IONIA COUNTY - From the book "Memorials of the Grand River Valley."

Main Street looking West Ionia Michigan

Main Street looking West Ionia Michigan

Ionia was one of the points of earliest settlement, and is the center from which the settlement of Ionia County radiated.

To all intents and purposes, Ionia and Lyons were but one; and in pioneer history are to be treated as such.

It is scarcely proper to consider the trader, who has taken up his abode among the Indians, as a settler, or the bogus manufacturer, who has sought the wilds for purposes of concealment.

There were the Indian Trader, Louis Generau and the bogus maker, Belcher, who had their places of business in Ionia county before 1833.

Still, the spring of 1833 is the era of civilized occupation.

When a company, consisting Samuel Dexter, Erastus Yeomans, Oliver Arnold, Joel Guild, Edward Guild and Darius Winsor, all with their families, and William B. Lincoln, a single man, came on in company, and located themselves at Ionia.

With the exception of Winsor, who joined them at Buffalo, they started together from German Flats, N. Y., April 25th, left Buffalo May 7th, came on steamer to Detroit; left Pontiac May 14th, were at Fuller's, Oakland county, the 15th, at Saline the 19th.

At that point they had before them the unbroken wilderness.

From the 20th to the 28th, they journeyed and camped in the woods.

They were obliged to cut roads to get along through Clinton County.

A child of Dexter died on the way.

They brought with them some means, and they complain of no great hardship.

True, the journey through the wilderness was fatiguing, but they had their families with them, and, camped around the bivouac fire at night, they could enjoy the novelty of their situation, and they enjoyed the romance of their situation.

The pathless wild was new to them; and there was novelty in the wo1f-serenade.

Young men, love to combat and conquer.

They had to conquer fallen trees, and und deep ravines; but there was a hearty "Yo-he!" as they rolled the one from the track, and a pride of conscious manliness as they wiped their sweaty brows, having crossed the other.

But how was it with the women and children?

Woman is not such a frail, delicate being as the poets represent her.

When she nerves herself for serious action, she will shame the men by her resolute and cheerful endurance.

Besides, she likes rustic life as well as a man.

She tires of conventionalities, and delights for a time in an adventurous, semi savage way of living.

And the young folks - it is their glory.

The old survivors of that expedition will tell you they enjoyed the journey.

They had the spirit of youth, or middle life, and that likes adventure.

They felt that each day was creating a memory.

They have lived over that season a thousand times.

They have since battled with the forest; but the individual trees they cut down, have left no memory; but that big oak which lay in' their way, and with which they joined issue, that is remembered.

They have since eaten many a good dinner, now forgotten; but they still gloat over that supper by the spring in Clinton County.

And how those who were boys enjoy the recollection of the way they used to chase and scare those sneaking loafers of the forest - the wolves.

Perhaps they met a bear, lean from his winter's fasting and sluggard rest, who stolidly passes by with his "you let me alone, and I'll let you alone" air; and who, if politely invited to turn out, will rise upon his haunches, double his fists, and say, " turn out yourself; I'm a bear."

Whether this company met Bruin or not, tradition does not tell; but he has met others, and such is his way.

There were banks of streams to dig down, so that the wagons could be got across.

But it was "hurrah, boys!" and the road was made.

There were bushes and trees in the way, but this "hurrah, boys!" put both aside.

Swamps must be got over or around, but "hurrah, boys!" found the means and the way.

The exciting day's work done; the camp pitched - it was then "Molly, put the kettle on."

The mysterious "Black Betty," that had been concealed all day, appears, and receives the hearty kiss of the tired, but cheerful group.

Soon, supper comes smoking to the table - no, log.

That dispatched, the male scions, each with his back against a tree, lights his pipe, and philosophically contemplates the wreathing smoke, while the more youthful ones get up a dance to extempore castanets.

Not so bad after all, this journeying in the Moods, with enough to eat, a little of something else, and congenial company.

But we will throw imagination aside.

We talk and live prose most of our lives.

Poetry comes in as a luxury, not as everyday fare.

The 28th of May brought our pilgrims to Ionia.

It was too late for putting in crops by clearing the land, so they bought an Indian plantation, plowed and planted five acres with corn and potatoes.

They paid the Indians $25 for their crops and improvements.

They had come in prepared with articles for traffic, which they exchanged for venison, fish, etc.

They lived mostly from the Indians, and nearly in Indian fashion, and on the most friendly terms with their Indian neighbors.

The company mostly located on Sec. 19.

They had some spare means; had two span of horses; about ten head of cattle.

They got a few boards from the Indian mill, at Grand Rapids. Dexter, Yeomans and Winsor built them log houses.

The rest lived in Indian huts.

Before their goods came round the lakes, they were rather straitened.

These did not arrive until the middle of the summer.

In the winter they had a large coffee mill with which they ground their corn.

This mill for a considerable time was of great service to them and other settlers.

They had some flour brought around with their goods, and they had Indian sugar.

The Indian settlement was where the city of Ionia now is.

Some five hundred Indians, who were under the Flat River chief, stopped there, for making sugar, fishing, etc.

They also raised some corn.

As friends, the Indians and settlers lived together, with, mutual benefit.

