Forest Hill History

by Bertha Light

With the passing of the present generation, all memories and knowledge of the history of Forest Hill, located in the center of Riley Township, will have vanished.  The remembrance of an era of a once active and bustling community, welded together by the bonds of friendship, fellowship, and concerns for the well being of their neighbors, will be gone.  It was a community that provided a cheese factory, post office, blacksmith shop, ashery, Woodman Hall, and last, but not least, a general country store.  The store was filled with activity when, on Saturday nights, the residents of the community came with their baskets of eggs to trade, and stock up on necessary items as groceries, meats, yard goods, drugs, medicines, hardware, nails, rope and anything else "from soup to nuts", as the old saying goes.  It was a time when sugar came in 100 pound bags, cookies were displayed and sold from large square containers with clear covers, the vinegar barrel was laid on its side on a raised platform to make it easier to spigot out the contents, the kerosene barrel was at the rear of the store with a hand-operated pump, the open cracker-barrel stood at the end of the counter, and the stick candy and jar of horehound candy had a prominent place on the top of the counter to entice the children.  

After the shopping was completed, the evening was spent in discussing farm prices, settling township matters, talking over school problems, line fences, sheep claims, taxes, selling Liberty-Bonds, sharing the news of the community, and, yes --war talk.  Many of the battles were  fought on the home front, on a Saturday night at the Forest Hill Store.  

In those days, there was no comprehension of convenience or fad foods, repackage or self-service, and the use of a credit card was unheard of.  The advent of the automobile and airplane, the radio and television, automatic washers and refrigeration, and electricity were heralded by "Aha" and "Ohs", by old and young alike, and welcomed with joyful anticipation.  I will never forget the excitement when we, as children, heard an airplane in the distance and would rush outside and watch as that "bird" flew overhead and see it disappear from view, little realizing that planes, one day would be a part of many households.

What a thrill it would be to turn back the pages of time, if we could "swap yarns" with the early settlers in the area and hear, again, the interesting and informative things they could tell us of the growth and development of the community.  Many stories, or happenings, related to the children by parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends are many times, the only link we have, to establish the date, or time, of some incidents which make up Forest Hill history and makes the, community especially dear to many hearts.  No longer does a passing motorist, traveling Jason and Forest Hill Roads see the once familiar sight of chickens, ducks and geese roaming in the door-yard; the beauty of a large, well-kept farm house and barn with a straw-stack or two and the peaceful of the cattle and sheep in the pasture field, or wood-lot surrounding the homestead.  However, people today, motoring through the quiet country-side on a fine improved gravel road dotted with new and improved homes and a four-family apartment, one little realizes that Forest Hill, so named by the early settlers because of the dense forest of stately ash, basswood, beech, elm, cherry, oak, maple and walnut trees that covered the hills surrounding the area, has an interesting history that dates back to 1833.

In May 1833, Judge Samuel Dexter, with a party of early pioneers and an Indian guide, were cutting their way through the dense forest following a trail made by the Indians and identified only by marked trees.  With food rations running low and chilly and rainy weather hampering their progress, the journey was exhausting. 

As they forged their way through this area, the two-year old son of Judge Dexter became ill and died of scarlet fever.  Riley Dexter, from whom Riley took its name, was buried under an immense elm tree beside the trail, as the party was ready to cross the Muskrat Creek.  The tree has long since disappeared, but the burial of Riley Dexter remains in history as the first white child buried in Clinton County.  A graphic account of the journey, burial and location of the burial place appeared in the Republican News of May 7,1931, and appears in Appendix A.  

As time progressed, the property on which the burial took place, located 1-1/2 miles north of Saint Peter Lutheran Church, was owned for many years by Frederick Mohnke and wife, Wilhelmine, nee Schult.  These parents, together with their eight children, immigrated to America in the spring of 1892 from Briggow, Mecklenburg Schwerin, Germany.  Following Judge Dexter's perilous journey, the old Indian trail became known as Dexter Trail and extended from Pontiac to lonia.  The map shows the trail through Riley, cut by Judge Dexter, but as the township became settled and fenced, the original route was somewhat altered.

The land comprising the area of the Forest Hill community was Sections 8, 9, 16 and 17, which is the intersection of Forest Hill and Jason Roads.  The original land-entries from the United States government were made to the following people, many of whom were non-residents and speculators who never became settlers.

Section 8  

Philip P. Peck, Lenawee Go. Mich., Sept. 22, 1836, northwest quarter. 8.8. Karcheval, Detroit, Mich., Dec.10,1836, southwest quarter, Seba Murphy, Monroe Co., Mich., Dec 13,1836, east half of northeast quarter, William Gibson (See Appendix Y - 6), Senaca Co., N.V., Dec 13,1836, west half of northeast quarter .

Section 9

Uzziel Kanouse, Washtenaw Go., Mich., Nov. 4 1836, east half

Section 16

School lands  

Section 17

David S. Hodgman. Onondaga Co.,  N.V. Sept.27, 1836, east half of northeast quarter and northeast quarter of southeast quarter.

Elisha Hodgman, Onondaga Go., K.V., Sept.27, 1836, west half of northeast quarter.

James V. Ryan, lonia Go., Mich., Nov.4, 1836, west half.

During the month of November 1836, Morris Boughton of Elmira, New York, accompanied by his brother-in-law, Benjamin Welch, came into Clinton County.  Mr. Welch settled in Dallas and Mr. Boughton settled in what is now Riley, on the northeast quarter of Section 7, Town 6 North, Range 3 West, and assigned, according to a land entry, to Phebe Boughton.  Mr. Boughton boarded at the home of Cortland Hill, the first settler in Bengal Township, who had moved into Bengal only a few months before.  Mr. Boughton immediately began chopping trees and clearing his land.  After putting up a log; cabin on the southeast corner of his farm, he kept bachelor hall and his only cooking utensil was a kettle which served for baking, boiling and frying; a clean chip took the place of a plate.

Boughton was very industrious and as soon as ground was cleared, was growing good crops of wheat; he made a number of trips to Detroit, hauling wheat by ox-team, getting 50 cents a bushel.  The nearest gristmill was at lonia, 25 miles away and a round trip required three to six days, to complete.

After two years Mr. Boughton brought his sister Mrs. William Hayes and her husband, to live at the farm, thus relieving the lonely hours and he proceeded to build a log cabin for himself.

Mr. Boughton, having cleared the greater portion of his farm and erected comfortable buildings, set out for the State of New York and on the 10th of December 1843, was married to Lucretia Culver.  They immediately returned to their home in Michigan where he became active in the affairs of the community and held many offices in the township and county.

The act organizing the township of Riley was approved March 15, 1841 and the first township meeting was held in April 1841 with township officers being elected.  The second township meeting was held on April 7, 1842, 24 votes being cast. 

In 1845 the four-acre cite of the South Riley Cemetery it’s beginning and in 1847, the North Riley Cemetery (Boughton) was established on a portion of the Boughton property.  This cemetery was taken over by an association, organized February 28, 1867, and reorganized April 2, 1879, with the following officers:

President: Cortland Hill  
            Clerk: S. N. Hildreth
            Treasurer: C. F. Plowman
            Sexton F. W. Benjamin  

The first person buried in this cemetery was Mrs. Hannah Peck, whose remains were brought here in 1847.  They were first buried in a farm-Iot.

