Morenci History IV
No words shall be written or spoken as to our heritage if there was to be an omission of reference to our own resolute patriots who have or are rendering national service in response to our country’s need.
We could possibly claim that our area military history began with the Revolutionary War for records do disclose that residents served in this opening struggle destined to establish the birth of our then new nation. This same claim could well be extended to include those patriots who offered and gave their services in the War of 1812, The Black Hawk uprising in April 1832 and the Mexican War.
The great test of patriotism that initially challenged our local citizenry arose at the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861. The call to “Save the Union” generated liberal response by our able-bodied men who volunteered to serve in the ranks of Lincoln’s army.
Following the Civil War, various army societies were started. One of the initial and foremost was identified as the Grand Army of the Republic. Its birth is credited to the State of Illinois in 1866. Michigan’s Union veterans initially organized in 1868 and reorganized in 1879.
Many other societies were founded following conflicts in which our nation was involved. Most, if not all, were basically founded on the principles of exemplifying non-partisan fraternity, charity and loyalty as well as the remembrance of those comrades that gave the “last full measure of devotion.”
It was at an organizational meeting of Morenci Area Veterans on December 10, 1881 that the Myron Baker Post #33 was chartered. This was the first post-war organization of any kind in our immediate area. D.C. Henion was elected as first Post commander. A membership fee of $1 with an application made the “man who wore the blue” eligible for review and probable membership.
The Post was named in honor of Myron Baker, the son of Elisha A. and Mary Baker, residents of Medina Township, Seneca Township and the village of Morenci, respectively. Myron Baker became a colonel in the 74th Indiana Infantry and was killed by a sharp shooter in Atlanta, Ga. August 5, 1864.
The Sons of Veterans society also began a local charter.
The Woman’s Relief Corps (Auxiliary to the G.A.R.) dated the beginning of its organization to July 25, 1883. It was not long after, that the Myron Baker Post began to take pride in the work performed by the local Woman’s Relief Corps (W.R.C.) organization.
It was recorded that Mrs. Ellen Oldfield was Morenci’s last surviving member of the W.R.C. at the time of her death in 1936 at the age of 88. “The daughter of a soldier, wife of a soldier and mother of a soldier,” a Gold Star Mother who lost her only son in France during World War I.
Available records known at this time are inadequate to determine the many specifics as to the area citizens’ participation as servicemen in the Spanish American War precipitated by the blowing up of the U.S.S. Maine lying peaceably in Havana Harbor on the night of February 14, 1898. The call to arms was generally directed to the established National Guard units although this call to duty gave impetus to volunteer enlistments; thus the response by an unknown number of our citizens.
Veterans of Foreign Wars, of the United States, is an organization created by the amalgamation of three national societies of overseas veterans, formed immediately after the Spanish American War in 1899.
The VFW has since continued and remains an effective force with its activities concerning the welfare of disabled veterans and their dependents, care of the widows and orphans of veterans and our national defense. In November 1946, a Morenci charter known as the Wolverine Buckeye VFW Post #8325 was granted. There were initially 48 area charter members. The local society disband in 1970 and its charter was turned back to the State Headquarters. Eligible veterans can, and many do, affiliate their interests with other VFW posts regardless of residence location.
The American Legion, a patriotic, non-partisan, non-political organization of veterans was originally incorporated by Act of Congress in September 1919 following the war to “End All Wars.” Its original charter has since been amended to include any soldier, sailor, or marine of any sex who has honorably served our nation’s interests.
In 1920 a group of World War I local veterans was granted a charter identified as the Raymond R. Sebring Post #241. The name of Raymond R. Sebring was selected in memory of 2nd Lt. Sebring, a Morenci boy who served in the 91st Aero Squadron and who was killed in action September 4, 1918 in France. Dr. Van Barnes served as its first post commander.
Other than inactive years from 1925 through 1930, our American Legion Post remained active within itself and in community affairs through the year 1955. In 1934 the Woman’s Auxiliary was organized and chartered with Cecile Grimes as its first president.
In 1941 a second post was organized and chartered as the F. Russell Green Post #219. The formal ceremonies and official installation of its first commander, Albert Renner, and other officers took place in Wakefield Park on May 18, 1941. The post was named in honor of F. Russell Green, veteran of World War I and former editor of the Morenci Observer, to perpetuate his memory and influence in the community.
