History of Ionia County, Michigan : her people, industries and institutions, with biographical sketches of representative citizens, and genealogical records of many of the old families by Rev. E.E. Branch (1906) pages 196-202
Lyons and Ionia townships possessed each one-half of the territory occupied by township 8 north, range 6 west, until March 19, 1845, when the township was given a separate organization and named Ronald. A. L. Roof was a representative in the Legislature at that time, and when the petition for organization came to him he observed that the name of Northport, as suggested for the township, was already owned by one other town in the state and being therefore himself called upon to name it, hit upon "Ronald" from the fact that he was just then engaged in reading a novel whose hero was named Ronald: and it happened, too, that Mr. Roof admired the character so heartily that be conceived the idea of thus honoring him.
The first township meeting was held at the house of William J. Clark, April 7, 1845, when Parly Eaton was chosen moderator, Royal Howell, William Jennings, William J. Clark and Chauncey E. Shepard, inspectors of election, and W. J. Clark, clerk. The meeting then adjourned to Chauncey Goodwin's house and proceeded to the election of township officials. Thirty-two votes were cast and officials were chosen as follows: Supervisor, William Jennings; clerk, William J. Clark; treasurer, Royal Howell; justices of the peace, John Ransom, Parley Eaton, Chauncey Goodwin and Joseph L. Freeman; highway commissioners, Phineas C. Hutchins, Stephen F. Page and Alanson Snow; directors of the poor, Parley Eaton and Mathew Van Vleck; school inspectors, William Jennings and John Van Vleck; constables. Julius Jennings, Ambrose Frederick, S. C. Barnes and Joel Smith; poundmaster, William Wood.
On motion, it was voted that officers doing town business receive seventy five cents per day for services in town and when on business out of town they were to be paid according to law
In the spring of 1837 on section 33, the first settlement was made in Ronald township. The pioneers were George Younger and Joshua Shepard, who came together, and together entered upcn the mission of opening the tangled forest to the light of dav and the influences of civilization. Shepard wore himself out and died soon after reaching the ,woods, but his widow and sons, Chauncey, William and Norman, carried on the work the father had begun and made a handsome farm of the property, which became subsequently the county poor farm. There are now, in Ronald township, no descendants of Younger or Shepard, and, although they won a distinction of some importance in the pioneer history of the township, the heritage they left in that respect remains as an honor equally with every citizen of the. township.
Before Younger and Shepard happened along, there was a bit of a farm location in Ronald, two years or more old, on section 34, but as it was simply a portion of a farm lying in Ionia, where the settler, Samuel Yates, lived and made his improvement, it can scarcely be assigned a place in Ronald township history.
It was not until the fall of 1837 that the tide of incoming settlers set toward Ronald with anything like healthful vigor. It was then that Joseph and William Wood settled on section 19 and then, too, that John Van Fleck came on and founded the Van Vleck settlement, in the northeastern corner of the township, a settlement that pushed the township's interest forward with constantly-hastening steps, and created a local influence which from the beginning has been felt in a very marked degree, and always in a beneficial way. Mr. Van Fleck came from his home in Delaware county, New York, to Michigan in 1836 for the purpose of prospecting for land locations on behalf of his father, Mathew, as well as for himself. His uncle, John T. Van Fleck, was then living at White Pigeon, employed as an agent for a company of New York land speculators, for whom he had purchased and had on sale several thousands of acres of Michigan lands. To White Pigeon, therefore, John Van Fleck bent his steps and, with his uncle, went over into Ionia county where some of the latter's lands lay.
In section 2 of what is now Ronald township John Van Fleck saw a tract of land that pleased him, and so he wrote at once to his father, Mathew. While waiting to hear from his father he went over to Samuel Yates's in Ionia and engaged to work for him. In the winter of 1837 and 1838. Mathew Van Fleck came out and, fancying the prospect, bought three hundred and twenty, acres on sections 1 and 2 in Ronald township. After assisting his son John to start the construction of a cabin, he departed for the East to bring on his family, having meanwhile engaged men to break one hundred acres for him, and in charge of these men and their work. John was left behind.
