Municipal Annals

The Charter of the City of Grand Rapids was adopted by popular vote May 1, and the first election of officers under it was held May 11, 1850. The first informal meeting of the members of the Common Council was held May 18, at which were determined the amounts of bonds to be required of certain city officers. Those of the Treasurer and Clerk were fixed at $1,000 each; that of the City Marshal at $2,000. On May 20 the Council met and organized. The Rules of Order of the Detroit Common Council were adopted as those of this body for the time being. May 22, ordinances were passed relative to taverns and inns; ordinaries and groceries; ball alleys, billiards and other games, and shows and theatrical exhibitions. In June several licenses were fixed; and highway districts were formed, each ward constituting one. The first city license for tavern keeper was granted to Gottlieb Christ, of the Bridge Street House. The pay of the City Surveyor was fixed at $2 per day. June 25 a city seal was adopted, of which a fac simile is here given:

This seal was designed and engraved by Aaron B. Turner, then City Clerk. The motto, Motu Viget, was suggested by Joseph Penney, then a member of the Council. From this time forward municipal business moved as smoothly and with as much regularity as if the legislative body had been a long established institution. In the fall of 1859 the Public Square was ordered surveyed and staked, and Abram Pike and others were allowed to fence and ornament the ground. Sidewalks were ordered on many streets, and several grades established. Fire Wardens were appointed, and persons selling liquors to Indians were threatened with prosecution. This threat of prosecutions for violation of liquor laws and ordinances, was a sort of by-play periodically indulged in, that has been kept up with great pertinacity to this day. In this year (1850) settlement of accounts with the township of grand Rapids was made, and the treasury funds divided by amicable agreement. In January, 1851, the library was similarly divided, in the proportion of one for the town to two for the city.

At the second charter election, in April, 1851, 558 votes were cast. The qualifying oaths of the officers elect are all spread upon the record. Fifteen groceries, a tavern and a ball alley were licensed in May. In July George A. Lacy was licensed to sell small beer in a tent at the east end of the bridge, and appointed reporter of violations of the bridge ordinance as to fast driving. In December a two-mill city tax was ordered. A full settlement was made by the Grand Rapids town and city boards in joint session, December 23, as to all indebtedness and obligations incurred prior to the incorporation of the city.

The charter election of 1852 was held April 5. In June the Council passed a resolution giving to the Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids Plank Road Company permission to grade Division street from the south line of the city to Monroe street and enter and construct its road thereupon, without expense to the city, and with no toll gate within the city limits. On July 8 an election was held on the question of raising a five mill tax to cancel old indebtedness and defray current expenses. It was carried - For, 127; against, 9. The tax was ordered by the Council July 23. At the same time a vote was taken on the question of contesting or purchasing the claim of Louis Campau to the Public Square. Result: For contesting, 63; for purchase at $730, 52; for purchase at $300, or contest if that were not accepted, 24. The question was determined by arbitration, in August, and in December his quit-claim to the city, for $500, was taken. In August a survey was ordered of the old cemetery land in the Kent plat. In December twenty-four traders gave bonds to the city as liquor dealers. In March, 1853, Lyon street was extended to the east line of the city, and Fourth street to the Stocking road.

1853. In the spring, Lawyer Cole s office was rented for a Common Council room, at $20 a year. June 20, at the election on the adoption or rejection of the Maine Prohibitory law, the vote in the city was: Yes, 482; No, 145. The Council ordered the purchase of ten city maps, then just issued - the first made after the incorporation of the city. In August a pond hole in the rear of the Public Hall (in Kent alley) was presented as a nuisance, and a ditch was ordered to bring the brook which caused it from the swamp in Ionia street out to Bronson street (now Crescent avenue) and thence down through a culvert under the canal to the river. Considerable filling of streets that were inundated by the flood of 1852 was done this season. In November a contract was made with David Caswell to fence the Coldbrook (Kent Plat) cemetery, with picket fence and cedar posts, for $1.50 per rod. William Preusser was paid $10 per year for two years rent of cellar for two fire engines. That was where now is the Luce Block. November 30, a committee was authorized - under the so-called Maine law - to purchase for the city 100 gallons brandy, 75 gallons port wine, 75 gallons gin, 75 gallons Maderia wine, 135 gallons whisky, 120 gallons alcohol, and 74 gallons rum. At the next meeting the following purchases, and bills for liquors were reported: Of F. N. Godfroy, $175.04; of William G. Henry, $262.23; of James Eager, $61.75. Charles Shepard was appointed liquor agent. In March, 1854, he reported that he had sold $289.86 worth, and resigned the office. William G. Henry was then appointed agent and voted a salary of $100 per annum.

