On the east side of the Shiawassee river, in the township of Burns , not far from the edge of a, high bluff, which faces the stream is a road, known as Warren street . At a place on this road where the farms that were once owned by the brothers John J. and Leonard Gaylord join is situated a small burying ground. This little cemetery was set apart and dedicated by the two brothers, each giving a portion of his land there for.
Early Map of "Burns" (Click for Larger Version)
In the summer time this bit of a; “God's acre " is almost hidden from view, by the luxuriant growth of grass and wild flowers. Today, in that little burying ground separated from the farmland by a rough rail fence, sleep nearly all the members of the Ohio colony.
Early in the year 1851 Mr. John J. Gaylord, accompanied by Mr. Samuel Shields, left his Home in the county of Medina , Ohio , for the state of Michigan . The object of this journey was to search for farming lands suitable for the Ohio Colony to settle upon.
Mr. Gaylord was not only a farmer but a carpenter, therefore he was in high hope to find a site somewhere in the new and prosperous state of Michigan where lie could locate the colony not only -upon good farming lands but along some river which should furnish water power. At such a point the colonist could, in time build a village; one that would not only contain shops and mills but where the ends of the farms, coming down to the edge of the village on the banks of the stream, might make most excellent streets upon which to build comfortable homes. And all in good time these homes were to be supplied with churches and schools.
Of course, at that early date Mr. Gaylord and Mr. Shields must have made these journeys from place to place through southern Michigan in stagecoaches. The long journeys gave Mr. Gaylord plenty of time to make plans for his proposed village. They visited a number of places lying along streams, but found none that pleased them. If they succeeded in finding a river that would answer them the land along the stream in many cases was poor for farming purposes. In time they grew weary of the search but concluded not to give up until they had visited the central portion of the state. After awhile the travelers found themselves in Calhoun County , in the vicinity of Albion, at a tavern where they were about to change stages for a line that would take them into the County of Ingham . Waiting at a tavern they overheard a conversation between a young lady and the stage driver. It seemed that that the young lady was, for some reason or other, without sufficient money to pay her fair to her home in Bennington , Shiawassee, and she was trying to make arrangements with the driver to carry her to Bennington where her Father, who was well known in that part of the state, would repay him hereafter. The driver hesitated but the fellow travelers Messrs, Gaylord and Shields, very kindly offered their assistance if she would permit them. They provided breakfast for her and paid her fair to Bennington in the county of Shiawassee .
At that time Messrs Gaylord and Shields had intended to go as far as Lansing only. But they soon fell into pleasant conversation with the young lady who informed them that the County of Shiawassee was being settled very fast, especially the southern portion of it. The towns that were then best settled were Shiawassee, Vernon , Caledonia and Burns, while the northern part of the -county was still very wild.
The gentlemen then told the young lady that they had been looking for land for some time, but were unable to find just what they wanted. The young lady, who was Miss Juliette Gale, informed them that she was on her way, from Albion where she had been attending school, a school that was famous in tire state in those days.
Among other things she told them she had lately received the news from her father, Mr. Isaac Gale, better known in this county as “Esquire Gale" that a large Indian reservation about eight miles from her home in Bennington had just bean placed on the market for settlement.
The reservation is situated on the Shiawassee River and it seemed to her to be the very land that they were looking for, and she, said to them “If you will go home with me to Bennington my father will not only go with you to the reservation but will help select the lead you may wish to buy from the government. You gentlemen have been so kind to me I am sure my parents will gladly welcome you to our home and father will gladly assist you in anything he can do for you." Messrs. Gaylord and Shields, after giving the matter some thought gladly accepted Miss Gale's invitation. Juliette Gale was afterwards known to the people of Shiawassee County as Mrs. George Rowell.
Thus it was these two travelers were guided as it were, "through a forest that was strange and dark," to a land that in time was to give them and their people a home. Surely these two men had “entertained an angel unawares” and great was their reward.
