Written by John Ball.

The following communication was sent by the Hon. John Ball to the "Old Settlers’ Association."

Being a man who has always moved with his eyes in his head, it is especially valuable.

To relieve it from the charge of egotism, it is but proper to say, that the design of the communication was to give a sketch of his own personal relations to the Grand River Valley in early times:

"Having resided some years at Troy and Lansingburg, N. Y., in that year of speculation, 1836, I entered into a contract with Dr. T. C. Brinsmaid, Dr. F. B. Leonard, Mr. J. E. Whipple, and a Mr. Webster, of those places, to go West, and invest for them, on speculation, so much money as they would supply, for I had none.

The talk was, some sixty or eighty thousand dollars; but, from the change of times, it ended at about ten thousand.

I was to operate in any of the Western (not slave) States; buy and sell in my own name, and receive for my services one-fourth of the profits.

So, in September of that year I left Troy, and came to Detroit.

There I was offered city property, but prices seeming high, I concluded that government broad acres would be a surer thing than corner-lots.

From what I learned there and what I had learned before, I made up my mind that the Grand River district was the promised land, or at least the most promising one for my operations.

So I purchased a horse, and mounting him, I started out through mud which I found so deep that I was unable to trot him until I got to Ypsilanti.

I reached Ann Arbor the first day, where I fell in with some New York State acquaintances, traveling the same way.

The next day we arrived at Jacksonburg (as it was then called), and the next at Marshall. From there, going to Kalamazoo, I met for the first time one Mr. Robert S. Parks.

I then urged my friends to continue their journey with me north, but they declined, saying they were unwilling to risk their lives and health by going any further into the woods.

Having roughed it some before that time, it sounded to me rather unmanly.

Having bid good-bye to my traveling companions, the next day I mounted my pony and started, without any special fear and trembling, alone.

When I left Troy, at the urgent request of my friends I purchased a pair of pistols, and put them in my trunk.

I left them in my trunk at Detroit, not wishing the trouble of carrying them, though I had considerable gold in my saddlebags.

Everybody then carried money, and traveled on highways and by-ways; stopped by dozens in the same log cabins, and slept in the same common garret; thrusting their saddlebags and packages loosely under their beds, and perhaps leaving them there for days, though heavy with specie -for then only specie bought government lands.

Still there were no robberies heard of.

Nevertheless, it must be confessed, in bargaining, people did not always show themselves saints without guile.

I came on through Gull Prairie, where were a few settlers; and found no more until I arrived at Yankee Springs.

There I stopped and enjoyed Lewis' rousing fire, and partook of his wife's good cheer, as many of yon have done.

Continuing my journey, the next day I came to Mr. Leonard's, on the Thornapple, and observing some books drying in the sun, I was informed that the day before the stage wagon had spilled its baggage while crossing the river, and that the trunk containing these books was not at the time recovered; that it belonged to a Mr. Johnson, a lawyer, who was bound to Grand Rapids.

This was Simeon Johnson, whom every old settler well remembers.

I forded the river without wetting my boots.

But then I did not go through that deep hole into which some sinners, for sport, one time led their fellow travelers.

Being bound for Ionia, on arriving at the McNaughton place, on the Little Thornapple, I took what was called the flat River trail, which led to the Grand River at what is now Lowell.

Arriving there, I stopped with Mr. Marsac, an Indian Trader, brother of our late worthy Mrs. Louis Campau.

This was my arrival in the Grand River Valley, and the 14th day of October, 1836.

Marsac and the Robinsons, at the mouth of the Thornapple, were the only people between Grand Rapids and Ionia.

But soon after, Lewis Robinson settled at the mouth of Flat River, and Mr. Daniels and others in Vergennes.

The next day I went up the trail on the north side of the river to Ionia, and put up with Mr. Yeomans, since known as "Judge," who was then living, in his original cabin.

There I again met with Mr. Parks, and, as was no unusual thing then, occupied the same common room or chamber with him and his wife.

There were many visiting the land office there, so every house and place was full, and there were so many purchasers, that Mr. Hutchinson, the receiver, soon took in silver to the amount of his bail, and had to shut up the office, and cart the silver through the woods to Detroit.

Having nothing else to do, a fellow boarder, Mr. Anderson, and myself mounted our horses, and put out to look for pine lands down in Ottawa, and came the first day to Grand Rapids.

This was my first visit.

We put up at the Eagle Tavern, then the only one in the place, and kept by William Godfroy.

It was then November, the nights cold, the house not plastered, the house full - two in a bed.

When the lights were out, I heard from all quarters, bitter complaints of bed fellows that they pulled the clothes off; not just understanding that the coverings being narrow Indian blankets, if a man covered himself, he uncovered his neighbor.

I rather enjoyed the complaining.

The next morning we rode down to Grandville before breakfast.

There being no tavern, we were directed to Mr. Charles Oakes for accommodations.

They answered that they could feed our horses, but not us; but after urging our necessities, Mrs. Oakes was moved to compassion, and gave us a cup of good coffee.

But then we wanted something to carry into the woods, and were told that there was nothing to be had in the village; but that on our way a Mr. Ketchum was building a mill, and there we could get plenty.

But on arriving there, where Jennison's planing mill now is, they informed us that all they had was some flour and beef.

So we waited until they baked a loaf of bread, which we took, and some of the uncooked beef; put into the woods, and took our course to a point where we had some vague information there was pine timber.

This brought us, at dark, into the south part of what is now the town of Blendon, and we camped on a branch of the Black River.

During the night, we heard the deer tramping about us in the leaves, attracted, probably, by the fire; and the wolves, as usual, howling in the distance.

The next morning we explored about for a time, but not finding what we were looking for, we turned to come out, for we had taken but one day's provisions.

But after a time we found ourselves in the midst of a fine tract of pine timber, and immediately turned away to see its extent, and under the excitement kept on until dark.

Then we lay down without supper, in order to have something for breakfast.

On waking in the morning, we found our blankets covered with snow, and being still in the pines, we were unwilling to give it up until we had explored still further.

We finally struck down towards the river, expecting to find some road leading out, but there was none.

We met some Indians on the river, and offered them three dollars to bring us up to Grandville in their canoes.

But they declined, and we tramped on, over bluffs and through swamps, till dark; kindled afire with our last match, and lay down, hungry and weary.

