Burland to Black Hawk



On Saturday’s bike ride I came to a corner where this old one-room school stood. It’s almost at the extreme southeast corner of Eckford Township, Calhoun County, Michigan. There is still a swing set in the yard, but I don’t think the building is being used as a school. Back when it was a school, kids’ feet would have worn bare spots in the grass. There is a propane tank in back, but no sign that the place is being used as a residence, either. I don’t know who is keeping it in repair but it’s good that it is not being allowed to fall into disrepair.

Sometimes, with an obscure place like this, I challenge myself to a little game. I try to connect it to the Black Hawk story with the fewest possible degrees of separation. The best I could do with this one (after studying the county histories and atlases, and census records) is as follows:

A plat map from the 1870s shows that the land on which this school stands was taken from a parcel then owned by a W. Burland.

W. Burland is probably William, the son of Thomas Burland, who was the first settler in neighboring Fredonia Township, and who was living very near to this school in the 1870s. In fact, even though this school is located in Eckford Township, it seems to have been part of a Fredonia Township school district. At the time of the 1870 census, Thomas was 70 years old. His son William was 44 and was living in the same household, working the family farm.

The 1869 county history says, “Thomas Burland, the first settler, came and located in the east part of [Fredonia Township], May 14, 1832, and still resides on the old place.”

That date is a significant date in the Black Hawk war. It’s the day when the killing started. The episode is sometimes is called “Stillman’s Run,” and it gave its name to the town of Stillman Valley, Illinois (which is to the south-southwest of Rockford). There is information here about what happened on that date.

The war scare had started a few weeks earlier, when Black Hawk and his people crossed the Mississippi. The excitement had already started to die down by the middle of May, but when the news of Stillman’s Run reached Michigan, it stimulated renewed militia activity. We don’t know when the newly arrived Thomas Burland heard the news, but he is not one of the settlers who served in the local militia. (The nearest militia company that was formed was from Marshall, six miles to the north.)

Anyhow, that’s the Black Hawk connection to this school house. It’s not much, but it was the best I could do. I did learn a little bit about the settlement of this part of Calhoun County in the process, so I’ll plead that it wasn’t a complete waste of my time. Whether it’s a waste of the reader’s time is another matter.

The location of the school is shown by the yellow pushpin on the above map.

YTD mileage:  336.5

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