Farm residence of Angus McDiarmid Section 15, Bowne Township Michigan 640

Image of the Farm residence of Angus McDiarmid Section 15, Bowne Township, Kent County, Michigan

Farm of James C Johnson Section 16, Bowne Township Michigan

Image of the Farm of James C Johnson Section 16, Bowne Township, Kent County, Michigan

Bowne Township, Kent County, Michigan.
The pioneer of Bowne was Jonathan Thomas, who in 1836 entered a large tract of land in the southwest part of the town.
He brought on with him William Woolley, Frederick Thompson, Israel Graves, and their families, From Toledo they came, with ox teams; and were two weeks on the journey.
At this time it was a "new country," but they proceeded to make themselves comfortable. If you wish to know what it took to make a man of means comfortable, imagine a log shanty 12x16, and in it stowed three or four families. Mr. Thomas soon found himself unfit for the hardships and privations, to which he had not been inured. He was taken sick, and was carried back, on a bed, in a sleigh, to New York.
The same man, lying on his bed in a wagon, went to Kalamazoo, during the first summer, for wheat, when out of provisions.
In the spring of 1838, Roswell Tyler and his three sons Roswell, Loren B., and Asahel R, ventured in; also Malcomb and John McNaughton, who broke up land and put in wheat.
In the fall, Norman Foster and J. C. Beach were added. Afterwards, in the course of a few years, William Stuart, James Truax, Daniel C. McVean, Jared Miller, and Abraham Lowe.
Thus it will be seen, that though Bowne was remote from any of the river points of settlement, it was at an early day taken possession of. Although there was a scattering of settlers along the river before, 1836 was the year when possession was taken in earnest; and that year witnessed the occupation of Bowne by Thomas and his band. It was a venture further from the river than any other of that year.
At first the settlers 'leaned' on Thomas and the Indians.
Thomas had money; they worked for him, clearing his land; and would sell turnips and potatoes to the Indians; getting money and venison. Among the Indians then resident was Pegu - a good-hearted, noble fellow, of whom all speak with respect and gratitude. He is now (1875) at Pentwater; but would find himself among friends, should he come back to Bowne.
Another of the early Indian favorite of the settlers, was Pokanomino, who is now a thriving farmer at Freemont Centre.
The Indians of Cascade, Caledonia and Bowne were a mixture of Ottawa’s and Chippewa’s. They did not belong to any mission, and were known as "Robinson's Indians." The old leader was Casua, who resided three-quarters of a mile from Whitney's tavern. He attempted farming. His wife was a most lady-like woman; held in the highest esteem by the whites. A number of their kindred were settled around them; among whom she was "a good mother." The writer well recollects the first and only time he saw her. She was riding her pony, on her homeward journey from Grand Rapids:
We remarked to the man in company that she was "a respectable looking squaw," and received the answer : '' She is a venerable woman." In fact, human dignity does not depend on complexion or race; and we are happy to notice, that people with souls are beginning to appreciate that fact. What makes the difference! What color is a human soul? In former times, the British military uniform was scarlet. An officer met a little negro boy in the street, and showed his sense of disgust. Little darkey put his thumb on his nose, and said: “You was as black as I be till you was boiled." Little nig was a philosopher, and had seen lobsters, living and cooked.
And let me ask you, who look with lofty self-complacency on your white skin, as your patent of nobility, and with contempt on the one who is of a different hue, are you a gentleman, or are you merely a boiled lobster?
But in our wise reflections, we have strayed from Bowne.
Revenons a nos moutons.
There were some troubles with the Indians, due to whisky.
But, on the whole, they made themselves useful; and, indeed, they were indispensable. Their hospitality was hearty and sincere, and, where they professed friendship, it was true and reliable. The Indian, uncorrupted by association with the baser element of the whites, is, chivalrously honorable, honest and true. His friendship or his enmity is reliable. He don't smile in your face and stab in the back. He don't ask the question, ''Can I conveniently do this stranger the favor asked?" So the settlers in Bowne found them, and they remember the Indians with respect and gratitude.
What an event to the early settler is "going to mill!" We now have the saying, “As plain as the road to mill;" as though going to mill was as simple a thing as going to the barn. Let us go to mill with Mr. Thompson once, in 1837. It was to go to Kalamazoo with oxen, through the woods; camp out, and get along as he found himself able. His oxen strayed away; and with his journey and hunting his oxen, he got back in eight days. His wife, wearied with waiting, and fearing danger, set out on foot and alone to find her husband, and met him returning, A specimen of an old bachelor met her on the way, who, on learning why she was so far from home, and so earnest, said, “I, too, would marry if I could get such a wife." There are, even now, some women who consider their husband a part of self. We won't say "God bless the man who has such?" for God has anticipated the prayer.
