This is a full town, being No. 8 north, and 13 west range, and bounded on the north by Chester, east by Kent County, south by Talmadge and west by Polkton. In richness of soil and adaption to general farming purposes, it is the companion of Chester, and one of the best townships in the county. Its surface is undulating, and is well watered by Sand Creed and its tributaries, which furnish motive power for one good mill. The timber is mostly hard wood, and the soil a rich clay loam, inclining to sand and sand loam in places. It is unsurpassed as a wheat raising township, and for grazing and general farming purposes, and in the matter of stock and stock-raising, it probably surpasses any township in the county. The farmers have paid much attention to the improvement of stock generally, and particularly cattle. The annual fairs of Ottawa County and West Kent are held at Berlin, which has given an impetus to this improvement. There are about 8,500 acres under improvement, and the land is valued for taxation at $24 per acre, or higher than any other township in the county.
Until April 5th, 1847, this town was part of Talmadge, and its settlement and early history are identified with that town. At the date above given the township commenced its separate political existence. It was in no great hurry to be set-off -- apparently being better pleased with being part of a large concern than the whole of a small one.
At its organization, at the house of Leonard Roberts, the following were elected its first officers: Silvius Waters, Supervisor; Ireneous Wellman, Clerk; Hiram C. McDearman, Treasurer; Edson Fuller, John McLain and Charles Dunning, Justices.
Who first made a beginning in Wright is a matter of question. It was reached by regular progress -- going a little beyond -- a part of the early settlers, feeling that they belonged to the settlements around Grand Rapids, and others that they belonged to Talmadge. As far as known, Justin Walker was among the first, if not the first, to locate in this town -- he locating in the southeast corner. He came with a wife and six children in 1839. It was but just stepping over the line of the town of Walker, which was pretty well occupied. Mr. Leland came about the same time and located northwest of Mr. Walker. Mr. Walker was killed at Grand Rapids, in 1863, by the kick of a horse, and his wife died in 1874.
Several settlers came in 1840, among them the Lillie brothers (Benjamin and Timothy B.), who gave name to a part of the town -- the "Lillie Settlement." In the northern part of the town is a German settlement of about fifty families, and about as many more over the line in Chester. Most of them came in 1842. They are mostly thriving farmers; have a church (Catholic), a resident priest, and really form a German community. The Irish Catholics have a church west of Berlin, and the Adventists a society in the north.
Berlin, the only village and principal business point in the township, is situated on the D. G. H. & M. R. R., in the eastern part of the township, about twenty miles east of Grand Haven and ten miles west of Grand Rapids. It was laid out in 1857, and contains about 500 inhabitants. It is the voting place of the township, and has a postoffice, one Methodist and one Baptist church, six stores, one harness, one wagon, and three blacksmith shops; one woolen and one grist mill, and two hotels.
In 1867 Berlin had two churches, one hotel, three stores, one flour mill and an ashery. It had then a powerful lodge of Good Templars, and no liquor was sold in the village. The post master was R. N. McCulloch, who had also a general store and drug store. The chief professional men and tradesmen were: Rev. E. C. Draper (Methodist); Rev. A. R. Savage (Baptist); John T. Dayton, M. D.; Chappell Bros., grocers; Miner & Tucker, general store; S. Burns, hotel; Davis & French, carriage ironers; M. T. Buckley, broom factory; Oren Dowd, boots and shoes; Enos C. Morgan, livery stable and cooperage; Walter Hastings and John Tuttle were also coopers, and B. Bolton and Jacob Finclair, masons. J. A. J. Taylor was a gunsmith, Joseph Nolker a carpenter, and Truman Young a blacksmith.
