Pioneer Osband Family
Nankin Township Schools
written by Melvin D. Osband
transcribed by Linda M. Ball
The writer of this paper was not only a pioneer, but the son and grandson of pioneers. My Grandfather, Weaver Osband, emigrated from Rhode Island to Palmyra, New York, in 1791, when the country of the "Genesees" was young. There my father, William Osband, was born June 1, 1796, and from thence he emigrated to Michigan when it was beyond the outskirts of civilization.
In the spring of 1825, Rev. Marcus Swift, whose wife was sister of my father, William Osband, and Mr. Luther Reeves, a brother of my mother, two citizens of Palmyra, New York, came to Michigan to purchase land for their future home. Landing at Detroit, they penetrated the forests by the aid of the Indian Trail, up the banks of the west branch of the River Rouge, to what is now the town of Nankin, being Township 2 South Range 9 East. Mr Reeves located 160 acres on Section 3, and Mr Swift located on an equal tract on Section 2. Returning to Detroit they purchased their lands on May 10, 1825. In the following August, William Osband purchased of Mr Reeves, his Michigan land, and on the morning of Saturday, October 1, 1825, he and Mr Swift, with their families, started for the far off Michigan by the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal was not yet completed, and at Lockport, they were compelled to transport their goods seven miles by land and re-ship. They landed at Detroit the 11th of the month, having consumed one week on the passage.
Mr Swift's family consisted of himself, wife, three sons, and a daughter. Mr Osband's consisted of himself, wife, two sons, ?? Fowler, a young man in my father's employ, and Amy Burgess, a young girl then a member of the family. The writer of this was then but one and one-half years old. The transit from Detroit to their land was made in a small boat down the Detroit River, and up the Rouge River to Thomas settlement, about 10 miles from Detroit, and from thence by a wagon drawn by three Indian ponies owned by Mr Alanson Thomas. The little colony found accomodations with a Mr Benjamin Williams, in what is now the town of Dearborn, on section 6, till they could build on their land.
The town of Nankin was originally covered, with slight exceptions, with dense forests of large growth. Two branches of the River Rouge traverse the town from west to east about four miles apart. They run in narrow valleys less then twenty feet below the surrounding country. The land not in, nor adjoining these valleys, is so level that in its wild state, the water of storms requires weeks or months of being all swamp or swale. None but the lands bordering these rivers were considered fit for agricultural purposes and little or none was purchased elsewhere till all the river lands were taken. A few pieces were purchased along these rivers previous to 1825, through little or none of it was settled. Mr Osband moved into his house on the 5th of January 1826. When he moved in, the doors and windows were what mathematicians would call minus quantities. A pack of wolves took possession of the house the night before, and dug in the ashes of the fire-place, and gnawed the bones left from the workman's dinner. Mr Swift moved into his house the following March. These two families were among the first in the town.
I think my brother, Luther R. Osband, born March 14, 1826, was the first white child born in the town.
A large proportion of the pioneers of this section were of New England descent, and where a Yankee goes he takes his schools with him. They were all of a very limited means financially, and their children were often poorly and uncomfortably clad, but these circumstances were insufficient, in their minds to justify a neglect of school privileges.
The first school within the limits of the town was taught by Miss Paulina Fullerton, who resided in what is now the town of Redford. It was taught in the west half of a double log house that stood a few rods west of where Mr Fred Perrins house now stands, on the Northeast 1/4th of section 1. My recollection of this school, though distinct, embraces but a few incidents. Among its patrons were, William McCarty and James Abbott of Dearborn, who settled in 1820. Rev Marcus Swift, and William Osband came in 1825. George M. Johnson came in 1826. Also Mr. Johns, Mr Brewer and Mr Fowler..
While this school was in progress, or very soon after, the project of building a school-house was set in motion. It was located near the Southwest corner of the East 1/2 of the SouthEast 1/4th of Section 33, of what is now the town of Livonia, but then a part of Nankin. It was known as the Schwartzburg school-house. It was a frame house on the north side of the Territorial Road, leading from Detroit to Ann Arbor, and has been a conspicous landmark until recent years, though long since abandoned as a school-house.
The size of the house was eighteen by twenty-four feet. It was built by tax under the Territorial Law of 1827. I have been unable to determine the bounds of the district, but my recolleciton is, that children came to the school a distance of fully three miles, both east and west. William Osband, Henry Wells, and Ebenezer Smith constitute the building committee. William Osband, laid out and raised the frame. Ebenezer Smith and James Buckland (the latter from Dearborn) finished the woodwork on the inside, ceiling the walls as high as the windows. Norton Noble did the plastering, and when nearly finished, it was found there was a deficiency of mortar, and as there was no lime short of Detroit, a large proportion of clay was mixed with the lime, and with this the south half of the ceiling was plastered. This proved superior to the other, remaining on after the rest fell off. Marcus Swift built the chimney with brick taken from an old chimney owned by Alanson Thomas in the eastern part of Dearborn. The house was clapboard on the outside. The writing desks were made by fastening a board with an inclinded position against the walls. The seats were made by driving legs into augur-holes in the corner side of soft wood slabs. These with a chair, pail, cup, and a whip, constituted the entire furniture. The whip was sometimes quite conspicious, for in one instance it was of such dimensions that the teacher could reach with it, from his chair, every part of the house.
