Assyria Township


About Assyria Township

Township 1 north, in range 7 west, was named Assyria on its organization, in 1844, and lies in the southeastern corner of Barry County, having Maple Grove township on the north, Calhoun County on the south, Eaton County on the east, and Johnstown township on the west. When first settled the township consisted mainly of oak-openings, with tracts of hard-wood timber in the eastern part.

Old settlers say it was a most attractive-looking country, particularly in early summer, when wild-flowers covered the earth in profusion, and the numerous glades offered a charming perspective in every direction.  Assyria is reckoned an excellent agricultural township, particularly in the production of wheat, of which the yield is said to average 20 bushels per acre. In the west and southwest the surface is rough, and there is some waste land, but generally the surface is level and the soil rich.  Assyria is a rural township.

Township 1, range 7, remained in undisturbed possession of the red man, the wolf, and the deer until the autumn of 1836, when Joseph S. Blaisdell, a Vermonter, came with his family to section 36, and established himself as a pioneer.   Blaisdell was the only settler in that part of the township for some time, but was not without neighbors.   At the time of his coming there were in the town two Indian villages, — the larger one, containing about 30 lodges, being on section 24, and a smaller one, of 20 huts, near by, on section 25. In the larger village stood the council-house, and in both of them there were evidences that the inhabitants had abided there some time. Rude fences in-closed cornfields here and there, and a burying-ground dotted with graves gave token that these savages had been for many years located in this locality.

With these neighbors Mr. Blaisdell soon became a character of importance. He traded with them, and generally gained their warm friendship.   Nevertheless, some of them gave him on one occasion a serious fright.  He was awakened one night about twelve o’clock by a furious uproar in his cabin, and, springing from his bed, was confronted by a party of eight redskins, evidently as drunk as white man’s whisky could make them.

They brandished their knives in a threatening manner, and uttered the most diabolical of howls. Mr. Blaisdell, making sure that the savages meant to scalp him, attempted to escape from the cabin, but they headed him off, and compelled him, as a measure of safety, to dodge behind the cabin stove. They chased him, however, not only away from there, but all over the house, yelling like mad, and at every jump poor Blaisdell expected to feel his hair parting company with his head. They were evidently, however, only desirous to frighten him, and ere long left the cabin, allowing the terrified pioneer to recover his senses and to thank Heaven that he still lived.

Mr. Blaisdell was a man of strong religious feelings, and when he came to township 1 brought with him from Vermont a Free-Will Baptist minister, to whom he presented an 80-acre lot, the terms of the donation being that he should settle upon the land and should hold occasional religious services. The minister received a deed of the land, lived with Blaisdell, preached in Blaisdell’s house and in the neighborhood, but did not settle upon the 80 acres.  At the end of a twelvemonth he concluded that he had had quite enough of Western life, and distressed Blaisdell exceedingly by informing him that he would turn his face towards the East and return no more to Michigan. And go he did, selling to Blaisdell the land which the latter had donated to him with the expectation that he would become a permanent minister of the gospel in the vicinity.

When Mr. Blaisdell settled in Assyria, and for some time afterwards, there was a great hunting-ground for deer in the vicinity of the deer-licks on section 26. There Indians put up staging in the trees, from which they would slay the deer as fast as the latter could come to the licks.

About 1840 the Indians living in the township moved to other localities, and their council-house, lodges, and villages fell into decay.  Indian relics may, however, be found in the neighborhood to this day, and one hears occasionally of arrow-heads, hatchets, and such articles, being turned up by the plowshare of the husbandman.

Capt. C. D. Morris, a retired naval officer on half-pay, owned the land on section 24, having in 1836 purchased upwards of 400 acres on sections 23 and 24. When he settled on the place (in 1850 or soon after), he built a house upon the very spot previously occupied by the Indian council-house, of which portions were standing at that time.

Mr. Blaisdell remained the only settler in Assyria until March, 1837, when Cleaveland Ellis, a New Yorker, who had located 680 acres on sections 3 and 4, came to his land accompanied by Calvin P. White, L. P. Hayes, Philo Norton, and the family of the latter, all of whom Mr. Ellis had brought with him to assist him in making a start on his land. Upon their arrival they all moved into an Indian hut found standing on section 4.  As soon as possible they built a comfortable log cabin on the same section, upon a spot now in Mr. Hinchman’s orchard.

After remaining with his hired help until August, Mr.  Ellis proceeded eastward, and brought out his father, mother, wife, and three-year-old daughter. Of these five two are living, the widow of Mr. Ellis, who resides in Assyria, and the daughter — now Mrs. Wallace Dingman — who lives in Battle Creek.

Mr. Ellis brought his family into the township with a pair of horses, but, having nothing to feed them, he took them to Bellevue, in Eaton County. When the marsh- grass began to come up he brought his horses back to Assyria, and turned them out upon the marsh. One of them speedily died, and the other, getting mired in the marsh, fell a victim to the wolves.  Mr. Ellis’ brief experience with horses in that region cured him of all desire to possess any more until he could make hay to feed them and have roads in which to drive them.

When Mr. Ellis came into the township he followed the Indian trail from Bellevue towards Basquon Creek, in the northwestern corner of the township. At that place the Indians were accustomed to camp in the winter season, and from there to Bellevue they had marked the trail mentioned.

