Biography of Benjamin Drake
Kalamazoo County, MI Biographies

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The first settler in the town of Oshtemo settled on Grand Prairie in 1830. He was born in Sandy Town, Sussex Co., N. J., Jan. 10, 1787. His opportunities for an education were limited to the district schools of his native town. Arrived at majority, Mr. Drake started in life for himself. Going to the head waters of the Delaware River he engaged in the lumber business, which he followed very successfully for nine years, making what was for that day a fortune. The war of 1812 came on, and the spirit of speculation ran rife, wheat and lands went up, and many made large investments in real estate, Mr. Drake among the rest, expecting to increase his wealth. The war closed, everything went down, and Mr. Drake saw his money swept away to the last dollar. The year 1817 he spent in traveling throngh the West. He then returned, and for a time worked at whatever he could get to do, and in this way again made a start. In 1820, Mr. Drake, with his wife and two children, moved to Ohio, and settled on 160 acres of land, ten miles from Sandusky City. On the farm he then owned is situated the Sandusky plaster-beds. The location proving an unhealthy one he sold, and in 1824 moved to Newport, St. Clair Co., Mich., where he remained six years, engaged in raising and dealing in cattle and working land on shares. Mr. Drake, with his family, on the 1st day of September, 1830, arrived at Grand Prairie, and settled on the northeast quarter of section 13, in Oshtemo. The land was not in the market at that time, and was still occupied by the Indians. The following year the government offered the land for sale, and Mr. Drake bid in tM land without opposition. With the help of the Indians he erected a log house, which was the first white habitation on the prairie. The Indians were very friendly, but Mr. Drake about that time had an adventure which will be of interest. He was on his way to White Pigeon to enter his land, when he passed a couple of Indians. He paid no attention to them, and had got nearly past them when one of them seized him by the shoulder and tried to draw his knife, the only weapon he had. The other was armed with a gun. Mr. Drake caught the Indian by the wrist, and, being very strong, he pressed his thumb into the cords of the Indian's wrist with such force that he could do nothing. He then walked backwards, drawing his man with him and keeping him between his person and the one with the gun. He drew him over the brow of a little hill, where he intended to knock him down with a hickory cane he carried, and then make his escape. At that moment a Mr. Campau, an Indian trader from Grand Rapids, rode up, accompanied by his servant, and called out to him to look out or he would be killed. Mr. Drake replied, "I am going to knock him down with my cane." Mr. Campan begged him to desist, saying he would talk to the Indians and detain them until he was away. This he did, talking in their own language. Mr. Drake learned afterwards that the Indians had been offended by a white man, and were going to be revenged on the first white man they met. He happened to be the one, and but for the opportune arrival of Mr. Campau he would perhaps have lost his life. Years have passed since then, and the Indians have either gone to the happy hunting-grounds of their fathers or moved to the far West. The prairie farm of two hundred acres, settled by Mr. Drake, has become a splendid farm of five hundred acres, with the beautiful village of Kalamazoo but three miles away, and is one of the best farms in the county. Then unbroken prairies and forests extended for miles. Now, in their stead, may be seen cleared fields, palatial homes, schools, and churches. The howl of the wolf has been succeeded by the hum of machinery and the whistle of the steam engine. All these changes Mr. Drake has lived to see, and now, in the ninety fourth year of his age, he is enjoying the fruits of many years of toil and hardships. His wealth has been acquired, not by speculation, but by hard workand close attention to business. He stands high as a man of sterling worth and strict integrity. He is a Republican, but has never taken an active part in politics.

Mr. Drake married, Dec. 19, 1819, Miss Maria Ogden, who was born Feb. 22, 1799, at the bay of Quinte, Province of Ontario, Canada. There have been born to them children, as follows: Francis, Elizabeth, Benjamin, George N., Jane, Maria, and James Fitch.


FROM:
History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of its Men and Pioneers.
Everts & Abbott., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia.

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