Settler Experiences

geneal store
Replica of Okemos General Store

The settlement of Hamilton was founded by Freeman Bray as a trading post between the Ojibwa people and the local farm community. The principal business was the trade of furs and pelts of various animals, for which Bray paid with commodities such as calicoes, lead, trinkets, cutlery and “fire water,” which was a type of Whiskey or other high proof alcoholic beverage. John Okemos and Freeman Bray were frequent trading partners and the Native Americans had a noble relationship with the white settlers.The township of Meridian was organized and approved by Legislature on February 16, 1842. Freeman Bray also built a saw mill in 1842 but it burned down soon after.The first regular merchant in the city was a man named Eli Morse, who opened a general store in 1853.  A man named Ebenezer Walker took control of this store in 1854 along with the town dam and operated 3 saw mills in Okemos. The saw-mill was built in 1855, and the grist-mill in 1856, but these mills burned in 1864, and in 1865 respectively. In 1871, Okemos Station was built on a railway that connected Lansing to Detroit. Okemos was a popular stop and and helped ship grain, stock and lumber throughout the state.

In January, 1864,  electors of the township voted to pay $100 to each volunteer credited to the township, that entered into service during the Civil War. They also voted to reimburse citizens who had contributed individually to the raising of funds for volunteers and their families. On March 8,1864, bonds were issued to 11 men who enlisted into the war.


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