Post #219 had an effective Auxiliary unit also organized in 1942 with Addie Sampson as its first president. It was in 1955 that the charters of the two respective posts were terminated and the memberships joined together under a new charter which is now identified as American Legion Post #368.
There are other societies not mentioned that our eligible citizens hold memberships in that directly relate to our proud heritage. At one period there were 20 Gold Star Mothers among our citizenry. Although unknown in numbers, there are citizens who have been, now are, or could be, registered members of the D.A.R. And many local veterans have attained eligibility in the Forty et Eight, a body of select Legionnaires.
After World War II, our nation became involved in further major conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. Once again, our youth dutifully responded to their call.
In 1940 the national draft lottery, which determined the order of induction of the country’s manpower into military service, was introduced. All American males 18 years and older were required to register. Out of this process a permanent Selective Service draft system was established, which beckoned the call to duty in our National Armed Forces. This draft system became permanent in 1948 and remained in operation even during “times of peace.” It was through this process that untold numbers of our local men served their country.
The history of industry in Morenci appears to begin with a sawmill built about a mile north of town by Jacob Baker and Horace Garlick in 1835. The mill was sold to Franklin Cawley in 1836. Sometime later Franklin Cawley, Dennis Wakefield and George W. Wilson built a sawmill in Morenci.
In 1852 Silas Scofield built a furniture factory at the rear of the Rex Theater’s present location, and that same year Franklin Cawley and Dennis Wakefield erected the first gristmill. Dennis was the father of C.C. Wakefield who started Morenci’s first bank in 1868.
In 1854 Pegg and Swindle built a tannery in Morenci. It burned in 1874 and was rebuilt.
In 1876 David M. Blair had one of the finest carriage factories of southern Michigan in Morenci.
In 1866 a three-story brick woolen mill was built at the north end of Mill street. This was the largest factory in Morenci in post-Civil War times. It was converted to a flour mill around 1885 and was leased by Charles F. Buck and Frank D. Kellogg from 1889 to 1899 when they purchased the building.
In 1921 their sons, Arthur Buck and C. Ray Kellogg, formed a partnership and became the owners and operators of the mill. In 1952 it was changed from a flour and feed mill to a feed and grain elevator. It was owned by Stanley Russell for about twenty years, then sold to Parker Division and was torn down in 1975.
About 1900, two brick and tile yards were opened in Morenci. One was on the land approximately where the rubber factory burned and the other was on the north side of West Main Street north of Wakefield Park. The one on the south side operated until it burned about 1936.
The Knapp and Bonner Illustrated History and Biographical Record of Lenawee County (1903) says that Morenci had a Michigan Brick and Tile Machine Works at the north end of Saulsbury Street which was prosperous.
The above mentioned reference book also stated that Chappell Heating Furnace Company was an important industry around the same time. It was located on the S.E. corner of Baker and Main Streets. This company built cast iron warm air furnaces enclosed with brick. These furnaces burned coal or wood giving steady, efficient heat. The company was owned by William Chappell and Son. William was a great uncle of Gardiner and Leo Bess Chappell. Around 1900 the company was sold to the Majestic Furnace Company and was moved to Indiana.
In 1900 Knosco and Campbell started to make sweetened condensed milk in Morenci. In 1902 the Ohio Dairy Co. bought the plant and built a new building in 1905. The building on the east side of Mill Street was added in later years. In 1910 a large cement smokestack was erected. This plan later became the National Dairy and then the United Milk Products Corp. At the peak of production the plant handled 180,000 pounds of milk per day and made 148,000 pounds of cheese per year.
During this time, the dairy pumped water for the city and furnished heat for Stair Auditorium. They also provided a steam fire alarm whistle. Production was halted in November 1950.
In 1926 the Parker Rust Proof Company of Detroit bought a tile roofed brick building on the west side of Mill Street and began manufacturing chemicals to rustproof iron ad steel.
In 1927 A.C. LaRowe, father of William A. LaRowe, became manager of the plant. Van Darsey graduated from Adrian College and became the first chemist here. The chemical processes of rustproofing were greatly improved by Darsey; Robert R. Tanner, chief of research in Detroit; Dr. H.H. Willard of the University of Michigan and Dr. Elmer Jones of Adrian College.
