WHO SOME OF THEM WERE
AND WHAT THEY DID.
DARIUS WINSOR and family, who came with the pioneer colony to Ionia in 1833, and down to the Rapids in the following year, were among those who gave impulse and vigor to the young settlement. Darius was the second Postmaster here, and served as a town officer for some years. Before coming he had been a victim of the hard eastern law of imprisonment for debt, hence had little capital to start with in these woods other than the stout hearts and sturdy energy of himself and his boys, Zenas G. and Jacob W. Winsor. They built them a log house at Ionia, and were the first to transport household goods for the colonists by pole boats up Grand River from its mouth. A portion of their lumber for building at Ionia was carried in small boats from the Indian mission mill at Grand Rapids.
ZENAS G. WINSOR was born in Skaneateles, N.Y., December 14, 1814; the oldest son of Darius and Sally Winsor (the former a native of Smithfield, R.I., and the latter of Pittstown, N.Y.). He acquired a fair education in the common schools of his native State. In 1830, the business misfortunes of his father, under the old barbarous law of imprisonment for debt, threw upon him and a younger brother the burden of supporting the family, including five young children. For that he left school, engaged as clerk in a store, and was assistant to a physician during the prevalence of cholera among them in 1832. In the spring of 1833 the family came with the Dexter colony to Ionia, and the next year to Grand Rapids, where the parents died in 1855. Zenas was one of the first to transport lumber from Grand Rapids and goods from Grand Haven up the river to Ionia. As soon as they were fairly housed there, in the fall of 1833, he came with the Territorial County Seat Commissioners as axman, and drove the stake to mark the site selected for the Kent County Court House. He then engaged with the pioneer fur trader, Rix Robinson, as clerk, and proceeded to Grand Haven to take charge of the trading post there, with three or four aids. That was then the headquarters of a large number of posts, ranged at convenient points between Kalamazoo on the south and Little Traverse Bay on the north. On his appearance among the Indians as a trader (after treating them with a gallon of was-ka-boga-mic, a drink compounded of acid and sugar, with a little whisky to preserve it, for Indian names must be paid for in those days), the Indians named him Che-mo-kee-maness (young Englishman); but a little later changed it to No-ba-quon (ship or vessel) on account of a transaction they supposed him connected with on a small vessel at the dock. This change of name cost him two gallons of the beverage mentioned. After about a year he came up to the Rapids and erected a small store at the corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets, where Wilson’s drug store now is, his employer having offered to stock it and share with him the profits. This enterprise fell through. He remained with Mr. Robinson some time longer at an increased salary, and then drifted into other walks of trade. In 1836, with Edward P. Macy, a New York banker, he opened an exchange or brokerage at Ionia, where the land office had been located, and in that business, until the financial revulsion of the following year, made a marked success, exchanging currency for the numerous land buyers. In 1838 he married Emily Hopkins, of Grand Rapids, who lived but eight months thereafter. In 1840 he married Mrs. Hannah Tower, who died September 28, 1869. He again married, in 1874, Mrs. Anne M. Kilgore, his present wife. At the organization of Plainfield, Kent county, he lived in that township, and was chosen its first Supervisor; also Justice of the Peace. Returning to Grand Rapids in 1843 he became interested in a pail factory; then soon after in mercantile trade, in the Faneuil Hall block. With his brother Jacob W. he was also engaged in manufacturing and exporting lumber for several years. About 1850 he built for a residence a stone house, considered in those days a very fine building, at the junction of Washington street and Jefferson avenue. In the following year he went to California, and spent nearly two years there, in Mexico, and further south. Returning, he engaged with Daniel Ball in the steam boating business on the river, which he followed until 1859, when he went to Pennsylvania, and there was for a time President and Manager of the Tioga County Bank. Again he returned to this city and engaged in the dry goods trade until 1863, when he sold out and went to look after an investment in Nevada silver mines, which he soon discovered was lost. Next he engaged in trade-purchase and shipment of goods between New York and Grand Rapids. In 1866 he operated in developing oil wells and the petroleum trade, in Canada, with only moderate profit. In 1868 he engaged at Grand Haven in the storage, forwarding and commission business, in which he remained until about 1885, when he returned to Grand Rapids. Mr. Winsor has always been a busy man. He could never be idle. He would always be doing something, either on his own account or for somebody else-wide awake and ready to push things. Of temperate and regular habits, he is yet well preserved and active. Socially, he is genial and pleasant, and uniformly friendly; a gentleman for fifty-five years and more enjoying the good will and good wishes of everybody in this community, which he has delighted in calling his home, during all his business life.
JACOB W. WINSOR was but a lad of 18 years when he came to Grand Rapids in 1834. He was born at Skaneateles, N.Y., June 11, 1816. He was the son of Darius and Sally Winsor, who came with the Dexter colony to Ionia in the spring of 1833, to which place he also came in the same year. It is related that on his way he had purchased an Indian pony, and before arriving at his destination was one night beleaguered by wolves, whereupon he tied the pony and betook himself to a tree top until daylight, thus escaping the wolves but losing his pony. He was an energetic young man, and ready for almost any creditable adventure, turning his hand with alacrity to whatever work he could find to do. During the first three or four years here, he was engaged in the Indian trade, in the employ of others, and learned to speak the Indian language fluently. At the time of the great flood in the river, in the early part of 1838, he, at much peril to himself, caught a flat-bottomed boat which came down with the ice, and by its use rescued a family form the upper part of a building that was surrounded by the raging waters at the foot of Huron street, further particulars of which gallant exploit are given elsewhere in this volume. In 1844, he engaged in building, for himself, the Faneuil Hall block, yet standing above the head of Waterloo on Monroe street. With but little means, but indefatigable energy, he drew stone from the river, and in the following year completed a contract of which time was the essence, thereby holding his lot and the building. From that time onward through life he was ever the rough-and-ready, energetic, bustling, pushing citizen, known to all residents; outspoken in opinion, jocose, combative in action, putting on no airs, making no polished pretenses, yet tender and sympathetic, with open hand and charitable impulses. In partnership with his brother Zenas, the two had for some years an extensive business in trade and in lumbering. In 1851 he erected a neat stone house for a residence, still standing, on Washington street. Several years later he removed and built another pretty house a little east of the city limits. Mr. Winsor had unbounded faith in the growth of Grand Rapids, and in the development of resources possessed and attempts to develop others then supposed to exist, he invested boldly his means and his labor; often to meet with failure and disappointment, but opening lines of business afterward of benefit to others more sluggish and less adventurous. He married Nov. 27, 1838, Miss Harriet Peck, also one of the pioneers. He died Dec. 26, 1874, leaving a widow, two sons and three daughters. To the early development and later growth of this city, the labors of Mr. Winsor contributed no small share.
Barney Burton came in from Ypsilanti in 1833. He was prominent in the township of Paris, where he improved an excellent farm, yet always seemed identified with this city, into which he moved and spent the closing years of his life, a respected, thoroughly upright and conscientious citizen. He was born in Greenfield, Saratoga county, N.Y. March 16, 1807. Josiah Burton located two or three tracts of land, and settled on the east side of Division street; afterward lived on West Bridge street. These brothers both served the public acceptably in official positions.
Eliphalet H. Turner was the first Clerk of the town of Kent (Grand Rapids). He settled a little southeast of the present city boundary; but soon moved in, and 1845-6 built him a home on Front street, near the head of the rapids-the first stone dwelling of note on the West side. He was a mechanic, assisted in erecting a number of the very early buildings on Monroe and Waterloo streets, and was associated with James Scribner in the erection of the first bridge across Grand River here. He was a sturdy yeoman of the old stamp, faithful to all trusts and duties. He died in 1870, aged 78 years.
William R. Godwin settled in Wyoming, as did also the Gordons and Myron Roys.
Ira Jones settled eventually on the west side of the river, near the Indian village, and there resided some forty years.
Jonathan F. Chubb, soon after his arrival, took a farm in Wyoming, where he lived nearly twenty years; then moved into town and built him a stone residence on Front near Leonard street, where he spent the remainder of his life. He took an interest in manufacturing farming implements. He was a public spirited citizen of the early mould, almost puritanical in convictions, and thoroughly respected.
Luther Lincoln came to the valley in 1832, was a moving and somewhat eccentric character; first in Grandville, then in Grand Rapids building a mill, then up Flat River, where he was called "Trapper Lincoln". His longest residence was at or near Greenville, toward the close of his life. He is accredited with doing the first plowing on Grand River, and raising corn in 1833, where the village of Grandville now stands.
Nathaniel P. Roberts (who came in with Josiah Burton, Ira Jones and E.H. Turner in 1833), settled on the west side, and resided there till his death in 1871, at the age of 74 years. He was a farmer, and a highly respected citizen.
Of those who came in 1834, Robert M. Barr is living in the city, at the time of this writing, aged about 75.
Ezra Reed, a most excellent pioneer citizen, settled by Reeds Lake in 1834, afterward lived many years in the city, and died at Muskegon in June, 1888, at the venerable age of 88 years. He was the first Sheriff in Kent county, elected in 1836.
Richard Godfroy, immediately after his arrival in 1834, built a commodious dwelling on the south corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets; the same that was destroyed by fire in January, 1850, being a Catholic chapel at the latter date. He was also interested in boat building and river navigation. Mr. Godfroy lived to a good old age, and died at Muskegon.
Joseph S. Potter was among the first builders, and erected the Eagle hotel in 1834.
Ezekiel W. Davis lived a little time in a log cabin here, planted some corn near the corner of Ottawa and Fountain streets, moved to a farm at Reeds Lake, where he was the first settler, lived there about thirty years, then moved into town where he died in 1873.
Antoine Campau began trade at the foot of Monroe street in 1834. He afterward built a residence on the south side of Monroe street, a short distance above the Waterloo corner, and lived there till about 1845, when he went upon his farm on South Division street. He was a man of fine presence, over six feet in stature, straight and erect, of noble carriage, manly and affable toward high and low, of sterling integrity, kind and courteous always, humane and sympathetic, and scrupulously punctual and exact in all his business affairs. This is high praise, but fully merited. He had the entire confidence of the Indians, with whom he dealt largely. It was said that he was the first born white at Saginaw. He came here in 1833, and moved here with his family a year later.
