Lee Township *
LEE, one of the newest townships in
Allegan in respect to settlement, lies upon the southern border of the county, having Clyde upon the north, the
Van Buren county-line upon the south, Cheshire on the east, and Casco on the west. It was surveyed as township
1 north, range 15 west, but by reason of its lack of desirable farming-land was far behind its sister-townships
in point of settlement, being indeed unpeopled until invaded by lumbermen, which was not until 1858. Measures have
recently been set on foot looking to the eventual reclamation of great tracts of swamp land now covering a large
portion of the town's area, and towards this much-desired consummation the eye of expectation gladly turns, since
the valuable farming region will by such means be materially enlarged, and the best interests of Lee will accordingly
be more conspicuously advanced than by any method now within contemplation.
In the southeast and northwest, however, may now be found tracts of excellent farming country, and, while the west
promises to develop into an important fruit-producing region, the east is already rich in the production of wheat.
Saw-mills are now quite active, for there is yet considerable valuable timber uncut; but this branch of industry
must be abandoned in a brief space, and leave the town's prosperity to rest. upon its agricultural resources alone.
Lee has no church within its limits, but is provided with five schools, one of them created only in January, 1880.
The other four have an average attendance of 110 out of an enrollment of 144 school children in the four districts.
The Chicago and West Michigan Railroad passes from north to south on an air-line, while numerous water-courses,
furnishing in some instances good mill-power, divide the face of the country in the south.
The forest fires which raged through Western Allegan in the autumn of 1871 played sad havoc with the timber lands
of Lee, and laid waste many homes. The track of the flames seemed most sharply defined along the route of the railway,
where for miles one may now observe acres of evidence showing the resistless march of the fire-king and Ins victory
over the monarchs of the forest, whose stately forms are now replaced by charred and blackened trunks.
LEE'S EARLY SETTLERS.
The nature of the country in the township of. Lee was not such as to attract settlers at a very early day. There
were great tracts of pine-lands and swampy regions whose ony virtue was the stock of timber they contained, so
that, while the tillers of the soil sought more favorable localities, Lee was left to court the attention of lumbermen.
Even these did not penetrate the swampy recesses of the township until about 1858, and up to that time the six
miles square of solitude remained unbroken, save by the appearance of a single settler, Thomas Scott by name. Scott
located a tract of land between the two lakes, now bearing his name, and, although aiming to do something in the
way of farming, devoted his energies chiefly to hunting, in which business he was an expert, and, as there was
ample material upon which to exercise his skill, he made this sport quite profitable.
Scott was known as "the man with the wolf-skin cap," and was famous for his success in the capture of
wolves, upon whose scalps the county offered a handsome premium. He settled in Lee about 1844, and between farming
and wolfcatching passed his time until 1849, when he determined to move in the gold-seeking throng to California,
his wife returning East to her friends. Scott was reported to have made a fortune on the Pacific Slope, where in
the course of time he died.
As before remarked, from the time of Scott's advent in 1844 until 1858 nothing was done towards populating Lee.
In the year last named, however, the South Haven Lumber Company, having become possessed of considerable quantities
of land in the township, sent out a company of lumbermen in charge of J. H. Thistle, and then came too Thomas Raplee,
Harmon B. Rice, Michael Roy, David W. Matthews, Henry Davidson, Winchester Jenkins, and others, who in 1859 organized
Thomas Raplee occupied the old Scott place for a while, removed afterwards to Ganges, and, returning subsequently
to Lee, lives now upon the place of his earliest settlement. Mr. Raplee was prominently identified with township
affairs from the outset, and during his residence in Lee was, to the close of 1876, a town official, his last services
being given as supervisor from 1872 to 1876, inclusive.
