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Bowne Township Historical Commission
Bowne Twp., Kent Co., Michigan

Newspaper Articles


The Bowne Township Historical Commission has a large scrapbook made by Bowne resident, Alma Mishler. The scrapbook contains many newspaper articles from years past. These articles have been indexed by the last name of the person(s) in the article. If you are interested in a particular article, we will be happy to make a paper copy of the article and send it to you. Please email us and include:
1. The Person's Name
2. The Page Number of the Article
3. Your home address (snail mail, not email)

A LOOK BACK: 1836 - 1849
Newspaper Article from July 5, 1959
Written by Gordon G. Beld

One of the first men in Kent County to discover that women are not necessarily the weaker sex was an Indian who rocked himself into a hot fireplace. The woman who did the convincing was Mrs. Frederick Thomson. The fireplace was hers; so was the rocking chair; and the Indian was the victim of an overdose of "firewater."

Although the peculiar combination set up an incident that might be taken lightly today [1959], it is unlikely that either Mrs. Thomson or the Bowne Township brave saw much humor in it at the time - 1837. Mrs. Thomson, in describing the occurrence to a Kent County historian nearly a hundred years ago, said the Indians, a great number of whom were encamped along the Coldwater River, were good neighbors when they were sober. This one, however, wasn't sober.

He came to the Thomson house one day while Thomson was away and sat down in the rocking chair before the fireplace. It is likely that the native had not previously seen a rocking chair; probably, in his condition, it would have made no difference if he had. He rocked himself so vigorously that he and the chair were soon among the burning logs. Mrs. Thomson, taking a dim view of losing her rocking chair or witnessing the cremation of an Indian in her cabin, yanked the man out of the fire. The Indian, she said, became enraged and attempted to stab her. However, when she picked up an axe, the native beat a quick retreat.

Among First Residents
Mrs. Thomson and her husband were members of the first group of settlers in Bowne Township. They were among a small group from Ovid, New York, who came with Jonathon Thomas in 1836 and settled on a large tract in the southwestern portion of the township. Other families in the party were those of Israel Graves and William Wooley. They group came by water to Toledo, and then went to Bowne with ox teams, making the trip from Toledo in approximately two weeks.

The original settlement was followed by the arrival of nine more families to various parts of the township in 1836. The first house built was a 12 x 14 foot log cabin with only one door and one window. Near this, Thomas built two other houses and a small log building for an office for himself.

Settlers Depend on Thomas
Most of the early settlers depended greatly on Thomas and the Indians. Thomas had money. They worked for him clearing the land, and sold turnips and potatoes to the Indians, getting money and venison.

During the summer of 1837 when provisions ran low, Thomas made a trip to Kalamazoo for supplies although he was quite ill at the time. He had his bed fixed in his wagon, took his whip, and drove the team beyond Kalamazoo. He purchased wheat south of Kalamazoo and then returned to that city to have it ground. Thomas was sick most of the time until the following winter when his son-in-law came to the settlement and drove him back to New York in a sleigh.

In the 1830's, the Indians of this area were a mixture of Ottawas and Chippewas. They were known as "Robinson's Indians" since they traded with Rix Robinson, whose post was located in Ada Township.

Chief's Wife Ladylike
The old leader was Casua, whose wife, according to the historian, was a most lady-like person held in high esteem by the settlers. Other Indians in the area were not regarded so highly. Mrs. Thomson recalled another unnerving occasion when several rode up on their ponies while the men were gone from the settlement. They came to the cabin of Mrs. Wooley and ordered her to get them something to eat. Perhaps because she was aware of Mrs. Thomson's prior experience in dealing with the natives, or perhaps merely because she needed support, Mrs. Wooley went to her door and called Mrs. Thomson.

Mrs. Thomson talked to the chief who ordered her to go back to her "wigwam" and get him something to eat. She prepared the best meal possible under the circumstances, setting her table with the nicest spread and dishes she had. The chief, who ate his meal alone at her house and seemed very pleased, told her she was a brave squaw and that the Indians would not harm the settlers then. After a certain "number of moons," however, they would kill all of the whites in the area, the chief said.

The other families that settled in Bowne soon became discouraged and went back, Mrs. Thomson said. The Thomsons, consequently, were left alone seven miles from any neighbors.

First Land Cultivated
For many years, the Thomsons went to Scales Prairie to "meeting." Later, when there was a large enough population so that ministers traveled to Bowne, the Thomsons frequently entertained them.

The first large amount of land cultivated in the township was that in Section 20 (bounded by Morse Lake, Eighty-fourth, Bergy, and Ninety-second Streets) which was worked by John and Malcolm McNaughton in 1838. The McNaughtons cultivated 40 acres that year and planted it to wheat.

The first industries in Bowne were Abner D. Thomas' grist mill with a water fall of 30 feet and Jasper Coykendall's sawmill. At the first township meeting, held in the schoolhouse of school district one on April 3, 1849, Roswell C. Tyler was elected supervisor. Daniel C. McVean was named clerk and Justus G. Beach, treasurer.

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