As the company expanded during the following year, space was needed and additions were built to the south and to the north of the original building. Still later, more space was essential and the company rented the vacant dairy building across Mill Street and later purchased it. The original building and the section next to Main Street have been torn down and a new modern office section with parking lot was built.
The company was purchased by Hooker Chemical Company in 1967 and Hooker was purchased by Occidental Petroleum in 1968.
Credit for locating the Parker Company factory in Morenci should go to Willard Cornelius, Charles Awkerman and Glen Luke who began their careers in Morenci.
In the 1940s the Keeshen Trucking Company erected a building at the north end of Saulsbury Street where trucks were repaired. Later a company from Fayette, Ohio called the Wilmapeg Industries Corp. took over the building and manufactured boat trailers. These companies were only in business a brief time.
About 1925 a small factory was built on the south side of Main Street just across from the west end of Wakefield Park. This factory was started by a Mr. Van Hendricks and produced machines to put tarvia surfaces on roads. It closed about 1930 and for a few years the building was occupied by Ex-Cel Products Co., which manufactured mortuary tables.
In 1939 this building was purchased by Reliable Rubber Company of Toledo, Ohio, a small rubber molding company. The new company became identified with production of rubber molding with some rubber extrusion being done. With developing growth the plant’s physical structure was enlarged. This factory was destroyed by fire in 1941, but was rebuilt immediately.
During the early years of World War II the Morenci Rubber Products discontinued operations and the buildings were occupied by a thermo-setting plastic industry identified as Morenci Products. Plastic nose cones and plastic bearings for military shells and bombs were the sole products.
Near the end of the war, the factory building was again idle for a short span of time. Under new ownership, rubber molding and extrusion operations resumed in our city and once again the name of Morenci Rubber Products came into being. A continuous growth in business volume necessitating interval enlargement of plant facilities materialized through the 1950s and 1960s. This industry became one of Morenci’s largest, employing 275 workers. Catastrophe struck again in November 1975 when the plant was entirely destroyed by fire and it has been a great loss to our city. Plans at the present time are to rebuild on the same site.
The American Heating and Lighting Company, started by Ed Clark, made equipment to turn gasoline into gas for locations where natural gas was not available. This factory stood on the south side of West Main Street opposite Mill Street. The business was world-wide and continued for many years until the market declined.
This building was later sold and ultimately occupied as the sales offices of the Haulette Division of Fayette Manufacturing Company, makers of truck and trailer chassis. In 1965 the main building was destroyed by fire at which time it was owned and occupied by The Morenci Automatic Inc., a screw machine factory. The buildings left at the rear are now owned and occupied by Seneca Enterprises, Inc.
In 1947 the M&S Corporation of Hudson, Mich. built a factory on the east side of Saulsbury Street and a subsidiary was formed which became identified as M&S Morenci Corporation. This industrial firm manufactures all types of screw machine products.
A second division of M&S Corporation came into being in 1953 and is known as Quality Automatic. It occupied a portion of the industrial building owned by Wayne Production Broaching Company located nearby. In 1966 Quality Automatic built a new building adjacent to the M&S Morenci Corporation buildings.
Quality Automatic operations differ only to M&S Morenci Corporation in respect to size of products machined. Combined employment is approximately 35 people. Morenci is fortunate to have this well managed and stable industry as part of the community.
A very unique business developed from a Christmas display on the lawn of the home of Mr. C.C. Fauver on Orchard Street during the 1930s. A life-sized Santa Claus that waved his arm in greeting to passersby was a great attraction to children and adults alike. A steady stream of viewers drove by during the holidays.
From this beginning Mr. Fauver started the Morenci Art Display Company in 1934 on Orchard Street. For the most part, the Christmas scenes were biblical in nature and were centered on the Christmas theme. All figures were life-sized and hand-painted by artists. The various displays were rented and returned after the holidays each year. They were shipped and displayed all over the United States. The business was closed around 1955.