On February 16, 1876, at the age of sixty-four years, Mr. Boughton passed away, leaving a wife and eight children.

In 1886, five acres of the Boughton property was purchased for $500.00 by Saint Peter Lutheran Church as a cite for their future church which was built and dedicated in 1883.  The land transfers for the church property are listed, on page 10 and 11.

In May 1841, Philip P. Peck, his wife, three children and Mrs. Peck's father, John Gunn, moved from Tecumseh (where they had lived four years) to Riley.  After a tedious journey, they found the road ended at Gordon Treat's clearing (Section 23, Riley Township). After that, marked trees to Morris Boughton's clearing identified the path, or trail. When they arrived at the clearing, near where the schoolhouse stands, Mr. Boughton was at work in his woods.  He invited them to dinner, and told them they were welcome to occupy an unused cabin.  The original Land Entry made to Philip P. Peck in 1335 was property that joined the Boughton property on the east.

Town 6 North, Range 3 West, Section 7, Riley

Original land entry with residence, date of entry, and description. Phebe Boughton, Wayne County, Michigan, Nov.2,1836, northeast quarter.


Copy of Original Deed


United States                                                                         Received for record  
    To                                                                                        October 29, 1873  
Enos Boughton                                                                      2 o'clock P.M.  
                                                                                                 Robert Young, Register

Certificate No.2412, The United States of America

To all to whom these Presents Shall Come.


Whereas.  Enos Boughton of Ontario County, New York, has deposited in the General Land Office of the United States, a Certificate of the Register of the Land Office at lonia, Whereby it appears that full payment has been made by the said Enos Boughton, according to the provisions of the Act of Congress of the 24th of April, 1820, entitled "An act making further provisions for the sale of the Public Lands" for:

The North West Quarter and the West half of the North East Quarter of Section seven in Township eight, North of Range Four West in the District of lands subject to sale at lonia, Michigan, containing Two 'Hundred and Fourteen Acres and Seventy Two hundredths of an acre according to the Official Plot of the Survey of the said Lands returned to the General Land Office by the Surveyor.

Which said tract has been purchased by the said Enos Boughton now know, that the United States of America, in consideration of the promises, and in conformity with the Several Acts of Congress in such case made and provided, have given and granted and by these presents do give and grant unto the said Enos Boughton and to his heirs, the said tract above described: To have and to hold the Same together with all the rights, privileges, immunities and appurtenances of whatever nature hereunto belonging unto the said Enos Boughton and to his heirs and assigns forever.

In testimony whereof, I, Martin VanBuren, President of the United States of America have caused these letters to be made Patent, and the Seal of this General Land Office to be hereunto affixed. Given under my hand, at the City of Washington, the tenth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty nine and of the

Independence of the United States the Sixty fourth.


By the President  
            Martin VanBuren  
            By J. W. VanBuren, Secretary  
            H. M. Garland, Recorder of the
            General Land Office  

Recorded Vol. 7, Page 67

Celia E. Dunlap                                                         December 13, 1878


George E. Boughton

Same description as above with exception of cemetery and school

George E. Boughton                                     October 4, 1879


Celia Dunlap, Francis Brown, Courtland Boughton, Edward Boughton and Harriet Nelson, all the State of Michigan and heirs of Morris Boughton, deceased


Lucretia C. Boughton (widow)

George E, Boughton and wife Anna                       February 11, 1882


Edward P. Boughton of the same place

Same description as above for $1.00

Edward P, Boughton and wife                                 October 16, 1886
Trustees of Evangelical Lutheran Church, Riley

Five acres for $500.00
Boughton Family
Enos Boughton Phebe
Morris Boughton December 12, 1843 Lucretia Culver

1 - George E.
         2 - Celia Dunlap
         3 - Francis Brown
         4 - Courtland
         5 - Edward
         6 - Harriet Nelson
         7 -
         8 –  


For the first year Mr. Peck worked some of the Boughton land on shares until he could clear some of his own land. Through the summer he put up a sixteen by twenty foot log house, which later served as a first home for many immigrant families.  The Indians shared their hospitality and became firm friends.  On September 26, 1864, Mr. Peck purchased the E1/2 of the SE1/4 of Section 8 which later, was the site of the Ashery, or the Bolles property.

The North Riley Class, Methodist Episcopal Church was organized at out 1842, at the home of Philip Peck, by a preacher from Lyons.  The members were very few.  The class was reorganized in 1863-64 and members were P. P. Peck and wife, Mr. Boughton and wife, J.H. Patterson and wife, John Jay and wife, William Owen and wife, B. N. Hildreth and wife, Lydia Hildreth, John Hildreth, Elizabeth Benjamin and Mrs. Temple; their meetings were held in the Boughton School.

A new home was built in February, 1860, by the Pecks just east of the log house and an addition was added to the back of the house later on. The Peck's daughter, Amanda, married David P. [Pitney] Bliss and lived on the homestead.  In 1895, the house and four acres of ground was purchased from Amanda for $900.00 by Saint Peter Lutheran Church.  This is the parsonage property and was first occupied by Pastor G. H. Berger.  David P. [Pitney] Bliss, husband of Amanda Peck, came to Michigan in the fall of 1843 with his parents, David and Samantha Bliss and eight brothers and sisters.  The family settled on a soldier's claim in Section 9 in Riley Township, which remained the family homestead until 1923. Their home had originally been in Vermont and the family had moved to New York State in the early 1840's.

After arriving in Michigan, then a dense wilderness, their lot was a hard one and living was difficult.  They built a log house and went to housekeeping amid the hardships of the early settlers -- food scarcity, malaria, typhoid, mosquitoes, wild beasts, and few neighbors.  The first Post Office in Riley Township was established in Section 9, on the property of Stebbins C. [Clark] Bliss about 1855.  Jonathan Owen was the first postmaster.  This Post Office, known as North Riley, was closed at various intervals for economic reasons.  The Post Office does not appear on the 1873 Atlas but is listed on the 1896 County Atlas.

Through the tireless efforts and concerns for their fellowmen, the Bliss family holds a prominent place in Riley history and they contributed much to the growth and prosperity of the township and the community.  Several members of the family enlisted, and served through the Civil War, and many held responsible positions in public office.  Henry W. Bliss, another son of the Bliss family, was well known in the area as a farmer, as well as, a breeder of thoroughbred Shorthorn-Durham cattle.  A news item appeared in the Clinton Independent, dated March 30, 1871, under "Home Maters": Maple sugar brought in by the Bliss Brothers of Riley Township purchase by A. Teachout at 14 cents per pound.

Henry Bliss born December 16, 1834, was married on October 5, 1862 to Clarissa Welton. "Uncle" Henry and "Aunt" Clarissa had no children but through their great kindness and love of people provided a home and family to Cottfred T. Ottmar  who, in his youth, came to this country from Germany.  Having no family ties, he was taken in by the Bliss family who provided him a good home and a loving family.  All the love that would have been bestowed on a child of their own, was given to Fred.  Fred, born in 1868, was provided with a college education and graduated a lawyer.   At one time, the older residents recalled, Fred ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Michigan. He served in many ways and various capacities in public office for many years.  Fred was married to a local resident, Daisy Hilldrith,  and they became parents of one son, Wilton H. who passed away as an infant in 1899.  Daisy, born in 1869, was an accomplished musician and many of the Riley young people -- now Senior Citizens -- received their first music lessons from Mrs. Ottmar.  The mastering of the musical "scales" was the first requirement of a thorough musical education and it was an "absolute must" with Mrs. Ottmar.  Fred, in later years, acquired the Henry Bliss homestead where he resided until his death in 1958 -- his wife, Daisy having passed away in 1941.

