Object of 60-year quest found near Leonidas
From a newspaper article of June of 1985, by Jan Gardner: HATCH TRADING POST SITE LOCATED
LEONIDAS – In the spring of 1831 a fur trader built the first house in Leonidas Township on the south bank of the St. Joseph River, just east of the prairies and forests of the Indian reservation.
He married an Indian princess but the marriage ended in separation a year later. He eventually married a white woman.
When the Indians were asked to leave their homes in 1833, the trader closed his trading post and moved to a farm near the Kalamazoo County line.
The years ate away at the trading post. Time wiped away nearly all traces of its existence from the land. But interest in it remained.
Since 1921, when the Daughters of the American Revolution began the search, interested residents of St. Joseph County have been looking for the Hatch Trading Post.
It has been found – but only in the past two years and only after some errors in county histories had been rectified.
Historians knew it was built on the south banks of the St. Joseph River near the “ox-bow” bend in the river and near the Indian reservation.
County Historical Society President Helen Wickman said Hatch traded furs with Indians on the reservation which encompassed all of Mendon Township and portions of Park and Leonidas Townships.
Sue Stillman and friends looked for the same site in the early part of the century and their conclusions may have led later generations astray, Wickman said.
A descendant of the Hatches, Raymond Meyer St., a former postmaster of Sherwood, now retired, said he had difficulty finding the trading post site. His research has spanned 10 to 12 years, he said, sparked by an article he once read about the Leonidas area.
He searched for records showing the site of the post owned by Thomas Hatch until he discovered it was not Thomas, but A. T. hatch he sought.
“He (Thomas) was born in 1833 so no way he could have run the trading post,” he said.
Meyer said he even had difficulty discovering what A. T. stood for.
“They told me over at Three Rivers Library it means ‘A Trader.’ It could have, you know,” he said. He said he found some records naming Captain Charles Hatch as the owner of the post.
Both Wickman and Meyer have found the A. T. to be short for Ambrose Timothy. They also found the trader was married for a year to an Indian princess, Marchee-o-no-qua, sister of Chief Maguago of the Nottawa-Seepe band. He was later married to Lydia Ann – Thomas’ mother. Neither Meyer nor Whitman has found Lydia Ann’s maiden name.
Meyer is a great-grandson of A. T. Hatch.
After a treaty, signed in 1833, directed the Indians to leave the 73,000 acre Nottawaseepi reservation, A. T. Hatch closed his trading post and moved to an 80-acre farm on the Leonidas-Fulton Road.
Even with a great deal of information at their fingertips, the site of the trading post eluded researchers.
Confusion about whether this site was east or west of what is now the Bennett Bridge on Jacksonburgh Road was compounded, at least for the Historical Society, by a picture of the Silliman files placing the trading post near the Appletree Ford which is located in the ox bow – a sharp bend in the St. Joseph River just west of the Bennett Bridge.
“It seems we went in circles for a while,” Meyer said.
The breakthrough came about two years ago as Meyer was driving his stagecoach, drawn by a team of pinto horses. He spoke to Gordon Barton about his search for the trading post somewhere in the area.
“I saw his face light right up like a Christmas tree,” Meyer said.
Barton told him his riverbank land had remains of two old building on it – the site of the trading post.
“There’s no trace of it now,” Meyer said, explaining the buildings were long gone.
The trading post was built about a half mile east of what is now the Bennett Bridge. Another half mile east of the bridge is the site of the Appletree Ford and the ox-bow.
Indians once paddled upriver to the trading post from their homes near the ox-bow to trade their furs for goods brought in on the Washtenaw Trail which later became the Ypsilanti branch of the Territorial Road.
Several years after the Hatches moved to the Leonidas-Fulton Road farm, A. T. Hatch left the county and moved to Elkhart, Indiana. Lydia Ann and Thomas stayed behind although Thomas left to fight in the Civil War where he was wounded three times, Meyer said.
Thomas and his son, William, are buried in the Mendon Cemetery, he said.
Meyer said A. T. Hatch left because the Indians were gone.
“I think Hatch was quite attached to the Indians,’ he said.
Seeking Captain Hatch’s life story after he left St. Joseph County, Meyer traveled to Elkhart County and went to the office of the county clerk.
“Knowing Hatch, one of the first things he’d do would be to get married again,” Meyer said, chuckling.
He found records in Goshen, Indiana of both A. T. and Lydia Ann Hatch. He said A. T. Hatch purchased land in Elkhart County but he has not looked further.
He said the Historical Society toured the Hatch Trading Post site, courtesy of Barton, in June.
“The trees have all grown up along the river,” she said.
“You could see where the old trails were,” Wickman said, adding one person claimed to be able to tell where the buildings once stood based on the color of the ground.
She said Hatch built the post on land owned by the University of Michigan. According to some records, all of sections 33 was given to the university on May 20, 1828, Wickman said.
“It appears he never owned it,” she said.
However, Meyer said an early entry to the abstract of Barton’s land show the names of Harvey and Amy Hatch of Genesee County, New York, as owners of the land about the time A. T. Hatch moved in.
He speculates they could be A. T. Hatch’s parents.
Meyer and Wickman say they plan to continue looking for additional information about the people involved with the hatch family and the trading post.
Wickman said she discussed placing an informational marker near the Bennett Bridge commemorating the site of the trading post, also mentioning the location of the proposed Hogan Fort.
The fort was to be built in the far northwest corner of Colon Township in anticipation of Indian unrest resulting from the Black Hawk War in 1832, she said.
The marker, while far from being a reality in the near future, would also contain mention of the grave of the first schoolteacher in the Indian reservation. It is also located on private land in that area but the schoolteacher’s name is unknown.
Wickman said first the sites would have to be recognized on the state Historical Register and then the money necessary – probably around $1,000 – must be accumulated before such a sign became reality.