In 1825, a surveying outfit laid out the Chicago Road following the old Sauk Trail.
Boom land sales were reported in 1829. And so Benaiah Jones, whose judgement proved to be rare, chose the point on the St. Joseph River where it crossed the Chicago road.
This important junction was to eventually become the village of Jonesville.
In 1834, the first grist mill in the county was built in Jonesville.
Also, a log school which also served as a church was built where the Episcopal church now stands.
FAYETTE TOWNSHIP AND JONESVILLE
It was not until 1825 that any settler had migrated to the Michigan Territory west of Tcumseh. This would change dramatically after a survey in 1825 of the Indian trading trail running between Detroit and Chicago and soon would be known as the Chicago Military Road. The trail wound between many marshes and dense woods. But once the survey was completed and a treaty ceding all claim to the land was signed with the Pottawatomies the way was open for homesteaders.
One of the surveying party was Captain Moses Allen who was impressed with the land and who returned in 1827 soon after the survey to take up land in what is now Allen Township. He was followed the next year by Benaiah Jones, Jr. who became the first settler in Fayette Township. He and his family found shelter in Captain Allen’s corn shed while they built their first log cabin on the west bank of the St. Joseph River near the junction of what is now M 99 and U.S. 12 (today the road is known as the Sauk Trail). This homesteading family’s settlement was to grow into the village of Jonesville, the oldest town in Hillsdale County.
Thaddeus Wright soon followed the Jones family taking up land between Jonesville and Allen. Mr. Wright is credited with planting the first orchard in the County.
As more settlers began to enter the Territory, the village of Jonesville grew. Believing that the area had potential, Benaiah Jones laid out the basic plan for the village. A post office, officially given the name Fayette, was established in 1829and Jones was appointed the first postmaster. Mail moved over the Chicago Military Road from Detroit to Chicago. He also saw the need for a hotel (tavern), which he called Fayette House. By 1832, the entire village was comprised of eight buildings, the hotel (tavern) four log dwellings, one small frame building and two barns. During this period, Jones had become proprietor of stagecoach line running between Tecumseh and Coldwater. He further established a pit saw mill on the bank of the River. James Olds and E.J. Sibley also saw the need for saw mills so that by 1835, three saw mills were operating along the River four or five miles apart.
With the arrival of two enterprising young men from New York State, John Potter Cook and Chauncey Ferris, in 1834, a general store was established (Cook and Ferris soon moved on to Hillsdale). In 1835 a grist mill was put into operation by Levi Baxter and Cook Sissen.
Farmland soon was taken up in the Township around the village, which was the most important town in Hillsdale County and served as the county seat until 1843. Between the towns of Hillsdale and Jonesville began a controversy over the placement of the county seat. For a time the residents of Jonesville backed a plan to make Osseo the county seat as it geographically was the center of the County. However, with the placement of the rail line running from Adrian and terminating in Hillsdale, it was decided that the seat for the County of Hillsdale should be placed in Hillsdale.
The early residents of Jonesville comprised a mix of energetic and civic-minded individuals.
In addition to laying out the village of Jonesville and engaging in other enterprises Benaiah Jones established the first school in the Township. Appropriately enough the schoolroom was one of the bedrooms of the hotel. Later, Jones’ daughter, Lois became the owner and proprietor of the hotel.
Jones became a major and the commander of the third brigade, second division in the Black Hawk uprising in 1832. Later, though he was 71, he served in the Civil War, died in the south and is buried there.
Captain Oliver C. Pope and his wife came to Jonesville in 1832. Captain Pope had served in the War of 1812 and had been a Hudson River boat Captain. The Popes received their land grant from President Martin Van Buren in 1837.
Brigadier General George Clinton Munro was another prominent early resident of Jonesville—and was considered one of the wealthiest men in the area employing a black footman to drive his carriage. He operated a grist-mill, foundry, general store, and carried on business abroad. He was elected the first County Clerk in Hillsdale County (1836) and the first President of Jonesville (1855). He also served as Justice of the Peace, County Coroner, President of the Executive Committee of the Michigan State Agricultural Society, and was one of the most prominent Masons in the State. He had been Grand Master of the State and Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of the State. He was moderator of the first union school in the State, and a member of the School Board for eighteen years, being Director part of the time. His Colonial Home was purchased in 1834 and is the oldest house in Jonesville. The Greek Revival section was added in 1840. It was the first brick building in the County and still gives an aura of stately manner with 12 foot ceilings in the parlors and two wings on either side of the main structure. Before he was finished with the various additions, the house had twenty rooms (It now is a unique bed and breakfast establishment). Munro was famous for hosting many prominent and well-known guests from the U.S. and from Europe as well.
Ebenezer O. Grosvenor coming to Jonesville in 1840, established the first store in partnership with Richard Varnum and later organized the first bank in the village. Grosvenor served as Colonel under War Governor Austin Blair. He later became Lieutenant Governor and State Treasurer. During his time as Lt. Governor Grosvenor was on the planning commission for the “new” state capitol. His Victorian mansion on Maumee Street near the Munro house now serves as a museum for the Jonesville Historical Society.
Witter J. Baxter came to Jonesville in1848 and set up a milling operation. He, like many others in the village, served not only his community but the state government as well. He was appointed a member of the State Board of Education—holding that position for 24 years. He also was a state senator in 1877 and 1878. Additionally, he was on the Board of State Corrections from 1880-1885. His son Henry, became a general in the Civil War.
William Walton Murphy and William Howell set up a law practice in 1837. Believing the time had come, Murphy then established the Hillsdale County Gazette. When Hillsdale became the county seat, the paper became the Hillsdale Gazette. Because of this Murphy then founded a newspaper entitled the Jonesville Telegraph which evolved into the present Jonesville Independent. Murphy distinguished himself by representing the U.S. as Consul General in Frankfort-on-Main in Germany in 1861. The beautiful Georgian style brick house built by Murphy still remains on the corner of Chicago and Germain Streets.
The establishment of churches played important roles in the developing community. The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1835. One of its principal organizers was Elisha P. Champlin who gave the land for the erection of the first church building.
A second church, the Grace Episcopal Church was founded in 1838 and constructed in 1844. It today still fronts Chicago Street, Jonesville’s main street, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1842 a Baptist Society was founded. However the original Society was disbanded but was later reorganized in 1860.
As was the case in many small communities, “gold fever” struck some of its Jonesville citizens. In 1849 a group of 16 known as the California Rovers set out for the journey to California amid much fanfare from the Village. The group wrote accounts of severe weather, blocked roads, abandoned wagons and encounters with death. By 1850, most of the men had returned home. Only a few had found any riches.
The Township of Fayette and the Village of Jonesville contributed greatly to the development of Hillsdale County—making it one of the more wealthy and progressive areas of Michigan.
Information for the early history of Fayette and Jonesville was compiled from 150 years in the Hills and Dales Volume II.