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Little Dixboro Big In History, Tradition

Little Dixboro Big In History, Tradition image Little Dixboro Big In History, Tradition image Little Dixboro Big In History, Tradition image
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DIXBORO - The picturesque hamlet of Dixboro, located about a mile northeast of the Arm Arbor city limits, may be small in size but it's big in history and tradition. Situated in the northwest corner of Superior Township near the crossroads of Dixb o r o Road and Plymouth Road, this community, which was former spelled Dixborough, can trace its history back to 1826. In that year, Dixboro was platted by Surveyor A. B. Rowe for John Dix, a sea captain from Boston. In fact Dixboro was named for Dix, its founder. Dix bought some land and cultivated it. He also built a grist mili and operated a store and post office. According to Washtenaw County historical accounts, Dix also built the first frame barn and house in the township and probably also in the county. Of the eight sawmills then in the township, two were in Dixboro. Two of the three grist milis in the township were also located here. The mili built by Dix was later torn down. The other one was destroyed by fire. Dix sold his land in 1833 and with his wife moved to Texas. One of the early settlers of the community then was Daniel Crippen, a veteran of the War of 1812, who helped built the first grist mili in Dixboro. A local preacher for 50 years, Crippen later served as township supervisor, clerk and justice-of-the-peace. D u r i n g those formative years, Dixboro was a bustling farming community with a dozen houses, a population of 75 and an active lumbering operation. There were two churches in the área then. A Free Chureh for all denominations was built by Col. Bremer and Abel Parkhurst in 1855. It was moved to Detroit 30 years ago. The other place of worship, called at first the Methodist Episcopal Chureh, was constructed in 1858 and still stands on Chureh Street today. It has been known as the Dixboro Methodist Chureh since 1939- ____aaMMtfMBi I This church cost $2,200 to build. The fflgh Sheriff of the I county1 then, although he was not from Dixboro, donated i lamps and chandelier to the church. Some Ana Arbor citizens helped erect the building and even contributed toward its furnishings. Ninety-one-year-old Gottlob Schmidd, who has lived at his present address, 3320 Dixboro Rd., for 60 years and has resided in the community since he was six, remembers Dixboro of the past. Schmid, who lived on a farm on Plymouth Road, said his father and brother use to opérate one of the two blacksmith shops in Dixboro. The shop burned down about 80 years ago. An employé of the County Road Commission f o r 20 years, Schmid also shoed horses at the shop, did some farming and also worked for the former Cadillac Sand and Gravel Pit on Geddes Road. i There, he used to load gravel onto railroad cars. "When I was a boy, you were lucky to get a dollar a day. My dad got 50 cents for shoeing two hooves," Schmid said. He recalled he used to attend classes at the old Dixboro School. Schmid said the one-room schoolhouse built in 1888 had a b o u t 40 students f r o m throughout the área. "When my folks and I carne here, there were a lot of different businesses," he said. Schmid recalled there used to be a sawmill on Fleming Creek run by water power. He said farmers used to bring their milk to the two área creameries then and bought their groceries at the oíd grocery store on Plymouth Road. "Since there were plans for the railroad to run through Dixboro, the town began businesses and grew. But the railroad ended up running along the Hurón River. It would have made Dixboro a big town if the raüroad would have come through," Schmid said. Schmid remembered there used to be a horseshed around the church for people with horses and carriages. This shed was later razed. He alsosaid the old sawmill used t( ( make slatted crates. A cide: mili also used to be in the area. ï Like other small ' ties where the local church served as the center of the ' community, the Dixboro ( thodist Church served as the center of activities in Dixboro. This attractive, white church has met both the religious and social needs of the community since it was built 115 years ago. lts first pastor was Ira W. Donaldson who served from 1858-59. The church, which still has its same sanctuary, has undergone a number of changes through the years. Plans for the church expanI sion took three years. The I building fund was $32,000 and I the furnishings $6,000. Work I on the new addition, later to ■ be called Fellowship Hall, be ean in November 1949. Harry B. Earhart, a prominent philanthropist, who was not a member of the church, contributed generously to the Fellowship Hall Construction Fund and donated the chimes in the church steeple. Work on the new parsonage began in 1955. This building was dedicated two years later. Most of the work on the various church projects