The first death in Assyria was that of Mrs. Philo Norton, who, as already mentioned, had come with her husband in the service of Cleaveland Ellis. She died some time during 1839, and was buried upon Mr. Ellis’ farm, on section 3.

In 1839 also occurred the first birth in the township.  It was that of Naomi, daughter of Cleaveland Ellis, who was born on the 19th day of May. She lived less than two years, and died Feb. 17, 1841.

The first marriage in the township was also in the Ellis family ; Calvin P. White and Pamelia Chapin (a sister of Mrs. Ellis) being the happy pair. They were married Sept.  30, 1843, in Mr. Ellis’ new framed house, by a minister from Bellevue. The wedding-guests included, besides the Ellis family, Charles G. Baker and wife, Flagler, the car- penter at work on the house, his assistant, and some people from Bellevue. Mr. White bought some land of Ellis, on section 4, and was for many years a resident there.

When Mr. Ellis concluded to change his log cabin for a better habitation, he went over to the Quaker saw-mill, in Maple Grove, to buy the lumber, but was appalled at the price asked for it.  Old Mr. Mott, the Quaker, the owner of the property, happening to be there at the time, told Mr. Ellis he must pay the price asked, for there was no other mill in the vicinity, and no water-power on which to build one.

“ Well,” replied Ellis, “ I’ll not pay your price for all that, and what’s more I’ll find water-power and build a mill.”

As good as his word, he found a mill-site on section 12, in Assyria, interested Daniel and Abel Baldwin (then living on section 3) in the enterprise, and set about the building of a saw-mill in 1841. The Baldwins were mill- wrights and sawyers, and after the mill was put up carried it on. The irons used in its construction were hauled from Detroit, from which fact some idea may be formed of the difficulty of getting the mill in operation. This mill was sold, in 1843, to Belcher Athern and John T. Ellis, who in that year built a store just east of it, and put up an ashery at the same place, where they made “ black salts.” Athern & Ellis carried on business at that point about two years, but the amount of trade was not sufficient to make the investment a paying one, and it was then given up.

Wolves played such havoc with sheep that Mr. Ellis was ten years in doubling his flock, and to save lambs was almost an impossibility. He had to go at times as far as Marshall to mill, but soon found that convenience at Battle Creek, and a little later at Bellevue, so that getting to mill was not a very serious matter. When he first came out he had to go as far as Marengo to purchase supplies, but when he did go he laid in a liberal stock, and saved himself the trouble of making frequent trips.

Mr. Ellis was an enterprising farmer, and pushed his business with a will that greatly benefited and encouraged his fellow-settlers, while it brought him, in the course of time, a handsome fortune. To start with he had 680 acres of land, and with a large force of men he soon got a great portion of it under cultivation, so that when settlers began to come into the township he was a heavy producer, and able and willing to help them to the necessaries of life until their first crops were harvested. “ I don’t know what we would have done if it hadn’t been for Mr.  Ellis,” said one of the early settlers of 1841 to the writer, and that remark is corroborated by others of the old pioneers. When he died, in August, 1867, Cleaveland Ellis owned 880 acres of land in Assyria, and had considerable other valuable property.

When Artemas W. Chapin, a young man, came to the township, in the spring of 1840, the population of Assyria had increased to five families, besides which Stephen Raymond, a shoemaker, had made a settlement there, but had temporarily retired. The families in question were those of Henry Smith, on section 3 ; Patrick Heffron, on the same section ; Joseph S. Blaisdell, on section 36 ; John S.  Van Brunt, on section 2 ; and Cleaveland Ellis, on section 4 ; numbering, all told, 24 persons. Within a few years, however, additions to the infant settlement were made in the Ellis neighborhood by the arrival of David L. Talbot, on section 2 ; Abel and Daniel Baldwin, on section 3 ; Charles G. Baker, on section 2 ; and James Heffron, on the same section.

Mr. Baker, who came out from New York in 1842 and bought his land, worked a while for Cleaveland Ellis, and chopped in the mean time seven acres upon his own place.  In 1843 he went back to New York, married, and returned with his bride to Michigan. He had put up a cabin on his clearing, but when he brought his bride to her future home it presented itself in a far from inviting condition.  The cabin had neither window nor door. It did have a stick chimney, a mud hearth, and a floor of rough ash boards. The rain, however, had flowed in a stream into the cabin, disarranged the flooring, and covered it with mud, besides giving a generally dismal appearance to the rude interior. As the young wife stood on the threshold, she was appalled at the cheerless prospect, and cried aloud, “ For pity’s sake, is this to be my home ?”

Speaking now of her early experience as the wife of a pioneer, Mrs. Baker says : “ As forbidding as my home looked, I recollect it as a place where I took much comfort after all, and, although many a meal was simply dry bread and salt, we were philosophers in those days and thanked God matters were no worse.” Provisions were scarce at times because they were not to be had short of a two or three days’ journey. Generally, however, Cleaveland Ellis had supplies, which he dealt out to all comers. Nearly every settler, too, could find work with cash pay at Mr.  Ellis’ when a little money was needed ; and needed it was sorely by many a pioneer while waiting to get his crops to market.