1854. After the charter election, a Council room was engaged of Withey & Eggleston for $20 a year, including light and fuel. Aaron B. Turner was appointed City Printer. May 4 the Marshal reported that he had sold the city scraper. May 15 an order was passed for planking Canal street, from Pearl to Bridge, with two tracks, each eight fee wide. A fire district was created of Monroe and Canal streets, from Division to Bridge street. In October a lot on Monroe street, west of Office (Spring) street was purchased for an engine house, price $450, and contract was made for a brick building thereon.

1855. In the spring, taking of druggist bonds under the liquor law, attending to street grades, plan walks, awnings and the matters of tax-rolls, constituted the major part of the Council business. An ordinance was passed July 3 to permit certain persons to light the city of Grand Rapids with gas. This had reference to parties in Cleveland. July 30 the death of City Solicitor Ralph W. Cole was announced, and suitable resolutions thereupon passed. August 1, the City Surveyor reported that he put iron stakes at section corners and quarter posts throughout the city. August 21, the proprietors of the Bridge Street House and the Western Hotel were granted the privilege of laying water pipes in certain streets and alleys. In September Canal street was ordered cleared of sawlogs, and $25 were paid for trees set in the Public Square. Much plank sidewalking was done this year, and reservoirs for water supply for fire protection were put at convenient points.

1856. In January the Grand Rapids Railroad Company was granted leave to pass down the east bank of the river from Coldbrook to below the city with a railroad. In March the Council voted unanimously to raise $2,000 by special tax for the purchase of two fire engines. The proposition was submitted to a vote of the electors, and by them was also carried. May 26, two fire engines were ordered purchased in New York, at a price of not more than $850 each. In June parties from the east came with a proposition to erect gas works under the concession before granted to a Cleveland Company, having secured a transfer of the rights of the latter; but later a home company for the same purpose was organized. The first paving, in Monroe street, cobble stone, was done this year, and astonished some of the tax payers by its seeming extravagance, the cost being $10,150. The river bank at the foot of Pearl and west line of Canal street, was wharfed in October. In December a new or revised city charter was drafted to be presented to the Legislature, with a petition for its enactment into law.

1857. The new charter was passed and became a law February 14. At the April election 1,258 votes were polled in the city. A room for the Council meetings was hired for $75 a year, and under-rented for joint occupation by a Justice of the Peace, who was to pay half the rent, and heat and light the room. This was an upper story of the block at the southeast corner of Lyon and Canal streets. In April, the Gas Light Company were granted the privilege to manufacture and sell resin gas instead of coal gas, at a cost not to exceed $7 per 1,000 feet, providing that such price should not be dearer to the consumer than coal gas at $4 per 1,000 feet. June 18, Harry Dean was appointed City Sexton. Vote, June 18, that the City Marshal be allowed four per cent. for collecting city taxes. A license fee of $3 per evening for concerts was exacted. July 17 a slight change was made in the face of the city seal, retaining the chief features of the design already in use, and a description of it was placed upon record as follows: Having as a device a hand holding a pair of scales, and underneath the eagle with a shield and the figures of 1850, the motto being Motu Viget, and inscribed City of Grand Rapids, Michigan. August 13 a profile of the sewerage of the city was adopted. August 15 a resolution was adopted pledging efforts to aid the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company to extend its line to this city, also one granting the right of way. August 29 an order was made for the abatement of a nuisance known as the old canal basin. by a resolution, October 29, two percent. was fixed as the amount to be paid collectors of the city tax. This was a year of decided advance in improvements. Great changes were made, especially in Pearl, Ottawa, Division, and several of the streets up the east-side hill, where deep excavations and heavy fillings were necessary to get the desired grades.