Reuben Johnson, of Indiana, moved to South Haven in 1866, and, there makirg an engagement to work in Lee for Dickinson,
Rogers & Co., moved to that township in 1867, and made his home in a lumberman's cabin on section 22. At that
time the firm named was largely engaged in lumbering in Lee, and moved great quantities of logs down the Black
River to South Haven. After working for Dickinson, Rogers & Co. about four years, Johnson concluded to become
a tiller of the soil, and bought a farm on section 22. where he has lived ever since. William Rhodes, who came
with Johnson, worked with him for a time as lumberman, but, tiring of the business, returned to South Haven, where
When Mr. Johnson came to Lee, in 1867, there were not above a dozen settlers in the township. Among them were Michael
Hoy, Robert Hilton, Robert Crawford, John Orr, John H. Thistle, Charles Griffing, and O. Hodgman. Town-meetings
were frequently held at Mr. Johnson's house, and on such occasions the participants were furnished with a dinner
at the town's expense. Mrs. Johnson has prepared many such dinners on election days, but the custom was abandoned
after the number of voters reached beyond the number of a baker's dozen, although periodically revived thereafter.
Until lately there was but little done in the way of farming. True, there was some agricultural activity in the
east and southwest, where there were a few sections of excellent tillable land, but lumbering was the main industry,
highways were chiefly lumber-roads, and the population was naturally of a constantly changing character, for the
inmates of the lumbering camps, without any fixed location or permanent interests, moved in and out as the notion
possesscd them. In 1864 the inhabitants north of the river were few and far between, and one might have then journeyed
a long way without encountering a settler. South of the river there were a few settlers and a considerable community
G. F. Heath, living on the eastern line of the township, has been a resident of Lee since 1867, since when he has
been closely connected with the administration of township affidrs and a farmer of considerable prominence.
Lee was a portion of Pine Plains township until Jan. 3, 1859, when the county
supervisors set it off as a separate town. Although the reason for giving it the name it bears does not appear
clear, it is likely that the town of Lee, in Massachusetts, suggested it.
The township records were at first very badly kept, and it is extremely difficult to obtain information from them.
The best information obtainable, however, from the records, has been gathered touching township proceedings since
1859, and is now presented.
The first entry in the records reads as follows:
"That the Township Board of Lee and Pine Plains met at the house of Michael Hoy, in Lee, August 11, 1859,
for the purpose of settling all claims between the above named townships. Hermon B. Rice was called to the chair,
and John P. Parish appointed Secretary. It was agreed that the said township of Pine Plains should pay $155.84
school and other funds, due school district No. 2, of what was Pine Plains. It was further agreed that Pine Plains
should have the benefit of any money due from Allegan County at the time of the division, and to pay the indebtedness
of said township at the time of division. Further, the town of Pine Plains should let the town of Lee have one-third
of the library books of said town.
J. P. Parish,
Township Board of Pine Plains.
Wm. O. Rice,
H. B. Rice,
Township Board of Lee
The first township-meeting was held April 4, 1859, when Thomas Raplee was chosen moderator, Harmon B. Rice and
Henry Davidson inspectors of election, Ezra H. Heath clerk, and John Joslin assistant clerk. At that election eight
votes were cast, and the following persons elected officers: Supervisor, Thomas Raplee Clerk, E. H. Heath; Treasurer,
H. B. Rice; Justices of the Peace, H. B. Rice, Henry Davidson, Thomas Raplee, and John Orr (the latter subsequently
declared an alien); Highway Commissioners, Michael Roy and David W. Matthews; School Inspector, Henry Davidson;
Constables, David W. Matthews, Winchester Jenkins, and Michael Hoy; Overseers of Highways, District No. 1, H. B.
Rice; District No. 2, Winchester Jenkins; District No. 4, Michael Hoy.
At that meeting $250 were raised for township purposes, and a similar amount for highways and bridges.
The second annual election was held on section 22, "in Dikeman, lisle & Co.'s block-house," in which
place also many subsequent elections were held.
Although the votes cast in 1859 were but 8, there were only 5 in 1860, and 13 in 1861. From that there was no material
change until 1869, when there was a sudden increase to 27.