Joseph Blaisdell’s first near neighbor was Stephen Raymond, before mentioned, who, in 1837, made a settlement upon the south line of the township, on section 34, where, besides clearing his land, he plied the trade of a shoemaker whenever occasion required his services. Another early mechanic in that neighborhood was one Wample, a blacksmith, who set up a shop on section 26, on the line of the Bellevue and Hastings road, about 1840. His stay was, however, not a long one, and when he disappeared no one knew whither. About 1840 two settlers named Eaton and Dutton made commencements upon section 14, but did not tarry a great while, Eaton selling out to Mathew Mulvanciy and his son James. Then came Abel Giles to section 26, Russell Hartom to section 25, Oliver Martin, Daniel Miller, Henry Wilbur, and Richard Wilbur.

The persons just named were in the neighborhood when George W. Knapp made a settlement in April, 1843, upon 120 acres on section 26, which he had purchased in 1836.

In the latter year Oliver Halsted had bought 320 acres on section 23, and John Rogers a small tract on section 25.  Rogers sent three of his sons to the place in the spring of 1837 to make a clearing, but they had only put up their cabin and made a start as pioneers, when their father sent for them to assist him in carrying on a tavern he had taken hold of in Battle Creek, and Assyria knew the Rogers family no more, at least as pioneers.

Mr. Knapp had been living in Battle Creek since 1840, and had there been engaged in the business of sign painting and glazing. He relates that he hung the first piece of wall-paper ever hung in Battle Creek, and cut the first pane of glass, and painted the first post-office sign in that village. He also painted for H. A. Goodyear, of Hastings, the first store-sign ever painted in Barry County. He cut all the glass put into the present Barry County court-house, and as a glazier was regarded as one of the most expeditious workmen in Western Michigan.

After he settled in Assyria he walked many a day to Battle Creek and back to earn $1.50 for a day’s labor at his trade, and esteemed himself lucky in being able to do so.  His skill as a glazier was such that he was called from his clearing to Battle Creek to win a wager made to the effect that he could set 1020 lights of glass in ten hours, the field of operations to be Ward’s factory, then being erected in that village. He walked to the village before breakfast, began his task at seven o’clock, and by eleven had set 540 lights. The party of the opposition, seeing that he was certain to lose the bet, refused to furnish any more glass, and the performance therefore came abruptly to an end.

Mr. Knapp’s house was in dense timber, and to it, from the Bellevue and Hastings road, there was not even a path through the forest. Nearing his home by the shortest route, he would invariably call out to his wife, so that on hearing her response he would know that he was close to his house. Without taking this precaution he was as liable to pass on and lose himself in the woods as he was to find his cabin door ; indeed, he did more than once pass his house, and found considerable difficulty in making his way back to it.

Before he was quite ready to move to his shanty from Battle Creek he went over to the marsh on section 26, and cut hay enough to winter his cow, but when he went to haul it home some one had been before him and carried it off. As there was no more hay to cut, he had to sacrifice the straw in his bedtick to save the cow from starving until he could earn money to buy better feed for her. The marsh spoken of was a popular resort for early settlers when seeking food for their cattle.

Among the settlers who came in shortly after Mr. Knapp were Samuel P. Tuttle (who sold his place to M. W. Thompson), Lebbeus Hodgman, John Cronk, Hiram Tripp (called Big Tripp, with whom came T. H. Bartram, now living on section 34), Edwin Wilbur, John Wilbur, John H. Keith, G. P. Stevens, A. W. Wilcox, S. H. Young, and, later, Henry Hare. Mr. Wample, the blacksmith, has already been mentioned. He bought 20 acres of land of

Abel Giles on section 26, and after he had built his house and shop and put down a well he found that they were all within the bounds of a north-and-south road which had been

surveyed, but not opened. When it was opened the commissioners accommodatingly allowed the shop, house, and well to stay where they were, and carried the highway around them.

Another pioneer blacksmith of the township was D. W.  Ellis, who came to Assyria in July, 1844, to work for his brother Cleaveland, on whose place he soon set up a black- smith-shop.

The next comer to the Ellis neighborhood was Benjamin Jones, who occupied land upon section 9 in 1847, being followed in 1848 by his brother, Richard, previously (from 1838) a resident of Hillsdale County, who still lives on section 9 in Assyria. During Mr. Jones’ first year in Assyria he cleared, with the help of his seventeen-year-old son, 60 acres of land, and put in 50 acres of wheat.

Charles Davy also came to section 9 in 1849, and soon afterwards A. G. Kent and J. B. Tuekerman settled in the same neighborhood. In 1847, James Tompkins made a settlement upon section 21 with his sons, John, James, and George. His nearest neighbors were Jacob Hartom, a half-mile east, and Mathew Harvey eighty rods south. In 1849 another of his sons, Cornelius W., located himself on the same section.

In 1844, G. P. Stevens came to the township on a prospecting tour, and bought 80 acres of land on section 23.  He came to occupy the place permanently in 1846, having meanwhile caused a tract of 20 acres to be cleared on his lot. Part of the work was done by Elisha Andrus, who lived on the clearing until Stevens came, in 1846, and then bought Abel Giles’ farm, on section 26. Stevens’ neighbors were Knapp, Amos L. Parkhurst, J. H. Keith (a carpenter), Calvin Austin (two miles north, and the nearest neighbor in that direction), Abel Giles, Elijah Mills, John Cronk, Lebbeus Hodgman, and Phineas Walker.