1858. The year opened upon a newly gas-lighted city, which gave a new look of life and enterprise. In January $500 was appropriated to the poor fund, there being that winter an increased demand for aid to the poor. At the first meeting in April, after the burning of the Bridge street bridge, the Council granted permits to several parties for foot bridges and ferries. In May a committee, appointed to consider the matter of building a City Prison, reported that it was not advisable that year. An appropriation of $1,000 was made for the building of Engine House No. 3. The Council leased the Public Square for a circus, on the first week in June, and resolved to expend the money received therefor in repairing and beautifying the park. The sum of $50 was appropriated to the military of the city for use in firing salutes on festal days. June 24 an ordinance was passed requiring the occupants of lots to clean the streets in front of their premises to the center thereof, every Friday before ten o clock A. M., and pile the rubbish in a manner convenient for removal. Canal street, north of Bridge, was graded and planked this season, at a cost of $5,450. The sum of $12,500 was voted, September 24, to be raised by tax, for city purposes for the current year. A new fence was put about the Fulton Street Cemetery. Crescent avenue park was planned, and the ground obtained for it in October.

1859. In January the city purchased twenty acres of ground for a cemetery on the west side, and in the following month forty acres for a similar use near the southeast corner of the city. In May an order was made for the grading and paving of Canal street, from Pearl to Hastings; also an order for the grading of Division street, from Monroe street south to the city limits. These improvements were completed in that season. A room in Luce s Block was leased for the use of the Recorder s Court. A comprehensive ordinance organizing The Fire Department of the City of Grand Rapids was passed on the 30th of July. August 13, the Aldermen - six yeas to four nays - resolved, that no supplies be furnished by the city to any person that keeps a dog. the Marshal was authorized to employ as many men as he should deem necessary to assist him in enforcing the ordinance relative to dogs. The City Clerk was directed to procure a suitable book to be denominated Book of Street Records. Registry books for registering the names of voters, under the law of 1859, were ordered - one for each ward. October 15 an appropriation of $300 was made for the purpose of improving the cemetery grounds on the west side of the river. December 3 a deed was taken from Eliphalet H. Turner, of the south half of lot 6, block 18, of Turner & Scribner s addition, for an engine house lot.

1860. The year opened tamely in municipal matters. No mention is made in the city records of the burning out of the quarters that had been occupied for a council room, by the fire which destroyed the county offices and records. But the Council moved to the Whitey block, west side of Canal street, south of Lyon, and went along as quietly with business as if nothing had happened to disturb its serenity. Cemetery bonds and interest to the amount of $1,511.33 were ordered paid February 11. Settlement for many street improvements made the previous year was among the important labors of the Mayor and the Council during the winter. At the April election a proposition to pay each fireman five dollars, was carried by a majority of 1,081 votes. The Board of Supervisors met in special session, February 16, to consider the location of county offices, and matters pertaining to the records. They decided to purchase at the corner of Kent and Lyon streets the spot where the county offices now stand. In April the Grand Rapids Hydraulic Company was granted permission to use the streets, lanes and alleys of the city for water pipes. By the resolution, April 24, 1860, that portion of the State Road or Bostwick Lake Road running diagonally across the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 31 Town 7 North, Range 11 West, was vacated. That was a road beyond, and running southeasterly from what is now State street. According to a report made to the Council at the end of April, the municipal taxation (other than for street and sewer improvements, and not including State nor county taxes) for the previous year, was nearly evenly divided in its application to school and city purposes, and to the support of the poor. In June the Council voted down a motion to prosecute persons allowing their cattle or swine to run on the Public Square. But early in July it turned a new leaf against dogs running at large, and authorized the payment of twenty-five cents each for killing such as were found roaming. In August the Council voted $600 for improving cemeteries, and ordered that a separate account be kept for each cemetery fund. September 29, voted that $11,000 be raised by tax for city purposes for the current fiscal year.

