DEERFIELD CHANGED TO COVERT-DESCRIPTION
OF THE TOWNSHIP.
THE township of Covert was for many years after its organization known as the
township of Deerfield. This name proving inconvenient, from the fact that there were other towns and villages of
the same name in the State, a bill was introduced into the Legislature in 1876, by W. O. Packard, Esq., praying
that it be changed to Covert, which was accordingly done. It is designated as township 2 south, range 17 west,
and is located on the western side of Van Buren County, its western border being washed by the waters of Lake Michigan.
On its northern side lies South Haven, on the east Bangor, while Berrien County joins it on the south.
Its name was suggestive of the early pioneer days, when the deer roamed unharmed through its forests; and when
circumstances rendered a change in its cognomen necessary these reminiscences were not ignored in its subsequent
christening. The soil of Covert presents a very attractive field of labor to the agriculturist, and is especially
well adapted to the growth of fruit. It is a mixture of sand and clay, which is very productive, and yields abundant
crops of corn and wheat. Notwithstanding this fact settlers were tardy in availing themselves of its advantages,
and it was not until 1844 that the first settler broke the soil and began clearing the forests. The surface is
gently undulating until the lake-shore is approached, when it becomes broken and uneven, abrupt and often picturesque
hills adorning the landscape. One or two of these have from their height and striking appearance something of the
dignity of mountains, and arc objects of some interest to the traveler. From their summits is afforded a view of
the lake, which is at once commanding and expansive. Covert is well watered by numerous streams which meander through
its limits, principal among which is Brandywine Creek, a considerable stream, which flows west of the centre of
the township, and finds an outlet in Lake Michigan at the northwest corner of section 8.
On section 30 is Mud Lake, which, though not of large size, is the only lake of consequence, and affords attractions
to the lover of piscatorial sports. Covert, however, derives its importance from the fact that it lies adjacent
to Lake Michigan, and is thus afforded commercial facilities which are denied its inland neighbors. The last census,
1874, does not indicate a flattering yield of grain, but since that time much additional land has been cultivated
and its productiveness greatly increased.
PIONEER SETTLERS IN DEERFIELD.
The township is a comparatively new one, and very little progress was made in
its development until after 1860. Its timbered lands, until the enterprise of later residents made them the chief
sources of its revenue, offered many obstacles to the pioneer, and retarded rather than promoted its advancement.
It contained no rich prairie land, and every acre of tillable soil was obtained at a cost of much labor in clearing.
The coming of the earliest settler occurred in 1845. In that year Benoni Young migrated from the distant State
of Maine and located upon section 13, where he entered 160 acres. Here, with his family, in the midst of the forest,
he lived for seven years an isolated life, with no other settler in the township, and for a long period no indication
of an increase in its population. His nearest neighbor, Mason Wood, resided in the township of Bangor, and became
a resident after Mr. Young's arrival. Isaac Swain, another neighbor, lived in the township of Watervliet. Mr. Young
was obliged to dcpcnd chiefly upon his own exertions for the improvement of his farm, and realizing this fact,
he began with a will the preliminary work of chopping and erecting the necessary buildings for the comfort of his
family. By industry he soon rendered a portion of this land productive, and proved the fine quality of the soil
in the abundant crops which he produced. Mr. Young, however, seems not to have been strongly attached to the scene
of his early pioneer experiences, for in 1861 he made the township of Hartford his home, and still resides there.
In his family occurred the earliest birth in Covert, that of his daughter, Marietta Young. His home was the scene
during the year 1859 of a very merry gathering, which celebrated the earliest marriage in the township, that of
Miss Jane Young, his daughter, to Mr. Allen Fish. They still reside in Covert.
The next settler was John Peters, who purchased a farm and located upon section 32, the land having been previously
owned by one Ingraham. He did not, however, remain long to improve his purchase, but removed to Berrien County.
He afterwards entered the United States army and died in the service.