When Stevens began his pioneering he had to go four miles to a blacksmith’s shop in Bellevue whenever he wanted any tinkering done, and more than once he carried his plowshare and tools on his back through the woods to that shop. He started one stormy night for Bellevue to fetch a doctor for his sick child. He reached the doctor’s residence all right, but in coming home he lost his way, got into a swamp, and wandered about until morning”, unable to extricate himself in the western portion of the township settlements did not begin at a very early day, nor did they advance rapidly after they did begin, for the reason doubtless that that section was rough, and in some places marshy.

Rev. Mr. Rogers, the Methodist preacher, was one of the earliest settlers there, as was also Volney Hyde who lived on section 18 as early as 1841, and farmed 160 acres. He sold his place to Z. Hyde, whose widow married James B. Norris, an early comer to Assyria.  When George L. Briggs located upon section 6, in April 1850, there was no settlement in his neighborhood, and none south of him nearer than the Hyde farm. After Briggs came David Miller, J. Miller, Tho Woods, George Bennett, E. T. Telling, Austin’ Stanton, Jonathan Mead, and, further south, W.  Juwell at one time county register.


A tragic love-story marks the early history of Assyria, and indicates that the rough experience of pioneering did not entirely eradicate the more delicate feelings of le grande passion. James Evans, of the adjoining town of Pennfield, fell madly in love with Betsey Blaisdell, of Assyria, and courted her with a persistency deserving abundant success. She looked, however, with much disfavor upon his suit, and upon his visit to her father’s house some time in 1842 refused point-blank to marry him, although he implored and prayed her to have him. He lodged that night in Mr. Blaisdell’s house, and, under the crushing influence of a hopeless love, cut his throat with Mr. Blaisdell’s razor. Although he was then snatched by a surgeon from the jaws of death, he never recovered from the hurt, and, after lingering a few months, died.

In 1845, Russell Hartom was accidentally killed at a “ raising,” and later Mathew Mulvaney was the victim of a fatal runaway accident while driving home from Battle

Creek. In 1858 a man by the name of Fox was killed by a falling tree, Augustus Ford was thrown from a wagon load of wood in 1865 and killed, a tree killed a Mr. Coats in 1877, and in 1878 Henry Sackett was gored to death by a bull, and Mary Tasker, a demented person, hung herself.


Assyria had its celebrated case in 1848, when not only the township, but the county, was much agitated over the stealing of the body of Joseph S. Blaisdell from the South Assyria Cemetery, and the subsequent sensational trial of persons charged with the robbery. Mr. Blaisdell died March 10, 1848, and two days after his burial his grave was found to have been opened and his body stolen.  A prompt investigation led to the conclusion that certain medical men of Battle Creek and neighboring places were concerned in the affair, and Mr. Blaisdell’s friends accordingly caused the arrest of three persons charged with having participated in the theft.

The case came on for a preliminary examination before G. W. Knapp, a justice of the peace of Assyria, and so large was the attendance that he adjourned the case to the school-house, and even that building failed to accommodate half the people who came to the trial.  Judge Abner Pratt, of Marshall, appeared as attorney for the prosecution, and John Van Arnam for the defense. A host of witnesses was examined, and a remarkably sharp display of legal learning was vouchsafed to the spectators. After two days proceedings the prosecution, having failed to make a case, retired from the field defeated. The prisoners were set free, and, although continued efforts were put forth in search of the the offenders and of the dead man’s remains, nothing further was ever discovered.


The residence now occupied by the widow of Cleaveland Ellis was the first framed house built in the township, the year of its erection being 1842, and in that house, in 1843, Lydiii Wiiiron, of Verona, taught the pioneer school of Assyria.  The first district school, opened for the benefit of the residents of the northwestern portion of the township, was just over the line, in Calhoun County, and in that schoolhouse Betsey Blaisdell was one of the earliest teachers.  The first schoolhouse built in the township stood in school district No. 1, upon section 26. It was a framed structure, and was built in 1844. The early school records, not only of district No. 1, but of the township, have been lost, and it is therefore difficult to give reliable data concerning school matters. Touching district No. 1, however, it may be observed that it has long ranked high in more respects than one.  In its schools eight persons have taught, who obtained or began their education in the district, while many of its pupils have taught in other localities. Its lyceum or debating society is an intellectual organization, and through energetic encouragement has grown to be an important factor in the improvement of the district. In the fall of 1844, Charles G. Baker and Daniel L. Talbot built the first schoolhouse in district No. 2, upon section 2. In that schoolhouse 0. B. Sheldon, of Castleton, taught the first school, and Jane Farnsworth the second.  The official school report for 1879 presents the following statistics : Number of districts (whole, 6; fractional, 3) 9 “ children of school age 443 .  Average attendance (except from the First District, from which there is no report) 349

Value of school property (except the First and Sixth Districts, from which there is no report).. $1700 Year’s expenses $1874 The school directors for 1879 were S. H. Young, John Wilkinson, D. H. Chase, Amos Ashley, Asa Wilcox, L. E. Hinchman, Thomas Ford, L. T. Metcalf, and Samuel Ball.


The highway records of Johnstown township indicate that the first road laid in township 1, range 7, was the one afterwards known as a portion of the Bellevue and Hastings road. It was surveyed June 21, 1838, by F. Burgess, the highway commissioners being Cleaveland Ellis and W. P.  Bristol. It began at the quarter-post, between sections 9 and 10, passed southeasterly over a part of the Indian trail between Bellevue and Basquon Creek, and terminated on the eastern line of the county, seventy-three links north of the southeast corner of section 25. This road became a much traveled route, upon which farmers from the north drove to market at Battle Creek.  A line of four-horse coaches kept up daily communication over it for a time between Battle Creek and Hastings, and two inns were opened on this road, in Assyria.