was done by local volunteer labor. The church's present pastor, Dwayne Summers, is the church's 57th pastor since it was founded. The present congregation numbers 387 -the highest in the church's history, according to Rev. Summers. Back in 1875, the congregation totaled 54. Of the estimated 300 persons in Dixboro, two - thirds are members of the church. Others come from Ann Arbor and the eastern part of the county and some even from Plymouth. The young, personable minister, known as "Dwayne" to bis flock, has been pastor nearly three years. "People come here because it is a community church, and because of its location and size. lts denomination is secondary. This 'church has deep roots and has a gradual, strong growth," he said. "Our church is moderate. We are non-credo. We don't say we have all of the answers but we say come with us on a pilgrimage of discovery of Christ. There's a lot of latitude here," Rev. Summers said. He noted the congregation consists of a good mixture of both old and new residents. The church offers a wide variety of activities ranging from choirs to Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts. There is an active altar guild, spiritual fellowship groups, a junior high school fellowship, co-op nursery and Sunday School. Years ago, before the hall was built, chicken dinners used to be held in the church basement following football games. The hall is also used by various church, community and 4-H groups, an arts and crafts organization, the Women's Society of Christian Services and an exercise group. The Fun Shop Squares, a dance group, also meets at the hall. During the summer, a fair is held on the village green efaturing games, refreshments and other events. Church members also maintain ice rinks by the Boy Scout Cabin. One is used for hockey games and the other for open skating. Forty local residents nave signea up to r chaperone the youths at the Jcerinksi____ ' Rev. Summers said he'd like to use the old Dixboro School for a youth drop-in center and develop a baseball diamond on the field next to the church. There are also plans to expand the recreational facilities at the new Dixboro School. Concerning the future of the church, Rev. Summers said, "This is God's church. It will survive. We exist to help the people and not the other way around." There's a lot of pride and community cooperation in Dixboro." One of the most active ' groups in Dixboro is the Boy Scouts. Associated with the Boy Scouts since it began in Dixboro in 1925 is Glen Freeman who is originally from the Frains Lake area. i Freeman explained Ralph iHarper was church pastor in 1925 and it was decided the loI cal youths should have an opportunity to usher at the U-M ■■ football games - Thus was the Ímpetus for organizing Boy Scout Troop 30. There were only from 12 to 15 youths in the troop at first and they met in the church basement for three years. They also met in the old blacksmith shop from 1928 to 1933 until the Boy Scout Cabin was built. The troop then numbered 40. There are 46 in the group now. Freeman, who is now neighborhood commissioner for the local troop, served as scoutmaster from 1929 to 1935 and was a member of the scout committee from 1935 to 1943. The troop disbanded during . 1943-44 because of World War II. He served as the cub and scout master in 1945 and 1946. Now and then, the scouts went on a lot of camping trips and other outings. "The outings are more important now because a lot of kids are not use to the outdoors. Kids years ago were from farms and didn't always have time to go camping," he said. "A lot of troops folded through the years. I enjoyed working with the different boys and men. However, the activities have remained basic a 1 1 y the same over the years." Freeman noted that two community projects the, group undertake are helping with the roadside trash p i c k u p each spring and maintaining the Oak Grove Cemetery. In recognition of his Boy Scout work, Freeman had received the Silver Beaver - the highest Boy Scout award an adiul.t can receive on the council or local level. Freeman also used to be Sunday School superintendent and was an assistant 4-H leader for two years. He is now on the church's , tive board, is the church's head usher and serves on the Oak Grove Cemetery Board. He recalled that prior to Plymouth Road being paved in 1925, his wife, as a youngl girl, used to play in the sand-J piles along the road and hadj to move whenever horses 1 proached. "I decided to live here because my wife and I liked it. Nobody bothers me here and we 're away f rom the traffic and close to everything. Besides, everybody knows everybody else here," Freeman said. Concerning the old Dixboro School, Freeman said, "People in rural áreas needed a social center and the school and church both served this purpose. The old school was then called Fractional District No. 2 and was attended by youths from Ann Arbor and . Superior Townships." (CdJf] The old school was replaced by the present Dixboro School built in 1953. Another