The Bliss's also provided a home and family for Beatrice Longoor who resided with them for many years. She attended the Boughton School and, later, was married to Frank Nichols.

An interesting account of the early life of the Bliss family was given in the obituary of Henry W. Bliss who passed away April 19, 1929, at the age of 94 years.  The obituary appeared in the Republican News, April 25, 1929, and is found on pages 46 through 48.

David P Wilcox came to Michigan from Haddam Middlesex County, Connecticut and located first in Calhoun County when ill health prompted him to move to Kansas.  After some time in Kansas, he moved back to Michigan intending to locate in the Grand River country.  After exploring the school land in Riley Township in June 1854, he purchased 160 acres for four dollar an acre in Section 17.  In July 1854, he moved here with his family and had to chop out, and underbrush the road from the corner where the cheese factory later stood, and south about one half mile where he built a log house.  This house was located on the west side of the road and was on the farm where his daughter, Aurelia (Mrs. Chapman) lived later.  He became interested in raising Shorthorn cattle and his farm became known as Forest Hill Stock Farm.

In 1864, he moved to Saint Johns and operated a hardware store.  An item in the Clinton Republican, February 5, 1869 states "Mr. D. P. Wilcox of the firm Wilcox and Thurber, hardware dealers in this village, has purchased the lot adjoining their store on the south, for $2,000.00.  He contemplates erecting a brick building on the premises the coming year".

In 1872, after eight years in the hardware business, Mr. Wilcox returned to the farm having just built a fine residence on Section 17.

Quoting from the Clinton Independent dated July 24, 1873, under "Home Matters" we find, "We have been informed that David P. Wilcox of Riley Township, who has been in the hardware business is about to establish a Cheese Factory on his farm.  Already he has established 200 cows in the local area to provide supplies for his business".

The Forest Hill Cheese Factory, owned and operated by a stock company, was organized in the spring of 1874.  The building was thirty by eighty, and cost, with machinery, was twenty-four hundred dollars.  The building was located on the northeast corner of Section 17.  The stockholders Davie P [Pitney] Bliss, Wilcox, Horatio S. Bliss, Stebbins C. [Clark] Bliss, Bliss Temple, J. M. Dane, Henry Jones, Christian Jacobs, Andrew J. Chapman, Frederick Oding, John Pingel, Charles Waiters and A.R Boss. President of the company was D, P, Wilcox and A. R. Boss, Secretary.  It is not definitely known when the Cheese Factory ceased operation.

The Wilcox's had two children -- Aurelia and Ella.  A daughter, Mrs. Robinson, mentioned in 1880 History was residing on Section 34, Riley, but I cannot establish as a certainty if this was Ella or another daughter.  Aurelia was married to Andrew J. Chapman and they resided on Section 16, the first place south of the new home built by the Wilcox's.  This was the first home of the Wilcox family and the site of the log house built by them as they came into Riley in 1854.  As I mentioned, the log house was on the west side of the road but new buildings later were erected on the east side and this farm in later years was purchased by Alfred D. Lance and wife, Hannah.  Ella was married to Nestelle and later resided in Saint Johns. Mr. Wilcox at one time owned the greater portion, or the north one half of Sections 16 and 17.  Charles E. Bills was taken into the Wilcox home at the age of six years, after the death of his mother in 1851.  He made his home with the Wilcox’s until his marriage December 25, 1867 to Jennie Baird. Charles, the son of Albert and Phoebe Bills, was born April 14, 1845 in Hillsdale County and passed away May 22, 1923 in Lansing, Michigan.

David Wilcox died at his home in Riley January 2, 1881, at 83 years of age.  In the estate settlement, August Schrader purchased 80 acres for $2,430.00 ($31.00 per acre) in Section 16 from Ella H. (Wilcox) Nestelle and Albert J. Baldwin, Executer of the David P. Wilcox estate.  This transfer was dated September 21, 1893.  This is property later owned by, and the residence of Henry Schrader.  The present owner is Walter Martens. Christian J. Martin, born in Prussia March 30,1839, purchased the Wilcox property in 1894.  This was his residence until his death April 1, 1933.  Christian Martin came to America in 1869.  After spending a few months in Buffalo, New York, he came to Westphalia where he worked on a farm for a time.  In 1876 he was married to Wilhelmina (Schroeder) Frank, a widow with three small children and settled on a farm in Section 5, in Riley Township, 1/2 mile north of Price Road on Forest Hill Road.

This family lived the difficult life of the pioneer settlers and patiently endured the misfortunes common to many families due to epidemics and accidents.  The obituary of Christian Martin appears on 948 and it gives an insight into the strong character and faith these people possessed which helped them through many difficult times.

After purchasing and moving to the Wilcox farm, Christian and Wilhelmina became the parents of two children - Friederike Johanna Caroline and Carl August Johann.  Rike, as she was known to most of us, was born August 21, 1878, she was married to Frank Easton on April 14, 1903, and they later made their home in DeWitt.  Carl, known as Charles, was born on the homestead, February 24, 882.  He was married to Schroeder on May 23. 1906.  After his marriage, Charles took over the management of the farm and Christian, being a widower (Wilhelmina having passed away April 25, 1904), continued to make his home there.

Memories are especially dear to our family as we remember a, kindly old gentleman, welcomed "kids chatter" as we stopped for a rest on our way to the Forest Hill Store where we had to pick up our mail for many years. The nickels with which he rewarded us for small favors really "made our day" and nurtured a deep friendship which was never forgotten and which, today, remains a cherished memory.

Charlie and Mary, born February 9, 1833, had one son, Francis, born August 6, 1911, who farmed with his father until his father's death on August 25, 1958 following a farm accident.  Mary passed away three months later, on November 22, 1958.  Francis was married to Ethelyn Rossow on July 11, 1959 and they continue to reside on the homestead.

The early 1890's finds the community, which will be known for the following 75 years as Forest Hill, experiencing growing pains and expanding with more people coming into the area.  The Cheese Factory building, no longer being used, was divided and moved to new locations.  One portion was moved to the south at the site of the David Wilcox farm buildings and was used as a small barn on the east side of the road.  Years later, the building -- long since having served its usefulness -- was removed by Christian Martin before 1911.  The smaller portion of the Cheese Factory building was moved onto property owned by Pearl Williams and still remains the barn, close to the road, on property presently owned by Elsie Horman.

In 1895 a new building appeared on the Jason and Forest Hill Road intersection.  This was on property acquired by the "Modern Woodman of America" from Stebbins C. Bliss in the southwest corner of Section 9.  The hall built by Glenn Bliss and John Pingel, members of the Lodge, became well known in the area as the Woodman Hall. At the rear of the Lodge Hall to the east, was a long row of sheds, which were used as a shelter for the horse and buggies, which provided the only transportation, outside of walking, in those days.  In addition to being a meeting place for the Lodge members, the hall was used for many other activities.  Public dances were held regularly -- the music of the fiddler and the singing voice of the caller as "alle man left your partner" filling the air was a delight to all, as dancing was enjoyed by the early settlers -- old and young alike.  Among others, the wedding dance of Friedrich Christian Martin Hopp, born January 30, 1890, and Wilhelmina Marie Johanne Witt, born April 3, 1831, was held at the hall on February 16, 1911.  Memories of the terrific mud at the time of this wedding made a sorry mess of some of the young men's Sunday suits as they attempted to "drop" planks to make it easier to get back and forth to the house.

