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Extended History Information

From the book “HISTORY OF IONIA AND MONTCALM COUNTIES”

Michigan, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches

Of their prominent men and pioneers.

By John S. Schenck

Philadelphia:

D.W. Ensign & Co.

1881

(reprinted)

 

Odessa-named after a city in Russia- is one of the southern border-towns of Ionia, lying upon the Barry county-line, and in the United States survey is known as town 5 north, range 7 west, having Berlin on the north and Campbell on the west.  Agriculture has always been, and is likely to be for some time to come, purely its interest, since there is within the town’s limits neither railway, village nor water-power.  There are, however, post-offices in profusion to the number of four, named respectively.  Algodon, South Cass, Lake City, and Bonanza, at the latter only of which is there even a semblance of a village.  There is some waste-land in the town, but, generally considered, Odessa is a good farming-region, and its inhabitants are a thrifty, industrious, and comfortably circumstanced people.

 

THE PIONEERS OF ODESSA

 

            In June, 1839, Myron Tupper, of Monroe Co., N.Y., was in Michigan looking for land, and at Jackson learning from Kirkenthal, the mail-carrier over the Clinton trail between Jackson and Grand Rapids, that there was government land to be had in the town now called Odessa, Tupper proceeded at once to enter the southeast quarter of section 27, through which flowed a small stream, and upon which rested the waters of a small lake.  He returned eastward at once, and, securing the companionship of Harvey Kibbey, moved westward once more, and made no halt until the Odessa land was reached.  They put up a shanty and stopped long enough to chip five acres and put in a little corn and potatoes.  Having done that as the first attempt at improvement in the present town of Odessa, they left the town to itself and went back to New York State.  As soon as he could Tupper gathered his household goods, and with his family and Wellington Russell, an unmarried young man, started once more for Michigan.   From Jackson, Michigan, they followed the Clinton trail until within less than a mile of their destination, and that point they made without much more ado.

            This, then, was the pioneer settlement in Odessa.  The Tuppers and Russell moved into the hovel previously occupied by Tupper an Kibbey, and happily found their potato and corn crops in shape to give them a good start for a larder.  Without delay, Tupper and Russell rolled up a cabin, and upon the heels of that event along came Kibbey for the purpose of permanently occupying his land, on section 27.  He was unmarried, and subsequent to his arrival divided his time between working on his own place and upon those of others, as he happened to feel the need of earning a few dollars.  During one of his peripatetic excursions south of Odessa, in 1840, he died.

            Wellington Russell was without landed possessions when he came with Mr. Tupper, but, boy as he was, he saw no reason why he should not be a settler as well as older people, and, in the latter part of 1839, Kibbey having occasion to go to Ionia (that journey he had to make through the trackless woods with a compass as his only guide), Russell sent funds by him for the purchase at the land-office of the east half of the northwest quarter of section 27, where he has continued to live steadily from 1842 to the present day.  Although he became a landowner, he determined, upon second thought, to get some more schooling, and, returning, accordingly, to New York, remained there three years.  Then, marrying, he came back to Odessa and joined the little band of hardly pioneers as a permanent settler.

            Hiram S. Lee, now a prominent resident in Keene, was a settler in the spring of 1840 upon section 33, where he built the first framed barn in town.  Benjamin R. Tupper, brother of Myron Tupper and yet a dweller in Odessa, located in the fall of 1840 upon section 27, where his brother Myron had entered land for him.

            Emory Russell, who had come with Myron Tupper and Wellington Russell in 1839 to lend his assistance in their undertakings, returned Eastward after a brief sojourn, but soon came back as a settler.  He is now dead.  His son, James W., is, however, a resident of the town.

            As the Russells were, first and last, quite numerous as pioneers in Odessa, and gave to the place of their location the designation of “Russell Settlement,” it will be of interest to note that settling members of the family (all brothers) were Wellington, Emory, Esteven, Sumner, and J. A.  (The latter known as Ashley).  The order of their coming was that above given.  All still live in Odessa save Emory, who sleeps in the cemetery.

            Esteven Russell married Rosetta, daughter of Myron Tupper, and the first child born to Odessa parents, although as a matter of fact she was born in Woodland, Barry Co. (in 1840), whether her mother went on that occasion to obtain the necessary aid, not easily obtainable at her own home.  Mrs. Russell died in 1870.

