HISTORY INDEX>Hillsdale Township

Hillsdale Township
Old Twp. Hall [Click here to view full size picture] Hillsdale Township is the smallest of the townships in Hillsdale County. It is only three miles wide from north to south, compared to the normal six mile width of most of the rest of the townships. It was separated from Fayette Township in 1858 and at that time formed its own township board consisting of C.W. Ferris, Supervisor: Charles Cooper, Clerk: James N. Knott and C.H. Churchill, School Inspectors: Morgan Lancaster, Constable: W.S. Hosner and S. Gilmore, Commissioners.

Hillsdale Township is bounded by Mauck Rd. on the north, Milne Rd. on the east, Bankers Rd. on the South and Sand Lake Rd. on the west.

The little brick township hall at the intersection of W. Bacon St and Spring Rd. was the official meeting house and election building. It was used from 1872 until 1977 when the building became inadequate. Under the leadership and guidance of Harry Dimmers, who served as supervisor for fifteen years, a new township hall was built on the corner of W.Bacon Rd. and Lake Wilson Rd.
In later years William Pulley was instrumental in organizing a Volunteer Fire Department for the Township. Pulley also gave impetus to the erection of a new Fire House now located on W. Bacon Rd,
In terms of long time service, Marvin Campbell has served on the Township board for 30 years.

Farming was the main occupation in the township as the land was” timbered off.” Much of the area of the township is composed of lakes since most of Baw Beese Lake is in the township as well as the three Sand Lakes and King Lake. Early in the development of the township many summer cottages were built primarily along the southern shores of Baw Beese Lake. Sandy Beach, located on the eastern side of Baw Beese Lake, has long been a favorite swimming site

By the early 1900’s Baw Beese Lake had become a popular resort site. A hotel was erected along the northeastern shore. It was so popular a summer gathering spot that the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway made it a “station stop.” On the spacious grounds were picnic tables and wooden swings. There was a fifty-foot “toboggan slide” down which sped sled-boats filled with laughing bathers. A dance pavilion with music provided by several different orchestras, allowed dancers to engage in the two step, a waltz, or the quadrille. Rowboats of two types were available to rent—the flat bottomed boat or the round-bottomed boat which were “tippy” unless the occupants sat in the exact center of the seat. There was even a little steamer boat, the “Edna D,” if one wanted a ride over the entire lake. The fare was ten cents. These rides came to a sudden end when the Edna D exploded. Fortunately no one was injured. In the winter, blocks of ice were cut from the lake and stored in huge ice houses along the shore in an area which now has become the large Owen Memorial Park owned by the City of Hillsdale. This popular picnic park, occupying land on the east and north sides of Baw Beese Lake, is all that remains to remind us of the earlier resort and ice houses.