The next morning we got out to Grandville about 9 o'clock, and succeeded in getting something to eat, notwithstanding the scarcity.

As yet nothing had been raised in Kent county or Ottawa, and nothing like a supply in Ionia; and all had to be brought by way of the Lakes from Buffalo or Cleveland.

But we had not explored the lands minutely enough for purchasing.

So, a short time after, my man, his son and myself, with a tent and better outfit, went in again, and spent two or three days.

Giving them quite a bonus for their interest in the lands, I entered the whole tract, 41 eighty-acre lots, in my own name - the same lands from which the Blendon Company, long afterwards, lumbered.

This company were the Messrs. Brinsmaid, Leonard and Whipple, mentioned before as furnishing the capital with which I operated.

Finding the prospects of profit so small, I had before given them a deed of the lands, charging nothing for my service. Speculation No. 1.

I was little at Grand Rapids the first fall and winter I was in the State.

But at one time, when there, I went up through the mud and among the stumps, to Bridge Street, where Mr. Coggershall lived, and met a man at an office west of his house, and asked him the price of lots.

He - it was Judge Almy - answered, that on Canal and Kent streets they were $50 a front foot, or $2,500 a lot.

I did not invest, and made no further inquiry about lots in Grand Rapids.

One time, in the winter, I was at Grandville, wishing to look for lands farther down the river, a Mr. White and some other Grand Haven men there invited me to go down the river on the ice with them.

They had a cutter, and the ice being smooth, we all rode.

Arriving at Grand Haven, I stopped at Mr. Luke White's, where I got acquainted with T. D. Gilbert, Esq., Rev. Mr. Ferry, Mr. Troop, Capt. White, and most of the then few inhabitants of the place.

I then employed a half-breed man, a brother of Mrs. Oakes, to go with me into the woods, though it was mid-winter and the snow knee-deep.

We went out south, to and up the creek that falls into Port Sheldon Lake, and so, about the woods for four or five days, and came out at the mouth of the Bass River.

When night came on, we encamped in the lee of some fallen tree, scraped away the snow, collected hemlock boughs for a bed, built up a rousing fire, and made ourselves very comfortable.

But it was by the skill of my companion, for he was an old hunter, and knew well how to make camp.

But I found no land that I thought it an object to purchase, so I came up to Grandville, and went out into what is now Byron.

When there, Mr. Nathan Boynton, with his brothers, Perry and William, as boarders, were the only inhabitants.

There I found some 1,000 acres of good farming land, which I bought.

I think Mr. Osgood and Mr. Blake had then came to Grandville, and were keeping the first tavern there.

I passed part of the winter at Detroit, going and returning by different routes.

One time I went directly south from Ionia, on a trail to Marshall, passing through Vermontville and Bellevue; stopped at the former place over night, finding there only three families.

At Detroit I met Capt. Victor Harris, and told him about the Grand River country.

Gov. Mason, Mr. Schoolcraft, with his half-breed wife, and many members of the Legislature, boarded at the American, where I had taken up my quarters.

Judge Almy was the member from the Grand River district.

They legislated boldly that winter; passed the law for making the $5,000,000 loan; for the survey of three railroads and two canals across the State; and the general wild-cat banking law.

One day I was walking along Jefferson Avenue, and overtook two boys talking, and there was the discharge of a cannon.

One boy said to the other, Now, Michigan is a State."

And so it was.

They were firing at the news of its admission, just from Washington.

This was in February.

But though just admitted, it had been running on its own account from October, 1835; had had the Toledo war, and all that.

Finally she submitted, and took the Upper Peninsula.

I returned by what was called the "Northern Route;" found Pontiac a little village.

They were building a mill at Fenton.

Elisha Williams was the only man in Shiawassee county, and Scott in Clinton.

So it was a day's journey from house to house.

From Scott's there was a trail direct to Lyons, through the dense timber, 25 miles, and another road by Portland, where there were a few families.

I well recollect finding very comfortable quarters in the tavern at Lyons, kept by Judge Lyon.

One day, coming from Ionia, I was intending to stop at Mr. Edward Robinson's, but, from the snow drifted on the open Indian fields, lost my track, and turned back to a shanty where some men were building a block house, which was afterwards the tavern of Ada.

They very kindly invited me to stop with them, saying they could put my horse in the shed, and could give me lodgings; and thus I should be the first traveler stopping at a public house in that place.

One of these persons was Mr. Burnett.

I traveled all winter on horse-back.

Although the sleighing was good, I did not trust its continuance.

My business had led me to travel much up and down the Grand River country, and I had become more acquainted with the people elsewhere than at Grand Rapids.

But in the spring of 1837, I sat down at Grand Rapids to make it my permanent home.

I boarded at the Eagle, then kept by our late Mr. Moran.

The three brothers Nelson were boarders, and had a store opposite.

Being a little suspicions of Indian sugar, they used to bring sugar from the store for their tea and coffee.

Charles Taylor had his shop over their store, and Horsford Smith had a store further down the street.

Waterloo was then rather the business street.

There were two warehouses on the river below, and two at the foot of Monroe Street. Uncle Louis Campau's mansion is still a part of the Rathbun House.

Richard Godfrey had a like house where the Catholic Church was built (the sad fate of that house is elsewhere noted), and Myron Hinsdill lived where is now the Morton House.

There was also a building on the north side of Monroe Street, in which Drs. Willson and Shepard had their office, and Esquire Beebe (I think) his justice office.

Dea. Page, with his three beautiful daughters, Mrs. Richmond one of them, and Judge Almy, lived where Butterworth & Lowe's machine shop now is; and A. D. Rathbun had a shanty office near Bronson street.

Though there were but few houses, there were a good many people.

There were the brothers Lyman, and Edward Emerson, and then, or soon after, one Fuller.

I cannot say precisely who were in Grand Rapids, as they were coming in fast, and all full of hope for a continuance of good money-making times that would make all rich.

The citizens were friendly and social; a stranger was kindly welcomed, and all soon became acquainted.

Quite a number of us who well recollect those good old times, are still here.

There were many others.

Mr. Thompson was the first keeper of the Bridge Street House, and then Gen. Wither. Wm. Richmond was clerk of the Kent Company.

