VILLAGE OF AUBURN

The first settler at Auburn (named by Aaron Webster after Auburn, NY) was a man by the name of Elijah Thornton, supposed to have been from some part of Canada, who settled on the south side of the Clinton river, a little above Auburn, on land now owned by Wellesley Evans, some time in the early part of 1821. He did not purchase land, but merely  "squatted," built himself a log cabin, and made some "betterments." Aaron Webster, from the town of Aurelius or Fleming, Cayuga county, New York, was the first property-owner and permanent settler in Auburn. He settled in Troy township in 1821. The nearest mills at that time were at Pontiac. Thither Webster proceeded to get lumber for building purposes; but he thought the price asked by Colonel Mack (ten dollars per thousand) was too high, and concluded he would build a saw-mill and cut his own lumber. He had noticed the water-power at the point where Auburn now stands, and visited Thornton at his cabin and told him he was going to purchase a large amount of land in that vicinity and improve the water-power. He finally told Thornton he had better get himself some land, and offered him one hundred dollars for his "betterments" and claim, which was accepted, and Thornton settled near Romeo, Macomb county. His cabin was on the northwest quarter of section 36.

Webster immediately disposed of his property in Troy township. About two hundred and seventy-five acres were sold to Elizur Goodrich, also from Fleming, Cayuga county, New York, who had come out in the spring of 1822, looking for an eligible location to settle. Webster was a wealthy man, and entered three hundred and twenty acres of government land, including that upon which Thornton had "squatted" and the water-power. He at once proceeded to build a dam and a mill-race, and erected a saw-mill. William Morris, the first sheriff of the county, dug the race for him.

The saw-mill was completed and in running order, and timber was prepared for the erection of a grist-mill, when, in August, 1823, Webster sickened and died of typhoid fever. After his death the entire property was purchased by Ebenezer Smith, who also came from the same township and county with Webster and Goodrich. Two men, named Burk and Allen, had built the saw-mill for Webster, and together with Smith's son Aaron they built the grist-mill, which was completed some time during the year 1824.

Elizur Goodrich, before spoken of, purchased a large quantity of land in sections 5, 6, and.7 in Troy township, in 1822, amounting altogether to about seven hundred acres. According to his son Ira's recollection, he built a house on the northeast quarter of section 7. Captain Robert Parks, from the same neighborhood in Cayuga county, came with him, and entered about four hundred acres in his immediate vicinity. Mr. Goodrich did not bring his family until 1823. In the mean time his wife died. Both Mr. Goodrich and Captain Parks were soldiers of the war of 1812-15, and Mr. G. was wounded at the battle of Chippewa, July 5, 1814.

About 1825, Mr. Goodrich married for his second wife a daughter of Ebenezer Smith. By his first wife he had eight sons. The seventh son died in the State of New York. Five of the boys - Alanson, Zenas, Chester, David, and Willard  - settled in Troy township. Ira, the third son, came to Auburn in 1823, and opened a blacksmith-shop in company with Leonard Weed. The youngest son Elizur, Jr., died in Auburn in 1825.

Elizur Goodrich, Sr., built him a house and removed to Auburn after the death of Ebenezer Smith. He purchased the saw-mill and operated it for a year or two, when he sold it to John K. Smith, a son of Sylvester Smith, and grandson of the old gentleman. Mr. Goodrich, about 1827 or 1828, returned to his homestead in Troy township, but soon after divided his property there among his boys, and purchased of S. V. R. Trowbridge two hundred and ten acres of land in the same township, upon which he erected a dwelling about 1839, where he lived until his death in the last days of April, 1850. His second wife survived him until about the year 1860. By this marriage he had three children - two sons, FitzJames and Philip, and one daughter, Lydia, who married John Winn, and is now living south of Pontiac, in Bloomfield township. Mr. Goodrich gave this daughter, in lieu of land, three thousand dollars in money.

Ira Goodrich, third son of Elizur Goodrich, was born in Fleming, Cayuga county, New York, February 2, 1806. He learned the blacksmith's trade in Scipio, in the same county, and after his arrival at Auburn he associated with Leonard Weed, as before stated, with whom he continued for some time. He and John Shippey manufactured the first millstones (one set), for the grist-mill of Ebenezer Smith, from a large boulder which was found on Samuel Satterlee's land in Bloomfield. Mr. Goodrich gave up the smithing business in Auburn in 1850, and went to California, where he operated three shops at different points. His eyesight becoming affected, he was obliged to abandon his business and return home, which he did after an absence of about eighteen months, and purchased the farm where he now resides.