Mathew Van Fleck lost no time in transporting his family and effects from New York to Michigan. He reached Detroit without much trouble, but thenceforth his path was beset with difficulties and vexations, just as were the paths of many who went before him and many who came after him., He traveled with three pairs of oxen and a lumber-wagon and, passing via Laingsburg and De Witt, reached his destination in July, 1838, after having been two weeks en route from Detroit. The family he brought with him included his wife and four children, Peter, Albert, Catharine and Sarah. Mathew Van Vleck died in April, 1880, aged eighty-six, and late in the summer of the same year his son John died. John T. Van Fleck, the land-agent, himself bought land on section 2 in 1838, and, although his business called him abroad frequently, he made Ronald his place of residence more or less from 1838 until his death in 1844. In 1838 he hired John James Foote to work the place and in 1839 Melvin B. Allen took charge of it. Allen remained on it about three years, when he bought some land on Long Plain.
In the fall of 1838, Alanson Snow located on section 21. Mr. Snow, as well as his wife, belonged to a historic family. His mother was slain in Ohio by the Indians, her death being conspicuously chronicled as an illustration of Indian atrocities. His father-in-law, Mr. Pangborn, who came to Ronald township with him, was a survivor of the Revolutionary War and lived to he near one hundred years old.
In 1838, Lafayette Church became a settler, but soon passed to Gratiot county, and in the same year Calvin Woodard, a bachelor, located on section 18, at the foot of the lake that bears his name, and to which land Chauncey Conkey succeeded not long afterward.
In 1839 the additions included Stephen and Wellington Page, George D. Tasker, James Jennings and his brother's widow, Minerca Jennings, with whom also came her two sons, Julius and William, and daughter, Mary. Mrs. Jennings settled on section 24 and south of her, James Jennings made his home.
The (Crossetts settled in 1840 upon section 23 and Eli Soule, the same year on Section 26. Neither the Crossets nor the Soules have any representatives in Ronald township now.
H.F. Hull, on section 15, was among the early comers, and in 1843 Joseph L. Freenian and David Dodge came. Loren Sprague moved with his father. Elijah Sprague, to Keene township in 1839, but directly afterward devoted his time to the pursuit of his trade, which was carpentering. chiefly at Ionia. In 1841 he married the daughter of Guy Webster of Orleans, and moved to a place he had bought some time before that. He worked on it from time to time and by 1845 had effected a considerable clearing. His neighbors in Ronald township were Deacon Price, just north; Alonzo Hubbell, on section 31, and Henry Hubbell, on the east. At this time Calvin Woodard was eking out a lonely existence on section 18 and having his washing and baking done at Guy Webster's.
In May, 1846, William Brooks settled on section 32, upon the township line, and the same year Alpheus C. Hawley, a famous hunter, trapper and fur-trader, made a beginning on section 9.
In 1848 L. J. Mosher pitched his tent upon section 14. His father, William Mosher, had settled in Watertown, Clinton county, in 1836, but, meeting with misfortunes, lost his property and thereupon L. J. Mosher, the eldest son, assuming the charge and maintenance of the family, became, as stated, a pioneer in Ronald in I848. He took great pride in the reflection that he had owned and cleared in Michigan five farms, and that upon the two hundred and fifty acres cleared he did nearly all the work himself. He was, moreover, a noted hunter in his day, and, first and last, killed eight bears and more than a hundred deer.
For some reason, a mystery even to the children, William Mosher bestowed upon each of his eight children a given name commencing with the letter L. The names of the eight were Lucy, Laura, Loisa, Loren J., Lanson B., Lyman D., Lock V. and Lawrence.