Matthias Farnum's settlement soon ibilowed that of Mr. Peters. He chose section 7 as a location, and built upon
it a saw-mill, the first in the township, in which for a period of years much of the lumber was sawed which was
used in the construction of the frame houses and barns of the township. Mr. Farnum later removed to Benton Harbor,
where he now resides.
On the site of this early mill was built in 1857 a saw mill, which formed the nucleus of an extensive enterprise
under the direction of a settler named Paul. The scheme of this ambitious company seemed to have been one of no
small magnitude, contemplating the running of 60 saws which were to be propelled by steam furnished by three huge
boilers. The settlement was christened Paulville, and boarding-houses were erected for the numerous choppers. The
enterprise, however, proved a failure, and the decline of the little village of Paulville on the shore of Lake
Michigan was scarcely less rapid than its mushroom growth. No vestige of its former importance remains, and other
mills have performed the labor that was intended by its projectors to have been accomplished by this.
Canada sent a pioneer to the township in the person of James Dobbyn, who arrived in 1854 and entered 280 acres
on section 32. John Peters and family extended to the Canadian settlers a cordial welcome, and offered them such
shelter and hospitality as was possible in their limited quar. ters. This was gladly accepted during the interval
of six weeks in which Mr. Dobbyn was engaged in constructing a cabin for his household, and sixteen souls at this
time composed the family circle.
Mr. Dobbyn at once began the work of clearing and improving his land, and with the aid of the axe and the fire
about five acres were soon cleared. During this period he suffered much from illness, which seriously impeded his
progress, but a sufficient tract had been improved to render the family a modest subsistence. Arriving without
a team their early labors were made the more arduous, and indeed this fact was the more apparent in their progress
towards their new home, when all the household goods they possessed were borne upon their backs. Very great aid
was afforded Mr. Dobbyn in his early struggles as a pioneer by the abundance of game to be found. Not only did
this supply their larder with fresh and dried meats, but much of it as shipped to Chicago, where good prices were
The earliest school-house was built in the neighborhood of Mr. Dobbyn's farm, by the side of the highway, on section
33. The young lady who guided the youthful minds of Covert at this early day was Miss Geraldine Taft, who had just
attained the age of fourteen summers, maturity of years not being deemed an essential element in the qualifications
of a district school-teacher. The years of her oldest pupil fully equaled her own, while the youngest had seen
but four summers.
The pupils at this early school were Josephine Lee, Henry Wygent, Violetta Wygent, John Dobbyn, Jane Dobbyn, Emma
Dell, Isabella Dobbyn, William Lee, David Lee, William Wygent, Richard Dobbyn, Lita Fish, Mary Dell, Sarah J. Dobbyn,
and Solon Ingraham.
In connection with this it may be stated that the township is now divided into five whole and one fractional districts,
the directors of which are William Y. Trafford, Henry Curtis, Franklin Ganson, David Leslie, D. Ballen, and Bryan
The number of children receiving instruction is 2S7, who are taught by 1 male and 9 female teachers, to whom in
salaries the sum of $1366 is paid. The value of school property is $4375, and the total resources are $2065.67,
of which $172.12 is derived from the school fund.
John Wygent arrived during the winter of 1854, with his family, and settled upon section 32, in the house vacated
by John Peters. He cultivated and improved his land, converting it into a valuable property, but finally was attracted
by the flattering prospects held out to the emigrants who were fast populating Nebraska, and became a resident
of that Territory. Archibald Wygent arrived soon after, but ultimately made Watervliet his home, where he still
Hiram Fish was another of the New York State pioneers who came in 1854. He selected section 21 as a home, where
he became a considerable land-owner, having entered 360 acres. This he began early to improve, his first efforts
being devoted to the building of a log house. During the interval he remained at Watervliet. Mr. Fish was among
the most active of the early pioneers, and manifested a deep interest in affairs pertaining to the welfare of the
township. This, however, did not conflict with the more pressing business of cultivating his farm, to which he
devoted himself with an energy which was afterwards amply rewarded. His three sons Allen, Miram, and Draper still
reside in the township.
