History of Salem, Washtenaw County, MI, published 49 years ago - 1881, page 2
History of Salem,
Washtenaw County, Michigan, 1881, Page 2

(EDITOR'S NOTE - The following data is taken from a history of Washtenaw county published 49 years ago - 1881. This is the second of a series of interesting township histories.)

A compilation of History for Salem, Washtenaw Co., MI

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Early Settlement of Salem, Page 2

The first saw-mill was built in 1829, on a stream forming the east branch of the River Rouge.  Joseph Lapham was the builder and owner. George Renwick was the first settler of Salem who was elected a member of the Territorial Council, and subsequently of the State Legislature.  Mr. Dickenson erected the first log barn and the first frame one.  Edmund Pratt built the first log cabin.  The former was the first man to become an honorary money-lender, the latter was the first honorary borrower. Rev. Eben Carpenter was the first preacher of the Baptist church at Salem. He settled there in 1831, and acted a part in the organization of a Baptist society there two years later, in 1833.

John Freeman opened a tavern in the southwest corner of the township at a very early day.  It soon "passed" into the "past," and has never returned. It was the only industry of that kind ever introduced to the people of Salem.

James Sober, now 88 years of age, was the first veteran of the War of 1812 who ever settled in Salem.  He was followed soon after by Edward Dake, who has since passed away.

In that memorable war between Michigan and Ohio, known as the "Toledo War," D. N. Smith was a veteran, and the first to enter the ranks.  Joseph Lapham was quartermaster, Isaac Pratt and Ira Hubbard were veterans of the rank and file.  Calvin Wheeler who was then Captain of militia, called out his troops, but seeing no danger while Uncle Sam was present, he concluded to remain at his post to await orders.

Rev. Hiram Hamilton and Mr. Olds were the first preachers at the Salem Presbyterian church, in 1833.  Deacons Pratt and Hamilton were its first officers.

  James Murray, who settled on section 22, in 1828, was the first store-keeper in the township.  He, however, removed to another township shortly after.

Rev. Moses Clark was the first preacher who gave services in the township. As early as 1832 he preached in a log-house then standing near Bullock's Corners, also in several private houses.  He was also the first pastor of the Baptist church.

Rhineas Clark, son of Rev. M. Clark, was the first blacksmith in the town, having located a shop on the e. of the n.w. of section 11, in 1832. E.C. Roberts is the first of the pioneers who taught school for any great number of years in the township.  Between 1835 and 1862 he taught 27 terms, Mr. Lane coming next in the noble work, with 17 terms to his credit. The first questioners of the power of township officers or Boards to raise money by vote for aiding in the construction of railroads, were citizens of Salem.  They succeeded in their suit.

The first orchard was set out by Dr. Mason, who planted a nursery of the s.e. cr. of section 28.  Calvin Wheeler planted an orchard in 1832, obtaining his trees from Mason's nursery, and some from Dr. Vincent's nursery, of New York state.  Alexis Packard set out an orchard about the same time.  Early in 1832, Eliakim Walker brought trees from New York and planted an orchard on section 9, where some of the old trees yet live. About the same time other orchards were planted.

  Eastman, Van Sickle and Van Houghton were the only members of the Salem community who ever enjoyed the hospitalities of the State's prison, or as it was then called, "The Tamaracks."  Their crime was simply that of counterfeiting and horse stealing.  The three veterans of the war of 1812, now residing in Salem township, are:  John W. Van Sickle, born Sept. 15, 1787; Robt. Shankland, born Nov. 3, 1791; and James Sober, born April 25, 1793.

Survey and Resurvey

As early as 1816 Surveyor Wampum visited this township, perhaps, and reported having made a survey.  Immediately after Dickeson's settlement, when other immigrants flocked thither that if Wampum's descriptions were correct, the sun, moon and stars were wrong.  Later, however they convinced themselves that the planets did not err; that Wampum conceived a series of peculiar lines seldom conceived hitherto, and that his labors were falsely directed and most unsatisfactory.

Lapham's is situated two miles south of Salem depot.  It possesses a general store, of which T. H. Corson is proprietor; a wagon and blacksmith shop, and a dozen dwelling houses.  Peebles' Corners, on section 17, is the location of C. H. Cillery's store.  The depot of the Toledo & Ann Arbor road is situated near Worden's steam saw-mill, on section 19.  This saw mill was built by the Hamilton's prior to 1852, was subsequently purchased by Eli H. Webster, and ultimately by the present owner about the year 1863. All these industries are well supported, and the prospect of numerous additions to them is bright indeed.  The population of Salem, Lapham's and Peebles' Corners may be set down at the aggregate at 200.