The Fauver Molding Company was started by Lynn Fauver, a son of C.C. Fauver, in 1945 in a building next to the Morenci Art Display Co. on Orchard Street. The molding company produced plastic nose cones for military shells. After the war, the factory changed to making molded rubber items. In 1966 this plant was moved to a new building on the west side of Saulsbury Street. At the present time they are also engaged in doing emergency work for the Morenci Rubber Co.
Seneca Enterprises, Inc. began in the early 1960s on the west side of M-156 just north of town. This company produces molds, dies and molded rubber products. At the present time they also own the south end of the former “Clark” factory where the cutting and grinding of extruded rubber tubing is processed. Since its beginning, Seneca Enterprises, Inc. has displayed a well-managed and successful operation which has contributed greatly to Morenci’s economic stability.
The Wayne Production Broaching Company started a small factory on Weston Road in 1949 engaging in the operation of broaching metal parts principally for the automotive industry. Since its establishment in Morenci, this company has built facilities located on the west side of Saulsbury Street. The products of this fine industrial firm no longer serve the automotive field alone. The current operations are able to supply a much more diversified market and are able to gainfully employ some 50 employees.
Eklund Broach Company, also a Division of General Broach and Engineering Company of Detroit, is currently located and occupies the former Keeshen Trucking building on the east side of North Saulsbury Street. It engages in the production of building special precision cutting tools and averages employment of 30 working personnel. Eklund Broach contributes greatly to our community’s well being.
For many years prior to 1930, Michael Hochradel operated a cement products factory on the south side of Elm Street, a block west of East Street South, making cement blocks and bricks, burial vaults and cemetery urns.
Bancroft Cleaners, once considered the largest dry cleaning operation in southeastern Michigan, developed from a small tailoring shop on Main Street operated by Mr. D.L. Bancroft, Sr. This led to the erection of the first building which Mr. Bancroft built at the rear of his residence on East Chestnut Street. The business and buildings expanded through the years and continued until 1975.
It appears that the main industry in early Morenci was milling, which included lumber, wool, grain and flour. Later developments were the processing of milk, eggs and related by-products and the manufacturing of metal finishing and rust-proofing compounds and the molding and extrusion of rubber products.
The Hal C. Blair Hospital
The Hal C. Blair Hospital was the first hospital built in Morenci and was believed to be the first private hospital in Lenawee County. It was founded by Charles A. Blair, M.D. July 24, 1908 in memory of his son.
Dr. Blair was born in Smithville, Ontario, Canada, Jan. 1, 1859. His father was a veteran surveyor of Lenawee County. Dr. Blair set up his practice in Morenci in 1892 after graduating from the Michigan College of Medicine and Surgery in Detroit. The frame, two-story building was erected on the east side of North Street. Later a porch canopy was built over the sidewalk.
The office, waiting room, drug room and examining room were on the first floor. The second floor contained the operating room, sterilizing room and five beds. Meals were brought over from Dr. Blair’s residence next door. The charges were $15 a week, payable in advance. This included room, board, dressings and a nurse. However, if more than the usual amount of supplies were necessary, an extra charge was added. Five and ten dollars was charged for the operating room and anesthetic. Dr. Tallman did most of the surgery.
Ethel Rae Morgan was the first nurse. The nurse worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When the nurse took time off or if they were busy, extra help would be hired.
Doctors in the surrounding area used the hospital, but some still operated in the homes. The hospital received $950 in donations and an invalid chair, five beds, X-ray coil and tubes, canned fruit, a stretcher for carrying patients, and an oil painting were also donated.
Orla Bachman, the only nurse who has worked at all three of Morenci’s hospitals, recalls when the first X-ray machine was purchased. She assisted Dr. Blair when it was used for the first time. The patient was given an anesthetic and put on the examining table which was partly constructed of iron. After the machine was turned on the doctor became entangled with the cord and the patient was shocked into consciousness. Miss Bachman was holding the patient and she also received such a shock that the ends of her toes were burned.
Hal c. Blair Hospital closed in the late 1920s.
The Blanchard Hospital was established on Jan. 15, 1935. It was the materialization of a dream which Dr. James A. Blanchard had during the previous years of his medical practice in Morenci, which began Nov. 1, 1930.
Dr. Blanchard felt the need for a hospital in Morenci to serve his patients here and in near-by towns without having to transport them to Adrian and other cities. He purchased the former Dr. Older property on the corner of N. Summit and Main Streets and equipped the building for use as a private hospital.
