Freedom Township, Michigan

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Freedom Township History Project

BarnThe Freedom Township History Project has been underway since 2000, under the direction of Robert Miller, Township Historian. The Project has been collecting and preserving many artifacts, stories and photographs on township history, including conducting a Township History Day in 2002 and the township's 175th Anniversary Celebration in September 2009. Residents have contributed many genealogies, photographs and other written material to the township’s History File.

A major effort of the History Project is the ongoing preparation of a book entitled:

THE HISTORY OF FREEDOM TOWNSHIP
The Past and Present of
Freedom
Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan,
with a Chronology, Vignettes and
Biographies of Township Residents

Edited by Raymond M. Berg and Robert J. Miller


This book is intended to both capture and preserve the history of the township and its inhabitants, and to create a snapshot of Freedom Township as it exists today for the benefit of future residents. We will pull together the known and undiscovered information about the township into one document. In much the same way as the people of 1881 contributed to Chapman’s History of Washtenaw County, we also want to record in words, photographs, maps and preservation efforts, a record of what it was like to live in Freedom Township during the early years of the 21st century.

The book is being edited by Ray Berg and Bob Miller, who will lead efforts to identify and consolidate material, conduct original research, prepare the text, and coordinate input from other township residents. Historical and biographical material will also be solicited from township residents, and their contributions will be acknowledged in the book.

Historians

Bob Miller and Ray Berg examine the early township minute books. The records dating from 1834 have been preserved, and are being scanned and digitized as part of the History Project.

The book is intended to be rich in photographs, maps and other material created by digitizing and reproducing them in electronic format. The book’s electronic format is intended to allow for easy and high-quality printing.

This book is expected to be a multi-year effort encompassing input from many sources.

For information about contributing to the history book, or to volunteer to help, please contact Bob Miller at 734-428-8222 (bmillerfarm@gmail.com), or Ray Berg at 734-428-7705 (rayberg@att.net).

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September 2009 Update

The year 2009 marks the 175th anniversary of the founding of Freedom Township. The township was established March 7, 1834 by a Legislative Council act of the Territory of Michigan. The first township meeting was held April 7, 1834 at the home of Henry Griffin.

A 175th anniversary celebration was held at the township hall September 26, 2009. The event included a township picnic/potluck, a historical presentation in the township hall, recognition of honored guests, township service projects, antique agricultural implements display, and other activities. A Freedom Township History Book was also prepared for this event. Read the articles with photographs (listed below) about this event. Tours of Freedom Township's historic churches were conducted on September 27, 2009.

Freedom Township 175th Picnic a Big Success 

Freedom Township 175th Book

Freedom Township 175th Anniversary Program

Freedom Township 175th Book Index

Earliest Freedom Township History Rediscovered

The 175th Anniversary Book is considered a precursor to the larger history book effort described below

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May 31, 2005 Update:  

The Freedom Township History Project has begun its program of gathering oral histories from long-time township residents. At a May 10, 2005 meeting, Township Historian Bob Miller, assisted by Ray Berg, met with volunteers to organize the planned interviews and data recording. The word processing of previously submitted handwritten and typed material has also begun.

Township volunteers include Jana Kress, Bonnie Mitchell, Rose Breitenwischer, Mary Munson, Sara Bassett, Jane Talcott and Lorna Brown. They agreed on a common format for conducting the interviews and gathering information. Candidate interviewees were also identified. The Township Board approved the purchase of a digital camera, cassette tape recorder, and other supplies.

For an example of historical information being transcribed by team members, see the Dedication Speech of Elvira Vogel, May 22, 1971, at the dedication of the new Freedom Township Hall, and the Freedom Township History Speech of Nellie Dettling, also given that same day. These can also be accessed on the navigation toolbar on the right side of this page.

From time to time, we will place on this web site additional text, photos and maps from the History Project. Keep checking in!

Other volunteers are encouraged to join the project!  

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Freedom Township Baseball Team

On September 15, 1912, Freedom Township baseball players defeated our worthy neighbors to the south, Bridgewater Township, and posed in front of the Pleasant Lake House.

Objectives

The book will achieve four objectives:

  1. To pull together, organize and consolidate the existing historical material on Freedom Township into one document. This material will come from published and unpublished sources, including all material currently retained at township offices in the History File. Previously published material will be credited and noted in References.
  1. To research and obtain “new” historical material in government and library archives, as well as through contributions received from township residents and other interested parties.
  1. To preserve the records of Freedom Township, by scanning and digitizing various township records such as meeting minutes, by duplicating historical photographs, and by providing independent offsite storage of these records.
  1. To provide a snapshot of the township as it currently exists, with family biographies, photographs, and other information provided by and obtained from current township residents, for the benefit of future residents.

See the map of Freedom Township in 1864!

