THE CIVIL CHRONICLE---EVENTS OF FORTY YEARS.
Only the more prominent events and happenings of the life of our city will here be chronicled. To go into minor affairs and small details would unduly prolong the narration. The towns and the village numbered only scores and hundreds where the city has its thousands of population, and social and material interests and daily experience multiply in proportion. Hence only the larger and deeply-cut waymarks of the city period need be treated in a history of this kind, at a time when public documents and records, associative and in business affairs, are not only numerous and exhaustive but well preserved and accessible to all.
1850. From the town and village to the city form of government the transition was easy and without friction, and the new machinery started smoothly. May 15, Canton Smith, Edmund B. Bostwick and ten others, left for California. Bostwick died on that overland journey, and on receipt of the news there was a public meeting and general demonstration of sorrow. The first menagerie that ever visited Grand Rapids exhibited May 20, on the public square. The papers estimated that 5,000 people were in attendance. July 13, there was a large meeting on the public square, in respect to the memory of President Zachary Taylor, who died July 9, and on the Sunday following memorial sermons were preached in the churches. A daily stage from Jackson, making the third daily line into the city, was established, and soon another was added, from Kalamazoo. August 11 St. Andrew’s Catholic Church was consecrated. Early in December a break in the embankment opposite the foot of Erie street drained the canal, and stopped the mills for several weeks. Two prisoners, held on the charge of counterfeiting, escaped from jail.
1851. According to the newspaper reports the first grand event was of a celestial character---"a very brilliant exhibition of northern lights," January 21. It does not appear to have upset the steady going of the new city, nor to have interfered with the evening festivities. The Rev. Joseph Penney entertained the public with a series of philosophical lectures. There was high water in the river at the end of February, and steam navigation began March 17. Judge Edward Mundy died March 13. April 7 an act was passed by the Legislature to provide for a completion of the east side canal and locks, and the removal of the dam to a point lower down the river. The part pertaining to the locks was never carried into effect. On the first of May there was a cold storm, with several inches of snow. Rains in the early part of June again raised the river to overflowing banks. The newspaper chronicles of this year are nearly bare of notable incidents. But there was much building of stores and shops on the business streets, and Kendall’s addition was well dotted over with neat swelling houses.
1852. January 17, the Grand Rapids Bridge Company obtained a concession to erect a toll bridge across the river at Bridge street. There was a great increase in the land plaster trade that winter; large quantities of the article were carried south in sleights. The demand outran the supply. In March occurred the heaviest flood in Grand River since February, 1838. At its highest stage, March 16 and 17, the river steamboats came into Waterloo street, in front of the Eagle Hotel, and into Pearl street at its junction with Monroe. The waters subsided as rapidly as they rose, and in two weeks business assumed its usual activity. The flood left Canal street well strewn with stranded logs. Snow fell on election day, April 5, to the depth of six or eight inches. On May 1 the burglary of Aaron Dikeman’s jewelry store, at which about $500 worth of goods were taken, created considerable excitement. The thief was not caught. On June 30 the city was hung with black, news having arrived of the death of Henry Clay, and in the afternoon a memorial meeting was held. During the latter part of the year there was much talk on railroad and plank road projects, but not much done. A correspondent of the Rochester American wrote a glowing prediction that Grand Rapids would be "in a few years a city of ten thousand inhabitants," and was "destined to rank as a second place in the State."
1853. Little of historic interest occurred in the beginning of the year. West Grand Rapids had taken a start ahead, and business was growing rapidly in that part of the city. A boiler for the steamer Michigan was drawn from Kalamazoo by five pairs of horses on trucks, arriving February 7. An enthusiastic railroad meeting was held February 25, at which resolutions were passed commendatory of the project of the Oakland and Ottawa and Port Huron and Lake Michigan companies. Several similar meetings were held that year. March 8, a stick 100 feet long, a little over three feet in diameter at the butt, and 16 inches at the tip, was drawn through Monroe street by ten yoke of cattle. It was intended for the mainmast of a lake vessel then building at Michigan City. March 22 the steamer Michigan was launched. March 23 a scow loaded with 250,000 shingles, attempting to get into the canal, was carried over the dam, boat destroyed and eight or ten men given a cool bath. May 15 a severe gale of wind unroofed a number of buildings, blew one into the river near the west end of the bridge, and uprooted many trees in the city. Sales of real estate grew active and prices advanced this season. A contract for building the railroad from Pontiac to Grand Haven was reported, which helped to "push things" in business circles. July 4 an ox weighing 2,360 pounds was converted into beef and sold at a meat market near the National Hotel. July 19, Henry R. Williams, first Mayor of the city, died at Buffalo, and on receipt of the news the Common Council passed resolutions of eulogy and condolence. The first large steam saw mill of Powers & Ball was built this year.
1854. This year was marked by very few unusual events. Public business ran without friction; in trade there was little or no excitement; fruit was plenty, and table supplies were cheap. In the latter part of summer heat and drouth prevailed, and there were symptoms of panic from fear of cholera, which was epidemic in Chicago and some other western cities. There was an explosion on the steamer Humming Bird, September 2, by which a boy, John McMunn, was killed, and a boatman, James Muir (alive at this writing), was badly injured and permanently crippled. The markets were filled with venison toward the end of the year.
1855. In the early months there was some severe cold weather. In March the first daily newspaper was started. It was a summer of general "dressing up" of streets and sidewalks in the city; though not much in the way of substantial and permanent improvement was done. The Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids Plank Road was completed, which vastly improved and quickened the means of traffic and travel, and gave a new impetus to the growth of population by immigration. No more of long and hard days’ works by teams over rough and muddy roads to reach Grand Rapids from the Michigan Central Railroad. The people began to talk of gaslight, and of incoming railroads, and there was a quick forward movement in real estate and in mercantile business.
1856. Some boat building for Muskegon River and White Lake was done here. In that summer a longer run of theatrical amusement was given than every before, in Collins Hall, corner of Canal and Erie streets. It was also an era of much building of stores and dwellings. About twenty iron fronts were put in new blocks that season, at an average cost of near $5,000 each. Many fine residences on the "Fulton Street Hill" toward the east part of the city were built. Pioneer Joel Guild died May 26. A night mail to Kalamazoo was established in August. September 9 the Taylor and Barns block, a four-story brick structure on which the workmen were just putting the roof, fell in with a crash. Twenty-eight men were on the building, but fortunately none were killed nor seriously hurt. The block was immediately rebuilt. September 15 a wild bear passing through the east part of the city was shot and killed by Simeon L. Baldwin, near Fulton and Union streets. The stuffed skin was long used as a sign for a hat store. The carcass weighed 324 pounds, and the meat was sold at a market place.
1857. In February the Supervisors granted a charter for a toll bridge at Leonard street, and in that year the bridge was completed. In the spring the citizens of Grand Rapids were active in raising and sending supplies for the relief of sufferers in Montcalm and Gratiot counties, where there was destitution among the settlers. This year was one of great activity in radical and permanent street improvements, which were entered upon in earnest. Monroe was new graded and paved with cobble stone, and heavy cuts were made through Prospect Hill, on Pearl street, and between Pearl and Monroe on Ottawa street (the known as Justice street). September 25, twenty-five business buildings, on both sides of Monroe street, above Waterloo, were burned. This was the first experience in Grand Rapids of a very large and intensely fierce conflagration, and it caused great excitement. The loss of property was estimated at above $75,000. But rebuilding began almost before the ashes were cold, and in the change from the old to the new there was abundant opportunity for improvements of various kinds, which were promptly entered upon. Gas jets were lit in the streets November 12, and on the evening of the 13th several stores on Monroe street were lighted with gas for the first time. It was an event of great interest to the citizens, many of whom had never before beheld a gas light, and went and gazed with much pleasure upon the new luxury.
1858. March 22 half a dozen wood buildings near the corner of Canal and Pearl streets (east from Canal) were burned, involving several stores and a banking office. March 24 the steamer Nawbeck was run over the dam and rapids to the lover river. March 25 John Burke was fatally shot by Sheriff Anson N. Norton, while resisting arrest. Upon judicial examination the Sheriff was acquitted of wrong doing. In the evening of election day, April 5, the bridge at Bridge street and several manufactories along the bank at its east end were destroyed by fire. The conflagration, near midnight, was a dazzling sight; the flames ran quickly from end to end of the bridge, and it became a continuous sheet of flame across the river, a distance of more than 800 feet. A foot bridge was soon thrown across, over which, for a time, hundreds of persons passed daily, and while the bridge company were rebuilding, a scow ferry boat was run upon the still water above the dam. Five deaths by drowning in the river occurred during the latter part of June---two sons of James Clidesdell and a son of James Dohany, small boys, on the 22d; Anton Hannish, aged 35, on the 26th, and on the 29th, Charles Dondero, an Italian. About this time the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad bridge was begun, and much building wad done near the station at Coldbrook, including freight and passenger houses. June 27 was first heard the whistle of a locomotive and the rattle of a railroad construction train, then nearing the northeastern part of the city. Temperature that day 105 degrees in the shade. Laying of the railway bed and track through the city progressed rapidly till the road was formally opened for traffic. July 2 the locomotive Empire was steamed down from the station through Canal street to the dock at Pearl street, and transferred by a scow down the river to the western division of the railroad. July 12 the newspapers remarked that on that morning dawned a new era in Grand Rapids, whose citizens for the first time could leave their homes by another conveyance than river steamer or stage coach. There was no formal celebration of the opening. Beginning on the 13th, there were regular arrivals and departures, two each, of daily trains east. On the 12th of July ground was broken, north of Bridge street west, by James Scribner and a company of workmen, for the projected Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, and on the 18th of August new contractors, with about seventy-five hands, began the grading in earnest northward, George W. Howland, a printer, throwing the first shovelfull of dirt. August 26 the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad bridge was finished. September 1 the connection with Grand Haven was made, the engine, with the track-laying, having come through from Mill Point (thirty-five miles) in forty days. Teams crossed the new lattice bridge at Bridge street September 4. The first telegraphic communication here was with Detroit, over the line of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad Company, when the following correspondence was exchanged:
Grand Rapids, September 14, 1858.