This institution never drew on the community for support. It was small, consisting of 14 beds and six bassinets, operating and sterilizing rooms as well as a nursery. There was a laundry and a well-stocked kitchen in the basement.
This hospital was open to any licensed physician or surgeon who cared to use its facilities. It achieved 130,000 patient days, 13,000 patients were admitted and there were 1,734 births during its 26 years of operation.
In 1960 the hospital was notified by the Michigan State Fire Marshall that certain improvements would have to be made to meet standards if the hospital was to be kept open. The cost of such improvements was too much and the hospital was closed in 1961.
Morenci Area Hospital
With the closing of the Blanchard Hospital several town meetings were held to discuss the possibility of building a new hospital and a committee was formed to formulate some plans.
Prior to this time a hospital had been proposed for the use of Hudson and Morenci areas, to be built about half-way between the two towns on U.S. 127. Many people had made pledges to this project. When the Morenci Area Hospital was in the planning stage, these pledges were, for the most part, turned over to this effort.
The Morenci area Hospital was built on a seven acre plot on Sims Highway. The cost was about $490,000 of which $330,000 was a gift from an anonymous donor. $160,000 was pledged from the surrounding areas including Lyons and Fayette, Ohio, Waldron, Mich. and the townships of Seneca and Medina in Michigan and Chesterfield and Gorham in Ohio. Other donations were received from people living in other areas as well.
The exterior of the hospital is of field limestone. It is one of the best equipped small hospitals in the State of Michigan. The hospital was dedicated on Aug. 7, 1961 and the deed to the 25 bed hospital was presented to the City of Morenci at this time.
The patients from the Blanchard Hospital were transferred to the new hospital. Dr. Blanchard turned over all usable equipment from his hospital to the new one.
The Morenci Area Hospital Auxiliary was organized Aug. 3, 1961 with 108 charter members. Through the years the auxiliary has been able to purchase many important pieces of equipment for the hospital. Other Auxiliary projects include a nursing scholarship given annually to a high school graduate who is entering nursing school, sponsorship for the Candy Stripers, a group of teenage girls who do volunteer work at the hospital and a flower and gift case in the hospital lobby.
The Morenci Garden Club sponsored the landscaping at the hospital and have added to it from time to time.
In 1968 an additional 12 rooms were added, plus a coronary unit, making it a 38 bed hospital at the present time.
To the early settlers death was part of life. One of the most used epitaphs, and the one which appears on the first Postmaster’s headstone in the old cemetery in Morenci, reads in part: “Death is a path that must be trod, if man would ever pass to God.”
Due to the art of embalming not being well developed, burial of family, friends and visitors took place in the locality in which one lived or in which one was visiting. The burial customs of the Morenci area derived for the most part from those of the New England states from which a majority of the people came. These were principally interment on one’s farm or in the church graveyard.
Burial on one’s farm was made in a vault erected for that purpose, such as that of the Stockwell family of Medina Township, or was made in a special place in the garden like that of the Hale family of Gorham township. Otherwise, interment was made in the churchyard.
The story of the Revolutionary War soldier buried in Oak Grove Cemetery says that when he died in 1839 he was interred on the farm of his grandson. Later, in the 1860s, he was moved to the plot in the Old Cemetery belonging to his daughter. After the death of his wife in 1889, he was placed in Oak Grove Cemetery beside her.
Burial in the graveyard of a church was not only for those who attended the church but for people living nearby. The graveyard of the Medina Village Baptist Church was in use as early as 1849. This cemetery has been continuously used and several acres have been added.
Some years later, the Village of Canandaigua formed a cemetery association. The earliest association records are not available, but the reorganized Association has records dating back to 1886. Land was purchased north of the village for a cemetery. This, too, has been enlarged and is in use today. A Revolutionary War soldier is interred in the older part.
The Congregational burying ground at Medina Center has interments reputedly as early as 1846 when the Farley children died. This small cemetery on White Pine Highway has also been known as the Converse Cemetery and more recently as the Whitney Cemetery. Another Medina Township cemetery still in use is on Munson Highway just north of Lime Creek Road. It is known as Bradish or Lime Creek.