All in good time our party reached the well known home of Esquire Gale where they were welcomed to their pioneer home. Mr. Gale, with his own team, carried our travelers from the town of Bennington to the township of Shiawassee . They traveled along the famous grand river road east past Fremont, where the Bank's tavern stood in all its old glory, then south along the grand river road until they came to the “Travelby's home” kept by Lucius Beach. After they had enjoyed one of Aunt Abby's famous dinners, Mr. Gale and Messrs. Gaylord and Shields started for the Indian reservation on the Shiawassee River about two miles away. About a mile from the Traveler's Home south they came to the home of Bradley Martin, which stood on the right hand side of the road, while on left hand side of the road was situated the farm of the Lymans, Mr. Gale, in the good old fashioned way, drove through the door yard when he soon found Bradley Martin who gave the strangers royal welcome. Mr. Martin went with them to the river where he was of great assistance in selecting the lands.
The only building that was then standing at or near Knaggs Bridge was the old log school house in which Lucinda Lyman taught the Indians. It so happened that this building stood on the land that was chosen by Mr. Gaylord. After going over the reservation carefully Mr. Gaylord and Mr. Shields selected what lands they would need for the Ohio Colony. Mr. Gale advised them to at once go to Detroit where the government land office was located and purchase the land. This they concluded to do, Bradley Martin took them that night as far as Byron where in the morning they found a stage ready to take them to Detroit .
All in good time Messers, Gaylord and Shields arrived in Detroit Where at the land office Mr. Gaylord purchased the lands they had selected on the Indian reservation. And so it was that through the assistance of Mr. Isaac Gale and his daughter Juliette the Ohio Colony became the first actual settlers on the Indian reservation of Kech-a-won-day-gon-ing.
After the purchase of the lands in Detroit Mr. Gaylord and Mr. Shields returned to their homes in Ohio where they told the story of their good fortune and at once began to make preparations to move to Michigan . It was during this same year, 1851 that the colony began to move to this state. It started from Guilford , Medina county Ohio. They Shipped their goods but came by wagon themselves on Mrs. Shields account, who was an invalid and afraid to cross the lakes, They did not carry any goods or camp out, but put up at the taverns along the route. They came by way of Detroit and took advantage of a famous macadamized road through the Maumee country. There was in this company John J. Gaylord and his wife, Hannah W Gaylord and their two daughters Amanda and Florence , Samuel Shields and wife, Mrs. Amanda Byam and three sons, John, Samuel and Edward.
In the coming from Detroit they traveled along the old Grand river road which in due time brought them to Byron and then to Knaggs Bridge over the Shiawassee river. This was where their land was located but as there were no buildings there which they could occupy at that time they drove on across the river to the home of Bradley Martin where the Gaylords for a short time lived in Mr. Martins log house, while the Shields family moved into the Gould house which was the first house west of Bradley Martin-s. This house which Mr. Shields occupied for a short time was the birthplace of the writer. Mr. Gaylord found the Indian school house without doors and windows, but while his family were living in the Martin log house he fitted it up so that it was comfortable for his family to occupy. They lived there until sometime the next year. When the Gaylords vacated the Indian school house for their new home Dr. John Davis' family from Ohio occupied the same while they built their house on the west side of the river where lived for many years.
Before a saw mill was built at Knaggs Bridge all the sawing was done at Wright's Mill in Antrim. In the year 1852 Mr. Gaylord built a frame house, into which his family moved. This house is still owned and occupied by members of the family. Henry Wolcott and. family came little later from Ohio and they, too, lived in the Indian school house while building a home for themselves. In the year 1852 two brothers of Mr. John Gaylord, Richard and Leonard, came with their families. A brother of Mr. Gaylord, Charles West, was married in Ohio and soon came with his bride to live at Burns Postoffice. Peter, Faze and wife came from Ohio in the year 1853 to live in the settlement. So it was the Ohio colony grew and prospered.