The village of Auburn was laid out in September, 1826. The proprietors were Ebenezer Smith, I. L. Smith, Elizur Goodrich, Aaron Smith, and Sylvester Smith. The surveying and platting was done by Captain Henry Parke. (There were two additions to the place in 1836, by John Fernier, William Queal, Eli Welch, Almira Woodford, and Seth Beach.)

Ebenezer Smith died soon after the village was laid out, and the saw-mill fell into the hands of Elizur Goodrich, who operated it for a year or two, when he sold it to John K. Smith, as before stated. Smith carried on the business for several years, when he sold it to other parties; it eventually fell into the hands of R. O. Quatermass and Charles Torrey, who are still owners of what remains of it. The grist-mill became the property of Aaron Smith at his father's death, and, after several changes of ownership, Benjamin Phelps became its proprietor; and be afterwards sold the property to N. P. Stewart, an extensive speculator of Rome, New York, who tore away the old mill, and erected in its place one of the best mills in the State. It contained four run of burrs, was thirty-eight by seventy feet in dimensions, and cost about twenty-eight thousand dollars, including the power.

While engaged in this and other extensive speculations, Stewart associated with him John Bacon, a brother of Levi Bacon, Jr. Not long after the building of this mill Stewart became bankrupt and the mill was sold. By reference to the files of the Pontiac Jacksonian we find the property offered for sale for several weeks in the latter part of 1843 and early part of 1844, by Seth B. Roberts, of Rome, New York, and Richardson & Green, attorneys, Pontiac.  John F. Hamin, of Avon, afterwards owned the mill, and he sold to his brother Elijah, and he to Messrs. Austin & Miller, and these last-named disposed of the property to the brothers Miller, from Albany, New York. While in their possession the mill took fire and was totally consumed about 1870. It is said that it was heavily insured at the time.

CARDING AND CLOTH-DRESSING. About 1824, Ebenezer Smith sold water-power to one Pennel (who later removed to Northville, Wayne county) for the purpose of erecting, carding and cloth-dressing works; but he confined him to that special branch of business and nothing - else in his deed, and it was this which more than anything else, contributed to the downfall of Auburn as an important point. The power could only be purchased for specific purposes named in the deed, and people, and especially capitalists, very soon tired of investing money under such restrictions.  Pennel erected a mill, however, dye-house, etc., and purchased three sets of carding machines, at a cost of eight hundred dollars each, in New York.  Pennel had abundant means, and purchased and improved considerable additional property in Auburn.  He operated his clothing works for some ten years and at one period John K. Smith was probably associated with him in business.  The works changed hands a number of times, and eventually became the property of N.P. Stewart, who allowed them to go to decay.  The machinery was sold and taken to some other point, and the building was finally moved away and used as a barn.

A TRIP-HAMMER SHOP was erected by Miller and Silsby about 1837, and the firm carried on quite an extensive business in the manufacture of scythes, axes, etc.  This establishment was carried on for some fifteen years.

TANNERY.  Among other manufactories, a tannery was put in operation by Woodford and Welch as early as 1833, and continued for about ten years.

A second saw-mill was built by C.C. Parks about 1830.  He built a new dam below the one created by Webster, and the back water at length got him into trouble, and the business was abandoned.  Still another dam was built by Wm. Beem about 1833, a little below where the bridge now is on the road leading north from Auburn.  He dug a long race (the ruins of which still remain) and built a saw-mill which was in operation for a number of years, and eventually fell into the hands of John Bacon.  It was abandoned about 1855.

A large chair-factory was in operation for a number of years, and there was also a cabinet-shop doing a good business.

Auburn in those days was a better town than Pontiac, and probably the largest business point by all odds in the county.  It had a post-office, a jeweler, a gunsmith, several large stores, two tailoring establishments, and two extensive blacksmithing works by Ira Goodrich and the Silsby brothers, each with three fires.

There was also a large hotel, and the place was a central point for militia musters and celebrations.

THE FIRST POST-OFFICE was established in 1823, with Johnson Green as postmaster, who held it for a good number of years, and was probably succeeded by Milton Hyde. Other postmasters were C. C. Parks, Harvey Seeley, John Bacon, Leonard Weed, Warren Dunning, and the widow Kin-r, who was also the last. The office was discontinued about 1866-67.

The first hotel in Auburn was opened by Charles C. Hascall as early as 1825. Among those who kept tavern in the village were Warren Dunning, 1840; Thomas J. Strong, 1843; Daniel Wallace, in 1848.