Mr. Calder had a store near Mr. Coggershall's; Ed. Emerson, one on Canal street: and many French people had followed Uncle Louis - the Godfroys, Mr. Marion, and many mechanics, who, after the change of times, went to St. Louis and other parts.

The settlers out of the village were Judge Davis, and the Reeds out by the lake; Alvan Wansley, the Messrs. Guild and Barton, by the Fair Grounds; Esquires Chubb and Howlett towards Grandville; and then, over the river, Mr. E. Turner, Capt. Sibley, the Messrs. Davis, and afterwards, Mr. Scribner.

Others had gone upon the lately purchased Indian lands, and soon many more came in, and went upon the un-surveyed lands north of the Grand River.

There was no grist mill this side of one near Gull Prairie, nor was there need of any; for the little grain raised, whether wheat or oats, was bought up for horse feed, at $2 per bushel.

There was a saw mill about where Sweet's Hotel now stands; one where the plaster mill stands, at Plaster Creek, and the Indian Mill, on Indian Mill Creek.

They did put into the last named mill a run of granite stones to crack corn, and the like.

At a later day, coming in possession of that property after the mill had disappeared; I removed these stones to the front of my house, where they are an historical horse-block.

The Indians still lived on the west side of the river, and planted large fields of corn.

They had a little church and a priest - the simple-hearted and good Vizoski.

Horace Grey and his brother Lyman were also here; and that spring Horace and I went down the river to Grand Haven in a kind of keelboat, sailed by Capt. Sibley, and propelled by the current.

We walked down the lake shore to Muskegon, where were then living only Mr. Lasley and Mr. Trottier (called Trucky), Indian Traders.

Martin Ryerson, the last time I saw him, told me he was then clerk of Trottier, at $8 per month.

On our return up the river, we came as far as Yeomans (Lamont) in a little "dug-out" canoe, as big as a clam-shell.

Stopping over night, we concluded that it would be easier to foot it up through the woods than to paddle the canoe around by the river.

On our way, who should we meet but Capt. Victor Harris, who said he had come out to the Grand River on my recommendation of the country when he met me in Detroit.

That spring there was great activity in business here and all over the country, and an expectation of a continuance of the good times.

But, as unexpected as a sudden thunder-storm, a change came over the country.

The New York Legislature passed a law authorizing the banks to suspend specie payment; and Gov. Mason convened ours for the same purpose.

At that extra session they not only authorized the banks then in operation to suspend, but also such banks as should go into operation under the general banking law lately passed; which resulted in the killing of 40 wild-cat banks.

When I left Detroit in April, all was hope and expectation of as good a season for speculation as the preceding one; but when there again in June, all the plats of choice lands and villages were removed from the walls of the hotels and public places, and all faces had so changed that one could hardly recognize his acquaintances; and it was taken as an insult for one to speak of land operations.

But we were so deep in the woods that we did not seem to realize, for some time, the great change that had come over the rest of the world.

Among the Grand Rapids' enterprises, a steamboat had been bought at Toledo to run on the Grand River.

But on the way it was wrecked on Thunder Bay Island, of Lake Huron.

But the engine was saved and brought around, and Mr. Richard Godfrey built a boat, which made its first trip down to Grandville on the 4th of July.

We had quite a celebration; an oration on the boat, and great rejoicing generally on that account.

Though I met no one in the Grand River Valley who had ever seen me before I came into the State, still, strange, they nominated and elected me to the Legislature, to represent the Grand River district, consisting of Ottawa, Kent, Ionia and Clinton counties.

Almy and some others were aspirants, and had their friends; still, my nomination was almost unanimous.

Capt. Stoddard (captain of the steamboat), a brother-in-law of Mr. Bostwick, was the Whig candidate; a worthy man, who lived afterwards at Charlotte.

There were then the two taverns—the Bridge Street and the Eagle.

The convention was held at the Bridge Street House, and I was boarding at the Eagle.

In the evening who should arrive but the Hon. C. C. Woodbridge, the Whig candidate for Governor - out canvassing.

He was acquainted with the landlady, Mrs. Moran, and she introduced me to him.

He inquired of me for his friends - Messrs. Henry, Bostwick and Stoddard.

So, after he had taken his supper, I showed him where they lived.

The gentlemen being out, I introduced him to the ladies.

The next morning, on meeting Mr. Trowbridge, he expressed, as well he might, his surprise at seeing in the backwoods such a circle of accomplished ladies; and, also, that a political opponent should have been so civil to him.

There were but five places of holding the polls - there being but five organized townships in the four counties.

In Kent county, Byron and Kent; in Ionia county, Ionia and Maple; and in Clinton county, DeWitt.

The election was held at the Bridge Street Hotel.

All the voters of Ottawa County came up on the steamboat and, m a line, marched to the polls.

I was elected by a large majority, and in January, 1838, went to Detroit on horseback. The going was very bad, for there had been heavy rains and snow.

At Detroit I put up at the National, now the Russell House.

The great questions before the Legislature that winter, were the location of the railroads, and the amount to be expended on each road.

For the improvement of the Grand and Maple Rivers, $30,000 was appropriated, which was applied to improving the harbor at Grand Rapids, clearing out the river channel at the foot of Monroe street, and removing the sunken logs all the way up the river to Lyons.

Several towns were organized in Ottawa, Ottawa, Georgetown and Talmadge; in Kent, Grand Rapids, Paris, Walker, Plainfield, Ada and Vergennes.

Some titles were given in the military line: Gen. Withey and Col. Finney.

Rix Robinson was made one of the five internal improvement commissioners.

There was a law passed authorizing Kent County to borrow money to build a court house; Squire Abel and Judge Davis were the supervisors of the county, and Squire Abel came in to borrow money from the school-fund to build the said court house.

In his hurry, he got the money, much of it the hills of the failing wild-cat banks; and I fear the county has some of it still on hand.

The troubles in Canada resulted in bringing many settlers to the Grand River Valley.

I must say a word about banking at Grand Rapids.

There was the Grand River Bank, of which Almy was president and Richmond cashier.

It was in the office of the Kent Co., on Bridge Street.

Mr. Coggershall and some others became dissatisfied, and undertook to establish another bank, to be located in the Campau plat part of the village.