            Doctors were difficult to reach, and had to be brought from Ionia, sixteen miles distant.  Hiram Lee needed a doctor for some member of his family, and Myron Tupper and Harvey Kibbey, volunteering to go for Dr. Cornell, of Ionia, walked the entire distance.  When they reached the Grand River the boat was on the opposite side, and at that hour of the night, there being no prospect of arousing the boatman, Kibbey swam across the stream, got the doctor, and probably got him back to Odessa in time to meet the emergencies of the case.

            The first death in the town is said to have been that of “Granny Hall,” mother-in-law to John Hight, with whom she lived.  She was buried in the woods, but afterwards taken to the Woodland Cemetery.  Early burials were made wherever convenience served.  The first burial in the lake Cemetery, on Section 34, was that of Mr. Boynton, whose death occurred in 1854.  The first marriage was probably that of B. R. Tupper and Harriet Ayres, stepdaughter of George Kibbey.  The first sawmill in the town was put up on Tupper Creek, near Tupper Lake, in 1848, by Joseph and Daniel Heeter, who came to the town shortly after 1842.  Before the erection of the Heeter sawmill there was no framed house in Odessa, and after that the first one was built by Emory Russell.  The mill-site never amounted to much, and now has no value.  About 1855, William Kibbey placed a small run of stone in the mill, and supplied what proved to be the first and only gristmill Odessa ever had.

            An early settler on section 26 was a Mr. Cady, after whom the small lake on that section was called. He remained but a short time, and but little is remembered concerning him. Other early settlers in and near the Russell neighborhood were Nelson Merrill, Emanuel Cramer, S. B. Chapman, A. A. Haskins, A. J. Clark, P. S. Lapham, David Crapo, John D. Hight, Reuben Haight, George E. Kelly, James N. Galloway, and Asa Houghton.

            Concerning David Crapo comes a story, which will be found worthy of preservation.  In 1868, he went over into Montcalm County with Samuel F. Alderman on a land-looking expedition.  They were on foot, and, succumbing to the rigors of the journey, Crapo gave out when they were a score or more of miles from human habitation.  Seeing that his companion was utterly exhausted, and badly lamed in the bargain, Alderman started for help towards a lumber camp supposed to be about twenty miles distant to the southward.  Alderman lost his way, and for six days and nights wandered about in a hopeless maze.  He suffered terribly from cold, hunger, and fatigue, and more than once felt himself upon the verge of making up his mind that he had got to die.  Luck carried him through, however, and eventually, more dead than alive, he reached the lumber camp, told his story, and fainted on the spot.  Looking after Alderman and straightway getting him into good shape, a delegation from the camp lost no time in putting off to the rescue of Crapo, and him they found just alive and no more, for he had made certain that Alderman’s failure to return meant that he had perished, and so, unable to move and out of provisions, he looked upon the period of his dissolution as a question only of a brief space of time.  So hopeless was he that while strength lasted he carved his name upon the stock of his gun that he might be identified by that at least when his dead body should be found, As it proved, however, he was not destined to die that way.  His rescuers recalled him to life, and never before did he behold so welcome a sight as the troop of strong-armed lumbermen who had come to carry him to a place of comfort and safety.  He got over the terrible ordeal, but however old he grows; he will not be apt to forget it.

            For some years the settlements in Odessa concentrated about the Russell neighborhood.  In the year 1852, there was but four settlers in the western half of the town.  These four were Solomon Foght, S. B. Joseph Houseman, and Eber Rush, located respectively on sections 21 and 33.  The northern half of the township was then untenanted, although directly afterwards James McLaughlin moved to a place on section 3.  Settlements in the northern portion were slow, because the swamps thereabouts made roan-making an expensive and difficult business, into which the hardiest of the pioneers hesitated to enter except under the most favorable circumstances attainable.

            Simeon Buxton came to the Fought neighborhood in 1853,and, following him, Aaron Shellenbarger, Richard Baker, Thomas H. Cooley, and John Swarthout.  In 1855, Isaac Mower located on section 19, near where were already Elisha Rush and Henry Short, a short distance to the eastward.  At the center of the town George Sickles made a settlement in 1851, and after that to that vicinity came Horace I. Miner, Stephen, Henry, and Charles Sexton, Jasper Wright, G. H. Shepard, and Charles and James Wright.  The Anways settled in 1854, on section 17, and about then Daniel Unger made a commencement near at hand.

