Royal Oak Township Life
SCHOOLS. The first school in the township was taught in the log house which Josiah Goddard had built on the west side of the Crooks road, in the northeast quarter of section 16, and a short time later abandoned, after which it was used as a school-house and as a place of meeting by religious worshipers of whatever denomination.
The next was a frame school-house, only a few rods from the site of the present one, in district No. 1. Then there was one built at Chase's Corners, and others followed in other parts of the township not very much later.
At that time school-houses were built and schools taught in them under the simple old plan, which was just the same in Royal Oak as everywhere else in the new country, --the universal method of a day of meeting of the male inhabitants to rear the house by a co-operation of labor, and afterwards a subscription, per capita of pupils, to raise the fifteen dollars per month which was required as the remuneration of a superior teacher for the winter term. Many are the tales, both ludicrous and pathetic, told by the old settlers concerning their experiences on the slab or puncheon seats of those rude temples of learning, but all look back with a feeling of tender regret to the school-days and scenes which they can never see again.
There are now in the township eight good and comfortable frame school-houses and nine schools,-there being in district No. 6, which embraces the village of Royal Oak, two schools, a primary and a grammar school,-all necessitating a total annual expenditure of two thousand nine hundred and fifty dollars. The custom of employing male teachers for the winter term is not universal in this township, and now in the large district which embraces the village the principal teacher, both winter and summer, is a female, though this has not been the case until the recent necessity for retrenchment of expenses enforced the innovation on the venerable rule of male teachers for the winter term. Before this, as high as seven hundred dollars per annum has been paid. to the male principal in this district, and four hundred dollars to the female assistant; but the aggregate of both salaries has now been reduced to about nine hundred dollars.
In the other districts of the township the salaries are about thirty-five dollars per month for the winter, whether to male or female teachers, and in summer about three dollars and fifty cents per week, with board. No. 6 is by far the largest of the districts, having an average attendance of about one hundred pupils, and in this district is the best of the school buildings, located on the main street of the village. District No. 9 has also an exceptionally good school building, which has been built in place of one that was destroyed by fire in 1873. The site of the present house in that district was donated by Andrew C. Porter, and the ground has been very tastefully embellished by the setting out of shade-trees around its margin.
THE BAPTIST CHURCH OF ROYAL OAK was organized under the charge of Elder Stephen Goodman, of Troy, in January, 1839, the original members being Henry Stephens and wife, William Betts and wife, Dr. L. C. Rose and wife, Chester Morgan and wife, and Amelia Nichols. For some time before the organization, these and a few other devout ones had been accustomed to meet in the school-houses, and sometimes at dwellings, and there to hold religious worship under the preachings of Elders Goodman, Buttolph, Keys, and such other preachers as from time to time chanced to come among them.
Mr. Goodman continued to labor with them for several years. After him came Rev. Avery Dennison and Rev. Samuel Jones, of Grand Blanc (who was with them about 1844). Then Mr. Goodman returned, and his was followed by the second pastorate of Mr. Dennison.
Other preachers who came later were Revs. Isaiah Fay, James Ward (now of Detroit), O. E. Clark, the third pastorates of Elders Goodman and Dennison, Henry Pearsall (of Avon), -- Church, from Fentonville, -- Chenowith, - Mendell, and the present pastor, Rev. Silas Finn, who came to the service of the church in 1871.
The first church edifice was commenced immediately after the organization, upon lots donated by Sherman Stephens, at the corner of Third and Main streets, in Royal Oak village. It was built by Henry Stephens, as contractor, and he also contributed most liberally towards the cost of the building, of which the total was about seven hundred dollars. It was dedicated in August, 1839.
Thirty-six years later, a new and larger church building having been decided on, the old one of 1839 was sold to the German Lutherans, and the new edifice, the present Baptist house of worship, was erected on the west side of the main street, at the north end of the village. For a time after the sale of the old church the congregation, by an arrangement with the purchasers, continued to use it as their place of meeting, until their own building was roofed in, and they
were able to occupy its basement for that purpose.
The church was dedicated in August, 1876. It is a handsome building, standing on the ground in the form of a Greek cross, seventy feet in extent either way. In its erection, the Rev. Silas Finn, the pastor, individually bore a very heavy part-fully one-half-of the financial burden, which was by no means insignificant; the whole cost being about four thousand dollars.
In connection with the church is a Sabbath-school, which was organized many years ago, during the pastorate of Mr. Pearsall, and of which he was also the first superintendent. Its existence, however, was very irregular for several years, being always suspended during the inclement season, and sometimes permitted to be closed even during the summer. It is now continued regularly through the year, and the average attendance is nearly or quite fifty. The present superintendent is J. M. Finn.
THE METHODIST CHURCH. The first organization of the Methodists in Royal Oak took place a short time before that of the Baptists, in the year 1838. Their first meetings were held in the school-house that stood on land now owned by Mrs. Fay, near the south end of the village. The congregation was quite numerous, and among the first preachers who served them was Rev. J. M. Arnold. Their house of worship the same in which their meetings are still held-was commenced in 1842, on lots donated by Sherman Stevens, and completed in the spring of 1843, at a cost of fifteen hundred dollars. The present pastor is Rev. George W. Owen.