They got a room over Smith & Evans' store, about where the west part of Luce's Block now is; and, after much urging, Louis Campau consented to be president, and Simian Johnson to be cashier.

They named it the "People's Bank;'' got plates engraved, and some bills struck off, and even put in circulation.

The capital stock was $100,000.

So, under the law, it required $30,000 in specie to start on.

Being all ready, as they claimed, they sent for the Bank Commissioner, Digby V. Bell, to come, make examination, and put the bank in legal operation.

But instead of finding the required amount of specie, he found but $6,000; and they proposed to make up the rest by a draft of Mr. Coggershall, of $20,000, on a broker in New York, and one of Mr. Ketchnm, on Chicago, for the balance.

Mr. Bell did not see the propriety of the arrangement, and said it would not do; so what next was to be done?

They not only had bills out, but they had received deposits; and the specie shown, I suppose, was deposited to be drawn out as soon as the bank was in operation.

They were very anxious to go on in some way, and so far satisfied the commissioner that they could, that he agreed to give them a month for the purpose.

But then it was to be on the condition that the means on hand should go into the hands of a receiver, for the security of the bill-holders and depositors.

When it was talked over who that man should be, they could agree on no one but myself.

I did not at all like any connection with the matter, but, after much urging, consented to it.

It was to be kept as it was for the month, except to pay out to such cash depositors as should claim their money, and to redeem their bills then in circulation.

Without any formality Mr. Bell handed me the keys of the safe, and said there was about such an amount of specie in this safe; and hills, and what he had passed upon as specie equivalent, in the other.

You will see now why I speak so particularly of this "Peoples Bank."

The next morning, on opening the safe containing the paper deposits, I found missing some $2,000.

I felt it rather an awkward predicament.

But soon Mr. Campau came in, and said there were two keys to that safe, and he thought Mr. Cook had the other one.

After a time, Judge Morrison came in, and said that while Mr. Ball was at dinner yesterday, he took the missing money from the safe, and carried it to the cashier, Mr. Johnson, who was sick at his room.

More of the money was soon drawn out by depositors and bill holders; and when the month came round they were no better prepared to go into operation than before, and I had to keep charge still longer.

But, wishing to go East, Mr. Bostwick took charge of what there was left, and I went back to Troy, having been absent two years, instead of a few months, as I expected when I left there.

After visiting for a time, I picked up my law library, rather scattered through the offices of the city, and returned to Grand Rapids, to the surprise of some; for it had been reported that I was not going to come back, otherwise they said I should have been again nominated for the Legislature.

As it was, they had just put in nomination C. A. Finney.

I was afterwards, in 1840, put in nomination for the Senate, to be beaten by H. P. Bridge, the opposing candidate.

When I first came to Grand Rapids, Louis Campau was said to be worth $100,000; but when the change of times came, he made an assignment of all his property for the benefit of his creditors, except the Old Congregational Church, which he deeded to his mother.

He had built that church for the Catholics, and they held meetings in it for some.

It was to be paid for by the bishop; but from some disagreement, he did not take it.

After a time she sold it to the Congregational Society, reserving, however, the iron cross, the same that has since surmounted the stone church.

I drew the deed from Mrs. Campau.

Mr. Ballard was present, and urged not to have the cross excepted in the deed, saying that he could worship under the cross.

But she would not consent.

When they wanted to take it down, men were sent up to remove it.

They built a staging, and tried to lift it out of the timber in which it stood.

When they found they could not, they sawed it off.

Owing to a defect in their arrangements, it fell to the ground, and in falling, carried with it one of the men, a Mr. Post, who, of course, was instantly killed.

At the time, I was standing on the steps of the National Hotel, with D. V. Bell, who remarked of the man being killed: "It has only knocked the shell off."

This was by no means said in a thoughtless manner, but to express his religious views, that the body was not the real man.

Mr. Campau had erected a number of other buildings, among them the Eagle Tavern, the yellow store, and a dwelling for his brother Touissaut, on the corner where Luce's Block now stands.

He had started Touissant in business, and becoming surety for his goods, probably occasioned the necessity of his making an assignment.

Still he had considerable left after all his debts were paid.

His brother Antoine, C. P. Walker and Judge Martin were his assignees.

Times became very dull in our valley, and there was very little increase in the population.

In Grand Rapids, there was a decrease.

Emigration all went past us to Illinois and Wisconsin.

There was no money, and our merchants, who tried to do business, had to trust the farmers on the strength of their growing crops.

But the wheat, when raised, brought but three shillings a bushel, so there was a general failure of all business.

We had enough to eat, but little to wear; and if we could get money enough to pay postage, it was all we expected.

All that was done was by exchange. Judge Morrison says that in building a pretty good house he paid out but one dollar.

All that was done was by exchange or "dicker."

Times were decidedly dull; and to fill up the time, we used, in the evenings, to attend the Debating Society, of which C. P. Walker, Mr. Ballard and Charles H. Taylor were the greatest talkers.

And then we used to get up hops at the "Bridge Street" and "National;" had John Ellis for musician.

This same Ellis has "hung up his fiddle and his bow," and long flourished as a successful mill-owner in Alpine, where he now lives, retired from business.

Some settlers had gone on the government lands north of the river, before they were surveyed.

In some cases, the lines cut their improvements badly, and then there was some clashing among the claimants.

But it was agreed that a committee of each township should settle these claims.

When the public sale of these lands came on, in August, 1839, the great question was how to raise money to pay for their lands, for they had expected to have made it by their farming.

Though told there was no danger, they were so fearful that speculators would bid off their lands that they went to Ionia with clubs to fight them off.

But the speculators did not come, as they had had enough of land speculation in 1836.

Still, some of these squatters borrowed money at 100 per cent., of Mr. Richmond - acting for Gov. Hunt, of New York - and paid for the lots, giving a mortgage on the same.

It was a long time before some of these mortgages were paid; and those who let it pass, and did not buy, did much better, as you will see further on.

But were not those hard times with us?

Congress, in the session of 1841, granted to each of the new States in which there were government lands, 500,000 acres for internal improvements.

The next winter our Legislature-, passed an act, accepting that grant, and authorizing the Governor, Mr. Barry, to make the selection, as Congress had authorized.

Knowing that I was a woodsman, he wrote to me, asking me if I would select those lands.