            The pioneer stories dealing with early life in Odessa are like all pioneer stories in which the struggles, hardships, and denials of those who launched themselves into the wilderness and experienced the customary vicissitudes of such an existence are recorded.  Still, the first comers to Odessa were a little more fortunate, perhaps, than the pioneers of older towns, for when they came upon the scene the county was pretty well along in the matter of settlement.  Half a day’s travel at the utmost would carry them to points where the elements of civilization were to be found in moderate plentitude, where they could find a mill, buy and sell, and supply themselves, in short, without much trouble, with such conveniences and comforts as they desired.  Still, there was considerable pioneering and oceans of hard work for all that, while many of the pioneers were poor and, added to the trials which beset even the most favorably circumstanced, were called upon to endure the ruder discomforts of poverty.  The first wheat marketed brought only fifty cents per bushel, and at that would fetch only store-pay.  Nothing but furs would sell for money, and many a man, falling short on the money earned in working for non-resident taxes, was forced to trap furs so that he might raise money enough to pay his own taxes.

            Washington and Esteven Russell, keeping bachelors’ hall together, got out of flour, and so did the neighbors.  There was no money to buy any, and the case began to look desperate.  The Russells were equal to the emergency, however, and making up some black salts, carried them to Bellevue, traded them for a barrel of flour, and when they got the flour home dealt it out all over the neighborhood, greatly to the joy and relief of the recipients.  The want of flour was the source of much trouble, for it was not always easy to get.

            Remarks Mr. Wellington Russell:  “To look back upon the early times is to wonder we didn’t get discouraged at what we were called to endure; but, although we had some tough experiences, we had some good times, after all.  We were sociable because we had to be, and we frequently enjoyed many happy social reunions, albeit some of us did have to travel many miles, and ride on an ox-sled at that.  We were ambitious, and our ambition, more than anything else, kept us up; for we looked forward to better and easier time, and knew they would come if we stuck to our tasks faithfully.”

            Hugh L. Hunt was the first blacksmith as well as the first storekeeper in the town, his shop and his store being at the locality now known as Bonanza.  The first resident physician-Dr. Kilpatrick, now of Woodland-boarded at Hunt’s.  Bonanza has now two stores, kept respectively by Dr. M. Crave and Horace F. Miner.  Besides Dr. Crave, the practicing physicians of the town are B. E. Hess, at the center, and R. B. Rawson, east and south of Bonanza.

            The first pair of horses brought to the town was owned by Wellington Russell, and came in; it is said, in 1850.  Deer hunters were as numerous as the settlers while the town was but an infant.  There were, of course, some who were conspicuously successful, and won considerable local reputation as deer slayers.  It was not, however, as a pastime that they pursued the sport, but rather for the gains they obtained from the sales of the skins, which were always in demand at ready money.  Ashley Russell, Sumner Russell, and Eber Rush were considered great deer hunters, and would average per man something like thirty deer during the season.  Eber rush was, moreover, noted as a bust hunter of all kinds of game, and in his time has bagged great quantities.  Mr. Rush boasts that he has lived in Odessa thirty-five years and in Michigan sixty.  He says he has lived in Michigan longer than any man now in the state.

 

INDIAN STORIES

            Indians abounded in the vicinities of Tupper and Jourdan Lakes and along Tupper Creek, for there were capital fishing and hunting grounds in those parts, and of course the savages gravitated towards them with considerable eagerness in great numbers.

            The whites got along peacefully, not to say happily, with the redskins, but there were times when the Indians waxed indignant at fancied injuries and became threatening, although nothing very serious ever resulted.   A case in point dealt with a charge brought  by the Indians against one John Nead, a settler, to the effect that he had stolen some of their coons.  Nead became incensed at what he called an unrighteous accusation, and in a fit of rage shot at an Indian, without, however, injuring him.  Alarmed at the consequences of his action when he found the savages in an uproar about the attempt to kill one of their number, he secreted himself.  Meanwhile, the Indians met in council, with war paint on, and after a dance on the banks of Tupper Lake discussed with many threatening mutterings the advisability of inflicting summary vengeance upon Nead.  Fortunately for the latter, he kept out of the way, or it might have gone hard with him.  As it was, his absence dulled the edge of Indian resentment, and in due time they got entirely over their desire for the would-be assassin’s life.

            It is related of Sauba, an Indian chief, that upon the death of his wife and her father-in say 1845-he buried both of them upon section 26 in Odessa Township.  The old man was buried in the ordinary way, but the chief’s wife, by right of her distinction, was accorded extraordinary honors.  Bedecked in all her finery and ornaments, she was placed in a sitting position with a brass kettle before her on the ground, supplied, doubtless, with provisions to sustain her while journeying to the spirit-land.  Over her was erected a framework of bark and poles, and upon this was set a close covering of mud.  For a long time the curious-looking vault was an object of interest to all who passed that way, and as time destroyed the structure visitors were regaled with a free look at the departed, and of course, there was no lack of sight-seers when that circumstance came to be known.