At the time of Mosher's settlement on section 14, he found Joseph Freeman living on Long Plain east of him; south of Freeman, the Jennings families, Alexander Runyon and Melvin Allen; west, his neighbor was Alanson Snow,, two miles and a half distant. Long Plain occupied a tract on the eastern side of the township, measuring two miles in length and one in width. Indeed, that side of the township is pretty much all a plain or prairie, from the north line southward to the center of section 24.
George Sessions, Phineas Hutchins and Leander Millard became settlers in Ronald in 1845, and later there were Benjamin Pew, Stephen Ackles. Mr. Lavertv, Daniel G. Smith, to the old Wood place: David Wilder, M.C. Wilder, W.Hall, who brought out Mr. Veeder: Americus Smith, William M.Steere, J. L. Fowle, J. P. Powell, William Penny, Doctor George Pray, one of the earliest physicians resident in the township: Samuel Loomis, the Mattisons, Cobbs, and so on.
As to going to the mill, the pioneers of Ronald township were not as badly off as they might have been. When the advance-guard penetrated the township there was already a grist-mill at Ionia, and, as a trip there and back from the Van Vleck settlement was usually made in twenty-four hours, the hardship in that particular was not very great, although some of the early ones did find a hardship in not being able to procure at all times material for a grist.
The road to Ionia from Van Vleck's was the one Van Vleck had cut out when he came in with his family, via the Yates and Shepard places. The first road laid in the Van Vleck settlement was the one through Palo, north and south. It was opened in 1839.
Matthew Van Vleck brought a horse with him when he came to the town and kept him about a year. For his first crop of wheat he got fortyfour cents a bushel at Ionia, and had to take half of the purchase money in store-pay. John T. Van Vieck built a saw-nilll in 1841 on Prairie creek in Ionia township, just over the Ronald line, and in that year George D. Tasker, got his lumber there and built on section 2 the first frame house put up in the settlement, which was later occupied as a residence by James Dennis.
John Van Vleck put out an apple orchard in 1839 and, in 1840 or 1841, what he claimed to be the second peach orchard in the county, E. Le Valley of Ionia having been given credit for planting the first.
The first marriage in the town was that of George D. Tasker and Catharine Van Vleck at Mathew Van Vleck's house on December 31, 1840. The officiating minister was the Reverend Mr. Staples, a Methodist Episcopal preacher, who came up from Lyons in company with a party of fifteen or more wedding guests, among whom were Doctor W. Z. Blanchard, his son, John C., and Ann Eager, later Mrs.Frederick Hall, of Ionia, after whom Peter Van Vleck went on a special mission. There were no notably demonstrative festivities, but there was, of course, a wedding dinner, of which. the feature ,was an immense wild turkey, shot by Peter Van V1eck especially for the occasion. On the following day the wedding party, including the bride and groom, went down to Lyons and at Doctor Blanchard's house, after another jolly dinner, supplemented that performance in the evening with a glorious dance.
As to the first birth and death in Ronald township nothing definite can now be spoken. The first death was probably that of Joshua Shepard. The first death in the Van Vleck settlement is said to have been that of an infant daughter of Jeremiah Mabie. She was the first one buried in the originally selected burial place at Palo, and when the location was abandoned, her remains were transferred to a village cemetery.