During the Civil War in 1862 a “Blue Camp” was located on Louis Emery’s farm near what is now E. State St. and the Louis E. Emery County Park. Camp Woodbury, as it was called, was the encampment and drill site for the Michigan Eighteenth Regiment. The location was chosen because of its healthy spring water nearby and the conveniences of bathing. The regiment was composed of three or four companies, which left Hillsdale by train, under the command of Lt. Col. Spalding. This same area was established in the early 1930’s by the State of Michigan as a series of rearing ponds for the development of game fish. It now is Emery County Park and fish are no longer raised here. Because of its present day shelter, it is often used for family reunions, picnics, and even wedding receptions,
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An early settler, Esbon Blackmar, owned 28 acres of land, which he donated, in 1853, in order that Hillsdale College could be removed from Spring Arbor, Michigan and relocated in Hillsdale. Isaac Van Denburg was another of the early settlers who owned a cobblestone house and a parcel of land east of the village of Hillsdale which he sold to the County to be used as a Poor House in 1853. (This is now the Historic Will Carleton Poor House and maintained as a museum by the Hillsdale County Historical Society).
George H. Stone came to the area about 1835 and homesteaded on land on the south side of what is now State Rd. and a portion of the land of which became Louis E. Emery Park. A marker located behind the present Community Center at the Park was erected in memory of George and Matilda Stone who purchased their land from the government in 1836. Louis Emery came to Michigan in approximately 1843. He developed a mill in Jonesville but subsequently acquired land that is now Louis E.Emery Park. In 1853 he built a cut field stone house at the end of the lane going north from State Rd. Originally two hundred acres of the land on which he built his house had been owned by Orson Cleveland who received title in 1837 during the President Van Buren’s administration. Cleveland sold 180 acres of his holdings to Emery. Later, this house and land was owned by Edmund and Hanna Stanfield. A neighbor who also took up a homestead along what is known as State Rd. was George H. Stone. Francis E. Burd and his wife, Amelia came to Hillsdale by wagon about 1853 settling near Steamburg. A son, William E. Burd, bought a farm on West Hallett Rd. William was also a skilled carpenter and worked on the large ice house that stood on what is now Owen Memorial Park at Baw Beese Lake. He developed a farm on W. Hallett Rd. which later became the Nichols Turkey Farm.
In Section 35 of the Township, land was purchased by Severus Roberts in 1840. Because he was under age, his uncle signed the actual title. Roberts built first a log cabin but then in 1845 began construction of a cut field stone home which still stands today on So. Hillsdale Rd.(Picture insert of house—see Vol I of Hills and Dales) Settling on the shores of Middle Sand Lake was the family of George and Ocean Wheaton.
As Hillsdale Township was separated from Fayette Township in 1858, a portion of the 640 acres was sold to Hugh Cook(160 acres) and another 80 acres was sold to Charles Cook. This acreage was now a part of Hillsdale Township designated in the 1872 plat book as Section 21. By 1909 all of the land was owned by the daughter of Hugh Cook, Frances, who married Charles T. Van Aken. Other early settlers were: Elizabeth Clark, Section 24, East State St., 1834: Charles Haveney, Section 30, West Bacon Rd, 1836: George W. Bankers , Section 32, East Bankers Rd., 1839 (The village of Bankers was named for this man): James Stone, Section 24, North Milnes Rd. 1843: James Robards, Section 33, Bankers Rd. 1843 (Robards descendent was Jason Robards of Hollywood fame): Charles Morgan, Section 28, West Bacon Rd, 1845: George Forbes, Section 28, West Bacon Rd., 1845: John Rylan, section 29, West Bacon 1848: J.M. Warren, Section 30, Hallett Rd. , 1850: A.R. Hosmer, Section 34, W. Cole Rd. 1854. Most of the information given here has been taken from 150 Years in the Hills and Dales, Vol. I Hillsdale County Historical Society and the Hillsdale County Bicentennial Commission. (TX, 1976) as well as the Plat Book of Hillsdale.

Bathing Beach and dock at Baw Beese Lake [Click here to view full size picture]
. The Bathing Beach and Dock at Baw Beese Lake

1845 stone house [Click here to view full size picture]
The 1845 cut stone home built by the young Severus
Roberts located on south Hillsdale road
hotel and cafe at Baw Beese Lk. [Click here to view full size picture]
Hotel and Cafe at Baw Beese Lake Resort
Gals bathing at Baw Beese Lk [Click here to view full size picture]
Lady bathers at the popular Sandy Beach
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Working at the ice elevator

Baw Beese Lake Hotel [Click here to view full size picture]
The Baw Beese Lake Hotel, located at the Resort
Bud Sellers [Click here to view full size picture]
Bud Sellers
One popular stop on the Baw Beese Lake cruise was at Bud Sellers' island. Bud Sellers was popularly known as the "Hermit of Cedar Island" but though he lived on the island for 60 years, he was not a hermit. He often peddled fish, which he had caught, to the residents of Hillsdale and frequently hosted fish dinners for his friends.
toboggan ride [Click here to view full size picture]
This 50ft. slide used boats for a thrilling ride out into the lake, a very popular attraction in the early 1900`s
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The ice harvesting was a large business in the early 1900`s employing many local farmers who would not ordinarily have work during the winter months
The Ice Houses [Click here to view full size picture]
The eight ice storage houses
Rearing ponds _Emery Park [Click here to view full size picture]
The fish rearing ponds,now Lewis Emery Park
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