            Pretty soon the peculative propensities of humanity led two young women resident in the neighborhood to despoil the dead squaw of her brass breastplate, nose-rings, earrings, and other ornaments, which, view as relics, were much prized by the captors, and borne, accordingly, homeward in triumph.  About this time Sauba, who had been in other regions, passed that way on a visit to his wife’s grave, and no sooner saw that the hand of the despoiler had been at work upon the late lamented then he waxed exceedingly wroth, and with loud threats to punish the author of the outrage set about tracing the deed home.  Although the people thereabout could tell who the robbers were, they feared to do so, for they made sure Sauba would work mischief were he to unearth the culprits.  He reasoned, however, that girls must have had a hand in it, and, thinking to discover upon the persons of the guilty ones evidences of their sin, went one morning into the district school-house and quietly but searchingly scanned the girls there assembled, much to their terror, and indeed, the terror of all present; for the story of his wrath and his avowed purpose had of course circulated freely.  Failing, however, to discover the missing trinkets, he doubtless concluded to abandon the chase.  At all events, he departed as quietly as he had cone, and proceeding to the grave, repaired it as best he could whereupon departing, he was seen in that locality no more.

            In the course of time the monument fell to ruin, and the bones of the dead, exposed to the winds of heaven, were by idle wanderers kicked here and there towards the four points of the compass without so much as a sigh from the kickers over the relics of vanished greatness.

 

RESIDENT TAX-PAYERS OF ODESSA IN 1846

 

Etseven Russell, section 26                               40   Acres

Wellington Russell, section 27               80   Acres

Emory Russell, section 27                                 68   Acres

Benjamin R. Tupper, sections 27,28                  120 Acres

George E. Kibbey, section 27                           80   Acres

Myron Tupper, section 27                                136 Acres

Reuben Haight, section 35                                104 Acres

John D. Hight, section 35                                  80   Acres

James Galloway, section 35                              80   Acres

Daniel Heeter, section 33                                  80   Acres

Hiram S. Lee, section 33                                  80  Acres

Asa Houghton                                                  Personal

 

VOTERS IN 1848

 

            Sumner Russell, George Richmond, William Kibbey, Justus M. Carver, Jeremiah French, John Nead, Esteven Russell, Joseph Heeter, Reuben Haight, Sylvester Dillenback, Hiram S. Lee, Emory Russell, Wellington Russell, Myron Tupper, John D. Hight, Benjamin R. Tupper, Daniel Heeter, Samuel B. Chapman, George E. Kibbey.

 

VOTERS IN 1849

 

            Parsons Hall, Justus M. Carver, Sumner Russell, Ashley Russell, Sylvester Dillenback, Daniel Heeter, Samuel B. Chapman, Wellington Russell, Myron Tupper, Reuben Haight, Esteven Russell, Abraham Dillonback, David Hall, Joseph Heeter, George Richmond, John D. Hight, William Kibbey, B. R. Tupper, Emory Russell, America A. Haskins.

 

TOWNSHIP ORGANIZATION

 

            Odessa was set off from Berlin March 25, 1846, and given the territory of six miles square it now occupies.  A meeting for the purpose of providing a name for the town was held at Esteven Russell’s house, and upon declaration of opinions it appeared that some wanted the name to be “Melissa,” in honor of Myron Tupper’s wife, others “Wellington,” in remembrance of Wellington Russell, and others by some other name not recalled just now.  The result of the discussion was the appointment of a committee, with Elder Tupper as chairman, to fix upon a name and report forthwith to the meeting.  The report was presently made in favor of the name Odessa, and, by way of explanation, it was stated that the desire for a name likely to be somewhat exclusive led to the honoring of one of Russia’s cities.  The suggestion doubtless came from Myron Tupper, who was a great reader of history and rather admired Russian nomenclature.

The first town-meeting took place at the house of Myron Tupper April 6, 1846, and, there being but one mind as to who should fill the several offices, there was no trouble or delay in arriving at the result.  There were but thirteen voters, of whom all but Emory Russell and J. A. Russell received offices, and that they did not was simply because they did not want them.  The thirteen voters mentioned were Myron Tupper, Esteven Russell, Asa Houghton, George e. Kibbey, Benjamin R. Tupper, John d. Hight, Hiram S. Lee, Reuben Haight, James A. Galloway, Wellington Russell, Daniel Heeter, Emory Russell, and J. A. Russell.