Robert Howlett and the Wanseys settled outside the village; the Reeds near the lake which bears their name; the Sliters, Sibleys and Grays, and Cyrus Jones near by; others in Paris or near Grandville, and Martin Ryerson, who came as a clerk with Richard Godfroy, later in life became wealthy at Muskegon and Chicago.
Of the settlers in 1835 a few are yet living -among them Jefferson Morrison, Dr. Charles Shepard and Amos Hosford Smith., Jefferson Morrison, Dwight and James Lyman and A. Hosford Smith were among the first merchants, located for a time on Waterloo street.
Jefferson Morrison, not long after coming, established himself at the foot of Monroe street, in buildings since removed, that stood on what is now Campau Place, and continued in trade there, with but a brief intermission, till 1866, when he retired from business. He had a checkered experience, sometimes successful, both in trade and speculation, and again the victim of reverses. He was born at Milton, Saratoga county, N.Y., July 15, 1805, came to Detroit in 1834 and there, in 1836, married Caroline Gill, whom he brought to his Grand Rapids home, making part of the journey in canoes from Middleville down the Thornapple River. He had entered the land and platted the villages of Saranac in Ionia county and Cascade in Kent county. His first wife died about twelve years later, and in 1850 he married Wealthy M. Davis. Five children by each were the fruits of these marital unions. In his earlier business life he had an extensive acquaintance and trade with the Indians, who named him Poc-to-go-ne-ne. His name and credit were known and trusted throughout the State in the dark days when banks broke and when he, along with many others, was compelled to resort to the issue of personal notes, or "shinplasters," to keep trade alive. In 1836 he was elected first Probate Judge of Kent county. And now, at upward of fourscore years, retired from the turmoil of business, he lives in the quiet enjoyment of reminiscences of a long and busy life, and the respect and kindest wishes of his multitude of warm friends and fellow citizens.
James Lyman and Dwight Lyman, brothers, opened a small store on Waterloo street, opposite the Eagle Hotel, in 1835. They came from Connecticut. In the following year they sold the store to George C. Nelson. The Lymans built or were interested in a mill which for nearly forty years stood on Coldbrook, just below where now is the water works settling basin. In 1844, James married and resumed trade, soon sold out, spent some years at Kenosha, Wis., then returned to business here. He died in 1869, enjoying the love and esteem of the community as a thoroughly upright, conservative citizen, neighbor and business man. In 1838 James Lyman, with John Almy and another, had charge of a survey of Grand River, in which they ran levels from Lyons, or above, on the ice, to Grand Haven, ascertaining the amount of fall at various points.
Hiram Hinsdill lived in the summer of 1835 in a log house on Pearl street, near where the Arcade is, meantime engaged in building the hotel afterward known as the National. He lived a quiet life and is remembered with much affection by early residents.
Joseph Marion was a carpenter and joiner and pattern maker, and an excellent workman at his craft. He lived here many years, and finally went West.
Lucius Lyon is chronicled as a settler of 1835. He was born at Shelburne, Vt., February 26, 1800. Some of his ancestors were among the original settlers of New Haven, Conn. He was educated in the common schools of his native town, and studied engineering and land surveying in Burlington, Vt. At the age of twenty-two he went to Detroit, and was soon after appointed a deputy by the United States Surveyor-General in the district northwest of the Ohio River. He filled that position till 1832, and in 1831 surveyed Town 7 North, Range 12 West, in which is now part of the city of Grand Rapids. While engaged in this work he received notice that he was elected Delegate to Congress from the Territory of Michigan. He accepted, and served the term from 1833 to 1835. He was also elected a member of the convention which framed the first Constitution of Michigan, and influential in the adoption of the provisions relating to the common school lands, and the funds arising there from. After the admission of the State into the Union he was chosen by the first Legislature a Senator in Congress. He served in the Senate till 1839, when he came to Grand Rapids, then a village, he having large property interests here. He immediately engaged in efforts to develop and establish salt manufacture, sinking the first salt well here, and for a few years he made the enterprise apparently successful. In 1842 he was elected to Congress from this District, as a Democrat. At the close of his term he was appointed United States Surveyor-General for Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. The office was located at Detroit at his request, and he filled that position until his death, which occurred in 1851. Mr. Lyon is characterized by one of his biographers, who knew him well, as not a brilliant man nor quick in mental action, but patient, careful and scrutinizing, generally arriving at correct conclusions and practical applications. Though unpretentious, quiet and modest, he wielded great influence, and achieved much for his State, and his town. He was amiable in disposition, benevolent and religious in his impulses, and in the later years of his life strongly attached to the Swedenborgian faith. Politically he was a Democrat. He never married; his housekeeping being superintended by a maiden sister, who survives him. Lucius Lyon left his mark upon the early enterprise of Grand Rapids, and gave a powerful impetus to the growth of this town and the State.
Nathaniel O. Sargeant was the contractor for digging the mill-race, and had an interest therein-the beginning of the east side canal. He came here from Massachusetts, in 1835, with a company of men for that work. They marched in with their picks and shovels on their shoulders. At their head was Alanson Cramton, playing a bugle. Cramton was a teamster, stage driver and mail carrier, and assisted many pioneers over the rough roads. He afterward settled in Ada and became a thriving farmer in that town. At 79 years of age he is yet hale and hearty. Hearing the noise and the music, when the canal men came, Chief Noonday thought the company were enemies, meaning mischief to Louis Campau, and sent a message to the latter, offing aid to drive the invaders away. Among the men in this company was also Leonard G. Baxter, from Montpelier, Vt., who settled here, married Emily Guild, and spent his life in the city and in the county near by. He died in 1866. The coming of these men for that work marked an important era in the improvement and development of the place. Mr. Sargeant died a year or two after he came.
John Almy and wife came with the Kent company, in 1835. He was a native of Rhode Island, a finely educated man, a civil engineer and practical surveyor of eminence. He platted for Lucius Lyon and N. O. Sargeant the "Village of Kent," in which Charles H. Carroll afterward purchased a half interest. Mrs. Almy, in a journal kept by her in 1835, gives some account of their journey in here. Here is an extract:
Night brought us to the Thornapple, and it being late, and very dark, we dared not go on for fear we should fall into the river. We saw, near by, some camp-fires of Indians, but going to them, they fled, and we could not get near them; so we camped out as well as we could, and spent the night with nothing to eat. As soon as daylight appeared, we commenced our march, and crossing the Thornapple, met Rix Robinson and the chiefs, who were coming to see us, and what kind of people we were. Mr. Robinson explained to them that we were friends, and going to build a big town down at Grand Rapids. Here we were furnished breakfast -pork and potatoes, bread and tea, with wild honey (considered an extra dish), with short-cake; and did we not do justice to that meal? After settling our bills, we proceeded on our journey, and having Plaster Creek and several other streams to bridge, we were the whole day until late at night in getting to Grand Rapids. Mr. Richard Godfroy and Mr. Louis Campau gave us quarters in their respective homes. The next day the woods rang out with the echo of the woodman’s ax, slaying down trees to build shanties with, and all was bustle and business. It did not take long to get settled, and then commenced the work of laying out other canal. Mr. Almy soon found it necessary to return to Detroit, which was no easy matter, and I concluded to go, too. Mr. Richard Godfroy sent his Frenchman with a lumber wagon, to take us. We were ten days going. While in Detroit Mr. Almy bought a steamboat, and friends named her the "John Almy." She was loaded with pork, flour, mill-stones, and many other useful articles, to be landed at Grand Rapids. The boat left about April 1, and had very rough weather, and as she neared Thunder Bay she was wrecked -a total loss.
Mr. Almy about two years later was in charge of the improvement of the Grand and Kalamazoo Rivers. He held during his life many important positions of official trust, was a lawyer by profession, and a trusty counselor, but did not practice law after coming to Michigan. He was of fine physical form, a representative gentleman of the early days, genial, courteous, hospitable, and beloved by all with whom he came in contact. He was very methodical and exact in his business, and a scientific man of much general information. He died September 29, 1863, leaving a memory fondly cherished by all the early residents of the valley. In religious sentiment he was an Episcopalian.
Among the comers of 1835, was Amos Hosford Smith, who with Simeon P. Smith, B. Walter Smith and Edward P. Camp, left New York City in November, 1835, and arrived here December 2. They came by the Erie Canal to Buffalo, where they were detained for a time by a great gale; and came up Lake Erie on the steamer North America to Monroe, from which place they proceeded on horseback. Not being used to riding, they found it rather tough work, over hard roads and mud-holes, nevertheless they had a merry time. Camp’s horse was a tumbler, and pitched the rider over his head several times. On the way they met Orson Peck, with whom Camp traded horses. (Peck was a peddler, and in later years lived here and at Lowell). At Gull Prairie they found snow, left two of the horses, procured sleighs, and engaged Robert Scales to pilot them through. At the Thornapple, December 1, they found the stream frozen over, cut brush and laid it upon the ice, and thus contrived to push their sleighs across. They cut a channel through the ice for the horses, and called to a Mr. Jackson who lived on the other side. Jackson went over to ride one horse and let the other follow. The rear horse plunged, and went over Jackson’s horse, and the latter turned and went back. They finally got across, and as the weather was piercing cold, they ran the horses to Edward Robinson’s at the mouth of the Thornapple, where they found warm stabling, a good fire in the house, and had a supper of venison, which the hungry men declared the best meal they ever ate. They spread robes on the floor and camped with feet to the fire, rose refreshed, and arrived at Joel Guild’s at Grand Rapids the next afternoon. Here Mr. Smith was so well pleased with the embryo town, that he decided to stay, and opened a store near the Eagle Hotel on Waterloo street. He has been a busy man through life; was an accomplished bookkeeper, and engaged as such most of the time for about twenty-five years after coming here. In the summer of 1850 he was Captain of the steamboat Algoma on Grand River. He was the second City Clerk, elected in 1851. In 1862 he was appointed Assistant Assessor of Internal Revenue, and in that capacity served about ten years, and afterward about fifteen years as Deputy Collector, making about twenty-five years of continuous service as an Internal Revenue officer. He was vestryman and clerk of the vestry of St. Mark’s Episcopal church for 17 years. In 1836 he started the first Sunday School in Grand Rapids, over his store, one of the beginnings of the First Congregational Society. He married, in 1839, Mary M. Nelson, who died in 1887, in this city. Mr. Smith is a native of Berlin, Connecticut, born March 30, 1812. At this writing he is yet alive, a venerable and honored citizen.