After the hall was established, the lower floor was rented to M. T. Streeter who operated a grocery store here for a short time. 

In 1897, Charles N. Cowles acquired the lower floor of the hall and developed and expanded the grocery business into a thriving enterprise.  Charles was one of three Cowles brothers, the others being Austin and Ralph, and was married to Alice E. Bush whose parents resided across the road from the store (the parents later moved to Wacousta). Mr. and Mrs. Cowles operated the Forest Hill Store with the able assistance of Ruth Landers.  Ruth lived next door to the store and she, also, taught school at the Boughton School during the winter months.

The property in Section 8, originally owned by Phillip P. Peck and wife, Lucy, mentioned on page 13, was experiencing many changes through the years.  The property had been acquired by William B. Peck and wife, Nancy from Phillip Peck on August 16, 1880. On February 8, 1882, a property transfer from William Peck to Charles Bearndt and wife, Fredericka, was made.  Through a mortgage foreclosure, the property was acquired by Henry M. Perrin and Porter K. Perrin on January 17, 1885.  A year later, on January 21, 1886, the property was sold by the Perrins to Henry Heaven and wife, Sarah.  The property conveyed the E3/4 of the SE1/4 of Section 8. On March 25, 1886, one acre of ground in the southeast corner of Section 8 was sold by Henry Heaven to Samuel H. Williams and wife; Anna M.  This was the property on which the Forest Hill Store was later built.  On August 26, 1889, Henry Heaven sold 20 acres in the SE corner of Section 8, excluding 1 acre, to John H. Fedewa. In a transfer of property John H. Fedewa and wife, Lizzie, sold the 20 acres, excluding one acre (already owned by Williams) to Samuel Williams on November 21, 1892.  This was the acreage that included the store and Ashery property.

The years preceding 1900 found more activity and growth in the Forest Hill community.  Pearl, one of three Williams brothers -- Charlie and George, and sons of Samuel, had purchased property north of the Woodman Hall and built a new home prior to the moving of the smaller portion of the Cheese Factory building to this location.  Being a blacksmith by trade, Pearl rented a small acreage in 1896 from Christian Martin and built a shop on the northeast corner of Section 17 where he worked at his blacksmith trade for many years.  In addition to his blacksmith work he was a "handyman" and he had the skill to be able to repair most anything that was broken or failed to work properly.  He was the farmer's friend and was called upon by the local residents many times to help out.  Pearl was married to Jennie Kleckner of Fowler, who was born July 12, 1874 and passed away February 27, 1920.  Pearl's father, Samuel, in addition to being a farmer, was a preacher and was, also known in the area as a horse jockey.

About the middle 1890's, the date is uncertain, a sawmill was in operation a short distance west of the intersection on Jason Road.  With the abundance of trees and the desire to clear more acreage for cultivation, the sawmill was in great demand.  August Schroeder, son of Friederick and Friedericka Schroeder, was employed at the mill.  An episode, which lingers in the memory of the early settlers, was told like this, "A large tree had been hauled across the section from the Sabrina [Bliss] Temple property (where Wilma Jastram lives) to the saw-mill.  In the process of sawing up the tree, the saw hit a double-fist-size stone that had become lodged in the crotch of the tree.  It had escaped detection until the saw hit the stone and practically blew up the saw operation. No one knew how the stone became lodged there, or if it had been deliberately placed there years earlier, as a prank, and with the passing of time was covered by moss and debris and was completely hidden from sight". May 26, 1899, Samuel H. Williams sold the north two acres of his property to James A. Keeney and wife, Jennie M. Mr. Keeney operated a shop for a short time and he, also, was a gun-smith; at various times, he worked at the carpenter trade. A daughter, Ethel, attended Boughton School with Alvina (Silm) Sehlke. According to a land transfer, there had been a Blacksmith Shop in operation on this location in January 1886 when the property was owned by Henry Heaven, but no other information was available. 

James Keeney sold the property (2 acres) to Mary Holies on January 6, 1908.  While the Bolles family owned the land, a profitable Ashery business was in operation.  At this time everyone used wood for heating and cooking purposes so, consequently, there was a large quantity of ashes available.  Son, Monroe, built and operated the Ashery where ashes were collected and made into potash and soap.  John Hopp, son of Theodore and Wilhelmina Hopp, was employed by Bolles to collect ashes throughout the community. (1903 - 1912)?  For each bushel of ashes collected, or brought to the Ashery, the customer received one bar of soap.  Lye was, also, sold by the barrel.  After Monroe was married he resided at the Ashery property and his mother, Mary, lived next door to the Woodman Hall.  The house that Mary occupied had originally been moved here from the Ashery property, and as time went on, additions had been put on, as the need arose. The remark was made by several "The house was just put together".  Frederick and Mary Bolles were parents of four Children Monroe, Roscoe, Elgie and an infant that died at birth.

Monroe Bolles was remembered as the owner of a one-seater, 2-passenger mobile, possibly 1901-1905 model. Many mentioned it as being one of the first Oldsmobile's made by R. E. Olds.  Many smiles were evident as oldsters talked of Monroe, whizzing by in his "merry Oldsmobile".  They described the car as resembling a cutter used by the early settlers in the wintertime.  The car was equipped with small wheels and was steered with a stick instead of a steering wheel. As other types of heating became available, ashes became a scarce commodity and the Ashery business was discontinued. The property remained in the Bolles family until April 17, 1940, when the 2-acre plot was purchased by Carl G. Light.  The plot was sold to Fedewa Builders (James Fedewa) in 1976 and sold in 1977 to Joseph and Cindy Miller who have erected a beautiful new home there.  After closing the Ashery operation, Monroe moved to Merle Beach where he assisted in the operation of the "Half-Way House". (1912-1913)? The Half-Way House was a large inn built on Muskrat Lake in Olive Township. It was a two-story building and the lower floor consisted of sleeping rooms for overnight guests and the upper story was used for recreation.  This was a popular place for the young people of the community to gather where dances were held regularly and memory, again, is vivid of the magnificent fireworks held there every Fourth of July.

Due to the rapid increase of business and the desire to expand, Charles Cowles had purchased property from Samuel Williams In Section 8, across the road from the Woodman Hall on March 27, 1899.  He erected a new and larger store on this location and everything was all ready for the big move in 1902.  Senior citizens today, still remember Charlie, his wife and Ruth Landers carrying merchandise across the road to the new store and stocking the shelves.  Cowles continued to use the former place for small tools and hardware.  Needing more assistance in conducting the business, Mr. Cowles built a new home, second place east of the Hall, to provide housing for hired help.  A family by the name of Lawrence were the first occupants and Mr. Lawrence worked for Mr. Cowles drawing freight from Fowler.  The next residents were Mr. and Mrs. Fred Hopp who lived there the first year of their marriage (1911-1912).  Fred, also, worked for Charlie hauling and delivering freight.

