Royal Oak Township

SEPARATE TOWNSHIP ORGANIZATION. The two townships numbered 1 and 2 north, in range 11 east (now Royal Oak and Troy), were, on the 12th of April, 1827, set off together, erected into a township, and designated as Troy. This organization continued for five years, at the end of which time town 1 of that range was detached from Troy and separately erected as the township of Royal Oak.

The earliest book of township records (commencing with the first organization and township-meeting, and running until and including the year 1856) having been lost or destroyed, we can give either an account of the proceedings at the first meeting nor a complete list of township officers prior to 1857. It has been ascertained, however, that the first supervisor was David Chase, and that among his successors to the office were:

Jonathan Chase 1854   Moses Johnson 1846 to 1853 inclusive
John Davis 1843   Otis Judson 1845
Alonzo Haight 1855   Nathaniel Ormsby 1842 and 1844
F. G. C. Jasper 1856   Dennis H. Quick 1837 and 1838

The first township clerk was Socrates Hopkins, but between his and the election of 1857 no other name can be given of incumbents of that office, except that of Jonathan Chase, who filled it from 1835 to 1840, inclusive.

The following were among the Justices of the Peace during the period above referred to:

William Betts 1840   Moses Johnson 1847
Daniel Burrows (appointed) no date   S. S. Matthews 1854
Norman Castle 1853   Charles Mooney 1843
Jonathan Chase (appointed) 1835   Asher B. Parker 1846 and 1850
Jonathan Chase, elected 1839, 1849, 1855   John Parshall 1841
George M. Cooper 1844   Nicholas Pullen (appointed) no date
W. M. Corey 1842   L. S. Roberts 1856
D. A. Dennison 1845   N. S. Schuyler 1856
Fleming Drake 1848, 1852, 1856   J. B. Simonson, elected 1837
Silas Everest 1849   Jehial Smith (appointed) no date


During the time covered by the existing record the Township Officers have been as below:

Stephen Cooper 1867 and 1868   H. A. Reynolds 1869
Frederick G. C. Jasper 1858 and 1859   Lucius S. Roberts 1857
Horace H. Osterhout 1870   Alexander Solts 1871 to 1877, inclusive
Edmond R. Post 1860 to 1866, inclusive      


The Township Clerks during the same period have been:

Charles M. Fay 1877   James B. Johnson 1857, 1859-61
Carlos. Glazier 1858 and 1865   Newell H. Roberts 1873
Joseph B. Grow 1874, '75, and '76   Reuben Russell 1862
Manton H. Hammond 1863 and 1864   James W. Roley 1872
John G. Hutchins 1869-71   Levi Tootill 1866-68


The Justices elected in the same time have been:

John Bainbridge (vacancy) 1871   Henry B. Peck (vacancy) 1875
David L. Campbell (vacancy) 1873   Arthur C. Porter (vacancy) 1871
Stephen Cooper 1861 and 1865   Dennis H. Quick (vacancy) 1864
Corydon E. Fay (vacancy) 1862   Thomas Reading (vacancy) 1869
Edmond Ferguson (vacancy) 1873   Henry A. Reynolds (vacancy) 1865 & full term in 1868
Joseph B. Grow 1877   Lucius S. Roberts ( vacancy) 1860
Martin H. Hammond 1857   John Robinson 1870
Harvey S. Hitchcock 1872 and 1876   Reuben Russell 1858, 1864, and 1875
Frederick G. C. Jasper 1860   Nelson S. Schuyler 1859
James B. Johnson 1869   Julius O. Schuyler (vacancy) 1872
Volney H. Lee (vacancy) 1875   Alexander Solts 1867
Matthew McBride 1874   Orson Starr (vacancy)1858
Andrew McPherson 1862   Levi Tootill 1863 and (vacancies) 1859 & 1868
Asher B. Parker 1866   John R. Wells (vacancy) 1867
Ralzemond A. Parker 1871   Dewitt C. Wilbur  (vacancy) 1872

THE TOWN-HALL, situated on. the main street of the village, was built in the year 1870 by B. M. Knowles, contractor, and accepted by the town on the 10th of September of that year. The price paid to the contractor was sixteen hundred and sixty-four dollars. It is a creditable building.

OTHER EARLY PUBLIC-HOUSES. It has already been mentioned that the first house opened in Royal Oak for the accommodation of wayfaring immigrants, land-seekers, and other travelers of the early days was the log tavern of Henry O. Bronson, about half a mile north of the centre of the township, and that this was soon followed by that of Lockwood (afterwards Talbot), at a point on the western edge of the present village. This last named, having first supplanted that of Bronson, and having then enjoyed a season of comparative prosperity so long as the travel continued to pass by its doors, was itself, in turn, ruined by the opening of the Saginaw or Detroit and Pontiac road, which carried the travel away from it, over a new route, and which caused other hostelries to spring up along its line.