1861. The year opened with much perturbation in men s minds as to public affairs - caused by the secession of several Southern States - but the Common Council continued its efforts for progress and improvement at home. The three previous years had witnessed great and expensive changes and improvement of streets, grades, sewers, and otherwise, and, though times were hard financially, heavy taxes had been cheerfully paid. In no period of the same length were municipal affairs carried forward more to the advantage and material progress of the city, all embarrassments considered, than in the five years from 1857 to 1861, inclusive. But in this latter year more was done in finishing and settling for previous undertakings than in starting new ones involving much expense. In March there were some cases of small pox in the city, and measures which proved successful were taken to check the spread of the disease. At the April election a proposition to raise a sufficient fund to pay each fireman five dollars, was carried by a majority of 732. June 17 the operation of the ordinance against swine running at large was suspended as to all the city, except the central business part on the east side, and on July 15 the hog ordinance was wholly repealed. The removal of a dam in the east channel of Grand River at the head of Island No. 1, so as to allow a free current down that channel, was ordered by vote of the Council. The sum of $10,000 was put in the tax budget for expenses of the current year. Several attempts were made in this and other years, but ineffectual, to assess taxes by districts for street lights, instead of paying by general tax.

1862. Among the early municipal acts was resolution to stop horse racing and immoderate driving in the streets. Another matter was the incoming of many poor people, while enlistments were going on, and the Council, in January, directed the Poormasters to report the number of city poor, their names, residences, how long they had been here, and where they came from. The sum of $968 was appropriated to pay bonds that had been issued for the purchase of cemetery grounds, east side. At the spring election the citizens again voted to pay the firemen $5 each. In May, Robert I. Shoemaker was appointed City Undertaker, the first appointment recorded of an officer so named. At the next meeting he was appointed City Sexton. In June the Mayor presented a communication relative to aid for wounded soldiers from this county. It was decided that the Council had no power to appropriate moneys for such purposes. June 23 an ordinance was passed exacting $1.50 as a fee and $1.50 annually for each cellar drainage into a public sewer. An ordinance was passed requiring that the old canal basin be filled up. In July a swine ordinance was passed, covering the thickly settled and business parts of the town, wherein no swine were to be allowed to run at large, on pain of impoundment and fine.

1863. February 2 the saloon keepers were notified to close their saloons on Sundays, as required by ordinance. April 27 a communication from the clergymen of the city asked the Common Council to officially recommend a cessation of work and closing of business places on the 30th, the day appointed by President Lincoln as a day of humiliation and prayers. No action, further than to accept the advice, was taken. May 18, $1,150 was ordered raised for highway purposes. June 29 the opening of Ottawa street from Lyon to Pearl was ordered; also the extension and opening of Washington street east to College avenue. A fruitless effort was made to procure the opening of Kent street from Lyon to Monroe street. Grading and sewering improvements were projected and carried on this year in Lyon, Ionia, Ottawa, Sheldon, Water, Fourth and Stocking streets, and others. September 29 a special meeting of the Council was held at which appropriate resolutions were passed on the death of City Surveyor John Almy.

1864. The first important public act this year was a vote of the electors, at a special election, authorizing the issue of bonds for the payment by the city of a bounty of $100 to volunteers for filling the quotas assigned to the several wards. The resolution calling for such vote was passed December 22, 1863, but there is no mention in the city records of the calling nor of the time of holding the election. At a regular meeting of the Council, January 4, 1864, appears a record of the return of the vote, showing: Yes, 401; No, 2; majority in favor of bounty loan, 376. February 8 an ordinance was passed requiring the clearing of snow from the sidewalks by the owners of adjoining property, within twenty four hours after each snow storm. On February 15 the Mayor reported that the quota of the city (ninety men) on the previous call by the President for 300,000 men, had been filled, city bounties paid, and bonds of the city issued for $9,000 at ten per cent. interest. Another call for troops having been made, the Council, March 14, ordered another vote to authorize the raising of $6,000 to pay a bounty of $100 to men enlisting under the last call. The vote, taken April 4, resulted: Yes, 578; No, 16; majority for the bounty, 562. The retiring Mayor, in his message May 2, reported the city really free from debt, except the $9,000 military loan. On the 19th of May, the first ordinance was passed by the Common Council granting a franchise for the construction of street railways. This was repealed in October and a new one passed. [See chapter on Street Railways.] The Clerk and Treasurer, July 11, were instructed to create a fund upon the books which was to be called the Soldiers Bounty Fund, and authorized to transfer to that fund $250, to pay such interest on bounty bonds as might become due in the following December. On the 13th of July, at a special election called by the Council, the electors voted in favor of paying $100 bounty to each non-commissioned officer, musician and private volunteering to the military or naval service, and accredited to the city, upon any call thereafter made by the President; also in favor of raising by loan the moneys for the payment of such bounties. July 25 an ordinance was passed relative to the war loan bonds and bounty fund, and prescribing the duties of the city officers in their management.