A little episode of these times may illustrate the primitive way of dealing with sinners. A specimen of that genus had stolen some money from Mr. Campau. They caught him, and chained him up in the barn at Whitney’s tavern. Then Whitney and Campau matured their plan. Campau was to disappear, which he did, but put himself where he could see the sport.
Whitney went to the rascal, told him Campau had gone for an officer, and that it would go hard with him; that he (Whitney) wished to befriend him, and would let him go before Campau got back, if he would clear out. He told him to take the shortest cut to the woods, and having got under cover, to put distance behind him as fast as possible. This the fellow upon his sacred honor promised to do. Whitney then undid the padlock that held him chained; he shot for the woods, and was seen no more. In the meantime the two were holding their sides until he was out of hearing; and then they exploded. By the way, who ever repented of telling a lie to a thief'?
A pair of panthers were seen by Mr. Thomas, between Bowne and Middleville. They were afterwards seen by two men who had rifles near Ball Prairie, on the Thornapple; but the men dared not shoot. These panthers have been traced across the southern part of Ionia county, where they were repeatedly seen; across the southern part of Kent  County, to Talmadge, in Ottawa county, where one of them was killed; the other has maintained an alibi ever since. In speaking of the beasts of the forest, this pair of panthers are the only ones spoken of by the old settlers as having been men. It is doubtful if that beast was ever anything but stranger and a pilgrim in Michigan. The settlers can tell bear and wolf stories until they cease to interest; but all we can hear of the dreaded panther is of this one pair, and they were a couple of cowardly sneaks, probably expelled from society and ashamed to be seen; their most daring exploit being to chase a defenseless boy, and be scared by his shout.
By reference to what is said of Caledonia, it will be seen that Bowne was united with that town until 1849. The settlement had been slow, and it seems that bat few voters participated in the first election.
The first meeting was at school-house No. 1, the first Monday in April.
Elected: Supervisor, Roswell F. Tyler; Clerk, Daniel C. McVean; Treasurer, Justus C. Beach; Justices, Daniel McNaughon, Jared Miller, Norman Foster.
Sixteen names are on the record, in addition to those above: Henry C. Foster, Frederick Thompson, Abijah Pool, John A. Campbell, Loren B. Tyler, James H. Truax, Asahel R. Tyler, Wm. Gibson and John Underwood.
Since the organization of the town its progress has been a steady one of filling up and developing as an agricultural town. Its first sawmill was built on Sec. 36, in 1855; its
only grist-mill was put up by A. D. Thomas in 1862.
The first census we have of the town is that of 1854, when the population was 357.
The progress of filling up can be seen by referring to the summary of the census returns. The U. S. census, of 1850, makes no mention of Bowne. In 1845, the two towns numbered 127; in 1850, Caledonia, 99.
At the present writing (1875) several of the pioneers are living and resident. Norman Foster, a quiet, sensible, straightforward man, died in 1870. Asahel Kent died in 1840, and John P. McNaughton, in 1841. Roswell O. Beach closed the life of a worthy citizen in 1863. John Underwood died in 1868. Malcomb P. McNaughton died many years ago.
The survivors of the earlier days we still s band of brothers, bound by the ties of long ago. As age silvers their hair, they more and more live over the-days “lang-syne," when far in the wilds they drank deep of the fraternal spirit. It is a noticeable fact that if any of these pioneers of Bowne had a fault, the survivors have forgotten it. They are eloquent in praise, but speak of no failings. They partake of the spirit of the song:
“I know not, I ask not, if guilt's in this heart;
I but know that I love thee, whatever thou art,"
It may seem that a very inappropriate use is made of the beautiful lines of Moore but just live ten years in the woods with a few scattered neighbors, and then tell me if “love" is too strong a word to express your feelings towards those who were your companions in seclusion. I shall make no apology to the old fellows in Bowne, for they told me so themselves.
Speak disrespectfully of one of their forest companions, and see if they don't flare.

 

Farm Residence of M. A. Holcomb Section 26 Bowne Township Michigan Kent County

Image of the Farm Residence of M. A. Holcomb Section 26 Bowne Township Michigan Kent County

Farm Residence of W. H. Budlong Gaines Township Michigan Kent County

Image of the Farm Residence of W. H. Budlong, Gaines Township, Michigan, Kent County

Image of the Farm Residence of R. R. Jones, Gaines Township, Kent County, Michigan

Image of the Farm Residence of R. R. Jones, Gaines Township, Kent County, Michigan