The first public-house opened in Royal Oak, on that road, was by Mrs. Mary Ann Chappell, an old or perhaps a middle-aged woman, who, on account of her conspicuous lack of personal beauty, was universally known by the ironical appellation of " Mother Handsome." It is said that in her earlier years she had been an army follower, and it is certain she was as rough and boisterous in speech as she was plain in person. She had first opened a kind of tavern a little more than five miles out of Detroit, on the military road, then had moved farther up in Wayne county, and afterwards made still another move, locating herself in Royal Oak, in a small log house on the west side of the Pontiac road, a little below the present hotel of Mr. Lewless, and in this she did a very good business, as she had done at her first establishment, near Detroit, during the first years of the immigration to Michigan. It was not long after she came to her new location before another tavern was opened very near hers, on the same road, by V. M. Rose. Perhaps she disliked the near proximity of a competing establishment, for, after a time, she again removed, this time going towards Detroit, a distance of about half a mile, where she built a frame house, also on the west side of the road, at a point on the present farm of McReynolds.

After she left her upper stand, Mr. Henry Stephens erected, almost on the spot which she had moved from, a frame building, which he opened to the public, and which was known for many years as the "Red tavern." But notwithstanding the competition, Mother Handsome held her own in trade. Rough and ill-favored as she was, she was undeniably popular as a landlady. Immigrants and land-lookers who were strangers in the country inquired for the house of Mother Handsome, at which they had beforehand been advised to stop, while those who were acquainted on the road very often passed by the other houses to put up at hers, where, they said, the liquor was better and the food was better; and these, in connection with the kind and careful attention which she was always ready to bestow on hungry, cold, drenched, and exhausted travelers, gave great popularity and fame to Mother Handsome as an innkeeper. But this was her last tavern-stand. Years accumulated on her head, and routes of travel and methods of tavern-traffic became changed, so that we are told that the last years of Mrs. Chappell were passed in poverty, if not in actual want.

After Mr. Stephens the Red tavern passed through different hands, and was kept by Mr. Cressy, being destroyed by fire during his proprietorship. There are still two hotels open on the turnpike within a few rods of the spot where Mother Handsome first located her stand in Royal Oak township, —the lower one being kept by V. M. Rose, her first competitor here, and the other by James Lewless, brother of Henry Lewless, who first settled in the township on the farm now owned by Asher B. Parker, Esq.

MILLS AND OTHER INDUSTRIES. The first and only water-mill in Royal Oak township was a saw-mill erected in the year 183.2, by James G. Johnson, on his farm in the southeast quarter of section 4, and about half a mile south of the Troy line. The stream on which it was built is the north fork of Red Run, which, in consequence of improvements made on it, was often called the "Lawson ditch." Looking at the stream now, it is hard to understand how it could ever have propelled a mill, for not only is its bed baked dry and hard even in times of ordinary dry weather, but there seems to be scarcely any fall in it at that point or in that vicinity. Notwithstanding which, it is stated as a fact that in its best days the mill did actually cut two thousand feet of lumber in twelve hours, and this may have been true, incomprehensible as it seems. Six years after its erection, it was sold to Michael Christian and Joshua Fay for six hundred dollars, with the right to flow from September 10 to May 20. From this time until 1847 it was in the hands of several owners, and in the last-named year, being then in the possession of Peter Brewster, it was by him fitted up with an auxiliary steam-power, soon after which it met the usual fate of similar establishments, viz., destruction by fire. There was at one time a small manufactory of rakes and grain-cradles carried on in connection with this mill.

The first mill built in the township with the intention of using steam as a propelling power was erected in the summer and fall of 1836, by the Detroit and Pontiac Railroad Company, the machinery being constructed and put in under the supervision of Horace Heth, of Syracuse, New York, machinist and millwright. The site of this mill was within the present bounds of Royal Oak village, on lots now owned by James McKibben. It was started in January, 1837, its work being the sawing of five by seven inch timber, to be laid on the railroad-bed, as stringers on which to spike the strap-iron which formed the first track of this road, a construction known in England as a tramway.

The mill was operated by the railroad company for a period of four or five years, and was at the end of that time sold to a Mr. Stetson, of Detroit, who continued it as a saw-mill, but also added a chair- and furniture-factory. Its end was in conflagration, about the year 1845.

The present steam saw-mill at Royal Oak village, which may be said to be the successor of the railroad company's mill, was built in the fall of 1868, and put in operation in the winter or spring of 1869, by J. B. Baugh, of Detroit, who afterwards sold it to J. M. Jones, of Detroit. It is now (1877) run under the proprietorship or superintendency of C. N. Marshall.

In the winter of 1875-76 there was added to the machinery of this mill a pair of stones for the grinding of feed for animals; this being the only mill for the grinding of grain which was ever put in operation in the township of Royal Oak.

Granger's steam saw-mill is located about a quarter of a mile north of the baseline, on the Detroit and Pontiac turnpike. The first mill on this site was built by the present proprietor, Adolphus Granger, between 1860 and 1865, and was destroyed by fire in the early part of 1876. It was rebuilt by Mr. Granger, and commenced operation in the spring of 1877. This is an excellent circular mill, and seems destined to do a good business.

There is a manufactory of drain-tile and pressed bricks, owned and carried on by Almon Starr, on his farm, a few rods south of the United Presbyterian church, in school district No. 2, the point formerly known as Chase's Corners. Mr. Starr, who is the son of Orson Starr, the bell-maker, commenced these tile-works in the year 1868, and has found it an ever-increasing and a profitable business.

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