old landmark in Dixboro is the building located at Plymouth and Cherry Hill Roads which use to house the former grocery store built about 100 years ago. The store ceased operating about 10 years ago. For the past seven years, it has been leased to Mr. and Mrs. Gibbons asan antiquè shop. The store has been owned by Mrs. Nettie Gibb and her husband, Emmett, recently deceased, for 50 years. She said that following the store's demise, usedi furniture was sold at the store. Mrs. Gibb said the business folded because there were too many stores in Ann Arbor and that the smaller businesses couldn't compete w i t h the larger ones. Not only were groceries, hardware and clothing sold at the store, but you could also get your hair cut in the barber's chair while your meat was also being cut. There also used to be a gas pump in front of the store and it was only place you could gas up then between Ann Arbor and Plymouth. The store was open every day and until the afternoon on Sunday. After the Gibbs bought the building, which used to serve as a house, an addition was built onto the building, doubling its size. Stairs were also installed as well as a dance floor upstairs. I Until the 1950's, when Fellowship Hall was constructed, the upstairs of the store was I a source of entertainment and I pleasure for area residents as I dances, were held every I Saturday night f rom 9 p.m. I until midnight. Admission was I a dollar for men. Women I were admitted free. Couples I brought their children with I them, who often times slept [ on the floor while the band I played on and couples swirled I about. I Other activities held upI stairs include Boy Scout rafI fles and various social affairs. I Mrs. Gibb's children helped I opérate the store. It was I closed for two years following I World War II while her husI band worked for the Ford MoI tor Co. She said no liquor was I served at the dances. If anyI one wanted pop, he could go I downstairs to the store. For I 10 years, a railroad hobby I club also used the upstairs for I its meetings and activities. . Ivan Parker, church historiI an, whose family came to Dixborto in 1844, said he use to be a caller at the dances. His father used to play the I fiddle for the dancing. Parker I was ennprintpnrlpnt nf the church's Sunday School and also used to teach Sunday School. H i s parents and grandparents all served as officers in the church. Parker, who is associate director of Student Financial Aid said the general Dixboro área extended north to Joy Road, south to Geddes Road, east to Frains Lake and west . to Dixboro Road. His family owned and operated a general farm on N. Dixboro Road. His mother still lives on the property but the farm is rented out now. Parker recalled years ago his mother's hens won an international egg laying contest. The farm included both a poultry and hatchery operation then. Up to 1948, when a new subdivison was built north of Dixboro, about 75 people lived in the community. Marvin Zeeb, a local rèaltor, who lived in Dixboro for 60 years, said the subdivisión consisted of 41 houses and added from 150 to 200 persons to the community. He said Dixboro has changed from a rural agricul' tural community to a suburb a n , residential community over the years. "There are no farms anymore in the immediate area. Land just became too expensive and later generations went into other fields," Zeeb' said. Present businesses in Dixboro besides the antique shop j include the Lord Fox Restaurant, which used to be a farmhouse, a motel the Dixb o r o Garage, a n d a g a s I station-snowmobile business. The Dixboro Garage is the I longest continuing business in I the community. Years ago, I some of the men would go in I and play cards at the garage I or pitch horshoes nearby. The newest addition to the I "downtown business district" I of Dixborto is a branch bank I of the National Bank of I Ypsilanti on Plymouth Road. , Zeeb, like many other 1 boro residents, doesn't feel I Dixboro will grow much until I sewer and water services are I available. Homeowners now I use septic tanks and wells. ! "It will take developers to I bring in sewer and water. I There are few individual I homes built there as there is I not much available land for J sale. Most of the surrounding I land is held by big investors," I Zeeb said. "He said, "This is a ve,ry I desirable area to move to. A I lot of people want to live here I but there's no room. I forsee I a lot of development here in I five years." (Joncerning the identity and future growth of Dixboro, Zeeb said, they would be affected by the township officials and how they control the growth, and that the development is contingent on the efforts of developers. Why does someone stay so long in Dixboro? i Mrs. Gibb's comment re! flected the views of many long-time Dixboro residents: "We just anchored and stay put. We had good neighbors." Concerning future growth of the community, s h e said, I "We'll just have to live with Ilittlë dixboro big in histohy, tkaditiüJ May 12, 1973 (cont.)