About the time of the Methodist organization, a Sabbath-school-the first in the township of Royal Oak-was commenced under the auspices of both Methodists and of Congregationalists, though it was prior to the organization of the latter denomination. Chiefly instrumental in the commencement of this early Sabbath-school were David Cowen, a Methodist, and Levi Tootill, Congregationalist. Mr. Cowen was made superintendent, and Mr. Tootill was his assistant. The school was organized in the school-house where the Methodists worshiped, and its sessions were continued there during the summer season until the completion of the Methodist church, in 1843. The attendance was quite large.
Soon after the organization of the Congregationalist church this union Sabbath-school was divided, and two schools were formed from it, --Congregationalist and Methodist. The first superintendent of the last named was Edward Ferguson. At the present time that responsible post is held by Harvey S. Hitchcock. The school is continued through the year, and the average attendance is about eighty.
THE CONGREGATIONALIST CHURCH. This organization was effected on the 13th of August, 1842, by Rev. Ebenezer McDowell, in the Baptist church in Royal Oak village. The original members numbered only five, namely: Peter Merritt and wife, Levi Tootill and wife, and George Scongel. Immediately after, however, there were several additions to it from the Presbyterian church at Birmingham, among these being Ezra Blackman, Lyman Blackman, and Joseph Quick.
Rev. Mr. McDowell labored with the church for about a year and a half, and then came Rev. Charles Fairchild, who remained more than three years, then Rev. Mr. Steele, who remained one year, and during whose ministry occurred the most notable revival in the history of this congregation,-a revival which brought large accessions to the numbers of the church. After Mr. Steele came Rev. Ezekiel Lucas, who remained two years; Rev. S. N. Hill, three or four years; Rev. O. C. Thompson, of Detroit, one year; Rev. James Nail, of Detroit, six years; Rev. Mr. Thompson again, one year; Rev. Charles S. Pettigew, one year; Rev. Mr. Marvin, from Clyde, Ohio, about two years; Rev. Samuel Porter, from Illinois, two years; and after him the present pastor, Rev. O. C. Thompson, who came in May, 1874, and is now in the third term of his labor with this church.
The places in which this congregation have worshiped have been, first the Baptist church in which they organized, in 1842, and where they met until the following spring, when they removed to the Methodist church, then just made ready for occupancy, and in which they held their meetings until the completion of their own church building. Their occupation of the Methodist house was in pursuance of an arrangement made with that society, by which the Congregationalists, in consideration of the right to use the church as a place of meeting, agreed to purchase and pay for their pews within it as if members of the Methodist congregation.
The church building of the Congregationalists, the house in which they now meet for worship, was built during the pastorate of Rev. James Nail.. The lots upon which it was erected were donated by Mrs. Dr. Drake, of Flint, and were located on the west side of the main street of the village.
The Presbyterian meeting-house at Troy Corners being then vacated and for sale, Dr. H. K. Lathrop and Levi Tootill, Esq., were constituted a committee to negotiate with Mr. Johnson Niles, of that township, for its purchase, with view to remove it to Royal Oak. They were successful in their mission, purchased the building at a price of three hundred dollars, removed it piece by piece to the church lots in the village, upon which it was re-erected; even the old slips and pulpit being used, although the latter was partially remodeled. There was no addition to the size of the building, nor any change in its outward form. It was dedicated August 28, 1867, Rev. Dr. Ballard, of Detroit, officiating. Its cost was a little more than eighteen hundred dollars in money, besides a large amount of donated labor. The present membership is fifty-nine.
At the division of the Union Sabbath-school, as before mentioned, the first superintendent of the new school commenced by the Congregationalists was James Bowen Johnson, and under his charge it became very flourishing. The average attendance is now over eighty. The present superintendent is Ira Burhans.
THE UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATION. This church was organized nearly thirty years ago as the "United Presbyterian Congregation of' Troy"; their organization being effected, and their first meetings held, in the Marvin school-house, in that township.
In the year 1853 it was decided to remove their place of worship to the township of Royal Oak, as being a more convenient point for a majority of the members, and a site was selected on the northeast corner of section 8, where a lot containing a third of an acre was donated for the purpose by David Chase. Upon this lot an edifice, their present house of worship, was built in the year named, and was dedicated in the spring of 1854. The cost of the building was about two thousand dollars, and William Bailey, Sr., was the carpenter and builder who had charge of its construction. It was found necessary that the lot should be enlarged, and for that purpose an additional half-acre was purchased from Mr. Chase, making an area of five-sixths of an acre in the entire lot.