The Goss Cemetery on Morenci Road in Medina Township has had no recent interments. The land was given by Mr. Goss and then the Woodworth family added their family plot adjoining on the west. Today it is all known as Goss Cemetery. The interment records date from the late 1860s, although it was in use earlier than that. There is also a small cemetery in Medina Township known as County Line (Joughin), which stands on U.S. 127. It was originally a churchyard cemetery. The church is no longer there, but the burial ground remains.
The Porter Cemetery in Seneca Township at the Packard Station on the D.T.&I. has been in use many years. Although its name is Porter, it is sometimes called Packard. It has been enlarged greatly from its original plot.
In Gorham Township, Ohio, the Snow Cemetery is on land given by Elijah Snow. Remains of many people have been removed from this one to Pleasant View Union Cemetery in Fayette, Ohio or Oak Grove Cemetery in Morenci. The cemetery is no longer used, although there are still some families such as Whitman, Mace, Whaley and Price interred. Among them is Dr. Jabez Paul who died in 1946.
The Cottrell Cemetery on present day U.S. 20 was abandoned in 1902 and the land was sold to the Toledo & Western Railway for its right-of-way. Many people buried there were reinterred in Morenci and Fayette.
In Chesterfield Township, Ohio, southwest of Morenci, three early cemeteries—the Roos Cemetery east of the Chesterfield church, the Butler Cemetery south of the Chesterfield school and the Hawley Cemetery—are all still in use. Esther Parsons (Mrs. John Miller), an early Morenci school teacher, was interred in Hawley Cemetery.
The early cemetery within the city limits of Morenci, known as the Old Cemetery, was used by residents of Seneca and Medina townships as well as the Village of Morenci, and occasionally by residents of Gorham and Chesterfield townships. As far as it is presently known, there are no interment records for this cemetery, although it is thought that it was in use in the mid 1840s. Jeptha Whitman was interred there in 1847. This cemetery was plotted originally with a wide drive around the south and east sides. Later, an addition was made to it on the north from Dr. James Sweeney’s land.
In 1875 the Common Council of the Village of Morenci brought Oak Grove Cemetery into existence with the purchase of part of the Jonathan Salsbury land from his daughter, Charity VanAkin.
The motion read as follows:
“Report of committee, Oct. 25, 1875
. . . we negotiated the land for a cemetery authorized by resolution adopted at last regular meeting, and purchased therewith of Charity S. VanAkin, 15 and 77/100 acres of the old Saulsbury property at $125 per acre, amounting to the some of $1,971.25 and had the same deeded to the Village of Morenci. We would therefore offer the following resolution. . .
Therefore resolved that said lands be and the same are hereby accepted and shall be held by the Village of Morenci in trust for a village cemetery to be known as Oak Grove Cemetery.”
The first interment made in Oak Grove was Anna Brown in February 1876. The cemetery was supervised by a Council appointed Committee with the Committee making suggestions for its landscaping, perpetual care fund and other improvements. One committee member, Mr. Albert Deyo, believed in adding to the natural beauty of the plan, and through his efforts the magnolia trees were placed there. Today only one of these remains.
In 1903 the building of a chapel was discussed. The matter was again brought up in 1906 and a stone chapel was erected at the main gate by Flint & Clarkson for the sum of $1,238. It was used for many years. More recently the building has been made into a workshop.
The metal posts and frame bearing the name Oak Grove Cemetery were worn out and replaced by stone pillars. These pillars were constructed from the flagstone sidewalks removed from the city streets.
In 1908 a mausoleum was built in the south part and many families were interred there. The visitors rooms were well furnished with sturdy wooden chairs and tables. In 1954 the State of Michigan condemned the building. The bodies were reinterred in the cemetery grounds by the city and the mausoleum passed into history.
There have been three additions to the original Oak Grove Cemetery lands—the Sutton, the Tuggle and the Kennedy.
Today Oak Grove Cemetery in Morenci is used by most families of the locality. It is a gracious place where one can go and recall the pleasant memories of life. As one person remarked at the interment of a friend, “What a beautiful place to come home to.”
The first settler in Medina Township was Nathaniel W. Upton, who built a log cabin in 1834 on sections three and four. It wasn’t until March 11, 1837 that Medina Township was separated from Seneca Township and became an entity of its own.
