“The Sugar River runs through it.”
1878 – 2011
It has been said that if you want to feel humble, the best thing to do is to stand in your back yard, close your eyes and try to imagine what your property looked like 1,000 years ago. Open your eyes and note the differences that have taken place in the last millennium. Close your eyes again and try to imagine what your property will look like in the next 1,000 years. This exercise helps us realize that change is inevitable and whatever plans we have for the future will disappear over time.
1,000 years ago, I imagine that Butman Township was a vast forest where crystal clear streams flowed and wild animals proliferated. The township’s first recorded settlers were the Lovell P.Sherman family. They arrived by covered wagon from Providence, Rhode Island in1878….133 years ago. They built a two story log house on sections 7 and/or 8 between Hilts and Sugar River Roads. They also built and owned the first store and post office. Lovell’s daughter, Carrie Sherman was the first Post Mistress. Other early settlers included Truman Arnot, George Cunningham, Fances Burkett, Ira Babcock, Charles & William Westover, John Abbott and Aeron Brown. Other families soon followed. They all came to harvest the vast supply of lumber that was cut, unloaded and floated down the Sugar, Cedar and Pine Rivers into Saginaw Bay. In 1891, they built the first school house located near the property set aside for what is now the Butman Township Cemetery. Many of these early settlers and/or their children are buried “on the hill” in Butman Cemetery. Esther Abbot, the wife of John Abbott, was the first person to be buried there. She died in 1884 at the age of 34. There are now 696 people buried there….including Lovell and Carrie Sherman who both died in 1906.
The first “town meeting” was held at the Albright Lumber Company located at Butman and Grass Lake Roads. Grass Lake itself was located in the NW corner of section 20….now the south end of Lake Lancelot. Butman Township was formed in 1883 and was named for Myron Butman who lived in Saginaw but had business interests here. At a meeting held in the school house on April 7, 1884, the following settlers were elected: Lovell Sherman, Supervisor; George Cunningham, Treasurer and Frances Burkett, Clerk.
In or around the year 1914, Butman Township had grown to over 275 parcels (as shown on the plat map at that time). Today, there are approximately 4,000 parcels located throughout the township. The township boundaries are: Sargent Road (North), Wirtz Road (South), M-30 (East) and F-97 or Round Lake Road on the West. Since 1914, farming has been the primary source of income. There are a few small service type businesses but the schools and the post offices have long since disappeared.
The township entered the roaring twenties when a dance hall was built by Violetta (Cronk) Brooks near the point where Grass Lake Road now turns into Kings Way. The men had to pay 25 cents to dance all night but women and children were free. When more roads were paved and automobiles became popular, people from Saginaw and the Detroit area discovered the beauty of Butman Township and the recreational possibilities it presented. Land was being sold to hunters and people who wanted to build cabins or cottages near the water.
In the late 1960’s, Isaacson and Associates, a development firm, recognized the possibility of building a community that would afford prospective buyers the opportunity to purchase land and build homes on lakes and golf courses. It was then that the Sugar Springs Development began to take shape. Some 30 land owners sold over 3,600 acres to Isaacson who divided the land into 3,000 parcels and added Lakes Lancelot and Lancer for fishing and recreational purposes. Isaacson, at the direction of the DNR, deeded property to the township for a boat launch on Lake Lancelot. The township operates and maintains the boat launch which is open to the public.
Paved roads were added; along with a sewer system, an 18 hole championship golf course, a restaurant, activities center, olympic size swimming pool, tennis courts, several beach areas, a horse riding stable, picnic areas, chalet and campgrounds. Today more than 1400 homes have been built in Sugar Springs. In the mid 1990’s the Lakeside/Castleview Condominium Complex began to take shape at the southern end of Lake Lancer. A challenging 9 hole golf course (Lakeside Golf Course) has been completed and several condominiums have been sold. The contractor, DeShano Construction Company, is now the Sugar Springs Developer and this new complex is part of Sugar Springs. In 2003, DeShano also purchased property in the north end of section 29 that has been developed into 30 parcels known as the Willow Bay Development.
The 2010 census shows 1,999 permanent residents living in Butman Township and there are 1,979 registered voters. Sugar Springs residents represent some 60-65% of the total. The demographics show that most of the people living in the township are either retirees from the business world or those who own agricultural or hunting property. The majority of people who bought property and later built homes in Sugar Springs….retired from the auto industry, Dow Chemical, the school system or were employed by various full time fire or police departments. It should be pointed out that there are a substantial number of properties in Sugar Springs that are owned in absentia. A large percentage of the tax dollars paid on Sugar Springs properties come from those that maintain their main residence in other areas of the country. They reside mainly in Michigan but are also located as far west as California and as far east as Florida.
Butman Township tax dollars have had a tremendous impact on Gladwin County and we are the county’s largest contributor. In taxable year 2007, Butman paid $4,681,736 in property taxes. $1,165,716 went directly to Gladwin Area Schools; a remarkable sum considering the fact that this money came from non-homesteaded property owners. In addition, the total dollars spent in Gladwin by Butman residents for goods and services has increased sales and contributed to the significant growth of businesses throughout the county.
In the past ten years, the Butman Township Board of Trustees has been dedicated to moving the township forward by implementing the following projects:
- Charged with the task of overseeing an old clay pipe sewer system, the township privatized the waste water plant when it hired Earth Tech, Inc., an international firm, to operate and maintain our wastewater operations. The township recently installed an ultraviolet system to purify waste water before it enters the Sugar River. A laboratory has been installed to help us regularly monitor the quality of our water. Our lakes continue to be free of dangerous contaminants and we are dedicated to keeping it that way.
- In 2000, a new fire department was constructed and is now operated by sixteen dedicated, well trained volunteers who have saved many lives and kept property loss at a minimum.
- The township cemetery has been expanded with the addition of new grave sites, roads and other amenities.
- The township has adopted the latest software and equipment to handle our tax programs, fire programs, billing system and general ledger.
- The township hall and offices have been expanded to include needed storage space for township records; along with additional space for elections and hall rentals.
- In 2002, a seven year program to re-pave 35 miles of Sugar Springs roads and construct other roads in the township, was entered into by the township and County Road Commission. We are in the last phase of completing this project.
- The township is currently working with Agri-Valley Communications to build a communications tower in the township
- In the summer of 2007, the township added re-cycling to our solid waste program.
There have been many other projects completed in the past ten years but the above are the most notable. Financially, the township is in good condition…. with adequate reserves in all funds. We look forward to the next 1000 years. We can only imagine what Butman Township will look like then.
Respectfully submitted for the Butman Township Board…