Farm Residence of William H. Baker Section 3 Plainfield Township Michigan Kent County

Farm Residence of William H. Baker, Section 3, Plainfield Township, Michigan, Kent County

Farm Residence of the Conrad House, Plainfield Township, Kent County, Michigan

Farm Residence of the Conrad House, Plainfield Township, Kent County, Michigan

Plainfield Township, Kent County, Michigan
Plainfield was one of the towns that were early organized; at first with the territory of two townships.

The settlers at that time were squatters," mostly near where is the old village of Plainfield.

The organization was at a log hut, used as a school-house, the first Monday in April, 1838, when were elected: Zenas G. Winsor, Supervisor; Ethiel Whitney, Clerk; Daniel North, Samuel Baker, Z. G. Winsor, Geo. Miller, Justices.


On the records of that date appear the names of the following, in addition:
Andrew Watson, A. D. W. Stout, Warner Dexter, Cornelius Friant, James Francisco, Henry Godwin, Jacob Francisco, Jacob Friant, James Francisco, and Ezra Whitney, who were honored by being elected to office. Some of these were not residents of what is now Plainfield.

The one to whom the credit is given of being the pioneers our now venerable friend, George Miller, Esq., whom all have had self-respect enough to honor, and whose presence still dignifies his early home.

He, with his family, pushed out from Grand Rapids to Plainfield, in 1837.

The same year, James Clark, Thomas Friant arid Warner Dexter became his neighbors.
They had Indians for neighbors, and soon found Indian friends.

By the work of their hands, by the aid of Indians and by what they could canoe up the river, they weathered the first season; when a few others were added to their number - Cornelius Friant, Zerra Whitney and Daniel North.

They were obliged to live nearly Indian fashion; pound their grain, or grind it in a coffee mill; hunt for their meat, or pay a price beyond their slender finances.

After all, there is a good deal in thinking.

A good, pious widow, who could be thankful for little, had nurtured her little boy in the same spirit.

Having an insufficiency of bed-clothes, she had arranged the bed of her son so as to cover it with an old door.

One night, as she was about leaving him to his rest, and had carefully placed the door over him, he said to her: How do those poor people get along who have not got any door to cover them these cold nights?”  He was warm, and could be happy.

So, give a family a log cabin, a big roaring fire, a haunch of venison and a kettle of hulled corn; and give them loving hearts and the spirit of thankfulness,  they are not to be pitied.

Some one has said, “man lives not by bread alone.''

It is no shame to begin small; if it were, we should al1 be obliged to hide our heads in shame; for we all began very small.

But who wishes to be a baby forever? The baby is only the beginning of a man. We don't pity the baby at all. No, bless its little heart, we love it.

But let us call on him ten years later, and see him not developed, we turn in disgust from the fool. Just SO we look on the squatter in the woods.

There is beauty in their primitive simplicity of life, and their smiling cheerful content.

Let us pass their abode twenty years afterwards; find there the same primitive, undeveloped house and lands; the same content with little or nothing; and we say, "shiftless and turn away in disgust.

One may wisely be contented with little at present; but he is one of Nature’s abortions if he does not strive for more.

Soon a cluster of houses was at Plainfield, which assumed the dignity of a village, noted on the Grand River for its shingle trade.

For a time it had rather a hard name.

Some bad characters centered there, which made it more of a merit to be respectable.

The village is where it cannot thrive.
When it was the last village at the North, it was a smart little place.

Its death blow was given it when the railroad passed it by, giving all its business to Rockford.

It seemed natural that a village should grow up at the month of the Rogue River.

But that river at present furnishes but little business, and what little it does furnish is growing beautifully less.

Buy out that old saw-mill; put up a manufactory there; or, "Fruit Ilium'' is said to be Latin for “gone up”.

The history of Plainfield is mostly of its lumber operations; its saw-mills and lumber trade.

But that business has long since culminated; the pine of the town has been cut off, mills have gone down, or keep up existence by doing business on a smaller scale, and the town is thrown upon her agricultural resources.

Some of the best land in the Valley is here; and the town has many good farms.
The town has not distinguished itself in the way of churches.
It has but one, and that “don't go.”

In Indian times, Plainfield was an Indian place.

Several of the most noted Indians had their residence there: Long Nose, whose tragic death is elsewhere spoken of; Wabesis, another victim of Indian hate, and Canote, the ''beautiful," were among them. Their burial ~mounds are on the plain, but otherwise the Indians are a memory.

The people, in speaking of Canote generally say he was the most graceful man they ever saw-a perfect Apollo, besides being very much of a gentleman; who at the table of the white man, could charm the whole by his superior grace.
The first birth and death in the town of Plainfield were in the family of George Miller - twin children-born but to die, in 1833.
Settlers could not secure their claims until the great land sale in 1839.

They had before “squatted" pre-empted, and organized a town. Indians and white men were living together; each amicably acknowledging the other's rights.