Frank Beal entered, in 1855, 80 acres under the graduation act. He found his land entirely uncultivated, and began
at once the work of chopping a sufficient space on which to erect a house, meanwhile remaining in Berrien County.
His land lay upon sections 34 and 35. With him came William Kelley and W. W. Lampson, who entered 160 acres on
section 35. William and J. McConnell took up their abode on section 36, where they still reside.
The settlers were principally occupied at this time in laying out and improving highways. For this service fair
wages were paid by the commissioners, which greatly aided theni in living, and afforded them means to carry on
the work of clearing and improving their lands.. Often while engaged in this labor at a remote distance from their
home night overtook them, and such shelter as the woods afforded was gladly accepted. With a log for a pillow and
a cluster of boughs for a couch, they would enjoy the rest which toil had made sweet, regardless of the howling
of the wolves around them. The first highway cut through the forests of the township was probably the one leading
to the sawmill of Matthias Farnum. James Dobbyn and his neighbors also cut an early road in the immediate vicinity
of their own homes.
William A. Dell, who enjoyed the distinction of having been chosen as the first supervisor, was a former resident
of New York State, from which he emigrated in the summer of 1855 and purchased 80 acres in Covert, on section 29.
Mr. Dobbyn's log house afforded him a temporary abode, while the neighbors made a "bee" for the purpose
of building a cabin for his family. His experiences were not unlike those of other pioneers, but Covert seems not
to have offered permanent attractions, as later years found him a resident of Watervliet, where he died.
The same year came Reuben Lee, who settled upon section 33, where he purchased and improved 60 acres. He seems
to have found the township a more congenial abode than his neighbor, Mr. Dell, as he is still a resident upon the
farm he purchased.
Ohio sent to Deerfield a pioneer in the person of J. Enlow, who purchased of John House, in 1857, a farm on section
12. This land was entirely uncultivated, and no settlers had located in the immediate vicinity, the nearest neighbors
being Mason Wood, in Bangor, and a settler upon section 11. His family were left in Lawrence while he engaged in
the construction of a log house, he himself making Bangor his temporary abode during its progress. After the house
was completed Mr. Enlow removed his family, and at once found an extended field of labor in the clearing of his
land. The southern portion of the township having been earliest settled, the centre and northern sections were
at this time almost in their primitive condition. No roads were visible, those originally surveyed having been
covered by a heavy growth of brush, which, from want of travel, made them almost impassable. The Indian trail was
the highway most used until late emigration made good roads a necessity. Mr. Enlow succeeded in improving this
land and developing its resources, and ultimately cleared a fine farm, upon which he now resides.
Dawson Pompey came from Indiana in 1866, and purchased of William Sherburne 160 acres on section 13. This farm
had previously been owned by Benoni Young, and was the first land cleared in the township. Mr. Pompey had, therefore,
to undergo none of the severe experiences of his pioneer neighbors in its early improvement. He has by his industry
added greatly to its productiveness, and is esteemed as one of the most successful farmers in Covert.
The township has in later years had many accessions to the ranks of its agricultural population, but none of them
can properly be included among its pioneers.
THE VILLAGE OF COVERT.
The hamlet of Covert which by courtesy is termed a village, though not incorporated
is located principally on section 14, though a portion of it crosses the section line and covers a part of section
13. Its growth may be regarded in some respects not only as rapid but remarkable, the year 1866 having witnessed
the earliest effort which later resulted in a promising settlement. Messrs. Hawks & Lambert, of Niles, Mich.,
being attracted by the very luxuriant growth of timber in the township, purchased timberlands in the vicinity,
and immediately began the erection of mills, locating them where the grist mill of Packard & Sons now stands.
They carried on a lumbering business for three years, when their interest was purchased by Packard & Co.
To these gentlemen may be ascribed the credit of having promoted the growth of the village, and placed the township
on a business equality with the most enterprising townships of the county. Alfred H. Packard, Jr., had previously
established himself upon Section 2, where he had in 1868 erected saw-mills and made large purchases of land. Messrs.
