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HARRISON PIONEER CEMETERY IN PRAIRIE RONDE, KALAMAZOO COUNTY, MICH.

Kalamazoo Gazette - Sunday May 31, 1936

 

"HARRISON Pioneer Cemetery in Prairie Ronde Improved.

Plot where county's first citizen and other settlers are buried becomes attractive spot.  The historic HARRISON Cemetery in Prairie Ronde township, one of the oldest burial places in Southern Michigan, has been converted into an attractive park-like enclosure through efforts of a number of citizens, who sometime ago, began a movement to improve it.  In this small plot are buried many pioneers prominent in the early history of Kalamazoo County.

The land for the cemetery was donated by BAZEL HARRISON, first judge; also the hero of JAMES F. COOPER's novel 'Oak Openings' (See Durant's History of Kalamazoo County for picture of Judge BAZEL HARRISON between pages 436-437 and description of early settlement of Prairie Ronde and mantion of 'Oak Openings'.)


THE PLEASANT VALLEY CHURCH

 

     Church services were established in this community with the coming of the first settlers.  Meetings were held in the homes until the first schoolhouse was built.  Throughout the rural districts, the schoolhouse came to the meeting place for religious services and were supplied by circuit riders who covered large territories, sometimes not reaching the individual places oftener than once a month.

 

     The name for the community was supplied by a circuit rider who came in from the Knobs community to the south.  When he reached this settlement with some cleared fields and comparatively level land, he called it “Pleasant Valley.  The name stuck and it has been “Pleasant Valley” since that time.  This preaching place was a part of the Three Rivers circuit at the time and the circuit rider had several preaching places in the Knob country, a very rough hilly country west of Three Rivers.

 

     The founding of this church followed a very successful revival held in the schoolhouse in the winter of 1879.  The community caught the inspiration for a new church and proceeded to build.  Alfred Howard donated the land across the road from the school for a new church.  Picking up his father’s lead, Alfred’s son, Cornelius, took a mortgage on his own farm to build the church.  Brick was hauled from the yards north of Marcellus.  The brick cost $8.00 per thousand, and the hauling was done by volunteer labor.  The brick was laid by the Andrews Brothers, Jasper and Eugene, who worked for $2.00 per day and laid 2,000 brick per day.  The trim and seats were hauled from Kalamazoo.  The church was completed in 1880.

 

     Rev. George Sickafoose, the presiding elder, conducted the service of dedication and solicited funds sufficient to cover the cost of the building.  Rev. Daloympal was the pastor at the time.  For forty years Pleasant Valley was a part of a circuit with preaching every two weeks.  Prayer meeting was held on the alternate Sunday.

 

     In the fall of 1876, a United Brethren Church was erected in the village of Marcellus.  In 1883, Marcellus, Pleasant Valley, Wakelee, Bald Hill and Flatbush were combined to form the Marcellus Circuit.  These appointments were under supervision of the St. Joseph Conference (of Northern Indiana) until the General Conference of 1901, at which time all work in Michigan was combined into the Michigan Conference.  Later, the Wakelee, Bald Hill and Flatbush congregations went to worship with neighboring churches, and Marcellus and Pleasant Valley remained to form the circuit.  The pastor lived in Marcellus and traveled the appointments with horse and buggy.  Salaries were small and paid largely in groceries, provisions, horse feed, wood, or any useable commodity.  These two churches remained together until 1968.

 

     The United Brethren Church became divided in 1889 on the matter of members belonging to secret societies.  The Pleasant Valley Church had no members who were Masons, or Odd Fellows but we did have several who were veterans of the Civil War and belonged to the G.A.R. and this was a point against them.  The Pleasant Valley congregation voted to go with the so-called Liberal ground, but because church property belonged to the denominations as a whole, the courts finally gave the church property in Michigan to the Radical group and Pleasant Valley had to buy their church from the Radicals at a cost of $200.

     There was a migration of Pennsylvania Dutch into this locality in these early days and many of them had been connected with the Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania.  The Lutheran pastor from Three Rivers became interested in these people and arrangements were made to hold services in this church on Sunday afternoon.  Rev. Biddle was the pastor, a very devout man and interest increased in the church.  This continued for five years or until Rev. Biddle was changed to another pastorate.  He held catechism classes and several young people were taken in as members of the Lutheran Church but after Rev. Biddle left, they remained in the church and later transferred their membership.

 

     The first remodeling came in 1900 during the pastorate of Rev. Flora.  A new entrance was built.  The next major remodeling was done in 1942 when a basement was put under the original building.  A few years later a new heating system was installed; still later, a side entrance and restrooms were added to the west side of the building.