Not having much business on hand, I answered that I would, but wished his instructions, or at least, opinion, as to what class of lands it would be best to take - whether pine or farming.

Much to my dissatisfaction, he said he should leave it entirely to my judgment.

Still, I accepted the appointment, and prepared for the business.

I went to the Land Office at Ionia, to procure the necessary plats.

Judge Lovell, who was then tlie Registrar, politely gave me every facility.

Frederick Hall wishing to go out as an assistant, I employed him at twelve shillings a day; and I also took James D. Lyon, then a youth, as cook and camp-keeper.

I was then boarding at Judge Lyon's, who kept the Bridge Street House, and I had been acting as ascent for James II. Hatch, after Mr. Walker left.

But Mr. Yale had come on with full power of attorney from Mr. Hatch, so I passed that business to him; purchased an Indian pony, tents, blankets, etc., and on the 20th of March, put into the woods - the ground being as fully settled as in mid-summer.

Our first trip was up by the Wright settlement, and the west part of Alpine, where we found Coffee and Goding, they being the last settlers, three miles beyond any others.

We then went on and encamped the first night on a creek near the north line of Wright.

The next day, leaving Lyon to cook supper and see that the pony did not stray, Hall and myself ranged the woods far around to see the character of the land, keeping our reckoning by the surveyed lines and surveyor's marks, returning weary at night, ready for supper, and to wrap ourselves in our blankets.

This was repeated from day to day, moving our camp as occasion required.

In that trip we explored all that splendid timbered country in the east part of Ottawa county, down to the Grand River, along which were the only settlers.

After some ten or twelve days we came in to get a fresh supply of provisions, and then went out again.

I had heard of prairie lands up on the Muskegon, so to see them I went out by the east part of Alpine, and there found Mr. Hills, three miles in the woods, making shingles; and his accomplished wife got us a dinner.

Hills soon after died.

His sons were then young, and probably did not expect all the good fortune they have since realized.

We encamped by Camp Lake, and the next day reached Croton.

There we found a saw mill, owned by a Mr. Peachim, who had purchased of Mr. Brooks, then at Newaygo.

To my disappointment, the prairies proved to be but thin-soiled pine plains.

So we quit exploring in that direction, and struck through for the Flat River, coming out about at Greenville.

There I found the country much more satisfactory - rich bur-oak plains and good pine timber.

I there found Luther Lincoln, who, with his son, a boy of thirteen, were living a hermit life - the only inhabitants of Montcalm county.

Still he seemed glad of company, and explored with us while in those parts.

There were in Otisco, Ionia county, Mr. Cook, Mr. Morse, and a few others; in Oakfield, Mr. Tower and sons, Mr. Davis and Mr. Crinnion; in Courtland, Mr. Bears and four or five other families; four families in Cannon; one in Grattan; but few at Plainfield, and none on the road from there to Grand Rapids.

There was a good deal of feeling and some alarm among our people about the selection of so large a quantity of land in one county, under the belief that they would be kept out of the market by the State, or held at a high price.

So, out of regard to those feelings, I made a trip down the lake shore.

We went out on the trail to Muskegon, where there was then one saw mill; crossed overlie head of the lake by boat, swimming my pony; then by a trail to White River.

At the head of White Lake we found Charles Mears, the only settler north of Muskegon.

He had a little mill on a small creek, and a small sloop to ship his lumber to Chicago.

His men, with their boat, set us across the lake.

It made the pony blow to keep his head above the water; but he weathered it, and we struck for the Clay Banks, and so kept along, finding a stray boat to cross the Pent Water, and went as far the Pere Marquette.

We then returned, exploring some, back through the country; came to the outlet of the White Lake; forded it on the bar, and came to the mouth of the Muskegon, expecting means of crossing, so as to come to Grand Rapids.

But there was no one there, and we had to go back round the north side, and encamp.

The next day some Indians carried us over to Muskegon, and we returned on the trail in a rain, making rather an uncomfortable encamping.

We made up our minds that our trip down the lake shore was one that invited no repetition for the pleasure of the thing.

I was instructed to make report of such lands as I had selected to the Land Office, and also to the Government.

But thus far I had been looking generally, and had not reported any.

On much reflection, I made up my mind that, as the State was deeply in debt for building railroads, and the State warrants, as the State obligations were called, were in the hands of many people all over the State, and the State had no means of meeting this indebtedness but these lands, the Legislature would be pressed on the subject, and would pass a law putting the lands into the market at such a price that they would sell, and be purchased by the settler.

I therefore determined to make the selections from the nearest unsold lands up and down the Grand River.

I afterwards made my explorations with that view, and soon made report of selections.

I continued my explorations until the 4th of July, and then again went out in the fall.

I was in the woods in Bowne, when that fall of snow of more than two feet came on the 18th day of November.

The old settlers will well recollect that winter, 1842-3, which lasted till some time in April - five months.

As I was about the country that fall, I noticed a great number of hogs, and on asking the owners what they were going to do with them, they said, "let them run."

They had lived through the previous winter on acorns, and if killed now the pork would not pay for the salt.

Quite three-fourths of them were salted in the snow, and also some of the cattle.

Hall and Lyon had quit me some time in the spring, and I then employed a Dutchman by the name of Thome as camp keeper, and carried on the business without further help.

He has a fine farm in Alpine, bought with his wages.

I selected some lands, also, on the south side of the river, in frames and Byron, and some in Ottawa, in Jamestown, and Statesland, thus named from this fact.

The quantity selected and reported was nearly 400,000 acres; the balance being selected by other parties in other parts of the State.

Mine were mostly farming lands, but some pine.

As I anticipated, the State Legislature did, at the next session, pass a law for the sale of those lands, at the nominal government price of $1.25 per acre, payable in State dues; warrants could then be purchased at 40 cents on the dollar, bringing the lands at 50 cents per acre.

After the passage of this law, the settlers who had not paid for their lands - and there were many of them who had not - wished me to report their lands as selected, and I did so.

The State Land Office was then :it Marshall, and when the sale came on in July, 1843, they sent out by me to bid in their lands - having, most of them, by some means, got the small sum required - and all got their places without opposition, for they sold so cheap, none were purchased on speculation.

After the lands had all been offered at auction, I made entry of a few lots, and paid for them with the warrants I had received for my services in selecting.