The first pastor of the congregation in Royal Oak was Rev. James M. Smeallie, who remained until March 4, 1860, and was succeeded by Rev. William Robertson, in March, 1861. He remained until April 21, 1868, and in the succeeding October the Rev. Richard M. Patterson was installed. He resigned November 30, 1870. All these pastors were most excellent men, and greatly respected and beloved. Their present pastor, Rev. J. P. Gibson, was ordained and installed April 22, 1874. The membership is about eighty.
Connected with the church is a Sabbath-school, under the superintendence of Mr. Jonathan Todd; attendance about seventy-five.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. This church edifice stands in school district No. 6, in the northeast corner of section 15, on a quarter of an acre of ground donated for the purpose by Edmund Loughman. It was erected in the year 1868, under the direction of Rev. George Mivels, then the priest in charge. He was soon after succeeded by Rev. Louis Hendricks, the present pastor, who resides in Warren township, Macomb county, and also has charge of the church at that place. Services in the Royal Oak church are held once a month. The membership at the time of the erection of the church was about twenty-five, which has increased to about forty at the present time, the greater portion being Germans and French.
THE LUTHERAN CHURCH of Royal Oak was organized as recently as the year 1874, under charge of Rev. Mr. Speckhard, who still continues as their pastor.
Their place of worship is the church edifice purchased by them from the Baptists in 1875, as mentioned above. The congregation is quite large, and is increasing in numbers.
LUTHERAN ORPHAN ASYLUM. An orphan asylum was established here by Lutherans in 1874, the same year of the organization of their church in Royal Oak. The asylum grounds were purchased of Mark Hall, and comprised about twenty acres, formerly the property of Moses Johnson. Upon this tract were ordinary farm buildings, which were repaired, added to, and remodeled for the requirements of the institution.
Although the asylum was not established for the exclusive benefit of those orphans who were also deaf-mutes, yet its inmates were nearly all of that unfortunate class. It was commenced under the patronage of German Lutherans of Detroit, and during its entire existence in Royal Oak was under the charge and superintendency of Rev. Mr. Speckhard, the Lutheran pastor.
The institution remained in operation in this township for about two years, but has now recently been removed to Norris, Wayne county. Its projectors were from the first divided in opinion as to the advisability of its establishment in Royal Oak, and when the offer of a free gift of ample grounds and of a further generous donation in money was made on condition of the transfer of the asylum to Norris, it was favorably entertained, and the removal made, as mentioned above.
The first place of burial in Royal Oak was a spot now embraced in the farm of Mr. Russell, near the southeast corner of section 16; this being considered by the people at that time to be a most eligible place, partly on account of the nature of the ground, but more particularly because of its location within a few rods of the territorial centre of the township, and upon its main road. But this road, for a distance of nearly two miles, was soon after discontinued, which led to the abandonment of this and the commencement of another burial-ground, in the northern portion of the present cemetery enclosure.
The first interment at the old spot was that of a daughter of Cromwell Goodwin, in 1825, and a few others followed, --there may have been four or five in all, but probably not so many,-- and they were afterwards removed to the Burrows ground.
THE TOWNSHIP CEMETERY. The location of this ground is about one mile north of Royal Oak village, and it occupies, together with the Catholic cemetery, the whole of that long and narrow triangle which is formed by the Paint creek and Niles roads, on the east and west, and the section-line road between 10 and 15, on the north.
At the north end of this, and embraced within its present bounds, was the spot mentioned above, which was donated by David Burrows as a place for graves, not far from 1826, during which year the first burial was made there,that of a baby daughter of David Chase.
The second interment within the ground was that of Mrs. Van Antwerp, whose family lived in the southwest quarter of section 11.
During the succeeding thirty years it was occupied and used by the public a a grave-yard, without much rule, restriction, or feeling of other than general proprietorship, until about the year 1857, when it was taken under control of the township board of health as a township cemetery, and an addition was made to its area by a purchase of two acres from William Dunham. A further purchase of about six acres was made in the spring of 1874, which seemed to give a far greater area than the township required for purposes of sepulture, but which was somewhat reduced by the sale made by the town to the Catholic society of Royal Oak of a portion, to be partitioned and separately enclosed as an exclusively sectarian ground.
THE CATHOLIC CEMETERY comprises two acres of ground, purchased by the Catholic congregation from the township of Royal Oak; this being the southern point of the triangle already mentioned. This they have enclosed in an appropriate manner and consecrated as their place of burial. There are as yet but three graves within this ground, those of Mrs. Murray, Mrs. Rush, and of Edmund Loughman, who donated the land for their church, and was one of its most substantial pillars in Royal Oak. He died in 1875, and lies beneath a beautiful monument erected by his friends, who mourn him.
The thanks of the publishers are due to Alexander Solts, Esq., Jonathan Chase, Esq., J. R. Wells, Esq., Dr. H. K. Lathrop, Captain Diodate Hubbard, and Charles M. Fay, of Royal Oak, and Dr. Ebenezer Raynale, Hon. Alanson Partridge, and Josiah Alger, Esq., of Birmingham, for valuable information and data in reference to the township of Royal Oak. Source: History of Oakland County, Michigan by Durant, Samuel W. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & co., 1877.