well in York State. I told him that it was not quite as well, however, as in Michigan. He said many were holding their Wheat as the price was low, it being ten ???? per ????. I told him that was the case with us, the farmers were holding their grain on account of the low price. Well for about 15 miles south of Grand Rapids the land is fine, it is a sandy loam, easy to till, and is in a good state of cultivation. This is a new road finished the last day of March, made through the winter and spring, running from Grand Rapids to Calamazo and on to White Pigeon being a distance of about 80 miles. After leaving Grand Rapids we stoped at the first station, it being about eight miles from the city.

I inquired of a gentleman what a good improved farm was worth. He answered from 40 to 50 dollars per acre. I was forcibly impressed that their was a good place to locate as soon as I made to inquire a gentleman came to me asking the question, do you want to buy a farm. I answered yes if I can buy one cheap. Well he says I am 70 years old, have a farm of 120 acres located 10 miles on, and about 4 miles back, joining a small village that I can [sell] cheaper than any other man. I have no children, am old, and can't work it. I will sell if for $35 per acre. On the ???? of all this, another man says, you won't like his place. I know of a place of 80 acres that I know is cheaper you can buy for less money and a better Farm. Do you think their was any daggers looks from the old mans eyes. I think their was. After a sharp contest between the two men we arrived at the station opposite of where they lived. They both invited me to go home with them and enjoy their hospitality and in the morning they would show me the farms. I declined however feeling that I had a very dear brother living not one hundred miles away that would give me a warm greeting as any one could think of. Well, as we went, at a frightful speed over a road made in a great hurry on a bet of Eleven Thousand that it could not be finished by the first of April. It was completed however and the train run over the last day of March, a complete success in favor of the railroad party.

Now in regard to the country on the road, it is now covered with heavy timber. As we neared Calamazo the country began to be improved and beautiful farm houses were doting the country in every direction. It seemed pleasaant to ride from wilderness into a very fertile and improved country.

Hark! I hear a sound. What is it? Why it is the voice of the Brakeman crying loudly Calamazo. I shall not dwell long on what I saw and herd in this place. Suffice it to say, it is a very lively and beautiful town of about 7 thousand inhabitants.

Well on we go, shiped again, bound for White Pigeon. After leaving Calamazo in the distance about 15 miles we enter a new world one of the most beautiful countrys the Eye ever looked upon is this from here to White Pigeon. It is not within the scope of any mans intelect to do it justice. If one calls it Grand or Beautiful. Those words lose their significance as we look over that vast ???? as level as the house floor covered with wheat oats corn and grass that perhaps has [n]o equal in any country for its rankness of groth. I dare not ask the price of land here for my Arithmetic power would not be able to retain the sum in memory.

Started from White Pigeon met a man that looked as though he new everybody. Asked him if he new a man in town by the name of Underehill. Certainly I do, he is a janitor of the Public School of this place. You will find him pointing to a large building in the rear of us. Immediately sought him out, found him home, spent two hours with them very pleasantly. Started for Wills [brother William Howland] on foot. Overtook a man traveling the same way as myself on foot. I told him that if he had no objection to my company as it would cost neither anything. I asked him if he knew a man by the name of William Howland. He said he did and he was going by his place. It was 7 miles instead of 6 to Wills from Cold Water. As I walked in the yard I saw William's hired man sawing wood before the door. I ???? in ???? as they were looking the other way, found Phebe ironing, she looked up, then started back, took a long breath, then came at me in full force. Soon she called in the boys but neither of them new me. I asked them if they did not know Uncle Hicks. They says Ma is this Uncle Hicks. No but don't you know him. No they said they give it up. Then she told them but they said I did not look as they expected.

I could not wait any longer. I must go and see Will. I steped out as he was looking the other way and run and caught him by the back and armes holding him tight so that he could not look around[.] [T]he man sawing wood with him Seemed startled by such an introduction[.] [A]s I let go my hold he turned around and I think he must have known me[,] as soon after he inquired after Elizabeth [Timothy's wife] and children. William has a very rich farm. His wheat is too heavy, it is getting done alrea[d]y, so is his clover. The man who came with me from Cold Water said that he had one of the best farms in the vicinity. His house is raised and the carpetenters are enclosing it rapidly. they expect to have the carpenter work done by the fourth of July. It is 17 x 36. The upright is two story high. With the 17 posts he is going to have a nice house. We spent the day in looking over the country. We saw some very nice land. Among other farms we saw the one that Hicks and Ricard came within 500 dollars of buying. It has been sold for more than they could have had it for and is now some two thousand higher.

Isaac Colvin [Junior] has got a very fine farm joining the corporation. Buildings in very fine order.

Sunday we called on Ira Holdridge. They have a good farm. Seemed to be well pleased with the country. On Monday following I took leave of Brother and Family and started for the Solomans—distant about 40 miles. Arrived at Hudson at two o'clock. Traveled the same way. All Pedestrian travel, which by the way is save and shure; arriving at Solomans about half past three, found wife with company. I rapped at the door, Josephine responding. I inquired the way to Hudson. She says come in uncle, you need not go any further. The ???? in order was to find Soloman. She said that he was cultivating corn. I stepped out in the corn field and hid myself till he came round in the corner of the fence. After he started back I gave chase and caught hold of him around the arms and back, holding him very firm so that he could not see who I was. He said when I let go that he had just been thinking of me and most every body else in York State. He inquired after mother and the rest of his relatives in the east showing conlusively to my mind that friends are not easily forgotten.

Sol has a fine little farm of 53 acres, situated on a publick road about five miles from Hudson. His wheat, oats, and peas are as good as one could wish. Nothing interferes will be a large crop. His corn is as good as any I saw. They say corn is more backward than last year this time. Sol has quite a crop of hoggs, eleven piggs, and ???? old hoggs. He says he will fat them nearly all as hoggs are high and scarce. He thinks they will bring a good price this fall. I like the country around Soloman. It is generally dry and rich. We took a ride around the country the day after I got their but I did not see any land that liked better than his in the neighborhood.

Well I have said all that I wish to say on people. I will reserve the rest to you by word of mouth.

Red Line Depicts Route of Timothy Howland's 1869 Michigan Trip as Described in His Hand-written Journal.

With the above statement Timothy Howland concluded the record of his adventures with his stop in Hudson, Michigan. The reader can assume that he then made his way back to Detroit and returned home by the same route that he described when he was enroute to Michigan.

Timothy Howland eventually moved to Macedon Centre in Wayne County were he purchased a farm. He died on that farm on March 26, 1918, seven months short of his 100th birthday.

© 2006, John G. Sheret
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