In 1877 we find the population given as 300. The clergymen are: Rev. L. W. Calkins (M. E.), and J. M. Chapman (Baptist), John Ferguson and H. A. Gill have general stores, G. Macey has the flouring mill, F. Biers the woolen mill, J. Becker the hotel, M. V. Fish is express agent, J. F. Hill is station agent, J. Marlatt and Woods & Dutcher have groceries, M. M. Robson and J. Raymond have hardware and boots and shoes, J. Pollock and E. Slater are also into boots and shoes. E. Walling and J. T. Dayton are the physicians; W. Monroe is a harness maker and L. Oviatt, blacksmith. The late Supervisors have been B. Lanbach in 1876, W. Molloy in 1877-8-9-80, and W. F. Kelly in 1881.
The taxation for County purposes in 1876 was $797.25; for State purposes, $2, 776.98. In 1881 this had increased to County tax, $1,072.42, and the State tax had decreased to $1,724.68. In 1880 the County tax was $829.83, and the State taz $1,429.61, which were exactly the amounts paid by Zeeland township. The assessed equalized value of each being $555,730. The unassessable acreage is about 23,000.
Among the early settlers from 1839 to 1845 are: John McLain, C. Roberts, E. Fuller, J. Wasson, J. Parmenter, Chas. Buck, E. Streeter, B. F. Lillie, C. Dunning, W. P. Wells, Perley Lawton, I. Wellman, O. McLear, A. I. Clayton, W. W. Averill, Jas. F. Cady, Jas. Wheeler, W. H. Walker and John O'Brien.
The Society of Grangers are quite numerous and influential. Mr. Chas. W. Wilde is master of the Berlin Grange.
R. Johnson, whose farm of 80 acres lies four miles north of Berlin, took charge of the County Poor House farm at Eastmanville, March, 1882.
W. H. Walker, of Berlin, has a fine apiary of about 80 swarms, all Italian. He is a skillful apiarist.
Benjamin Laubach has held the office of Justice of the Peace since 1856 -- about twenty-six years. He is President of the Counties' Agricultural Society.
H. S. Lawton came in 1849. Benjamin F. Lillie came in 1843, four years after the first survey of the town, and was elected to the legislature in 1963.
Perley Lawton came in 1847 and has been six years town clerk.
WILLIAM F. KELLY, Supervisor of Wright Township, was born in Oneida County, N.Y. He came to Wright in April, 1865. Having received in his youth but a common school education, he has, notwithstanding, risen to become an excellent public officer, and is a rising man in the popular estimation. At 27 years of age he held the office of Town Clerk, and in the Spring of 1881 was elected Supervisor, discharging the duties of the office to the satisfaction of all. He is also Secretary of the Counties' Agricultural Society.
BENJAMIN LAUBACH, farmer, was born in Columbia County, Penn., Oct. 8, 1823. He moved to Ohio in 1836, thence to his present farm in Wright. He was elected Justice of the Peace in 1856, holding the office twenty-two years. In 1873 he was elected Supervisor, and held office four terms, when he resigned, and was elected to the State Legislature in 1877, holding office for two terms. He is President of the Counties' Agricultural Society, and enjoys the esteem of all who know him.
W. H. WALKER, of Berlin, wagon and carriage maker, was born in Oakland County, Mich., in 1834, and settled in Berlin in 1844 with his father, there being no roads cut out or buildings erected there at that time. Mr. W. is extensively engaged in bee-culture, in which he has been very successful. He is a man of strict morals, sound judgment, and is a moderate Republican in politics.
HENRY A. COOK, farmer on Section 6, was born in Warren County, Pa., in 1827. He came to Detroit with his parents in 1840, and to Grand Rapids in 1844, going to California in 1850, and returning to this State in 1861, and next year purchased his present farm. He enlisted in 1st Michigan Engineers, Dec. 1863, and was discharged in 1865. He married in Feb. 1865, Miss Mina L. Dietrich.
B. S. WHITMAN, farmer on Section 28, was born at Plattsburg, N. Y., in 1821. He came to Muskegon in 1848, and into Wright in 1862, purchasing his present farm. He married in 1845 Miss L. Suier, of Washington County, N.Y., and they have four children, three now living. He has been Justice of the Peace four years, and Deputy Sheriff of the county four years, and also Road Commissioner for several terms, showing the great esteem in which he is held by the community.