1865. A session of the Council January 30, the City Surveyor was instructed to procure a granite boulder and properly mark and sink it in one corner of the triangular park at the head of Monroe street - the stone being designed for a city bench, or starting point, from which to establish the grades of streets. In March a steam fire engine was procured and placed in service, the first of its kind in the city - cost $5,600, and $150 for freight charges. Beyond the issuing of patriotic proclamations by the Mayor, there was no prominent action by the city government, as such, on the occasion of the assassination of the President of the United States, on the 14th of April. The street cars began running May 10, marking a new era in passenger locomotion, and the event was celebrated by free rides, speeches and a feast. In this season, the efforts of two or three years for the grading of Lyon street, and the opening and grading of Ionia and Ottawa from Lyon through to Pearl, were crowned with success. The grading of Lyon required a deep cut through Prospect Hill, and another through the brow of the eastern hill from Bostwick to Barclay street, and much filling in the valley at Ionia street. The opening of Ottawa involved a heavy cut through the tough clay of Prospect Hill for nearly the entire distance between Monroe street and Crescent avenue. September 5, a vote of the electors was taken on the question of aiding in the construction of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad to the amount of $100,000, by the issue of city bonds for that purpose, bearing seven per cent. interest. The canvass showed 510 votes in favor and 66 votes against the loan. In December the Council designated all of the second ward north of Coldbrook street as a stand for the sale of wood - a very roomy woodyard.

1866. In January the Board of Supervisors resolved that the court house should be located on the Public Square, and submitted to the voters at the ensuing April election the propositions to raise by tax $15,000 to build a jail, and procure by loan $40,000 to build a court house. The vote defeated both projects. The chief work of the city government for the first four months was in continuance of grading and draining; and this extended, in many betterments of moderate cost, over nearly all the city. Streets in the central part, those climbing the hills, and especially the portion bounded by Monroe, Division and Cherry streets, were greatly improved; and a good start was made in permanent grades on the west side of the river. In May the Council ordered a cement walk laid in front of Fulton Street Park. May 29, the paving of Monroe street from Division to Fulton, and of Fulton street from the head of Monroe east to the city limits, was declared a necessary public improvement. A special election was held June 18, to vote upon a proposition to aid in the construction of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, by the issue of city bonds to the amount of $100,000. It resulted in a vote of 289 in favor, and 191 against the proposition. This was simply a renewal of the vote of the previous year, but with a change in the conditions of the bonds, and these to be taken by the company in lieu of those before voted.

1867. In April a strong effort was made in the Council to open Kent street through to Monroe, and a resolution was passed declaring it a necessary improvement. It was finally abandoned. The Mayor in his message at the beginning of the municipal year, recommended the building of a City Alms-house, as the city was empowered by the charter to do, but no such institution has been established to the present day. He further recommended the passing of a resolution declaring eight hours to be a day s work for laborers in the employ of the city, and on May 22 such a resolution was adopted by the Aldermen. (This was repealed June 2, 1868.) The Common Council, by ordinance October 15, granted to the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad the right of way through Almy and Ferry streets on the east side, and Blossom, West Division and Water streets on the west side of the river. In October the Council instructed the Mayor and Clerk to execute, for issue, city bonds to the amount of $100,000, which had been voted in aid of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad company. But the bonds were executed in June, 1868. The Mayor, October 22, in a message to the Council, declined to issue the bonds as instructed, on account of certain defects which he named, in the proceedings directing their issue, and in the form of the bonds. The Council, December 5, passed a rigid general ordinance, to regulate the use of streets where right of way was given for railway purposes.