In reminiscing with former residents of the Forest Hill community, mention was made of the cream station which was in operation at Forest Hill.  The date, again, is uncertain but was operated shortly after the new store was built by Cowles. The station was located in a white building just south of the store.  Huge separators were mounted inside, and farmers from the surrounding area would bring their milk to the station and run it through the separators.  The farmer would take the skim milk home where it would be fed to the stock; the cream would be taken to Westphalia or Fowler, sold and be made into butter.  This building used as a creamery, was later moved one-half mile west, to the Pauline Thelen property where it was used as a granary.

In 1899, Robert Landers and wife, Mary E. moved into the growing Forest Hill community.  They purchased the house just east of the Woodman Hall.  Robert hauled milk into Saint Johns and he served as Justice of the Peace in Riley Township for many years.  Robert and Mary had two daughters -- Maude Ethel and Ruth Vera; Maude became the wife of Archie Hildreth and Ruth was married to Bills.  Another resident in the Landers home was Dr. C. B. Ripley.  He rented a room and had his Doctor's office in the Landers home.

For some years the Forest Hill community was very fortunate to have the services of a resident physician; Dr. Ripley was the first of these and the date he arrived in Riley is not known.  Again, incidents that happened, more or less, pinpoint the time he was in the community.  As one example -Edwin S. Craun, a prominent Riley resident, born October 30, 1876, was involved in an accident that nearly took his life.  As related:

"Mr. Ed Craun, when a young man, made a trip into Saint Johns with his horse and buggy.  Having finished his errands, he was returning home.  As he was going west on State Street his horse became frightened at the huge piles of brick, stones and other building material at the now site of the Congregational Church. As the horse bolted, it threw Ed out of the buggy and dragged him a considerable distance in the dirt and sand.  Ed received a terrible scalp wound (as it was told "his scalp was laid open and filled with sand and grime").  The Doctor living just south of the church was called. The Doctor arrived, accompanied by a friend -our own Dr. Ripley, from Riley and, together, they ministered to Mr. Craun.  They cleansed the wound as best they could and stitched the torn flesh back -- thinking: that "no way could this man survive". The cornerstone of the Congregational Church was laid April 13, 1899 and Ed lived a long life having passed away December 1, 1978, at the ripe old age of 102 years.

Another example -- a receipt, "June 18,1903. Received $16.00 in payment in full to date for all services and medicines in family of August Schrader. C. B. Ripley M. D."

Charlie Martin used to tell "many yarns" about Dr. Ripley and how they were pals and "horsed around" together before Charles was married in 1906.  These incidents would, more or less, establish that Dr. Ripley was in Riley approximately 1899- 1905 or 06.

The second doctor to serve the Riley residents was Dr. Peter H. Banta. He was born August 19, 1874 in Oakland County, Michigan.  At age 5 his parents moved and settled near Hubbardston.  He was graduated from Detroit College of Medicine in 1900.  While in Riley his residence and office where the first house north of the Woodman Hall, and the date, again, is uncertain, but he was in Riley in 1907.  An incident, again, establishes when he left Forest Hill, "Telephones being scarce and baby deliveries were always made in the home, when the time arrived that Francis Martin was to be born, Charles Martin drove his 1911 Model S Ford to DeWitt for Dr. Banta -he had just moved there from Riley.  Everything was going smoothly until he got to the DeWitt Cemetery where he ran out of gas.  He walked to the Doctor's office where he borrowed some gas and got the Doctor.  Everything proceeded as scheduled and Francis arrived on the scene on August 6, 1911. "  Dr. Banta died November 26, 1915, leaving a wife, the former Rosa Fedewa from Westphalia, and three daughters.  Burial was in DeWitt Cemetery.

When Pearl Williams started the blacksmith business from "scratch" he had very few tools to work with, but horses being the only source of transportation and work power, the blacksmith work became a thriving business.  Mr. Williams operated the shop until 1904, with the exception of a short time when Otto Dunnebach was employed there.

In early 1904, Charles Schaefer and wife, Mary (Rossow) moved to Forest Hill and Charles purchased the Blacksmith Shop from Pearl Williams.  Charlie and Mary had one daughter, Romilla, when they arrived and Clarence was born February 14, 1906, Riley.  The Schaefer’s lived for a short time in the home built by Pearl Williams (Elsie Horman's place) and later moved across the road -- first place north of the store. (Carrus place).

An accident that occurred while the Schaefers lived a Forest Hill made an indelible impression on many people.  As Quoted:

“Charlie, at the close of a work day, had burned a pile of collected rubbish and leaves at the Blacksmith Shop.  The following day daughter, Romilda, then a child of five or six years of age, had come to the shop and played there – as was her custom.  She was attracted to the pile of ashes and began playing there.  Evidently ashes and, as she was playing, her dress caught fire.  Startled by the happening, she started to scream and ran across the road toward her home, clothing ablaze by this time.  Her mother saw her coming and as she left the house, she grabbed a rag throw rug from the floor.  When she reached the child, she threw the rug around her and rolled her on the ground.  She was terribly burned over the body but experienced a remarkable recovery.”  A second daughter, Loretta, was born in Riley.

Charles Schaefer operated the Blacksmith Shop until 1919 when the family moved to Lansing.  About a year later Clarence, while riding his bicycle, was struck by a car and he died on October 2, 1920, following the accident.  The Schaefer home was purchased by Aarland Maria (Slim) Tiedt and later, by John and Minnie Martens.  The house is presently owned by Luella Carrus.

Concerning more developments around Forest Hill, the following was quoted by Ernest Hauser from information given to him by Christian Rossow, who passed away February 4, 1972, "Christ Rossow's folks moved from Westphalia area (one mile south and one and one-half miles east) in the spring of 1893, to the place where Christ Rossow lived on Jason Road.  He said they drove the cattle and sheep from Westphalia, down Price Road, then Forest Hill Road, then east on Jason Road.

"On the one forty I own, on the south end, the trees were way out to the road.  It was a very good woods for tapping, until 1930 when a cyclone went through and demolished the greatest part of the woods.  This woods, earlier owned by August and Henry Schrader, was the scene of several Saint Peter Lutheran Church and Fourth of July picnics.

“Christ Rossow said he remembers when they drove the cattle and sheep by the woods, the trees were tapped, and they drank sap out of the buckets.”

“My dad bought the Blacksmith Shop from Charlie Schaefer in 1920, and worked in it on the corner until 1940 when Charles Martin and son, Francis, moved the shop with their truck and W30 tractor with spade lugs, to its present location ‑‑ at the Herman Hauser home on Jason Road.  Before it was moved, the building was setting on large stones, with a plank floor.  In the winter the cold wind and snow used to blow in through the plank floor.”

After the shop was moved, my Dad didn't shoe any more horses, but still ran the shop for another ten or twelve years, until his arthritis got so bad he had to quit.  I still have most of the equipment and tools.

“I still remember when I was a boy and the Blacksmith Shop was on the corner, it was a very busy place for horse-shoeing and repair work in the horse and buggy days, especially on rainy days.  Sometimes there would be a team of horses inside, and four or five more teams waiting outside to be shod.  I also remember that some horses were very hard to shoe because they wouldn't stand still and kicked a lot.  Also, when as kids, many times when we came from school, and on Saturdays, we would have to help Dad by turning the bellows on the forge."

