Land was purchased in the township of Locke in 1834, but no attempt at settlement
was made until 1838. The following account of the first settlement of the
township is from the records of the Pioneer Society.
David PHELPS and Watson L. BOARDMAN
"In February, 1838, David PHELPS, a resident of New York City, located land
on section 26. Mr. PHELPS, without a road or trail, guided only by the marked
trees of the surveyor, was enabled to find his land, but many were the misgivings
as he stood alone in that deep forest, twenty miles from a post office,
thirty-four miles from a mill, and neighbors quite remote;* but he had a
stout heart and a strong will, and finally overcame his doubts. Procuring
the assistance of six men from Livingston County, soon the ringing of axes
and the crash of falling trees broke the stillness of the forest, and
Mr. PHELPS in a few days erected the first white man's shelter in the township.
Several months later, Watson L. BOARDMAN, brother-in-law of Mr. PHELPS, with
his family, occupied the house lately erected by Mr. PHELPS, he having no
family save one son, who lived with the BOARDMAN family. The first female
settler was a widow named PITTS, who, with one son, dared to face the hardships
of pioneer life. With the help of her small boy she cleared a patch for corn
and potatoes, working bare-handed and bare-armed, piling up the black and
smoking brands of the newly-cut fallow. For the first year she had hard work
to drive the wolf from the door, but the wants of her little one nerved her
to overcome all obstacles.
First Birth, Marriage, Death, and Postmaster in Township
The first birth of a white child in the township, Emeline CARLTON, occurred
in 1839, in the family of William CARLTON, and four years later one of the
family died.* The first marriage was that of Dean PHILLIPS and Harriet CARR,
in 1839, the ceremony occurring at the house of Caleb CARR, on section 32.
Mr. CARR was the first postmaster, his office being on the route from Howell
to Grand Rapids, and the mail was carried over this route once a week, on
horseback, on the "Grand River trail."
The first religious services were held at the school-house known as the Brown
Eagle, by the Christians, most of the inhabitants for miles around attending.
Many carried their rifles along, and left them standing against a tree during
service, guarded by a dog. These services were conducted by Seneca H. PETTUS
and Elder WINANS. The first sermon was preached by a clergyman named George
ALEXANDER, in a log cabin. Harvey GRATTON and Lewis BUTLER were among the
At a general election, held in the township in the fall of 1840, there was
no ballot-box. The inspectors of the election procured a stand-drawer of
David J. TOWER, at whose house the election was held, pinned a newspaper
over the top, and deposited the ballots in the drawer by lifting the corner
of the paper. The next spring (1841) Mr. TOWER was authorized by the town
board to make a ballot-box. He accordingly split some boards from a basswood
log, and with axe and plane completed his ballot-box; it had six compartments,
and the lid was fastened with a hasp and padlock.
In the fall of 1840, David PHELPS and a man named JOHNSON started with a
yoke of oxen and a sled to spend a week or two hunting bees and camping out
in the woods. After some time they returned with three barrels of honey,
just as it came from the trees. Their own appearance was ludicrous in the
extreme. Their buckskin breeches were so shrunken and shriveled with dews
and rains from fording streams that they scarcely reached below the knee.
The men were smeared and their clothing saturated with honey; smoke and soot
had aided in making up the picture; their boots were bound together with
strips of bark, and their hats had the appearance of having been through
a hard siege, and when they came home, following the team with its load of
honey, they created a sensation, and those who saw them are not likely to
forget the occasion.
was a former of Genesee County, who removed to the township in 1839 and located
upon section 26, where he purchased 164 acres of Edmund H. HALL. Upon this
land stood a log house, but no other indication of improvement. Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
began at once, after establishing his family in their limited quarters, the
labor of chopping and clearing. He had at the end of the year rendered six
acres productive, the larger share of which was sown with wheat. Other
improvements followed as time passed, until a well-cultivated farm had superseded
the wilderness found on his arrival. In 1870 a substantial frame residence
took the place of the primitive abode formerly occupied, in which the family
arrived in the same year, having purchased and settled upon land on section
14 which was entirely unimproved. He began the clearing of this land, and
eventually rendered it very productive. Neighbors were neither numerous nor
easily reached at this early day, and the settlers were obliged to depend
upon their own exertions. Only on occasions of raisings did the community
appear in full force to offer assistance, more frequently lured by the social
pleasures of the occasion and the good cheer which inevitably accompanied
such a gathering. Mr. COLE occupied the farm until his death, when his sons,
the present occupants, inherited the land. His widow survived until the year
David J. TOWER
settled in the township soon after the advent of Mr. COLE, and was one of
the inspectors of election at the first township-meeting held in Locke. He
was a public-spirited citizen, and did much to advance the interests of the
On one occasion the settlers at an early day were totally destitute of flour.