The Rev. Andreas Viszoczky came in 1835, and for seventeen years was pastor of the Roman Catholic Church here. He was a profound scholar, a native of Hungary, educated at the Catholic institutions of learning in that country. His ministry here was one of indefatigable devotion, and great success. He was always faithful, through sunshine and storm, to the duties of his position, constant in his attentions to the poor, to the sick and dying, and always caring for the highest and holiest interests of his Christian office. He was especially zealous and faithful in his ministrations to the Indians under his charge, a their village here, and in the region within forty miles about. He died in 1852, at the age of sixty years, having lived to see the erection of a handsome stone edifice for his church, on the south corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets.
William G. Henry came to Grand Rapids in 1836, was the second Village Treasurer, a merchant, a druggist, and an enterprising citizen. He moved to Detroit about twenty-five years ago.
Samuel Howland, who came in 1836, was a carpenter by trade, and lived for many years on Lyon street, where now is the Houseman Block.
Myron Hinsdill came from Hinesburgh, Vermont, in 1833, to Gull Prairie, and in journeying by team from Detroit with his family had the usual experience of those days in jolting over corduroy roads and prying the wagon out of mud-holes. Three years later they came to Grand Rapids, and lived for a little time in a new barn just in the rear of the National Hotel, while the latter was building, and moved into that as soon as a few rooms could be prepared. On the opposite corner was kept a primitive school, in a barn built of boards set up endwise, floor of rough boards loosely laid down, and needing no particular attention to secure good ventilation. Here his daughter, now the widow of the late Judge Withey, relates that she had her first struggle with Webster’s spelling book. In April, 1836, Mr. Hinsdill wrote to a brother-in-law at the East:
I have applied for five lots of pine land up Grand River, but there is such a press of business at the Land Office, one cannot know under six or eight days whether he can get it or not, and if two ask for the same land in one day, they must agree which shall have it, as it is set up at auction. There have been four or five hundred people at Bronson for the week past, all waiting to get lands. If I get the pine land it will cost about $2.25 per acre, and a great bargain at that. If land buyers increase as we have reason to expect when navigation opens, there will not be a good lot in the Territory at Congress prices, and then I see no good reason why land will not be worth $10 per acre.
In another letter, written the following winter, Mr. Hinsdill says:
We have two schools in our house; one instructed by my sister who came out here last fall, the other by Mr. Smith of your village (Cazenovia, N.Y). We have had from eight to ten boarders all winter, on the temperance plan in full, and have most of the good custom. Property has advanced one-third or more since you were here, so much I think people are crazy. Society has improved very much. A Presbyterian church was formed last October with twenty-two members, and ten added since, and we have as talented a society of young men as can be found in your state. Provision is very high. Flour $15 per barrel, oats $1, Potatoes $1.25, pork $14 per hundred, butter 37 ½ cents, and other things in proportion; board $4.50; cash plenty, most of it paid out for land. I have had more silver and gold in my house this winter than a pair of horses could draw.
The church spoken of by Mr. Hinsdill, afterward became the First Congregational church of Grand Rapids. Mrs. Withey relates:
In February, 1838, great anxiety was felt on account of the ice in the river. One evening, just in the midst of a spirited debate in the Lyceum, came a cry of alarm. Every one started to the scene of trouble. It was an anxious night, followed by an exciting day. At midday the ice in a vast body began to move, and piled up in a solid mass twenty to thirty feet high, forcing the water suddenly back on the little town, so that many barely escaped with their lives. The Almy and Page families were taken from their houses in boats. Mrs. Almy was brought to our house very much excited after her narrow escape. The whole scene, accompanied as it was with a heavy rumbling sound and the rushing of the water, is spoken of by witnesses as grand and awe-inspiring beyond description.
Myron Hinsdill lived but a short time after this. He died November 17, 1838, of bilious fever, aged 39, and his remains rest in Fulton street cemetery. There were several pioneer families of the Hinsdills, prominent in society, and all highly respected and loved.Isaac Turner was a native of Clinton county, New York, and came from Plattsburgh to Grand Rapids in 1836, with his family. He tarried for a brief time on the east side of the river, and then moved across, making a pre-emption claim on the mission land south of Bridge street; supposing that eventually it would be put in market the same as other public lands by the Government. He lived for many years in a small house pleasantly situated a short distance above where now is the west end of Pearl street bridge. He was an excellent millwright, and his handiwork contributed to the erection of many of the earlier mills in this vicinity, and on Muskegon River. In early life he was a Whig, then a Republican, and in religious matters became a firm believer in Spiritualism. He was enthusiastic, earnest and aggressive in support of his convictions politically and otherwise. He did much, officially, in the early development of the city. A hater of hypocrisy, a contemner of shams, and a citizen of thorough integrity, Isaac Turner was loved and prized as a neighbor, and as a man respected and trusted. He died in 1879 at the age of 78 years. Maxime and John Ringuette, brothers, among the settlers of 1836, were shoemakers by trade. At first there was not custom enough to give them steady employment, and in summer they were engaged on the river, one of them running a pole boat, and in such other work as they could find, working at their trade in winter. John Ringuette died many years ago. They were steady-going, honorable people, and well known to the boot and shoe trade on Monroe street for a long time. Maxime Ringuette resides on South Division street, and is nearing the end of a well-spent life amid many appreciative friends. Samuel F. Perkins, also in the shoe and leather business, came here in 1836. He operated a tannery, and was for some time in trade on Kent street, and afterward with William Woodward on Monroe street.
Amos Rathbone was born in Scipio, N.Y., October 14, 1808, and was among the pioneers of Grand Rapids. He visited here about 1836, and purchased two lots on Prospect Hill, next to Lyon street, for which he paid $400; afterward for two or three years he spent a portion of the time in Indiana. In 1839, provisions being scarce here, he loaded a wagon and came through with seven yoke of oxen, and also brought with him fifty head of cattle and half a dozen horses, and he continued in similar traffic between this place and Indiana two or three years. About 1842, with Gouverneur B. Rathbun, he opened a store on Monroe street, opposite the head of Waterloo street, and in the following year they built a stone block on the north corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets, of size sufficient for three or four stores, for many years familiarly known as the Rathbone Building, or "The Wedge." At that time this building was thought too costly and massive to ever pay a profit. It was burned in the great fire of 1857, and it its place stands a fine brick block. For many years he was extensively engaged in the lumber trade north of this river. In 1868 and until 1880 he was financially interested in the plaster business. He also built twelve stores on the north side of Monroe street, below Division. Mr. Rathbone died in 1882, venerable in years, and very few, if any, have left a deeper impress upon the growth and development of this city. He married, in 1845, Amanda Carver, born in Scipio, N.Y., in 1810, who survives him. He was a man of strong convictions and upright character, with whom to say was to do. He was prominently and actively identified with the growth of the city and the development of its material resources during almost half a century.
Henry C. Smith was born in Scituate, Rhode Island, January 9, 1804, came to Grand Rapids in 1836, was in trade in the little village for a few years at the corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets, and afterward lived for about a quarter of a century in Plainfield. He was the first President of the Village of Grand Rapids, in 1838. In Plainfield he filled several offices of responsibility and trust, and was a member of the State Legislature in 1849. He returned to the city about 1868, and lived here until he died in 1886. He was well and widely known and respected in this valley, through all his active life; a plain man, good neighbor and friend, trusty everywhere and at all times. His widow, "Aunt Jane Smith," resides on South Division street, where she owns a comfortable home.
John W. Peirce came here in 1836, from Canandaigua, N.Y., and opened a book and stationery store in one of the two buildings erected by the Kent Company, when it was expected that the Government Land Office would be located here. That book store (mate to the Grand River Bank building) was where the engine house now is, at the corner of Kent street and Crescent avenue. In 1844 he removed his business to the west side of Canal street, corner of Erie, where he remained in mercantile trade thirty years. In 1853 he built the first brick store on Canal street, a handsome building, for the front of which he imported cream colored brick from Milwaukee, the first importation here of that sort. While there he suffered two or three severe losses by fire, in spite of which he accumulated a fair competence, and erected the pleasant dwelling, where his widow lives, at the corner of Ottawa street and Crescent avenue. He was Secretary of the original Grand Rapids Lyceum from 1837 to 1844, and Village Clerk from 1838 till 1845. He filled several important places of trust, and was interested in various business corporations. John W. Peirce was a plain, unostentatious citizen, eminently practical in his views, always genial, and with such a flow of spirits and ready wit as made him a welcome guest in every circle. He married, in 1841, Sarah L., daughter of Amos Roberts, who survives him. They had three children. He was an original subscriber to the Episcopal Church when it was organized, and its constant attendant through life. He was precise and regular in his habits and scrupulously methodical in the keeping of his books, papers, files and records. Honest in his business, a kind and neighborly citizen, he left a good name and pleasant memory.
Lovell Moore was born at Shirley, Mass., March 23, 1797. He came to Michigan in 1836, and at first occupied the old Baptist Mission House. He opened a law office on Monroe street, passing to and fro between his home and business by means of a canoe for crossing the river. He was a conspicuous figure in the courts of the early days; of ready speech, genial and buoyant in disposition, also eminently sociable and companionable in society. In 1840 he removed to the southeast corner of Fulton and Division streets into one of the very early frame houses that has recently been removed to make place for a massive and modern brick structure. In 1843 he was engaged in the drug trade. He was possessed of good business capacity; as a lawyer was a prudent counselor; a man of integrity, appreciated and beloved in his family and by a very large circle of friends. In politics he was in early life a Whig; afterward a member of the "Free Democratic" party, by which, February 22, 1854, he was nominated for Secretary of State. In later life he was a Democrat. He was a member of St. Mark’s Episcopal church, and prominent among its early patrons. He was also an honored member of the Masonic fraternity during nearly all of his adult life. He resided here nearly fifty years, participated in the early struggles, aided in the development, and lived to share in the successes of the city, and died peacefully at a venerable age in 1882. At his funeral were present nearly three hundred visiting Freemasons from all parts of Michigan.