To the Honorable, the Mayor of the City of Detroit:
The Valley City shakes hands with the city of Detroit, and, while nations rejoice at the successful laying of the Atlantic Telegraph, we may be permitted to congratulate each other that distant parts are joined together by that mysterious agent which makes all nations one and mankind a brotherhood. Peace and prosperity to the city of Detroit, and may her noble-hearted citizens ever enjoy the blessings of civil and religious liberty.
G. M. McCray,
Mayor of the City of Grand Rapids.
September 14, 1858.
To the Honorable, the Mayor of the City of Grand Rapids:
The city of Detroit heartily responds to the friendly sentiments of the Valley City, and rejoices with her that science and art are combining to diffuse the blessings of civil and religious liberty throughout the world, and are by the railroads and telegraph bringing us into closer union with our sister cities, identifying our interest and cementing our friendships.
Mayor of the City of Detroit.
October 4, 1858, three wild black bears (cubs) weighing about fifty pounds each, were killed in the Fourth Ward of the city, by Samuel White, Gabriel Burgett, Mr. Clidesdell and a dog. Wild bears were then becoming scarce, and these were the subjects of much curiosity. There was a fine county fair that week, but the bears were not entered for premiums. The Leonard street bridge was finished October 21, and the Pearl street bridge on the 25th of November.
1859. First among the pleasurable events of the year was the Burns centennial anniversary festival, January 25, when the Rathbun House was filled to its utmost capacity with citizens of Scotch nativity and other admirers of Scotland’s great bard. It was the first celebration of the sort ever held here. Large quantities of land plaster were sent out over the Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad in February; the beginning of shipments of that article by rail. The spring of 1859 was notable as being the first within the memory of white men when there were no Indian fishermen about the Rapids or the islands---not a wigwam nor tent nor campfire of "the noble red man" was seen here. The Indian sturgeon trade at this place was ended. The Order of the Sons of Malta, a secret society, the object of which appears to have been sport for the members, flourished during that season. August 19 there was great consternation and excitement in the city. Marietta Fitch was missing. She had gone into the "south woods" beyond Grandville on the previous day, with a black-berrying party, became separated from her companions and remained lost in the forest over night. When found she knew neither her friends nor home, but recovered in a few days from her bewilderment. Building of Daniel Ball’s block, where now is the Old National Bank and Sweet’s Hotel, was begun in September, and the brick work was finished in November. The first paving of Canal street, with cobble stone, was completed September 27, from Pearl to Hastings street. This was a year of much street work, prominent among new grades being those of Canal, Pearl, Ottawa, Waterloo and Division streets, and several in the eastern part of the city. Wolves and wild-casts were not fully exterminated at this date, as appears by the fact that the Board of Supervisors allowed at their October session $30 for the killing of three full-grown wolves, and $10 for the killing of four full-grown wild-cats. These ferocious animals were killed in the northern part of the country. October 17 there was a gush of excitement over the gushing of salt water from a deep well at Coldbrook. But it proved rather weak. A list published of prominent business buildings and dwellings erected in the city during the season of 1859, footed up a value of about $136,000.
1860. Social exercises opened with an impromptu celebration of the Jackson anniversary---8th of January---on the evening of the 7th, in the armory hall of the West Side Union School building. It was voted a "grand event," by the military men and firemen. January 23, fire broke out in the Taylor & Barns block, in which the county offices were situated and the county records kept. The buildings were destroyed, with nearly all the records, also the wood building across the alley (now called the Arcade) where the Postoffice was kept. The private losses in money value were estimated at about $90,000---that of the public records, books and documents could not thus be computed nor ever fully made good. Several serious injuries were sustained by men fighting the fire, but none fatal. An abstract of titles in the county had just been completed by the Register of Deeds, L.S. Scranton. This, his private property, with ten or twelve out of sixty or more volumes of the records of deeds, constituted all that was saved from the fire. Those abstracts were afterward purchased by the county, and in the winter of 1861 the Legislature passed an act making them prima facie evidence of title, as to real estate covered by their record. The members of the Bar Associate had a meeting February 7, and agreed to take no advantage, in litigation, of the loss of records by the then recent fire, but to aid each other as much as possible in the mutual use of such papers and documents as any of them might have. Thomas D. Gilbert, January 20, made a donation in trust, with certain conditions, of $2,000, which was the foundation of what is to this day know as the Gilbert Trust Fund belonging to our public schools. William L. Waring that spring plowed and fenced and sowed to wheat forty acres of ground within the then limits of the city, on the east side. The Taylor & Barns block, which was burned in January, was rebuilt by Stewart & McReynolds. The steamer Michigan burned to the water’s edge, a total loss, in the evening of July 11, a short distance below Fulton street, in the west channel. There was much complaint of the poor quality of paper currency in circulation here, but efforts to introduce better and more reliable bank currency were not successful. This part of the country was still laboring under the depression caused by the general financial revulsion of 1857. Yet there was steadily increasing business, and confidence that better things were coming.
1861. At the opening of this year economy was the order of the day, and businessmen, as well as public bodies, were proceeding cautiously. Times had been "growing tight," as the colloquial expression ran, and there was an indefinable fear or dread of coming events that were casting shadows before. Several States had passed ordinances of secession, and here, as elsewhere, was a gradually swelling current of anxiety. Excitement of a military character grew rapidly after the first three months, and the recruiting of troops, with headquarters in or near the city, not only added enthusiasm to the war feeling, but gave a new spur to business, which from that time grew greatly in volume and importance, and for many years added to the local and general prosperity.
1862. Enlisting men for the war proceeded briskly, the headquarters at the fair grounds presenting a busy and inspiring scene throughout the summer. The ladies, and citizens, young and old, not eligible for the army, entered spiritedly into the work of aiding and encouraging the soldiery in behalf of the Union. A tree-planting association was organized in the Third Ward and did good work in setting shade trees on the parks and contiguous sidewalks. Thomas D. Gilbert was prominent in this movement, and at the expense of the city one hundred trees were set on the public square, and a fence put around it and painted. As an illustration of the rapid advance in prices about that time, it is on record that the painter, between the making of his bid and the closing of the contract, about two weeks, asked and obtained $7.50 for the rise on oil. Prices generally rose rapidly after the greenbacks came into circulation; business almost ran wild, and speculators grew light-headed over the sudden fluctuations, which almost every day gave new opportunities for profitable trade. The closing months of the year were marked by great activity in business circles, and at the same time there was much life and liberality in contributing to encourage the soldiers, and help carry on the war.
1863. Work on public improvements in the city proceeded briskly. The Third Ward Tree Association obtained permission of the Common Council to fence and otherwise improve the triangular plats of public ground near the head of Monroe and the foot of State street. City Surveyor John Almy died on the 29th of September. Ransom C. Luce erected a three-story brick block on Monroe street, nearly opposite the head of Waterloo, which he named Fremont Block. There was a military camp on the hill, the headquarters of two cavalry regiments then organizing. In the latter part of October, a draft at the Provost Marshal’s office in this city caused a brief ripple of excitement. The clergy of the city were very attentive to the soldiers at Camp Lee, and held services there on Sundays, regularly, during the fall. In December the Board of Supervisors authorized the issue of bonds for the purpose of paying a bounty of $200, to encourage enlistments. The amount estimated was $78,400.