The first winter passed, the Indians knowing they had sold their rights, cheerfully gave up their cherished homes to the whites.

They knew that they occupied only by the sufferance of the Government.

There was some scarcity of provisions the first winter, remedied by laboriously transporting them from Gull Prairie.

Otherwise, as this company had come prepared, they tell of little hardship or suffering.

It is proper here to state that the colony consisted of the Dexter family, nine persons; Mr. Yeomans' family, nine persons; Winsor,s family, seven persons; Arnold's family, ten persons; Joel Guild's family, seven or eight persons; Edward Guild's family,  - persons.

In addition to these families, as single men, Dr. W. B. Lincoln, a young physician just commencing practice, two unmarried brothers of Dexter - Winsor Dexter and Warner Dexter - P. M. Fox and Abram Decker.

The fortunes of these pioneers of Ionia County, it is proper here briefly to state:

A. Decker did not stay long

Patrick M. Fox now resides at Muir.

Samuel Dexter spent his life at Ionia, where he died in 1856.

Judge Yeomans, in a good old age, is still living at Ionia.

Oliver Arnold, a blacksmith, is dead. His sons are at Ionia.

Edward and Joel Guild soon went to Grand Rapids, and are dead.

Darius Winsor also moved to Grand Rapids, and is dead.

Dr. Lincoln, in a green old age, is still at Ionia.

Warner and Winsor Dexter were but transient residents.

Further particulars of these individuals may be gathered from the biographical articles.

In November, 1833, an addition was made to the little colony; Alfred Cornell arriving with a family, consisting of four men, six women and two children.

The whole force of the settlement was voluntarily directed to showing them how the pioneer welcomes a new-comer.

In two weeks a house had been built for them; of course not a palatial mansion, but a snug log house, built without boards, glass or nails; in which blankets and sheets did duty as doors and windows, but after all, as it was the best house in the settlement, they might have put on airs; and doubtless would, had they been made of such material as constitutes fashionable society.

As souls were a part of their personal outfit, they let their children play with the children of those who spent their first winter in Indian huts, and acknowledged fraternity with those who lived in humbler dwellings.

There are people now, living in princely residences, and blessed with all the appliances of wealth, who welcome others according to their mental and moral worth; und do not measure them by the accidents of fortune.

God bless the whole lot of them!

A rich man with a soul in him is a person worth bowing to.

We see women, too, (I didn't say "ladies," as "women" is a much nobler word,) who, abounding in all that wealth can give, still place themselves on the level with common humanity, and prove their nobility by their noble sympathy with all that is good, and pure, and holy, whether found in a palace or a hovel.

Unworthy is he whose hat can stay on when he meets such a woman.

Were it not for this morbid propensity to preach, when events furnish a text, the history would advance much more rapidly.

Descended from a long line of deacons, and destined in youth for the pulpit, the propensity was ground into the historian's nature.

Well for the world that a lack of orthodoxy induced the conservators of the church to discourage his ambition, otherwise, his interminable preaching would have been terrible.

But coming back to the colony: They gave a heart-warm welcome to Cornell and his family group.

Cornell had, as he supposed, made provision for the coming season, having laid in a stock at Detroit.

But the open character of the winter, and the swollen streams rendered it impossible to get them to Ionia, and in consequence there was, not hunger, but little variety, and rather short commons.

They learned to live upon little; that eating was not the business of life, but that we eat to live.

Corn cake and maple sugar, with a piece of smoked sturgeon, or a venison steak occasionally, is not so very terrible.

They had plenty of corn and Indian sugar, which is fully equal to the "hog and hominy” of old Kentucky.

What are you growling about?

In the writer's humble opinion, old Parson Jennings was about right.

He (God rest his pious, jovial old soul) was pastor long ago of a church in Western Massachusetts.

One day, visiting at the house of one of his parishioners, the good lady complained of hard times.

He took her to task for her unchristian grumbling; telling her that if we had potatoes and salt enough to eat, we should be content, and thankful to God for our blessings.

Of course, in deference to the dictum of the,'minister," she shut up, but had a thought or two, notwithstanding.

In due time the dominie (no, minister) was invited into another room for supper.

On the table were a fine lot of baked potatoes and some salt - nothing move.

He reverently, and with full expression of thankfulness, invoked a blessing, and with the rest sat down.

Looking at the table, and then at the woman, he said: "Potatoes and salt are good, and we ought to be thankful to God that he has bountifully supplied them to us.

But it does seem to me, that since I am a minister, I ought to have a little butter."

Now these settlers had corn and sugar, with fish and venison, and they were not ministers, and had no business to grumble; and historic truth compels the writer to say, there is not even a tradition that they did grumble.

In March the "victuals" came on from Detroit, and we are afraid that young Doctor Lincoln had some practice in consequence, but concerning that, contemporary history is reticent.

At this point we will briefly sketch the history of those who, in 1833, formed the nucleus of civilized settlement in Ionia County.

Bellemy Creek on Snobble Farm Ionia Michigan

Bellemy Creek on Snobble Farm Ionia Michigan

Michigan Reformatory Ionia Michigan

Michigan Reformatory Ionia Michigan