 Shortly after 1850 one Osborn, a Baptist preacher, built a tavern of tamarack logs at the center of the township, and leased it to John Loomis, who carried it on for a while, and then gave way to Seth Davis. The present hotel at the Center occupies the site of the “Tamarack Tavern,” and was built by Edward Cox, who was for a time its landlord. Jonathan Park likewise built a tavern of maple logs on the same road, half a mile north of the Center, in 1857, and called it the Maple House. Its career ended under the proprietorship of George W. Foster, a few years afterwards.

On the 21st of June, 1838, a road was surveyed from the base-line, seven chains west of the quarter-stake on the south side of section 31, northeasterly to the northeast corner of section 4. (NOTE: one chain = 66 feet.  One link = .66 feet) The same day a survey was made of a road from the southeast corner of section 36 to the quarter-post on the south side of section 34.  M. S. Brackett surveyed a road beginning at the quarter-post between section 3, in township 1, and section 34, in township 2, and extending eastward to the west line of Eaton County ; also a road commencing at a quarter-post between sections 25 and 26, in township 2, running south to the southeast corner of section 26, thence northwesterly to the northwest corner of section 23 ; also a road commencing sixty links south of the quarter-stake between sections 34 and 35, in township 2, running thence south on said line to the southwest corner of section 35 ; and still another, beginning at a point nine chains and sixty-one links north of the quarter-stake between sections 9 and 10, running thence south to a point twenty-two chains and thirty-seven links south of the northeast corner of section 16. The same day another road was run from the northeast corner of section 36 to a point thirty-seven chains west of the southeast corner of the same section.

On the 24th day of January, 1839, a road was laid between township 1, range 7, and the town of Pennfield, beginning at the northwest corner of section 3 in Pennfield, and running thence along the lines of sections 3 and 2.  On the 15th day of January, 1841, C. Robinson and Cleaveland Ellis, commissioners, laid out a road beginning at the quarterstake on the east side of section 12, in township 1, and running thence west and north to the northwest corner of section 10; and on the same day another road, beginning at the southwest corner of section 23, in township 2, and running east to the quarter-post on the south side of the section; thence south 39 degrees east four chains, thence south 49 degrees east ten chains and fifty-five links.  On the 21st of April, 1841, Commissioners Ellis and Collier laid out a road beginning on the base-line, twenty chains west of the southeast corner of section 35, township 1, running north to a road on the line of the southeast quarter of section 26.

After 1842 road surveys were made rapidly, and from that time on to 1850 the highway commissioners were actively engaged in providing for the pressing needs of settlers, and especially of the new-comers, who lived in the woods without decent highways by which to reach or leave home. As labor on the highways was about the only work by which settlers could earn money, which came from the tax upon non-resident land owners, they were eager to see roads opened, and to work for even the small pittance they received.


While township 1 was yet a part of Johnstown a post-office was ordered to be established in it, in accordance with the efforts of Cleaveland Ellis.  Mr. Ellis was to be the post-master, and on being requested to choose for the office a name not possessed by any office in the State, hit upon Assyria.  The mail-route between Bellevue and Hastings passed via Ellis Prairie, where Mr. Ellis lived, before 1840, and by furnishing a dinner and horse-feed to the mail-carrier Mr.  Ellis had his mail brought to him from Bellevue. Presently it occurred to him that his neighbors ought also to have mail conveniences, and so it was that in 1841 or 1842 he obtained the establishment of the office called Assyria. .

Mr. Ellis retained the office until 1847, when he turned it over to Calvin P. White, who kept it until 1855. His successor was Richard Jones, and from Mr. Jones it passed successively to A. G. Kent, James Potter, Henry Sackett, Cornelius W. Tompkins, and others until March 11, 1874, when the present incumbent, Mrs. Philena Abbey, received her commission as the successor of Amos W. Bowen.

A second post-office in Assyria was established on the Bellevue and Hastings mail-route in 1850, and called South Assyria. Samuel H. Young, who was instrumental in the creation of the office, was appointed postmaster, and retained the place until 1858, when it was transferred to George W. Knapp. Mr. Knapp was the postmaster until the office was abolished, in 1860.

The first mail-carrier through Assyria was Calvin Salter, who rode on horseback and carried the mail once a week.  Later a line of daily stages was put on the road between Bellevue and Hastings, and then there was a daily mail.  Travel over the route was considerable by both stages and freight-teams, but the period of such busy traffic was not of extended duration.


In 1844 Assyria received a settler named Rogers, who straightway upon his arrival introduced himself as a Methodist Episcopal preacher, and in the Baker school-house, in district No. 2, conducted public worship every Sunday for some time. Subsequently he forsook Methodism, embraced Spiritualism, preached that doctrine, and in a short time announced himself as a clairvoyant doctor. He depended also upon herbs to effect his cures, and was quite a popular physician. He established a considerable practice, and carried it on profitably in Assyria until his death.

Dr. Archelaus Harwood, of Maple Grove, was, however, the favorite physician for miles around in the pioneer days, and in the southern portion of the county was known and esteemed of all men.