            The full list of officials chosen is given as follows:  Supervisor, Myron Tupper; Clerk, Esteven Russell; Treasurer, John D. Hight; Justices of the Peace, Hiram S. Lee, Reuben Haight, Benjamin R. Tupper, and George E. Kibbey; School Inspectors, James A. Galloway and Reuben Haight; Highway Commissioners, Asa Houghton, James A. Galloway, and Wellington Russell; Overseers of the Poor, Esteven Russell and George E. Kibbey; Constables, Myron Tupper, Asa Houghton, and James A. Galloway; Overseers of Highways, John D. Hight, Esteven Russell, and Hiram S. Lee.  Myron Tupper was moderator of the meeting, Esteven Russell clerk and Asa Houghton, George E. Kibbey, and Benjamin R. Tupper inspectors of election.

            At the same meeting thirty dollars were voted for township purposes, and there was also a resolution passed to hold the next town-meeting at “the school-house in this town.”

            Herewith will be found the names of the persons elected annually from 1847 to 1880 to be supervisors, clerks, treasurers, and justices of the peace:

 

SUPERVISORS

1847, Joseph Heeter; 1848-49, E. Russell; 1850, M. Tupper; 1851, J. Myers; 1852, Samuel B. Chapman; 1853, John Myers; 1854, D. Crapo; 1855, S. Russell; 1856-57 S. B. Chapman; 1858, E. Tussell; 1859, D. Crapo; 1860 S. Russell; 1861, D. Crapo; 1862-63, E. Russell; 1865 J. T. Cahoon; 1866, S. Russell; 1867, D. Crapo; 1868-73, S. Russell; 1874, D. Crapo; 1875-78, V. Bretz; 1879, S. Snyder; 1880, V. Bretz.

 

CLERKS

1847, E. Russell; 1848-49, M. Tupper; 1850, E. Russell; 1851, A. J. Clark; 1852, William Kibbey; 1853, S. Russell; 1854, J. Heeter; 1855, William Kibbey; 1856, J. Heeter; 1857, E. B. W. Brokaw; 1858, P. S. Lapham; 1859-60, J. H. Robinson; 1861-1862, V. Bretz; 1863-65, S. Russell; 1866-67, H. Bever; 1873-74, V. Bretz; 1875-76, E. Sickles; 1877, G. E. Hackett; 1878, G. H. Shepard; 1879-80, J. G. Meyers.

 

TREASURERS

1847-48, J. D. Hight; 1849-50, W. Russell; 1851, W. Kibbey; 1852, W. H. Hartman; 1853, S. Fought; 1854, J. Myers; 1855, S. B. Chapman: 1856, S. Fought; 1857, W. Russell; 1858-59, J. W. Swigert; 1860, N. G. Merrill; 1861-62, S. Fought; 1863, H. F. Miner; 1864-65, William Bever; 1866-67, P. Chapman; 1868-77, J. A. Wright; 1878-79, J. H. Jamison; 1880, J. M. Probart.

 

JUSTICES

1847, R. Haight; 1848, H. S. Lee; 1849, J. Carver; 1850, Emory Russell; 1851, R. Haight; 1852, J. Heeter; 1853, R. Haight; 1854, William Kibbey; 1855, A. J. Clark; 1856, J. Heeter; 1857, H. Anway; 1858, W. Kibbey; 1859, W. Houghton; 1860, J. H. Robinson; 1861, L. Davis; 1862, William Kibbey; 1863, S. Fought; 1864, N. S. Kellogg; 1865, William R. Alderman; 1866, E. Russell; 1867, H. F. Miner; 1868, J. T. Cahoon; 1869, H. R. Walker; 1870, V. Bretz; 1871, G. Shepard; 1872, H. Culp; 1873, E. E. Barkdell; 1874, E. Russell; 1875, William Bever; 1876, H. Culp; 1877, G. Strothers; 1878, A. Bywater; 1879, M. Horrigan; 1880, J. J. Peacock.

 

TOWN TREASURER’S REPORT FOR 1848

            The first recorded township treasurer’s report appears to be that for the year 1848, which reads as follows:

 

Cash on hand                                                   $  14.45

Received of County Treasurer                  50.00

Collected for year 1848                                      135.12

                                                                        $195.57

 

Paid to order Township Board                20.00

Paid to order Commissioners of Highways        113.77

Paid to order School District No. 1                       5.43

Retained for fees                                                   5.40

Cash on hand                                                     50.43

 

                                                                        $195.57

 

JURORS FOR 1846

Reuben Haight, John D. Hight, Wellington Russell, Emory Russell, James A. Galloway, George E. Kibbey, B. R. Tupper.

