Early History

Old Maid Swamp

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The earliest travelers to the region had to deal with tough travel conditions taking rarely traveled paths, Indian trails or even blazing trails of their own through the dense forests and swamps. One of the most famous obstacle in Eaton County was that of Old Maid Swamp, which stretched for miles across Benton, Windsor, Oneida and Delta Townships. Described by the Lansing State Journal as “a dense swamp of small growth timber, underbrush, water and blacksnakes, mosquitoes and malaria covering thousands of acres and man miles in extent. At that time [1860’s] the swamp was looked upon as not only entirely worthless, but as a menace for the future of all the surrounding country.

The early settlers only had a handful of possible routes to reach Delta Township, so most early travelers would have to combat this “desolate locality”. Some, like the second family of settlers to Delta Township, Mr. Elihu Lewis and his family, became lost for several days. Before finding their way from the swamp, Lewis’ son-in-law, Mr. Billings, had to leave their party to make two separate trips to find assistance before finally happening upon the Ingersolls. Others described their trip through the swamp as a “very lonely affair and the horrors of the place were about equally divided in his imagination in fear between blacksnakes, wolves and his companion (3).”

The Old Maid Swamp “received its name from the fact that an eastern woman, who had saved some money, sent it west for investment in Eaton county land and the location made by her agent was in the density of a large tamarack swamp (4).”  Another report claimed the land was purchased when “two unmarried women in the East were persuaded by sharks to invest “unsight unseen” in some of this desolateness. Then everyone laughed at their investment now the property is among the most valuable between West Windsor and Potterville (2).”

The process of draining the swamp may have begun as early as the 1860’s with the main drainage occurring through the Thornapple and Old Maid Drain. Progress was slow and a major portion of the swamp still remained well into the 1950’s, but once drained and cleared the swamp which proved so formidable to early travelers was transformed into some of the richest farm land in the county. According to a U.S. Soil Survey conducted in 1923 the swamp was made up of large patches of Carlisle Muck. This particular soil “is the most important type of organic soil in Eaton County both in extent an in agricultural worth. It is estimated that about 70 per cent of the organic soils of the county are included in this type (5).” By 1923 portions of the swamp had been cleared and about 50-60% of the swamp was being used for farm land with “the principal crops are mint onions and cabbage with some carrots turnips celery cauliflower sugar beets and potatoes (5).”

While travel through the swamp was always difficult small improvements began to be implemented in the 1860’s when a two mile road was built through the swamp. Although, it was only “made of logs and was called a “corduroy” road. It was not covered with dirt for several years, but served, after a fashion, as a very slow going highway. (3)” By 1912, a proper macadamized road had been laid running down what is now Lansing Road from Lansing to Charlotte and made for much easier travel, especially for the relatively new automobiles that were adventuring through the countryside (2).

Sources:

  1. History of Ingham and Eaton Counties by Samuel w. Durant (p.538), https://books.google.com/books?id=vks6AQAAMAAJ&dq=old%20maid%20swamp%20eaton%20county&pg=PA538#v=onepage&q=old%20maid%20swamp%20eaton%20county&f=false 
  2. Horeless Age, Volume 30 (p. 270), https://books.google.com/books?id=UzMfAQAAMAAJ&dq=old%20maid%20swamp%20eaton%20county&pg=PA270#v=onepage&q=old%20maid%20swamp%20eaton%20county&f=false
  3. Lansing State Journal,  16 Dec 1913, Tue,  Page 2
  4. Lansing State Journal,  17 Feb 1948, Tue,  Page 6
  5. Soil survey By United States. Bureau of Soils, United States. Bureau of Plant Industry, United States. Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering, United States. Soil Conservation Service, United States. Natural Resources Conservation Service (p. 34, 36-37), https://books.google.com/books?id=9NzwAAAAMAAJ&dq=old%20maid%20swamp%20eaton%20county&pg=PA36#v=onepage&q=old%20maid%20swamp%20eaton%20county&f=false
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Early Postmasters of Delta Township

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The Delta Post Office was established on September 6th, 1842, and the first postmaster was named Whitney Jones. The Delta post office continued operation until November 15th, 1910, with the exception of 2 and a half months in 1865, when the post was temporarily discontinued (September 16th-November 4th).

The 22nd and last postmaster in Delta Mills was Waterman Lazell who was appointed in 1899. It was said that “No resident of the Township is held in higher regard (6).” In November of 1910 the Delta Post Office was decommissioned. From that point on mail was sent to Lansing and delivered via the Rural Free Delivery (RFD) service, which delivered mail directly to rural farm families.

