In 1849 first known white settler in what East Lansing was D. Robert Burcham. He attained a title to a part of Lansing Township. This parcel of land was located both west of Abbot Road near Grand River Avenue and about 40 acres of present day University. Burcham built a log cabin in 1851 close to where the Music building is currently located. He lived there until the State purchased the land in 1885 as a part of the acreage for the Agricultural College for the State of Michigan. There were other settlers who were living in the area. A Mr. Smith lived in a quaint wooden framed house near what is present day Giltner Hall. It was the first framed house ever to be built in what is now East Lansing, and was later reconstructed, expanded, and used as a dwelling place by farm overseers who worked for the school. North of Grande Avenue and east of Abbot Road was Parmalee and Joy Farms. Mr. Joy ran a boot and shoe repair shop out of his log cabin. This was the first business organized in East Lansing. Apart of the current campus and East Lansing that is south of Michigan Avenue and west of Delta Street was once owned by the Harrison family. They lived in a massive brick house near preBesent day Brody neighborhood. They built what was called the “White Elephant”, and the Harrison’s rented out rooms to students attending the College. It was the first privately owned residential housing unit in in East Lansing. The White Elephant was located on the southeast corner near the intersection of Michigan Ave. and Harrison Ave. These individuals and there contributions laid down a few stepping stones on the road to build East Lansing.
From Collegeville to East Lansing
Over the next 20 plus years after its establishment in 1855 the College continued to grow, and a small town consisting of students and faculty sprouted up in the outerlying areas near the school. There hope was to continue the expansion of both the town and the College. There were no official city planners, so two of State’s well-respected professors, Dr. R.C. Carpenter and Dr. W.J. Beale would the develop the first blue print real state stretching from Harrison Avenue to Beale Street. This went on record on November 5, 1887 under the name Collegeville. There were a few further extensions to Collegeville, and by the turn of the century additional and was needed for the growing community. Land plots were developed by Charles Chase, Horace Angeli, A.C. Bird, and C.D. Woodbury. They would offer oustandinc contributions to the construction of what was the commercial sector of Collegeville. As the planning of the town continued, the participating subsidiaries neglected to create cemented sidewalks, improve the dirt roads, install street lights, provide a steady water suppply, install sewers, and create a general drainage system. There were no elementary and highschools and no police force. The townspeople conceded that something needed to be done about these issues and the first step was to create civic governing body. An school district was set up by 1900, and by 1906 there was consensus amongst the people that some form of town charter should be develeped and given a suitable name. Postmaster C.B. Collingwood suggested that the town be drawn up as fourth- class city, and enforced that being organized as such would be most beneficial. So, he the M.A.C secretary and a lawyer from the town wrote a bill for the proposal of a fourth class city to be submitted to the Michigan Legislature. The bill was presented in 1907, and among the names suggested for the new city the Legislature chose the name East Lansing. The bill was passed and signed by governor Fred M. Warner on May 8, 1907.