Menu Bottom

Creating the Village of Richland
by Ed Schaadt


By Ed Schaadt

 In May of 1830, the families of Col. Isaac Barnes and David Dillie arrived on the eastern edge of Gull Prairie from Medina, Ohio, and held claim to being the first settlers on the prairie. The new township was named Richland, reflecting the fertile soil of Gull Prairie.

 In the decade that followed, several attempts were made to plat the first village that would be the center of commerce. Isaac Barnes registered his proposed community in 1832 on a plot of land that was located between the present post office and the Blackhawk Inn. He named his village GELOSTER, created by using parts of the names of three of his sons- George, Carlos, and Lester. His home, located at the intersection of M-89 and M-43, served as a stagecoach stop, inn and post office.

 Willard and Sylvester Mills platted the second village southeast of present-day Richland along what is now DE Avenue.

 In 1837, the third village, Bridgewater, was platted by pioneer, mechanic, and inventor, Benjamin Cummings. He had designed and built an American version of the circular saw long before he settled along Spring Brook in the western part of the township.

 However, none of these plats drew many settlers or commercial enterprises. The Indians, who had traversed the area long before the white settlers arrived, had established well-known trails across Gull Prairie. It was only natural to establish commercial development at the intersection of two of those trails. In 1833, a "diagonal road” was built from Bronson (now Kalamazoo) to Gull Prairie, ending just a short distance west of that intersection. Today Richland’s only traffic light identifies the place where the present-day village had its beginnings.

 A hotel was built on the northeast corner in 1833, and two years later, a store opened on the southwest corner. Soon other businesses were established and in 1837, a church was built along the village square. The four corners became known as Gull Corners or Richland Center.

 In 1870, the stagecoach line still carried mail and passengers to Gull Corners and northward every afternoon except Sunday. The population of Richland Township had grown to 1,381 people, and it was still living up to its name as the leading agricultural township in the county.

 In 1870, one of Gull Prairie’s sons, Eli Miller, was elected to the Michigan State legislature. Upon taking office in February 1871, Representative Miller introduced

" A Bill to Incorporate the Village of Richland”, and it was approved on March 18th. It comprised the four adjoining corners of Sections 14, 15, 22, and 23, a total of one square mile. A year later, villagers elected their first officers. Charles B. Brown was elected President, along with a Recorder, Assessor, Treasurer, and four trustees.