Detroit township is situated on the Illinois river and Consists for the most of broken land. To Lewis Allen belongs the honor of being the first settler in the township. He came in 1823 and erected a cabin on section 31. He was a native of Warren county, Ky., and was born Nov. 11, 1794. Garrett Van Deusen, Wm. Meredith and a Mr. Morgan, also, were very early settlers in this township. The first birth in the township was a daughter of David and Hannah Mize, who died in infancy, which was also the first death to occur. The first marriage was Robert Cooper to Nancy Rice in 1826, at the residence of Wm. Meredith. The first sermon was preached by Rev. Elijah Garrison, a Christian minister, at the house of David Mize in 1826. The early pioneers were industrious people and were not neglectful of the education of their children; for as early as 1827, David Mize, Ezekiel Clemmons, Wm. Meredith, Joseph Neeley and others banded together and erected a school-house on section 16., and employed a teacher, placing their children in their charge for instruction and intellectual improvement. The first teacher was Abraham Jones.
The next great question which occupied the minds of these noble fathers and mothers was the preparations for public worship. They accordingly organized themselves into a body, or rather each person considered himself one of the building committee, and as early as 1834 there was a church building erected by the Baptist at Blue river graveyard. Previous to this meetings were held in school-houses and private dwellings.
Garrett Van Deusen was the first Justice of the Peace, and Isaac Teniff the first Supervisor. The township received its name from the postoffice which had been established several years previously, and named by Col. Daniel Bush at Pittsfield and Wm. Johnson, the first postmaster at Detroit.
The pioneers had many encounters with wild animals during the early settlement of the county, two or three of which, related by Mrs. Dinsmore, who is still residing in this township, we will place on record in this connection. On one occasion, while she and her husband were passing through the woods, a huge lynx came bounding up behind her and grabbed her dress with his claws. She hastily called the dogs and they quickly came to her side. The wild animal loosened his hold and gazed upon the dogs. They were greatly frightened and did not attempt an attack upon the lynx, but ran to the house. The lynx, too, concluded to leave and took to the forest.
The same lady tells of another time when she was attacked or about to be attacked by one of these fierce creatures. She was engaged in the woods making sugar, with her camp fire near a large log. She heard a noise upon the opposite side, which was made by the lynx just in the act of preparing to make a leap, as she supposed. She set the dog upon it, and as it sprang over the log he alighted upon a large, powerful lynx. The fierce contest that ensued was a short one, for the dog was completely overpowered; and as soon as he could release himself from the clutches of his antagonist he "run home a howlin' with his tail between his legs, and run under the house," where he remained for some time.
We will give Mrs. Dinsmore's panther story in her own language as nearly as we can. "One day when I was a-comin' thro' the woods I seen a large painter come out of the brush and begin to drink out of a puddle of water in the path; and I shooed at him, and he paid no attention to me, and I took off my bonnet and shooed and shooed at him; but he wouldn't shoo; he jist staid there and lapped away till he got done and then went off."
Mrs. Dinsmore also relates that she was once standing in the door when she saw her father stab and kill an Indian.
Big Blue Hollow. -- This is quite an historical locality. In 1842 it ranked as the second place in the county in the amount of business transacted. There were then three flouring mills, a saw- mill, and a store in this mountainous-looking region; these mills were known by the name of Providence Mills, and were owned by Jonathan Frye. In 1835 he erected there a two-story frame house and sided it with shaved clapboards; this house is still standing there, with the old siding upon it, and is occupied by Mr. Wm. Reynolds and family.
FLORENCE - This is the oldest town in Detroit township, and was founded in 1836 by the Florence Company; this company was composed principally of Pittsfield business men, among whom were Austin Barber, Robert R. Greene, Wm. Ross, Thos. Worthington and James Davis. The town is located on the Illinois river, and was intended for river transportation for the town of Pittsfield, and a gravel road was constructed from Pittsfield to this place. The land was first settled by John Roberts. Col. Wm. Ross and Stephen Gay kept the first store in the place. A saw mill was erected here in 1836, by the Florence Company, which was converted into a steam flouring mill in 1842. During the early pioneer days Florence was known by the name of Augusta.
DETROIT - This lively little business village was founded in 1837 by Peter H. Lucas, and named by him after the postoffice which had been established at this point some years previous. Soon after Henry Neeley added to the town plat what is known as Neeley's addition, and consists of all that part of town north of Main street. Detroit contains 2 general stores, 1 drug store, 2 blacksmith shops, 1 wagon manufactory, 1 shoemaker's shop, a millinery store, and a broom factory. Three physicians reside in the place. There are in the town 3 church edifices and 4 church organizations. The citizens have erected a fine two-story brick school-house and employ two teachers.
CHURCHES - Detroit Christian Church -- This church was organized Feb. 25, 1876, by Elders Rufus Moss and J. W. Miller, with a membership of 33. The first deacons were Nathaniel Smith and John Turner. C. L. Hall was appointed Elder and afterward elected to that office, in company with his brother, W. C. Hall. The present Deacons are Albert Field and John Turner. The congregation sustains a large and interesting Sunday school, which was organized the first Lord's day in 1876, with 25 members. It now has an attendance of about 85, with W. C. Hall as superintendent. The congregation at present worship in the house belonging to the Predestinarian Baptists. The present membership is 140. Elder Thomas Weaver is Pastor.
Detroit M. E. Church, South -- This society was organized in 1861, and consisted of parties who left the Methodist Episcopal Church on account of the political excitement that then pervaded all of the Churches. They erected a meeting-house in 1870, and sustain a Sabbath morning and evening by Rev. J. Metcalf, Pastor.
Detroit M. E. Church --The Methodists had an organization in this township at an early day. As early as 1828 this people held a camp meeting on the Meredith farm, sec. 16. The exact date, however, of the first organization of this society is not certainly known. The congregation erected a brick house, 36 by 48 feet in size, in the town of Detroit, in 1857, at a cost of $1,500. The Church now sustains a good Sunday-school, has preaching each Sunday evening and each alternate Sunday morning, by Rev. James A. Wills, Pastor. The number of communicants at present is 75.
Detroit Predestinarian Baptist Church -- In the year 1828 the Baptists began holding services in the Blue river school-house, and in 1834 they erected a church edifice. Soon after this the question of missions divided them, and the Missionary Baptists retained this house, and in 1840 the Predestinarians formed another organization. The former society is now extinct, and the latter, by the help of others, in 1857 erected a house of worship in Detroit. They have no regular services, the society being very weak.
History of Pike County - Charles M. Chapman 1880