MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - In 1833 the Marsh family arrived to on a plot of land just northwest of what is now known as the Red Cedar River in search of settlement, good water, and cheap land to grow a family. The family sought out to build a community after the Bray family’s settlement southeast of the land.
By the 1850’s farmers, millers, children, and mother’s began to flock to the land seeking similar dream’s as the Marsh’s. The community trived in agriculture and trade creating a developing relationship with Chief Okemos and the tribe of Ojibwe (Chippewa) the first settlers of the land who also did business in trade with the incoming families.
Before the next decade the land had grew into Okemos, named after Chief Okemos who died in 1858 leaving a wife, four loved children, and a respected tribe. Sanford Marsh had intertwined and created a larger family than I’m sure he originally envisioned.
Only three miles north of Okemos settlers began bringing their families to the tourist area for city people called Pine Lake. A local barber made the first known property purchases around the west side of the area.
News soon spread of the property and James Haslett not only created a good business client but left his mark with the area being called Haslett Park by other original citizens. Haslett later died in 1891 leaving a loving wife. The name Haslett continued to carry-on.
Over 160 years since the settlement of Okemos, Meridian township has kept the importance of family and the history of both settlers alive. Meridian township’s historical village is a visual preservation of this history and families from both Okemos and Haslett have the opportunity to get their own taste of it.
“One of the things I love so much about this village is that its managed to preserve so much history from this area,” said upcoming Director of the historical village Patrick Reynolds, “ bringing them all into one location where they can be accessed by everybody.”
Reynolds reflects on a time when he was nine-years-old watching one of the now standing buildings in the historical village, ride down his street. Reynolds stated this was one one the many reasons he’s enthusiastic about his soon position as director.
The village conducted a historical demonstrations during Celebrate Meridian giving volunteers of the village an opportunity to dress in 1850’s attire, providing weaving demonstrations such as rag hooking, and even an 1850’s themed funeral in the on site village chapel founded in 1855.
“Events like celebrate meridian where we get a lot of volunteers and reenactors out and just the normal day-to-day operations of the village, field trips and things like that, really give a connect to history that’s much deeper,” said Reynolds
The historical village will be forty-five years old this year and as the attraction grows larger the need of volunteers and community donations is frequently needed. “You can work as much or as little as you want,” said Linda McAlvey, historical village volunteer, when encouraging volunteers to sign-up.
Residents can support a local piece of history by donating, volunteering and/or volunteering at the Meridian Historical Village.