 

     The United Brethren united with the Evangelicals in 1951 and was known as the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

 

     The congregations made a notable contribution to the Church and the Kingdom in the person of Alfred Taylor Howard, a son of Cornelius, and a native of this community and a product of this congregation.  During a long ministry, he served as Missionary to Africa, Missionary to Japan, Missionary Bishop for eight years, President of Bonebrake Seminary, and Seminary Professor.  He was one of the great men of the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

 

      In 1968, there was still another merger with the Methodists.  The church is now known as the Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church and as a result of this merger, we were yoked with the Schoolcraft congregation.

 

     The church has experienced periods of prosperity and at other periods great discouragement when it was thought the church would have to be closed.  But the doors have never closed.

 

     (An added Note)

     As early as 1975, discussion was started to do something to give us more room.  Plans were drawn up, discarded and then started over again.  In 1978, definite plans were drawn for an addition and it was completed in 1979.  We now have a large narthex, 4 new Sunday School rooms, one additional rest room and a very spacious Fellowship Hall in the basement.  We also have a remodeled sanctuary, additional land and a parking lot.  Praise the Lord!

 

Pastors who have served the Valley Church

 

St. Joe Conference

Rev. Daloympal

Rev. J. W. Sickafoose

Rev. Pattee

Rev. J. F. Bartmers

Rev. R. W. Hutchinson

Rev. O. F. Landes

Rev. J. L. Parks

Rev. Wyland

 

 

Michigan Conference

Rev. Simons

Rev. Flora

Rev. Corman

Rev. Farrant

Rev. Freeland

Rev. Flashman

Rev. LeWald

Rev. Humpfrey

Rev. White

Rev. Moyer

Rev. McVey

Rev. Tozier

Rev. Moon

Rev. Reynolds

Rev. Hawkins

 

 

Supplies

H. H. Borgerding

Ilyah Crane

(1931 to date)

Rev. E. Miller

Rev. Inez Martz

Rev. W. D. Hayes

Rev. Gerald Wilkie

Rev. Ronald Carter

Rev. Vern Lautner

Rev. Dale Ferris

Rev. Don Silvis

Rev. Don Ludman

Rev. Vernon Michael

Rev. Roger Neilsen

*-----------

Rev. Dale Benton

Rev. John Fisher

Rev. Dale Crawford

 

*Supplies

Elf Pedler

Jay Gunnett

 

    

 


 
LETTER FROM PLEASANT VALLEY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
 
 
Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church
PO. Box 517
9300 XY Ave.
Schoolcraft, MI  49087-5352

August 30, 1996

Dear Susan Hudspeth,

I don’t know that we can be of much help.  Our church doesn’t have any old marriage records, birth or death.  There may have been some for the township, but the old historical records were destroyed in a fire 9-10 yrs ago by an arsenist.  I did get the old book of finance out of the bank vault.  I looked for all those last names & references.    

We weren’t formed until 1880.  A John Calvert was a trustee.  There was no church yet.  The church was called Church of United Bretheren in Christ.  By 1892 his name is not on any more lists.

At the annual homecoming 5-30-1937 there was a Lettie Calvert ? on spelling of first name), and Mr. J. E. Andrews of 3603 Madison St., Kalamazoo.  A Mrs. M. L. Roberts of the same address was also there, and Mrs. Minnie Calvert of Marcellus.

In 1942:   Irwin Calvert is mentioned and Frank Calvert is mentioned.

In 1943:  Frank Calvert and Mr. Mime Calvert (maybe this is Minnie and the Mr. should be a Mrs.), Ervin Calvert and Mary Andrews.

I will also send a copy of our church history.  After reading it you’ll understand why there are not many records for your g-great aunt.

When I get to church on Sunday I will check the gravestones and add anything I find on them.

LuAnn Phelps

P.S. Do you know Norma Harkness at 1121 Haymarket Dr., Lakeland, FL  33809.
 She wrote in July asking about her mother, who was a Schroth & her mother’s mother was a Calvert.
In the cemetery we have a Philomela Andrews 1840-1902, buried next to a James O. Andrews 1945 [should be 1845] – 1928.
There is also a J. A.s W. Calvert & died 8-25-1873 at 38 yrs. 4 mos. 8 days.
There are more Calverts & some more Andrews.
I think I heard years ago that many old records were given to Western Michigan University.  They have an archive & can properly store the records.

Hope this helps.