Robinson Township

This town takes its name from its first settlers. It is else-where noted in this book, that a large number of the relatives of Rix Robinson came into the Grand River region in 1835. Six brothers--Nathan, John, Rodney, Edward, Lucus, and Ira--came in the vessel;, "St. Joseph," from Detroit to Grand Haven. They, aided by the judgment of their brother, had come to the conclusion that this Valley was the place to build a fortune. So, with their wives and children, 42 in number, they came on together.

Four of the brothers-Rodney, Lucus, John and Ira located in this town. About three years afterwards, Rodney and Lucus removed to Flat River, leaving the other two.

They took up land in the fall of 1835. They raised a few potatoes the next season; but spent most of their time lumbering. Like most of the operators in lumber at the time, they failed to make money by it. The fact is very noticeable, that lumber was manufactured before it was demanded; and in quantity in excess of the demand. Therefore it was a poor business. The person who reads this history, or one who in any way familiarizes himself with the doings in early times, will be surprised at the calculations that were based on pine--at the investment in mills, in advance of the real prospect in sales. Probably ten dollars were lost on mills and lumber, where one was gained. It seems that there was a kind of mania for saw-mills. Instead of putting up the cheap concerns that were really needed, expensive mills were erected; and failed to remunerate, of course.

As an instance of early times lumbering, the first winter Ira Robinson cut with an ax, and put by the river, 996 logs which had been contracted to the Grand Haven Company, at 50 cents a log. The Company did not buy them. They lay by the river several years; and were then sold for a barrel of pork and two barrels of flour! Robinson found that getting rich by cutting logs was rather doubtful.

The growth of the town was slow; most of the land was owned by non-residents; bought on account of its pine. The town had little to attract those who were seeking places for farms. No settler in his senses would choose his location in a forest of pine. That pine will not then find a sale; the labor of clearing is immense; and then the stumps! Time rolls on; the openings and timbered lands have invited occupation; a demand has arisen for lumber; it has been cut and carried from the land; and the process of turning pine land into farms is going on. The stumps ‘machine’ is civilizing the land in Robinson.

As said before, the occupation by settlers was slow. The town was not organized until 1856. The first meeting was at the house of Ira Robinson, when eighteen voters were present.

Its first officers were: John W. Barnard, Supervisor; Edward G. Robinson, Clerk; Willard Furgerson, Treasurer; Jonathan Hazard, Wm. H. Wood, Alfred Robinson, Fred T. Ranney, Justices.

The settlers who came soon after the Robinsons, were: Wm. F. Wood, Jared and Harrison Conner, Alva Trumbull, James Black, Joseph Lemon, Dexter Ranney and --Hartenburg--all within three or four years.

It will be perceived that the town was not organized until twenty one years after its first occupation. The number of its inhabitants at the time we have no means of ascertaining. The small vote at the first meeting has been given. In 1857, the vote was thirty-six. The first census, that of 1860, showed one hundred and twenty-eight. Four years after it was one hundred and twenty-six. So it seems that as late as 1864, there was but a very partial occupancy. In 1870, there was four hundred and six; showing quite an increase. This is in harmony with the experience of other pine townships. People began to see that a good use could be made of this land, and went to work to subdue it. At present the population is over five hundred.

There is in the town, the little village of Robinson, where Mr. Eastman has a mill. Around the mill some other business has clustered. There are two stores and a church.

As a matter of course, the town has but little history, other than its lumbering operation all of which went to enrich or impoverish, as the case might be, the residents of other places. Robinson had to begin its history, and its development after it had been sacked and its primitive resources exhausted by others.

Its few pioneers were in during the time that tried the souls and the endurance of men. They suffered during the often mentioned "starvation winter," when $20 was the price for a barrel of flour, and $50 for a barrel of pork; and when, for the last, $100 was refused. Mr. Robinson paid $20 at Grand Rapids for a barrel of flour, and drew it home on a hand sled. During that winter a team with flour got stuck by Bass River, and they were obliged to leave it. The people, recognizing the rights of dread necessity, took forcible possession--not as robbers, but as citizens, facing the responsibility of their deed. It was carefully weighed out to the needy, and charged to those receiving it. The whole was afterwards paid for. Before censuring, reflect on the great principal that necessity known no law. If your children must starve, or you commit a trespass, how would you act! Those with a full stomach can moralize on principals and rights; but it is hard to be a saint or moralist when hunger is gnawing the vitals. "Lead us not into temptation," is about equivalent to "Don’t let us be hungry."

Situated as the town is, it is easy to see what it will be. But at present it has the air of newness, and it is but imperfectly developed. Its beautiful river prospects will be appreciated. It bides its time.

Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 2 June 2010