In each historical period since the founding of Henrietta Township in 1837, the community has served as a foundational step towards the future. The early settlers took pride in their farming and community spirit.
In 1816 a French fur trader John Batteese Berrard (Baptiste Barboux) made his home and ran a well supplied trading post on the east side of Batteese Lake. A historical plaque commemorating this is located on Bunkerhill Rd. As natural resources and the fur trade declined, the Potawatomi began to rely more heavily on commodities and white government. The Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Jackson in 1830. Early settlers, John and Robert Davidson arrived in 1831 and built a saw mill on the Inlet of Batteese Lake. The timber was considered abundant made up of ash, oak, maple, hickory, walnut and tamarack. John Westren from England bought 1,800 acres around Pleasant Lake. R.R. Whitey settled at the present White's Lake named in his honor.
By 1836, twenty-seven new families choose this territory of West Portage to settle. Hiram Archer built the first frame house in section 5 and Thomas Tanner became a proud father to a newborn son. They considered the sandy loam a rich soil and grew crops of wheat, rye, oats, barley, corn, and potatoes. The first town meeting was held April 24, 1836 where folks made Sherlock Patrick the Supervisor and Alfred Hall the Justice. West Portage was organized into a township in 1837 with fourteen votes cast. 1837 also brought delivery of the Jackson Citizen newspaper. The area was struck with general illness in 1838. The township was renamed in 1839 to Henrietta by H.H. Hurd Esq. after his native home in New York. John Davidson became the first postmaster in the town of Henrietta (Layton Corners), and after that Sam Prescott held the post for 20 years. The first school was established on McCreery Rd. at Territorial, in section 10. Construction of eight more schools followed shortly throughout the township. The Methodist church was first built in Gassville (northwest corner of Territorial Rd. & Fitchburg Rd.) but later moved to Munith as the Grand Trunk R.R. Line was constructed. Six more churches came soon after to serve the region. Workman found Indian bone while road-making in 1859 and gave them a Christian burial beside the road. Harrington was the oldest cemetery in the area. In 1860 six Munith residents went off to battle in the Civil War. Area residents also fought in the Spanish- American War, WWI and WWII.
Extensive wetlands occurred in the watershed prior to European settlement. Emergent marshes, wet prairie, fens, bogs, conifer swamps, lowland hardwoods and shrub/scrub were the most common wetlands (Comer 1995). They stored and retained floodwater, allowing the water to be slowly released, evaporate or percolate into the ground thereby recharging groundwater.
Between 1917 and 1920 the Portage River was straightened and deepened and renamed the Portage River Drain. The Portage Drain is 20 miles long with a grade of about 0.02% per 100 feet (USDA 1963b). Because of the flat stream gradient throughout the area, floodwater in the Grand River often backs up into the Portage River Watershed. Numerous ditches and tiling drained adjacent wetlands creating some of the most productive farmland in Jackson County. The organic soils produced lucrative success for many farm operations such as Lacerne Dixon "the onion king". The Portage River was designated an inter-county drain during the 1900's. Since its construction, it has been cleaned several times. The lower portion was last cleaned in 1944 (Ibid). A United States Department of Agriculture 1972 study concluded that a solution to the flooding problems would require channel improvements to 11.5 miles of the Portage River and Orchard Creek and 10 miles of the Grand River. Flooding caused damage to crops at least 5 times during the 1990-2001 period based on USDA Farm Service Agency records from 1990 - 2001 in Jackson County. Crops were probably affected by flooding between 1969 and 1989, but FSA no longer has those records. The last flooding occurred in the fall of 2001 when high water prevented the harvest of some crops and restricted use of pasture. Many farmers along the Portage Drain went bankrupt in the late 1970s and their land was taken out of cultivation. Sedimentation and other geomorphologic changes resulting from log jams and channel restrictions along the Portage Drain (Hubbell, Roth & Clark, Inc. 1999) restrict the flood carrying capacity. Now, much of the former cropland lies idle because of flooding, low crop prices, and wildlife damage. Only 3 larger farming operations exist in 2002 where once there were many. Flooding of cropland along the Portage Drain will get worse. The last study of the Portage Drain determined that the benefit-cost ratio did not justify making improvements (USDA 1972).