History of Sylvan Township, Lake County
1884 Portrait & Bio Album

Sylvan Township was organized by order of the Board of Supervisors made October 12, 1869. The meeting was held on the first Monday in April 1870, at the school-house. John H. Lanphear, M. Kelly, and John E. Dearin, who had been appointed by the Board, presided at the meeting. J.H. Lanphear was chosen Supervisor; J.E. Dearin, Clerk; and W.P. Kelly, Treasurer; M. Kelly, G. Brooks and L.B. Bartholomew were elected Highway Commissioners; L.H. Gibbins and J.H. Lanphear, for School Inspectors; C.B. Smith, L.T. Elmore, L.B. Bartholomew for Constables.

Sylvan is in the western tier of townships, within one of the southern line, and is numbered 18 north, of range 7 west. Middle Branch is on the north, Clare County on the east, Orient on the south, and Osceola Township on the west. The surface of the country is undulating, and in some parts quite broken, with a mixture of clay, sandy and loamy soil. It is exceedingly well watered, having the great Muskegon River, which comes in at the northeast corner of the township and, running in an oblique course, passes out near the southwest corner, the Middle Branch, which empties into the Muskegon, and several other large streams.

Sylvan Township is timbered principally with pine, and for many a large lumber business was carried on here. Its numerous water-courses afford splendid facilities for the transportation of logs, and this was taken advantage of by the shrewd lumberman. The pioneer lumbermen in this township were D.A. Blodgett and Thomas D. Stimpson, who came up the Muskegon River in 1850 and located their camp where the Doc and Tom (which derived its sobriquet from their given names) River effects a confluence with the Muskegon. This was the beginning of the lumber business in this township, and in fact in the county.

Among the first settlers in this township are John H, Lanphear, John E. Dearin, W.P. Kelly, L.H. Gibbins and G. Brooks. IT has four school districts with a fair representation of school children. The school-houses are located as follows: District NO. 1, on section 31, and cost $700; number of pupils represented is 66; NO. 2 is located on section 7, and cost $760; number of pupils represented is 33; NO. 3 is located on section 34, cost $650, and has 62 pupils on the rolls; NO. 4 is on section4, and cost $250, with 20 pupils on the list. Sylvan has about 1,500 acres of land improved and about 100 farms. Hay is regarded as the best crop. The township is better adapted for stock-raising, or dairying, than agriculture. 

The first sermon delivered in the township was by Rev. Mr. Watson, of the United Brethren Church, in 1869. This society has now two organizations in Sylvan, on section 31, and on section 33. Services are held every two weeks in school-houses, and are presided over by Rev. T.M. Huddle.

Sears is the trading place for the people of Sylvan, and to this place – which is their nearest railway station – they come for their mail.

John H. Lanphear has a saw-mil, which is located about one mile from Sears. About two miles from Sear, on section 28, the County Poor Farm is located.

Sylvan Township has now a population of some 500 souls, and from its first numbers to the present time has been represented by the Supervisors named below:

J.H. Lanphear 1870-1873
L.H. Gibbins 1874-1875
P.A. Ferguson 1875-1877
A.J. McCarn 1878
P.A. Ferguson 1879-1880
L.H. Gibbins 1881-1882
W.H. Sowles 1883
Warren A. Wagar 1884