After the sale, the Indians disappeared. Their burial mounds are the memento left behind.

But these are not respected.

The plow goes over them, and they are desecrated by the shovel of the curious.

Is it sad, or is it not that the red man is disappearing?

It is a law of Nature, and therefore a Law of God, that the weaker must give way to the stronger; that the savage must give up the earth to civilized man.

The Indian in America must adopt the habits of civilization, or perish.

There is no use in our being sentimental about it-they know their destiny and we know it.

We never shall admit the claim of the hunter to keep out the ax and the plow.

The Indians' rights are respected by the Government.

We pay them for their hunter's claim, and give them the chances of citizens.

If they will not then become citizens, let them submit to their destiny-perish.

When a section of land can support an hundred civilized people, we shall not leave, from motives of delicacy, that section for the miserable sustenance of one savage.
The land is the world's.

A man may gain an occupancy, but the ultimate title is in the State.

The State gives no man a right to say the land is his own.

A man passes away, but the land is eternal-a perpetual chance for men to live.

'Tis wrong in principle to allow a man, or any set of men, to keep the soil from culture; the power of water from being used, or the mines from being developed.

To a limited degree our laws give that power.

When we realize that no "universal good” can be accomplished without  ' partial evil," there is no propriety in being restrained by that partial evil.

The Indian has the same chance as the rest of us; that is, in the classical language of Horace Greeley, "Root hog, or die."

Mankind, as a whole are a great institution; but an individual, whether white, red or black, is a small concern.

The world lived without you or me, and can and will do it again.

But it cannot live without the land.

Think of that, when you say the Indians once owned this State.

They never owned it; neither do you or I own the land we occupy.

We only own certain rights to it, the State, representing mankind, present and future, having the paramount right.
We welcome the Indians to the ranks of civilization.

Let them come forward and be men; or America will soon leave no place for them; and it is right.

There are a good many hard things for individuals to bear in this “mundane, terrestrial earth;" but after all, you had better believe that the All-seeing Eye sees nothing but harmony, and that eternal purposes are the best judgment of' Infinite Wisdom.

Many think they see clearly how things ought to have been, and tell God so in their prayers.

The writer must confess that he has had this conceit of his own wisdom; but he is now very well satisfied that he could not manage the world much better than God does.
Organized 1838, the townships 8 north, ranges 10 and 11 west, except what lies south of the Grand River.
1846, township 9 north, range 11 west, detached from Courtland and added to Plainfield; also, 1847, what of township 8 north, lies south of Grand River.
1848, free bridge built partly by the State.
The first settlers were Thomas Friant, who came in November, 1836, who was in the employ of James Clark.

His employment was to take care of Clark's cattle.

He and his family spent the winter with no white neighbors.

To get across the river they took their wagon apart and carried it, piecemeal, in a canoe.

In the spring some others came and squatted on lands: James Clark, Andrew Watson and George Miller were in before June, '37.

Many persons pre-empted lands this year, who stayed on them a little while, sold out and went off.

They merit no special mention.

Of those who this year came on to stay, we are able to mention, Gideon H. Gordon, who built the first saw-mill on Rogue River, one-half mile from its mouth;
Jonathan and Abner Misner, Corneliuus Friant, Ethan Whitney, Daniel North, John Page, Aaron Eager, Z. G.Winsor, - Baker (7 feet high).

These all lived within a mile or so of the river.
Of these pioneers, at present writing (1875), Geo. Miller and Cornelius Friant are still living in Plainfield. Jonathall Misner at Grand Rapids; Ethan Whitney, in Solon; Z. G. Winsor at Grand Haven; Abner Misner killed himself about '68; Gideon Gordon died early--'41; James Clark, died; Andrew Watson, '68; Geo. Gordon died about '55; Daniel North about '66; Mr. Page left many years ago, and went to Missouri.
Thomas Cranson was among the comers of 1838.

He came in May from Tompkins Co., N. Y.

His recollection is that he found here when he came, the persons whose names are above given.

At that time Wm. Withey was building a mill on Mill Creek, one mile from the mouth.


About twenty-five families of Indians were resident; their chief Neog’gemaw.

Their former chief, Kenoti’mischeo.


Kenoti is described as a very beautiful man.

In fact his name was given him as indicative of his personal beauty.
In the scraps of Indian history, the tragical end of Long Nose is given.

The Indian who killed him was tried by the clan, and afterwards lived a kind of outcast.
The Indians were disposed to be very kind and to keep  quiet, but they would have awful drunken frolics.
The first school was in the winter of 1837-8, in a log school house near Friant's.

It was taught by Jonathan Whitney.

The next summer the school was kept by Miss Mary Francisco.
The school-house was this year burned and rebuilt.

The first marriage was that of Wm. Livingston and a daughter of' Esq. Miller, in 1538.

This Livingston put up the first frame barn the same year.