Kent County Biographies
Names A to E
Names F to O
Names P to Z
Railway Officials in America 1906
Hon. Smith Lapham, Justice of the Peace, is the oldest settler now living in Algoma tp., and the, second settler
in the tp. He was born in Rhode Island, April 8, 1804. He is a distant relative of Senator Lapham, of New York,
and a son of Job Lapham, who removed with his family to Saratoga, N. Y., in 1806. At the tender age of three years,
he lost his mother, and in 1816 he returned to Rhode Island, and resided for four years with his aunt, Lydia Sales,
a widow lady. For some time after this he worked on the farm by the month. In 1825 he went to Buffalo, where be
went aboard the "Pioneer," and sailed on Lake Erie. During her Second trip she was overtaken by a severe
storm, and was wrecked off the shore at Fairport, Ohio. The manner in which the crew and passengers escaped was
singular: The ship had grounded a short distance from the shore, but the waves were too high for any one to venture;
so they tied a line to a billet of wood, and threw the billet between the shore and the approaching wave, which
carried the billet nearly to the shore; some parties on the land then waded in and secured it in to shore. At one
end of the line was a boat made fast, in which the wrecked people were all soon safely drawn to shore. Mr. Lapham
and eight other men walked thence to Sandusky, Ohio, where they went aboard the only remaining steamer, "Superior"
(which was the second steamer built on the lake), and came to Detroit, where he and his associates separated. Mr.
Lapham then proceeded on foot, to travel over the counties of Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw and Monroe, in the State
of Michi gan. He finally concluded to locate in Washtenaw county, and accordingly purchased a tract of land on
Lodi Plains, in that county, six miles south of Ann Arbor.
This was in the fall of 1825. He returned to Saratoga the same winter, and April 10 following, married Miss Catharine
Gilbert, returning with his wife to his land in Washtenaw county in June of the same year. He sold his farm in
1835, and built the American House, which is still standing in Saline, and is still used as a hotel, But he, however,
ran it as a hotel only about two years. In 1839 he became interested in the construction of the Wabash & Erie
canal, which was at that time being built. His department was the building of culverts, and it is said that one
which he erected is the largest culvert on the canal, In 1843, Mr. Lapham, in company with Luke Gilbert, his brother
in law, came to Okamos, on the Okamos river, where they dug a canoe out of a basswood log, and in this rude boat
floated down the river to the mouth of Flat river, where the town of Lowell now stands, They there left their canoe,
and started through the woods with no road, to visit another brother in law. Mr. DavId Gilbert, reaching the settlement
late in the evening of the same day. Mr. L. came to the Rouge river, and decided to locate here, although the land
was not yet in market, He found a mill site where Rockford now stands, and the same year, in July, purchased 80
acres where Rockford or Laphamville was afterward built, and proceeded immediately to locate and erect a saw-mill.
This mill was the first in the tp., and the dam was the first on Rouge river. He finished the mill in 1844, and
ran it successfully for 20 years. In 1866 he sold his mill and kept hotel in Rockford for two years.
Mr. Lapham was the first Supervisor for Algoma, and has held the same office many times since. In 1856 he was elected
to the House of Representatives of the Michigan Legislature, and in 1858 was elected State Senator from this district.
He has held the office of Justice of the Peace almost constantly for over 35 years. In 1876 Mr. and Mrs. Lapham
celebrated their golden wedding, and are still stout and healthy. They have had nine children, of whom six are
living, viz.: Geo. G., Embree B., Amy A., Derias A., Josephine and Adah.
History of Kent County, Michigan
Chas C. Chapman & Company