Packard & Co. had added much to their timbered lands purchased of Messrs. Hawks & Lambert, and finding
the capacity of the mill already built insufficient, erected in 1872 a mill of larger dimensions, which was operated
by steam. One of these mills was later devoted to sawing and planing, and a grist mill was built for the purpose
of doing custom work. In this mill corn, and feed of various kinds are ground, but no flour. The saw mills have
a capacity of 4,000,000 feet a year, and the firm also deal largely in bark and wood. They employ in the various
departments of labor about 40 men, most of these being engaged in chopping. A horse railroad has been built from
the mills to the lake, which affords them superior advantages of shipping. For this purpose substantial piers have
been built on the lake-shore at the terminus of the horse-railroad.
The mills of Alfred H. Packard, Jr., saw nearly 6,000,000 feet of lumber annually. They also have a horse-railroad,
which conveys lumber directly to the lake. The market for this lumber is found in Milwaukee. Chicago. Racine, and
other lake ports. The store was formerly connected with the business, but is now owned by Josiah Packard, who removed
from Ohio, and was previously a member of the firm of Packard & Co.
There is much business activity manifested in Covert aside from the lumber interest. Josiah Packard conducts a
general merchandise store, in which an extended trade is had. E. G. Allen & Co. deal in drugs and medicines,
with which they combine groceries, and E. A. Rood is a heavy dealer in hardware. IN addition there are two blacksmith-shops,
kept by O. B. Shine and Mark Peters; one watch and clock-shop, kept by J. R. Shine; one liverystable, owned by
S. P. Kenney; one market, kept by G. H. Michaels; one shoe-shop, the proprietor of which is Colvin; and a master-builder,
G. R. Ross, who has shown much skill in the construction of the new church at Covert.
Dr. G. D. Carnes, the only allopathic physician, enjoys an extensive practice.
The public school is under the superintendence of De Forest Ross, with Miss Ellen Shaw as assistant.
RESIDEFT TAX-PAYERS IN 1856.
The following list embraces the resident tax-payers in Deerfield (now Covert)
for the year 1856; Matthias Farnum, Benoni Young, Charles Phillips, Allen Fish, Draper Fish, Miram Fish, John Burnham,
Ira H. Derby, William A. Dell, James Dobbyn, John Wygent., A. G. Wygent, Reuben Lee, F. Beal, W. W. Lamson, William
Kelley, Nelson KeIley, George Sinkler, J. Packard, R. Parker.
This township, originally forming part of the old township of Lafayette, was included
within the boundaries of South Haven by an act of the State Legislature erecting the latter township, bearing date
March 11, 1837. It continued as South Haven until Oct. 8, 1855, when, by the action of the Board of Supervisors
of Van Buren County. surveyed township No. 2 south, of range No. 17 west, was organized as Deerfield. Its name
was changed to Covert by the State Legislative body, then in session, March 29, 1877.
First Township Election. Pursuant to the act of organization, the electors assembled at the house of Hiram Fish
on the first Monday in April, 1856, and organized by choosing William A. Dell chairman, Miram Fish and John E.
Wygent inspectors of election, A. G. Wygent and Miram Fish clerks. As the final result of this meeting the following
named officers were declared elected, viz. : William A. Dell, Supervisor; Miram Fish, Township Clerk; Draper Fish,
Treasurer; Hiram Fish, J. E. Wygent., Franklin Beal, Highway Commissioners; Benoni Young, A. G. Wygent, John A.
Hunt, Reuben Lee, Justices of the Peace; A. G. Wygent, William A. Dell, School Inspectors; R. Packer, Allen Fish.
A. E. Wygent, George Sinkler, Constables; Hiram Fish, Wallace Lawson, Directors of the Poor.
Township Civil List. The township officers elected at subsequent annual town-meetings (from 1857 to 1879, inclusive)
have been as follows
1857, William A. Dell; 1859-59, Miram Fish; 1860-61, George H. Barker; 1862-63,
Miram Fish; 1864-65, George H. Barker; 1868, William F. Trafford 1869. Miram Fish; 1870-74, George H. Barker; 1875-76
Gcorge Grant; 1877-78, O. S. Shaw; 1879, George Grant.