 

JURORS FOR 1847

Hiram S. Lee, Samuel Chapman, America Haskins, John Nead, John D. Hight, George E. Kibbey, B. R. Tupper, James A. Galloway, Emory Russell, Abraham Dillenback.

 

TOWNSHIP HIGHWAYS

            The first road recorded as having been laid in town 5 north, range 7 west, appears under date of November 30, 1840, and commenced at the quarter-post on the east side of section 28, whence it passed northward on the sectional line to the corners of sections 21, 22, 27, and 28.

            November 30, 1841, B. D. Rand and H. S. Lee, highway commissioners of Berlin, laid out in town 5 north, range 7 west, three roads, to wit; One commencing at the quarter post on the west side of section 26, running thence east thirty-five chains fifty links and ending at a post; a second, commencing at the corners of sections 26, 27, 22, and 23, and extending northward on the sectional line to the corners of sections 14, 15, 22, and 23, whence it passed eastward to the corners of sections 13 and 24 on the town-line; a third, commencing on the south line of the county at the corner-post of sections 34, and 35, running thence north on sectional line to the quarter-post between said sections, thence east twenty chains, and thence north and west to the line between sections 26 and 27, ending at the quarter-post on the west side of section 26; whole distance, one hundred and fifty-two chains twenty-three links.

            April 26, 1845, it was ordered that of the road between Berlin and Sebewa one and a half miles on the north should be assigned to Berlin, and one and a half miles to Sebewa.

            December 31, 1840, a road was laid along the north line of section 33; distance, one mile.

            The annual report of the highway commissioners for 1848 contained the following;

Highway labor performed in District No. 1                    14 1/3 days

Non-resident labor unpaid in District No. 1                   17 4/5 days

Highway labor performed in District No. 2                    26 ½ days

Highway labor performed in District No. 3                    11 1/10 days

Non-resident labor unpaid in District No. 2                   25 1/3 days

Non-resident labor unpaid in District No. 3                   37 ¼ days

Money expended in District No. 1                                $2.25

Money expended in District No. 2                                $21.00

Money expended in District No. 3                                $10.38

 

            In 1849 the resident labor performed was forty-six days, and non-resident assessed fifty-one, of which latter two and three-quarter days were performed.  The total highway expenses, including a county appropriation of one hundred dollars on a bridge, were two hundred and thirty dollars and sixty-one cents.

 

CHURCHES

 

            Myron Tupper, Odessa’s first settler, was a Free-Will Baptist preacher of remarkable zeal, and as soon after his coming as opportunity offered he held religious meetings in his own house and in the houses of others.  In the matter of public worship in Odessa, these meetings were the beginning, and after a while Riley Hess, of Boston Township, was engaged to preach in the Russell schoolhouse at stated periods.

            For some unexplained reason, there was no attempt at church organization until 1847, when Rev. Elbridge Cilley, of Boston Township, formed a Baptist Church at the Russell school house.  The members were but few in number, yet they were earnest and zealous, and until the outbreak of the civil war of 1861 meetings were regularly held and matters prospered.  The first deacon chosen was David Disinger, a worthy man, and, as already mentioned, Rev. Riley Hess was the first pastor.  Myron Tupper was a preacher, as has been said, but for years he pursued the labors of an evangelist, preaching here and there wherever there appeared to be need of his services.  He was an energetic and ambitious servant of the Lord, and, what is more, preached freely, without price.  He is said to have ridden thirty and forty miles of a Sunday, and preached two and sometimes three sermons into the bargain.  After a while he gave up evangelical work and preached steadily to the church at his home.  During his term of service, in 1855, there was a three weeks’ revival season in the church, and through the efforts of Rev. Mr. Barker, an eloquent, revivalist of that day, fifty-five converts were received into the church and baptized one Sunday in Duck Creek by Elder Tupper.  That occasion was a notable one in the history of the Baptist Church in Ionia County, and drew a great crowd of people.  In 1861 the church lost many of its members by removals, and in a short time thereafter passed out of existence.

 

UNITED BRETHREN IN CHRIST (WEST ODESSA CLASS)

 

            In 1866, Rev. Michael Morthland organized a United Brethren Class in the School-house on section 29, and received nine members, to wit: Ephraim Bretz, Philip Wachs and wife, Thomas Cooley and wife, Daniel Mower and wife, Isaac Mower and wife.  The class-leader was Isaac Mower, and the first preacher Mr. Morthland, who held services once a fortnight. Besides Mr. Morthland, the pastors of the church have been Revs. S. Ferguson, G. W. Fast, G. S. Lake, W. T. Baldwin, James Carter, P. H. Mower, D. H. Shelley, W. Duryea, and W. N. Breidenstein.  The class-leaders have been Isaac Mower, Henry Bever, Richard Baker, and Solomon Fought.  Mr. Fought has been leader since 1876.

