Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, December 4, 1994, pg. 10
Northwest of Albion on L Drive North at the intersection with 24 Mile and Hatch Roads is the unofficial community known as Rice Creek. Here is found an historic church (whose very interesting history we cannot elaborate on here due to space limitations), a former schoolhouse, a cemetery, and a very popular softball field. The area is divided into fours by the townships of Marengo (Section 1), Sheridan (Section 6), Clarence (Section 37) and Lee (Section 36) where all four townships converge together. It is also the dividing line between the Albion and Marshall telephone exchanges, and the 517 and 616 area codes, making calls across the street long distance.
People often ask why Rice Creek is called that, since the Rice Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River, flows though the central portion of Sheridan and Marengo Townships a couple of miles to the south. The name probably came from the fact that much of the area is swampy and lowlands, flowing toward the actual Creek itself. Perhaps there was wild rice in the vicinity which gave it its name.
In any event, the first settler at the Rice Creek community was Amos Hadden from Oswego County, New York. He purchased land in Lee Township on the northwest corner of L Drive North and 24 Mile Road from the U.S. Government in 1835, and settled on it. Today, it is the site of the ballfield and the cemetery. The first Rice Creek schoolhouse was located here on the corner. It was a log structure erected in the late 1830s on the property of Mr. Hadden. Today, this is the location of the eastern potion of the cemetery. The first Rice Creek schoolhouse was located here on the corner. It was not until years later that a new schoolhouse was erected across the road from it on the south side of L Drive, where a former schoolhouse sits today. The land where the schoolhouse now sits was originally owned by Ephraim Bingham, who purchased it from the U.S. Government. He sold it to the Hanchett family, another early settler of Rice Creek.
Regarding the Rice Creek Cemetery, the 1869-70 Calhoun County Business Directory gives an interesting story in the section History of Lee (Township). Adjoining Amos Hadden’s property on the west was the homestead of Nicholas Stanley, who also came in 1835.
The Directory states (page 248), “In the spring of 1837 Stanley lost a child, a boy four or five years old, in the woods, and the whole neighborhood for miles around rallied to hunt for the child. After several days’ search, they found him in a swamp, leaning against a tree, dead. January 19l 1938. Mr. Stanely was killed by the caving in of a well--buried alive some forty feet under the ground.” Amos Hadden also provided the land for the cemetery on his property.
The U. S. Government opened a Post Office at Rice Creek on January 11, 1841. William W. Farrand became the first postmaster. The village never was platted and the population remained rural, so the P. O. was closed on November 30, 1857. It was later restored however, on June 27, 1884, and continued in existence until December 30, 1905. The 1858 Map of Calhoun County shows that the P. O. was located on the property of C. Hancett on the south side of L Drive North, about a half mile west of 24 Mile Road. Does anyone have a postal cancellation with Rice Creek on it?
The area around Rice Creek was also home to native Potowatomies, who were already here when settlers arrived in the 1830s. A sad event occurred here and in Albion in the early 1840s, in a story related by Adeline (Grosvenor) Ranney (1829-1924) to William B. Gildart in 1908. This was published in the April 30, 1908 edition of the Albion Leader newspaper.
“Mrs. Ranney recalls the time when in 1842 the United States troops gathered up the Indians of Southern Michigan and took them out of the country to Indian Territory (i.e. Oklahoma today). There was a band of them that had their rendezvous at Rice Creek, and others at various places, and they were brought to Albion, where they camped while awaiting for others from the east.
The squaws hid their faces and wept, and the children cried, and as the white children and the red children had been playmates and formed attachments, white and red mingled their sorrows together.
It was hard to think that these poor people had to be forced out of this country away from their homes. When the soldiers and the rest of the Indians came on, some in wagons, some on ponies and some on foot, the Albion Indians joined them and took up their sorrowful march.”
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a copy of the 1858 Map of Calhoun County (issued in 1857) with the Rice Creek Post Office clearly labeled. On the right is the road intersection, with the Methodist Meeting House on the south side of the road, and the School House (labeled S. H.) just north of it across the road, and to the right. To the left of the schoolhouse is labeled “Gve Y.,” meaning “Grave Yard.”
1858 Map of Calhoun County showing Rice Creek
All text copyright, 2014 © all rights reserved Frank Passic