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A Brief History of Ganges Township

Excerpted from Ganges Township Land Use Plan (2012)

Ganges Township was the fourteenth settlement in Allegan County. It was settled by Harrison Hutchins in 1837. Organization of the township began in 1847. The first town meeting was at the home of Orlando Weed on April 5, 1847. Twenty seven votes were cast. Positions filled included the supervisor, clerk, treasurer, justice of the peace, school inspectors, and directors of the poor, commissioners of highways, constables, and path-masters.

There are several stories about how the township was named. The one most told is that Dr. Joseph Coats named Ganges Township. Dr. Coats’ original petition to the legislature to name the township had to be changed because the name selected was already in use. The reason Ganges was submitted on Dr. Coats’ second petition doesn’t seem to be known.

During this time the township was mostly forest. Many changes were occurring throughout the township which can be directly associated to the shores of Lake Michigan. The area was covered with a rich forest of beech, pine, and maple trees. Lumber was in great demand for building material in cities and residences developing along the lake shore. There was also a need for tan bark by tanneries, as a result a vast lumber trade developed. After the land was cleared and farm crops were planted, settlers realized that the lake shore climate was ideal for growing, not only garden products, but fruit trees as well. Agriculture soon began to be the popular trade.

Some of the pioneers to the area included Harrison Hutchins, John Billings, Cyrus Cole, James Wadsworth, James McCormick, and Levi Loomis. Other occupants of the township included friendly Indians, who were willing to trade with the pioneers; as well as wolves and deer. The wolves were so numerous that sheep raising was impossible.

Glenn was first settled in 1843. Before 1876 this area was known by many names, including Packards Corner and New Casco. Glenn has been used since 1856. As the land was cleared, crops and orchards were planted. Shipping became necessary, so piers were built out into the lake. The boats that carried fruit into the cities would bring vacation-bound passengers on the return trip. The resort business increased and Glenn grew rapidly. By 1897 the community had developed enough to support three grocery stores, a drug store, a meat market, two blacksmiths, a barber shop, two hotels, and several other businesses. During the 1920's truck transportation replaced the need for the piers. The blizzard of 1937 established Glenn as a community filled with hospitality. Travelers who were marooned in Glenn spread the word about this area’s people and warmth. A pancake festival was set up to celebrate the blizzard that next spring. This festival continued until 1941, when World War II forced its cancellation. The festival was revived in the 1960's and continues today. Since the construction of Interstate 196 rerouted traffic, Glenn saw a decline in tourism during the 1960's. The resort businesses were gone and life styles were changed forever.

Plummerville was founded in 1846. This was a joint effort by Benjamin Plummer and Orlando Weed. A sawmill was set up near the creek. A tannery was soon flourishing nearby. Mr. Plummer opened a store. A pier, measuring approximately 400 feet long, was built. The sawmill operated until 1876. When operations ceased, most of the buildings in the area were moved or torn down. Eventually, the pier was washed away.

Pier Cove was laid out by Deacon Sutherland in 1851 as a platted town in Allegan County. A steam sawmill and wood shop were constructed. The wood shop was later made into a grist mill, which was needed in the area. Two piers, measuring approximately 323 foot, were built. This area was thought of as a village, which boasted about its twenty families, four stores, a tavern, post office, grist mill and three hotels. As the cord wood supply was depleted, the fire of 1871 occurred, and the railroad came to Fennville, the Village of Pier Cove diminished in population and importance. One pier remained in service into 1919. Both piers were destroyed by storms in the 1900's and were not rebuilt.

Ganges, located at the corners of 122nd Avenue and 68th Street, was formerly known as the “Johnson corners.” Mr. A. A. Johnson owned the land and had a blacksmith shop and later a general store. By 1916, Fred and William Haile purchased some property from Johnson and established a receiving station. They built a large garage with a open second floor that was used for community social gatherings and political meetings. This building is known today as the Plummer Bros. Garage. The Ganges Post Office (discontinued in November of 1954), Ganges Union School, Greyhound Bus line, and a general store (closed 1970) once served the community. Today, the general store is a woodworking shop. But the Ganges United Methodist Church, as well as the Ganges Baptist Church and the Monastery, still hold worship services for the community.

In 1901 the Ganges Canning & Packing Company began business. Although the company reported “fairly successful” years, in 1903 the local banks foreclosed on the cannery. By 1905, the machinery was sold and the building was transformed into a mint processing distillery.

Schools in the area (Glenn & Pier Cove) began in April of 1847. The first classrooms were in the home of James Wadsworth. Between 1847 and 1880 ten school districts were organized. A “unit school system” was approved by voters in 1912. This unit system only lasted two years. The township voters then voted for individual boards for each district. From 1960 to 1963 all of these districts, with the exception of the Glenn School, were annexed into the Fennville school system.

Churches in the area included the Ganges Baptist Church. Its first meetings were in the Lewis School. In 1880, the congregation built its own building. The Ganges Methodist Church was established around 1840. The church constructed a building at Pier Cove in 1867, which was later moved to an area by Johnson’s Corner. A fire on February 22, 1929 destroyed the wooden church. In 1931 the new building was dedicated.

The Vendanta Society came to the area in 1969. A retreat and monastery were established. This area was selected at least partially because of the name Ganges, the same name as the Ganges River in India.

The West Michigan Pike (sections of 68th Street and 114th Avenue) went through the area in 1916. An electric light company was organized and started producing electricity in the fall of 1919. The township had a Grange Hall, located at the corner of 122nd Avenue and 66th Street, until it was torn down in 1996.

Ganges Township today is a steadily growing and changing community. Although farming still supplies a base to the area, an extensive amount of farmland has been converted to residential uses. The township has grown to include a public school, two fire stations, three general stores, a winery, four cemeteries, two metal fabricating shops, four industrial facilities, three restaurants, one gas station/convenience store, and many other small businesses (including home businesses). The township currently has several bed and breakfast establishments to offer visitors lodging accommodations

Both the Allegan County and Ganges Township parks, as well as other accesses to Lake Michigan, provide lake recreational uses for the township residents and visitors to the area.

This information was copied from the Ganges Township Land Use Plan (2012).