Ada Township was founded by fur trader Rix Robinson of New York who built the Township's first trading post in 1821, and later made the first land purchase in 1833. Robinson became the first non-native American to live in the Village. A post office was established in 1837. The early settlement was named after Ada Smith, the daughter of the first postmaster. Ada served as a station along the 189-mile Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad (later part of the now defunct Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railway). A plat was recorded in 1857.
According to history, Robinson purchased the trading post from Magdelaine LaFramboise, the granddaughter of Ottawa Indian Chief Kewinaquot (Returning Cloud) and daughter of French-Canadian Fur Trader, Jean Baptiste Marcot. Ada Township was Kent County's first official settlement.
In 1834, Robinson closed his last trading post, one mile down the Grand River from the mouth of the Thornapple. He then began an impressive career of public service, which included Supervisor for the Township of Kent in 1834; Supervisor of Ada Township in 1840; the Associated Judge of Circuit Courts for Kent County in 1844; a State Senator in 1845; the State Commissioner of Internal Improvements in 1846; and a member of the State Constitutional Convention in 1850. He was an important figure in revising the state constitution and was an advocate of woman suffrage. Robinson also negotiated with the Government for the Native Americans and was considered a peacemaker. By 1862, Robinson retired from public life; he is listed in township records of that year as "running a general store."
By 1862 Ada had a number of businesses which included: general stores, a flour mill, a saw mill, hotels, a blacksmith, a carriage maker, a boot and shoe store, two churches, a doctor, three Justices of the Peace, and an attorney. Later, a basket factory was built next to the flour and saw mills on the Thornapple River.
Rix Robinson continued to reside in Ada until his death on January 13, 1875 where he died of "dropsy," most likely congestive heart failure from his home on Headley (now part of the Amway property). It is unclear where he was buried; some say down on the flats, the river bottom land he loved, while others say he is buried in Ada Cemetery.
A monument erected for him in Ada Cemetery reads: "Brave, Honest, Patriotic, A Loving Husband and Father, A Friend of the Indians, Their Negotiator with the Government, and a Peace Maker, Indian Trader on Grand River, 1821; Supervisor Township of Kent, 1834; Supervisor Township of Ada, 1840; associate Judge of Circuit Court for Kent County, 1844; State Senator, 1854; State Commissioner of Internal Improvements, 1846; Member of State Constitutional Convention, 1850."
For more information about the history of Ada Township, visit the Ada Historical Society website, or plan a visit to The Averill Historical Museum located at 7144 Headley Street in the Village of Ada (open Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. or by appointment).
While in the historic Village of Ada, take a leisurely stroll across the iconic Ada Covered Bridge located at Leonard Park. Don't forget your camera! Great photo opportunity!