1868. January 17, that portion of the old State Road (or so-called Bostwick road) within the city, running from the northwest to the southeast corner of the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 31, Town 7 North, of Range 11 West, was discontinued by action of the Board of Supervisors. March 26, the extension of Canal street north to the city limits was ordered, also the grading of Fifth street to Stocking. April 31, the Council voted to buy a new steam fire engine. May 28, a vote of the citizens was taken on a proposition to aid the Grand River Valley Railroad company, by loaning the bonds of the city to the amount of $100,000. Result - Yes, 759; No, ???. The regrading and paving of Canal street, north from Bridge to Coldbrook, was among the important public improvements of this year. Another, by private enterprise, was the clearing of a large tract of land north of the city line, by the east bank of the river, a good portion of which was afterward platted into Comstock s addition, its streets connecting with those inside the city. The street railway was relaid up Canal street. The straightening of Monroe street, to its junction with Pearl and Canal, was declared necessary, October 31. This was a somewhat busy year in the matter of public improvements, well distributed about the city. Only a few very expensive works were undertaken, and prominent among these was the grading of Grandville Avenue through to the south line of the city. But the aggregate of such expenditures was large.

1869. The purchase of the grounds where stands the present county jail, was determined upon by the Board of Supervisors in January. In the local parliament, legislative acts for most of this year were confined to street grades and sewer improvements. July 20 the right of way into the city was granted to the Grand River Valley Railroad. November 15, an election on the question of giving $100,000 to aid the Grand Rapids, Newaygo and Lake Shore Railroad, resulted in a vote of 228 for, to 530 against the proposition. The railroad-aid fever had turned. A large amount of work on streets and sewers was done during the year - contracts for street improvements alone aggregating upward of $100,000. Clinton, Calder, Seventh, Fourth, Front, Finney, Clancy, Washington, Jefferson, Williams, Lafayette, Plainfield and State streets each received a liberal outlay, others less amounts; long stretches of sidewalk were laid, and altogether the face of the city highways was greatly bettered in looks and for use. And the drainage by new sewerage made dry ground of many points in town that had been inconveniently miry.

1870. January 15 the Common Council voted to issue bonds of the city to the amount of $25,000 in aid of the Grand River Valley Railroad; these to be in full settlement of questions that had arisen between the city officers and the railroad company concerning the terms and conditions on which $100,000 had been voted in 1868. The company accepted them as such settlement. The big sewer, as it was called, down Monroe and Pearl streets, was completed in the latter part of March. The State Supreme Court, May 27, decided that the railroad-aid law was unconstitutional. This decision occasioned considerable apprehension among the holders of aid bonds for a time, and also a temporary feeling of relief to such municipalities as had issued such bonds in onerous amounts. But later decisions by the United States Courts held the bonds valid in the hands of the holders in other States, eventually necessitating their payment. October 10 the Common Council located lamps at twenty-two street corners in the First, Second and Third Wards.

1871. The first very important work of the Council in 1871 was the appointing of a committee to confer with a similar committee appointed by the citizens, as to the construction of water works. The joint committee reported in April, strongly recommending immediate action, and presented an elaborate plan of supply and distribution, with estimate of probable cost. An amendment to the city charter this spring increased the number of wards from five to eight, making no change in the city boundaries. The new ward areas were: First - south of Fulton street and between Division street and the river. Second - east of the river between Fulton and Lyon streets. Third - south of Fulton and east of Division street. Fourth - east of the river and between Lyon and Walbridge streets. Fifth - east of the river and north of Walbridge street. Sixth - west of the river and north of Seventh street. Seventh - west of the river and between Bridge and Seventh streets. Eighth - west of the river and south of Bridge street. The annual statement of the Mayor, April 25, showed a city indebtedness of $133,125, while during the year there had been assessed and expended for local improvements $89,179, and general assessments had been $58,025. In June the Council authorized the employment of one or more engineers to make surveys and profiles of the most feasible routes for sources of water supply. August 9 a committee reported in favor of Fisk and Reeds Lakes, and recommended bonding the city for $300,000 to build water works.