1864. During the month of January the city swarmed with military men, large numbers of whom arrived and departed daily. On some occasions there were from 3,000 to 5,000 officers and soldiers at Camp Lee, and the other places about the city. On the 22d of January a grand festival was given in Luce’s Hall, for the benefit of the Soldiers’ Aid Society, and several successful entertainments for the same purpose were given in the following month. The Kent County Soldiers’ Monument Association was organized in February, with Thomas D. Gilbert as President. The annual report of the Secretary and Treasurer of the Aid Society, showed a disbursement of $1,721.70 the previous years. It was a winter of very little severe cold, and not much good sleighing. A revised enrollment list, published March 1, placed the quota for the city under the President’s call for 500,000 men, at 114. This quota had already been filled, substantially, by the aid of local bounties. At this time the "Bronson Mortgage," originally made in 1835, covering a large portion of the Kent Plat, and which had been a great hindrance to sales of property there, was finally paid off and discharged. This was a matter of great importance to the people east of the river, and north of Lyon street, giving them an opportunity which they had not before enjoyed, of obtaining clear titles to lots, on which they might erect permanent buildings with a feeling of security. About 200 soldiers were forwarded from this city the first week in March, mostly as recruits to various commands of the Army of the Cumberland. March 17, eight wood buildings, mostly occupied by small stores, and including the City Clerk’s office, on the east side of Exchange Place Alley, were destroyed by fire. The city safe and papers were saved. The first movement toward the establishment of a street railway in the city was made on the 28th of April, by the opening of books for stock subscriptions for a Railway Company. The veterans of the Old Third Infantry, who did not re-enlist after the expiration of the three years service, and who went out from this vicinity, returned on the 18th of June, and were received with public demonstrations of welcome, and given a supper at the Rathbun House. These "boys," who came "marching home," numbered about thirty. The ladies of the city organized a Soldiers’ Fair on the fourth of July, at which about $200 was raised for the benefit of poor families, whose heads were absent in the army. In pursuance of a proclamation by the President, the fourth day of August was observed as a day of National humiliation and prayer. Business houses generally were closed, and appropriate services were held in the churches. Military recruiting was carried on with great energy by the citizens. Frequent "War Meetings" were held, and the quotas for the army, of this city, were filled without resort to drafts. The ladies of the Aid Society held a sanitary fair, at the time of the county fair, at which they realized $1,846.66, as the net proceeds. A large and successful county fair, indicated that, in spite of military drafts, the people were wide awake and prospering in civil affairs.
1865. General Thomas W. Custer visited the city January 25, and was met at the depot, and given a cordial welcome by the Mayor, Common Council, and a deputation of citizens. War meetings were still the order of the day, to keep the volunteer ranks filled, and avoid drafts. On the 4th of March an enthusiastic celebration was held by the citizens, in rejoicing over victories won by the Union forces in the army and navy, and the prospect of a speedy and honorable peace. April 10, 1865, was a day of jubilee and celebration over the news of the surrender of General Lee and his army, and the end of the war of the rebellion. There were large gatherings in the streets, with processions and music and speeches and cheers, and a brilliant illumination in the evening, with more patriotic speeches to a great crowd in front of the Rathbun House. On Saturday, April 15, there was another great public demonstration, but how different! This was one of grief and lamentation. The heads of the people were bowed in deep sorrow and mourning upon receipt of news of the assassination of President Lincoln, which was perpetrated on the previous evening. The city was draped in mourning, flags were put at half mast, business places were closed, and bells were tolled for three hours. On Sunday, April 16, the churches were draped, and solemn services appropriate to such an occasion were held. And the day of the funeral of the murdered President was marked by similar public services. No sooner was the war fairly ended, than the citizens of Grand Rapids began to move in the matter of trying to hasten the construction of more railroads, from the south and southeast, into Grand Rapids. Public meetings were held, and prominent business men took an active interest in projects that were organized, and this was kept up until success appeared, though that required several years. May 10th the street railway began operations, marking the advent of street cars, over which the citizens rejoiced. A few trials were made this year of concrete pavement for sidewalks---the first of the kind. An unusually fine and enthusiastic celebration of the Fourth of July took place this year, citizens and returned soldiers joining in jubilee; and a bounteous dinner was served by the ladies to the soldiers on the Pearl street bridge, a table being set through its entire length. The structure was trimmed with evergreen boughs throughout. At the east end was an evergreen gross, on which was woven with green twigs, "In God is our Trust." On the middle arch was like wise woven, "Welcome, Soldiers---Michigan, my Michigan." At the west entrance was, "Soldiers Welcome." More than a thousand people were feasted at the table. In this month the Ladies’ Soldiers Aid Society disbanded, the organization having been at work from January 1, 1863, to July 1, 1865, and disbursed upward of six thousand dollars in aid to needy soldiers and their families. Several old buildings burned, December 1, below the Eagle Hotel, corner of Waterloo and Louis streets, including blacksmith and wagon shops.
1866. The chief topic of general interest in the early part of the year was the question of how to get more railroads into the city, and thus gain the benefit of competition in freights and fares. Frequent meetings were held, with less of progress than of talk. Predictions of enthusiastic speakers that the manufactures of Grand Rapids would in five years reach an annual product of $5,000,000 in value were regarded as wild by some, but they do not now seem so fanciful. From this time forward manufactures of various kinds grew rapidly and prospered greatly. In the latter part of March occurred a trial for murder, and the crime, being strange and peculiar in its perpetration and the circumstances attending it, wrought an unusual degree of interest and excitement in the community. One Hosea N. Durfee came in October, 1865, from Ohio to this city, having with him a woman named Harriet Belden, and a boy about eighteen months old. After a few days he engaged a livery team, and with the woman and child drove northward. The next day he returned alone with the team, and left the place. The little boy was found in the bushes a day or two later, by Nicholas Childs, of Courtland township, alive, but nearly famished, and after that the body of the woman, who had been strangled with a rope and stabbed. The perpetrator of this deed was finally arrested in West Virginia, brought to Grand Rapids and arraigned, pleaded guilty, make a full confession, and was, on the 28th of March, sentenced to the State Prison at Jackson for life. The utter lack of any adequate motive for the deed, and the utter depravity of the prisoner, as revealed by his own story, rendered this a peculiar case in criminal history, creating intense horror by its absolutely revolting details. On the morning of the first of May fire broke out at the corner of Kent and Lyon streets, destroyed the wooden buildings on both side of Lyon west to the alley, swept through north of Lyon to Canal street and thence north on the east side of the latter to the Dikeman block, leaving in its course only blackened ruins and cinders and ashes. The losses by this conflagration were estimated at nearly $100,000. The facilities for fighting fire were poor and weak as compared with what we have at the present day. May 31, a block of six two-story wood buildings, called the "the six sisters," also several other wood buildings and dwellings, north of Fulton street and east side of Ottawa, were burned. The ground where the fire occurred is now covered by fine brick blocks, mostly used for stores, where much trade is centered. August 1, a meeting of those interested in the salt well boring at Coldbrook, near the railway station, was held, at which report was made that at a depth of 900 feet there were no more signs of better brine than at 300 feet, and that the subscribers were in debt to the committee for advances made. The treasurer was instructed to levy an assessment to reimburse the committee, and further---"to sell the hole, in lengths to suit, to any oil companies of the city who may be contemplating further operations." A new dam across the head of the rapids, from opposite Fourth street to the Guard Locks, was completed in September. Bears were somewhat plenty in the region near the city in October. Several foraging parties, numbering from three to six, of these animals were seen, and a number were killed. One of them passed through the city near the residence of Mrs. Cuming, on the hill above Crescent Park, creating quite an excitement among the mean, boys and dogs, but the bear got away. There has been no such good year for bears since. Two boys, named Carr and Alley, were drowned October 20, by the capsizing of a canoe in which they were passing over the old dam in the river. Among the buildings erected during the season were brick blocks containing five stores, on the east side of Canal street and north of Lyon; several stores on each side of Monroe street, between Waterloo and Ottawa; also a three-story brick block of two stores on Canal street, a short distance south of Erie street; all of which are still standing. The First National Bank building of eighty-four feet front on Canal street, at the corner of Pearl, was sold for $28,000, by Byron D. Ball to Martin L. Sweet.
1867. The first notable event was a flood, and an ice gorge in the river, on the 22d of February, raising the stream to full banks along the rapids, and doing considerable damage to property on the east side, between Bridge and Pearl street bridges. Low lands adjacent to the head and below the rapids were overflowed to some distance back. The flood was of short duration. February 27, the ladies of St. Mark’s church opened in Luce’s Hall an entertainment which they called the World’s Bazaar, for two days and two evenings. It was thronged by a large crowd of visitors, and they realized about $800 toward purchasing a new organ for their church. On the evening of March 1, a largely attended and successful charity ball was given at the same hall. The citizens celebrated the Fourth of July at the expense of $1,188.97 and called it cheap. The first bridge on the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad north of the river, over Indian Creek, was finished on the fifth of September. The last week in September the Kent County Fair was held here, with an exhibition exceeding that of any former fair of the society. November 13, the first freight train on the Grand Rapids and Indiana road from the north, came into the city from Rockford. The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company established a station at West Bridge street in December, and on the 14th the road was open to Cedar Springs.
