History

 

1914

In looking back over half a century we find Leslie Township just merging into history and taking its name and place among the numerous townships being formed from government land in lower Michigan.  It lies in the central part of the state and, on  the government survey, is Township No. 1 North, Range No. 1 West.  The eastern and southern boundaries were surveyed by Joseph Wampler in 1824, the northern and western boundaries by John Mullett in 1824-25, and the township was subdivided by Hervey Parke in 1826.

Leslie Township was first a part of the township of Aurelius.  It was organized as a separate township on December 30, 1837, and received its name as follows:  Dr. J. A. Cornell of Spring Arbor was a member of the legislature at that time.  When Ingham County was organized and the townships named, each township was called by description and a name was given by various members of the House.  When Township No. 1 North, Range No. 1 West was called, Dr. Cornell proposed naming it "Leslie" in honor of a much respected family by that name whom he knew in Eastern New York.  The name was accepted and appears in the formal act of organization of this township, which was passed in March, 1838.  The first Township meeting was held at the home of Henry Fiske, a log dwelling which stood near the present site of the Allen House, on the first Monday in April, 1838.  Henry Fiske presided as moderator and Benjamin Davis was elected as Supervisor.

- The Preceding is a excerpt from the book "History Of The Early Life and Business Interests of The Village and Township of Leslie Ingham County Michigan."  Published under the auspices of the Elijah Grout Chapter; Daughter of the American Revolution 1914.

 

Renderings by Hazel Vaughn

When I was very small my family moved to Leslie from Rock Island, Illinois to join my grandparents, John and Cindy Breckenridge, and an uncle and Aunt, Billy and Ollie Smith.  I have no idea how they happened to come here as they previously lived at Manistee and Lewiston.  I vaguely remember Grandma living in an apartment on the west side of Main Street on the second floor of a white wooden building that later housed the Eileen Hill Store and a pool hall on the ground floor.  At one time Grandpa worked for the township when it maintained many of the roads.  Because of his handicaps he often did odd jobs which included opening and closing gates when others drove their horses through.  Grandpa had only one eye, a crippled arm and was hard of hearing due to Scarlet Fever as a child.  For these reasons I remember him as mostly working for farmers as a hired hand and living with them.

Soon Dad bought a small farm on what was then called Bunkerhill Road.  Now it is known as Kinneville Road.  At that time many of the yards near the houses were fenced in.  I don't remember a lawn mower, but often pet lambs were turned loose there and mowed the grass for us.  We had a watering tank for the livestock near the barn.  Some of the farmers and their families who lived further east would often stop to water their horses on the way to Leslie to do their weekly shopping.  Although we took our car shopping, many others didn't have cars.

There were merchants who drove into the country with horses and carts, a few with cars, with items needed.  I know there were others that came, but I remember best the ones who came with meat and other perishables.  Refrigeration was a problem, we used the cellar as it was always cold down there since the house was heated with stoves on the first floor.  I think the merchants also brought some things such as butter and eggs.

My brother and I and friends nearby usually walked to and from school.  It was safe to ride with some passing since at that time everyone knew everyone for miles around and everyone watched out for "the kids."  Schools were small and so were the neighborhoods.  We didn't have radios or TV's, but we did have our partyline telephones.  Our first radio when I was a little older was a crystal set that you listened to with earphones.  There was lots to do even if it was so different from today.  I'm sure we visited our neighbors more.  I remember more Sunday dinners with others and the old community clubs as well.

Don't times change?

 

Leslie Odds N' Ends

Trivia Compiled By Bill Nelton, Leslie Historical Society

From the September 25, 1924 Leslie Local
The enrollment for school is  much larger than usual.  The enrollment for the Junior and Senior High is 181.  It has been necessary to put in 16 new seats.

From the July 24, 1974 Leslie Local
Leslie Township discusses police protection.  "This is one of the problems that come with urbanization of rural areas", commented Mrs. Heloise Kannawin, Leslie Township Clerk.  It has been the scourge of many small township governments who are growing in size but not income.

From the September 25, 1974 Leslie Local
Disbelievers of the current "Leslie's population increase" talk might have to take another look at the facts and figures.  Mike Sliezak, a Tri-County Planning Commission Consultant to the City of Leslie, said he predicts Leslie's population will increase by 1200 people by 1990.  He said that the Leslie schools, designed to hold 1,200 and presently holding 1,760 will have 400 more students by 1985.

 

Land Snakes by Marilyn Miner 
It was a warm summer evening in 1900.  A young boy walked down Vaughn Rd., east of the Housel Church.  the road was gravel, narrow and spooky at night.  Suddenly a movement caught his eye, in the road ahead, and panic sent the boy scurrying in the opposite direction.

The boy later described what he had seen and it came as no surprise to anyone.  Huge snakes had been seen before in the area.  this was "just" another.  It was difficult to describe the snake, but he remembered the length very well.  It was fat and stretched across the road, with its head in one ditch, its tail in the other.

Several years later Mrs. Will Knauf told of seeing just such a snake on land they owned on Scofield Rd.  The Knaufs lived in Leslie but planted a garden on the land every year.  One summer day the Knaufs took a picnic lunch and went to the country.  Mrs. Knauf placed a picnic basket on a blanket and sat watching her husband hoe the garden.

A sudden feeling of something watching made her turn quickly.  Two beady eyes stared from a huge head, across the top of the picnic basket.  It was another giant snake.  Mrs. Knauf was badly frightened and remembered the experience quite vividly for years.

The snake stories are part of the history of Leslie, and surrounding areas.  Pioneer history mentions the snakes often.  The massauga, or small rattler, was by far the most dangerous.  the giant blue racers, spotted adders, milk snakes and others were all here to greet the early settlers.