Early Settlement of Ann Arbor

This article was courtesy of Nancy Benton. From “The Pioneer Society of Michigan, Volume VI, 1884, 1907 reprint, pg. 443. Mention is made of the Noyes sawmill in it. Transcription by me.

* * * * *

WASHTENAW COUNTY

Early Settlement of Ann Arbor
Account Given to Mrs. E. M. S. Stewart in 1852 by Bethuel Farrand, who died in Ann Arbor, July 22, 1852

Read at the annual meeting of the State Society, June 14 1883.

In May 1825, I emigrated from the town of Aurelius, Cayuga Co. NY to Detroit, Mich. Pecuniary losses, and the prospect of the successful prosecution of an extensive business enterprise were the motives which induced me to emigrate. We arrived in safety and spent the summer in the City of the Straits. A change in my business prospects induced me to remove to Ann Arbor. Accordingly in the autumn of 1825 I hired a small row boat into which I loaded my goods and chattels and getting my family aboard we started. I knew the journey would be long and tedious, but at that time I thought it preferable to journeying by land with no other road than an Indian trail. The first day of our journey we glided down the Detroit river as far as the mouth of the river Ecorse, where we went ashore and spent the night. The next day we reached the mouth of Huron river about thirty miles from Detroit. Here a family by the name of Truax permitted us to remain with them over night. On the morning of the third day, we left the Detroit river and entered the Huron. Thus far our journey had been performed with ease, but now we must row against the current when the stream would admit of rowing, and when it would not, the boat was propelled by means of poles. The third night we reached Smooth Rock and stayed at the house of a Mr. Vreeland. The next morning I heard the boatmen talking about a bend in the river which we must pass that day. On making inquiries I learned that the land route to the house of the brother of our host, Mr. Vreeland, was but two miles, while the route by water would consume most of the day. I then proposed to my wife that I would carry the babe if she would walk across and wait there for the boat. Our journey was soon accomplished, but we waited till the stars shone that night before the boat arrived.

The Huron from Smooth Rock to Ypsilanti is very crooked, and this day’s experience induced me to procure some other mode of conveyance for my family. I purchased a yoke of oxen and obtained the services of a man named Johnson with another yoke of oxen and a wagon, and taking from the boat such articles as we should need, on the morning of the fifth day we again set forward, leaving the boat to make the best of its devious course. The country through which we passed was rolling; there was no road, so we dodged here and there through the openings, over hills so steep that it required all the strength of both yokes of oxen to make the ascent, and to descend safely we would take one yoke of oxen and fasten them with a chain to the back end of the wagon and they would pull back while the other yoke went forward.

We reached Ann Arbor on the seventh day after leaving Detroit, but the boat containing our goods did not arrive at Snow’s landing, four miles below Ypsilapti, which was as far as it could come, till the fifteenth day. It cost me forty dollars to come from Detroit to Ann Arbor.

We found twenty-six families in what is now called the upper town, and eight log dwelling houses, and one small frame building occupied by Cyrus Beckwith as a store, and containing about two hundred dollars’ worth of goods.

We moved into a log house which already contained two families, and was a hotel and boarding house besides.

My own family consisted of nine persons, which was quite an addition to the former occupants, and we found that the three families numbered twenty-six. Each family occupied a separate room, but we found ourselves packed in very close quarters.

Dr. Dave E. Lord was the first physician in Ann Arbor, and he and his family formed part of our household community. The other family was that of George Roberts.

We found the people all very kind, warm hearted, and social, but all poor, mutually dependent on each other, and mutually inclined to assist each other.

I had proved myself with three barrels of flour and such groceries as I thought necessary for my family’s present use, but had not purchased any meat, supposing I could procure it here.

One morning, about a week after our arrival, one of my little daughters cried for some meat. I thought I would go to a neighbor’s and borrow some pork, till I could obtain a supply. To my surprise, I learned that there had never been any pork killed in the settlement, and every one was as destitute as myself. I could not bear to hear my children cry for any kind of food which it was in my power to procure, so I started the next morning for Detroit. When I reached Plymouth I was joined by Henry Ward and Esquire Root, who were going on the same errand. We had fifty dollars each, making one hundred and fifty, a part of which we expended in the purchase of eighty bushels of wheat, which we obtained low by purchasing such a quantity.

Just before leaving Detroit, we noticed a vessel coming up the river loaded with hogs. As soon as the vessel hove to, I went on board, and found that the owner was a man by the name of Leonard, with whom I was acquainted. Of him I purchased eight hogs for myself, and eight for my two friends, and advised Mr. Leonard to come with the remainder of the drove to Ann Arbor. When we reached Springwells we met a man with a drove of fat cattle, and I bought a cow.

I reached home near night of the second day, and the next morning before breakfast, I killed my cow and divided the meat among my neighbors, only being able to reserve enough for one meal for my own family. After breakfast I commenced butchering the hogs, and they were also divided, till only two of the eight remained for myself. Fortunately for the inhabitants, Mr. Leonard had taken my advice, and arrived the next day, and all were well supplied. Mr. James Dunn of Tonquish Plains, got my wheat floured at the Buckland Mills and brought it to Ann Arbor. Two of my barrels of flour and the flour from all my share of the eighty bushels of wheat was gone in fifteen days.

The first saw-mill in Ann Arbor was built by George W. Noyes and was complete when I arrived there, except the saw, which he had not the means to purchase. Having a little money on hand, I lent him the required sum, and he started off immediately to make the purchase. Having obtained his saw, he carried it on his shoulder from Detroit to the mouth of the river Ecorse from whence it was brought in a boat. The saw-mill was a great blessing to the young town. Poor George Noyes; he was suddenly killed a few years after at the raising of a house.

After my return from Detroit I began to make arrangements to build a house on the lot now owned by Norton R. Ramsdell, Esq. I concluded to merely erect a lean-to for the winter and in the spring build an upright part in a proper manner. I raised a light frame and enclosed it by settling planks upright and close together. The floor was laid of loose boards, the fire-place and hearth were of cobble stone, and the chimney was of sticks plastered over with mortar. One part of the house was partitioned off into two bed rooms; we had also a sung little pantry and a recess for another bed. In about four weeks we took possession; and when my wife had neatly arranged the furniture and we were once more settled in a home of our own we considered ourselves the happiest family in the village.

Leave A Comment