Charles H. Taylor, born in Cooperstown, N.Y., November 20, 1813, came to Grand Rapids in 1836, when there were less than twenty houses in the place, and was a resident until his death in 1889. He served as County Clerk, Member of the Legislature, Asylum Commissioner, Secretary of State, Register of the U.S. Land Office in the northern part of this peninsula, Postmaster under President Johnson, and for many years was a newspaper editor. He was also a prominent, enterprising business man, in trade and in manufacturing enterprises; active, energetic and persevering until he went down to his last sleep, loved and respected by the community in which he had dwelt more than half a century. He had marked characteristics, and many excellent traits of character.
David Burnett was born in South Hadley, Mass., September 14, 1808, and came to Michigan in 1836. For more than thirty years he was one of the prominent and active business mechanics of this place. He was the foreman for James Scribner, and Eliphalet H. Turner, in the building of the first bridge at Bridge street across Grand River in 1845. He built the second and third bridges at the same place on the same piers, all now superseded by a substantial iron one. Among other structures erected by him were the following: The bridge across Grand River at Lyons in 1837. Rebuilt the same in 1843, and received in part payment 2,000 acres of State improvement land. The log tavern known at the "Fisk or Lake House," in the winter of 1837. In 1838 and 1839, in company with Nathaniel Fisk and Jacob Rogers of Milwaukee, six light-houses on Lake Michigan. The bridge at Ionia, in 1847; the stone Union school house, in 1849; the first dam in this city the same year; the bridge at Plainfield, in 1850; the dam at Newaygo, in 1853; the dam at Rogers’ Ferry, on the Muskegon, in 1864, and the bridge at Bridgeton, in 1866; the bridges on forty miles of the G.R.&I.R.R., in 1868; the bridge at Big Rapids in 1870; besides other dams and bridges. During his business career he always had some prominent job of building on hand, either in the city or country about, and was in the front rank among the energetic master builders of this region. He was a thoroughly upright citizen, plain of speech, reliable always, kind and obliging, and one highly esteemed by the entire community. He died in 1875.
Kendall Woodward, who came here in 1836, was a mechanic, an architect and builder, and was in trade for some years near the foot of Pearl and Monroe streets. He died many years ago.
James Scribner, a native of New York City, born in 1801, came to Grand Rapids in the winter of 1836-37, and pre-empted land, which he subsequently purchased, where now is what is known as Scribner’s Addition, or the Scribner Plat, on the west side of the river. He was a conspicuous and somewhat eccentric character upon these streets for many years; always had several irons in the fire, and was engaged in pushing some important enterprise, sometimes failing and sometimes successful. He invented a patent medicine which he called Oak Oil. He was one of the leading men in the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad project, which he did not live to see consummated. He was also connected with the efforts to establish the manufacture of salt, which for a time seemed likely to succeed, but eventually proved unprofitable and was abandoned. He was a jolly and saucy friend, but an implacable enemy. He believed in his Oak Oil, in his city lots, in his railroad enterprises, in salt, and in himself. He was a bustling pioneer, rough and ready and alive, who made his presence known when he was about, and did a good part in the development of the town. Mr. Scribner died in 1862, leaving a warm place in the hearts of a wide circle of friends.
Thomas Sargeant was a plain, outspoken, aggressive man, from Boston, warm-hearted, stirring and good natured, hard-working; without other capital than a good team, and he left his mark in many parts of the city where there was terracing or grading to be done. He was a brother of Nathaniel Sargeant, who began the Canal improvement.
Solomon Withey came to Grand Rapids from Vermont, and for a time was landlord of the Grand River Exchange, subsequently named Bridge Street House. The first year or two he lived at the north end of Ottawa, next to Coldbrook street, where he made brick. Was elected Sheriff in 1842. After a few years he moved to Ada, where he died in 1851, aged 74 years. He was a man of character -set in his ways, with positive like and dislikes, bluntly outspoken, yet was universally esteemed and admired.
Billius Stocking came to this place from St. Lawrence county, N.Y., in 1834 (on foot from Kalamazoo); made but a short stay, when he left on foot for St. Joseph and Chicago, thence returning to his early home. In the fall of 1836 he started again for Grand Rapids, coming by water to Fairport, below Cleveland, and walking the rest of the way. He chopped wood and split rails during his first winter here. In 1840 he purchased the northeast quarter of section twenty-three in Walker, now within the city limits, where he has since resided. He and his brother ran, without compass, the line for the road which is now Stocking Street. He has been prominent in the development of that part of the city, has held a number of offices of trust and responsibility, and at this writing, though over eighty years of age, apparently has years to live. Mr. Stocking and his wife, who was Mary Hunt, were the first couple married here by the Rev. James Ballard.
Loren M. Page was a painter by trade, came here in 1837 from Vermont, and followed that occupation throughout his long life, which was one of incessant labor; indeed he was never happy without work. An unpretentious, companionable, and socially agreeable man, he had a warm place in the hearts of all who knew him, comprising almost the entire community in which he lived for fifty years.
Robert Hilton-characterized by one of our local writers as "a stanch-made, thorough-rigged, live-oak individual, with several knots and branches on him" -was born in Mt. Vernon, Maine, December 2, 1799. Coming to Grand Rapids in 1836, a carpenter by trade, he first selected a piece of land for a farm, on the right bank of the river, some miles below the Rapids. He paid $2 per bushel for seed wheat, bringing it from Gull Prairie, and when he harvested his crop it would only bring 50 cents per bushel. While on the farm he worked much of the time in the village at his trade, coming and returning by canoe on the river; also superintended the erection of the lighthouse at Grand Haven, going down in the morning and returning in the evening by steamer. There were many Indians about him, but as a rule they were friendly. An incident illustrating his quickness in judging of savage human nature is related. Coming home one day he found a dog worrying his pigs, and near by an Indian leaning upon his gun, and watching the animals. Hilton leaped from his horse, seized that gun, shot the dog, and handed the weapon back, with the simple, terse remark in the native’s own language, "Bad Indian," remounted and rode away without another word. That Indian never troubled him again, but seemed to admire his Yankee courage. After a few years he moved into Grand Rapids, where he resided until his death in 1885. Some of his first work in this town was on the old National Hotel and on Judge Morrison’s house. He built for the Nelson Brothers a building of two stores where now is the Grinnell Block. He was also the master workman in the erection of the Swedenborgian Church, still standing on the corner of Division and Lyon streets, just north of the United States building; also on the woodwork of the Catholic Church where the Grand Rapids National Bank now stands, also St. Mary’s (Catholic) on the west side, a Gothic structure. He was noted for his sturdy and exact honesty, and liked those about him in proportion as they exhibited similar characteristics. He lived without fear or favor of any one, conscientiously fulfilling all trusts, holding the perfect confidence of all who knew him. He was a plain, frugal man, a steadfast friend, and acquired a fair competence for his declining years., untainted by speculation or exaction in any form.
Jacob Barns came here when a boy, in 1836, from Vermont, with his father’s (Jacob Barns’) family, and settled on Division street, a little north of Fountain. He learned the printer’s trade, and is pleasantly remembered as for many years connected with the Grand Rapids Enquirer and the Detroit Free Press. Under the administration of President Buchanan he was Register of the Land Office at Duncan and Traverse City. In later life he was connected with the flouring business in the Valley City Mills just above Bridge street. Misfortune left him in straightened circumstances near the close of his life. He died in 1883. He was for forty years a prominent citizen, of sterling integrity, active, enterprising, generous-hearted, genial and by all highly esteemed. His father, Jacob Barns, Sen., was one of the early Justices of the Peace here.
Canton Smith came from Rhode Island, kept the Eagle a short time, and then purchased the National Hotel. As a landlord, and in connection with that locality, he was a prominent figure among the early residents, well known, and having many friends throughout the State.
Harry Dean was born at Westfield, Mass., February 6, 1799; came to Grand Rapids in 1837, and lived here till 1880. He is remembered as quiet, unobtrusive, but eminently social, pleasant in conversation, delighting in story telling, and of a cheerful and sunny disposition. He was made a Master Mason in Champion Lodge, Jefferson county, N.Y., in 1821, and in after life passed through the higher degrees of that fraternity. He was a charter member of the Grand River Lodge, No. 34, instituted in 1849, and the last survivor of its original officers. At the time of his death in 1887, he was said to be the oldest Mason in Michigan.
John Pannell came here in 1836, and established a small brewery, the first in the place, which he sold about a dozen years later, and retired to a quiet life of farming and gardening. He died in this city but a few months ago, aged 82 years.
William Haldane, still a resident of this city, was among the pioneer cabinet-makers here. He came in 1836, and in 1837 built a frame dwelling on Prospect Hill, southeast corner of Ottawa and Pearl streets. Subsequently he erected a brick house on the same spot, which has twice been extended downward, on account of street excavations through the hill. The brick building is still there. Mr. Haldane is well known and respected by all the old residents.
Harry Eaton was bred a farmer in Vermont, came here in 1836, engaged in mercantile trade and lumbering. He was Sheriff of Kent county in 1841, and was the first Treasurer of Walker Township. He was also one of the charter members of Grand River Lodge, No. 34, F. and A.M., and at his death, in 1859, his funeral was attended by the Grand Lodge of Masons, then in session here. He is pleasantly remembered by the early residents, as a genial and entertaining host, at a neat little grocery and restaurant, which stood where now is the north end of Sweet’s Hotel Block.
Louis Moran came here as a clerk for Louis Campau in 1833, staid but a short time and went up the Thornapple River, where for a while he kept the tavern at Scales’s Prairie, near Middleville, He came back to Grand Rapids in 1837, and was landlord of the Eagle Hotel. He was made comparatively poor by the financial crash of 1837, and for many years thereafter drove team as proudly as ever he hired others to drive for him. Moran was a man of powerful frame, over six feet tall, erect and self poised, honest, and had almost unbounded faith in human honesty. "How much does your load come to?" he would ask of the farmer of whom he purchased a load of hay. Receiving a reply, he would throw down a handful of money, with the remark, "Count it out," after which he would carefully put the rest in his pocket, in full confidence that the farmer had counted it correctly. Late in life he received the use of the proceeds of some valuable property in Detroit, part of his father’s estate, which enabled him to live in quiet and comfort thereafter. Few men among the pioneers had more or warmer friends than Louis Moran.