"Charles Martens, father of Herman and Robert, owned the land west of the store to the creek which, is now owned by Leo Fedewa.  Christ Rossow said he used to help plant corn there by hand for fifty cents a day."

Ernest Hauser, who resides on Church Road, mentioned the fact that he had plowed up many pieces of pottery, musket balls, clay pipes, and Indian ornaments in a field just west of his home, leading one to believe that an Indian family had at one time made their home there.

Ernest Hauser -- son of Herman Hauser, born January 7, 18?? [not readable - perhaps 1884] and wife, Emilie (Grenke) born October 6, 1091 -- was born and lived with his parents and three sisters, Lillian, Frieda and Bertha in the home formerly occupied by Fred and Minnie Hopp and, later, by Heinrich and Johanna (Witt) Silm (1912-1919).  Reinhardt Hauser, a nephew, came to live with the Hausers at an early age, at the death of his mother.  Herman passed away March 30, 1964 and Emilie resided at the family home until the past winter when, because of ill health, she has been staying with her children.

Robert Landers, his wife, Mary having passed away before 1912, moved away from the area after the marriage of his daughters.  The home was purchased by Charles and Louise (Schult) Witt, who resided there until 1943 when Louise passed away.  Charles died in 1931. Henry C. and Doretta (Krumm) Witt lived there until August 20, 1977 when Doretta died -- Henry having passed away May 16, 1962.  The property is presently owned by Charles Geller.

The home north of the Woodman Hall occupied by Dr. Banta became home to several families through the years, among them being Michael and Anna Pohl, Hannah Silm, Friederike Sehike, Minnie Irrer and Carl and Edith Light who moved there 1941.  This remained their home until 1965 when they moved to Saint Johns and the property was sold to Fedewa Builders (James Fedewa) in 1976.

The home, second place north of the Woodman Hall and built by Pearl Williams, became home following Charlie Schaefer, to Frederick and Friedericke Schroeder and William and Emma (Martens) Witt in their retirement years.  The home is now the residence of Elsie Horman.

Proceeding north on Forest Hill Road from the intersection, the first farm, on which property the North Riley Post Office was situated (the Post Office was to the north of the house where Fedewa's garden used to be) was originally owned by Stebbins Bliss.  This property was acquired by M. F. Fedewa and later, by his son, Joseph (prior to 1916) where Joseph moved following his marriage to Elizabeth Thelen in 1916.  When they moved there, the barn was located south of the house, close to the road, where the slab was still evident years later.  This was the site of the peppermint still and about 1960 a new home was erected on this site by Joseph Fedewa, Jr. and wife, Janice.  This home is now occupied by Jack Zorn.  Lizzie Fedewa's comments were: "When we were married and moved here in 1916 we did all of our shopping at the Forest Hill Store --groceries, yard goods, and anything else we needed".  The Fedewa children: Bernita, Mary, Odelia, Margaret, Leo, Katherine, Sylvester, Joan, Matthew, James and Joseph were all born and raised here.  Sylvester, Matthew and Joan have dedicated their lives to their Church.  Leo lives on the homestead with his wife, Alberta (Theis) who were married June 21, 1969.  Joseph Fedewa, Sr. passed away while living on the farm in 1958.  His wife, Lizzie, moved to Westphalia several (13 or 14) years ago (about 1965) where she still resides.  Due to the building surge of the 1970’s three new homes have been built to the north near Church Road.

Going west on Jason Road from the Forest Hill corner, the first farm of 40 acres was originally acquired by J. Fink, and the next 40 acres by Charles Hildreth. Later, this 30 acres was obtained by Jacob Schaffer.  Shortly after the turn of the century, this property was obtained by Arthur Wirth and later, by Albert and Pauline (Fedewa) Thelen where their children Roman and Mary were born.  The father, Albert, who was a brother of Elizabeth Fedewa, passed away suddenly when the children were 2 and 1 years of age.  Pauline remained on the farm until the 1960's when she and son, Roman, moved to Fowler.  The present residents are Gerald Pontius.

The next farm of 40 acres was acquired by G. Irish followed by 40 acres which was purchased by C. Martin. In later years this 30 acres was purchased by Mathias and Margaret Fedewa.  Robert, a son now residing near DeWitt tells: "When we lived here the road (Jason) ended at our driveway.  There was no road further west, just woods and swamp land."  The Mathias Fedewas were parents of Joseph, Pauline, Johanna, Dora, Robert, Katherine, Arthur, Rose, and Henry. Mathias passed away when Joseph was 21 and Robert, 9 years of age.  

This farm was later, acquired by Arthur and Dorothy (Schrauben) Fedewa.  Arthur passed way December 15, 1977 and Dorothy is residing on the farm. Their children were Francis Ernest, Kenneth, Helen, Marie, Margaret, Anna, and Bernadette. Several new homes have been erected on the north side of the road in the past few years.  Proceeding south on Forest Hill Road, the first farm remains the home of Francis Martin.  There is a mobile home across the road where Henry and Ivan Rossow reside.

The next farm to the south, the original site of the log home of the Wilcox family and later, the residence of the Andrew J. Chapman and Alfred Lance families, was purchased by Edward and Emma (Schroeder) Luecht from Alfred D. Lance and wife, Hannah, on February 24, 1908.  All seven of the girls were born and raised here and Dorothy, Bertha, Esther, Edith, who passed away May 4, 1975, Florence, Edna and Verna all have many happy memories of the farm and the Forest Hill community. N. R. Pratt used to say, "If you go by the Luecht place and don't see any girls around -- look up in the trees -- they will be there somewhere."  Our Dad served as Township Clerk for some time, and at that time, a bounty was paid for sparrows and rats brought to the Clerk.  I can still see the pails and sacks of sparrow and rat carcasses brought to our home and had to be counted before being paid for out of Township funds. We talk, today, of corruption -- it happened then too.  One day, toward evening, a young lad of about 16, who lived in the southern part of the township, came to the house with a sack containing 10 rattails (the law said rat heads had to be brought). Dad was skeptical and told him he could pay only for heads.  The lad talked so convincing, and that he needed the money so desperately so Dad finally gave him an order for $1.00 -- the price allowed by law.  The following day, a neighbor of the young lad of yesterday (who also happened to be a cousin) appeared at the house with 10 rat head carcasses.  Dad couldn't refuse payment because this lad was within the law, so this lad, also, collected $1.00 for the same 10 rats.  Dad never forgot that incident and, you can be sure, it never happened again.  Edward and Emma Luecht made their home in Saint Johns after 1946 and in 1961 sold the farm to Raymond and Marjorie Gardner who presently reside there.  Edward was born in Westphalia Township, December 18, 1833 and passed away at his home in Saint Johns July 19, 1963. Emma, born in Riley Township, Section 9, on August 16, 1882, died at her home on October 24, 1964.   The next farm to the south had originally been obtained by J. H. Dane and later purchased by John and Vilhelmine (Hahn) Martens. John, born October 3, 1872 and Wilhelmine, born August 22, 1873, became the parents of four children: Florence, passing away as an infant in 1905, Mabel, Howard and Walter.  In later years the management of the farm was taken over by son, Howard. John and Minnie moved to Forest Hill where John passed away October 9, 1957 and Minnie, on April 8, 1965.

