The twin Townships of Eaton and Carmel, though bound like the Siamese twins by the ligament of Charlotte, are, by my simple system of treating the townships in the order of their earliest settlement, brought a long way apart. The earliest settlement in the county, outside of Bellevue, was by Samuel and Jonathan Searls, at the southeast corner of Charlotte prairie in October, 1835. The latest township of all to acquire a first settler was Carmel. Still in point of actual time they were not so far severed-almost exactly two years apart. Still in that eventful two years each of the other towns had acquired its first inhabitant-eight of them in 1836 and six in 1837. Carmel, the latest of them, was not unattractive to pioneers or speculators as is witnessed by the fact that purchases from the government were made here in 1832, ’33, ’34, eight purchases in ’35 and thirty-nine in 1836. Who was the first settler? And again we meet that ever recurring problem, when is an unsettled man settled. The first to begin improvements in Carmel was Platt Morey in autumn, 1837, but, unfortunately, he was a single man and by pioneer’s logic he could by no possibility be “settled” until married. This happy event occurred two years later when he married a niece of Bezaleel Taft, an early pioneer of Vermontville. The first to settle with his family was Nathan Brooks who also became the first supervisor of Carmel. William Webster was an early settler but was accidentally killed soon after. Robert Dunn was an early settler and outlived nearly all others. The venerable John E. Ells, a soldier of 1812, and his son, Almon C. Ells, were early settlers here. They became respectively the grandfather and the father of Frank A. Ells, the highly esteemed and efficient editor of The Charlotte Leader. William Johnson, distinguished as Blacksmith Johnson, married a sister of A. C Ells and resided in turn in Charlotte and in Carmel. The history of Carmel is closely bound up with that of Charlotte, many settlers having resided in both. H. H. Gale and his brother-in-law, R. T. Cushing, were early residents in Carmel. Town meetings were held in Charlotte. Alvan D. Shaw, afterward very prominent in Eaton County, was an early resident of Carmel and left recorded some amusing incidents. He settled in Carmel February 20, 1840, and I copy his statement: “When the day of annual town meeting came we thought we ought to attend. Early in the morning we all started for what was then called Hyde’s Mills in Kalamo. When we got there we were told that we did not belong with them at all; that our town had been set off and organized by itself. We were then in a dilemma. We did not know the name of our town nor the place of meeting. We knew that Daniel Barber of Vermontville was our representative in the legislature. We clubbed together and raised a dollar and hired a boy to go to Vermontville and see Mr. Barber. Anxious for the dollar the boy pulled off his hat, coat, shoes and stockings. With head up he ran through the woods and in two hours returned with a line from Mr. Barber stating our township had been organized and named Carmel and told the place of meeting. We returned to the designated house and found it to be a low shanty covered with split hollow logs. I had to take the taller side of the shanty in order to stand erect. We then made a ballot box, prepared our ballots, and organized the board. Between two and three o’clock we began voting. Every elector in town voted-eighteen in all. We closed the polls, counted the votes and made report as required by statute and reached home late in the evening.” Mr. Shaw was afterward county commissioner several times, township supervisor and in 1844-45 county clerk. Other early residents were Henry J. Robinson, A. B. Waterman, James Mann, John Jessup, Harvey Williams, M. E. Andrews, James Foster, Thomas Cooper, H. Whitehouse, J. P. Herrick, H. M. Munson, J. E. Sweet, Eli Spencer, A. C. H. Maxon, Abel P. Case.
In 1844 there were forty-one resident taxpayers. Early records of the township have been lost but after 1845, R. T. Cushing, A. D. Shaw, A. C. Ells and T. D. Green alternated as supervisors. Families living in the east part sent their children to Charlotte to school but about 1841, five or six families living near the center organized district No. 1. The modes of life and labor of the pioneers were
much the same as that of their ancestors for many generations. The same tallow candles by night and the same homespun clothes by day. The inventions of the nineteenth century, more than the development of the county displaced all their modes and practices. Cook stoves were entirely unknown to the early settlers in Eaton County. Their introduction revolutionized their culinary practices. Sewing machines came during the Civil War and wrought a revolution in “the other room,” for shanties had then passed and the log house had two or three rooms besides the sleeping loft. Railroads came into the county at this time and brought manufactured products from distant cities. The spinning wheel and the flax wheel were relegated to the garret and looms banished from our homes. The local blacksmith no longer made our hoes, forks and axes while farmers made their handles. Cast plows had been purchased in the rough but farmers made and fitted beams and handles. The decade of the Civil War brought more changes to our homes and farms and their management than any other decade, perhaps than any other half century. The portable mill with its circle saw revolutionized our practice with our forests. Farmers no longer made with tedious labor their rakes, scythesnaths and cradles. Neither are they making their own bedsteads, tables and chairs. Railroads brought these from distant cities. They also brought mowers, reapers, drills for sowing, and planting machines, thus liberating half of the farmers’ sons to go to the cities to produce, with the aid of steam, the thousand comforts we never had before. Rough shoes are no longer made by our fireside, but elegant attire is made by machines at one hundredth part the labor cost but at perhaps twenty times the cash price. Nine days to go to mill has now become as many minutes. Twenty-five cents postage and a day’s walk to post a letter which might require four weeks to reach its destination now requires even fewer seconds by wireless. Long live the memory of the pioneers, their hardships and privations in paving the way for our luxurious living, but let us not forget their hopeful content and happiness. One venerable lady assured me they had no hardships. They always had plenty of vegetables, abundant fresh meat was procured at any time within an hour, abundance of cranberries and huckleberries were here before us. Indians brought them to our door to exchange for potatoes. A little later there were plenty of blackberries and raspberries. Of course canning was unknown but we always had abundance of them dried. Hardships, she had known none. But a little later she recalled that she once rode on an ox sled in summer time, upon the leaves and mud, fifty miles to mill and to exchange eighteen pounds of butter for six of cheapest tumblers ever made that she might not be compelled to offer a drink of water to a stranger in a teacup. She recalled too, that when married in October she had but two pounds of butter but, as they had a fat pig and would soon have lard, she determined that butter should last them until the ” cow came in next spring.” No hardships! No, indeed, but let us re vere their happy spirit of content! In my graduating essay in 1867, I paid some tribute to the progress of the nineteenth century greater progress in material things and in scientific research than in all the preceding centuries. I questioned whether we had not nearly reached the limit of possible advancement. I lived to see greater progress in the remaining one-third of the century than in all that preceded. I once knew the exact number of the chemical elements, sixty-one, and there could be no more. A score have since been discovered and now we know not that there are any elements. The science that I learned was but a figment of the fancy. Medical books of ten years ago are but a mass of errors. Science is revolutionized. We have now seen but a score of years of the twentieth century but in discovery of means of destruction, in methods of production and in scientific research we have gone further than in any preceding century. The possible attainments and achievements of even the next ten years are beyond the conception of man.
1840 Census of Eaton County – Carmel Township
Gordon B. Griffin
James M. Mann
Alvin D. Shaw
Isaac M. Jessup