1857. James Dobbyn 1858, A. Cress ; 1859, William A. Dell ; 1860, James Dobbyn;
1861, Miram Fish; 1862, R. R. Randall; 1863-64, William A. Dell ; 1865, R. R. Randall; 1866, J. S. Packard; 1867.
William F. Trafford ; 1868, W .M. Simpson; 1869-70, Jeremiah Hartman; 1871-74. J. S. Bunnell; 1875, George H. Barker;
1876, O. S. Shaw; 1877-79, E. G. Allen.
1857-59. John A. Hunt; 1860, A. G. Wygent; 1861-63, Allen Fish; 1864-65, James
Dobbyn; 1866-67. Miram Fish; 1868, Robert Bartley; 1869, George H. Barker; 1870-75, William F. Trafford; 1876,
James Dobbyn; 1877-78, Robert Bartley; 1879, William J. Shattuck.
1857. William Willcomb ; 1858, A. G. Wygent; 1859, Charles Phillips, J. S. Packard;
1860, O. F. Ingersoll; 1861, George H. Parker; 1862, O. F. Ingersoll, J. S. Packard; 1863, C. H. Sherborne; 1864,
G. H. Parker, O. F. Ingersoll; 1865, J. S. Packard; 1866, G. H. Barker; 1867. Charles Lockwood; 1868, George H.
Barker; 1869, Miram Fish; 1870, D. B. Allen; 1871, Thaddeus Rood ; 1872, D. B. Allen, Miram Fish; 1873, D. B. Allen;
1874. Mirain Fish; 1875, James O. Keith ; 1876, A. B. Sherburne; 1877, D. B. Allen; 1878-79, George H. Barker.
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE.
1857, James Dobbyn, J. S. Packard. Benoni Young; 1858. William Willcomb, Miram
Fish; 1850, C. C. Leathers, J. S. Packard; 1860, William Sherborne; 1861. Miram Fish, G. H. Barker; 1862, William
Sherborne; 1863, John A. Hunt 1864, William Willey; 1865, J. S. Packard, R. R. Randall; 1866, W. F. Trafford, Miram
Fish; 1867, W. F. Trafford; 1868, Bryant Milliman. G. H. Barker; 1869, William Kenney, A. R. Sherborne; 1870. Miram
Fish; 1871. J. S. Packard; 1872, Daniel Lutzl 1873, A. R. Sherborne, William H. Wynn; 1874, Miram Fish; 1875, William
F. Conner; 1876, J. S. Packard; 1877, Thaddeus Rood; 1878. E. G. Allen, Gordon Sinclair; 1879, J. 0. Keith, E.
O. Rood, Miram Fish.
1857. Franklin Beal; 1858, H. F. Wing, S. C. Paul; 1859, Franklin Beal, Draper
Fish; 1860, Charles Phillips; 1861, W. W. Lamson; 1862, Draper Fish, George Andrews; 1863, C. H. Sherborne, W.
Patterson; 1864, J. W. Tripp. George F. Mast; 1865, J. S. Packard, C. W. Darling, Allen Fish; 1866, J. W. Tripp,
Draper Fish; 1867, Charles Lockwood, Draper Fish; 1865, C. W. Bunnell; 1869, Stephen Reed, Bryant Hilliman; 1870,
I. S. Bunnell; 1871, J. S. Packard; 1872, Draper Fish; 1873, I. S. Bunnell; 1874, R. R. Randall; 1875, C. E. Lockwood;
1876-78, W. J. Shattuck; 1879, Robert Bartley.
1872, Charles Phillips; 1873, Stephen Reed; 1874, R. R. Randall; 1875, William
F. Knapp; 1876, C. O. Frazier; 1877, F. W. Conner; 1878, John A. Hart; 1879, Jacob Gunsaul.
SUPERINTENDENTS OF SCHOOLS.