I charged $3 per day, and got what was worth 40 cents on the dollar; but in paying for the lands it was worth dollar for dollar.

But if I had been paid in cash, as I expected, it would have bought two and a half acres instead of one.

Though but few purchases were made at the first sale, some from the east part of the State having knowledge of the opportunity, made some purchases.

After a time, emigrants bound for the West, came to look, .saying to me (for they all came to me for information), "We don't expect to like Michigan lands, but as they are selected lands, and can be got so cheaply, we thought we would come and see.

But, to their surprise, they were well suited, and all purchased.

On their report, a dozen would follow, so that in a few years the great majority of those lands were settled.

I not only furnished them with plats, and directed them to the lands, but purchased warrants, sent them to the office, and made the purchases.

If the funds were a little short, I gave them time to make up the deficiency, and if much was lacking, I would take the land in my own name, as security, giving them a receipt for what they paid.

I managed to keep every man who came, in some way; and never had occasion to complain that they did not, on their part, fulfill their engagements.

I have been thus particular about those Internal Improvement Lands, to remind you to how great an extent it advanced the settlement of our valley.

When, a few years afterwards, the Hollanders came in, and took the balance of those lands down near their settlement, and they and the other settlers came to Grand Rapids for their supplies, business revived, and we moved on again.

None of these first purchasers had much means - just enough to pay for their lands, and subsist till they could raise something.

For a time they got on slowly.

What they raised would bring but little.

But they made improvements; their calves grew; so that when prices improved, they found themselves better off than they were aware; built barns and good framed houses, in place of their little first log cabins.

It does me good to go over those then forest lands, along well-made roads, lined with fine white houses, rich orchards, and fruitful fields.

Nine out of ten of those have succeeded - showing that cheap lands and industry are the surest road to competence, especially for young men and those of limited means.

I do not at one recognize them all, but they do me, and refer, with seeming gratitude, to their first coming to the country, and my aiding them in getting their farms.

This, to me, is better pay than the little fees they gave me for those services."

Uncle John, you are right.

You have as many friends as the minister, and many a heart says "God bless you."


There was a rush of settlers into the Grand River Valley in 1836, and thereabouts; and a furor for locating lands as a speculative investment; a mania for platting cities and selling lots.

This was followed, of course, by a re-action.

From 1833 to 1837, may be called the years of occupation.

The furor passed, and the sober realities of backwoods life had brought people somewhat to their senses.

It was thought proper by the author to pause at this point, and give a general and, graphic view of the Valley in 1837.

To do this, the Hon. John Ball, whose business called him at that time into every part, and made him acquainted with every person, was appealed to.

To this appeal he kindly responded, by furnishing the following article.

There is no doubt that the public will add their thanks to those of the author:

"In 1837 the Grand River settlement was far detached from the rest of the world.

To reach it from any direction had its difficulties, and required much time.

If approached by what was called the northern route, through Shiawassee and Clinton counties, it was a day's journey from house to house to Ionia.

The only other approach with a team and wagon was by the “Territorial Road," as it was called, through Calhoun and Kalamazoo; then by a day's journey from Battle Creek or Kalamazoo, to Yankee Springs, and another to Grand Rapids, or other parts.

This was the usual route to Kent and Ottawa counties; keeping over the "openings "east of the Thornapple River to Ada.

There was a bridle path or trail through the timbered lands direct out through Gaines to Green Lake and Yankee Springs; and another through Byron to Allegan; and there was communication by keel-boats and "dugouts " up and down the river.

By these routes all supplies of goods, and even most of the breadstuff's for Kent and Ottawa counties, were brought.

In Ionia County, being longer settled, they raised their own bread.

A colony, under the lead of Mr. Dexter, had come into Ionia in 1833; and a few as early into the other counties of the Grand River Valley.

The Ionia settlers, as soon as possible, made arrangements to be independent of the outside world, as far as it regards food.

But in Kent and Ottawa they had come as mechanics, or to operate in platting towns, and selling corner-lots.

And here, so deep in the woods, they did not give up their hopes in that direction until long after it was known and felt in the habited parts of the country, that backwoods village plats were merely things on paper.

The traveler on horseback, by the usual route in those days, would stop at night at William's; and later in the year at DeLang's; the next night at Scott's; and by the next night, riding through a dense forest twenty-five miles, he would reach Lyons, perhaps Ionia.

Or, by another route, through a more open country, he could go to Portland, and down along the Grand River to Lyons.

There were then at Portland, Mr. Boyer and three or four others.

At Lyons was a tavern, kept by the late Judge Lyon.

His brother Edward, since in Detroit, was living in a fine little cottage on a bluff of the river.

There were perhaps some dozen other villagers, and a few farmers.

Mr. Eaton and Mr. Irish, whose wives were of the Lyon family, had farms up on the Portland road.

Three miles above Ionia was a saw mill on Prairie Creek; and on a little stream from the hill, a grist mill.

At Ionia were a tavern, a store, mechanic shops, and a few dwellings, all unpretending and limited in build and business.

But hereabouts, in the country and in the woods, were a number of farmers - Esquire Yeomans, a little below the village, in his log house, and all the rest in theirs.

If night overtook the weary traveler too far away to reach the usual place of stopping, he was always kindly welcomed to lodgings and fare, the best the cabin afforded; and would find as marked proof of good order, skill in cooking and neatness, as he would find in the sumptuous mansion.

And also in the cabin the traveler would usually find a shelf filled with instructive books; and from conversation with the inmates he would discover that they had been read.

The people of the Valley were so few that the person who traveled much soon became acquainted with most of the dwellers therein, and the sparseness of settlers led to greater cordiality when they met.

Their common wants, sometimes for almost the needs of life, led to kindly thought of each other, and kindly, neighborly acts.

And then they had the example of the Indians, then residing all along the Valley, who are always hospitable, and who not infrequently aided the first settlers, by furnishing the means of subsistence from their cornfields and the chase.

The Indian is too good a farmer to ever till a poor soil.

Their cornfields were on the rich bottom land of the rivers.

They had one at Lyons, in the forks of the Maple and Grand Rivers.

Ionia was located on an old Indian improvement.

An extensive field was at the mouth of the Flat River, on the right bank, and then again at the mouth of the Thornapple.

