The following is reprinted with permission from the Ionia Sentinel-Standard. It first appeared in publication on November 5, 1994.
Old Editor’s Note: The following account of the land called court house square is a piece of history as strange as fiction – and with an cast of participants no novelist would dare invent.
Some who are involved:
– Capt. James M. Kidd, 1813-1907, pioneer Ionia lumberman and manufacturer, whose commission from the Governor of Michigan as a captain at the time of the Toledo almost-hot War survives;
– His son, Gen. James H. Kidd, 1840-1907, Civil War cavalry officer, Doctor of Letters and Law, and editor-publisher of The Ionia Sentinel;
– Hampton Rich, early Ionia merchant and public official, who built the house on the southwest corner of Main and Rich Streets;
– Marion Hall-Fowler, only child of Frederick and Ann Hall, crack markswoman and horsewoman, who once owned Marion Island in Grand Traverse Bay, and who gave her parents’ house to the city for a library. She is alleged to have charatered a train in Denver, Colo., to bring her home to Ionia, non-stop, when her father was ill and died in 1883;
– Fred W. Green, for four years governor of Michigan, who was for many years May of Ionia, was a founder of Ionia Free Fair, and founder of Ypsilanti-Reed Furniture Company; and
– Douglas R. Welch, city attorney, mayor, superb story teller, and the person who often had to make workable sense of a flamboyant and hilarious community past that ofen was no well documented.
A version of what is recounted here was told me in 1949 by Frederick M. Kidd Sr., 1881-1961, editor-publisher of The Ionia Sentinel-Standard. I was a go-fer. Forty –five years from source to story is a long time, but I think he would understand. And he would enjoy knowing that there is, apparently, no deed for half of court house square.
By R.C. GREGORY
Court house square was given to the public by six donors.
Some Ionia County residents think Samuel and Anna Fargo Dexter, who led the first colony of settlers from Herkimer County, New York, to Ionia in 1833, donated the entire square. That is not true.
The Dexters donated the west half of court house square for public buildings and churches. That donation appears never to have been recorded at the Register of Deeds’ office.
The east half of court house square was donated by James M. and Jane Stevenson Kidd of Ionia nd Edwin C. and Aurel Hart of Oswego, N.Y. James M. Kidd and Harts executed the deed on June 3, 1850, and Jane Stevenson Kidd signed off on July 24, 1850.k The deed was recorded in Liber G, Page 477, in the Register of Deeds’ office, on Aug. 7, 1850.
James M. Kidd migrated from the Pontiac area to Ionia in 1836, and, besides building fanning mills and corn shellers, became the area’s first lumberman. He operated a sawmill on Dickinson Creek, east of Belding in Otisco Township, and even had a post office for his little settlement – Kiddville, remembered now in the name of a road. His commission as postmaster of Kiddville, issued in 1855, when Franklin Pierce was President, is in a great great granddaughter’s collection. James M. Kidd, 1813-1907, was the father of Gen. James H. Kidd, 1840-1913, the first of his line to edit and publish The Ionia Sentinel. James M. Kidd and his family lived on Jackson Street and their second house, built about 1872, later became Ionia’s hospital Hart was a New York state real estate investor whose local interests James M. Kidd represented.
Each donation was the same size, since the second donation was surveyed to match the first. The second donation is described as two chains or 132 feet by four chains or 264 feet:
…commencing at a stone with a cross at the south east corner of said public square as now recorded in the plat of Ionia village thence running easterly on the north line of Main Street in said village two chains thence northerly at a right angle with said street four chains thence westerly parallel with said street two chains thence southerly on the east line of said public square to the place of beginning and containing one hundred and twenty eight square rods of ground…