Township officials hope to relocate historic hall so it can be preserved

March 9, 2023

Township officials hope to relocate historic hall so it can be preserved

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

COLFAX TOWNSHIP — The historical building that served as the Colfax Township Hall for over a century and a half needs to be relocated, and township officials are seeking interested parties willing to move it.

The new township hall completed in 2021.

The old structure located at the corner of Jackson Road and 192nd Avenue has been sitting vacant since the 2021 completion of the new hall located next to it, said Colfax Township Supervisor David Leonard.

The exact age of the original building hall is up for debate, but historical records indicate it could have been built over 150 years ago. “The township itself had a meeting in 1869 to begin the formation of the township,” said Leonard.

“On April 1, 1869, a meeting was held at the home of Samuel Rackcliff to organize a township — the name of Colfax was decided upon those present,” states an old newspaper clipping presumably from Oceana’s Herald-Journal on display inside the new township hall. “Colfax was also the name of a vice president of the United States at that time.”

Early Colfax Township settlers tapped maple trees for syrup and sugar. 

“Fayette Walker built his home in Colfax in Section 22 in 1873. He planted a hop yard and sold hops. There was also a cranberry marsh at the head of Freeman Creek. Cranberries were harvested by Mr. Walker for several years.

“Harvey Sayles owned 40 acres on Section 36,” the article states. “This property was a natural marsh which was cut for hay. This came to be known as Sayles Marsh.

“Some other settlers were: Yates, Jewell, Haskings, Benton, Perring, Baldwin, Rackliff, Gowell, Cole and Carter.

“The first post office in Colfax was the Allen Creek post office with Calvin Woodworth as postmaster in 1882.

“Colfax has the most land in the Manistee National Forest of any township in Oceana County.”

When Anson Freeman settled his family in Colfax, he built an 8-mile-long road and a bridge across a creek to access his home site on Section 36, states literature on display in the new hall. The literature also states that 16-year-old Alphonzo “Fonnie” Woodworth (Calvin’s son) walked to Whitehall when his family’s supply of flour dwindled. Fonnie carried a 50-pound bag of flour all the way back to Colfax.

Inside the old township hall, the old fashioned voting booths with the cloth curtains remain. “All government functions from the 20th century were handled here and all votes and elections were handled here,” said Leonard. “There was over a hundred years of local government that was decided here. There’s actually been some reports that there were some weddings and funerals here.

“So many things are disappearing from the rural landscape like barns and old school houses,” said Leonard. “These old township halls that were around since the beginning of the conception of most of these townships are now also disappearing. It would be nice to somehow preserve this. There just aren’t that many of them around.

“The township would like to relocate the building and have it repurposed so that we can free up our limited space here for parking and other outdoor activities,” said Leonard. 

The township has received guidance with its preservation efforts from Oceana County Economic Alliance Executive Director Curtis Burdette, Leonard said.

Electricity and running water were eventually installed in the building, and a bathroom was added. A handicap ramp was also added to one of the two exits.

“It has a metal roof and it has been vinyl-sided, too. It’s going to last — it’s structurally sound.

“We’re trying to get the word out to any interested parties.” Township officials have been approached about possibly using the building as a storage building, a historical museum or even a restaurant. There has also been an idea to use it as a rental hall for weddings or other events.

The township may be willing to sell the building for $1, so the buyer can absorb moving costs. “We’re not looking to profit. We need the space and would like to preserve something that we think has some historical value for the area. We would prefer to do that rather than demolition, but if we have to, we will demolish it.”

The deadline for the building’s fate is by the end of the year. “We would really like to know what we’re doing with it by 2024, because we have some COVID relief monies that we could use for demolition if need be, and I have to have that appropriated by then. I would really like a resolution by the end of the year.

“We’re a very small township — we only have 446 residents here. We have more deer than we have people here. So, obviously funds are limited. The building is eventually going to have a cost of maintenance. There is currently a cost to insure it. As time goes on, we can’t continue to do that.”

If someone is interested in purchasing the hall, they can call Leonard at (616) 824-8867.

The Colfax Township Board of Review meets inside the new township hall.

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