FREE SOIL Township, MASON County

In Mason County many of towns and village’s names have relevance to the time the area was settled, which was in the mid-1800s. Many of our towns and villages are named after civil war heroes such as Mason, Meade, Grant, Logan, Custer, and Victory. As we all know, Free Soil is the most unique name of them all.  The name was established by a short-lived political party before the Civil War.

The Free Soil Party was founded on a single issue, to oppose the expansion of slavery into the Western territories. The party had originated in New York after the state Democratic convention refused to endorse a proposed law that would have banned slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico during the Mexican-American War. A faction of Democrats known as the Barnburners objected to slavery in the territories and opposed the 1848 Democratic nominee Lewis Case.

The Barnburners joined with anti-slavery members of the Whigs Party and the Liberty Party to the Free Soil Party. Martin Van Buren, ran as the party’s nominee for the Presidential Election of 1848 and Charles Francis Adams Sr. ran as his vice president nominee. However, Zachary Taylor from the Whig Party won the election and served as President until his death in 1850. The party was mostly observed into the Republican Party between 1854 and 1856 by way of the Anti-Nebraska movement. However, Martin Van Buren was the 8th President of the United States serving from 1837 to 1841 after serving as the Vice President and the tenth Secretary of State, under President Andrew Jackson. The party was mostly observed into the Republican Party between 1854 and 1856 by way of the Anti-Nebraska movement.

In 1848, Free Soil Township in Mason County was named after the party. At that time, the township stretched from Lake Michigan to what is now the Lake County line, making up the townships of today, Grant, Free Soil, and Meade townships. The first settlement of the township was located where Guerney Creek empties into Lake Michigan in what is now Grant Township. Grant Township was divided when Mason became a county in 1855. Meade Township was divided in the early 1910s. The railroad was extended to Free Soil around 1882 and the village was incorporated in 1912.The village has a total area of 1.04 square miles. The village is close to the intersection of Free Soil and Custer Roads, and the Big Sable River runs just east of the village. Many of Free Soil’s settlers were loggers.

Village of Free Soil

As of the census of 2010, there were 144 people, 64 households, and 41 families residing in the village. The population density was 138.5 inhabitants per square mile (53.5/km2). There were 84 housing units at an average density of 80.8 per square mile (31.2/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 95.8% Caucasian, 1.4% African American, and 2.8% Native American. 

There were 64 households, of which 23.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.9% were married couples living together, 15.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 1.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 35.9% were non-families. 31.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.5% had someone living alone who was age 65 or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.76.

The median age in the village was 44.9 years. 20.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.7% were from 25 to 44; 28.5% were from 45 to 64; and 20.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the village was 51.4% male and 48.6% female.

In 2019, Free Soil had a population of 103 people with a median age of 47.6 and a median household of income of $53,125. Between 2018 and 2019, the population of Free Soil grew from 87 to 103, a 18.4% increase and the median income household grew from $51,250 to $53,125, a 3.66% increase.

Free Soil previously operated a two-building K-12 school district in the village, with the high school closing in 2007 and the elementary closing in 2011. The school had been in operation since 1913. Currently, Mason County Eastern school absorbed most of the district, but a small section is in the district of Mason County Central. The addition added to the original school is now used as the Senior Center and also rented for weddings, funerals, car and gun shows, and even sporting events, such as the now popular pickleball.

Free Soil Township

According to the United States Census Bureau, the township has a total area of 39.22 square miles (101.58 km2), of which 38.80 square miles (100.49 km2) is land and 0.42 square miles (1.09 km2) (1.07%) is water.