In October 13, 1873 a second Post Office was opened near Delta Mills in Clinton County in the community of Ingersoll (also referred to as Daniel’s Station) (5). Ingersoll was located northwest of Delta Mills along the railroad in the southern part of Watertown Township. A railroad station was also constructed and the neighborhood contained several homes. The first postmaster was Barthold Wagner. The office was decommissioned on July 15th, 1901, and mail was sent to Delta.

Another post office was established on May 14, 1877 in Millet (or Millets or Millet’s Station), “a small hamlet in the southeast part of town containing a saw mill or oar factory a post office and a few dwellings. A village plot was laid out here Dec 3 1874 by Silas E Millett and others. It is on the line of the Chicago and Grand Trunk Railway. Trains stop only on signal (7).” Mail messenger service discontinued on July 30, 1910 (1).

Delta Postmasters (1842-1880)

Delta Post Office Established September 6, 1842

  • Whitney Jones; commissioned: September 6, 1842
  • Remember Baker; commissioned: April 1, 1847
  • Orange Butler; commissioned: June 22, 1848
  • Truman Ingersoll; commissioned: May 22, 1850
  • Jason Nichols; commissioned: August 15, 1853
  • Egbert Ingersoll; commissioned: May 24, 1854
  • Daniel A. Spicer; commissioned: February 26, 1858
  • Joseph Woodruff; commissioned: April 22, 1861
  • Postal Service Discontinued: September 16, 1865
  • Postal Service Re-established: November 4, 1865
  • Theodore Butcher; commissioned: November 4, 1865
  • Rauselo G. Burlingame; commissioned: August 28, 1866
  • Elias B. Oakley; commissioned: January 15, 1867
  • Harvey Grattan; commissioned: May 8, 1871

US Postal Bulletins Updates for Delta (1880-1910):

  • March 26, 1880 – Postmaster Commissioned:
    • Elihu D. Tallman; March 26 1880
  • October 14, 1881 – Postmaster Commissioned:
    • Budd L. Tallman; October 13, 1881
  • March 21, 1883 – Change in Star Schedule:
    • Route 2426(5. Waconstra [Wacousta?] to Delta. Leave Waconsta [Wacousta?] daily except Sundays in time to connect with mail by R. R. at Delta. Return same day, running time each way not to exceed two hours. From March 26, 1883
  • November 27, 1882 – Postmaster Commissioned (Not Confirmed in Postal Bulletins):
    • Charles W. Hildreth
  • October 7, 1885 – Postmaster Commissioned (4th Class Office):
    • Jennie Hildreth; October 7, 1885
  • June 15, 1886 – Star Service Changes:
    • “Route 24452. Waconsta [Wacousta?] to Delta. From July 1, 1886, change service to embrace and end at Grand Ledge, omitting Delta without change in distance. [9 june 86.”
  • September 29, 1889 – Postmaster Commissioned (4th Class Office):
    • Jennie M. Spangler; September 21, 1889
  • March 17,1891 – Postmaster Commissioned (4th Class Office):
    • Chas. H. Mauzer; April 1, 1891
  • June 24, 1892 – Postmaster Commissioned (4th Class Office):
    • Nelson J. Streeter; June 21, 1892
  • August 15, 1894 – Postmaster Commissioned (4th Class, Not Money Order, Office):
    • Dora L. Northrup; August 13, 1894
  • May 27, 1895 – Postmaster Commissioned (4th Class, Not Money Order, Office):
    • Frank Crouch; May 25, 1895
  • July 1, 1899 – Postmaster Commissioned (4th Class, Not Money Order, Office):
    • Waterman Lazell; June 30, 1899
  • October 18, 1910 – Superseded by rural delivery:
    • Effective Nov 15, 1910: mail to Lansing

US Postal Bulletin Updates for Ingersoll (1880-1901):

  • April 5, 1880 – Postmaster Commissioned:
    • Ella F. Rose; April 3, 1880
  • July 5, 1882 – Mail Messenger Service Established:
    • “Ingersoll, Clinton Co., from Flag Station, often as required.”
  • October 3, 1895 – Mail Messenger Service Discontinued:
    • “Route 237098. Ingersoll, Clinton Co., from Detroit, Lansing & Northern R. R. Route 137O17. From October 5, 1895. [2 oct 9″
  • June 28, 1901 – Post Office Discontinued:
    • Effective July 15, 1901: “Ingersoll. Clinton Co., 137017. Mail to Delta. [27 June 01″

US Postal Bulletin Updates for Millett (1880-1910):

