Lodi Township is located in Washtenaw County, Michigan, just southwest of Ann Arbor. Established in 1834, three years before Michigan became a state, it was named after the Town of Lodi near New York State’s Finger Lakes.
History of Lodi Township
This township was organized under authority of the Legislative Council, given in an act approved March 7, 1834. The following is a copy of the act granting the prayer of the residents of Lodi, for permission to organize their municipality:
Be it enacted by the Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan. That all that part comprised in surveyed township 3 south, in range 5 east. Be a township by the name of Lodi; and the first township meeting to be held at the now dwelling-house of Orrin Howe, is said township.
An organized community existed there as early as 1831, as in April of that year an election was held, resulting in the choice of Orrin Howe and Smith Lapham for the office of Justice of the Peace, and Jonathan Hatch, Town Clerk. Orrin Howe was first Postmaster.
A.M. Gilbert, one of the early settlers, who came in 1826, died two years later, leaving a wife and 10 children to mourn his loss. To add misfortune to misfortune, the eldest son, Orrin, went out hunting, became lost in the thickets of the forest, and when his body was found, it was discovered that his death had resulted from cold and hunger. The poor boy had eaten the fingers of both hands in his battle for existence. Another son died in defense of the Union, and though such a death was glorious, yet to the widowed mother, it was a calamity for which earth had no solace. David Mount, another of the early settlers, deemed it proper to hang himself, and carried out his intention in 1838.
The First in the Township
Gilbert Allen is said to be the first practical temperance apostle in the town. He built the first barn, and presented his friends with the pure aqua vitae instead of the ordinary “calamity water” introduced on such occasions. Yet it is positively stated that T. Tate, Loammi Robison and Festus Fellows raised their buildings without whisky some time previously.
In April 1827, the little lady known as Harriet Lapham was born. She was the daughter of Smith Lapham, a pioneer of 1825.
The first marriage was that contracted between Polly Gilbert and Robert Craig. The knot was tied by ‘Squire Lapham in May 1829. This marriage, however, belongs to Saline township. The same year Harriet Wickham and Thomas Wood joined in matrimony in the ordinary fashion. It is stated that Miss Alvira Williams and Mr. McClelland were married first, but there is no positive record of the event.
The first deaths recorded are those of Miss Betsy Howe, daughter of Orrin, who died in 1827. About the same time, Mr. Howe’s hired man was consigned to mother earth. Their graves formed the nucleus of Lodi Plains cemetery. Bazzila Goodrich was buried there in 1831.
The first dwelling-house was erected by ‘Squire Williams, and he combines this honor with that of being the first settler.
The first school-teacher was Miss Polly Stratton, who presided over an assembly of children of the township, in a room of one of the dwelling-houses in the district, from 1827 to 1829. The first log school- house was erected in 1829, where the frame school-house now stands, on the plains.
In the following summary of history, form the pen of Harrison W. Bassett in 1876, many of the events characteristic of early times are given, and the men of the period treated to a brief review:
“The first purchase of land in Lodi was made September 29, 1824, by Hugh Chrestie, it being the southwest quarter of section 36. This gentleman never became a resident. Allen Williams, who entered three lots on sections 13 and 14, May 9, 1825, has the honor of erecting the firs log house, and of being the first settler in the township. During the spring and summer of the same year purchases were made on section 3 by Rufus Knight; on 23 and 24 by Orrin Howe and Adolphus Spoor, and 35 and 36 by Aaron Austin and Russell Briggs. In the fall, locations were made by Arnold on section 2; Daniel Allmendinger on 19; Jesse Meacham, Smith Lapham and Samuel Camp on 23, 24, and 25.
“Most of these parties prepared their houses this season and returned and moved their families in the following spring. A line of marked trees was at this time followed by the pioneer from Ann Arbor to the settlement. In the spring of 1826 a wagon track was cut through the woods from Ann Arbor, near where the road is now.
“During this summer, the settlement increased rapidly. Many purchases were made and homes were being prepared in every direction. Among the accessions of this season were John Lowry, John Cobb, Porter Lathrop, Horace and Virgil Booth. This summer, when there was so much to do in preparing and making homes comfortable before wither, there was much sickness, which disheartened a few, who sold their land and returned East. At this time a young lady, Betsey Howe, daughter of Orrin Howe, died, which was the first death, and her grave was the commencement of the cemetery on Lodi Plains. It was on this occasion that the first sermon was preached in the settlement by a Presbyterian living near Ann Arbor. In the following fall the Rev. Mr. Balkman, a young Methodist minister passing through from Monroe, mad Lodi a point in his circuit, and occasionally preached there. After this year it became more healthy and the settlers prospered and were content.