            In 1873, the society built a neat church-edifice on section 29, at a cost of two thousand four hundred dollars.  There is now a church-membership of sixty, and an average attendance in the Sunday-school of a similar number.  The school, which was organized in 1866, is at present in charge of Philip Wachs.  The church trustees are Solomon Fought, Ephraim Bretz, and Henry Root.

 

METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH

 

            A Methodist Episcopal Class now worships at Bonanza, where it was organized in 1875 with six members.  The pastor is Rev. Mr. Orwick, of Woodland, and the class-leader A. B. Johnson.  A commodious church-building was erected in 1879.  Public worship is enjoyed once in two weeks.

 

WESLEYAN METHODISTS

 

            A Wesleyan Methodist Class was organized at the Bonanza school-house by Rev. M. Kidder in August, 1878.  The organizing members numbered six, and were named J. A. Russell, Eber Rush, I. R. Soules, Maria Rainsmith, Rebecca Matthews, and A. A. Haskins.  Mr. Soules, then chosen leader, still fills the place.  The members are now eight in number.  There is preaching once a fortnight.

 

SCHOOLS

 

            Not much of a definite character can be gleaned as to the early history of Odessa’s schools, since the early records concerning town schools are not to be found.  It may be said, however, that there was no school in the town until 1846, when the town was organized, and that the first school-house was built that year at Russell’s Corners.

            It appears that in 1847 and 1848 orders were issued to the school inspectors to the amount of thirty-five dollars, and to school officers of District No. 1 in the sum of thirty dollars.  In 1848, also, the school inspectors reported they had expended thirty-five dollars for books, and in 1849 the town voted to raise fifty cents a scholar for the benefit of the schools. 

            The records indicate that in 1859 there were in the town four full districts and one fractional district, and that the amount raised by the school districts in 1860 was sixty-four dollars.  March 15, 1861, District No. 6 was organized.

            December 28, 1872, the board of school inspectors, believing it to be for the “present and future benefit of the inhabitants of the township,” divided the town into nine square school districts, each composed of four sections.

            The only recorded certificates issued to school teachers up to 1865 appear to have been as follows:  April 9, 1864, Elizabeth Minor;  April 27, 1864, Jane Bushnell;  May 2, 1864, Ellen Cooper;  May 3, 1864, Lovina Parker;  May 9, 1864, Libbie Sibley;  July 19, 1864, M. Morgan; November 5, 1864, Sarah Fullington, Millie Carpenter, James Vosper D. J. Loomis;  December 7, 1864, Alice Parker, Cora Perbasen; April 8, 1865, Lydia Spencer;  May 13, 1865, Addie S. Brown.

            The following statistics are from the annual school report for 1879:

District 1 Director James Russell, District 2 Director V. Bretz, District 3 Director J. E. Cooley, District 4 Director I. P. Bates, District 5 Director A. A. Walter, District 6 Director J. C. Hackett, District 7 Director S. O. Hosford, District 8 Director I. P. King, District 9 Director H. B. Miller.

            Total enumeration for all districts was 549.  Average Attendance for all districts totaled was 476. Property Value for all districts totaled $5,200.  Teachers’ Wages for all districts $1,218.

 

ODESSA POST OFFICE

            The first Post Office given to the town was established in 1841, when what is now Odessa was a portion of Cass Township.  One of the reasons urged for the creation of the office was that Kirkenthal (Coykendall), the mail-carrier, usually reached Myron Tupper’s house at nightfall, and, stopping there over-night would proceed to Grand Rapids the next day.  He also made Tupper’s a stopping place the night after his departure from Grand Rapids, and it was therefore at Kirkenthal’s (Coykendall’s) suggestion that Tupper took steps to have an office at his house, and likewise at Kirkenthal’s (Coykendall’s) suggestion that the office was called South Cass, being then in the southern portion of Cass Township.  Myron Tupper received the appointment as first postmaster, and retained the office several years.

            At first the mail for South Cass was very light, for, indeed, there were but few people thereabout.  Six letters during the first year is estimated to have been about the extent of mail matter delivered by Kirkenthal (Coykendall) to Postmaster Tupper.  After Tupper’s term of service was ended, the office was transferred to Esteven Russell, and thence to the center of the town and to the charge of George Sickless, who was the incumbent from 1854 to 1860.  Numerous changes of incumbent and location were made thereafter until the appointment of G. H. Shepard, the present postmaster, who resides at the Centre.