As the Indian mode of tillage was the laborious one of breaking up the ground with the hoe, the settlers, in preference to taking the unsubdued land, ploughed the Indian fields for the privilege of cultivating a part; and, side by side, the Indian corn generally looked the best, for the squaws were very good with the hoe.

Rix Robinson, the first Indian Trader on the Grand River, resided at Ada, and his brother Edward one mile below, in his log house, from necessity larger than usual, to accommodate his large family of 15 - his "baker's dozen," as he used to say.

Still, they often had to entertain the traveler bound to Grand Rapids.

The bedroom of the weary traveler was the roof or garret part of the house, with good beds, eight or ten, arranged under the eaves, access to which was under the ridgepole; it being high enough there for a man to stand upright.

There were always two in a bed, and the beds were taken as the parties retired; say, a man and his wife first, then two boys or girls, and so on.

This is mentioned as the usual manner at stopping places.

At first it would seem a little embarrassing to women and modest men.

But use soon overcomes that feeling; and always in those times all seemed disposed to behave civilly, and to act the part of a true gentleman; occasion their kind entertainers the least possible trouble, and still reward them liberally for their fare, as was right they should, as their food had come all the way from Buffalo or Cleveland.

Uncle Louis Campau, as he was usually called, was the next trader on the river, unless Mr. Generau, at the Maple, was before him.

Campau sat down at Grand Rapids, and built his log dwelling and warehouse about half-way between Pearl and Bridge streets, on the bank of the river, the trail to which was where now is Monroe Street.

In the year 1837, the Grand River settlements were far detached from the rest of the world.

The approach from any direction required much time, and was attended with some difficulty.

If by what was called the northern route, through Shiawassee and Clinton counties, there was but one stopping place in each - Lang's and Scott's.

Then there were some twenty-five miles of dense woods to reach Lyons, and about the same to Portland.

These were the usual routes in, for the Ionia people.

For Kent County and the region below, the approach was made usually by the so-called Thornapple road.

This came from Battle Creek to Yankee Springs, in Barry County; then east of the Thornapple River, through the openings, to Ada, where it joined the road from Ionia to Grand Rapids and Grandville.

The travel below Grand Rapids was, in summer, by keel-boats or canoes, and in winter, on the ice.

There was a trail, or bridle-path, to Grand Haven, and down the lake beach to Muskegon, and also to Allegan.

Sometimes then' was a winter road more direct, out, going through the heavy timbered land in Gaines to Green Lake, Middleville and Yankee Springs.

There were other Indian trails in many directions.

Most traveling was on horseback, requiring five days from Detroit to reach Grand Rapids.

From Ionia, the traveler crossed the Grand River at Ada in a canoe, into which he put his saddle, towing his horse behind the boat.

Coming from the south, when the water was high, the crossing of the Thornapple was in the same fashion.

Soon scows were put on the river, on which teams and loads could cross.

No roads as yet were made, nor bridges built, so the traveling by wagon was rough and slow.

As to settlement, beginning at Portland, there were Mr. Moore, Mr. Boyer, and some half dozen other families.

At Lyons, ten miles down the river, a few more than at Portland.

At Ionia, the village was small, but there were quite a number of farmers around.

They made their first planting ground of the old Indian improvement, where the city of Ionia now is.

Squire Yeomans had his farm below the village, and some had settled on the other side of the river.

At Lowell, on the left bank of the river, was Mr. Marsac, and on the right bank, on an extended plain, an old Indian planting ground, was Louis Robinson.

At Ada, were Rix and Edward Robinson.

There was already quite a population at Grand Rapids.

Many settlers followed Mr. Campau from Detroit, and others came from all parts East.

The Messrs. Hinsdill, Henry and others, from Vermont: Mr. James Lyman and his brother, from Connecticut, and many, more than from all other States, from New York. Perhaps at this time there were 500 in all - more than at times could be well accommodated for room.

It seemed to be an attractive spot, where every comer seemed to think it was the place for him to make a fortune.

This was the case in the first part of the year, but before the year was through, that feeling had much abated, for it was in this year that the speculation bubble burst.

On Monroe Street there was then Louis Campau's two-story frame house, since a part of the front of the Rathbun House, corner of Monroe and Waterloo streets.

Mr. Richard Godfroy had a similar building a little above.

Mr. Myron Hinsdill had one where the Morton House now is.

Darius Winsor was on the corner of Ottawa and Fountain streets, and was postmaster. The arrival of the weekly mail was an event.

In latter times, if one had money enough to pay the high postage of those days, he thought he was well-off.

There was a house opposite the Rathbun House, where Esquire Beebee and Dr. Willson then had their offices.

Both were worthy men, but both soon departed this life.

Dr. Shepard was here, and at times the only physician.

At the foot of Monroe street, where is now open space, were three stores, or warehouses; one of them, then or soon, occupied by Judge Morrison.

Opposite, or where the buildings between Monroe and Pearl streets stand, was what was called the Guild House; and on the side hill, about where the Arcade building stands, was a log house.

Down Waterloo Street was the Eagle Tavern, then kept by Louis Moran, and on the other side of the street were the stores of the Messrs. Nelson (James and George).

Down the street, in the chamber over the store, was Mr. Charles Taylor's tailor shop, and in the same building was Mr. Horsford Smith's store.

Opposite, on the river's bank, were three warehouses, one of which is said to have been the first framed building in the place, and was erected on the west side for a church.

It was moved over on the ice by Campau.

Going up street into the Kent plat, there were two or three shanties on Canal Street, two small offices on Bronson Street, built for the Land Office, expected to be at Grand Rapids instead of at Ionia.

On Bridge Street, Mr. Coggershall lived in the house now standing east of the Bridge Street House.

Opposite was the office of the Kent Company, built by Judge Almy.

At this time, though Canal and Kent streets were nearly impassable by reason of stumps, and mud from the water oozing from the hills above, lots were selling for $50 per foot.

There was a passable road from Fulton Street to Cold Brook under the bluff on the east. Canal street was, in wet weather, little better than a quagmire.

There were as yet but few farmers in Kent County.

Out on South Division Street, beyond the Fair Grounds, was Alva Wansley.

Over beyond, were Mr. Guild and Mr. Burton.

Southwest of Reed's Lake, were Judge Davis and two Reeds.

