Saranac, Michigan in 1849.

The following article was taken from the Saranac Advertiser of April 16-23, 1914, and was contributed by J. F. Proctor, one of the early settlers of Boston township:

My father bought and moved onto what is now known as the Stevens place, two and one-half miles north of Saranac, in the fall of 1849.

I was then a boy of fifteen years old.

Some time in November of that year my cousin, Joe Monks, son of James Monks, and I visited Saranac.

We had to cross the river in a canoe, as there was no bridge there at that time.

There were only a few buildings there then.

Ammon Wilson kept a few goods and Indian trinkets in a little wooden shack, about fifty rods down the river from what is now known as Bridge street, and Sam Wilson kept a tavern in a wood-colored building on the northeast corner of Bridge and Main streets.

There were only a few buildings east of these, one of which was occupied by the Chipman family.

The first bridge across Grand river at that place was built in 1850.

It was a wooden bridge, and the road from the north came down the hill on the place now occupied by old Mr. Green and his son-in-law, Bence Kimble, and then followed the bank of the river to the bridge.

At times when the water was high it was impossible to get to the bridge.

Footmen could get over by climbing logs, and sometimes that was risky business.

At the time the bridge was built, the bridge crew would sometimes make things lively, for by that time one or two saloons had got started besides the bar in Wilson's tavern.

I remember on the Fourth of July they had a big time and "pointed the town red."

They would go from one drinking place to another and make every man in the room sing a song or tell a story; they were a happy lot.

About this time Barnum & Armstrong put in a large stock of goods into a new building on the southwest corner of Bridge and Main streets.

This was the first trading place of any importance in Saranac and was appreciated by all who lived in that part of the country.

Ammon Wilson built a fine hotel on the northwest corner of Bridge and Main streets in 1853 or 1854.

It was a great place for the young people to gather, 'for he had the best room for dancing in that part of Ionia county; he put in a spring floor in the dance hall, which was noted for its easy movement, I, being something of a fiddler in those days, will be remembered by a few of the old gray heads left as giving them music at those dances.

There are but few left of my companions of that time, nearly all having gone.

Many were left on the battlefields of the Civil War.

I was there and saw the Saranac boys under command of M. B. Houghton, take the cars for the South and heard the parting address given by Richard Vosper while they stood in line beside the railroad track.

At the time I left the town of Keene in 1855 there were but few frame buildings, nearly all being built of logs.

Nearly the first frame house in Keene was built by John Butterfield on the Aaron Pratt farm, two and onehalf miles north of Saranac.

What happy gatherings we used to have at his home and in his sugar bush in the spring, going there to eat sugar and hear him sing songs.

His father was the first settler in Keene.

I remember being at Sam Wilson's tavern one time when Post Place, of Ionia, and a companion, both riding Indian ponies, came and rode right into the bar room and called for drinks without getting off their horses.

After getting their drinks, they continued on their way to Lowell, called Flat River at that time.

I was married in the fall of 1855 to the eldest daughter of A. C. Smith, a well-known farmer of Keene, and moved that winter to Crystal Lake in the eastern part of Montcalm county, where my brother and I took up some state land, where the village of Crystal now is located.

We had to cut a road to our land, and suffered all the trials of new settlers.

Our trading place was Ionia and our only team, oxen.

It took us four days to make a round trip.

We went to my wife's father's place, eight miles west of Ionia, and stayed over night.

I remember one time when driving to father Smith's place, when about a mile west of Ionia (it was all woods there and covered with oak grubs), I heard someone singing at the top of his voice, making the woods ring: "Wait for the wagon, the old lumber wagon, the squeaking lumber wagon, and we'll all take a ride."

On looking up, the singer I found to be my old friend, Ben Covert, who was picking up a load of wood, poles, limbs, etc., and to think this was the one-time-to-be mayor of the city of Ionia.

Yes, it was good, genial old Ben, always happy.

We had a good chat and I drove on.

The place where I found Ben was very near where the state house of correction now stands.

It was a wild looking spot then.

It would be hardly proper to close this account of early life without some references to the Indians, who were numerous at that time.

It was customary for them to leave their reservation at Lowell to make sugar in different localities.

One of their favorite sugar places was on the river bottoms where the little creek empties into Grand river near what is now known as Cucumber Bend, a fine forest of maple trees covering the flats here.

This was the favorite sugar camp for old Col-mo-sa, chief of the Flat River Indians.

Every spring he and his family would come here to make sugar.

One Sunday several of us concluded we wanted some warm sugar to eat, so we started for the Indian camps.

One of the camps was occupied by Bad Manitou, better known as "Col-mo-sa's devil."

When in sight of the boiling place back of the wigwams, we saw three or four little papooses bathing in the big trough where the sap was stored.

It was a warm day near the closing the season, and they were having a big time.

We didn't want any warm sugar then.

Another time when my cousin, Phil Monks, and I, visited them in one of their wigwams; a young squaw came to get help to cut down a 'coon tree.

Our young Indian friends asked us to go with them, knowing we were good choppers.

It was not far to go and we soon had the tree down.

It was a big elm and hollow.

Four 'coons sprang from the top.

The young Indian and I followed one, the old Indian another, and the dog another.

Phil and the young squaw got a good start on the fourth, the squaw in the lead.

She had not gone far when her foot caught in a limb and down she went, Phil on top of her.

She was the first up and soon had the 'coon treed, but the young Indian and I lost ours, for we had to stop and laugh at Phil and the squaw.

The old Indian shot his and the dog treed his, so they got three of the four.

This was the kind of pastime we youngsters had in those days, but it was as good as attending a theater.

Speaking of "Col-mo-sa's devil," put me in mind of an incident that happened a year or two before we came to Keene.

My uncle, Jim Monks, lived on the place where Albert Wells lived when I last visited Keen, in a log house near the center of the forty which he owned at that time.

It was quite a camping ground for the Indians then.

One day a lot of them were camped there and old "Col's devil" was among them, full of whisky.

He was always ugly when in liquor.

He came to the house and asked my Aunt Mariah to give him some bread.

She told him she had none but would let him have some when it was baked; he asked again and when she refused again he walked up and kicked her.

Old Grandfather Monks, Uncle Jim's father, was there.

He was over seventy-five years old and lame, but when the Indian kicked her he jumped and grabbed him and, the door being open, threw him out, but as they passed through the door the Indian struck at him with his knife, but missed him, the point going into the door jamb.