Mr. TOWER took $100 and purchased the necessary article, which he distributed
among the inhabitants, allowing them to work out their indebtedness on the
Among the early pioneers who manifested much enterprise on their arrival
was Stephen AVERY, who removed from Ontario, Canada, in 1837, and settled
in Livingston County. In 1840 he sought a home in the present township of
Locke, - then Phelpstown, - and located on section 17, where he purchased
120 acres of unimproved land. The log house he built is still standing, though
mr. AVERY survived his advent but a short time, having died in September,
1844. Two sons and a daughter are still residents of the township.
Nicholas F. DUNCKEL
was born in the beautiful Mohawk Valley, in New York State, and removed to
Canada, where he resided for nine years. In 1834 he emigrated to Wayne County,
and in 1842 removed to Locke. Here he purchased of Rufus STARKWEATHER 160
acres on section 27, which he found unimproved, and upon which he immediately
began the erection of a log house. After removing his family here, Mr. DUNCKEL
turned his attention to the clearing of a portion of the land, which, as
early as practicable, was sown with wheat. He was assisted in his labors
by his sons, four of whom accompanied him to the township. Plymouth, Wayne
Co., afforded a point for marketing, while brighton was the milling centre.
The nearest sawmill was at Williamston. Indians were still numerous, but
not hostile. They were constant and untiring beggars, and rapacious in their
appetite for bread, pork, and other articles of the settlers' cuisine. No
school afforded advantages upon Mr. DUNCKEL's arrival, though one opened
soon after. Mr. DUNCKEL survived until 1872, and died at the house of his
son George, on section 28. Another son, Oliver G., resides at Belle Oak.
removed from Saratoga Co., N. Y., to Albion, Mich., here he remained but
a brief time and removed to Leroy, and in 1842 became a resident in the township
of Locke, where he located upon section 32, on a farm embracing eighty acres,
for which he effected an exchange of property with Henry RIX, the former
owner. It had been partially improved by Caleb CARR. Mr. ROWLEY continued
these improvements, and remained upon the place until his death, in 1870,
when it came into the possession of his son. Levi ROWLEY was one of the most
active and public-spirited of the early pioneers, and did much to promote
the growth of the township.
the previous occupant of this farm, was a resident of New Jersey. His stay
was brief, Leroy township having soon after offered superior attractions.
a gentleman of English extraction, removed from Ann Arbor to the township,
and settled upon eighty acres on section 34, which had been entered by R.
G. STARKWEATHER, and purchased from him by mr. LEARY. He improved the land
and remained upon it until his death.
removed at the same period from the county of Livingston, and settled upon
eighty acres purchased also of STARKWEATHER, which was unimproved on his
advent in Locke. He erected a log house and a frame barn, and remained ten
years, during which time sixty acres bore witness to his labor in its improved
condition. He later sold to James SULLIVAN, and removed to Maple Rapids,
where he died. He had in his family circle eight sons, all of whom departed
Dr. H. A. ATKINS
removed from his former home of Elba, N. Y., to the township in 1842, and
settled upon the northwest quarter of section 3, where he became the earliest
resident practitioner in the township. He left for a brief period, but retained
his land, and on his return resumed his practice. He is now a resident of
Belle Oak, where, in addition to his professional labors, he devotes much
time to the study of ornithology and the pursuits of literature. He is a
man of wide research, and takes much interest in the compilation of facts
regarding the early history of the county.
A former resident of Herkimer Co., N. Y., located, in 1844, upon eighty acres
which he entered in 1839. The township, at the time of his purchase, was
almost unpopulated, but on his arrival he found many neighbors, among who
were Messrs. LEARY, ROWLEY, and PAYNE, the former of whom offered him a home
during the first two years of his residence. With the assistance of Mr. DUNCKEL
he erected a frame house, to which his father and mother removed. The first
year ten acres were cleared, and steady improvement was made after that
Dr. RANDALL, of Livingston County, was among the earliest physicians, and
Dr. LEASIA, of Williamston, was frequently called. Mr. McCREARY continued
to improve his land, and succeeded in making it one of the most valuable
farms in Locke.
Came from New York State in 1843, having entered land in December, 1837,
and again in January, 1838, on section 2. On this section he settled and
remained nearly twenty years, when he chose a residence elsewhere.