1868. Among the leading attractions at the beginning of the year, appears to have been skating. The first artificial skating park in town was made, by flowing an acre or two of land north of West Bridge street, in the vicinity of Broadway, where the young people with a band of music enjoyed many merry evenings in midwinter. The night of February 3 was characterized by the press as the coldest that had been known in this vicinity. Reports of temperature ranging from 20 degrees to 38 degrees below zero were printed. A large congregation crowded Luce’s Hall February 22, in the evening, for an enthusiastic celebration of Washington Day. A smaller gathering had a similar anniversary meeting in Rood’s Hall. At the breaking up of the ice in the river March 10, a jam in the vicinity of Pearl street, filled the river banks on the lower part of the rapids, and stopped work in the mills for two or three days. The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad bridge, just finished, stood the pressure without injury. The bridge completion was celebrated with an oyster supper at the Bridge Street House. March 17, a bell weighing 2,500 pounds was placed in the tower of St. Andrew’s church on Monroe street, and dedicated with imposing ceremonies. The old Irving Hall building was taken down this summer, and a new four story block built in its place. A drouth that had lasted about fifty days was broken by a gentle rain at the end of July, but the river was very low until September. The east channel of the river, from Island No. 1 to Canal street, at Pearl street, was filled up this summer, making a solid roadway to the east end of Pearl street bridge. The first passage of a locomotive and train of cars across the river by the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, occurred on the 12th day of September. October 14, the Valley City Woolen Mills, situated between the canal and river, east side, were burned, and Allen P. Collar, one of the proprietors, lost his hair, and nearly the entire scalp and skin from his head and face. At a demonstration upon receipt of election news, November 3, John Bero lost an arm by the premature discharge of a cannon. December 14, the Grand Rapids and Muskegon Railroad Company was organized; but the work which it contemplated was destined to be done by another company.
1869. The year was ushered in with wind and storm and drifting snow; nevertheless the new year calls were many and merry. Union Skating Park, north of West Bridge street, was a popular resort for diversion during January. February 3, the Grand Rapids and Lake Shore Railroad Company was organized. This effort toward reaching Muskegon was another of the enterprises doomed to go out in smoke, though it accomplished much of real benefit, the profits of which were mainly gathered by others than the projectors. The first train of cars from Kalamazoo came into the city March 1, by the Kalamazoo, Allegan and Grand Rapids Railroad, and the event was celebrated in the evening of the following day by a supper given to the workmen, at the Bronson House. The "pioneer settler" lot at the corner of Pearl and Monroe streets was bought, March 9, by the City National Bank, for $13,000, including unexpired leases, and the bank building was erected that summer. April 21 about 500 visitors came from Kalamazoo---an excursion over the new railroad by way of Allegan. The Association of Michigan Surveyors and Engineers, organized in 1868, held a meeting in Grand Rapids May 5 and 6. Wright L. Coffinberry was President of this association. On May 30 occurred the first formal and general decoration of soldiers’ graves in this city, under the auspices of the Grand Army of the Republic. There were impressive exercises at the Fulton street cemetery, and a large audience was gathered. Col. George Gray delivered the address, and companies bearing flowers visited all the other burial places in and near the city. The first week in July was enlivened by races at the first fair of the Grand Rapids Horse Association. July 19 was a gala day among the firemen, the occasion being a visit from the Kalamazoo Fire Department, and there was great enjoyment in feasting and in trials of fire engines. July 27 about fifty business men from Sheboygan and Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, visited the city and were given a reception, with dinner at the Rathbun House. The day being fair, the people gazed at the eclipse of the sun in the afternoon of August 7. The Temperature during the progress of the eclipse fell from 80 degrees to 68 degrees, and rose again about 4 degrees after the point of greatest obscuration as passed, as marked by the thermometers in the city. The Grand Rapids, Newaygo and Lake Shore Railroad Company was organized in September, which subsequently constructed the railroad from this city to Newaygo. December 21, the fourth annual reunion of the Twenty-first Michigan Infantry was held at the Rathbun House, 200 members being present.
1870. The year opened brightly. The previous year had been a prosperous one, and all were hopeful and cheerful. The first train from Jackson over the Grand River Valley Railroad came into the city on New Year’s Day, and regular trains began running January 17, on that road. On January 6 was held the first annual reunion of the Second Michigan Cavalry, and General P. H. Sheridan, once its Colonel, was present. Among the new business blocks and other large buildings erected in 1869, and just completed or nearly so, a count made in January included: Congregational and Methodist churches, costing about $170,000; six brick blocks on Monroe street, between Division and Ottawa, $117,500; seven on Canal street, north of Lyon, $80,000; two near the foot of Lyon, one near the foot of Kent, and several on South Division, Ottawa and Bridge streets. It was estimated that more than $425,00 was invested in brick buildings that were completed this winter. A return made in January estimated the sales by manufacturers of the city, for the previous year, and about $1,500,000, which the newspapers characterized as "a pretty fair exhibit for our little thirty-five-year-old town." A flood in the river reached its maximum April 4, when all the low lands on both sides were submerged, and basements along Canal street were filled with water from one to four feet deep. The freshet subsided without material damage other than the extra work required to protect property along the east side canal, and the temporary driving out of many occupants of buildings in the inundated districts. June 16 a large number of city and county officers and others came hither from Milwaukee, and were given a cordial reception, with a banquet at Sweet’s Hotel. An excursion of about 250 citizens to Milwaukee, August 23, was an incident of general interest. The laying of the last rail on the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, south of the city, September 13, was an occasion for mutual congratulations. This gave a continuous line from Fort Wayne through Grand Rapids to Paris, in Mecosta county, and on the 10th of October regular trains began running south over that road. October 20 the Custer Brigade held its second annual reunion in the city. The first regular through train from Grand Rapids to Muskegon left this city November 21, the beginning of railroad traffic with the country down the Lake Michigan shore.
1871. There was a heavy fall of snow in the middle of January, about twenty inches in depth, blockading railroad lines and interfering with street travel. January 30 a company was organized in this city to construct a railroad by way of Greenville to Saginaw, and another, the Grand Rapids and Saginaw, was organized February 11, for an air-line road to Saginaw. Neither of these projects has been carried through as then intended. January 31, a company was organized to construct a railroad down the east bank of the river, from about six miles above to about two miles below the city. This also remains unaccomplished. March 30 the Grand Rapids, Holland and Chicago Railroad Company was organized. This has since become a part of the Chicago and West Michigan. April 11 occurred a more disastrous fire than had before raged in this city. It destroyed all the mills, shops, factories and stores between the river and Canal street, for some distance above and below Erie street. The losses aggregated upward of $250,00. One of the early-built stone structures, Franklin Block, was destroyed, as well as a number of the oldest brick blocks in that part of the city---Union block, Peirce’s gothic store and hall, and Collins block. Most of the other buildings burned were of wood. Several hundred men in the shops and mills were thrown out of employment. May 28 fire destroyed $25,00 worth of property on the east side of Canal street, from Crescent avenue northward. In the early part of June, Jesse L. Williams, who, in 1869, had been appointed by United States Judge Withey Receiver for the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, make settlement and resigned his trust, reporting the road completed from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Paris in Mecosta county. In the middle week of September a union fair was held here, of the Northern Michigan Agricultural and Mechanical Society, the State Pomological Society and the Kent County Agricultural Society, which excelled all previous expositions of the kind at Grand Rapids. October 8 was the day of the great fire which destroyed the business portion of Chicago, and also of that which burned out the City of Holland in the State. These calamities drew heavily upon the sympathies of the people of Grand Rapids, and for weeks drew also upon their charitable impulses. Public meetings were held, a relief committee was organized, and the citizens contributed liberally of their means to help the sufferers. Other great fires in this month drew out sympathy and aid. Fortunately, Grand Rapids escaped the widespread devastation by fire, and the generosity of her citizens to the sufferers elsewhere was only limited by the extreme of their ability to give relief. Such funds as could be spared were bestowed without stint, and shelter was given temporarily to many who had been driven from houses and homes. Many thousands of dollars were disbursed in relief work.
1872. The opening of the railroad to Holland, by an excursion thereto and back, January 6, was a pleasurable incident, and it marked another long stride in the forward movement of this city. February 20, the Sweet’s Hotel block was partly burned, by which disaster the First National Bank and the Western Union telegraph office, and a number of the other business establishments, were forced, temporarily, to find new quarters. May 3, fire between Kent and Ottawa streets, south of Bridge, destroyed a dozen buildings, including the old stone church, and turned upward of 100 people out of doors. May 8, Squier’s Opera House block burned, and property valued at about $60,000 was turned to smoke and ashes and cinders. There was a railroad excursion to Sparta, May 9, over the Newaygo road, just completed to that place. The railroad to Newaygo was opened September 11. October 30, fire destroyed stores and goods to the value, as estimated, of upward of $200,000 on Pearl and Canal streets, each way from the Lovett block, leaving that structure standing alone on the corner. November 26, the old Congregational church building, which stood at the west corner of Monroe and Division streets was burned. It had previously been converted into stores. December 30 through trains began running to Traverse City, which our citizens thought was glory enough to close the year.