The first store was opened by Zolman Carver, who married a daughter of Ebenezer Smith, and brought in a stock of goods about 1823-24. One of his finest trades was with the Goodrich boys, who sold him forty "coon-skins" at twenty-five cents each, Carver sold them at eighteen and three-quarter cents, charged the difference to profit and loss, and went out of the fur business for a while. The second store and first distillery were put in operation by Phoenix Hinchman in 1825. He built a distillery below the grist-mill, and brought water from a spring on the mill company's land above the village. Hinchman conducted the distilling business for several years, and sold to Aaron Smith, who continued it for some time.

The third store was opened by Oliver Newberry, an early settler in Detroit, and Seth Beach, about 1826-27.  Newberry resided in Detroit, where he was doing a large business, and Beach conducted the business in Auburn. They carried the heaviest stock in the place, and carried on business for six or seven years.

Among the many merchants who sold goods in Auburn were Keeler and Niles (Johnson Niles and Roswell Keeler), who did business for four or five years; Ma or and Thomas Cummings; Parks & Mathews (C. C. Parks and Calvin Mathews); Stewart & Bacon, who had an extensive trading-house in connection with their mills; C. C. Hascall and Eugene Seeley; George Hosler, the widow King (in connection with the post-office), and the widow Hubbard.

THE FIRST SCHOOL was opened in a double log building, which stood on the bank of the river about 1824. The building had a wheelwright's shop in the opposite end. The second school was opened in a new school-building erected on a lot given by Aaron Webster for school purposes, and which he curiously deeded to "Governor Cass and his successors in office forever, to be used only for school purposes," and the fee-simple is in the governor of the State to-day, though the lot is no longer used for school purposes, and has been fenced up and sold. This building was accidentally destroyed by fire soon after it was built. None of the names of the early teachers are now recollected.

THE AUBURN ACADEMY was established by an act of the legislative council approved March 2, 1831.  By the act seven trustees were named, vis: Benj. Phelps, S.V.R. Trowbridge, Elisur Goodrich, Ezra S. Park, Reuben Woodford, Seth Beach, and George Hornell. 

The present schools of Auburn occupy the building formerly used by the Auburn academy, and are in a highly preposterous condition.

The charter was obtained chiefly through the exertions of Hon. C.C. Hascall, then a member of the council.  A good building was erected, and this institution was in operation for a number of years.  In January, 1838, Francis B. Coleman was principal, and Miss R.W. Torrey preceptress of the female department.

We take the following article from the old Oakland Chronicle, of June 11, 1830, as showing the importance of Auburn at that date, and the extravagant anticipations indulged in by many of the people:

"This young and flourishing place is located on the banks of the Clinton river, three and a half miles east of Pontiac, on the main road leading from Mount Clemens to the county seat of Sciawassa.  The banks of the Clinton are gently and beautifully elevated on either side.  The water privilege is rarely surpassed, and exceeded by none in the Territory.  There are now erected fifty buildings, and a population of three hundred inhabitants' also in operation a grist-mill, with two run of stone, a saw-mill, carding-machine, two smith-shops, a furnace, wheelwright, cabinet-maker, tannery, and chairmaker, all aided by water-power; two merchants, men of capital and enterprise; a large and commodious house of entertainment, recently established.  The completion of a road -- about one mile -- will soon be effected, on a direct line to Hamilton's tavern, on the Saginaw turnpike, which will only make a difference of two miles from Detroit to Auburn, and a much better road.  Auburn is situated nearer the centre of population than any other village in the county."  (This description of Auburn shows not only the importance of the place, but also the scholarship of the writer.)

Among early settlers in Pontiac township, outside of the villages of Pontiac and Auburn, were Christopher Bulman, from Schenectady, New York, in May, 1831.  Henry Thomas and some settled somewhat earlier.  Ephraim Colby settled in 1830.  Levi Stockwell settled a mile north of Auburn in 1837.  Moses V. and Samuel Murlin, from western New York, settled somewhat earlier than Bulman.  Peter Van Dyke settled about 1830. About 1840 he returned to New York, where he remained about two years, when he removed to Will county, Illinois. Messrs. Harrington and Butson settled east of Auburn at an early date.

The present manufactures consist of the following:

A new flouring- and custom-mill, recently erected by H. Gillette and J. C. Romine. It stands on the spot occupied by the old Stewart mill, is forty-eight by thirty-four feet in dimensions, and contains four run of burrs. It is fitted up with the best modern machinery, — turbine water-wheel, etc., and expects to do as "good work as any mill in the country. Mr. Gillette is a practical man at the business, and has been a resident of the county some forty years. He and his brother owned and operated one of the Rochester mills for fourteen years.  Mr. Romine is from New Jersey, and has been in Oakland County about three years.

