Norwich Township was organized in January of 1872, making it the 15th township in Newaygo County. Prior to this time, Norwich had been a part of Big Prairie Township.
During the 1880's, three unincorporated villages (Hungerford, Lumberton, and Woodville) were located in Norwich Township. They were connected by the railroad which ran from Muskegon to Big Rapids. The lumber industry played an important role in the Township.
The Hungerford settlement began as a lumber camp located in the southwest corner of Hungerford Lake in Sections 15 and 16.
The completion of the Chicago & Western Michigan Railroad in 1873, from Muskegon to Big Rapids, advanced the lumber industry. Hungerford was a flag stop for the railroad; trains went by four times a day.
In 1884, at the peak of the lumber boom, Hungerford had a population of 362. The settlement had three sawmills, a general store, feed mill, hotel, drug store and the services of a telegraph operator. Stockyards were built to hold the sheep from the area known today as the Sheep Ranch.
The US Post Office was established in 1876 but closed in 1906.
The first recorded burials in Hungerford Cemetery were in 1877 and 1879.
Lumbering ended in 1893. Hungerford became a ghost town by 1926.
Due to the widespread lumbering operations at the settlement of Norwich, it was referred to by people in nearby camps as "lumber town."
It was located in Section 20, on the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad, half way between Hungerford and Woodville.
By the mid-1880's, it became known as Lumberton; the Lumberton Post Office was established. In addition to saw mills and lumberyards, there was a general store, boarding house, and saloon.
As of 1884, the population had grown to 248. Later in 1884, disaster struck--all mills and lumberyards were destroyed by fire and were not rebuilt.
In 1885, the railroad station closed. The US Post Office also closed, forcing the mail to go to Woodville,
Throughout the 1800's. Woodville was known by many different names: Cook's Station, Home, Traverse Roads and Monroeville. It was located in two townships: Monroe to the west and Norwich to the east.
In 1874, the name of the "Home" Post Office was changed to Woodville. In 1875, the Woodville Post Office, also known as Monroeville, was moved five miles south to the settlement of Traverse Roads (now known as Woodville).
The Traverse State Road, built in 1854, was a stagecoach stop on the mail route from Grand Rapids to Traverse City. In 1873, the railroad built by Chicago and Lake Shore came through Woodville, which was located where the railroad crossed the Traverse State Road.
By 1878, the Chicago & West Michigan Lumber Company had taken over the railroad; the lumber industry quickly expanded. Woodville grew rapidly in the 1880's due to the availability of pine trees and the expansion of the railroad system.
The West Michigan Lumber Company played an important role in the development of Woodville. During this time, there were two general stores, hotel, creamery and milk station, livery stable, feed mill, meat market, pickle station, potato houses, drugstore, grocery store, dance hall, rooming house, produce warehouse and sawmills.
In 1883 there were six school buildings located in the township: Cassidy, Cole, Hatfield, Hungerford Lake, McDuffy and Woodville.
The Cassidy School was located in the northeast part of the Township at the corner of 11 Mile Road and Beech. The first teacher of record was Nellie Grant in 1888. The School closed in 1920 and students were transferred to VanGilder School in Mecosta County.
The Cole School, built in 1881, was located in Section 29 at the corner of Elm and 7 Mile Road. In 1945, the Cole School closed and students were transported to Big Rapids. It reopened in 1953 for one year while Pineview School was being built at the same location. In 1954, Cole, Hatfield, Hungerford Lake, and Fetterley (Goodwell Township) schools consolidated to form the new Pineview School District.
The Hatfield School was established in the early 1880's. It was first located in Section 26, then, was moved 1/4 mile south to Section 35 to the corner of 7 Mile Road and Cottonwood. It closed in the late 1940's; students were transported to the Big Rapids Schools.
The Hungerford Lake School was located in Section 15 at the corner of 9 Mile and Cypress. In 1935, the bank along the north side of the school building had become erosive. With horses and rollers, the school building was jacked up and moved south approximately 100 feet and turned so that it faced toward 9 Mile instead of west toward Cypress.
The McDuffy School was located in the northwest corner of the Township in Section 6. The original location was one mile east and one-quarter mile south of Locust. In the early 1900's, the School was moved west to the corner of 12 Mile and Pine Avenue to accommodate the children who had to walk over two miles from Oak Avenue.
The first schoolhouse in Woodville was located in Section 18 and was called Whipple Schoolhouse. The log structure burned down and was replaced in 1883. The new location was in Section 30, on top of a hill next to the church in Woodville. Funds and materials were provided by the West Michigan Lumber Company and built by their employees.
Since the late 1880's, Norwich Township has been the site of three different churches.
Woodville Church was established and built in 1885 as an all denominational church. The church and cemetery were located in Section 30 next to the Woodville School.
In 1889, after the church was burned down, a new church was built in the same general location. Later the same year, the church was sold and by 1890 was dedicated as the Woodville Methodist Episcopal Church.
On September 2, 1915, the cemetery was sold to Monroe Township for $12.00.
The church had fallen into disuse until 1929, when it became a mission Sunday School sponsored by the First Christian Reformed Church of Fremont.
In 1932, the church was painted white and later became known as "The Little White Church on the Hill," where it stands today.
A non-denominational Sunday School began in April 1918 and continued to meet for 28 years in the Hatfield Schoolhouse.
In 1942, the church was organized and became the Hatfield Church of Christ.
In 1945, land for a new church was dedicated. Materials salvaged from an abandoned church at another location were used in the construction which was completed and dedicated in 1946.
The Hatfield Church is the present site of the Hillside Baptist Church in Section 6 on 7 Mile Road.
NORWICH FREE METHODIST CHURCH
In 1885, L.B. Reber held a great revival in the "Log Church." Later that same year, land was purchased and a new church was built at the corner of 6 Mile and and Elm. The log church was torn down and a parsonage started.
Sometime after 1925, the parsonage was sold. The next preacher lived on the farm near the church. In 1948, Ben and Willard Smith donated the old Henry Smith home for a parsonage and moved it to the sit of the church.
Since that time, the building has been renovated and transformed into a residence.
White Cloud Library, using collections created by the Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center
Norwich Township Master Plan
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