1873. The new year was ushered in by a fire that burned the Kent Woolen Mills. In the spring of this year was accomplished the straightening and opening of the foot of Monroe street (which the citizens had been laboring for during three or four years), at a cost of something near $50,000. In April, the tearing down of the old buildings began, the first to be razed being the Commercial block. This block had been the center of trade in that street for thirty years. Then followed the tearing down of the wood buildings---the hardware store next south, and the "checkered store" next month, and then, on May 20, the tumbling down of what was called the Tanner-Taylor block, at the corner of Pearl, and standing broadside to the foot of Canal street. On July 13 (Sunday), occurred the most disastrous conflagration that ever visited the city---not perhaps in the amount of losses, but in the extent of territory burned over, and the number of families burned out. It was north of Bridge street, beginning at the Bridge Street House barn, and extending north to Trowbridge and east to Ionia street. This fire started about the middle of the afternoon, and destroyed near one hundred buildings, turning out some one hundred and thirty families (about 600 persons) from their homes. The day was very sultry, and the flames raged so fiercely that very little property from the houses was saved. The citizens rallied in daily meetings to devise methods of relief for the needy sufferers, who numbered nearly four hundred persons. Many were given shelter, and many thousand dollars were quickly raised and expended in this work. The street railway through Division street to the fair ground, was commenced August 7, and completed on the first day of September. The delivery of mail by carriers was commenced in the city September. Under a call through the State authorities, September 6, The Grand Rapids Guard (military company) was sent to Muskegon, to guard the court house and jail there, against apprehended excesses of a mob, who were threatening to lynch a prisoner. The company returned without meeting any serious outbreak. In the week of September 15-20, the State Fair was held at this city, the first exposition here of the State Agricultural Society, with large crowds in attendance. The total receipts were upward of $30,000. November 12, the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad was opened to Petoskey on Little Traverse Bay. There was an excursion from this city to Petoskey in honor of the event. On the night of December 3 occurred a very heavy wind-storm, which damaged some roofs and spires in the city, and wreaked the frames of some partially built houses on the outskirts. The total losses by fire in 1873 exceeded $420,000, on which there was only about $175,000 insurance.
1874. After the well-remembered panic of the previous fall, though its effects in business circles here were not seriously disastrous, the opening months of 1874 were marked by a quietness at the time unusual in this rapidly growing city. There was an apparent halt in business and financial circles, but with ready determination all were preparing for renewed activity. Toward the end of winter began what was called the Women’s Temperance Crusade, in which public meetings were daily affairs, and prayer meetings in that behalf were not infrequent. Such meetings were held in most of the Protestant churches. A series of mass meetings at the Baptist church were held, beginning March 18. In the same week the women’s Prohibition society held daily prayer meetings, and Union Temperance services were held in the Park Congregational church. This effort kept up a feeling of excitement on the prohibition question for two or three months. But, like many other spasmodic revivals, it subsided, leaving the public mind in doubt as to whether its good effects were equal to what should have been expected from so much fervid enthusiasm. Sweet’s Hotel Block was lifted about four feet, the work beginning June 10, and taking about four days, and most of the brick blocks on both sides of Canal street were similarly raised during the summer. July 29 the Kent and Ottawa Council of the Patrons of Husbandry met in this city, and on August 18 they held a grand picnic at the fair ground.
1875. January 20, the Public Library Rooms in the Ledyard Block were formally opened and dedicated, also the rooms, in the same block, of the Young Men’s Christian Association, and the Ladies’ Literary Club. February 8 a "cold Cycle" was experienced, thermometers on the lower levels of the city ranging from 30 degrees to 35 degrees below zero. April 14 the Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Association held their sixth reunion in this city, at which were present representatives of nearly every regiment that went to the war from this State. The Governor and several members of his staff were present, the local military company paraded, the bands played patriotic music, and there was a grand banquet in the evening in the spacious warerooms of the Berkey & Gay company, on Canal street. Several regimental reunions were held at the same time, at other halls in the city. Work began in April on the Tower Clock Block, at the foot of Monroe street. July 29 the street railway to Reeds Lake was completed. The most destructive of the fires of this year occurred June 19, on West Bridge street, at which buildings on both sides and for some distance north and south of that thoroughfare, chiefly business blocks and stores, were burned. The fire extended from the bridge west to Turner street. Most prominent among the buildings destroyed was Turner (or Lincoln) Hall, a brick block; the rest were mostly wood buildings. A large number of families were burned out, and sixty-two buildings were destroyed, with but little insurance. This, at the time, was the main business center of the west side.
1876. The year came in with a moderate temperature and rising wind, which in the evening of the New Year increased to a gale, and played numerous pranks with loose property about town. Fences were flattened out, and a number of unfinished buildings were blown over. A count made in the early part of January showed 240 saloons in the county, of which 185 were in the city. Accounts of buildings erected the previous year footed up 442, of which 258 were dwellings, and 48 were brick stores. Odd Fellows’ Hall, in the Tower Clock block, was dedicated January 17. The very moderate temperature this winter was a subject of remark, the lowest reported being 2 degrees above zero, on the second of February. In March new iron was laid down for the street railway tracks. April 24, banks and stores began to use silver in making change, and the new currency was welcomed by the people, who had been deprived of the use of silver for about fifteen years. May 31, the Michigan Barrel Works, on upper Canal street, north of Leonard, were seriously damaged by fire, throwing 200 men and boys temporarily out of employment. The burned portion of the works was quickly rebuilt. The Centennial Celebration of Independence Day, July 4, was grand and enthusiastic. The citizens had spent a week in brief and patriotic preparation, regardless of labor and expense. On Campau Place was erected an elaborate "Centennial Arch," rising fifty-six feet from base to the first plate, and above that to a total height of eighty-four feet. At the base its width was sixty-six feet, and the columns were twelve feet in thickness. This again was divided into three arches, the center one thirty-six feet high and thirty feet wide at the bottom, and the side arches eighteen feet high and seven feet wide. The entire structure was dressed in evergreens, cedar twigs wound in ropes, the inside having red, white and blue strips intertwined with evergreens; the whole beautifully and profusely decorated with flags, paintings, mottoes and flowers. On the face fronting Canal street was the Sate Seal of Michigan, painted on canvas, and below this, "Hallelujah For One Hundred Years." Various patriotic pictures, names and mottoes were arranged from arch to base. At the top, on the Monroe street face, was a statue representing Michigan as a female figure bearing a shield, with arm extended, pointing to the motto, "God and My Right," and below this were numerous other patriotic devices and sayings. Fine structures were also erected to arch Canal and West Bridge streets. There was an immense crowd in the city that day, people from outside being estimated at more than twenty thousand. In the street procession, or march, appeared about thirty local organizations. They moved through the principal streets of the city to the park, where an oration was delivered by the Hon. Thomas B. Church. Bands of music, civil and military, assisted to enliven the day, and in the evening was a fine display of fireworks. July 28 there was a serious fire on the south side of Monroe street, below Waterloo, in the Rathbun House and the Lyon and Botsford blocks, by which Edward T. Parish lost his life. A careful weather observer published the statement that this was the hottest July since 1838, the mean temperature being 74 degrees. August 28, a building on the northwest corner of Fourth and Stocking streets, used for a grocery and dwelling, was burned. Charles Swain, Foreman of the Hook and Ladder Company, rushed into the burning building, seized a keg of powder and carried it out, thus preventing an explosion, though it was hot as to scorch his hands. The first fair of the Michigan State Horse Breeders’ Association was held in this city, beginning September 7 and lasting through the week. A union fair of the Kent County Agricultural and Grand River Valley horticultural Societies began October 3, and was held four days.
1877. An interesting incident of January, was the shipment, on the 11th, by the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad of a car load of supplies for needy homesteaders in the northern part of this Peninsula. These were contributed by the benevolent people of this city, and consisted of provisions, cloths and clothing. Mrs. Emily Campau, widow of Toussaint Campau, made claim to a dower interest in the first Campau plat, on the ground that she was a minor at the time when that property was deeded by herself and husband to Louis Campau, about forty years before. The claim was easily settled by a subscription on the part of the holders, of $2.500, which she accepted and gave a deed of release. Of this sum the city subscribed $55. The property consisted of some thirty acres, through which Monroe street runs, in the business center of the town. January 23, the Masonic Grand Lodge of Michigan, and the Grand Lodge of the Knights of Pythias of Michigan, held sessions in Grand Rapids. July 6, a terrific thunder storm, with heavy rain and high wind, passed over the town. It lasted nearly an hour, during which a number of buildings were struck by lightning in and about the city, and considerable damage was done by the wind and rain. The filling and grading of the road-bed of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad across Saddlebag Swamp, three miles east of the city, was completed about this time. The filling, done with timbers, sand and gravel, was sixty feet deep, and about half a mile long. This is the point where, when the road was constructed in 1858, the track, and part of a construction train, fell in and disappeared in an underground lake. Beginning July 26, the second regiment of Michigan State Troops held its annual encampment for drill and instruction at Reeds Lake. Members of the Vermont Society celebrated the centennial anniversary of the Battle of Bennington, August 16, at Sweet’s Hotel. The oration was delivered by the Hon. William A. Howard, after which came a banquet, or New England dinner. The Michigan Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church held its annual session, beginning September 5, in Grand Rapids. The second union fair of the Kent County Agricultural and Grand River Valley Horticultural Societies, held during four days of the closing week of September, on the fair grounds adjoining the city, was a very fine exposition. October 1, several Holland families in this town celebrated, at the residence of Jacob Quintus, the thirtieth anniversary of their landing in American, with the Van Raalte colony. October 4, a State Convention of Universalists, and October 11, a State convention of Baptists, was held in Grand Rapids. November 5, snow fell to a depth of three or four inches, and some of the citizens displayed their cutters and sleighbells.
