By Raymond C. Meyer Sr., May 2, 1990: ”The township of Burr Oak was named for the Burr Oak tree that was so plentiful on the fertile soil with which the township was endowed. It was set off as a separate township from that of Sherman in 1838.
The old “Sauk Trail” (U. S. 12) crosses the southeastern corner of the township and at the corner of U. S. 12 and South Burr Oak Road there is a dwelling that was the hotel and stage stop. The early settlers used this route and the first white man’s habitation in the township was that of Samuel Haslets, a log cabin. They were the parents of the first white child. A George Miller came along with them.
Later, in 1831, a man by the name of Snow moved over from Branch County. Snow Prairie on the Central road was named or him.
Snow Prairie is adjacent to the Carter farm that we worked for five years. There is still Snow Prairie church and cemetery. The Snow Prairie school is now a dwelling.
Rueben Trussell built the first frame house. The whitewood lumber was sawed at the mill at Holmes Hollow and floated on rafts down Swan creek to where it was loaded on wagons.
The birth of the village of Burr Oak coincides with the building of the Lakeshore railroad. I had always wondered why the streets were at angles with the compass points; this is the answer.
Burr Oak was soon to become the potato market of Michigan. This market set the price quotations. The Burr Oak soil was excellent for potatoes and all grain crops. I recall that in the Roaring Twenties Mr. Jeff Ultz had a sorghum mill on Main Street, west of Prairie river. We took our cane there several years to have him turn it into golden syrup. The Boyer Lumber Company was well known for many years; it also put out the Farmer’s Exchange that was distributed in the area.
C. B. Thmas was a well known windmill man. He showed his mills at all the county fairs. Burr AOak had a paper that was called The Acorn and many a sale bill was printed on an Acorn printing press. Malone and Klopfenstein had a sales and service for automobiles. And Denos had a grocery and market; they were relation to the Charley Deno who once lived west of Colon on the fork.
During the 30s there was a popcorn market in Burr Oak. Many farmers around would contract their crop and were notified when they could bring it in. a fellow who we knew started out whit his crop. When he came to a neighbor’s, this neighbor asked him if he would like a drink of good cider. He said, “Sure!” By the time he had gotten to Burr Oak, this tanglefoot caused this man to weigh his load five times. He would drive on the scales, weigh, go around the block, get in line, and reweigh.
The Smith brothers had two steam engines. Summers they used them for threshing and the rest of the year they belted them together on their saw mill. When we put up ice, while on the Steinke Resort farm, I drove a team to Burr Oak for the sawdust. Wood is a good insulator, I also took some logs there in 1946.
Back in the 30s Burr Oak hosted students from Interlochen, who put on concerts weekly. There were two girls who were mastering the harp. Not only was this greatly enjoyed by all who attended, but it also gave the students an additional opportunity to exercise their talents before an appreciative audience.
One evening, Fred Robinson demonstrated what a few lessons of training could accomplish. His pupil was the Arabian stallion, Kandy Boy. Kandy was a two-year-old then and went on to perform about 30 different acts. All of our horses carry Kandy’s blood except for our stallion Champ.
There are five small lakes in the township and Prairie River flows through, dividing the village.
There is a hamlet called Findley in the northern part of the township and one of the larger lakes is called Eberhard Lake. I recall a story connected with this lake about 50 years ago. It seems that there was a “polar bear club”. These hardy souls were enjoying a refreshing dip in some open water, and over on the ice there was a fish shanty, and the smoke coming from the chimney showed that there was an occupant. One fellow said, “I’m going to have some fun with that guy.” So he dipped under the ice and raised up in the hole under the shanty and asked, “How’re they doin?” That house was vacated pronto, amid the hearty applause of an appreciative group of swimmers.
I recall that a Mr. Stewart owned the feed mill there in the 1930s. The G. R. & I railroad served the area. I believe that Lepleys moved the old depot to their lot on Michigan Ave. O. H. Hooley once had the store there and he also pastored the Locust Grove Mennonite church. (Our quartet once sang in the old structure.) I recall that there was a blacksmith shop and I believe that the smith’s name was Gilkison.
At the corner of E. LaFayette and N. Lakeview, the four townships of Burr Oak, Sherman, Sturgis and Fawn River join. So you can see that Sturgis spills over a little. There is a “Sherwood Forest” along Lakeview and we used to receive a portion of their mail.
Here are a few names of early settlers and some of these are still around: Reed, Bordner, Eldred, Spurgeon, Start, Smith, Slocum, Woodman, Wheeler, Kibbe, Livemore, Stowell, Weaver, Bishop, Carpenter, Williams, Draper, Benedict, Lancaster, Cowels, and Mills.
Our friend, Howard Start, is a descendant of one of the early settlers. I first remember Howard when he started as an auctioneer. Then throughout the years I knew him in farming, when he had the mill in Burr Oak and then the Colon Elevator company, Alvin Decker worked for Howard at both Burr Oak and Colon.”