In late 1834 and early 1835 other settlers came to take up land traveling long distances at times by foot. By the summer of 1835 some of them had brought their families.
John Knapp built the first house and Cook Hotchkiss had the first blacksmith shop. Mr. Hotchkiss was on the of the organizers of the Baptist Church of Medina, serving as a deacon. He was also the first Justice of the Peace, performing the first marriage ceremony in the township.
Samuel Gregg arrived and decided to open a tavern. He built a log house 20 by 30 feet and later added another 12 feet. He purchased groceries, whiskey and brandy from Adrian, and in June and July of 1835 had more customers than he could handle—sometimes 12 to 20 at one time. His barroom was also used for the first sermon preached by Rev. William Wolcott of Adrian. These services were continued every four weeks during the fall of that year.
In October 1835 Dr. Increase S. Hamilton settled in Canandaigua, and at the same time the first school house was built. The following year saw the first saw mill in operation. Later, William Walworth built a small mill on Lime Creek and ground only course grain.
George Moore came to Medina Township in 1836. In 1837 he assisted with the organization of the Township and became one of the first assessors. He was a progressive farmer and introduced the first mower and reaper to the western part of the Township. Mr. Moore served in many capacities, one of which was as director of the Farmers Mutual Insurance Company of Lenawee for 14 years. He was also active in county and state politics.
The Spring of 1836 was a severe one for the early settlers. They had not raised a crop as yet and provisions were scarce and prices were high. Flour sold for $16 a barrel, salt at $10 and pork at $30. Many young men born during these hard times lived to serve their country during the Civil War.
Before any public buildings were built, the school and church activities were held in various homes. However, it was not long before there were three log schools in the Township.
At this time, Medina Village coveted its neighbor’s doctor. Dr. Hamilton had built a new frame house in Canandaigua, and to entice him to move, the people of Medina bought the house and the doctor moved.
It made little difference where the doctor lived, as the two villages were only about two miles apart. However, it was very humiliating to Canandaigua to lose their doctor to their rival. To make matters worse, the doctor’s frame house was moved to Medina, leaving Canandaigua with no frame house.
Orville Woodworth was another who contributed to the welfare and growth of Medina Township. He built, owned and operated the Buckhorn Tavern and was a great hunter. He was always active in the affairs of the township.
The first merchant was located in Canandaigua as was the second. The third settled in Medina Village.
From 1840 to 1844 the villages of Medina and Canandaigua were at the height of their power and glory. They did the most extensive milling business in the area. The Medina Mill in 1840 floured 40,000 bushels of wheat and did custom work for the farmers.
Medina Township can still boast of prosperous farmers, good land and an active community of civic minded citizens.
Church lore in the township is ample. In 1836 at the home of Gershom Bennett, 23 members formed the Canandaigua Baptist Church. Change of location to Medina in 1837 brought a change of name to the Medina Baptist Church.
Homes or schools were meeting places until 1846 when a church was built in Medina on the south side of the main street. A Methodist church, opposite, was abandoned in the 1930s and torn down, leaving the Baptist as home for both congregations. Federation followed, and the church still attracts both denominations today under Pastor Howard Yatzek.
In the 1830s a congregational church stood in the central part of the township near the intersection of White Pine Highway and Ridgeville Road. Later it was taken down and moved to Prattville and rebuilt as a Congregational Church there.
Two United Brethren churches faced one another across Ingall Hwy. south of the railway crossing (then the Wabash) in the small community of Ontario. The church on the west side resulted from a division in the one on the east side over policy relating to secret societies. Thus, the east side church was termed radical, the west side church liberal.
When the churches discontinued, the building in which the liberal church was housed reverted by to the Harold Acker property, upon which it was situated, and was moved near his home where it serves as a small white barn with identifying church windows today.
The fundamental, or “radical,” church building can be seen on the Hawkins farm just north of its original location. Furnishings went to the Fayette Nazarene Church. When the United Brethren group closed their church on the County Line south of the cemetery, the structure was taken down and rebuilt in Wright Township as a house. The present-day Munson United Brethren Church is located just north of Morenci road.
