by Diane Rockall
In recognition, preparation for and celebration of Women’s History Month, this column will veer a little from its norm and look back at local women who made it into our historical records, a major feat for the time. Space forbids the possibility of including all those who contributed to what we have today.
The first permanent settlement of what is today called Stockbridge occurred in April 1834. The first settlers were David Rogers and “his wife.” The land described technically is very near the furthest Southeast segment one Section 36, more plainly, approximately where Jackson, Washtenaw and Ingham Counties meet. The land they settled was titled to John Davis, the father of Mrs. Rogers. It was identified as the first house of European settlers in Ingham County. The home was moved to the area from Lima Township on runners during the winter months. Later residents referred to it as a shanty.
Mr. and Mrs. Rogers operated a store of sorts to assist other newcomers on their journeys north and west. The settlement which resulted was in the Southeast corner of the Township. Was she our first businesswoman?
The Heman Lowe family were the second residents to arrive in Section 36. Their daughter Rachel was the first European immigrant female to be married in the township. Her husband was Hiram Stocking.
Opinions vary on the first female child born to the new residents, but one of the first was Abby, daughter of Daniel Dutcher in what is now White Oak Township. Abby’s first husband George Wilson died in Civil War combat. She later married Elias Clark and lived in the Village of Stockbridge. Mr. Clark operated a flour mill at Center and Elizabeth. At the same location Abby Clark operated a bakery and restaurant. Her specialties were whole wheat and brown bread, molasses and sugar cookies. She was perhaps our community’s first business woman as well as first female born in the area.
In 1892 the Stockbridge Sun Times ran a series of memoirs from local early settlers that had been found In Durant’s History of Michigan.
Abby Dutcher Clark wrote that she was the first female child in Ingham County. Mrs. Martha Presley, daughter of Heman Lowe, believed she was the second female birth in the area and that Mrs. Mary Rogers was the first. Also that her sister, Rachel, was the first caucasian female married in the County. Her brother, Peter Lowe, taught the first district school.
Mrs A. M. Beebe had memories of early encounters, all of which were friendly, with their first neighbors the Pottawatomy Native Americans in the area. She also recalled a severe winter in the 1840s that killed many head of cattle while others were moved to different areas in order to be saved.
In the 1890s when these memoirs were recovered, Stockbridge was a thriving community and new technology had arrived. One of the additions was telephone service. Mary Ann Budd, pictured above, served as the village’s first telephone operator and worked above the stores on East Main Street. For the younger among us, at one time callers had to reach the operator to be connected to other people by the wonderful new invention, the telephone.
Our early settlers provide us with their memory, as well as their lives and their addition to our cumulative history.