“Each year now gave them some new accessions. Timothy Hunt, who located on section 26 in the spring of 1828, where he spent nearly the whole of the remainder of his life, was the last to purchase Government land in the eastern part of the township. In the first three years it had nearly all been occupied. The western part was occupied between the years 1830 and 1835. The spring of 1827 found the settlement firmly established and prosperous. They now began to look beyond the necessities of mere physical existence, and formed institutions which would give them some of the privileges and conveniences which they had left behind them. A postoffice was established and named Lodi, with Orrin Howe, Postmaster. This name adhered to the soil. It has ever since been known as Lodi Plains. The first school was taught this season by Miss Polly Stratton, in a house built by Allen Williams.
“The first birth occurred during this summer. A daughter was born in the family of Smith Lapham. I may, however, be disputed here, for there generally are half a dozen who claim priority of birth. Among the first ministers who visited them and gave them religious instruction, were: Eld. Twist, a Baptist; Weed, a Presbyterian, and Pilcher, a Methodist. Religious services were first held in private houses. In 1829 a log school-house was built on the Plains, near where the frame one now stands. It served the double purpose of school-house and church.
“Nearly the whole of the four townships cornering here were at first in the same civil jurisdiction, named Saline. Lodi was organized in 1836, taking the name of its postoffice. In February of the same year the Presbyterian Church of Lodi was organized by the Rev. I.M. Weed and John Beach. Timothy Hunt, a Baptist, donated five acres of land on the northeast corner of section 26, to the society, for the church and parsonage grounds, upon which a frame church was erected in the winter of 1837. The Rev. J. G. Kanouse, whom many of you well remember, was its first pastor.
“About this time the Germans established a settlement in Freedom, adjoining us on the west, which has spread in every direction, and now it covers several townships. Three-quarters of the soil of Lodi is today in German hands. They have not retarded, but accelerated, the improvement of the soil. Industry and frugality are their cardinal virtues. Their strong hands have subdued and made productive the most forbidding and barren places.
“In 1847 Prof. Nutting selected Lodi Plains as the site for an enterprise which proved to be of incalculable benefit to the youth of the vicinity, viz: the establishment of an academy. The building was erected the same season, and school opened in the fall. It was carried on with great success for about 10 years, until old age bade him rest from his labor. It contributed largely to the social and intellectual advancement, not only of the youth, but of all the inhabitants. Lodi, always noted for its beauty and fertility of soil, now became famous for its school. It has furnished three Representatives to the State Legislature, viz: O. Howe, John Lowry and Newton Sheldon. Two appointments have been made to West Point: Edwin Howe and Edwin Phillips. Some of her sons are found in each of the learned professions. She had sons who fell on the battle-fields of the South while fighting to preserve the life of the nation.
“The oldest living settler now in the town is Merrit Perry, who came here in 1827, and has lived on the same section nearly 50 years. There are very few of the first inhabitants who have remained to witness the growth and development of the township. Though these pioneers have in many instances failed s individuals to attain the positions and accomplish the objects which they have looked forward to, yet as a people they have more than realized the predictions of the most visionary.”
Manufactories and Mills
The first saw-mill erected in the township was that by Russell Briggs, in 1829. The Johnson Mill was built in 1838. The former establishment was on the Saline river, one mile above the village; the latter on the same stream about one mile above that of Mr. Briggs. Those old mills have passed away. There has never been a grist-mill in the town, and with the exception of a steam saw-mill and a planing-mill, the district is entirely wanting in everything pertaining to manufactures. The township being minus factories, postoffice and saloons, there is scarcely and pressing necessity for a church, and perhaps it is on this account that a church has not been bestowed upon the people.
Churches and Schools
The Presbyterian congregation organized in 1834, and erected a church in 1836, during the ministry of Rev. Geo. Kanouse. Subsequently a number of members took letters, and organized in 1854 as the Independent Church of Lodi. This new society purchased the church building from the original society. In 1874, this society united with the Presbyterians of Saline, and sold the church building to the Baptists of North Adams, who had it transported to that place. The pastors of the Church from the period of organization were: Revs. J. B. Kanouse, A. B. Corning, H. B. McMath, L. M. Glover, C. G. Clark, Justin Marsh. The elders were: Mather Marvin, T. Tate, David G. Mount, Othniel Hall, Enoch Eddy, Darius S. Wood, Horace Booth, John D. Bennett, A. H. Hotchkin, John F. Lansing, Isaac Elliot. The names of the deacons comprise: Francis Lansing, Josiah Jacobus, Virgil Booth and A. H. Hotchkin.
The officers of the township for 1880-01 comprised Geo. Stabler, Supervisor; James Sage and Comstock F. Hill, Justices; Leopold Blaess, Town Clerk; and Gaudaloupe Bagley, Commissioner of Highways.
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