A Look Back in Time

When the United States had a lot of land, but not a lot of money, they often rewarded people for their military service by giving them land in unsettled areas of the nation. Under terms of the famous Northwest Ordinance, lands – including what became Gladwin County – were surveyed.  Veterans who served our military in times of war could apply for and receive a grant of land that had been surveyed. Such land could also be purchased by other private parties. Title to the land was conveyed via a “Land Patent.” Each property history, as documented in abstracts of title, begins with a patent from the government to an individual, or a group of individuals.   

For a student of Gladwin County history, an obvious question is “who was the first private land-owner in Gladwin County.” This is the question answered in federal government records from the Bureau of Land Management dated August 2, 1837 when a patent was granted to Edwin Rose of Wayne County, Michigan, under terms of an act of Congress passed on the 24th of April, 1820 providing for settlement of the territories. An image of this patent is today’s historical photo.

The property consisted of 46 and 57/100ths acres east of the Tittabawassee River and west of Jones Road, near the southwest corner of section 12 in what is now Billings Township. Some of that land now is subdivided into lakefront lots on Birch Lane, other parts are owned by Beverly and Thomas Steel, Mieczyslaw Klimek, Patricia Freeman, Rahim Oraha, and the Michigan DNR.

We do not know if Mr. Rose ever resided here – I have found no tax records from the time that might indicate residence. Such records would have been in Saginaw County, but so far, we have not found any. (Upon establishment of Saginaw County in 1835, it included most of the lands to the north also.)

There were several men named Edwin Rose. The most likely candidate was a man born in New York about 1802 or 03 and who married Corrintha Durkee at Oakland County in 1840. He died in Armada in Macomb County in May of 1870.

It is most likely that he saw the land while trapping in the area, or if he worked on the survey crew that began its work in the area that year. Perhaps he considered establishing a trading post there as part of the fur trade. He certainly would not consider logging it. There was not much market for Gladwin County timber in those days. As a matter of fact, prime lumber near Saginaw was being burned to clear the land because there was still an abundance of timber nearer the Erie Canal and the markets it served. Perhaps Mr. Rose had ideas of clearing and farming the land – a use to which it might have been suited. The problem would be that his nearest neighbors would have been at the native village near what is now Midland, and the nearest sources of supply and market for his produce would have been an arduous and long journey all the way to the trading post in the area of the abandoned fort at Saginaw, or to Lower Saginaw (now known as Bay City) which had just been settled in 1837. Then again, perhaps before his marriage, he might have considered a hermit’s life. We may never know.

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