1878. The fifth annual convention of County Superintendents of the Poor, of the State, was held in this city, beginning January 4, 1878, and holding three days. Its discussions were in relation to pauperism, tramps, charities, and kindred topics. Mrs. S. L. Withey, of this place, read a very interesting paper on Woman’s work in Charity. January 17, a session of the Grand Lodge of the Sons of Industry was held here. January 29, an attempt was made to burn the jail. Twenty-nine prisoners were confined there, one of whom, it was supposed, set the building on fire. The annual communication of the Grand Lodge I.O.O.F. of Michigan, convened in Luce’s Hall February 19, and lasted three days. This spring the people were surprised by the appearance, occasionally, of a new silver dollar. The week ending Sunday, April 28, was marked by a very unusual amount of rain-fall, reported by Prof. Streng at 4.02 inches. For several years previous the average for the entire month of April had been only 2.68 inches. The phonograph, or "Edison’s talking machine," as it was called, was shown here, its first appearance, in the beginning of July. July 16 and 17 were set down as the hottest days on record up to that time, some thermometers marking as high as from 97 degrees to 104 degrees during the midheat. Several sunstrokes were reported, but none fatal. On Sunday, July 28, there was an immense temperance mass meeting in Fulton Street Park. Two hundred and fifty kegs of beer from St. Louis, came into town August 5, ostensibly to assist at the "grand opening" of Christ’s Hall on Ottawa street. At the end of August and early in September, the citizens, through a relief committee, of which Thomas D. Gilbert was chairman, were active in raising money for the sufferers from yellow fever at the South; $3,550 were thus raised in the city and forwarded. That very intelligent individual, "the oldest inhabitant," reported the water in the channel of Grand River the lowest he had ever seen. Flour was shipped this year to England, by the Crescent Mills, from Grand Rapids. About three thousand barrels of apples were shipped from this point for the same market. The seventh annual reunion of the Old Third Infantry was held at Sweet’s Hotel, December 14. It was attended by a very large throng of citizens and guests. About two hundred sat at the banquet table in the evening.
1879. The country hereabout was covered with a deep mantle of snow in January. On the 4th of that month it was chronicled that snow had fallen daily for twenty-six days. The Knights of Honor held a Grand Lodge session in the Tower Clock block, February 11 and 12, at which ninety-five lodges in the State were represented by upward of 130 delegates and officers. The Vermont Society held a reunion at Sweet’s Hotel, February 18. The resumption of specie payment at the beginning of this year, the appearance in circulation of gold and silver and regular paper currency at par, tended to create a cheerful feeling in all quarters. Business revival, however, was steady and progressive rather than sudden and speculative. The General Association of the Congregational Churches of Michigan held its thirty-eighth annual meeting in this city, beginning May 21, and lasting four days. This was followed, May 25, by the fifth annual convention of the Western Michigan Diocese of the Protestant Episcopal Church, lasting four days. Decoration day exercises and ceremonies included a large meeting in Fulton Street Park, and an eloquent oration by the Rev. Washington Gardner. Telephone exchange service was begun about this time through the employment of messenger boys. It was estimated that Grand Rapids buyers purchased about 1,200,000 pounds of wool this season. A fine and successful exposition was the first fair of the Western Michigan Agricultural and Industrial Society, which opened September 22 on the fair ground. The second annual exhibition of women’s work at the Y. M. C. A. rooms was an interesting event at the end of October. The month of October was remarkable for its extremes of temperature---almost midsummer heat in the early part, and several times freezing in the latter half. But in the middle of November there were thunder storms, and dandelions were in bloom. The most destructive fire of this year was in the wagon and sash, door and blind factories of Harrison, of Ward & Co., and others, below the bridge, on the 5th of June, which threw nearly 200 mechanics out of employment. Another fire was the burning, for the second time, of the Powers & Walker coffin factory, December 17, near the west end of Pearl street bridge. It was a year of general good health, and of steady and material prosperity. Much building was done in nearly all parts of the city.
1880. A State Sanitary Convention was held in this city February 18, and discussed various topics relating to the general subject of health conservation. The old wood building on Coldbrook, below the settling basin, that had been the pioneer grist-mill in that quarter of the city, was demolished, February 28, by a gale of wind. In the middle of March the collapse of a "wheat deal," speculation in options and otherwise, bringing heavy losses upon several Grand Rapids parties, and almost financial ruin to some, created intense excitement for a few weeks. July 7 about 350 old residents, ladies and business men, made an excursion to Grand Haven on the Steamer Barrett, and returned by railroad. In the early morning of September 2 the force main of the water works, leading to the reservoir, burst, on the side of the sand hill, and the water in the reservoir, about 4,000,000 gallons, was discharged, coming down the hill like a cataract, doing much damage in its course across Ionia and Ottawa streets. A number of the sufferers were afterward reimbursed at the expense of the city. Friday night, October 15, the Steamer Alpena, on her passage from Grand Haven to Chicago, carrying about sixty passengers, was lost with all on board. Christoph Kusterer, Frederick Spaeth, and George Hottinger, of this city, perished in that disaster. A terrific wind storm prevailed all the next day, doing much damage to other shipping on the lakes, and occasioning great additional loss of life. November 23 the ladies of the city presented to the Grand Rapids Guard (military company) a silk banner four and a half by six feet in size, heavily trimmed with bullion fringe, gold cord and tassel, and costing upward of $200. The Hebrew ladies of the city held a unique and very successful fair during the week beginning December 6, in Luce’s Hall. The New England society celebrated Forefathers’ Day with a banquet at Sweet’s Hotel. During this year, it was remarked by the press at its close, the manufactures and trade of the city were enlarged and extended more than ever before in a single year. And its growth was substantial and great in all useful directions. The surrounding country was blest with bounteous harvests and encouraging returns for honest industries and wise economies.
1881. The second annual convention of the Michigan Undertakers’ Association met in Grand Rapids, January 12. At this session they changed their name to Funeral Directors’ Association. March 5, broken ice floating in the river carried out a part of the east end of Bridge street bridge. About the end of April a State Telephone Exchange was organized, taking in Grand Rapids as one of the exchange centers. June 29 an experimental test of electric tower lights was made. Eight Brush lanterns of 2,000 candle power each were lighted at the top of a tower, near the corner of Pearl and Ottawa streets, two hundred and two feet above the level of Canal street, and were kept burning during the evening. The experiment was repeated several times during the following months, but resulted in a decision not to adopt the tower system. July 2 the news of the assassination of President Garfield occasioned intense excitement, which continued, with only occasional temporary abatement, until his death, September 19. There was a scene of general mourning on the receipt of the news of this latter event, September 20; fire and church bells were tolled, the public and many private buildings were draped in black; flags drooped at half-mast; the hum of business subsided, and the people gathered in knots, to commune in relation to the common affliction. On that evening an immense meeting was held at Saenger Hall, for the public expression of the general sorrow over the nation’s bereavement. Again, on the 27th, a vast congregation held funeral services on the public square, at which an oration was delivered by Hon. Charles w. Watkins, at the instance of the Grand Army of the Republic. The Western Associated Press held a meeting in this town, August 17, at which delegates were present representing about thirty daily papers, of eight or ten Western States. Its business was mainly with relation to the gathering and furnishing of telegraphic news. The Peninsular Saengerbund held a grand musical "fest" in Saenger Hall, beginning August 23, lasting three days, and closing with a picnic and ball. It drew crowded audiences and was an occasion of great musical enthusiasm. On Sunday, August 28, J. W. Boynton, with a large force of men, extended the West Side Street Railway from the foot of Pearl up Monroe to Waterloo street, making a second track in Monroe street. William Brooks and Michael McNamara were killed, and two other men were badly injured, by the explosion of a blast of Noble & Company’s plaster quarry, November 21. Forest fires, beginning the first week of September, in the east part of the State, and raging over a vast extent of country in the Saginaw valley and toward lake Huron, caused terrible suffering and much destruction of life and property. In this city a relief movement was started, and carried on by associative action during the fall. Business men, capitalists, and citizens generally, according to their respective means, contributed liberally, and many thousands of dollars and large quantities of supplies of provisions, clothing, farm implements, and other articles were sent to the sufferers. The opening of the Peninsular Club December 20, and the Forefathers’ Day reunion of December 22, together with the Christmas festivities, gave a fitting close to the social events of the year.
1882. Prominent among social events were a reception given at his new home by the Rev. George d. Gillespie, January 5, and a masquerade by the Pakotin Club in the evening of the following day. Another brilliant social gathering was that of a party given January 11, at Sweet’s Hotel, by Mr. And Mrs. Henry Spring and daughter. In the beginning of April, the Fuller Electric Light was introduced, at the Michigan Iron Works. In a pedestrian contest, which ended March 25, in Saenger Hall, Charles A. Harriman walked 352 miles in 100 hours. At another, which ended April 22, G. E. Pierson walked 100 miles in 27 ½ hours. The walking amusement continued till May 22, when Saenger Hall was burned. The first annual festival of the Central Michigan Turn Bezirk, was held at Turner Hall in this city, beginning July 23, and continuing three days. There was much rain this season; the rain-fall from April 1 to August 18, measuring 16.63 inches. The Redmond Grand Opera House was opened September 18. The Fuller electric light was turned on in a forty-light circuit, October 1. The annual fair of the Western Michigan Agricultural and Industrial Society held here in the last week of September was an exceptionally fine and successful exposition. October 5, a car-load of specimens of the products of the Northern Pacific Railroad region was on exhibition at the Union Deport in this city, objects of general interest and admiration.