  • June 17, 1880 – Route Service Change:
    • “Route 24039. Port Huron to Chicago. From July 11880, service by Chicago and Grand Trunk Railway Co., from Port Huron by Thornton, Goodells, Emmett, Capac, Imlay City, Attica, Lapeer, Elba, Davison Station, Flint, Dawson (n. o.), Swartz Creek, Durand, Baneroft, Morrioe, Perry, Shaftsburgh, Pine Lake, Lansing, Millett, West Windsor, Potterville, Charlotte, Olivet, Bellevue, Battle Creek, Climax, Scotts, Pavilion, Vicksburgh, Marcellus, Wakelee, Penn, Cassopolis, Edwardsburgh, Granger, Mishawaka, South Bend, Crums Point, Mile Creek, Stilwell, Kingsburry, Wellsborough, Union Mills, Haskells, Valparaiso, Sedlez (n. o.), Ainsworth (n. o.), Redesdale (n. o.), Maynard (n. o.), South Lawn (n. o.), Blue Island, Morgan Park (n. o.), Sherman (n. o.) Glendale (n. o.), and Carwith (n. o.) to Chicago, 111., 333 ms. and back, 6 times a week, or as much oftener as trains may run. This service covers Routes 24025 and 24038, which are discontinued from July 1,1880, and also the new line of road bet. Valparaiso and Chicago.”
  • May 4, 1883 – Postmaster Commissioned:
    • Charles R. Parmelee; May 1, 1863
  • May 2, 1887 – Postmaster Commissioned (4th Class, Not Money Order, Office):
    • John Crane; April 30, 1887
  • March 20, 1888 – Mail Messenger Service Established:
    • Millett, Eaton Co., from Chicago & Grand Trunk R.R. Route 24039, 84 1/2 rods. often as required. From March 13, 1888.
  • January 8, 1901 – Postmaster Commissioned (4th Class, Not Money Order, Office):
    • Wm. H. Crane; January 7, 1901
  • January 25, 1906 – Post Office Discontinued:
    • “The following offices will be discontinued and superseded by R. D. [Rural Delivery]”
    • Effective Feb 14, 1906: Millett, Eaton Co., Mail to Lansing.
  • January 29, 1906 – Mail Messenger Service Discontinued:
    • Effective February 14, 1906: Millett, Eaton Co.
  • February 10, 1906 – Post Offices Established:
    • “Millett, Eaton Co. The order of Jan. 24, 1906 (Bull. 7896). discontinuing this office, has been rescinded. [10 feb 06”
  • February 13, 1906 – Mail Messenger Service Discontinued:
    • “Millett, Eaton Co , from 137039. Rescind order of Jan. 26, 1906 (Bull. 7899), discontinuing service. [12 feb 06”
  • July 30, 1910 – Mail Messenger Service Discontinued:
    • Effective: July 30, 1910

For additional information about mail delivery in the U.S. see The United States Postal Service: An American History 1775-2006.

Additional Note: Silas E. Millet was also the first postmaster of a rural post office in Eaton County identified as Camp Creek. The post office operated from May 14, 1856 until February 21, 1862 (10).  Using records available online it is not possible to determine the exact location of the Camp Creek Post Office in Eaton County. Most likely it was not in Delta Township. Silas Millett was living in Eaton Township in 1845, then Carmel Township in 1850. Probably in the areas surrounding Charlotte. By 1865 he had already relocated to Delta Township. Other than his appointment to the Camp Creek Post Office no record has been located identifying his residence between 1850 and 1865. Henry Weyard was appointed as the Camp Creek Post Office Postmaster in 1859.

Sources:

  1. “US Postal Bulletins.” US Postal Bulletins. Web. 30 May 2016.: <http://www.uspostalbulletins.com/pdfsearch.aspx?pid=1&Group=48&id=48>
  2. Delta Post Office Closure Notice: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7869RP5pWqya1hYd19ObUF4bjg/view?usp=drivesdk
  3. KING, James W. Manual, Containing the Rules of the Senate & House of Representatives of the State of Michigan, with the Joint Rules of the Two Houses, Etc. Lansing, 1875. Google Books. Web. 31 May 2016. <https://books.google.com/books?id=iJcLAQAAIAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false>. p. 200
  4. “Rural Free Delivery.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 31 May 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rural_Free_Delivery>.
  5. Ceasar, Ford Stevens. Forgotten Communities of Central Michigan. Place of Publication Not Identified: Ceasar, 1978. Print. p. 30
  6. The past and Present of Eaton County, Michigan Historically Together with Biographical Sketches of Its Leading and Prominent Citizens and Illustrious Dead. Lansing. Web. 31 May 2016. p. 414-416
  7. Durant, Samuel W. History of Ingham and Eaton Counties, Michigan with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Their Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia: D.W. Ensign, 1880. Archive.org. Web. 31 May 2016. <https://archive.org/details/cu31924028870322>. p. 454
  8. “Galbraith’s Railway Mail Service Maps, Michigan.” The Library of Congress. Web. 31 May 2016. <https://www.loc.gov/item/98688500/>.
  9. Standard atlas of Clinton County, Michigan : including a plat book of the villages, cities and townships of the county…farmers directory, reference business directory… / compiled and published by Geo. A. Ogle & Co.
    Geo. A. Ogle & Co. Chicago: Geo. A. Ogle & Co., 1896. <http://name.umdl.umich.edu/2911305.0001.001>
  10. Romig, Walter. Michigan Place Names: The History of the Founding and the Naming of More than Five Thousand past and Present Michigan Communities. Grosse Pointe, MI: Walter Romig, 1973. Web. 31 May 2016. <https://books.google.com/books?id=Y-FPXEGRo-YC&lpg=PA95&ots=1y0dfN9U92&dq=silas e millett&pg=PA95#v=onepage&q=silas e millett&f=false>. p. 95

 

Delta Mills Bridge

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The steel span bridge with wood floor spanning the Grand River along Webster Road was built in either 1891 or 1892. The wooden floor was re-planked in 1898. Eventually a concrete floor was installed and the steel structure was finally torn down in July 1965 followed by the pouring of new concrete supports. Then, according to The State Journal (9/1/1966), “the project was delayed for a year when federal funds were held up pending passage of a Michigan expressway billboard law complying with federal regulations.”

Work resumed on the current structure in August 1966 and work was expected to be completed by November of 1966. The current structure is made up of concrete supports, topped with 58 25-ton concrete beams each spanning more than 70 feet. The beams were lifted into place with a crane operating on the river bed which was built up into a mud flat for the construction. 

During the construction, work was also completed to move “W. Willow Highway slightly to the south, eliminating the T-intersection at the south end of the bridge (TSJ, 9/1/66).” This work cleared space for the eventual construction of the canoe launch at Delta Mills Park.  

Earlier bridges had spanned the Grand River prior to construction of the Steel span bridge in the 1890’s. A motion was passed during the first Township meeting on April 4, 1842 to “raise $100 for roads and bridges, and that first the bridge debt be liquidated and the balance appropriated by the highway commissioners (1).” In October of 1857 the Township Board authorized “the township of Delta to raise by tax a sum not exceeding $1000 to build a bridge across Grand River in said township at or near the quarter line of section 3.” Then in January of 1859 Delta Township resident, Alonzo Baker, was authorized, “to build a dam across Grand River on the northwest quarter of section 5 in Delta (1).”

Bibliography:

  1. Durant, Samuel W. History of Ingham and Eaton Counties, Michigan with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Their Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia: D.W. Ensign, 1880. Archive.org. Web. 31 May 2016. <https://archive.org/details/cu31924028870322&gt;. p. 454

Have more to add? Or pictures of the bridge? Share them in the comments or email Tom Moore (tmoore@dtdl.org).

Musgrove Evans

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Musgrove Evans, a government surveyor, originally platted Delta Township in 1827. Although it was not until 1835 that the first Township settlers arrived.

Musgrove Evans was born December 17, 1785, in Pennsylvania. He is most well known for his work as a surveyor and pioneering the settlement of one of Michigan’s first settlements, which became known as Tecumseh in Lenawee County (1). Evans was a surveyor and civil engineer who first explored the area in 1823 (2) after seeing an advertising campaign conducted in the East by Michigan’s Territorial Governor, Lewis Cass, in hopes of securing contracts to survey military roads that were to be built on routes used by Native Americans.

Evans eventually helped found the city of Tecumseh, Michigan. He built the first grist and saw mill in the town, and established the first mail route between Detroit and Chicago. After his first wife’s death in 1832 Evans began exploration in Texas and by 1834 he had relocated his family to Texas (2).

SOURCES:

  1. http://historictecumseh.org/history/city-of-tecumseh/, 4/26/16
  2. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=31061450

MORE INFORMATION ON EARLY SURVEYING

  1. http://www.mlive.com/news/jackson/index.ssf/2011/12/peek_through_time_surveyors_br.html
  2. http://www.iptv.org/iowapathways/mypath.cfm?ounid=ob_000117
  3. http://www.amls.ca/early-surveying-mapping
  4. http://seekingmichigan.org/discover/surveyor-plat-maps