The first school in the new house was taught by Miss Eunice Whitney, a sister of the late Mrs. Martin Frasier of Livonia, and afterwards the wife of Mr James Patterson, of Nankin.
In the Autumn of 1833 another school-house was built and a school established in the Northwest corner of Section 2 of Nankin, on the land of Marcus Swift. The house was built by subscription, but the principal part of the expense was borne by four persons, Marcus Swift, William Osband, Abraham Perrin and Thomas Dickerson. The size of the house was sixteen by eighteen feet, and very cheaply and roughly made. It was a frame house, with boards a foot or more in width, nailed to the studding horizontally. It had no chamber floor. The inside was finished and furnished in a style similiar to the Schwartzburg house.
In the year 1835, a district organization was effected. The house was then plastered and generally improved. This was known as the Perrinsville School-house.
The first school in this house was taught by Miss Elizabeth N. Swift, sister of Rev Marcus Swift, and afterward the wife of the late A.L. Chase, of the village of Wayne. She taught two successive winters. She came to Michigan in 1833. She died within the past year (1880).
The following table exhibits the names of the several persons who taught in the two houses respectively and the years they taught:
In the Schwartzburg School-House
Miss Eunice Whitney, summer - 1830
Dr. Micah Adams, winter 1830-1831
Miss Jane Lewis, summer 1831
Mr. Tillotson Munger, winter 1831-1832
Miss Abby Goodspeed, sumemr 1832
Mr John D. Corey, winter 1832-1833
Miss Polly Noble, summer 1833
In the Perrinsville School-house
Miss Elizabeth N. Swift, winter 1833-1834
Miss Elizabeth N. Swift, winter 8134-1835
Mr Sylvanus Goff, winter 1835-1836
Mr John D. Corey, winter 1836-1837
Mr William Foster, winter 1837-1838
Mr Dudley L. VanAkin, winter 1838-1839
Mr Almond Reynolds, winter 1839-1840
Mr John D. Corey, winter 1840-1841
Mr Glode D. Lewis, winter 1841-1842
Mr William H. Gregory, winter 1842-1843
I am unable to give the names of person who taught the summer schools in the Perrinsville house. I can name a few, but cannot tell the years they taught, nor the order of their teaching. Among them were Mrs Almira Moore, the wife of David Moore, and her sister, Miss Sarah Griswold, Miss Sarah Stafford, daughter of Moses Stafford, a resident of the district, and Miss Harriet Burbank, a resident of Livonia, who taught two terms.
Of these teachers, Dr. Adams came from Ohio in 1826, and settled in the vicinity. He is favorably known by the older portion of the community, as a pioneer physician, for many years of that whole region of country, and was a valuable citizen. He moved to Plymouth about 1833, and died there many years ago.
Miss Jane Lewis was the daughter of Rev Judah Lewis of Livonia, and sister of Mrs. Dr. Adams. She subsequently married Mr. Daniel Barlow of Livonia.
Mr Munger was pioneer of the town and a resident therein till recently.
Miss Goodspeed, was a sister of Hiram Goodspeed, a merchant doing business a little west of the school-house. It was during her term that the school was thrown into frightful emotions by rumors of the the Black Hawk War. The scholars believed themselves in immenent danger of hostile visits from the savages. But better councils prevailed, and they were pacified. One day about 300 militia from Plymouth and the vicinities west of us passed by in military order, led by martial music, on their way to Ten Eyck's tavern, in Dearborn, to stand draft for the war. The teacher gave us a recess to enable us to see them. The most of us had never seen such a vast army before, and it was one of the grandest sights we had ever beheld.
Mr. Corey taught three terms in the two houses, and is remembered as a pioneer of 1832, and a professional school teacher. If living, he now resides in Isabella County.
Miss Noble was the daughter of Norton Noble of the district, and subsequently married David McFarlan. She died many years ago.
Mr Goff had relatives in the district, and now resides in Portland, Michigan.
Mr Foster came from Canton and was a clear-headed and energetic teacher. He susequently served in the Union Army during the rebellion, and died in Eaton County, in recent years.
I know little of the history of Mr. Reynolds.
Mr. Lewis afterward settled in Calhoun County.