1883. A Grand Army Camp fire Reunion January 20; deep snows, cold weather, blockaded trains, the appointment of Joseph Henry Richter to be Bishop of Grand Rapids, January 25; and the Burns banquet on the evening of the same day, enlivened the first month of 1883; to which might be added a grand charity ball at the Morton House for the benefit of St. Mark’s Home, January 22. In February the citizens raised and sent, through Fred. Loettgert, $1,420 for the relief of sufferers by floods in Germany. The consecration of the Rev. Joseph Ritcher, Bishop of the roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, April 22, brought together the largest assembly of the kind ever seen in this city, from all parts of the State. On Decoration Day there was a large procession, with exercises and an oration in the Park, and the usual strewing of flowers over the soldiers’ graves. The members of Champlin Post G. A. R., formally dedicated a lot which had been given them by the city in Greenwood cemetery. July 2 the Custer Guards dedicated their armory, when the ladies of the West Side presented them with a banner that cost $300. June 18, occurred a thunder storm in which the rain-fall was 2.4 inches; and the precipitation for the month to that date was 6.46 inches---more than had been known in the whole month of June for many years. The June rains so raised the streams hereabout as to do much damage to highways, bridges, railroad culverts and crops. The river in the beginning of July, was nearly to the top of the banks through the heart of the city, and overflowed at the low lands below. The rain-fall of June and July was nearly 20 inches, and the result was a great freshet. Logs in the river above the rapids were banked against the upper railroad bridge, a heavy iron structure, and overturned three spans in the center, about one-half of the bridge, into the water below the piers. The logs thus released, estimated at about 100,000,000 feet in round numbers, wet tumbling over the rapids, and carried off the other two railroad bridges near the lower part of the city. This was on July 26. The city bridges were left standing; Leonard street bridge unhurt, the others somewhat injured. Much damage was done to the mills, factories and other buildings along the canals and river banks. The entire jam of logs went through the city in about an hour and a half. Basements along Canal street were flooded, much of the lower part of the city was submerged, and generally the river intervals from Ionia and Grand Haven were overflowed. The repairing and rebuilding of bridges was accomplished as fast as men and money could do it; the upper railroad bridge was in place again August 10, and in a few weeks business proceeded as before. The direct money damages were immense, but never closely estimated. W. L. Coffinberry, from observations personally made by him, and data which he had preserved, expressed the opinion that the flood of 1852 was about 14 inches higher than this one of 1883. The colored people to the number of 500 to 600, celebrated Emancipation Day August 1, with public exercises at the fair grounds. A party of municipal excursionists from Detroit visited the city August 6, and were cordially welcomed, treated and toasted. October 6, the German citizens celebrated the bicentennial of the first German colony in America, that of the thirteen Quaker families who founded Germantown, now a part of Philadelphia. There was a fine display of trades in the street parade, where samples of ancient and modern domestic productions and manufactures were curiously mixed, and displayed together. The procession was nearly two miles long. There were exercises at Arbeiter Hall, including music and an oration, and the festivities closed with a grand ball and an illumination in the evening. The festivities of the year were rounded out by the reunions of the Old Third Infantry and the New Englanders, in December.
1884. Among interesting society events was the annual reunion of Old Residents, January 22, at the Morton, and the Burns Festival, January 25, at the Bridge Street House. Between the two, January 23, there was a convention of the Funeral Directors of the State, at which proceedings were enlivened, as far as might be, by speeches and essays on embalming and other funereal topics. The Third Michigan Cavalry held a reunion, February 22, in Grand Rapids, and on the 25th a brilliant society event was the opening by the Peninsular Club of its new Club House. At this date the citizens had raised by contribution, and sent to Cincinnati, Columbia, and Portsmouth, Ohio, and Newport, Kentucky, about $4,250, for the relief of sufferers by the then recent Ohio River floods. March 12 the Bissell Carpet Sweeper factory and four other buildings, in which none different branches of manufacture were carried on, situated between the river and the lower end of the east side canal, were burned. The formal observance of Decoration Day included an address by the Reverend henry Powers, and a general suspension of business. A small yacht was launched near the lower end of the city, June 5---a sloop-rigged vessel, twenty-five feet over all, seven feet beam, with iron keel. She was named Grand Rapids Eagle, commanded by A. B. Turner, Jr., and designed for coasting down the Lake Michigan shore. June 19 there was a gathering of nearly 4,000 people at the basket picnic of the Old Residents at Reeds Lake. There was a fine exhibit at the annual fair of the Western Michigan Agricultural and Industrial Society, during the closing week of September. A meeting of the Hotel Keepers’ Association of Michigan, in the city, October 8, brightened the faces of the landlords. Of the fund for the Michigan exhibits at the New Orleans Exposition, $600 was subscribed by five citizens of Grand Rapids---Amasa B. Watson, Thomas D. Gilbert, Julius Houseman, Delos A. Blodgett, and Harvey J. Hollister. On Thanksgiving Eve $690 worth of provisions, contributed by citizens, was distributed among the worthy poor of the town. A series of revival meetings, conducted by the "Evangelists" Whipple and McGranahan, began in the middle of November and continued through that month. At the World’s Exposition in New Orleans, opened in December, Grand Rapids manufacturers had a separate building, which they called the Grand Rapids Furniture Pavilion. This was the only city having a separate building there. Upward of twenty firms participated in that exhibition. There was discussion and agitation on the question of the relation of capital to labor in December, but no serious disturbance occurred.
1885. In the beginning of this year there were two sources of general interest and excitement. A freshet which started in December reached its culminating point about the fifteenth of January, when the water in the river was several inches higher than in the great summer flood of 1883. Broken ice from above lodged against the ice below the rapids which was yet unbroken, creating apprehensions of disastrous results. But the water cut a channel through the center, leaving high banks of ice on either shore. The freshet subsided with damage estimated at less than $100,000 in the city. The other exciting event was a general reduction in wages by the employers in the city; less than ten per cent. in the average, but causing many workmen and some factories to suspend work for a time. About the middle of the month there were large numbers of unemployed people in the streets, and a meeting of the citizens was held to devise means for their relief. This resulted in the organization of an employment bureau, with committees to obtain situations for as many as possible. The County Superintendents and the City Director of the Poor had many more to care for than usual. The distress was greater from lack of employment among day laborers than among mechanics. About the same time the Knights of Labor had organized a boycott against the street railway, and carryalls were running in opposition to the street cars. The city authorities co-operated with the citizens in efforts for relief, and within two months matters were running smoothly again, with work for all at living wages. The annual convention of the Protestant Episcopal church for the Western Diocese of Michigan, was held here, beginning June 3, with a full representation of delegates. Excavations for the machinery of the cable street railway were begun the first week in June. The State Arbeiter Bund held its annual convention June 9, at Arbeiter hall. The Old Residents had a pleasant picnic at the lake June 18. The American Pomological Society held its twentieth biennial meeting, beginning September 9, and lasting three days, in this city. Delegates were present from twelve or fifteen States, and from Canada. September 16 and 17, were notable gala-days. The Society of the Army of the Cumberland held its reunion here, and on the same occasion were reunions of the Mexican War Veterans, the Sons of Veterans, the Old Third Infantry, the Fourteenth and the Twenty-first Infantry, and the First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics. An address of welcome was made by Governor Russell A. Alger, to which General Philip H. Sheridan responded, and other orations were delivered by General R. D. Mussey, Senator Thomas W. Palmer, and Hon, B. H. Cochran, of Toledo. On the same occasion the ceremony of unveiling the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on the triangular Park by the head of Monroe street, took place, at which the presentation address was made by the Hon. Thomas D. Gilbert, the acceptance by Gen. Byron R. Pierce, and the oration by the Hon. Charles W. Watkins in behalf of the Grand Army of the Republic. The air was vocal with military music, there was a fine procession in the streets, and the exercises closed with a military banquet at Luce’s Hall. It was estimated that there were more than 30,000 visitors in the city. September 21, a car-load of products of the State of Oregon was on exhibition here, and in that week was held a very successful fair of the Western Michigan Agricultural and Industrial Society. The Michigan conference of the Methodist Episcopal church began September 24, and was in session five days. November 18, the annual meeting of the State Law and order League was held at the Eagle Hotel. At a meeting of sympathizers with Ireland, held the same evening at Redmond’s Grand Opera House, $1,100 was contributed to the Parnell fund. The State Grange held a crowded public meeting, December 10, at Armory Hall. During this year, it was estimated that over $1,000,000 had been used in building operations here.
1886. An interest event in business circles was the opening of the Bank Clearing House, January 8, making that a "red letter day" in the history of Grand Rapids banking. There was agitation of the labor question in the latter part of April, resulting in a partial adjustment between employers and employees, May 1, as to wages and hours of work, but in the following week numbers of men in several factories reconsidered and organized a strike. Their demands were for eight hours to constitute a day’s work, without a reduction of wages. A compromise was effected, and the wheels of industry moved on as before. On Decoration Day occurred the usual ceremonies in tribute to the memory of departed soldiers, with an oration by William J. Stuart. The regatta of the Northwestern Amateur Rowing Association, at Reeds Lake, the first one held on those waters, drew thousands of people there July 12 and 13. The Michigan Grand Council of the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association held a session here, which lasted three days, beginning august 10. September 14 our city was visited by a delegation of 1,100 officers, business men, professional men, and ladies, from Saginaw, who were accorded a hearty official and civic reception. September 17, the corner-stone of the Wealthy avenue Baptist church was laid. The annual agricultural and industrial fair week, beginning September 20, was one of great enjoyment, with large attendance and a fine exposition. September 21, at a convention of delegates of the trade, held here, a State Grocers’ Association was formed. The Presbyterian Synod of Michigan held a session here, beginning October 13. October 27 Germania Hall was dedicated.