1872. February 24 the Council resolved to purchase a new steam fire engine. Another fruitless effort was made this year to open Kent street through to Pearl. A jury estimated the value of property required to be taken between Lyon and Pearl streets at $25,410, which, added to the other cost of the improvement, made the load so heavy that the project was dropped. May 25 the city purchased the lot on the southeast corner of Pearl and Ottawa streets, 166 by 66 feet in size, for $11,000. In June seven new water reservoirs were ordered built - and here it is in place to say that, away from the river and canal, up to the time of construction permanent water works, the chief reliance for protection from fires was upon the reservoirs, scores of which were constructed at points in the city where they were most needed and water could be obtained to keep them full. They were of capacities varying from 500 to 1,000 barrels. In June the Grand Rapids Hydraulic Company made an offer to the city of its franchises and properties for $65,000, and in addition to put down a well to yield 2,000,000 gallons of water daily. This proposition, in Council, was referred to the Committee on Water Works, but the city did not buy. In this season improvements were made in Water, Summit, Cherry, Paris, Prospect, Livingston, Ionia, Island, Walbridge, Newberry, Trowbridge, Kent, West Leonard, Mount Vernon, Court and Allen streets, and the Butterworth road, at a cost of about $90,000.

1873. January 23 the Board of Supervisors and the Grand Rapids Bridge Company came to an agreement in the matter of toll on the Bridge street bridge, in which the bridge charter was extended nine years, with the right to take toll of all except foot passengers, the company to keep the bridge in repair and surrender it at the end of that time free of charge. The Common Council, February 1, passed a resolution that a system of water works embodying the reservoir plan, with Grand River as a source of supply, be adopted as suitable and most reliable for supplying the city. March 22 the Aldermen decided to open Fulton street to low water mark on both sides of the river. Peter Hogan, an engineer from Albany, N. Y., employed to investigate our water sources here, made a report to the Council, April 5, recommending the use of Carrier and Coldbrook Creeks, and accompanied his report with an elaborate plan for distributive pipes through the city, and an estimate of their cost. In May the old fire hand engine and hose cart were sold to the city of Hastings for $305. This engine had been in use twenty-two years. May 12 the construction of a City Hall building at the corner of Pearl and Ottawa streets was declared necessary - a project that was never carried out. In June the city purchased the Pearl and Leonard street bridges, and made them free of toll; also purchased the ground for Lincoln park, issuing bonds therefor to the amount of $11,000. July 30 the electors of the city adopted the proposed system of water supply and with it the proposition to raise the necessary funds by the issue of bonds to the amount of $250,000. The vote stood 1,540 in its favor to 183 opposed. In October and November the water mains were laid in Canal, Monroe and Bridge streets. The citizens then felt the relief of being out of the woods and at least partly out of the fire, in consequence of having for the first time a supply of water for public use.

1874. The first important municipal act was the purchase of a tract of five city lots, corner of Canal and Coldbrook streets, and adjoining the river, for a location for the water works, where the pumping house now stands. At the end of January, the city procured a deed of the Bridge street bridge and from that time forward all the city bridges were free of toll. In July, proceedings that had been taken to open Kent street through to Pearl, were terminated by an adverse decision of the State Supreme Court. Wood pavements were laid on the lower part of Monroe and Pearl streets, and on Ottawa from Pearl to Monroe, during the fall. In the latter part of October, Judge Withey of The Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Michigan, for cause shown, ordered the issue of a peremptory writ of mandamus, directing the city to raise, by tax, funds to pay the interest and principal of bonds which had been issued in aid of railroads. November 2, permission was given to the Board of Public Works to lay a water main across the river on Pearl street bridge. During the summer the reservoir on top of the hill was built. The water system was tested November 10, and proved efficient and satisfactory. The improvement called the West Side Ditch, on the west line of the city, was made this year.

1875. During the first week in February, 1875, the fire alarm telegraph system was put in operation. March 1, the Common Council passed an ordinance providing that no female should be employed in the management, or to assist in the management, of any bar or saloon, except the wife of the proprietor, under penalty of a fine of not less than $10 nor more than $100. March 23, the Grand Rapids and Reeds Lake Street Railway Company was granted the use of certain streets for laying its track. June 19, the Council appropriated $50,000 more for water works; issuing bonds of the city therefor, which were readily disposed of at a premium. The Board of Supervisors, at their October session, authorized the building of a toll-bridge across Grand River, at a point near the northwest corner of Grand Rapids township. During this year sewers were built aggregating in length 13,709 feet. The aggregate cost of sewer construction was nearly $30,000. Grading and paving with wood and stone was done in Monroe, Lyon and Pearl streets - 2,885 lineal feet of paving. Streets were graded and surfaced with gravel to an aggregate length of 15,253 feet. The longest work of this sort was on Madison Avenue, from Cherry to Hall street. The total expenditure on street and sewer work, was $89,163.82. The year closed with improvements under contract, estimated to cost $124,850.