Howard Martens, born in Riley on September 20, 1908 and wife, Leona (Behrens) born January 17, 1913, moved onto the farm in 1942, after operating the Forest Hill Store for several years.  Since that time, in addition to farming, Howard has established a successful business enterprise, "Marten's Service", a Deuts dealership and Service and Repair shop has been in operation for many years.  Son, Everette, who lives next place south, continued to carry on the business. Another son, Gary and wife, Karen, have erected a new home on land, which had been part of the Marten farm.

The next farm south, the residence of Everette and Ellen (Snyder) Martens, was originally property of W. B. Owen (east 30 acres) and Charles Boots (west 80 acres).  The property to the east was later obtained by William Krumm and wife, Augusta (Hopp) where they made their home for many years.  William, born in Canal Winchester, Ohio, July 8, 1867 and Augusta, born April 6, 1367, were married October 16, 1888. They became parents of Lulu, Doretta, Johanna, Lillie, Emma, Irene, Johann, Wilhelm and Ernest. William passed away July 2, 1941 and Augusta died February 15, 1949 at their home having lived their entire married life on this farm.

Clemons Kloeckner and wife, Marcella (Witt) reside on the last farm in the mile.  This farm originally was obtained by R. Pinkham and later, by Fred Luecht, Carl Witt and Henry C. Witt. Henry C. Witt and wife, Doretta (Krumn) made this their home after their marriage April 6, 1915, and daughter, Marcella, was born here April 17, 1917.  Henry and Doretta moved to Forest Hill in heir retirement years and Clemons and Marcella have since made this their home.  They have three children, all born here -- Cheryl, Roland and Rhonda.

Going east on Jason Road, two farmsteads were a part of early history.  August Schrader purchased the first farm in 1893 from the D. P. Wilcox estate.  Heinrich Johann Friedrich Schrader, born January 9, 1885, purchased the farm from his father where he built a new home prior to his marriage to Ida Schultz on September 27, 1911.  Ida, born March 12,1892, was the daughter of William and Marie Schultz.  Henry and Ida made their home here, where Marie and Glenn were born, until 1948.  During the cyclone that tore through the community March 28, 1920, they sustained much property loss in the complete destruction of their barn and other buildings.  Henry passed away March 5, 1957 and Ida is living with her daughter and husband, Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph Tiedt.  Walter and Illah (Schaefer) Martens purchased and moved onto the farm in May 1948.

The property to the east of the Schrader farm was first owned by D. J. Peer and later by E. H. Sherman.  William, born March 2, 1887 and Lulu (Krumm) Witt acquired this property in 1910 and -- they lived their entire lives here where Herbert and Howard were born.  The Witt's, too, experienced calamity when the cyclone completely destroyed their home – their house, barn and all out-buildings.  William was in the barn when the storm struck and Lulu and the boys sought shelter in the corner of the basement.  Miraculously their lives were spared and they escaped with minor injuries.  Lulu was born February 7, 1890, and died October 6, 1962, and William passed away January 29, 1969.  During the building surge of the 1970’s several new homes have been built in this mile.

These people mentioned here, and all of them living within a mile of Forest Hill have, each in his own way, become an integral part of Forest Hill history and contributed to the growth and development of the community.  As can be seen, this community has been unique in that many of the residents in the vicinity today were born here, grew up here and have continued to reside in the immediate area.

As the store was moved to its new location by Charles Cowles in 1902, "business was increasing as more farms were being settled in the Forest Hill area.  As one glances through the list of new property owners coming into the community from 1900 to 1915, most of them were newly-weds and they had made a decision as to where they wanted to settle and raise their families.  Money being a scarce item in those days, the neighbors worked together and shared tools and equipment.  Many tasks were done by a crew, such as, threshing grain, buzzing wood, barn raisings, home butchering and many more.  This factor certainly would have a stabilizing effect on a community and one family's misfortune would become the community's concern.  How different today where one hardly knows his next door neighbor!

Charles Cowles, after moving to the new store, operated a successful and expanding business until March 22, 1910, when the Forest Hill Store and business was purchased by Michael Spitzley,Jr, and wife, Gertrude.  Spitzley also owned the Woodman Hall property when the Hopp wedding dance was held there.  Mick Spitzley's employees were Frank Borman and Michael Pohl. Mike Pohl and wife, Anna (Smith) first resided across the road, north of the Woodman Hall, while Mick and his wife lived in an apartment above the store.  Later the space was rearranged and two apartments were built upstairs -- Mike Pohl and family occupied the front and Nick and family occupied the rear apartment.

Memories are countless as we recall the years that followed.  The Forest Hill Store was the center of activity.  These were the years that were spoken of earlier as the meeting place for the community.  Some people, in searching out memories, brought out the telephone booth, located in the center of the store which contained three, and possibly four, different telephones exchanges.  Westphalia was the central line and Saint Johns, DeWitt and possibly, Fowler, were long distance lines coming in.

Forest Hill corner was the center for the mail route which now came out of Saint Johns.  Earliest recollection of the mail delivery was the Star Route out of Grand Ledge in 1910.  This was followed by carrier,  Hildreth, as he drove his horse and Rural Delivery wagon through the area.  The mail then went to Merle Beach with 2 cents first class postage.  When this delivery was changed to the Saint Johns route, the carrier for many years was George Morton and later, Orley Clark.  The R. F. D. #4 route at that time came from the west on Jason Road and continued east, so Fedewas and Bolles from the north and John Martens, Edward Luecht and Charles Martin from the south had to pick up their mail at the Forest Hill corner. Picking up the mail was usually delegated to the kids when we became old enough to safely make the trip and return with the mail.  Memories are many as we patiently (?) waited for the mailman to appear.  Another job usually delegated to the "young fry" was to lead the horses to the blacksmith shop to be shod, and return with them when they were finished.

Mention was made of a time when a circus "came to town" and set up just west of the Forest Hill Store.  These were the years that automobiles were becoming more available but the car was a choice possession which was well taken care of and used only on Sundays and special occasions.  When the car was driven into the shed, the wheels were lifted with jacks to keep the weight off of the tires.  When you were breezing along and a sudden rain shower came up, you pulled up along side of the road and hastily put on the side curtains which were conveniently stored along the top on the inside of the car.  Election Days were special and a "really big day" for the storekeeper.  Early in the morning the car would be loaded with food to take to the Town Hall to supply the hungry appetites there.  A "hunk" of bologna and crackers always made a good combination.  Election Day was not only for the men.  The ladies gathered at homes near the Riley Town Hall and usually tied a comforter or quilted a quilt.

Store-keeping in those days was no easy task -- no 9:00 to 5:30 and -- Wednesday afternoon off job.  The store opened early in the morning for the farmers who needed some supplies before starting their day's work and wasn't closed until everyone went home.

Mike Pohl's wife, Anna, passed away while they were living at the store.

On November 16, 1925, Michael Spitzley sold the store to Walter F. Boos and three months later the store was sold again.  On February 18, 1926, William F. Witt and Edward J. Witt purchased the Forest Hill Store from Mr. Boos. "Soldier Bill" as William Witt was known and Hulda Witt were married May 19, 1926, and Hulda assisted in the store.  They resided in the upstairs apartment.  William Witt and Edward Witt operated the store in partnership until 1928 (?) when William and Hulda moved to a recently purchased farm, one half mile north of the store.  William, born in Riley on December 29, 1894, died at his home, November 10, 1964.  Hulda later purchased a home and moved to Saint Johns where she passed away June 28, 1969.  In April 1929, while under the ownership of Will and Witt, the store was cleared of its counters and fixtures and took on a new look.  For a few years the Forest Hill Store was rented for public dances, as a meeting place for group and public meetings, and one year, possibly 1930, the Saint Peter Lutheran Ladies Aid held their annual Chicken Dinner there.