H. S. LAWTON, farmer on Section 21, was born in St. Lawrence County, N.Y., in 1817, settling on his present farm in 1849. He married in 1838 Miss Prudence Cole, and after her death -- he was married a second time in 1868, and has three sons and six daughters. The eldest son, George, was married in 1877 to Miss Woodworth, and assists in the management of the farm. Mr. L. is highly respected, and is one of the early pioneers.
BENJAMIN F. LILLIE, was born in St. Lawrence County, N.Y. in 1828, and settled in Wright in 1843, only four years after the first survey, and was the first white settler in the township. He married, just previous to his settling in Wright, Miss Fletcher, who died in 1864, leaving ten children. George, the eldest son, being the first white child born in the township. Mr. Lillie has been thrice married and is the parent of twenty-four children -- all living. He was appointed Deputy State Marshal in 1861, and took a leading part in the enlistment of soldiers for the late war. In 1863 he was elected to the State Legislature, and received his credentials, but owing to the sickness and death of his wife, and his own illness he was unable to serve. He is a man highly respected and still takes a lively interest in all public matters.
PERLEY LAWTON, farmer, Sec. 30, born in St. Lawrence County, N.Y., in 1818, and settled first near Cooperville with his father and brother Albert in 1846, and in the following year settled on his present farm. Married in May, 1841, Miss Nancy Ferguson; has three sons and one daughter. The youngest son is married and carries on the farm. Mr. Lawton has taken an active part in public affairs, and has been director and president of the Counties' Agricultural Society, also Superintendent of the Poor, and Town Clerk for six years. Mr. Lawton has also been a school teacher, and to everything that affects the good of the community has given his aid and encouragement.
S. D. HALL, deceased, father of Geo. W. Hall, was born in New York, in 1801, and settled in Wright in 1861. Married in 1858, and died in 1880. He was a highly respected citizen, and his memory will long be cherished by those who survive him. Geo. W. Hall was born in 1859, and lives on the old homestead, his widowed mother living with him. He married in 1880 Miss Libbie Huntley, of Berlin.
A. E. SCHEMMEL, M.D., of Dayton & Schemmel, Berlin, was born in Jefferson County, N.Y., in 1846, moved to Nunica in 1869, in eight years came to Berlin, and graduated at Ann Arbor in 1880. He then commenced the practice of medicine in Berlin, and being a young man of skill and energy, has met with success in his efforts.
W. B. BECKER, blacksmith, born in Norfolk, Ont., Canada, in 1833. Came to Berlin in 1875, and for eighteen months engaged in hotel business, since which time he has been carrying on a general blacksmith shop. Mr. Becker has good natural ability, and has added a good store of knowledge. He is a thorough workman, having had thirty-four years experience.
J. MARLATT, merchant, Berlin, born in Oakland County, Mich., in 1852, settling in Wright in 1856, and in 1873 opened a general store and has met with good success. He is probably the most enterprising merchant in Berlin. He had the misfortune to lose his right hand while working in a Muskegon saw mill. Married in 1875 Miss Alice Fuller, by whom he has one son.
REV. TIMOTHY J. MURPHY, Catholic priest of Berlin, was born in Bandon, Cork Co., Ireland, April 5, 1848. His early education was in the county school, where he studied classics under Thomas Lourdan, nephew of the first Bishop of Charlestown. After a rigid examination, he was admitted to All-Hallow's College, Dublin, where he finished his studies in philosophy. He came to America, and on May 30, 1871 was ordained priest by Bishop Burgess in the City of Detroit, with Bay City as his first parish. He has been actively engaged in Grand Haven and elsewhere building churches and helping the needy. He is a man of genial nature, is ready and entertaining in conversation, and exhibits unusual depth of thought. He is a natural orator, speaking eloquently and logically.
Transcriber: Leslie Coulson
Created: 24 October 2006