1887. Among leading early events was the organization of a company, January 15, to bore a deep well---3,000 feet, more or less, as circumstances might determine---for which the contract was let January 25, with the hope of striking gas. The Old Residents held their winter reunion January 18; from the 20th to the 26th a poultry show proved an attractive exposition; and in the same week a convention was held of the State Engineers’ Society in the Superior Court room. A convention of the Michigan Business Men’s Association met March 15, in Arcanum Hall, and for two days discussed nearly every department of trade and methods of trading, from banking and wholesaling to peanut peddling; also feasted and toasted and danced at Sweet’s Hotel. During the next two days the State Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic, at the Redmond Grand Opera House, was the leading attraction. The Widdicomb building was finished, and largely occupied at the end of March. The association known as the Traveling Men of Michigan began a two-day encampment May 13, in Arcanum Hall. Memorial day was stormy, but the turnout, parade, services at Fulton Street Park, and the usual tribute of decoration, were attended to by the unforgetful people. The Old Residents held their annual picnic at Reeds Lake June 17. Thomas B. Church delivered an address, and speeches were made by others. On the 23d of June a large number of Old Residents gave a surprise party to Mrs. Harriet Burton, it being the 74th anniversary of her birth, and the 54th of her arrival in Grand Rapids. June 30, the Pioneer Society of Ada held a picnic at that village, and the ceremony of unveiling the monument to Rix Robinson took place. They were joined by a delegation of Old Residents of Grand Rapids. Thomas B. Church delivered the oration, and addresses were made by John R. Robinson, John T. Holmes, and others. July 19-20 the annual regatta of the Northwestern Amateur Rowing Association at Reeds Lake drew crowds of people. The annual show at the fair grounds, week of September 19-24, was unprecedented in attendance, as shown by the gate receipts. November 8 occurred the death of Cornelius Coughlin, aged 101 years, a native of Ireland, who had lived in Grand Rapids fourteen years. He was a tailor, and could see to thread a needle without the aid of glasses when he was 100 years old. Much was done in the erection of buildings this year. Among the prominent brick or stone and brick structures built were: The Derby, Hartman Hall and Shepard block, north half of Houseman block, Edison Electric Light station, new works of the Gas Company, Kennedy block, Winegar Block, Fuller Block on South Division, Weston Block rebuilt, Ladies’ Literary Club House, the Livingston, Belknap wagon factory, Kendall Block at the head of Monroe street, and others; besides a fifth story to the Morton House.
1888. The Catholics of the city celebrated the first day of January as the fiftieth anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of Pope Leo XIII. They had an imposing street procession, and Pontifical Mass at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. The Association of Michigan Millers held a convention at the Morton House, February 8, which was attended by delegates from nearly all parts of the State. The workingmen had a large gathering at the Wonderland Theater, February 23, and listened to an address by Samuel Gompers, of New York, President of the American Federation of Trades Union. The murder of Henry M. Powers occurred March 1. The April election was warmly contested, and an unsuccessful effort was made by parties who charged that something was wrong, to have a recount of the vote given for Mayor. According to the returns I. M. Weston received nine majority. April 10 the Grand Rapids Guard gave a reception to Governor Luce. The putting in place of the steel wire cable of the Valley City Street and Cable Railway Company, April 13, was an event of public interest. The grip cars ran over the Lyon street track April 16, and began regular trips a few days later. A meeting of millers and grain dealers at Sweet’s Hotel, April 19, organized a Western Grain Association. The funeral of Mr. and Mrs. L. A. Town, who were killed at a western railroad accident, was held in the Universalist Church, May 1. Beginning May 15, the Grand Commandery of Michigan held a session in Grand Rapids. On Memorial Day there was a street procession and gathering at the park, orations, and the usual decoration of soldiers’ graves at the cemeteries. June 20 G. B. Bouma, a mild peddler, was killed by the cars at the Bartlett street crossing. The Good Templar Lodges of Kent county held a quarterly session in this city, June 27. The local military companies attended the annual encampment of State Militia at Mackinac Island, in July. The Northwestern Amateur Rowing Association had a regatta at Reeds Lake, beginning July 24. The Michigan Holiness Association held a camp-meeting, beginning the first week in August, in a grove near the corner of Lyon street and Grand avenue. The Grand Army men of western and northern Michigan had a meeting in this city, September 9. The citizens presented three handsome flags to Custer Post. The Michigan Bankers’ Association held its annual meeting in this city, September 13. The annual fair, in the third week of September, drew a large attendance. The Seventh Day Adventists held their annual State cam-meeting, beginning September 25, on grounds near Sherman street, east of the city line. Major Amasa B. Watson died suddenly, September 18, in the cars at the Union Depot. There was a very large concourse at his funeral, Sunday, September 23. The town was full of people September 26, when the new City hall was dedicated. September 30 Roy Cummings fell from the stand-pipe of the Hydraulic Company, and was killed. A delegation of about 400 citizens went to Indianapolis, October 3, to visit General Harrision. Hon. James G. Blaine visited the city, October 8, and addressed the people in Hartman’s Hall. The Democrats had a large mass meeting October 12, and speaking at Hartman’s Hall by Hon. Charles W. Jones, of Florida, and others. Political excitement ran high this month, with daily and nightly meetings by both parties, in the city and about the county. The election, November 6, passed quietly, and without notable incident, except that it was a surprise to nearly everybody in the change which the vote showed from the Democratic to the Republican party, over which the latter held an enthusiastic celebration, with illuminations and a street parade, November 14. The National Polish Aid Society dedicated its hall on Jackson street, November 21. November 26, Frank Corwin was killed by the cars, a little south of the city. The Seventh Annual Conference of County Agents, and a Convention of the State Boards of Corrections and Charities, commencing December 4, were held in this city. December 19 the Old Third Michigan Infantry held a reunion at the Bridge Street House. Locally, in matters of fire and other disasters by the elements, the year 1888 was comparatively an uneventful one.
1889. There was a small burglary at the Postoffice, January 4, when some $500 in stamps and a few registered letters were taken from the safe. January 29, a convention held here of furniture manufacturers of the United States formed a "National Furniture Manufacturers’ Association." The annual Grand Lodge meeting of the A. O. U. W. was held here February 5, with a banquet at Hartman’s Hall. February 9, there was an exhibition of California products, on cars at the Union Depot. February 18, occurred the annual meeting of the Michigan Grand Lodge of I. O. O. F. in Hartman’s Hall, the session lasting three days; also meeting of the Daughters of Rebekah. February 26, the Grand Lodge of Chosen Friends held a session at Red Men’s hall on West Bridge street. March 8, Cornelius E. Plugge was arrested to be sent to Holland, Europe, to answer to a charge of forgery. On examination in that country he was discharged and returned. April 30 was observed as a national holiday---the centennial of National Government under the Constitution. Buildings were decorated, and public services held in several churches. May 14, convention of the order of Red Men---thirty-four lodges of the State were represented. May 20, Masonic parade, and laying of the corner-stone of the Masonic Home, at Reeds Lake. Fred J. Morrison, Deputy City Clerk, died June 2. June 22, Old Residents’ picnic at the Lake; address relative to the pioneer settlement, by George H. White. July 4, corner-stone of county building laid; large procession through the streets. In the second week of July were horse races at the fair grounds, and the twenty-second annual convention of the Michigan Press Association was held in Hartman’s Hall. The twenty-first annual regatta of the Northwestern Amateur Rowing Association, August 1 and 2, drew large crowds to Reeds Lake. September 1, Labor Day, was celebrated, by a street procession and exercises on the Fulton Street Park; orator, Henry A. Robinson, of Detroit; President of the Day, Charles A. Hauser. The annual Fair, and an exhibition ("Last Days of Pompeii") enlivened the closing days of September. October 18, visit of delegates to the International Conference of American States. They were shown the beauties of the city and the manufacturing establishments, under the auspices of the Board of Trade. Military reunions were held: Twenty-first Michigan Infantry, January 10 and October 8, at the Bridge Street House; First Michigan Cavalry, March 28, at same place; Seventeenth Michigan Cavalry, September 25, at Hartman’s Hall, with banquet at the Eagle Hotel. Among the serious accidents of the year were: The killing by the street cars of Robert Gamble and Levi Van der Moere, August 16; Samuel Campbell, September 3, and Peter Morse, September 8. Prominent among the amusements of the season was base ball playing. So far, a year of steady progress and prosperity.
Document Source: Baxter, Albert, History of the City of Grand Rapids, New York and Grand Rapids: Munsell & Company, Publishers, 1891. (Name Index)