After “ Dr.” Rogers’ demise there was no resident phyician in Assyria until Dr. Youngs came, in 1858.  Dr.  Youngs retired after a practice of two years, and then there was a hiatus in Assyria’s medical history until about 1876 when Dr. Chase located at the Centre.  He remained about a year, and was followed in rapid succession by Drs. Delano Sessions, and Armour, neither of whom stayed much more than a year. Dr. J. I. Baker, the only physician now in the township, located at the Center in the spring of 1880.


The first public grave-yard laid out in the township was located upon section 26, and in that ground the first burial was that of Joseph S. Blaisdell, March 12, 1848.  In the Ellis neighborhood burials were made upon Mr. Ellis’ farm until 1849, when a public cemetery was laid out on section 9. The first person buried there was Mrs. Cyril Johnson, in 1849.


Assyria’s first store was built in 1843 upon section 12, by John T. Ellis and Belcher Athern, and carried on by them two years, when the enterprise was^ abandoned. The next store was opened at the Center by Jonathan Park, who had for some time the only store in town. That store, now kept by Mrs. Abbey, and B. T. Kent’s store, also at the Center, are the only temples of trade of which the township can boast.


A legislative act approved Feb. 29, 1844, divided the township of Johnstown and gave a separate organization to towns 1 and 2, in range 7 west, under the name of Assyria, which was chosen because the postoffice in township 1 was thus called. The first town-meeting was held at the house of Cleaveland Ellis, April 1, 1844, and at that meeting forty- three votes were polled. Cleaveland Ellis was chosen moderator, David Baldwin, John F. Fuller, Henry Mallory, and Orin Ball inspectors of election, and John S. Van Brunt clerk.

The following is a full list of the persons chosen as officers at the first township meeting: Supervisor, Cleaveland Ellis ; Clerk, John -S. Van Brunt ; Treasurer, C. P.  White ; Assessors, Peter Downs and Joseph S. Blaisdell ;

Justices of the Peace, Joseph S. Blaisdell, Samuel Andrus, Peter Downs, and Peter Dillin ; Highway Commissioners, Henry Wilbur, diaries G. Baker, and Eldredge Austin ;

Inspectors of Schools, Joseph S. Blaisdell and Archelaus Harwood ; Directors of the Poor, Henry Mallory and C.  P. White ; Constables, Charies Dodge, Henry Dean, Ed- ward Cox, Harlow Lapham ; Overseers of Highways, Calvin Austin in District No. 1, David Talbot in No. 2, Cleaveland Ellis in No. 3, Volney Hyde in No. 4, Henry Wilbur in No. 5, Rufus Brooks in No. 6, A. S. Quick in No. 7, and Joseph Badcock in No. 8 ; Poundmaster, C. P.  White.

At the same meeting $200 were appropriated for contingent expenses, and $50 for the support of the poor. The names of those chosen annually from 1845 to 1880 to serve as supervisors, clerks, treasurers, and justices of the peace are herewith given :


1845, C. Ellis ; 1846-4r, D.L.Talbot; 1848-49, C. G. Baker; 1860, P. Mulvaney; 1851, C. Ellis; 1852, P. Mulvaney; 1853, C. Ellis; 1854, P. Mulvaney; 1855, T. B. Cranson; 1856, C. Ellis; 1857- 58, T. B. Cranson ; 1859, C. Ellis ; I860, A. W. Rogers; 1861, R. Jones; 1862-63, G. P. Stevens; 1864, R. Jones; 1865, W. W. Cole; 1866-68, W. H. Jewell; 1869-70, W. W. Cole; 1871-72, T. H. Burtram; 1873, A. W. Chapin ; 1874, T. H. Bartram; 1875, W. W. Cole; 1876-77, T. H. Bartram; 1878, W. W. Cole; 1879- 80, T. H. Bartram.


1845-46, J. S. Van Brunt; 1847, C. P. White; 1848-49, J. S. Van Brunt; 1850, J. S. Lowe; 1851-52, P. D. Colo; 1853, C. W. Tompkins; 1864-55, P. D. Cole; 1856-58, G. B. Tuokerman ; 1869, P. D. Cole; 1860-63, C. L. Briggs; 1864, P. D. Cole; 1865,

A. W. Wilcox; 1866, J. H. Tuokerman; 1867-68, R. N. Atmore ; 1869, C. W. Tompkins; 1870-71, A. C. Wilson; 1872, J. A. Sorren; 1873-74, George B. Tuokerman; 1876-79, B. T. Kent; 1880, William Pratt.


1845, C. P. White; 1846, R. Slade, Jr.; 1847, B. Athearn; 1848-49, C. P. White; 1850, T. B. Cranson; 1851-62, W. P. Cole; 1853, C. Dunning; 1854-65, C. G. Baker; 1856, G. P. Stevens; 1857- 68, A. C. Webster; 1859-61, G. P. Stevens; 1862-63, A. W. Chapin; 1864, A. W. Wilcox; 1865, C. G. Bnker; ]866, A. W. Chapin; 1867, T. H. Bartram ; 1868, George T. Jones; 1869, R. N. Atmore; 1870-71, G. W. Tompkins; 1872, S. H. Young; 1873-75, J. R. Powers; 1876-77, D. Huggett; 1878, A. 6. Kent; 1879, D. Huggett; 1880, C. L. Briggs.