During these years the store was the scene of many happy gatherings and good times, the first one of which was the wedding dance of Ernest Witt and Leotta Irrer, which occurred on April 30, 1929.  Leotta relates: “Ern went over to the store and helped Ed move the counters so we could have our wedding dance there".  On October 2, 1929, another wedding took place in the Forest Hill neighborhood and the wedding dance of Herman Pasch and Dorothy Luecht was held there.  The Earl Miller orchestra, a popular dance orchestra from the DeWitt area, provided the music and Fred Martens calling:

The first two ladies cross over and side the gentleman stand  
            The side two ladies cross over and all join hands  
            Honor your partner lady, salute your partners all  
            Swing the left hand lady and promenade the hall  

kept the dancers swinging merrily around.

These were the days that Old Fashioned German weddings were still popular.  An outside bowery would be built which would accommodate the guests for the late afternoon meal.  Chicken and chicken soup were a "must" on the menu and it was cooked outside in a huge black open kettle.  After the meal, tables would he cleared away and the evening, until the wee small hours of the morning, would be spent in dancing in the bowery.  The elder guest would enjoy themselves by dancing in the house where John Krause with his concertina, was a popular entertainer.

On July 18, 1931, William P. Witt and Hulda sold their ½  interest in the Forest Hill Store to William C. Witt while Edward Will continued his ½ interest ownership.

In 1932 the store was operated by John Mankey.  He had put in a small amount of groceries and the dances were continued.  Mrs. Mankey relates: “ We had such good times when we were at Forest Hill.  We lived in the apartment above the store and I would put the children to bed and come down and enjoy the dancing.  We served sandwiches at the dances."  This was in Depression time and no one had much gas to travel very far and no money to spend, so the dances at the store were a popular pastime.

The community, as well as the state and nation, was hard hit by the Depression and Bank Holiday and many of the young men worked for other farmers for room and board.  No one actually went hungry but many times beans or corn meal mush had to satisfy hungry appetites.  Several farmers in the vicinity had sugar bushes and made maple syrup. It was a real chore to sell maple syrup at $1.00 per gallon and many used syrup instead of sugar to save money.

After a couple of years, the store operation was taken over by Lawrence Walker who managed the store until 1935.  In 1935 Marten and Hayes bought out the Walker stock and the Forest Hill Store was under new management.  Howard Martens and Ralph Hayes did a tremendous job in reviving activity around the store and community.  They sponsored a ball team and the games were played across the road from the store, to the west of the Blacksmith Shop.  People came from far and near to enjoy the sport, which was a real heart-warmer after some difficult Depression days.  Ralph left the store in 1938 and Walter Martens assisted in the store operation.  Walter Martens and 1Iiah (Schaefer) were married April 27, 1938 and they lived in the apartment above the store.  Illah helped out in the store, as well as, Margaret Behrens. Many smiles emerged when residents recalled: "This was the time when Martens had a license to sell beer but it could not be consumed on store property.  The Woodman Hall was across the road -- not on store property -- and it was a most convenient place, after a hard day's work, to enjoy a good cold bottle of Blatz, Strohs or Pabst Blue Ribbon beer."  To make it even more convenient, an opener was attached to the porch post.

On November 5, 1935, Edward J. Witt and wife, Irene, sold their ½ interest in the Forest Hill Store to William C. Witt making him sole owner of the Forest Hill property.

Several years previous to this, the Woodman Hall and property had been purchased by John Speerbrecker and Charles Silm.  In 1939, or 1940, the Hall, which with the passing of many years, was in a state of disrepair and, was taken down.  With its demolition went much of Forest Hill history and many memories of happy times.

Howard Martens continued the management of the store until 1942 when he took over his parent's farm operation.  Then followed a vacancy of a few years.

On January 23, 1946, the Forest Hill Store came back to life when the store and property was purchased by Elmer W. Marten from William G. Witt. After some changes and remodeling in the interior, the store, again, was in business.  This ownership set a record which was the longest length of time that the store was operated under one owner and operator.  In spite of the many changes and remodeling which was frequently done to the interior of the building, the exterior of the building remained the same as it was constructed in 1902 by Charles Cowles.

Elmer W. Marten, born June 29, 1898, and wife, Doris (Chant), born May 19, 1902, operated the store with the assistance of Neva, the Martens youngest daughter who, after her marriage on June 25, 1947 to Albert Flak, resided in the second apartment above the store. Albert and Neva had three children, Charleon, Phyllis, and Rita born while they lived at Forest Hill.  In 1955 they moved to a home on Centerline Road where daughter, Joanne, was born.  Virginia, born October 10, 1925, the eldest daughter of Elmer and Doris, was married to Leonard Jastram on October 13, 1944 and they are parents of two daughters, Marsha and Elaine. Leonard and Virginia are residents of Watertown Township, on Howe Road.

Elmer Marten operated a successful business in groceries, meats, frozen foods, ice cream, drugs and paint and expanded the hardware and automotive supplies, in addition to gas and oil.  In 1950 plumbing and heating were added.  In addition to Neva

Flak, Jean (Marten) Mayers, Donna (Schaefer) Race, Florence Marten and myself were employees at the store. My period of employment was from August 1954 to November 1962.

Faced with declining health and approaching retirement years, Elmer and Doris Marten made a momentous decision to close the store operation.  On Saturday, July 3, 1965, after nearly nineteen years in the store, Elmer Marten held a Forest Hill Merchandise Sale by which he disposed of the stock and equipment in the store.  On September 22, 1965, the doors of the Forest Hill Store were closed and locked for the last time, closing an era which had existed for 70 years.  After closing the store, Elmer enclosed the porch and remodeled and converted the building into four comfortable apartments -- the Martens living in one and renting the other three.  Elmer W. Marten passed away May 26, 1975 and Doris maintains her residence in the apartment building, formerly the Forest Hill Store.

In recording the history of the Forest Hill area, I have tried, to the best of my ability, to get as accurate information as possible. It is a history of a community that grew, blossomed and faded within a span of 91 years and the common bond, from the time that the early settlers followed State Road, or Dexter Trail, through what is now Riley -- the well-knit community of Forest Hill, had its place of distinction in molding the lives and character of the people who have resided here.  As progress continues to advance, what at one time seemed a necessity, is lost by modern developments.  As the advent of the automobile and other modes of modern transportation lessened the need of the self-sufficient early communities, they certainly have a definite place in the pages of history, even though they are a forgotten community and as Ford S. Ceasar says in his book "Forgotten Communities of Central Michigan" quote, "Time has slowly close the lid upon that chest of historical knowledge".

In conclusion:

June 1979, finds the only remnants that remain of the once active and bustling community, outside of dwellings, are the four family apartment building, once the Forest Hill Store; the barn on the Else Horman property which was the smaller portion of the Cheese Factory; and the Blacksmith Shop, which remains standing on the Amelia and Ernest Hauser property.