Early Churches


By dhowell - Posted on 03 January 2008

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Freedom was organized in 1842 with the Rev. Mr. Friedrich Schmid as pastor. The church was built in 1881 and 106 were listed as parishioners. Two other Lutheran churches were in the township in 1881 according to the Washtenaw County History.

The Methodist Episcopal Church had Rev. Edward Weiss as the pastor and the congregation "was large" (no figure given).

Catholic Church: In 1839 the first Catholic church was erected two miles north of the second church and was served by missionaries, Fr. Kreutel and Bernick. The second church was erected in 1858 with a congregation of 200. The rectory of brick was built in 1873 at a cost of $2,000. This church history ties in with St. Mary's in Manchester.

According to the Washtenaw County History the church buildings were among the finest in the county.

"The Schools of the township are well ordered, and the morale of the children good. It is said that both the young and old form a hive of quiet industry wherein every competitor not of German nativity or extraction must fail to exist. Industry is inculcated in the schools and fostered in the home circles."

William Beuerle came from Wurtemberg, Germany in 1854 and went as far as Wisconsin. In 1861 he returned to the north and purchased land in Freedom Township, built a log house and opened a saloon. He also was a carpenter. He was a member of the Arbeiter Verein of Manchester. He was a Democrat.

Another man who came from Wurtemberg, Germany was William F. Pfitzenmaier. He came to America in 1837 when he was 17 years. For three years he worked by the month and then bought 80 acres in the southern part of Freedom Township. Later he purchased his 180-acre farm located about ten miles southeast of Chelsea. He was a Republican and held a number of township offices. In 1873 he was appointed Postmaster of Fredonia post office which was located in his home. He was the maternal grandfather of the late Edwin Schaible, supervisor of Freedom Township. The post office was in his home and, according to the Washtenaw County Atlas, had a bi-weekly mail. The farm was later known as the Schenk farm at 10850 Waters Road.

When Grover Cleveland became president in 1881, Pfitzenmaier lost his position. A democrat, Henry Renau, became the new postmaster and it was moved to his home at 11061 Ellsworth Road. Henry was the cousin of the late Will Reno. Mr. Reno was township clerk for many years.

John F. Vogel, grandfather of Louis D. Vogel, was the next postmaster. He took office in 1893. In 1897 the office was moved to the corner of Schneider and Bethel Church roads, to the log house of the Eckerts. This was a fourth class post office and the postmaster was assisted by a mail carrier to Chelsea. It is said that the day of issue of the Detroit Free Press governed the mail delivery to Fredonia.

Fredonia post office ceased to exist with the coming of free delivery of rural mail in the early 1900s. In the Washtenaw Atlas of 1874 some 32 families listed Fredonia as the post office.

Rev. Fr. Joseph Staus, pastor at St. Francis and St. Mary's Manchester in 1880, reportedly had 30 families in the Freedom parish and 45 families in Manchester. The Washtenaw History reads, "Fr. Staus is a man of fine education and talent. Broadminded and intelligent, he is liberal and just to all. His kindness of heart and truly Christian charity has won for him the love and respect of all who come in contact with him
.... many others as well, feel that in him they have a true friend."

The Freedom Township census of 1960 lists the population as 1,050. The township is near the geographic center of Washtenaw and the folks who live there are mostly of German descent. They have preached hard-headed economics, hard work and thrift. Their farms show it. They excel all other townships yearly in hogs, sheep and potatoes.

There is no industry, yet some of the area looks like a miniature Texas. At Pleasant Lake there are a series of one-story buildings with roaring metal tubes marked Michigan Gas Storage Co. Thirty communities are served by Consumers Power shuttling gas to nearly 300 consumers as compressors thump night and day. This is by far the largest utility which runs through the area. About one third of the total assessed valuation of Freedom is marked utilities. The total assessed valuation is $3,103,225.

In this network of utilities is the Wolverine Pipe Line Co. And every hour about 168,000 gallons of refined furnace oil, kerosene, etc. flows through. Its storage building is on Fletcher Road. Others are the Michigan-Ohio Pipe Line (headquarters in Alma, Mich.), the American Oil Co., Panhandle Eastern and the Consumers Power, which supplies no electricity in Freedom but furnishes all of the natural gas. The Detroit Edison Co. lines bring in electric power for all the township.

German pioneers are remembered in the names of all but five of the roads in the township. The only large lake is Pleasant Lake surrounded with cottages and year 'round homes. The Pleasant Lake brick school, built for $125,000 in 1953 was consolidated with the Manchester School District. Michigan Gas Storage assessment in the Manchester school district for 1967 is $784,000 and $31,200 in the Chelsea school district.

The lake area has a trailer camp, several stores (grocery and hardware) tavern, service station and the old township hall. In September, 1954, it looked as if Freedom township would have its own "Texas" oil well. A 3,964-foot well was drilled on the Henry Niehaus farm at 3590 Fletcher Road. But the oil supply didn't last and other wells drilled later were dry.

Freedom has more woodland than any other township in the county and nearly 850 acres of reclaimed muckland in the northwest part specializes in raising of potatoes.

There are four country churches. All are well kept. They are: Bethel United Church of Christ, St. Johns United Church on Waters Road, Zion Evangelical Lutheran at Rogers Corners and the St. Thomas Lutheran Church on Ellsworth. A cross and cornerstone in the Catholic cemetery at Bethel Church and Koebbe Roads mark the site of Washtenaw county's second Catholic church, which was dedicated in 1858. The church building was razed in 1933.

The Freedom Township total tax levy for 1966 was $194,218.16. The 1966 school tax levy for the Manchester school district was $122,937.95; Chelsea school district, $27,142.89; Dexter school district, $1,298.23; and Saline school district, $6,547.79 for a total of $157,926.86 in the four school districts.

The township officers are: John C. Miller, supervisor; Harold Eiseman, clerk; Walter Hieber, treasurer; Alvin Weidmayer and Gilbert Luckhardt, trustees; Christian Kuebler and Alfred Trinkle, Justices of the Peace; and Luther Nagel and Paul Egeler, constables.