1845, J. S. Blaisdell; 1846, B. Atliern ; 1847, C. Ellis; 1848, S. P.  Tuttle; 1849, Jones Tompkins ; 1850, G. W. Knapp; 1851, War- ren Jay; 1852, A. W. Rogers; 1853, Jones Tompkins; 1854, S.  Raymond; 1855, A. C. Webster; 1856, S. P. Pool; 1867, D. W.

Ellis; 1858, A. Shepnrd ; 1859, W. H. Jewell; 1860, J. Hartom ; 1861, G. B. Tuckerman; 1862, T. B. Cranson ; 1863, E. Follett Jr.; 1864, J. M. Joslin ; 1865, D. Saokett; 1866, E. Follett; 1867, C. H. Palmer; 1868, T. J. Decker; 1869, S. L. Hyde; 1870, E. Follett: 1871, C. S. Clark; 1872, W. W. Cole; 1873, G. E. Bacon; 1874, C. S. Clark; 1875, J. B. Mills; 1876, G. B. Tuckerman; 1877, S. Q. Hayes; 1878, C. H. Russell; 1879, J. B. Mills ; 1880, D. Davis.

Assyria’s first assessment-roll (1844) gives the following list of resident land-owners in townships 1 and 2 :




Owner. Acres.

Daniel Miller, section 25 80

John F. Miller Poll tax

C. G. Baker, sections 2 and 3 80

Robert Hartom, sections 34 and 35 160

Abel Giles, section 26 76

Phineas Walker, section 26 44

Elijah Mills, section 28 80

Henry Wilbur, section 35 80

Oliver Martin, sections 35 and 36 160

J. S. Blaisdell, section 36 200

G. W. Knapp, section 26 120

Calvin Austin, section 13 80

Henry Dutton, section 14 80

James Mulvaney, section 14 80

Philip Baldwin, section 3 84

Samuel Baldwin Poll tax

Daniel Baldwin, section 3 84

J. S. Van Brunt, section 2 90

Edward Cox, section 11 120

Samuel Andrus, section 12 80

Charles L. Andrus, section 12 80

Elisha Andrus, section 12 73

Belcher Athern, section 12 127

Volney Hyde, section 18 160

Cleaveland Ellis, sections 3 and 4 720

C. P. White, section 4 89

H. R. Smith, section 3 80

Patrick Hetfron, section 3 40

James Heffron, section 2 40

D. L. Talbot, section 2 80

Charlotte Wilbur, section 27 80

Orrin Ball, section 12 40


Joseph Badcock, section 5 92

Abel Hallock, section 26 120

Peter Downs, section 36 160

Elisha G. Mapes, section 36 160

James Orie, section 25 80

J. F. Fuller, section 25 100

Henry Dean, section 25 40

James Buck, section 24 20

Peter Dillin, section 24 140

Rufus Brooks, section 25 80

Daniel Baldwin, section 26 80

Darwin McOmher, section 26 160

Eldredge Austin, sections 14, 22, and 23 240

Richard McOmber, section 22 160

Eli Lapham, section 35 160

A. S. Quick, section 34 160

Aaron Senter Poll tax

Archelaus Harwood, section 35 160

John Dean, section 26 .. 40

Giles Dean Poll tax


The grand jurors chosen in 1844 were Eldridge Austin, Rufus Brooks, Henry Wilbur, Calvin Austin, J. S. Van Brunt, Calvin P. White, A. S. Quick, and Jos. S. Blaisdell.

The petit jurors were Charles L. Andrus, Joseph Badcock, Henry Mallory, David L. Talbot, James Mul- vaney, John F. Fuller, Orin Ball, and Volney Hyde.

In 1845 the grand jurors were Peter Downs, S. P. Tut- tle, Cleaveland Ellis, C. G. Baker, Abel Giles, Lebbeus Hodgman, Elisha G. Mapes, and Samuel Andrus.

The petit jurors were Belcher Athern, William Sutton, Daniel Baldwin, Archelaus Harwood, Peter Dillin, George E.  Bacon, Leander Lapham, George W. Knapp.

In 1846 the grand jurors were D. L. Talbot, C. P. White, Volney Hyde, and J. S. Blaisdell.

The petit jurors were Calvin Austin, Lyman Curtis, James Mulvaney, and E. F. Cox.

In 1848 the grand jurors were C. G. Baker, C. P. White, Elisha Andrus, Lebbeus Hodgman, S. P. Tuttle, D.  L. Talbot, and A. L. Parkhurst. The petit jurors were D. W. Ellis, Cyril Johnson, A. W. Chapin, J. H. Keith, Mathew Harvey, Calvin Austin, and Belcher Athern. Towns No. 1 and No. 2, in range 7, were divided by legislative act approved March 25, 1846, No. 1 remaining Assyria and No. 2 becoming Maple Grove.



The Free-Will Baptist minister who accompanied Joseph S. Blaisdell to Assyria in 1836, as before mentioned, and who for a year conducted occasional public worship at Blaisdell’s house and in other houses across the county-line, was undoubtedly the first preacher to hold religious services in the township. Rev. Zerah Hoyt, a Presbyterian missionary stationed at Hastings, preached in Assyria at an early day, and in 1844 the Rev. Mr. Rogers, a resident in the western part of the town, preached a few Methodist sermons in the school-house of district No. 2.

The first religious body in the township was a Free-Will Baptist Church, which was formed through the efforts of Joseph S. Blaisdell, and which, during his life, held regular services in the school-house of district No. 1. Upon his death, in 1848, the organization also lost its life, and was no more heard of just previous to Mr. Blaisdell’s death.  Rev. Elijah Cook, a Free-Will Baptist, preached at the school-house, and held a series of revival-meetings, the success of which promised much for the future of the church.