There are two other churches, the Canandaigua Community Church and Brookside Memorial Chapel. The Community Church schedules a full program under Pastor Eugene A. Kooi. Brookside’s unique story centers in Rev. Gerard French, whose interest in youth led him to procure the two-acre plot between Bean Creek and Warwick Road east of Medina, where he built the chapel. The first services were held in 1964 after completion of the basement. When the superstructure was finished in 1968, the present sanctuary was decorated and furnished for worship. (Only masonry work was done by hired labor.) Rev. French contributes all his services along with transportation in his van as needed. He has driven on occasion more than 100 miles to provide rides on Sunday. All of this translates as a true labor of love for people.
Seneca Township was established by an act of the State Legislature on March 23, 1836. The southern boundary was later changed following a dispute with the State of Ohio. This dispute was known as the Toledo War, and was formally settled on March 31,1838. At the time, this area also included the present township of Medina. On March 11, 1837 Medina became a separate township.
The first officers of Seneca Township were elected in May 1836, and consisted of a supervisor, clerk, and treasurer.
The soil in the Township was considered the best in Lenawee County, and the prosperous farmers later built beautiful homes surrounded by large trees and orchards. It was good land for growing crops, and everything flourished in the rich soil.
Some of the early settlers enlisted and served in the Black Hawk War. One of these was Roswell J. Hayward. He influenced relatives from New York State to settle on land in other parts of Lenawee County, some near Posey Lake, where he established his son-in-law on a farm. He erected the first saw mill near Black Creek.
Amos A. Kinney came to Seneca Township at the age of 20, traveling with a team of horses and a wagon for 16 days through the wilderness. He entered 80 acres of land and at once began to clear the land and put up a log cabin. Indians often came by, but they never molested him as he treated them with consideration. He was active in affairs of the Township and cast his first vote for Andrew Jackson.
Stephen Spear arrived from New York Sate in 1831, stopping near Adrian. There he worked for a year and a half and then took up 160 acres of land. He located on Bear Creek, about four miles from Morenci. He was drafted for service in the Black Hawk War and encamped near Coldwater with his company. They marched to Niles on the St. Joseph River and were stationed there until the capture of Black Hawk and the end of the war.
The little village of Seneca was the scene of a train wreck on Nov. 27, 1901. This was one of the most disastrous train wrecks in the history of the Wabash Railroad.
The wreck occurred one and one-half miles east of the village at about 6:45 in the evening. Some of the cars contained immigrants going west, others were people going home for Thanksgiving. It was reported that approximately 80 persons died and many more were seriously injured. The first doctor on the scene was a physician from Detroit who had been called to Morenci to see a patient.
At the inquest, the train crew of the eastbound train was cited for ignoring orders. However, it was also thought that since the trains usually passed each other at Sand Creek, the names of Seneca and Sand Creek had been confused by the engineer. For a time following the wreck, the name on the depot at Seneca was changed to Ennis in order to avoid another such accident.
The Village of Seneca has been in the past a busy place with several stores, a post office, a dance hall and various other businesses. At the present time, there is one church called the Seneca Community Church serving the area.
The township has served the people well and the officers have been active and conscientious in their efforts. It is still a thriving township with prosperous farmers and beautiful homes.
The Wreck of the Wabash
(written by B.F. Denson, Morenci, Mich.)
Has not death been very busy in the circles low and high,
from September’s assassination, til Thanksgiving day drew nigh
Has some planetary reasons made disturbances of late,
to have brought such dire disaster with such sad and shocking fate?
Was it a visitation of Providence divine,
Upon a strenuous nation, as well as the Wabash line?
Can it be accounted or full three times out of five,
In any other better way that mortals can contrive?
Electric headlights then deceiving, to be seen on purpose too,
Thought each other on the side track, their great engines fairly flew.
Conductor Felt applied the steam brakes, saw the Seneca lights flash by;
Thought of slowing for the siding, furthermore we know not why;
Why the visitation followed in these engine cabs that day.
That each mistook the other, was to give the right of way,
‘Til the instant, just too late, as the crash and slaughter came,
When many a helpless victim’s time had come in wreck and flame.
Was it a dispensation that impelled those poor souls there
From many and many a mile away in a lake of fire to share.
Gone home for their Thanksgiving–entered the golden gate.
A hundred human beings dead by a fatal mistake.