Leonidas by Raymond Meyer




By Raymond C. Meyer Sr., February 21, 1990: “In the terms of the Treaty of Chicago, 1821, the Indians of the Nottawa-seepe (Prairie by the River) retained 115 sections, nearly 74,000 acres of some of the choice land in Michigan, as a reservation. They comprised parts of Nottawa, Park and Leonidas and all of Mendon townships and extended into Kalamazoo County.                                                                                                           These Indians had villages at Mendon and one that was called Maguago’s Village. This became the Olney Brothers farm.                                             Early in it’s history, missionaries had visited the village and many of these Indians were converted to Christianity. They planted apple trees that were still growing near the ford; hence it was called Apple Tree Ford. The early settlers found the ruins of the mission, fireplace and chimney on the north bank of the river near the ox-bow. About a half mile downstream from the Matthews bridge (now Bennett) the settlers tried to transplant some of the trees with little success.                                                                                    The Indian trader, A. T. Hatch, built his trading post (1830-’31) on the south bank of the St. Joseph River on what is now the Barton farm on Brandt Road. He married Marchee-o-no-qua, the beautiful sister of Chief Maguago. Her daughter was educated in Albion.                                                             All of section 33 belonged to the U. of M. after the government, and then Harvey and Amy Hatch are on the abstract. Harvey, an older brother of Ambrose, Timothy (A.T.), settled near Sturgis (1844). Hatch Street and the Hatch addition are named for him. He was also a U. S. Marshall.              After a year, A. T. Hatch separated from Marchee. She was a Christian and wanted a church wedding. Then Hatch married Lydia Ann Beebe and purchased land near the Kalamazoo County line. They moved to Elkhart County in Indiana and had children there and Lydia died at Adamsville, Michigan, and Hatch remarried. Thomas was about five when she died but was raised by someone near the old home. Hatch died on a farm near Dowagiac.                                                                                                          The Cowen brothers, James and Robert, purchased property near Ft. Pleasant and built a mill there. they sawed fine whitewood and made rafts and arks in which to ship flour, grain and lumber down the river to markets as far away as Chicago. Isaac G. Bailey arrived about the same time. In fact, he had his eyes on the very same location that the Cowens obtained.  Also George Matthews, Foremans and the Watkins families came then. Captain Levi Watkins was one of the ablest men in the early affairs of the area. The early mail service went to Ft. Pleasant and Issac G. Bailey was the first postmaster (1834). Baily was elected to the legislature and was instrumental in establishing mail service on the Washtenaw trail, Jackson to White Pigeon. Then the village was laid out along this route and although Watkins wanted to retain the same name, others preferred a change to “Leon”. Another village wanted theirs named “Leonidas” after the old Spartan general. Do you know what?  The “computer” must have jammed. So, that is how it got its name.                                                                                                           A hamlet called Factoryville is located in the northeast part of the township. I do not find if they ever had a post office there, but assume that they did. Why it was named Factoryville I have no idea, for now the most active things going are the Factoryville Church and their Christian school.

There are also two churches in the village of Leonidas. It has a post office: 49066. It has an active Grange. There is also a church next to the cemetery on the Kalamazoo county line. I don’t know if there are services there or not. It was in good repair when I last saw it.                                                     Some of the choice land in the county is in Leonidas Township. It contains some beautiful prairie land … land as level as a floor and land called timberland, with stone. Now there is extensive irrigation in the township. The St. Joseph River flows across the southern border and is joined by the Nottawa-seepe, Bear Creek and the Little Portage. There are also four small lakes. Choice whitewood timber was cut and much went into rafts and arks to transport cargos of flour, grain and lumber to markets as far away as Chicago. Much of the early commerce was carried on rivers.                    Some more of the early names in the history of Leonidas: Purdy, Harvey, Pier, West, Bishop, Gardner, Millard, Kingsley and Clark. Edward K. Wilcox and brother-in-law Joshawa Lyon first settled in Nottawa, and then moved to Leonidas Township.                                                                           The Leonidas schools are consolidated with the Colon Community Schools system. The stone building in Leonidas is a work of art, an art that will soon be lost. We should work for the preservation of these beautiful works of art. District number three was the Reserve School, located on the Indian reservation (Maguago’s Village). It was here that the state negotiated the removal of the Indians from their ancestral homes.                                          Sau-au-quette, the wicked, and other characters that were not the legitimate chiefs, sold out the nation. For this deed Sau-au-quette paid with his life at Coldwater. It was a sad day when the army herded this once proud and free people from their homes, very much like pushing a child into an orphanage or your parents into a poor house.                                                                      The first teacher of the Reserve School is buried near the Bennett bridge on a corner of a field belonging to Thom Fredenburg. I have been unable so far to get light on this.                                                                                            I would like to see a plaque dedicated to this teacher, the Hatch trading post site, and the site of Ft. Hogan that was started but not finished at the outbreak of the Blackhawk war. Hatch  and a band of the reserve Indians joined General Atkinson in Chicago (1832).                                                         I do hope that the many hours that I have spent in research will be of some interest to others.”