The resident taxpayers of Ronald township in 1845 were M. B. Allen, sections 13, 14, 133 acres; James Bentley, section 27, 200 acres; Sanford Buskirk, personal; William A. Clark, section 28, 320 acres, David Dodge, sections 13, 14, 266 acres; Volney Eaton, section 32, 160 acres; James L. Freeman, section 32, 266 acres; Freedom Gates, Sr., section 19, 41 acres; Freedom Gates, Jr., section 19, 81 acres; Chauncey Goodwin, sections 33, 34, 280 acres; Royal Howell, section 35, 123 acres; P. C. Hutchins, Section 22, 80 acres; James L. Jennings, section 24, 16o acres; William Jennings, sections 13, 14, 24, 373 acres,- Stephen and Wellington Page, section 30, 83 acres; Lawrence Pierce, section 30, 83 acres; Benjamin F. Pew, section 1, 40 acres; John Ransom, section 20, 160 acres; Alanson Snow, sections 20, 21, 400 acres; John Snow, section 20. 120 acres; William Snow, section 21, 120 acres; Joel Smith, section 19, 40 acres; Chauncey E. Shepard, section 33, 120 acres; Eli L. Soule, sections 26, 27, 240 acres; George D. Tasker, sections 1, 2, 70 acres; Mathew Van Vleck and M. Van Vleck, agent, sections I, 2, 11, 35, 635 acres, John Van Vleck, section 2, 70 acres: Lamber Van Valkenberg, sections 4, 24,205 acres; William Wood, section 19, 80 acres; Joseph Wood, section 19, 80 acres; Calvin Woodard, section 18, 104 acres, and George Younger, section 33, 80 acres.
1846, R. Howell; 1847, S. F. Page,, 1848-50, M. Van Vleck; 1851, E. Kellogg; 1852, M. Van Vleck; 1853-54, B. H. Preston; 1855-56, W. Jennings-. 1857, D. G. Smith; 1858, William Jennings; 1859-63, George Pray; 1864, B. H. Preston; 1856-66. W. H. Freeman; 1867-68, W. M. Steere; 1869-70, George Pray; 1871, William H. Freeman: 1872, William Jennings; 1873-78, George Pray; 1879-80, J. L. Fowle,: 1881-87, Charles F. Kellogg: 1888-95, William H. Mattison, 1896-99, William P. Smith; 1900-02,, William H. Mattison: 1903-07, Byron Yeomans: 1908-12, Rector Van Vleck: 1913-16. H. L. Smith.
The village of Palo, which occupies land owned by Mathew and John Van Vleck, was first established as a trading-post about 1849, by John Van Vleck. who sold goods in his house. Before that a little while, there had been a slight move toward concentrating a population at that locality, and when, in 1846, John Van Vleck suggested that the place be called Palo, in honor of General Taylor's victory at Palo Alto, in that year, the common voice acquiesced, and the name passed into popular acceptation.
John Van Vleck carried on business in a small way a few years, and then gave it up. His brother, Albert, succeeded him as the village merchant, and by and bb John Van Vleck and Charles C. Randall built a store on the site of Mathew Millard's present fine brick block, and pushed local trading interests forward upon a more liberal scale than had previously been reached.
Meanwhile people had come in and erected additional residences upon the spot. Leander Millard opened a tavern and Curtis Brooks set up a smithy, a blacksmith shop having previously been started in 1850 by a Mr. Rogers, about two miles south of Palo, on the Ionia road. Van Vleck and Randall sold out to Albert Van Vleck, after continuing in business about a year, and he sold to Leander Millard in 1866.
On March 12, 1867, the village was platted by William H. Freeman, commencing at a point fifty-two and one-half rods west of the center of section 2, running east one hundred and five rods. On December 15, 1870, Van Vleck, Swarthout and Freeman platted an addition.
In 1867 Ross Starkweather built a steam saw-mill at the village, and in 1868 a Toledo firm put up a steam grist-mill, consequent upon a donation to them of two thousand dollars from the residents of the village and vicinity. The Toledo -men did not, however, do what was esteemed the fair thing in the premises, for they provided old and worn-out machinery, which failed to do satisfactory work and fell far short of fulfilling the expectations awakened at the beginning. About 1868. too, R. & H. Miller added to the list of local industries a foundry, to which they added later on a planing-mill. In 1875 Albert Van Vleck built a grist- and saw-mill.
The village has striven earnestly for supremacy and recognition, but its efforts have failed in a great measure. Palo of today is only a small village, which is maintained by the country trade for the several stores which exist there.
Last update January 5, 2008