Going down the Grandville road, all was woods.

At Plaster Creek was a small saw-mill.

Plaster could be seen in the bed of the stream near it.

As one went on, to the right, and off from the road, near a marsh, were the salt springs, with paths deep worn by the deer coming to lick the salt water; and just below, near the river, were observed the Indian mounds, near where the railroad now crosses the river.

On the left of the road, farther on, was Esquire Chubb's log cabin, and over the creek beyond were Mr. Howlitt and Mr. Thompson.

The first house in Grandville was that of Julius Abel, Esq.; the next, that of Major Britton.

Osgood & Bleake kept a tavern - Osgood was a lawyer.

Charles Oakes was there, and a number of others; and they claimed that, as the navigation of the river was so much better up to that point than it was above, Grandville would compete with Grand Rapids.

Then some half dozen settlers had begun in the woods south of Grandville.

On Buck Creek, Haynes Gordon and Wright had saw-mills.

Near the mouth of Rush Creek, the Michigan Lumbering Company had a saw-mill, and a Mr. Ketchum, of Marshall, one a little above.

A little beyond, in Ottawa County, were Hiram Jennison and brothers.

Beyond these few settlers all was deep forest, to the lake, and to the then new little village of Allegan.

Going down the river, three miles from Grandville, was a Mrs. Burton.

The next house, on the other side, was that of a Mr. Yeomans, where is now Lament, squatted on the newly purchased lands.

Then, on the south side, below Bass River, were Rodney and Lucas Robinson.

No more in Ottawa, until Grand Haven. There were Mr. Ferry, who, with Rix Robinson, owned the village plat.

The three brothers White, Mr. Troop and a few others, were residents.

This place being the grand harbor of the Grand River, soon to become a big city, its lots, corners and all, were held at high prices.

At Muskegon were two fur traders, Mr. Lasserly and Mr. Trottier, with the latter of whom was Martin Ryerson, serving as clerk at $8 per month.

The lands north of the Grand River, in Kent and Ottawa counties, had only been purchased from the Indians the preceding year; were not in the market, and were not even yet surveyed.

Still, settlers began this year to go on them, and to make pre-emptions, as they called it.

They erected log cabins in which to live, as all the farmers in the Valley did; and many of the houses in the villages were of the same construction.

Still, then, as ever, these pioneers were hopeful, and seemed quite happy.

All the impression the white man had made on the country was but a cypher.

The largest clearings had but a few acres.

The old Indian clearings were of greater extent than the white man's.

They had quite a tract cleared at the junction of the Maple and Grand Rivers; at Ionia, Flat River, and Thornapple.

At Grand Rapids their clearing extended along the river from Mill Creek down to a short distance above the Plaster Mills, but not extending far back from the river.

At Grandville was the Little Prairie.

The government built for the Indians a mill on the creek, near where it is crossed by the D. & M. Railroad.

The Indians had a village of twenty or thirty houses, built of the lumber sawed by this mill.

In 1837, all the ground spoken of above as then a cultivated field, was planted with corn, which the women well hoed.

The men fished and hunted.

They lived all up and down the river, and through the country, as ever before; and every fall assembled at Grand Rapids to receive pay for their lauds.

All beyond these Indian and white men's clearings was one interminable forest, the same as before the civilized man had entered upon the lands.

In this Valley they lived in peace, and mostly there were in those times confidence and kindness between the different races.

But there were some wrongs, more often committed by the whites than the Indians.

All was a grand and noble forest, with its tall pine, its sugar tree and beech, and the sturdy oak scattered over what is called the "openings."

These opening lands extended along generally on both sides of the river to a greater or less distance back, through Kent and Ionia counties, up the Flat River to Greenville, and along the east side of the Thornapple.

From Grand Rapids to Plainfield, and about that village, there was comparatively little timber, so that the traveler on the old trail could see quite a distance about him.

This scarcity of timber was also observable in parts of Grattan, Oakfield and Montcalm.

But all of Ottawa, the south part of Kent, to the Thornapple, and the north part, commencing even in Walker and the south part of Ionia county, were heavily timbered with beech, maple, elm, oak and other hard wood trees, with patches of pine.

Towards and along the lake in Ottawa County, the timber was pine and hemlock.

In these forests the travelers could often see the fleet deer crossing his track, sometimes pursued by the wolf.

On the west side of the river, near where the Bridge street bridge is, were two block houses, where a Baptist Missionary preacher or teacher, by the name of Slater, taught some of the Indians.

But Father Vizoski (the Catholic) had more converts, and a little meeting house at their village below, which was the only meeting house on either side.

In this, that worthy priest would hold forth to the Indians, the French and English-speaking people, to each in their own language.

Of course, there were no bridges over the river, but there was a fording place between Islands No. 2 and 3, or below the railroad bridge; and when the water was too high for fording, a ferry-boat was used.

And now, the effect of the break-down of the wild speculation of 1836, and the high hope of the first half of this year, began to be seen.

Faces began to indicate thought and care. Business flagged, and Mr. Campau's laborers and mechanics, lacking occupation, began to seek labor elsewhere.

No sale for corner-lots, and money, to pay for bread to eat, grew scarce.

In Kent county, not half enough grain, of all kinds, was raised to feed the horses, and all else had to come from Ohio or New York—for to the west of us, they had raised as little as we.

As another trouble, our wild-cat money would not buy things beyond our own limits.

Monroe Street follows the trail to Campau's Indian trading post, on the bank of the river.

It kept along close to the impassable swamp, extending north from the corner of Monroe and Division streets, then wound along at the foot of an abrupt hill from Ottawa to Pearl Street.

This same hill connected with the (now disappearing) hill between Pearl andi Lyon streets.

Beyond these hills the trail descended to Bronson Street.

South of Monroe street, the descent was steep, and the ground was so low as to be deeply covered at high water.

The boat channel of the river was between the island and the main, and the landing was where the blocks of stores now are on the south side of Monroe Street, at the foot of Canal Street.

West of the foot of Canal Street, north of Pearl Street, was Mr. Wadsworth's saw-mill."

The value of the above article will be appreciated in after days.

Its graphic simplicity will commend it to the general reader, and the fact that it is from one who knew whereof he wrote; whose memory is tenacious, and whose honesty is proverbial, renders its historical accuracy, reliable.