George M. Mills and Warren P. Mills came in 1836, from Ogdensburg, N.Y., and were in business about a dozen years in the vicinity of the corner of Pearl and Canal streets. One of them built a little one-story store on Pearl street, west of the Arcade, first a grocery, and later the shop where E.G. Squiers and W.D. Foster began work at the tinsmith business in this place; afterward occupied by Foster and Parry. The building disappeared many years ago, giving place to more imposing structures. George M. Mills built a small, neat residence on the side of Prospect Hill, a little further east, lived there a few years, and about 1854 emigrated to Nebraska. He died in 1878. Warren P. Mills, in 1856, built a handsome brick residence on Madison avenue. He was a jovial, fat, rollicking, fun-loving person, who was very popular with "Young America," and withal was an enterprising, public-spirited citizen. He died in 1868, aged 56 years.
Abel Page came in 1836, and engaged here in agriculture and horticulture. He planted the first nursery of any pretensions in this valley, and for years supplied settlers with grafted fruits and rare plants. He was an honest and very pleasant gentleman, and prominent in the establishment of the Congregational church here. The closing years of his life were spent in a pretty suburban home near the north line of the city on the Plainfield road.
James M. Nelson, born in Milford, Mass., November 27, 1810, came here in 1836, and made the place his home during life, about fifty years. His first business was in a store opposite the Eagle Hotel. Afterward he was engaged quite extensively in lumbering. With H.P. Bridge he built the first saw mill on the canal. His brother, Geo. C. Nelson, was his partner until 1845, and together they built, in 1837, a saw mill on Mill Creek, a few miles north of the Rapids and west of the river, the first mill in that region. In the winter of 1837-38, when provisions were scarce, James M. Nelson went to Indiana in search of hogs, purchased two hundred and eighty, and drove them home, where they were gladly received by the very hungry people. Near the same time he started with five others to explore the Muskegon River region. The snow was deep, and they were gone several days, lost their way, and were thirty-six hours without food before reaching home. Mr. Nelson was among the first to raft lumber down Grand River. From 1841 he served as Postmaster for one term. About 1859 he went out of the lumbering business, and engaged in flouring. Four years later, he again changed his business, buying with his brother, Ezra T. Nelson, a half interest in the Comstock furniture factory, and operated as a manufacturer during the remainder of his life. Mr. Nelson was a strictly and thoroughly honest man, one of the "representative self-made men" of this place, who, by his enterprise, integrity and industry commanded the esteem of this community wherein the greater part of his life was spent. He was a member of the St. Marks Episcopal church, and influential in its councils until his death, which occurred in 1883. George C. Nelson is still in business on Monroe street, well advanced in years.
Samuel F. Butler was one of the early cabinetmakers here, residing first on Kent street, afterward on Canal, north of Bridge street, a highly respected citizen. He suddenly dropped dead, April 3, 1856, as he was passing through the front gate to his residence.
Truman Kellogg came in 1837, and settled on a farm on Lake avenue. Having a decided taste for horticulture, he entered enthusiastically into the raising of apples, peaches, grapes, and a variety of other choice fruits, and established a handsome nursery; also planted mulberry (Morus Multicaulis) and began the manufacture of silk, raising cocoons and winding the fiber for many years. He was a quiet, unobtrusive citizen, of decided reformatory tendencies, and a radical Abolitionist. He lived only about eight years after coming here.
James A. Rumsey was born at Newburg, N.Y., November 8, 1814. He arrived here June 6, 1837, and assisted Henry Stone in building a house, working for $15 per month; afterward worked in the erection of the first mill on the canal bank -the "Big Mill," as it was called in those days -at $1 per day, for Smith & Brownell, its builders. Rumsey took charge of the mill and ran it for some time, and relates that the necessities of the occasion made him the first cooper in Grand Rapids, both for flour and tight barrels. Having occasion to ship a quantity of flour, and no barrels, he procured from a man down the river a lot of staves that had been intended for the Chicago market, and, having with him a kit of coopers’ tools, he set to work and made the barrels for the flour. Soon afterward, impelled by a similar necessity, he made pork barrels for the packing of a large quantity of pork which had been piled up with salt to keep it from spoiling. Mr. Rumsey purchased land near the south part of the city; also a piece above the north line, on the west side, which he still holds. He owned and operated a mill on Plaster Creek, where the upper plaster mill now is, and a small saw mill on the little stream which comes down from the north part of Paris township into Plaster Creek. He is still looking hale and hearty for his years, is a model citizen, enjoys the good will of every one, and bids fair to round out considerable more interesting history before he leaves these scenes.
Edmund B. Bostwick was a prominent man among the pioneers. He fitted up with refined taste a suburban residence, at the corner of Cherry street and College avenue, and platted that part of the town known as Bostwick’s Addition. Generous to a fault, with a personal appearance of great manly beauty and dignity, and impulsively enterprising, he won the deferential admiration of his friends; and his friends were everybody. With an abundance of means he would have been a tower of strength to the town, but for lack of capital he failed in many brilliant schemes. To his enthusiastic energy in the early development of this town and the region about much credit is due. He started for California in 1850, overland, perished on the way, and now sleeps his last sleep under the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.
Archibald Salmon was one of the early cabinet makers here, and an excellent workman, an accommodating neighbor and good citizen. He removed to a farm in Wyoming township in 1851, where he spent the remainder of his life, and passed away in 1887, aged 78 years.
Aaron Dikeman, a Native of Norwalk, VT., was the first jeweler who established a regular trade here. He came in 1837, and worked diligently at his business thirty years, when he retired from active life. He was distinguished for his perfect honor, truth and probity, winning and holding the fullest love and confidence of his fellow men. He was a Freemason, and one of the organizers of Grand River Lodge, No. 34; and was also one of the original members of St. Mark’s Episcopal church. In the early days he was interested in river navigation. With him money might have been left uncounted, or jewels unreceipted. He was fair and just to all, the highest and humblest alike, and between any dishonorable act and beggary would have chosen beggary on the instant. No better words need to be spoken of any man. He died in 1882, upward of eighty-six years of age.
James McCray came to Grandville in 1838, and settled in Grand Rapids about five years later. He was one of the early iron founders and machinists, a skilled workman, and for uprightness and integrity had the golden opinions of all who knew him. He died suddenly while sitting in his chair, in 1851.
George Young was a thoroughly just and companionable citizen, influential in the organization and support of the First Reformed church, giving liberally of his means to the erection in 1842 of their first house of worship at the corner of Bridge and Ottawa streets, originally a stone building, but now remodeled and used for business purposes. Mr. Young settled in Grand Rapids in 1837. He lived a little outside of town, but his interests and feelings were so closely interwoven with those of its citizens as to make him practically one of them. His ancestors were from the Netherlands, and settled at an early day on the Hudson River near Albany. He was largely instrumental in procuring the settlement of the Holland colony in Ottawa county in 1847. He was 71 years of age at the time of his death in 1870.
Henry Stone, in 1837, built him a house on the west side of Kent street, midway between Bridge street and Crescent avenue. He soon after started the manufacture of plows. Opposite him, across the street, lived H.R. Osborn, a blacksmith, who built a house still standing there, familiarly known as the Lucretia Lyon house. Henry Stone died March 4, 1864.
John Kirkland came here in 1837, and a few years later established a cooper shop near South Division street, where he made barrels by hand. He lived to be nearly eighty years old, and died greatly beloved.
William Morman, who came in 1837, has been for about a half a century the leading lime maker and dealer. He is now retired from active work, well advanced in years. He was born May 9, 1815, in England.
Leonard Covell, a Vermonter, born in 1816, went to Connecticut in his boyhood, and came here June 6, 1837. He was a carpenter and builder by trade, and built the first Episcopal Church, northwest corner Division street and Crescent avenue, a wood building, which cost about $800. He worked for some time building houses and stores, then, in 1844, went into the dry goods trade, which he followed eleven years. He was City Marshal in 1855, then for some time interested in the livery and hotel business, and has since been actively connected with several public improvement enterprises, among them two or three gravel roads, into the county, and also has an interest in the Fifth National Bank. He is still (fall of 1889) a public spirited citizen of our rapidly growing town.
Charles P. Babcock was a bustling, busy man for many years, sometimes in trade, sometimes in manufacturing, sometimes as landlord entertaining guests, always one whose ambitions were greater than his physical strength. He removed to Washington, D.C., in 1867.
Daniel Ball, for more than twenty years, beginning in the early village days, was a man of tireless activity in many business lines. In trade as a merchant, and in storage and forwarding; in steamboat building and navigation enterprises; in manufacturing; in real estate dealings and improvements, and in banking, he usually kept himself loaded with as much labor and responsibility as three or four ordinary men should carry. He had great tenacity of purpose, as well as energy and industry, and knew no such thing as discouragement so long as his health permitted him to keep upon his feet. He began business in Michigan at Owosso; came here about 1841, and removed to New York in 1863, leaving here many germs of his planting for the great progress which our city has made.
Another of the moving spirits here from 1841 to 1853, was Henry R. Williams, who, like Daniel Ball, laid well some of the foundations of material growth and the general weal. He came here from Rochester, N.Y. His aspirations were far-reaching, and his will to work in public and private enterprises was curbed only by the limits of his bodily strength. He was a popular and much loved citizen, and was the first Mayor of Grand Rapids. His mind wore out his physical machinery, and his life went out at the very flower of his manhood, July 19, 1853, at the age of forty-three years. Ball and Williams were both conspicuous in the development of the steam boating on Grand River.