            Algodon Post Office, in the northwestern portion of the town, was established in 1868, at which time Edwin Vandecar was appointed postmaster.  He was succeeded by C. C. Van Tassel, and the latter by George Strothers, now in charge.

            Bonanza Post Office, in the Russell settlement, was established in May 1880.  Horace F. Miner is postmaster.  South Cass, Algodeon, and Bonanza receive mail twice a week over the route from Saranac to Bonanza. 

            Lake city, a fourth post office, on the southeast, has but recently been transferred from Sebewa. 

 

DROWNING ACCIDENTS

            Tupper Lake has already proven the field of two fatal casualties.  The first was the drowning of John Bessy, in 1857.  Bessy was bathing with a party of other lads, when being suddenly taken with cramps, he became helpless, and although his companions moved rapidly to his assistance upon the first alarm, he sank beyond recall before they reached him.

            In 1878, Sharon Thompson, with his wife and a lady friend, was out on the ice fishing, and, walking towards the shore after completing their sport, they broke through, and of the three persons only Mr. Thompson escaped alive.  He made desperate and heroic efforts to rescue his companions, but all to no avail, while he himself was well nigh exhausted, and just managed to reach the shore.

            Jourdan Lake received, in 1869, the bodies of no less than six victims of a boating accident, and of the six but two were spared.  There were in the company a son and daughter of Lansford Otto, a daughter of a Mr. Simmons, a youth named Spaulding, and two lads whose names cannot now be remembered.  The craft in which they ventured out for a pleasure ride was too frail at best, and when, children-like, they began to indulge in childish pranks, it capsized, and , lo! In a trice they were all struggling in the water.  Their cries for help brought people hurrying to the rescue; but rescue seemed impossible, for the drowning ones were far from shore, and there was no boat at hand.  The struggle was brief for the four who went down.  The two unnamed lads battled so fiercely for life that by clinging to the upturned boat they managed eventually to save themselves.

            In 1851, E. R. Lovewell, son of Nehemiah Lovewell, was drowned in Jourdan Lake, and is believed to have been the first white person engulfed in those waters.

 

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Esteven Russell

 

            The ancestors of the gentleman above named were among the earliest settlers in that portion of the valley of the Connecticut embraced in what is now Franklin Co., Mass., and the family continued in that section for many years without emigrating, and became quite numerous.

            Esteven Russell was born at Sunderland, Feb. 28, 1817.  His father, Elihu Russell, had been twice married, and had nine children by his first wife and six by his second.  Of the latter, Esteven was the third born.  About the year 1818 the family immigrated to Monroe Co., N.Y., where its younger members grew to maturity.  Esteven worked summers on the farm, and in the winter engaged in shoemaking with his father, until he was about nineteen years of age.  With the aid of other members of the family, he conducted the affairs of the farm until about 1843, when he came to Odessa Township, Ionia Co., Michigan, and purchased forty acres of government land.  In 1852, having procured means for the journey, he proceeded to California via the Isthmus of Panama, arriving on the “golden coats” in December of that year, and entering at once the mining district.  In 1855, he returned home by the same route, but an injury received by the wrecking of the train on the isthmus caused him to remain in Michigan instead of going again to California.  Before leaving home, he had exchanged his first purchase of land for seventy-five acres on section 27, and he began the improvement of this.  November 4, 1860, he married Rosetta Tupper, the first white child born in the township of Odessa, and daughter of Myron Tupper, the first white settler in said township.  July 21, 1870, Mrs. Tupper died, leaving a family of three children, --viz., Lina, born September 23, 1863; Clayton, born March 15, 1866; and Pliny, born September 10, 1869.  A daughter, Eunice, next younger than Clayton, died at the age of six months.

            Mr. Russell now resides on the old home-farm, surrounded by a large circle of friends and relatives.  He has filled numerous offices in his township,--township clerk, supervisor, justice of the peace, overseer of the poor, etc.,--and was postmaster under President Lincoln.  In 1872, he favored the election of Horace Greeley for President, and is as present a Green Backer.

            Mr. Russell’s mother, whose name was Warner was also of English descent, the family having settled in the Connecticut Valley as early as 1693, since which time the name appears in the church record.


           Esteven Russell
 

 


 For a copy of this article see Sharon Rohrbacher, Odessa Township Treasurer

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