The township of Salem is said to comprise 19,620 acres, of which 13,829 are improved and 5,791 unimproved.  There are 1924 farms, which if equalized would give an average of 101.13 acres.

In 1879 there were 3,203 acres sown to wheat, which produced 70,594 bushels.  The wheat area was not increased in 1880.  Statistics dealing with the crops usually cultivated have not been furnished in full; but, from figures collected by Messrs. Wheeler, Walker and Lane, a committee appointed by the County Pioneer society to collect valuable information for this work, it is learned that during the year 1880 no less than 39,122 bushels of wheat, 5,556 barrels of apples with large quantities of oats and barley were shipped from the Salem depot of the D. L. & N. R. R.  Judging from these figures, the prosperous condition of the people, and the beauty of the township, it must be inferred that Wampum's lines do not render the soil less fertile, or to the people less happy.

In traveling throughout the counties one is apt to wonder why so many windmills are in use.  Such a one may presume that this novel piece of mechanism is only required in pumping water from the well beneath; few even dream of it following the example of that old mill once attacked by a child of romance, named Don Quixote.  To understand all the uses of a windmill the learner must come to Salem.  Here is one with a 22-foot wheel, supposed to be of six-horse power.  It is capable of running a corn grinder with a capacity of from 15 to 20 bushels per hour.  A straw and fodder cutter may be operated by its power, and the prepared product hoisted into the upper floor of the barn.  It runs a power corn sheller, conveys the grain to the bins in the upper part of the barn, and carries such grain back again to be ground into meal.  It runs a 28-inch buzz saw, while at the same time it pumps water to all parts of the farm, forcing it though 1,075 feet of half-inch pipe.  This extraordinary windmill was gotten up in the farmyard of A. T. Walker, and forms one of the few such mills fully utilized.  The machinery in connection with this mill, together with a steam apparatus for steaming fodder and meal for stock, and heating water for scalding purposes, cost $1,500.  There are many well-equipped farm yards within the township, but it is questionable whether one can be found to excel that under notice.


The advantages of education in Salem were not unlike those common to all new countries.  The schools in the early day were small and school houses were few and far between.  The best of them were rude in construction and unpretentious in appearance.  There has been some question as to the location of the first school-house within the boundary of the township, Mr. Wynkup, an old settler, claiming the location was on section 27.  But the weight of authority fixes the location at Bullock's Corners, in 1829.  This structure was built of hewn logs, and was considered a model of its kind. The first school was taught therein during the winter of 1829-30 by Charles Dean.  The second school-house was built on the northwest corner of section 15, in 1832.  The first school here was taught by Miss Jane Jessups in the winter term of 1832-33.

Regarding the first school-house, Isaac Wynkup says:  "I understand that Mr. Wheeler of Salem has come to the conclusion that the first school-house in the township of Salem was built on section 27, and known as the "Bullock School-house."  This, I think, is a mistake; my wife lived in the Bullock district when she was a young girl, and she says there was a school-house in section 31, and that she went to school there, because the Bullock school-house was not yet built."  The Pioneer Committee of which Messrs. Wheeler, Walker and Lane are members, still believes that the school-house to which Mr. Wynkup refers, was just outside the town line in section 6, of Superior township; and in this view, the majority of old settlers concur, holding that the first school-house built within the present boundaries of Salem, was that at Bullock's Corners.  From the opinion of the majority there is no reason to dissent in this case.  That opinion is founded on that belief, that the first school-house was built at Bullock's Corners in 1829, and the first school taught therein, during the winter of 1828-30 by Charles Dean.  This house was very humble in its appearance, constructed of unhewn logs, scarcely six feet from floor to ceiling, having a small six-light window on each of the three sides, furnished with slab seats set on pins, with a desk on three sides of the house; heated by a small box-stove, which was considered an improved method of heating, as very many school-houses at this time were warmed by a huge fire-place in one end of the house, on which was piled large logs of wood from four to eight feet in length.  It was in structures of these kind that very many of the men who have built up this great commonwealth and given it character, received their early education.

There are now five full and six fractional school districts in Salem township.  The school-houses are: One stone building, valued at $700, and four frame buildings, at $600 to $700 in the full districts; and in the fractional districts, one handsome brick house, one stone house (on the Northfield and Salem line), and four frame buildings.  There are 11 teachers, and an average attendance of 30 pupils at the schools.  The attendance is regular, and a fair elementary education is offered.

A special 'thank you' to Charla Kurtz for transcribing and submitting this historical data.

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