A list of the names of the persons who have been annually elected, from 1859 to 1880, to serve as supervisors,
clerks, treasurers, and justices of the peace, follows here:
1859-60, Thomas Raplee; 1861-62, G. B. Rust; 1861, J. A. Thistle; 1864, J. S. Wagoner; 1865, R. Griswold; 1S66,
J. R. Griswold; 1867, J. E. Babbitt; 1868-70, A. D. Parker; 1871, George F. Heath; 1872-76, Thomas Raplee; 1877-79,
A. D. Parker.
1859, E. H. Heath; 1860, J. W. Joslyn; 1861-63, Henry Spencer; 1864-68, A. B. Crawfordt 1869-70, O. Ilodgman; 1871,
William Fritz; 1872-73, G. F. Heath; 1874-79, G. W. Baughman.
1859-60, H. B. Rice; 1861, J. H. Thistle; 1862-68, S. W. Bennett; 1864-67, John Orr; 1868-70, E. Deming; 1871,
A. Dunn; 1872, A. Borden; 1873, A. Rodarmel; 1874-76, B. Cook; 1877-78, E. Deming; 1879, G. F. Heath.
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE.
1859, H. B. Rice; 1860, John Stanton; 1861, J. G. Ostrander: 1862-63, G. B. Rust; 1864, John Orr; 1865-67, R. Griswold;
1868, A. B. Crawford; 1869, M. Sharp; 1870, A. Rodamcl?: 1811, G. F. Heath; ; 1872, T. Raplee; 1873, C. Bryant;
1874, E. Deming; 1875, T. Raplee; 1876, H. Snell; 1877, C. Bryant; 1878, W. F. Rhodes; 1879, G. F. Heath.
Hoppertown, so called, a signal-station on the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad,
occupies a quarter of section 9, land owned by Hopper & Bennett. of Michigan City, upon which two brothers
named Clement put up a saw-mill in 1870. They sold the mill to Holden & Loney, who took the job of clearing
Hopper & Co.'s land. In 1871, Bonfoey & Huribut erected a shingle-mill, and Sweet & Ferguson a saw-mill.
In 1872, Hyatt & Anderson helped matters along with a 30 horse-power saw-mill, and in that year Hoppertown
rose to the dignity of a hamlet, boasting a population of 23 families or about 215 people all told, who were supported
by the industry of four sawmills,-a prosperous era indeed in Hoppertowu's history. Affairs flourished, however,
in this fashion only about four years. In the summer of 1876 the mill machinery had ceased to perform its accustomed
functions, business had utterly ceased, and of t.he population there remained but two families, those of Aaron
Bowles and A. P. Hurlbut.
In the winter of the same year there was a business revival. Snell & Cobb purchased the old Bonfoey & Hurlbut
shingle-mill, and, setting it once more in motion, restored Hoppertown to activity. Now the place boasts two sawmills,
which have produced for shipment since 1877 from 18 to 20 car-loads of lumber each week. A post-office was established
at Hoppertown in 1876, when Ransom Snell was appointed postmaster, and as such he still continues. This station,
besides forwarding considerable lumber, shipped during 1879 about 6000 baskets of peaches, and with improved depot
conveniences will forward thrice that number the coming season.
BLACK RIVER STATION.
George Kraal established a saw-mill at this place in 1871, and presently sold
it to William Ferguson, who discontinued it about 1874. Nothing more was done at the place until 1875, when D.
J. Dorkey set a saw-mill in operation there, and has carried it on ever since. He employs at times as many as 20
men, and ships considerable lumber. A postoffice was established here in 1877, and called Lee. Mr. Dorkey, who
was appointed postmaster, is yet the incumbent. About a mile south of Black River Station, Adam White, of Geneva,
carries on the business of charcoal-burning. He has three large kilns, owns several hundred acres of land in the
vicinity, and employs an aggregate of 75 men in clearing land and burning coal.
* By David Sehwartz