JOHN BALL was born on Tenny’s Hill, near Hebron, Grafton county, N.H., November 12, 1794, and died at his Grand Rapids homestead, in his ninetieth year, February 5, 1884. He was the youngest of ten children, all of whom he survived save one sister, Mrs. Sarah Powers, of Lansingburgh, N.Y. His father, Nathaniel Ball, was a native of Hollis, N.H., and his mother, Sarah, was the daughter of Thomas Nevins, of Hancock, N.H. Mr. Ball’s early life was spent at hard work on his father’s mountain-side farm. The prominent incident of this period was his being listed for military service during the war of 1812, but, the war soon closing, he did not serve. At twenty he had had but three short terms of winter schooling; but prevailed upon his father to aid him to take a term at Salisbury Academy. With this foundation he began teaching in Vermont, in order to continue his studies. When, a year later, he announced a wish to attend Dartmouth College, his father looked upon the project as foolhardy and wrong, especially in a youngest son, who should stay at home and care for his parents. He was notified that no help could be afforded him for such a wild scheme. But he arranged with his youngest brother, William Ball, to take the farm and care for them, while he earned his way through Dartmouth, graduating in 1820, in the class with George P. Marsh and Rufus Choate. During the next two years he studied law with Walbridge & Lansing at Lansingburgh, N.Y., teaching school to meet expenses. Then he left for New York City, and sailed for Darien, Ga. Nearing port, about five miles from the coast, the vessel was wrecked, and Mr. Ball was the last (save the Captain, who would not go and was drowned) to leave the ship, after the others had been cared for. Friendless and penniless he reached Darien, but soon found a position as teacher near Savannah, where he remained six months. He then returned to Lansingburgh, N.Y., was admitted to the practice of law in 1824, formed a partnership with Walter Raleigh and later with Jacob C. Lansing, and was elected Justice of the Peace in 1827. Two years later his brother-in-law, William Powers, was burned to death by an explosion of varnish in his oil cloth factory, and Mr. Ball at once, on account of his sister and her two young children, undertook the management of the factory, learned the business, found new markets for the goods, and by the close of the year 1831 had paid off the debts and left the works in a flourishing condition (his sister, at the time of her husband’s death, had asked the creditors to take the factory for the debts, which they refused to do.) This being accomplished, Mr. Ball was free to carry out a long-cherished wish to cross the Continent- at that time a venturesome and almost unheard-of undertaking. January 1, 1832, he left for Baltimore, to join a party being fitted out by Nathaniel J. Wyeth, of Boston. The company did not move till spring, when they went sixty miles by the then new Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, then by canal and horseback to Pittsburgh, and thence by river to St. Louis, then a small, frontier, French village. At Independence, Mo., they joined the celebrated Capt. William Sublette’s party, and began a four months’ tramp across the plains and the Rocky Mountains. The party consisted of eighty men, with 300 horses and mules. Their main subsistence was buffalo meat -twice during the journey they were several days without food, and at one time two days without water. In June they went through the "South Pass," ten years before its discovery by John C. Fremont. They were frequently aided by Indians, of whose honesty and kindness Mr. Ball never tired of telling. In one case an Indian followed them two days to return a knife that had been carelessly left in camp, and refused to receive any trinket, money or other reward therefore. After the mountains were reached the party began to separate, leaving only twelve when they came to the upper streams of the Columbia River, to make their way without a guide to Fort Walla Walla and Fort Vancouver, ninety miles from the mouth of the Columbia, where they were received by Dr. McLaughlin, resident representative of the Hudson Bay Company and Governor of the then English Territory. Here Mr. Ball remained as Dr. McLaughlin’s guest, and here during the following winter taught the first school in what is now the State of Oregon. Here also he wrote an account of his journey, geographical, geological and descriptive, which was published in Silliman’s Journal of Science. In the spring of 1833 he became the first American farmer of Oregon. Learning that American immigrants were expected, he obtained a few tools and some seed wheat, went up the Williamette River to near where the city of Portland was afterward founded, built a cabin, with the help of some French neighbors, and raised sixteen acres of wheat. The immigrants did not come, and he sold his crop to pay his passage to the Sandwich Islands. En route the vessel lay three weeks at San Francisco, then a Spanish mission, with a few fishermen’s huts. Where now is the great city were only sand dunes and marshes. At Honolulu he met a former classmate, a Mr. Hinkley, and a Mr. Brinsmaid, lead merchants there, and as an invited guest met the native King, Tamahameha I., and his retinue. In January Mr. Ball boarded a New Bedford whaler, bound for Tahiti and around Cape Horn for home. After a tempestuous voyage, being out of sight of land seventy days, Rio Janerio was reached June 1, and there he fortunately secured passage as captain’s clerk on the U.S. War Schooner Boxer, commanded by Lieutenant, afterward Admiral, Farragut. Returning to Lansingburgh, after two and a half years of adventure, Mr. Ball found he had been given up for lost by most of his old friends. For the next two years he practiced law at Troy, N.Y., and then accepted an offer from capitalists to go west and invest in lands at his discretion. He arrived at Grand Rapids in November, 1836, returned to Detroit to complete business arrangements, and opened a law office here in the spring of 1837, having as partners at different times George Martin (afterward Chief Justice), S.L. Withey (who became U.S. Judge), Edward E. Sargeant and James H. McKee. The partnership of Ball and McKee lasted thirty-four years. In 1837 Mr. Ball was elected a member of the State Legislature, as a Democrat, to which party he always adhered, and served in the session of 1838. Two years later Governor Barry appointed him to select and locate 400,000 acres of Internal Improvement lands granted by the General Government to this State. The location of these lands in Kent and adjoining counties aided materially in attracting settlers to this part of the State. He was also much interested in the public schools, and was for twenty-one years a member of the Board of Education. Of his life at Grand Rapids much more is told in these pages, in his notes of early times in this Valley, and in connection with other topics. He went through a long life with his eyes open; traveled extensively at home and in Europe; was a close observer of men and of Nature, and to an unusual degree won the confidence and esteem of all who knew him.
Mr. Ball was married December 31, 1849, to Mary T. daughter of Arthur L. Webster, of Plymouth, N.H. Of ten children born of this union, five are living.
James Ballard, who came in 1838 from Vermont, was especially a representative Congregational minister and school teacher here. He went upon a farm in Paris at an early day, which he cultivated many years, coming to town regularly in his duties clerical and scholastic. He was a man of firm mind and radical tendencies, earnest and zealous in whatever cause he considered reformatory, and left an enduring impress upon many who came within range of his conscientious example and teachings. He was a native of Massachusetts, and a graduate of Williams College. He married, at Bennington, Vt., in 1831, Emeline Hinsdill, a highly gifted and cultivated lady, who was a loving companion and helpmeet for him while she lived. During several years after the war Mr. Ballard labored as a teacher among the Freedmen of the Southern States.
Joseph J. Baxter came from Vermont. He was a carpenter and millwright, and was among the pioneer wagon makers. Later he was in the livery business, grocery and feed trade, and bed spring making, successively. His first house, built about 1843, is yet standing at the corner north of Fountain and west of North Division street.
William Bemis was forty years or more a merchant on Monroe street, and at his death his sons, the Bemis Brothers, succeeded to his trade. He was a quiet, steady-going citizen, held in universal esteem.
Richard E. Butterworth was born in Jamaica, West India Islands, of British parentage, and was an engineer, educated at Manchester, England. He came to Grand Rapids in 1843, and purchased land just southwest of the city, where he developed a gypsum quarry, and engaged in plaster manufacture about nine years later. Selling his mill and property there, he moved into the city in 1856, and lived here till his death, at nearly 82 years of age, in 1888. Here he engaged in the foundry and machine business, buying therefore the iron works at the foot of the east-side canal, which he carried on during the rest of his life. He built three brick blocks near those works. At one time he established a petroleum refinery, but this business was soon discontinued. He was a man of extraordinary energy and pertinacity, and contributed largely to the productiveness and wealth of this city. In his later years he traveled much in Europe, and in the Pacific region of this country, and, being a constant reader, acquired a great fund of information. One of his latest acts was a gift of about $12,000 to the founding of St. Mark’s Hospital.
George Coggeshall was one of the comers of 1836, and at an early day a Justice of the Peace. He built a dwelling house on the corner of Kent and Bridge streets, east of the Bridge street house, where he lived till 1861. He was a man of mark in the early days, plain, direct and blunt in speech, and always meaning just what he said. During many years he was the attorney and manager of the Lucius Lyon interests in what was called the Kent plat.
Alfred X. Cary was engaged in trade on Monroe street as early as 1843; a well known and respected citizen and business man till his death in 1882; as merchant, hotel landlord, steamboat captain, flouring mills manager, and as an honorable servant of the public in various official positions.
Charles P. Calkins was one of the very early lawyers, and has seen about all there is of the growth of more than half a century in this town. He was born at Hinesburgh, Vt., January 24, 1803.
William H. Godfroy was the first hotel keeper; afterward a merchant, and both he and his brother John had considerable trade with the Indians as long as the natives remained near this place.
John F. Godfroy came to Grand Rapids in 1837; when but thirteen years old. Even at that early age he had been engaged in the Indian trade, with his older brother and with the Ewings of Indiana. He was born at Detroit, July 4, 1824. His business in connection with the fur trade carried him over the entire State and the Lake Superior country, made him acquainted with the representative men of both white and Indian races, and especially influential among the latter. In Grand Rapids he afterward settled down to mercantile and real estate dealings. He was averse to holding public official positions; but was chosen in 1853 and served as Recorder of the city for one term. He was three times married; first to Lucilia Genereaux; second, to Mary St. Aubin; third to Adelaide M. Moross, who survives him. He was a man of genial sociability; kind-hearted, intelligent, and honorable, and a devout adherent of the Roman Catholic faith. He died at his home in this city January 25, 1876.
Toussaint Compau, a resident from 1828, was in trade here for some years; and George Campau improved a farm which now is included in the southeastern part of the city.
John Scott and James Phillips were the pioneer barbers. Scott, sometimes nicknamed General Scott, was a fat jolly mulatto, and the first of his craft who had the courage to advertise his trade in the newspapers. In addition to his skill with a razor, he was an excellent cook, and a general favorite about the National Hotel. Phillips, as dark and shiny as any of his race, was a steady, respected citizen, and kept a barber shop twenty years or more. There were few other colored residents in the early village days.
Jacob Rogers came from Rutland county, Vermont, in 1836. He was a sturdy farmer, and lived a little way south of the city upward of thirty years.