About 1847 or 1848 the South Assyria Methodist Episcopal Class was organized in the school-house of district No. 1, and since that time services have been regularly maintained. The class is now on the Pennfield Circuit, in charge of Rev. Mr. Daniels. Daniel Sackett is the class leader and Joseph Grinnell superintendent of the Sunday- school. A Methodist Episcopal class was organized at the Center about 1854, and after a few years was joined to the South Assyria Class.

This class was formed about 1855, and until 1866 worshiped in the school-house on section 6. In the year named a church edifice was erected close by, and is still in use.

The class membership is about 20, the leader is Charles Clark, and the trustees G. W. Briggs, Jonathan Stevens, Wesley Clark, and J. B. Norris. Connected with the church is a flourishing Sunday-school, of which Mrs. Nickerson is the superintendent. Preaching is supplied once in two weeks by Rev. Mr. Daniels, the preacher in charge of the Pennfield Circuit.


The Advent Christian Church at Assyria Center was organized in the summer of 1871, in Tompkins’ Grove, by Elder Philip Holler, and had at the outset a membership of 17.  A. Quimby was chosen elder, and A. W. Bowen deacon. Elder Holler, of Nashville, preached once in two weeks for about a year, and for five years after that he and

Elder Berry managed between them to supply the church with preaching every Sunday. For about two years, to August, 1879, dependence was placed upon occasional supplies, and at the time noted Elder A. M. Smith, of Prairieville, now preaching at the Center once a fortnight, began his term of service. The Center school-house served as a

house of worship until the summer of 1874, when a church was built just east of the Center. The membership is now about 20, the deacon is A. W. Bowen, and the trustees are E. H. Fox, P. Holler, Chester Berry, Augustus Sackett, N. P. Hall, and A. W. Wilcox.


This church, which is also located at Assyria Center, was organized Sept. 26, 1873, by Rev. William Kelly, in the Center school-house.   A revision of the class-book in 1876, when a church edifice was built at the Center, certifies that Jacob Hartom was then the class-leader, and Rev.  J. H. Webb the preacher in charge. Mr. Hartom is still the class leader ; the preacher in charge is Rev. John Mc- Phail, and the Sunday-school superintendent W. H. Prescott. Preaching is supplied once in two weeks. The trustees are George W. Tompkins, Thomas Tasker, Charles C. Gage, Coleman Russell, and Jacob Hartom.


was organized during the winter of 1873, in A. W. Chapin’s log house, with about 30 members. William W. Cole was chosen Master; A. G. Kent, Sec. ; D. W. Ellis, 0.; J. R.  Powers, L. ; Leroy Cummings, Treas.

The Masters of the grange have been William W. Cole, C. W. Taylor, A. W. Chapin. The active membership is now about 20. The officers are A. W. Chapin, M. ; D.  W. Ellis, 0. ; William W. Cole, L. ; Augustus Dow, S. ; Richard Jones, Treas. ; 0. B. Spalding, Chaplain ; Mrs. A. W. Chapin, Ceres; Mrs. W. W. Cole, Pomona; and Mrs. Leroy Cummings, Flora.

Lyman J. Briggs

Lyman James Briggs was born on May 7, 1874, on a farm in Assyria Township, Michigan. Lyman Briggs School is named after this distinguished scientist, administrator, and writer. Dr. Briggs entered Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) by examination in 1889 at the age of fifteen. Although he majored in agriculture, his interest centered on mechanical engineering and later physics. He received his B.S. degree in 1893. After leaving Michigan Agricultural College, Lyman Briggs entered Johns Hopkins University for further graduate study in the Ph.D. program in physics.

In June of 1898, Dr. Briggs joined the Department of Agriculture and began his nearly 60 years of government service. While working with the Department of Agriculture, he developed a method of soil classification known as the moisture equivalent, which is still a standard technique in testing soils.

During World War I, Dr. Briggs was detailed to work for the Bureau of Standards on a special stable zenith instrument that greatly improved the accuracy of the Navy’s guns. Later he was a co-inventor of the earth inductor compass, which guided Lindbergh on his first trans-Atlantic flight.

Dr. Briggs was appointed Director of the Bureau of Standards in 1933. In 1939, President Roosevelt called on Dr. Briggs. He was asked to head a top-secret project to investigate the possibility of utilizing energy from the atomic fission of uranium. Although detailed information about this group remains classified, the committee’s expanded responsibilities led to the Manhattan Project, which later developed the Atom bomb.

Much of the groundwork on the methods of purification of uranium, establishment of specific properties, and separation of isotopes of uranium was accomplished at the National Bureau of Standards under the direction of Lyman Briggs. As a member of National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics, Dr. Briggs conducted research in aerodynamics and flow around air foils, which had application in the design of aircraft propellers. He also headed the instrument work in connection with two historic stratospheric balloon launchings. The balloon Explorer II instruments which Dr. Briggs helped to design reached world record altitudes.

Although Dr. Briggs was primarily known as a distinguished scientist, more than that, contemporaries knew him as a warm and modest human being. At the time of Dr. Briggs’ death in April of 1963, he held honorary doctorates from Michigan State University, George Washington, Georgetown and Columbia Universities, and the University of Michigan.