A wagon-shop is owned and operated by S. A. Barnier, and doing a very fair business; and Messrs. Saml. and Fred. Durrant are running quite an extensive and very flourishing business of blacksmithing.

H. Adolph Schönemann carries on the business of coopering.

The original village was laid out in a beautiful piece of ground, and had it not been for causes over which, perhaps, the people of Auburn had no control, it might have been possibly for many years the best town in the county. The water-power was very good for the size of the stream, and, as is shown, was at one time extensively utilized.

RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS. The first religious body organized in Auburn was probably the Presbyterian, which properly began operations in Bloomfield, and was soon after transferred to Auburn, about 1824. In 1841 it was removed to Pontiac.

At one time there was a small number of Christians in the place, and they probably held some sort of meetings, but, so far as known, never organized as a church. One of the manufacturing firm of Silsby Brothers was said to have been a preacher, and possibly held services. (There was a small Methodist clan and irregular preaching at Auburn as early as 1827.  They never had a house of worship, and afterwards united with the church in Pontiac.)

At present the only religious society in the place is the Free Methodist. The first preacher of this denomination was Edward Mathews, an Englishman, who held services on the fair-ground at Pontiac, in 1873.

He organized a society in Auburn in the spring of 1874, and preached for about two years, when he went to South Lyon, then in the same charge. From South Lyon he removed to Jackson. Rev. Archibald Springsteen succeeded him. Auburn and South Lyon were divided and made two separate charges in 1876. Mr. Springsteen remained only a few months. Rev. S. Johnson took charge in October, 1876.

The present number of members is twenty-nine: and there are twelve in Pontiac and fourteen in Avon, who also meet at Auburn. A Sabbath-school was organized in May, 1877, with five teachers and about forty scholars, including three Bible-classes.  At present the society occupies the second story of the school-building, but it is in a flourishing condition, and there is some talk of erecting a house of worship.

They have preaching every Sabbath, class-meetings Tuesday evening, and prayer-meetings Thursday evening. The denomination forbids the use of tobacco and all superfluities of dress. (There are no religious societies, outside the city of Pontiac and the village of Auburn, in the township.)

BURYING-GROUND. The first place of sepulture was upon ground given by Aaron Webster, about 1822-23, and consisting of about one acre. It was surveyed and platted by Judah C. Marsh, an early settler, whose daughter was the first person interred in the ground. The first interments of adults were Aaron Webster and his wife and their son-in-law, named Crippen.

This is still the only public cemetery in Auburn.

In the Oakland Chronicle, under date of May, 1830, the Female Benevolent Society of Auburn acknowledge the laudable patronage and assistance severally rendered by the young gentlemen of Auburn. August 24, Edmund Lamson advertises himself as a chairmaker, at "No. 16 Kingdom of Wrath."

There was a general muster at Auburn in October, 1830.

In that year Ira Goodrich was carrying on blacksmithing, and Smith & Dean were running the woolen-mill.

The temperance movement seems to have been lively in Auburn in January, 1831. A great meeting was held at Hascall's assembly-room on the 31st of that month, at which a township temperance society was formed, with the following officers: President, Joseph Morrison; Secretary, John Southard; Vice-President, John R. Smith; Treasurer, Jacob N. Voorheis; Auditor, Stephen M. Brewster.

Charles C. Hascall, of Auburn, was appointed in July, 1836, receiver of public moneys for the district of Michigan.

The following items are taken from the Oakland Whig: In February, 1835, Pennel & Smith were running a carding and cloth-dressing mill. In March of the same year D. K. Noble and C. C. Parks were carrying on the business of wagon- and carriage-making, and R. Keeler & Co. advertise a general store. The 4th of July, 1835, was celebrated with great eclat at Auburn. The following gentlemen composed the committee of arrangements: S. V. R. Trowbridge, C. C. Hascall, L. Castle, Leonard Weed, David Baggs, L. W. Mann, G. 0. Whittemore, T. A. Sprague, Orison Allen, Hiram Higby, Ed. Martin, Jesse Decker; James Graham was president, and Thomas Murlin vice-president, and an oration was delivered by P. McOmber, Esq. Revolutionary soldiers were invited free of expense.

Among the patriotic toasts was the following:

INDIAN TRAIL. The great Indian trail from Mount Clemens to Pontiac and Orchard lake passed through Auburn.

 

Source:  History of Oakland County, Michigan by Durant, Samuel W. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & co., 1877.


"The patriots and heroes of the Revolution.
We love to think of Bunker Hill, Yorktown and Brandywine;
We love those old Green Mountain boys,
Who mounted John Burgoyne."
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