William G. Mosely and family came from Westfield, Mass., to Grand Rapids, in 1837. From Detroit they came through the woods with a two-horse wagon, and were six days on the journey. He was a mechanic, and aided in the construction of many of the early buildings. His son, Charles Mosely, was a small lad when the family moved here. In 1849 he was appointed clerk in the Grand Rapids Postoffice, and served as such under two or three Postmasters. For a time he was engaged in the grocery trade. He has now for some years been operating in real estate, chiefly as agent.
George W. Pattison, who started the first newspaper in Grand Rapids, after selling it, went in 1838 to Calhoun county, and has since lived most of the time in Detroit, where he has been connected with a considerable number of newspapers within the last forty years. After leaving Grand Rapids, he was for some years a Quaker preacher.
Charles I. Walker came in 1836, and began making investments in land here-about, as the agent of Junius H. Hatch. The panic of 1837 put a damper on real estate speculations, and he purchased the Grand River Times, but did not keep it long. He was the first Treasurer of the village of Grand Rapids. Here he began the study of law, in the office of George Martin. In 1840 he was chosen to represent this district in the Legislature. Since 1851 he has resided at Detroit. Religiously, by education, he was originally a Quaker. In the fall of 1888 he visited Grand Rapids, and beheld an illustration of the growth of the place during the forty years since he was Village Treasurer, in the new City Hall, at the dedication of which he participated in the exercises. He has held many positions of honor and trust in the State.
A conspicuously odd or eccentric personage on the streets in the village days, was Calvin Hinds. He lived a little out of town, west of the river, but his visits to the business part were almost as regular as the daylight. He was a man of some education, of peculiar humor, witty and sometimes severely satirical. Though an object of all sorts of ridicule, and occasionally of abuse, he seldom, if ever, resorted to physical retaliation, depending upon his ready tongue as his most potent weapon of offense and defense. He had been unfortunate in business before coming here, and was possessed of the idea that in some way Deacon Stephen Hinsdill was responsible for his misfortunes; he had grown somewhat dissipated, and when under the influence of liquor, was morbidly sensitive upon that point. Pages might be written in description of his adventures and eccentricities, but one or two examples will suffice to illustrate his peculiar characteristics. At times he was piously reverential and scrupulously chaste in language; at other times excessively profane and vulgar. On one occasion when he was very noisy, some young men, one of their number acting in the guise of an officer, arrested and took him "to jail." Their "jail" was an apartment under the rear of the Congregational church. It was closed with a strong door and a padlock, and, having locked him in, the boys retired a short distance. After exhausting his vocabulary of epithets upon his tormentors, he threw himself against the door, burst it from its hinges, took it upon his shoulders, and marched down Monroe street, shouting: "Here I come, with the gates of Gaza on my back!" When Dr. Penney’s lecture room, on the west bank of the river at Bridge street, was erected, and Ebenezer Anderson was putting the finishing touches to the plastering, Mr. Hinds went across the bridge, considerably under the influence of strong drink, walked into the building, went behind the speaker’s desk, upon which he place his hat, reverentially folded his hands, closed his eyes and made a fervent prayer (in dedication of the building, as he explained). Mr. Anderson, relating the circumstance, said he was never so astonished in his life before. While Deacon Hinsdill was in his last sickness, in his house a little south of the Division Street Methodist Church, Mr. Hinds came along in front of the place, one balmy evening, quite late, knelt down upon the grass, and prayed with great fervor and apparent earnestness for the man whom he regarded as his enemy, and so loud as to be heard distinctly in several of the houses about; closing with invocation: "O Lord, may his last hours be peaceful, and his soul, redeemed, be taken with the blest into Thy kingdom, if it be consistent with Thy will- but, O Lord, we awfully fear that it isn’t!" Strangely in keeping with his life was the death of Mr. Hinds, which occurred soon after. He said to several whom he met, when leaving the village one evening, that he had a "summons to appear as a witness in the Court of Heaven" on the morrow, and that he should never come to this side of the river again. The next morning he was dead.
Simeon M. Johnson had an agency for fire insurance as early as 1837. He was later a newspaper editor, a lawyer and politician, and about 1852 removed to Washington.
Haley F. Barstow came to Grand Rapids in 1844. He was a graduate of Harvard University, a ready writer and an occasional contributor to the early newspapers here. His wife was a daughter of William G. Mosely. He died suddenly of apoplexy after a residence of twenty-seven years.
Robert M. Collins came here a youth in the early days of the village, and learned the printer’s art; was afterward engaged in manufacturing and trade; a very active and energetic citizen, who contributed much to the growth and development of the city during the first twenty years of its corporate existence. He was widely known and highly respected.
Truman H. Lyon was a native of Shelburne, Vermont, came to Michigan in 1836 and to Grand Rapids in 1840, and resided here until his death, thirty-one years later, at the age of 71. He was generally prominent in active business life, and also filled a number of positions of public trust and responsibility, honorable and fidelity. He served two terms as Postmaster, and in 1854 was in the State Legislature. In 1856 he built the brick block at 14 Canal street, long known as Masonic Hall, which was considered an elegant structure for those days. He was a prominent Mason and Master of Grand River Lodge No. 34, a number of years. In politics he was a Democrat, and in religious affiliation an Episcopalian. He was a citizen of sterling uprightness, and true gentility of character.
Wilder D. Foster was a native of Orange county, New York. He came to Grand Rapids in 1838, and resided here until he died, September 20, 1873, aged 54 years. He began life as a mechanic in a tin shop, and was among the founders of the hardware trade here. The prominent points of his business life near the foot of Monroe street, are given elsewhere. For more than a quarter of a century he was at the head of a trade which made him well known throughout the State. As a successful merchant, a public-spirited citizen and an honest man, whose spoken word was the very synonym for integrity, he won the explicit confidence of all who knew him. He was an industrious, practical, earnest man, a man of principle and good judgment, and was often called to public stations of trust and responsibility. In city offices, from Alderman to Mayor; in the State Legislature; and in Congress, his scrupulous fidelity won universal commendation. In politics he was an ardent Republican. He was not a church member, but a regular attendant at the Congregational Church, of which his wife was a member. He married in 1849 Fanny Lovell, of Ionia. His home life was a happy one. Modest, self-reliant, honest, amiable and whole-hearted, he left behind him the rich fragrance of a good name.
Philander Tracy, a native of Cayuga county, New York, began active life as a sailor on the lakes, between Buffalo and Chicago, and with his schooner visited Grand Haven as early as 1824. He came to Grand Rapids in 1836. Two years later he moved to Lowell, returned to Grand Rapids in 1845, and resided here until he died in 1873, at the age of 72 years. His principal occupation was that of lumberman, in which he was moderately successful. Physically he was a man of powerful frame, and an untiring worker. He was strictly upright in business, plain of speech, strong willed, firm in judgment, and a well respected citizen. In 1840, under the old county court system, he was elected Associate Judge, and served one term.
John M. Fox, who came into the valley in 1837, and after 1846 resided many years in Grand Rapids, was well known and respected as a citizen, business man and a public officer. During the last ten years of his life he resided at Lowell, where he died January 7, 1873, aged 62 years.
John W. Squier was a native of New Jersey, and in early life lived near Seneca Lake, New York. He came to Washtenaw county in 1834 and to Grand Rapids in 1842. He followed the flouring business thirty years. He was a plain, positive man, but accommodating and genial, universally known and esteemed throughout this valley.
Jedediah Gray was a wagon maker by trade, who died in 1876. In 1846 he had a shop on the alley north of Bridge street, between Kent and Ottawa, with turning lathe and some light machinery, for which the motive power was the stream from what has since been called the Kusterer spring, turned upon an overshot wheel. In early life he served as captain in the Florida war.
Henry Seymour came from Onondaga county, New York, in 1842, and was the first teacher of an academic school in this town. In 1844 he married Jeannette, daughter of Stephen Hinsdill. He was a man of mild manners and gentle spirit. In after life he engaged in mercantile business, and served a term each as Representative and a Senator in the State Legislature.
Robert S. Parks, a native of Cayuga county, New York, came to Michigan in 1823 and to Grand Rapids in 1844. About 1830 he assisted in surveying Government lands between Maple River and Grand Rapids, on the south side of Grand River. After coming here he was many years prominent in the building and running of steamboats. He built three for Grand River, one for Muskegon River, and one for White River. Always a bustling, good natured man, his friends were everybody.
Christopher W. Leffingwell, in the early days of the city, was prominent in organizing the local military companies. He was an attorney, officiated as Justice of the Peace, and was at times engaged in mercantile business.
Knowlton S. Pettibone, a settler from Vermont in 1836, was a surveyor and civil engineer, and followed that profession nearly all his life. A resident here upward of forty years, he performed a great amount of useful service for individuals and the public. He was a man of steady habits, quiet demeanor and irreproachable character.
Daniel Marsac came here in 1828, and afterward was many years an Indian trader at Lowell. He was held in great esteem by all the pioneers.
Damon Hatch, in the village days, lived in a square stone cottage at the northwest corner of College avenue and Cherry street. He was a quiet, unassuming citizen, and Secretary of the Kent County Agricultural Society in its early years. He died at Canadaigua, N.Y., in 1876.
James Mortimer Smith was a man well known in the valley during the forty years after 1836. He settled first in Muskegon county, and after about 1855 resided in this city. For many years prior to his death in 1879, his home was an elegant residence at the junction of State and Cherry streets.
John Mathison, a native of England, came here in 1838, and was a resident until his death- about forty-two years. He was a tailor, and followed that trade and the business of a merchant clothier, near the lower end of Monroe street.
James H. Scott, about 1842, came from Oswego county, New York, and was a pioneer in the pail manufacture. He resided here during life, a period of thirty-six years, and left a pleasant memory as an enterprising citizen and genial gentleman.
Lewis Martin, a German by birth, came to Grand Rapids about 1852, and was in the mercantile business nearly thirty years, near the corner of West Bridge and Front streets. He was a trusty, capable man, and represented his ward several years in the Board of Supervisors.
Lewis Porter came from Chicago about 1848, and opened, where Sweet’s Hotel Block now stands, the first store devoted exclusively to the clothing trade. In 1856 he built a brick block at 17 Canal street. In 1867 he removed to Washington. Afterward he purchased the old Congregational church property, that where the Porter Block, which he built, now stands. He died suddenly in Washington, February 11, 1882.