Mr. Gregory was a young man from Plymouth, and taught a private school. The school-house had become so much delapated that the district decided they would have no school during the winter. Some of the citizens were strongly opposed that a winter should pass without a school, and Marcus Swift, William Osband, and Issac F. Perrin entered into a contract with Mr Gregory, by which he agreed to teach a private or select school. He was to occupy the old school-house a short time, till a room could be prepared by Mr. Perrin, in a building recently erected for the cloth-dressing business. The sequel proved that the new rooms were never prepared and the old school-house was occupied during the whole term. Mr Gregory was a man of fine culture, and a superior teacher. He subsequently served several terms in the lower house of the State Legislature, and became an influential member thereof. He was also an ordained minister of the Baptist denomination. He died many years ago in Plymouth.
The following are the names of some of the patrons of these schools, and the years they severally settled in the vicinity, as near as I can determine:
Marcus Swift, William Osband and Joseph Kingsley all in 1825
Dr. Micah Adams, Martin Frasier, and George M. Johnson in 1826.
Ebenezer Smith in 1827.
Joseph Keller, Elias Davenport and Norton Noble as early as 1826 or 1827.
Issac Wilkinson in 1828.
James Kipp, Lawson A. Van Akin, and James Ferguson in 1830.
Thomas Dickerson, Rev Reuben Armstrong, Benjamin Marshall, Walter Norris, Selden Williams, William Dean and Silas Barker in 1831
Abraham Perrin and Issac F. Perrin, about the same time; 1831-32
Luther Dean, Samuel Millard, Job Sherman and John D. Corey in 1832.
Alexander Tait and Josiah B. Barker and probably, Gilbert Cooper in 1833.
As a patron of schools and a member of the community, the Rev Marcus Swift occupied a conspicuous place. He was a minister of the M.E. Church, and for some years the only resident preacher in the vicinity. As such, he did the preaching for the people, performed the ceremony at marriages, gave consolation to the sick and dying, and buried their dead. He was twice appointed Justice of the Peace by Governor Cass, and for a series of years was the Supervisor of the town. He was a man of large ability and of uncompromising principles. In his extensive labors for the good of others, he is justly entitled to the credit of a large amount of unrequited toil. He died in Northville in 1865.
I have be unable to learn the wages paid to the several teachers. Dr Adams recieved $12 per month and boarded himself and Mr. Gregory received $40 for teaching three months, and was boarded. Mr Munger and Mr Corey boarded themselves; all the rest "boarded round."
Both school-houses were used for religious and other meeting and the Schwartzburg house was also used for a town house, while the other two towns were combined in one. The terms of school were usually, and I think invariably, of three month's length.
The principal books used in the schools were Webster's American Spelling Book for a speller and elementary reader. In the earlier of these schools, the young reader passed from this to the Testament as an intermediate reader. This was a pure case of the Bible in schools, though in none of them did religious exercises constitute any part of the school program. From the Testament the reader graduated into the English reader. This Spelling book was superceded by Webster's Elementary Spelling Book during Miss Swift's second term, and Porter's Rhetorical Reader superceded the English Reader during Mr Gregory's term. Dabol was the standard arithmetic in all these schools, except the last, when Adams New Arithmetic took its place. Kirkham, Smith and Murray were authorities in grammer, and Woodbridge and Olney in Geography.
The schools were never classified. A multiplicity of text-books was a constant annoyance to the teachers. Except in reading and spelling, the instruction was individual rather than class. No blackboard was ever used in any of these schools except the last, and there only to a limited extent. Steel pens were unknown. The goose, turkey, and turkey-buzzard furnished the raw materials for all the pens used.
Writing paper came unruled, and no student's outfit was complete with a rule and plummet, which latter consisted of a piece of lead in the shape of a narrow and much elongated wedge, to be used in ruling the paper. Lead pencils, if not unknown then, were so little used as to be unknown to students.
I have no recollection that any teacher or any scholar was ever expelled from school, and hence I think every teacher taught the full term of his contract.
Teachers wages were always raised by rate-bill.
The wood used in warming the school-house was generally furnished by contribution. If one person failed to provide his due porportion, as was frequently the case, somebody else would supply the deficiency. The wood was generally unseasoned, and from that cause the school-house was sometimes very uncomfortable. In one of Mr Corey's terms in the Perrinsville house the green wood fire was insufficient to make the house comforable, and an iron kettle was placed in one end of the room and all the coals from the stove that could be spared placed in it. By this means the temperature of the room was made endurable, of not comfortable. The noxious gases from the burning coals passed out through the open crevices of the house so freely that the children were not appreciably injured thereby.
I have written the above very largely from my own personal recollections. There are but few persons left that were conversant with those early times, and the number that are able to relate the history of them is still less. I am under great obligation to the Hon George W. Swift of the village of Wayne, son of Rev Marcus Swift, for many of the facts herein stated. He is the only person I have met among that little surving few, whose recollections are sufficiently clear to be of value in giving specific information on these points. I wish he could be induced to give his recollections of the pioneer times of that section in a tangible form, for unless recorded they will very soon be lost.
Transcribed from a speech, written in 1880 and read by Melvin Osborn February 2, 1881.
Contributed by Linda Ball