The Year was 1829...

Two young men, both under 21, set out from Pontiac to explore the Shiawassee River. They were the brothers Alfred Leonzo "A.L." Williams and Benjamin Oliver "B.O." Williams. A.L. Williams and B.O. Williams, sons of Oliver and Mary Williams, were born in Concord, Massachusetts. In the fall of 1815 their father, Major Oliver Williams, emigrated from Massachusetts to Detroit with his wife and nine children, and in 1819 they moved to Oakland County. Both brothers- skilled hunters and educated men- became fluent in the Chippewa language. In the words of B.O. Williams, they set out,

following an Indian trail most of the distance, with our rifles, blankets, a small tent, and what provisions we could carry on our backs. The next day we reached a Chippewa Indian reservation of 3,000 acres on the Shiawassee River. We were kindly received and entertained in the true French manner.

The brothers were impressed by what they found for in August of 1831 they moved to Shiawassee county and settled on land purchased by B.O. Williams, as A.L. was still a minor. This was land adjoining the reservation and about one mile east of current Bancroft. It was called The Exchange and became a flourishing trading post. This was also the summer residence of Chief Wasso, from whom Owosso gained it's name.

The Gatehouse: This building stood at the beginning of the mill race. The gate was raised and lowered to control the water flow as it entered the race.



In the early summer of 1833, B.O. Williams in the company of his guide, Chippewa Chief Esh-ton-equet, traveling on Native American ponies from his post at The Exchange to Saginaw along the Chippewa trail following the course of the Shiawassee, came out on an open plain which skirted the right bank on "Che-bocwating" or "Big Rapids." It was here that he immediately saw the possibilities for water power via the Shiawassee River at what would be called Owosso.

The Williams brothers purchased lands at "Che-bocwating" or "Big Rapids" which was their first purchase of lands in the northern half of Shiawassee County. In the fall of 1835 some improvements were made on it. A.L. Williams saw in that locality, "with its fine water power and good soil, well drained by the river, a future city."

In the spring of 1837, the brothers located permanently to "Big Rapids," where they immediately began extending and adding to the improvements which had been begun under their direction in the fall of 1835.


An eventful year in the history of Owosso, would see the formation of Owosso Township in which Elias Comstock served as the highway commisioner, the mill race and first saw mill completed by Daniel Ball, the Williams Brothers trading post was established in a log cabin that stood on the race, the city of Owosso would be plotted by Daniel Gould, and the Owosso and Saginaw Navigation Company first ran a line of flat-bottomed boats on the Shiawassee River from Owosso to Saginaw.


Chief Okemos

B.O. and A.L. Williams were both known for their warm friendships with the Native Americans. Chief Okemos was the last Chieftan in Mid-Michigan to have lived his life and led his people as tribes had for generations. His passing in 1858 marked the end of a way of life, and the transition of a culture forever. His path began with struggle and courage, turning to concession with honor, yet it was always one traveled with dignity and respect.