Community Endowment connects present with historic figures

HISTORIC—Members of the Myers family on hand for the awards ceremony.
HISTORIC—Members of the Myers family on hand for the awards ceremony.

This spring, The Rockford Squire reported that five historic people in the Rockford area were honored at Recognition Plaza at Peppler Park. The event is a newer tradition in its second year and organized by the Rockford Area Community Endowment (RACE). Each year, RACE will honor people from the City of Rockford and the townships of Algoma, Cannon, Courtland and Plainfield.

In addition to the gift of grants, recognizing the people who have contributed significantly to the history of the area is among the Endowment’s goals. When visiting the beautiful Peppler Park Recognition Plaza (on the west side of the dam), take the time to read the names on the bricks under your feet and in plaques on the columns in the park. The following is one more of the stories of this year’s honorees, with others to follow in future issues of the Squire.

William H. Myers Sr.

William H. Myers, an early settler in Kent County and the man for whom Myers Lake was named, filled his 92 years of life with adventure, accomplishment and community leadership.

Myers, born in Ireland in 1818, was brought to America as an infant. In 1830, the family moved to Michigan Territory. At 15, Myers secured parental consent to leave home and seek his fortune. He first spent three years as cabin boy on a Lake Michigan sailing ship, then a number of years serving on ocean vessels and traveling to South America, Venezuela, and the Falkland Islands. From there, he shipped on a whaling boat for three years as first mate in the Upper Pacific.

He returned home in 1840 and married Elizabeth Dancer, producing a family of nine children. In 1847, the Myerses came to Courtland Township and purchased 160 acres of uncleared land for $1.25 per acre. In the 1840s, there was an increasing stream of settlers in the townships of Plainfield, Cannon, Oakfield and Courtland, but towns were few. Courtland Center (at what is now 13 Mile Road and Myers Lake Avenue) was a stagecoach stop. Laphamville (now Rockford) was a small village on the Rogue River.

Over the years, Myers improved his farm until it was one of the best in the region. This active farm is still in the Myers family, owned by Roberta Keech and her sister Harriet Gordon. The farm has been successfully included in the Preservation of Development Rights (PDR) program. Since purchased by Myers, this land has been tilled continuously by him and the following family members:  William Myers Jr., Charles and Zellah Keech, and George and Elizabeth Keech. Today, the land is leased and continues to be farmed.

Myers served his community 19 years on the Courtland Township Board of Supervisors. Although a Democrat by preference, he gained the reputation of fairness and bipartisanship whenever community welfare was involved. He died May 29, 1911, a few days short of his 93rd birthday. Today, Myers Lake (originally called Silver Lake) and Myers Lake Avenue honor his memory.

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The Squire has been Rockford’s free weekly newspaper since 1871. Our loyal readership includes over fifteen thousand homes in the Rockford area, including the affluent Lakes area of Lake Bella Vista, Bostwick Lake and Silver Lake; Belmont, Blythefield, as well as Algoma, Courtland, Cannon and Plainfield Townships. The Squire is distributed through the U.S. Post Office every Thursday. We also deliver to in-town businesses and homes with paper carriers and news stands in our grocery stores and over thirty local shops.