Removed from Clyde, N. Y., at the same time, and selected eighty acres on
section 1, which he improved. He was a bachelor on his arrival, but subsequently
married. The land was entirely cleared by himself. He experienced many
deprivations, but overcame all obstacles, and was able to add to his possessions
until he now has 180 acres, mostly improved.
another pioneer from the Empire State, settled, in 1845, upon eighty acres
on section 3. This land, all uncleared on his arrival, he rendered productive
by hard labor, and converted into a valuable estate, upon which he continued
improvements until his life was suddenly ended by a stroke of lightning,
in 1874. His sons now occupy the farm.
a pioneer from Tioga Co., N.Y., was among the earliest settlers in the
northeast portion of the township, having purchased of Archelaus GREEN 100
acres on section 2. He built a shanty of primitive construction, and devoted
much of his time at first to labor for others. His progress in clearing and
making improvements was therefore slow. Very few settlers had located immediately
near. He recalls Isaac COLBURN as the nearest. There were no schools
in the vicinity, and a tedious journey was necessary to obtain supplies.
Mr. SHELLMAN has since improved his land, built a commodious residence, and
rendered his estate valuable.
came also from the same county and State and located on section
2, where he remained until his death, in 1862.
formerly of New York State, settled upon eighty acres on section 1, where
he had secured the improvement of five acres and the planting of an
orchard before his arrival. He still resides upon the land.
A pioneer of Pennsylvania extraction, also located on section 2, in 1845,
where he erected a log house and began the battle of life in the woods.Here
he remained laboring upon his land until his death in 1869.
came from Steuben Co., N.Y., in 1846, and in June of that year settled
upon eighty acres on section 24, to which he later added forty acres.
This was entirely unimproved, with the exception of a small tract that had
previously been underbrushed. He remained with David PHELPS the first year,
and on his marriage removed to a shanty built upon his land. Messrs. PHELPS,
BOARDMAN, and BROWN were near neighbors. Mr. WALLACE has greatly improved
his land, upon which he still resides.
a pioneer of 1847, from Ohio, and formerly of Orleans Co., N.Y.,
purchased and settled upon 160 acres in section 33, formerly owned by Arnold
PAYNE. Twenty-five acres had been chopped and a log house already built upon
it, though much labor remained yet to be done. Mr. SULLIVAN did much to increase
the productiveness of the land, and in 1866 erected a new and substantial
residence, his present home. Three sons live near him in the township.
Ira D. PERRY
settled in 1845, on section 10, which was cleared and improved by him. His
son now occupies the place, Mr. PERRY having died during the present year.
settled in 1848, on section 34, which he purchased of Isaac LEARY. He
subsequently removed to Indiana, and now resides in Williamston.
was a pioneer from Broome County, who settled upon eighty acres on section
31, which was uncleared when he became owner of it. He first underbrushed
the road adjoining his farm and then erected a shanty, in which he lived
while clearing a portion of the land. Mr. GRIMES made rapid progress
and added to his possessions until he now has 650 acres. Deer were so abundant
on his arrival that a herd of twenty-two were seen feeding with the cattle.
They afforded an abundance of fresh meat to the settlers, but were in a few
formerly of Wayne Co., N.Y., settled in 1850, upon the northeast quarter
of section 24, which was, with the exception of five acres, uncleared.
He built a shanty and began the labor of improving. Rapid progress was
made, and a well-cultivated farm, upon which he now resides, has superseded
Among other early settlers in the township of Locke may be mentioned Truman
SPENCER, who came from Wayne County in 1855, and located upon section 13,
where he built a saw-mill; D. BURTON, who located on section 15; Dyer
COLE, of Lockport, N.Y., who settled on section 27, and later on section
16, where he improved a farm and still resides; William T. JOHNSON, on section
4; Jefferson PEARCE, who had land on sections 10 and 13; Benjamin and
Henry PETTENGILL, on sections 11 and 14, respectively; A.T. TenEYCK,
on section 21; Stephen SCOFIELD, on section 3; J.C. TOWNSEND, on sections
27 and 28; A.M. OLDS, on section 30; W.W. IRONS, on section 10, and Nicholas
FULTON, on section 28.
*Mr. PHELPS son, David B. PHELPS, states that when his father settled (which
was on the 9th of April, 1838), he was six miles from any other house, the
only one in that distance being that of Mr. GRANT, in the township of Conway,
Livingston Co. Mr. PHELPS was from Deep River, Conn., where the son was
*The little one was buried on the farm of Stephen AVERY, and the funeral
sermon was preached by George L. BOARDMAN.