Organization

The book is being organized along three overlapping and contiguous themes. The primary theme will be a traditional chapter-based approach as listed in Item 1 below. Interspersed among the chapters will be vignettes, set off by borders around the text/pictures of the vignettes, which will also use a different font size or type to show they are “stand-alone segments” of the book. The vignettes are discussed in Item 2 below. At the end of the traditional book/vignette chapters will be an appendix for biographies of persons, families or enterprises. These biographies will be excerpted from published materials, provided by township residents and others as part of this work, or developed by Berg/Miller through interviews and data gathering. The Appendix is discussed in Item 3 below.

From time to time, we will have contests soliciting township input. For example, we are currently seeking nominations for the oldest surviving structure in Freedom Township. Prizes will be announced!

Bethel Church

Bethel United Church of Christ

This church and congregation, located at Bethel Church Road and Schneider Road, was formed by circuit-rider Reverend Friedrich Schmid of Ann Arbor in the 1840s. The current structure has served a large Freedom community since 1909. The adjacent cemetery contains many of the Freedom Township pioneers who emigrated from Germany.

Here’s how the book is being organized:

Item 1 – The “Main Book”

The main book will provide a chapter-based chronology of the township from the pre-settlement times to the present. This will consist of chapters organized along the following themes:

Part 1 – Main Book

1. Forward

2. Acknowledgements

3. An Introduction to the Township as it Exists Today

4. The Pre-Settlement Days (ca. 1700-1820) – what do the records tell us? What do we know about native Americans and pioneers in these early times?

5. The Earliest Settlers and Township Organization (ca. 1820-1840) – how was the township formed in 1834, where did settlers come from, what “forces” brought these first settlers here, where did they settle, what did they do, why did they leave if they did?

6. The German Influx (ca. 1840-1860) – why the Germans, why here, what caused the township to obtain such a German heritage? Did they tend to emigrate from one region in Germany?

7. The late 19th century (ca. 1860-1900) – the agrarian township, influence of railroads and transportation, what forces began to change the township in this period?

8. The first half of the 20th century (ca. 1900-1950) – what influenced the township’s development in this period, historical events, industrial and agrarian changes, the loss of population?

9. The second half of the 20th century (ca. 1950-2000) – the decline or change in agriculture, development of local industries, the gravel business, the growth of nearby communities, population changes and residential development, the effect of Ann Arbor?

10. The township today (ca. 2010) – provide a summary of how the township looks today.

Part 2 – Main Book

1. Topography, Natural Features – what makes the township physically the way it is?

2. The Farms – what have we farmed in the past, and what do we now? Or raise? Why? What caused this particular development? What is the township known for? What is expected in the future?

3. The Historic Homes/Barns – Identify the historic homes, establish their construction date, record their history and owners, photograph them.

4. Historic Locations – Where were the saloons/taverns? Where did significant township events occur? What is the story?

5. The Churches – How have these developed, what is their history?

6. The Cemeteries – What history can they tell us?

7. The Township District Schools – locations, history

8. Local Businesses and Industries – What has come and gone? What exists today? Did we have any mills, etc.?

9. Local Government – how did it develop and evolve? History of supervisors?

10. Road System – how did it develop, early farmer maintenance and takeover by other agencies? Early road names and changes? Did railroads have any influence on the township’s development?

Tombstone

The History Project will document the lives of the early pioneers in the township. This grave marker is in the original Catholic Church cemetery at Hieber and Schneider Roads.

Item 2 - The Vignettes

The vignettes are intended to tell stand-alone, interesting stories, and are interspersed throughout the book. The vignettes may be factual, anecdotal, or simply thought-provoking to the reader. These vignettes will be offset from the main part of the book text by using borders, and will be composed of different font size or type to clearly distinguish them as separate articles from the body of the text.

As examples, vignettes may consist of:

As e    1. Notable and interesting locations in the township – e.g., Albers Orchard, DuRussell Potato Farm (the tamarack swamp), the Pleasant Lake Tavern

2. Historical families – e.g., the original settlers, what became of them?

3. First person stories from pioneers, such as an 1835 story by Casper Limpert about living in Freedom Township

4. Unusual homes

5. Centennial Farms in the township

6. Amusing or unusual stories – e.g., a weird crime, the Great Tornado

7. “Artifacts” – stories about unusual objects, things our ancestors would have recognized but we don’t, etc.

8. War veterans and casualties.

9. Township historical surveying – the markers and system used

Item    Item 3 – Biographies

The appendix will include both historical and current biographies provided by township residents, including text, genealogies, photographs, and historical anecdotes. Electronic submittals will be encouraged if being written specifically for this book. Other written material may be scanned and converted to Word, or retyped.

A master CD of historical photographs and maps will be maintained. This CD will be included with the final book as a photographic record.

A photographic video of the township as it exists today may be produced and stored on DVD.

Certain records, such as original Township meeting minutes, will be digitally scanned and recorded on CD. Such records will provide backup in case of future loss of township paper files, and will be stored in offsite locations.

Alber's Orchard House

This view shows the Alber’s Orchard home at Bethel Church and Eisman Roads in earlier days. The orchard, cider mill and home are currently owned and operated by Mike and Therese Bossory, with the cider mill having operated since 1890.


  

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