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City of Litchfield

221 Jonesville Street

P.O. Box 236

Litchfield, MI 49252-0236

Phone: 517-542-2921

Fax: 517-542-2491

 

Hours:   

Monday – Friday

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

 
 
History   
 
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History



                             

The 1850's witnessed the transition from pioneer period to the farming period.  Also by that time there were around 75 houses erected and many trees were planted along the streets.  At the time there was much excitement concerning the gold run in California and some of the settlers traveled west.  The only ones recorded as being successful were Rueben Freeman and Simon Hadley.  Bruce Blonde's house on Herring Road was built with money from the gold rush by Simon Hadley.

In 1853, the second school became very crowded and the new four room school was built on the property on N. Chicago.  Each room took care of three grades.

Many boys from the Township marched away in 1861 in the Civil War, some scarcely 18 years of age. There were 44 men who gave their lives in the Civil War from  this area and Memorial Day flags are still placed on the graves of more than 100 Civil War Veterans.   

  

In 1860, Litchfield was definitely Republican in politics. At the township election in April 1867, 301 votes were cast in which 16 were for Democrats.

 

 
  

 

In 1869, there was an election notice posted that read "Whereas 30 taxpayers and electors of the Township of Litchfield, County of Hillsdale, State of Michigan, have by written request, desired to call a meeting of the electors of said township according to the provision of the law, to consider the question of pledging the aid of said Township by donation to the Northern Central Railroad Company, to aid in the construction of its line of road... provided that their line of road shall come into said Township between the quarter post of Sections 10 and 15 and the St. Joe River in said township." In June 1869, the results were printed in the newspaper as follows: "At the Railroad Aid Election held in the interest of the N.C. Railroad Company, the result proved that the people of Litchfield Township are fully awake to the importance of railroad communities as the vote carried for granting the proposed aid by 53 majority against a strong opposition." After the railroad was completed, Teddy Roosevelt stopped in Litchfield on the train when he did a barn storming through the area.

In the late 1800's, Litchfield had a building boom when many new homes, businesses and the railroad station (1872) were built. Many of these buildings are still in existence today. The newspaper, The Gazette (1874), was also started in this time period.

The village was incorporated in 1877 and thus through licenses and taxes they could have a fire department, build sidewalks and crossings and keep the streets in better repair. This also helped to keep the streets free from the large number of cattle, sheep, and hogs that were permitted to run at large, even in the business section of town. The election was held and 108 voted against and 73 in favor. The local newspaper reports: "The opposition was made up of a class that opposes all public improvements and, as usual in such cases, those who made the most noise in the matter were those who pay the least taxes and some of them never paid a cent of tax in the world. This is something that is needed here for we don't believe there is another town in the state, doing business that is done here or that has such dirty streets." They did incorporate on March 12, 1877.

Sometime in the 1870's, Litchfield's first library was established in an old building on the corner of E. Saint Joe Street and Jonesville Street.  It was later torn down to build a filling station.

In 1885 the first telephone line was put in between the Gazette Office and the residence of Warren Jackson, now the Corey Bills  home on N. Chicago St.

The village purchased 25 second-hand street lamps in 1889, again after much controversy and argument from the older residents. The lamps were kerosene and had to be filled every day.

In 1894, Litchfield's first business block burned to the ground, within one hour.

 

In the spring of 1903 free mail delivery service was established for every farmer of Hillsdale County.  The City Hall and Jail were moved from their location on the west side of N. Chicago street to the corner of Jonesville and Stock Streets. In 1904, a new jail was built, the old one having become a menace and disgrace. This was also the year Litchfield's Sorosis Club was born, currently the oldest club in Litchfield.

Litchfield's first bank robbery was in November 1904. The robbers dynamited the safe at 2:20 AM. The following was part of an article in The Gazette: "Before the robbers left the bank at least 25 people knew the bank was being robbed and of this number at least 5 had guns in their possession; and yet the marauders escaped without a shot being fired".

In the late 1800's and early 1900's Litchfield was one of the best markets for its size in the state for live and dressed poultry. From November 16, 1889 to December 16 of the same year, 104,557 pounds of dressed poultry were shipped from this station to New York and Boston Markets. The demand for railroad cars on the Lake Shore Railway was so great that the railroad found it impossible to supply them fast enough. Grain, hay, apples, and flour were some of the commodities creating the demand in the area.

The population of Litchfield in 1901 was 645. This was the advent of the automobile and J.D. Kennebrook was the first owner of an automobile in the village in 1903, with Dr. Atterbury and Arthur Hager right behind him.