About this time Mr. Charles Parker now of Owosso , opened a grocery store where for some time he did a flurishing business. We now give you a list of mills shops and dwellings that were located hear the river, L. Newman, A. Drum, carding mill Ridge St, T.B. Allen, continued Post Office, A. Biglow, L. Newman, T.B. Allen, wagon shop and store, George Devore, William Devore, R. Cudney, Geo Hawn, and later, Henry J Gulick Blacksmith Shops. Miss Roda Gaylord, G.H. Parker, saw 'mill and grist mill, Roberts and Parshall, L.Warren, Thompson H. Reeves, 1876.
The growth of Knaggs Bridge had reached its climax and from that time, until now it has passed through a steady decline.
Mr. Thomas B. Allen was for several years the postmaster until it was taken up by the Government. Mr. Allen, also kept a small grocery store which the inhabitants of Knaggs Bridge found very convenient.
The doom of Knaggs Bridge was foreshadowed by the coming of the Grand Trunk Railroad.. In time the brisk village of Bancroft was started only two miles from Knaggs Bridge . Today its mills and shops as well as its stores, are gone. But the pretty rural valley remains the same as of yore. The history of the Ohio Colony with its past deeds and records are all preserved in the minds and hearts of the grand children and great grand children of the colonist who today reside along the river in comfortable homes on farms that were once established by the members of the colony. A number of years ago Mr. Charles West, a brother of Mrs. John Gaylord, removed from the Ohio Colony to the state of New York where he now resides. Mr. West and his sister Mrs. Hannah Gaylord are the only surviving members of the Ohio colony. Mrs Gaylord today resides in the village of Bancroft with her daughter, Mrs. G.k. Parker. Mrs. Well Gaylord well remembers the time when the Indians still lived on the reservation. She also remembers the time when the last Indian left the reservation forever. On that day I was where I could get a good , view of him “says Mrs. Gaylord.” He was standing on the high hill that over looked not only the river and its historical banks but the spot in the old Indian village where he was born. He looked around the stream here Knaggs trading post once stood. Then he went over into the open field and saw place where when he was a boy the Indians used to throw arrows straight away into the air for a great distance. He also went down to the river and looked at the water and its well known blanks. Then for the last time he went up the hill giving one wide glance around he turned his back on his boyhood home and left the place on a run."
The schoolhouse near Mr. Lyman's and Mr. Martin's home has been removed down the road near the river, where it will accommodate the future generations who live in the vicinity of Knaggs Bridge .
The old name Knaggs still clings to the place while we were writing the story of John Knaggs, the son of the famous Whitmore Knaggs we were greatly puzzled to keep his biography clear. Some of our friends told us about a certain John Knaggs who lived with Mr. Jacob Gulick in the town of Burns , one mile east of Knaggs Bridge . We soon discovered they were not talking about the John Knaggs I was trying to write about it was a son of the John Knaggs who lived at the post and afterwards kept the small tavern near Knaggs Bridge. After a while this John left the neighborhood and moved west. Later, he returned and when he did, he found that Amelia Davis was teaching school at the Old Elm Grove School on the five, corners. This John married Amelia and then went away into the far west with her. This is positively the last appearance of any of the Knaggs family at the bridge from that day until this. IT is now eight four since years since Whitmore Knaggs established his post at Burns. While Whitmore Knaggs and his son were true to the primary object of French adventure in the New World , viz: A profitable trade with the Indians, in their eagerness for gain they failed to impress themselves for permanent good upon the community.
On the other hand Ohio Colony brought it with them the true English ideas of permanency, and the church and school. The fundamental elements of American civilization were made the basis of the good citizenship were made the at portion of Shiawassee County.
THE CLOSING CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF KNAGGS BRIDGE
The Settlement of Burns Postoffice by the Ohio Colony.
Typed by Edwin A. Gulick 1952.
This document was scanned for byron.org in February 2000.
Original spelling and spacing was preserved where possible.
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