Although travel to and from the township was difficult during the early years, a stagecoach line ran from Three Rivers north to Howardsville and Flowerfield through Section 2, near the present day Pulver Road. The township plat map of 1858, reproduced on page 14, shows a very rudimentary road system; however, the early traces of what later became U.S. 131, M-60 Broadway Road, Coon Hollow Road, and Corey Lake Road and a few others can be discerned.
The Michigan constitution of 1850 had given townships the responsibilities for maintaining roads. Property owners paid a road tax, but it was possible to work out this tax by putting one or two days work on the roads each year. In 1893, the legislature passed a law permitting counties, by vote of residents, to establish road departments to build and maintain arterial roads to serve areas larger than that served by township roads. By 1905, only 18 of the state’s 83 counties had done so. St. Joseph County voted to form a Road Commission in 1912. Its first meeting was on May 4, 1912.
Gross Bridge Built in 1904
The picturesque remains of a double arch masonry bridge that once carried Cowling Road across the Rocky River in the northeast corner of the township has been the subject of many paintings and photographs as well as considerable citizen curiosity. Its history was researched in 1975 by Helen Wickman, whose interest in and enthusiasm for local history was instrumental in having downtown Three Rivers designated as a National Historic Site.
Mrs. Wickman found that the Township Board awarded a construction contract for the bridge in June 1904 to Charles R, Jackson and Brother for $1,550. It was the third bridge built on the site. Earlier bridges had been built to facilitate travel on the then vital road between Three Rivers and Flowerfield, which then had flour mills and a tavern that served as stage coach stop on the route to Kalamazoo. The official name, Mrs. Wickman found, was Gross Bridge, but it was frequently referred to as “Grass Bridge” because the road surface was sod. Gross Bridge was only in use for about five years because, according to township records, there was fear it would collapse and it was deemed unsafe for travel. Remarkably, its piers and arches have remained in place for more than a century, although not usable by vehicles. Because the bridge was built prior to 1912, when St Joseph County established a Road Commission, it does not belong to the public, but to three adjacent property owners.