Henry H. Philbrick, a teacher of music, came to Grand Rapids about 1840, and erected the square wood cottage still standing on Fulton street, just east of the park. In 1866 he removed to California, and died there about sixteen years later.
Joel Philbrick came in 1848, and settled at the corner of Fulton and Barclay streets, at which time there were only two or three houses east of him on the north side of Fulton street. He resided on or near that spot upward of a quarter of a century.
William Thum, a native of Germany, came to Grand Rapids in the early days of the city. He was a druggist, and known all over the State as a very skillful compounding chemist. He removed to Detroit, and after sixteen years returned, and spent the remaining years of his life here. He died suddenly of heart disease, March 11, 1883, aged sixty. His sons Hugo and Ferdinand, are the druggists at 84 Canal street.
Gaius S. Deane was a Vermonter. He came to Lyons in 1837, and to Grand Rapids in 1843. Here until his death, a period of forty years, he was engaged as a foundry-man and dealer in castings. He was a thoroughly upright man who enjoyed the highest respect and most implicit confidence of his fellow-citizens.
Luman R. Atwater came from Vermont in 1837, and has resided in Grand Rapids ever since. He was a mechanic, but has followed besides a variety of occupations and professions, always with strict honesty and propriety. An unswerving prohibitionist, regular and methodical in habits, through life he has been a conspicuous exemplar of perpendicular and conscientious integrity.
William Sibley was a navigator upon the river about as soon as there were any boats to command, and was a popular steamboat captain for many years. His homestead was on the west side of the river, near the old Indian village.
Simeon S. Stewart was one of the comers of the spring of 1836. With a span of horses and wagon he drove through from Detroit, bringing his family and household goods and $1,800 in cash. He settled on the north side of Bridge street, and lived in a slab house a little below Ottawa street. Slab shanties were among the makeshifts for dwellings in many instances before other sawed lumber became plenty. In that shanty, in March, 1837, his son, now a resident of the city, was born. He was a mason by trade, did some of the earliest stone work, and made lime for it. After about ten years he moved to a farm a few miles out on the Cascade road, where he spent the remainder of his life.
Orrin McClure came from Vermont and settled in Grand Rapids, by Coldbrook, in 1836. He subsequently removed to a farm, and at the beginning of 1889 was yet living near Berlin, Ottawa county. George T. McClure, his son, an ex-soldier, is now a wide-awake citizen of Grand Rapids. Horace McClure (a brother of Orrin) was among the house painters, in the village days, and is now a resident of the city.
William I. Blakely was born in Huntsville, Otsego county, N.Y., June 29, 1810. He came to Grand Rapids June 6, 1837, and here resided continuously fifty-two years-till his death in 1889. His business for some years was that of carpenter, joiner and house builder. During his school days he was, for some time, a pupil of Millard Fillmore. In 1841 he was appointed a U.S. Deputy Marshal and served four years. He also at various periods held local offices of trust and responsibility, and performed the duties pertaining thereto honorably and faithfully. In early life he was a Whig, politically, and later a Republican. In religious views he was liberal and tolerant. He was quiet and unostentatious in bearing and generally beloved for his domestic virtues and his integrity. He married, in 1842, Mary L. Green, who, with one son, survives him.
Hiram Jenison settled near Grandville, just west of the county line, in 1836, and soon after came his brothers Luman and Lucius (twins). They are natives of St. Lawrence county, New York. Though some miles out, the Jenisons have always been so actively associated with Grand Rapids people in society and business as to seem almost identical in citizenship. The twins have never married, though they have passed the middle of the last decade of the length of life usually allotted to man. These have ever been a bustling, public-spirited family.
Nehemiah White, a chair-maker in the village days, lived on Division street at the Lyon street corner. He was a citizen with whom it was a pleasure and a luxury to be acquainted. In person he was tall and slim, straight as an arrow, and in deportment a gentleman of the strictest integrity and Christian kindness. He died in 1859, at the age of 76 years, and was buried with Masonic honors. He was a highly esteemed communicant in St. Mark’s Church.
Sarell and Ransom E. Wood (brothers) came to Grand Rapids about 1853, and were among the active and enterprising men for some fifteen years. Sarell took much interest in manufacturing ventures and in improvements. They built themselves handsome residences, Sarell on the north and Ransom on the south side of Fulton street, well up toward Lake avenue. Sarell died in this city, April 2, 1869. Ransom went abroad and died just after returning from Europe, in New York City, June 28, 1881. They were both New Englanders by birth.
John W. Gunnison was born in Goshen, N.H., November 10, 1812. He graduated at West Point in 1835, and was appointed Lieutenant in the United States Artillery. In 1841 he married Martha Delony, of Georgia, and between that time and 1849 was in the topographical department of the regular Army, engaged in the coast survey of the great lakes. In 1844 he entered a tract of land south of West Fulton street, and made Grand Rapids his family home. After 1849 he was engaged in the topographic survey of the basin of the Great Salt Lake, Utah, where, on Sevier River, October 26, 1853, he was killed by a party of Pah-Ute Indians. He was greatly beloved, and his death was sincerely mourned in this city. One who was with him in 1844, surveying the region of the Straits of Mackinac, expresses the opinion that his slayers were Mormons disguised as Indians; and describes him as tall in stature, slim and active, talented, energetic and enterprising, and a worker who frequently tired out the others of his party. He is well remembered by many of the older citizens of Grand Rapids.
Henry Bremer, a graduate from a college in Germany, came to Grand Rapids in 1850, and resided here until his death in 1883, engaged principally in manufactures and the grocery trade. He was possessed of a genial disposition, and had the respect and warm friendship of all with whom he was associated, either in business or social life. He was several times chosen to official positions in the city, and in 1872, and again in 1874, was elected County Treasurer. In all his trusts he was a faithful officer, the very embodiment of scrupulous honesty.
Wright L. Coffinberry was born at Lancaster, O., April 5, 1807. His parents were born in Virginia, and were pioneers in Ohio. In youth he received a moderate education in the common schools; but later in life, by practical application and experience, became well versed as a civil engineer, and as a student of archaeology. After he was eighteen years old, he learned the trades of carpenter and millwright, which he followed thirteen years. In 1836 he became a member of the Civil Engineers Corps of Ohio, and civil engineering was his favorite occupation thereafter, during life. He was an expert mechanic, and an excellent draughtsman. He came to Grand Rapids in 1846, and at first operated a watch and clock repairing establishment on Monroe street, afterward removing to Canal street. In 1850 he was chosen the first City Surveyor, to which place he was again elected in 1854, and held it three years. In 1853 he was in Government service, surveying public lands in Michigan. In 1859 he surveyed a State road from the northwest corner of Kent county to Northport, and in the following year filled a contract for cutting out and bridging forty miles of it north of Newaygo. In the survey he and his party of picked men camped in the woods, and carried their knapsacks for thirty nights and days. In 1861 he enlisted for the war, and raised Company C of the First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics, and served a year and a half as its Captain, when he resigned. Mr. Coffinberry married, near Mansfield, O., August 18, 1831, Jane Beach, who was his life companion during fifty-seven years, and survives him. He died suddenly, in a street car, March 26, 1889. "Here is a man whom you may trust with money uncounted," said an eminent phrenologist lecturing in the Congregational church edifice nearly forty years ago, as, blindfolded, he placed his hands upon Mr. Coffinberry’s head. No better delineation of his character could today be made than is condensed in those few words. As a newspaper correspondent fitly said after his death: "He was a man of action rather than profession. He was a man whose life was made up of deeds which, without seeming great in themselves, yet as a mass would build a monument. He was a simple and unpretentious, but great in the little duties and details of life. A man of strong convictions was he, but yet of the broadest charity." Mr. Coffinberry was the inventor of a machine for drawing ellipses upon any scale required, and also of a compensating pendulum, which showed ingenuity and skill. He was an enthusiast in natural history, and especially in archaeology; was a member of the Grand Rapids Lyceum, the Lyceum of Natural History and the Kent Scientific Institute, and served as President and on prominent committees in each of them. He made many explorations, and accumulated a rare and valuable collection of natural objects and antique relics. He was a life-long temperance man, and in politics an unswerving Republican. He was also for many years connected with the Odd Fellows and the Masonic order. Than this, few or none leave a better record of honor and manliness. From 1881 he was six years one of the County Superintendents of the Poor, and nowhere more heartily than among the poor was his kindness or his integrity recognized and appreciated. For his natural nobility and sterling worth he is held in affectionate memory.
Thomas W. White, who resided in Grand Rapids after 1865 until his death, January 10, 1884, was one of the pioneers of this valley. He was born at Ashland, Mass., November 6, 1805, and came to Grand Haven in 1836. He was well known in all this part of Michigan, and much beloved as a generous, energetic and upright citizen.
Charles Rathbun came to Grand Rapids in 1844. He was a native of Cayuga county, N.Y. Here he was proprietor of the Rathbun House about eight years, and in 1852 retired to a farm in Paris township. He was a man of robust frame, strong will and temperate habits. He died in 1875, aged 79 years. Hiram Rathbun was also a hotel keeper, who died in 1861.
Aaron Sibley built and lived in the house on Prospect Hill which was afterward in the village days used as a school house.
Howard Jennings and James Short were ship carpenters here before the town was five years old. Jennings moved upon a farm in Paris township, and lived to a good old age. Capt. Short was the builder of the steamer Governor Mason; he died in 1838.
William H. Withey came from Vermont and built a saw mill some miles above the rapids, in 1837-38, and for twenty-eight years was prominent in business enterprises, including staging to Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, and constructing the Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids Plank Road.
Julius Granger began as a manufacturer, on the east-side canal, at the "Big Mill," and was afterward a bustling, jolly landlord, as well as stage proprietor, and an enterprising citizen. He came here from Ohio in 1844, and lived here until his death, twenty-seven years.
Other mention of these and many more of the pioneer co-workers in Grand Rapids may be found within the pages of this book; but to go through the list and gather the full history of each individual, is not practicable, if possible.
Transcriber: Amy Brown
Created: 26 February 2002