A Brief History of Gaines Charter Township

Located just 21 minutes south east of downtown Grand Rapids,  Gaines Charter Township is a diverse, dynamic community which places a high value on family life, good moral standards, a sense of community and a desire to enrich the lives of all its residents.

The first settler in this Township was Alexander Clark, in the spring of 1837.  The following fall he was joined by Alexander L. Bouck and his son Andrew, Rensalaer Mesnard, Foster Kelley, Charles Kelley, and Joseph Blain.  At the time, Gaines was nothing more than 36 square miles of wilderness; hardly appealing to the civilized eye.  Yet to the hardy, enterprising pioneers; the forests, abundant supply of fresh water and wild life possessed a charm that was irresistible.

As settlers arrived and the heavy forests began to disappear, the land was found to be one of the richest agricultural tracts in the area, and to this day it is still considered one of the best in the county.  In 1846 the area was officially organized under the name of Gaines.

Gaines was distinctly an agricultural and horticultural township; it derives its name from Gaines, NY, the birth place of many of the pioneers who first settled in the area.

The first township election was held at the old red school house.  Among the resolutions passed at this first meeting was one offered by Orson Cook, providing that "a tax of $2.50 be raised for every wolf killed in the township".  Wolves were rather troublesome neighbors in those days.  For more history of the wolves in the Gaines Charter Township area, visit our Parks & Recreation page ~ Prairie Wolf Park.

Many Prominent citizens settled in the area.  In 1853 John and Christina Cutler and their ten children arrived  from New York and founded the town of Cutlerville.  In 1891, Cutler's son, John Isaac, built a three-story brick house. John Isaac Cutler HouseThe interior was embellished with hardwood and heated by a gas furnace, rare luxuries. In 1910 the  Cutlers sold the home and farm to a group of pastors who endeavored to create an organization that treated all aspects of a person's well-being; emotional, mental, physical and spiritual.  The former Cutler home was their first treatment center.  Today their dream is known as Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, which consists of a network of 17 outpatient clinics and satellite offices in Michigan and Iowa.

De Tray SchoolThe first school in the Township was a log building, constructed about 1842.  It was a crude structure, with a large fireplace at one end.  The seats were made of slabs of wood with the flat side up, supported by legs resting on the floor.  There were few desks, which were made by driving pins into the logs and laying boards on them.  It was in that uncouth and uncomfortable building that the rudiments of an education were secured.  

The First United Brethren Church of Gaines was founded in 1867.  A building was erected that same year.  The inhabitants of the settlements began to think toward the future.  A bond of union had been cemented among those United Brethrenwho had struggled through the difficulties of pioneer life together.  They had learned that united efforts accomplished more than the efforts of a single individual.

"The log cabins have been replaced by more comfortable dwellings, and these again in many instances by fine mansions.  The log school houses and also the modest frame school houses are gone, and their places are occupied by beautiful and commodious edifices.  The inhabitants today are enjoying good homes, surrounded by every advantage necessary to make them comfortable and happy." Quote from TITLE: Grand Rapids and Kent County, Michigan: historical account of their progress from first settlement to the present time/Ernest B. Fisher, Editor.  Publication date: 1918

 

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