The oldest thriving business in Litchfield is the "Flouring" mill built in 1918, then called Stock's Mill. At the peak of operation, 500 barrels of flour were milled. In 1934, electricity replaced the water power and Daisy Donut Flour was mixed.  On February 17, 1937, it was sold to Litchfield Dairy and they ground and mixed various kinds of farm feed. Reed Soper took over the Litchfield Grain Company in 1957, and since 1976 it has been owned by Frank Walters.  They still sell feed and buy grain from area farmers for use in mixing feeds and for storage and shipping.  New elevators and dryers have been added through the years, and it remains quite an industry.

Since our forefathers arrival in 1834, the area has been known for its farming, The area farmers are still raising corn, wheat, oats, and hay, as they always have.  In recent years they have added soybeans to their list of crops.  Litchfield also boasts of some of the best dairy herds and large swine operations in the area.

Litchfield's first inhabitants were the Pottawattamie Indians, a branch of the Baw Beese tribe. They planted their summer gardens on the hill across from what is now the Litchfield Thriftway.  In the fall they would move on west for the winter months near the Butler and Girard area.

One of the first people to come to the Litchfield area in 1833 was a young man 22 years old by the name of Andrew K. Bushnell, who was from Greene County, New York.  He traveled through this part of the Michigan territory, which at the time was considered the far west.  The following spring (1834), he came back and took title to the land in Section 9 of Litchfield Township.  He built his log cabin on the present location of the Litchfield Thriftway store.  Mr. Bushnell plowed up the Indian planting ground and sowed wheat.  The Indians quit planting and bought agricultural products as they needed from the settlers paying for them with berries, pelts and hand woven baskets.  Chief Baw Beese was a good man and never had the slightest difficulty with the settlers.

Mr. Henry Stephens and Samuel Riblet built their home at Merchant Corners, now located at the corner of Rainey, Hastings Lake Road and M-99.  Samuel Riblet bought 160 acres, now part of the City of Litchfield, and built his log cabin with the help of his wife, Deborah.  A section of this log home is still part of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Brian Roach at 349 Jonesville Street.  The Riblets traveled in a covered wagon drawn by oxen from Harbor Creek, Pennsylvania. The wagon carried all their possessions and their first baby, whom Deborah held in her arms.  The first sermon was preached in this little cabin by Stephen Wilcox, a missionary, in June of 1835.  These settlers were soon followed by several other families.

In 1836, Hervey Smith bought 65 acres from Samuel Riblet, John Woods, Solomon Riblet and Mary Woods in sections 10 and 15, and built a sawmill.  He later sold the sawmill and water power to George C. Munro of Jonesville who built the flour mill. Hervey Smith was a very honorable  man and soon platted the village. The Sand Creek School House Museum is located on Mill Street on land donated to the village by Hervey Smith, and is called Hervey Smith Park.

In 1836, Hervey Smith bought 65 acres from Samuel Riblet, John Woods, Solomon Riblet and Mary Woods in sections 10 and 15, and built a sawmill.  He later sold the sawmill and water power to George C. Munro of Jonesville who built the flour mill. Hervey Smith was a very honorable  man and soon platted the village. The Sand Creek School House Museum is located on Mill Street on land donated to the village by Hervey Smith, and is called Hervey Smith Park.

 

 

 

The first school in Litchfield Township was established in 1837, and built of logs.  It was located on the northwest corner of E. Saint Joe and Garfield Street. Issac Agard Sr. taught during the winter and Miss Ada Bushnell the following summer. Before 1837, the township was attached to the town of Allen, but in the winter 1837-1838 the Legislation Council of the territory of Michigan passed an Act authorizing the organization of the town.  They appointed Samuel Riblet, who at the time was a Justice of the Peace in Allen, to preside over the first election.  The town was organized on April 3, 1837 with twenty votes and nearly every man got an office.

In the winter of 1838 a petition was presented to name the town Columbus.  A vocal minority headed by Henry Stevens got up another petition and he went to Detroit and prevailed upon the Legislature to adopt the name of Litchfield, which they did.

A Methodist Society was organized in 1835.  They built their first church in 1840.  The Baptist society built their first church in 1845, and it is believed that the first Congregational Church was built around 1846.  In 1870, the Evangelical Church Society was organized, and they built a church on Clay Street. The South Litchfield Baptist Church was organized on February 24, 1867 in the Todd Town Schoolhouse.  There was also a Free Baptist Church of Hadley Corners that was organized in March 1875.

The Village was incorporated as a City in 1970, with Governor William G. Milliken approving the Proposed City Charter on July 9th, 1970 with the first City Council meeting being held August 10th, 1970. 

 


Township Pumper & Tanker - Picture Taken Around 1950

Pictured from left to right: Ernest Chapel, Harvey Griffiths, Jud Wolfe, Clarence Parsons, Lester Corey, Claude Cronk, John Smith, Zip Wright, George Crist, Weld Wolfinger

 

 


Pictured above is a group of three unknown workers from the Simpson Plant when it was located in downtown Litchfield.  If you know any of these workers, please e-mail Clerk Susan Ballinger @ clerk@cityoflitchfield.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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