Some information from:
Portrait and biographical album, Mecosta County, Mich. : containing portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Michigan and of the presidents of the United States : also containing a complete history of the county, from its earliest settlement to the present time.. Chicago: Chapman Bros., 1883.
The township was organized in 1858, under the name of Leonard. Luther Cobb was the first Supervisor (*note - other sources have listed that on April 5, 1858 the first township elections were held and Jesse Shaw was elected Supervisor of Leonard Township).
In 1865, by act of the Legislature, the name was changed to Big Rapids.
The first white settler of the township was John Parish, who located on Section 14, in 1851, and was also one of the first two settlers in the county. Many of the first events in the county occurred in the township. The first birth in the township and also in the county was that of Alice Brockway, daughter of William and Margaret Brockway, February 12, 1853. The first marriage in both township and county was that of Silas Moore and Sally Frence, solemnized by Elder Kelley in the fall of 1854. The first frame dwelling was the two-story boarding house built by Warren & Ives in 1857. The first mill was the water-power sawmill, also built by Warren & Ives in the spring of the same year. This was the first frame structure in town; and a run of stone afterwards added, made it the first grist mill in the county. The first school house was a two-story frame building, erected in 1859, on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Oak Street, in Big Rapids, and was afterwards known as the First Ward school house of the city. The first school was taught by Mrs. Mary Fuller, in the summer of 1860.
The population of Big Rapids, (then Leonard) Township in 1860 was 317. In the 2010 census, the population was 4208.