1875, Brainard Allen; 1876-78, D. B. Allen; 1879, A. N. Ballen.
1857, George Sinkler, J. B. Greenlee, S. B. Greenlee, Ernest Lepolt; 1858, C.
M. Bloom, George Sinkler, A. G. Wygent; 1859, R. B. Cooper, Allen Fish, William A. Dell, George Sinkler; 1860,
W. H. Sherborne, Ira A. Derby, William A. Dell, George F. Mast; 1861, George F. Mast, George Andrews, W. W. Lamson,
William A. Dell; 1862, George Andrews, George Sinkler, Charles H. Sherborne, C. T. Tilton; 1863, Reuben Lee, Charles
H. Sherborne, H. P. Sinkler, John Burnham; 1864, William A. Dell, T. H. Humphrey, W. McConnell. B. F. Jenkins;
1865, R. R. Randall, George Sinkler, B. F. Jenkins, C. W. Darling; 1866, R. R. Randall, George Sinkler, J. A. Derby,
J. W. Tripp; 1867, Charles Phillips, Lyman Ingram; 1868, Thomas Anderson, R. R. Randall, W. S. Lambert, Charles
Stoddard. Sr.; 1869, John Lilly, Jeffries Reed, John Carpenter, A. Lilly; 1870, Thomas Wynn, G. P. Williams, S.
G. Jameson; 1871, I. S. Bunnell, D. W. Wesnall, R. R. Randall, Thomas Anderson; 1872, Orin Hill, C. O. Frazier,
Charles Burton, John West; 1873, T. B. Wynn. O. Shine, N. Kelley, C. E. Lockwood; 1874, H. L. Dobbyn, E. M. Symonds,
William Chapin, N. Bartes; 1875, Thomas J. Chaffee, Ezekiel Milliman, B. F. Wynn, Alfred Packard; 1876, George
Micheals, William Tripp, A. Lovelace, Thomas J. Chaffee; 1877, J. Dalson, H. Curtis, T. B. Wynn, J. Hartman; 1878,
John Dalson, George Michaels, Jeremiah Hartman, Frank Stewart: 1879, B. Milliman, F. B. Harris, C. O. Frazier,
THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH.
The Congregational Church at Covert was organized Sept. 27, 1870, Rev. D. F. Peet
and Rev. Anderson officiating at the services held on the occasion. Its early membership embraced the following
names: Josiah Packard, Elizabeth Packard, Perlia Packard, Margaret Smith, Edward Rood, Pamelia Packard. Alfred
Packard. Flora Rood, Mary Packard, William Packard, E. P. Shaw. Mrs. E. P. Shaw, Milan Packard, W. F. Trafford,
Martha E. Trafford, Gordon Sinclair, Thaddeus Rood, Martha Rood. Flora A. Allen, and D. B. Allen. The early services
were held in a barn fitted for the purpose, and soon after the members convened in a new school house that had
meanwhile been built. The congregation, however, increased so rapidly that these quarters were too limited, and
Packard's Hall was opened for the use of the congregation.
For a period of more than five years this spacious apartment was occupied as a place of worship without expense
to the society. The first regular pastor, Rev. F. W. Bush, began his ministry in January, 1873, and a parsonage
costing $1500 was ready for his occupancy and paid for on his arrival.
In 1878 the congregation determined to erect a house of worship, and in August of that year began the work. The
building is of wood, with stone foundations, and having a side tower from which entrance is effected into both
audience- and lecture-rooms. These rooms open into each other through doors mounted on rollers and running into
the walls. The edifice is well built, neatly finished, and will seat comfortably 400 people, having cost, completely
furnished. more than $4000. The building was finished in October, 1879, and the dedicatory services were held on
the 5th day of November, 1879. These exercises, which were conducted by the former pastor, Rev. F. W. Bush, Revs.
E. A. Paddock, and N. D. Lamphear, were of a very interesting character. The church roll embraces a membership
of 90, the present pastor being Rev. Levi Parsons Spellman.