1876. According to an estimate made early in January, the entire cost of the water works system up to that time, including sites for engine-house, reservoir and settling basin, amounted to $341,000. March 13, the Council authorized the purchase of a new fire engine, at a cost not to exceed $4,500. June 5, the Council authorized the printing of $50,000 more water bonds, and the immediate issue of $12,000 of them. These were twenty-year bonds, bearing eight per cent. interest, and were denominated City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Water Loan Bonds, Third Series. August 14 the Mayor reported that he had disposed of twelve $1,000 bonds at 8 per cent. premium. August 21, he was authorized to sell $20,000 more. September 25, he reported the sale of this $20,000, and the receipt of a premium of $1,610 on them. October 2, the Chief of Police and his force were instructed to enforce all the Sunday laws and ordinances, within the corporation limits. In the following week, the Chief, in a communication to the Mayor, reported that he found the force inadequate to the proper performance of that duty. His communication was returned to him without further instructions. At a subsequent meeting, October 16, the resolution was modified, also as to direct that the city ordinances relative to Sunday be enforced by the proper authorities. November 13, the Council directed the purchase of a new Silsby Fire Steamer, exchanging therefor the steamer Campau, and $4,000 cash; the contract to include a horse-cart, and the repair of other apparatus.

1877. In a report appended to the Governor s message in January, the municipal debt of the city of Grand Rapids was stated at $560,000. At its first session in January, the Council amended the ordinance relative to nuisances, to permit fast driving of horses on Jefferson and Madison Avenues, south from Wealthy Avenue, except on Sundays. January 29, an ordinance was passed, requiring an accurate registration of all deaths in the city, causes thereof, and places where deceased were buried; also requiring certificates of physicians as to disease and decease. April 16, the Council decided to duplicate the boiler at the pumping works. The police reports showed 978 arrests in 1876, and 1,052 this year.

1878. Municipal affairs started quietly. The first important even noted was the purchase of a new bell for the Fire Department weighing about 4,000 pounds, which arrived April 13, and was placed in the tower and the fire alarm signal wires attached. April 27, the Board of Public Works directed the purchase of a street roller. In May a contract was made for wood to be delivered to the poor of the city, for the ensuing six months: Beech and maple, 16 inch, $1.75 per cord; beech and maple, 48 inch, $4.00 per cord; pine edgings, 48 inch, $1.25 per cord; pine slabs, 48 inches, $2 per cord. June 24, the Marshal was directed to remove the fences from the Fulton Street Park, and from what is now known as Monument Park. General James Shields visited the city May 7, and was given a reception by the Mayor and Common Council, after which he was escorted about the city.

1879. In January the Council resolved that the city should light the tower clock at the foot of Monroe street. An ordinance passed in March required that persons proposing to erect or repair buildings, within certain prescribed districts, should submit plans and specifications thereof to the Board of Public Works for approval, and obtain permits. The financial statement at the close of the fiscal year showed a city bonded indebtedness, other than school bonds, of $457,350. The general assessments of the year footed up $145,350; special assessments, $25,565; total, $170,915. May 21 the municipal officers of Detroit visited this city and were given a cordial reception. June 23 an ordinance was passed to allow the West Side Street Railway Company to extend its line to and across Pearl street bridge, and thence to the Union Depot. September 7 the Mayor and most of the city officers and members of the Council made a visit to Detroit, where they were handsomely received and entertained. September 27 a similar visit was made to Cleveland, Ohio. October 13 the Council decided that telephones should be put into the engine houses. October 20 a new lattice bridge at Leonard street, and a new engine house at the corner of Canal and Leonard streets, were contracted for. Prominent among municipal improvements this year were the building of engine houses No. 2 and 5; the rebuilding of Leonard street bridge; the grading and paving of a part of Jefferson avenue, of North and South Division streets; the regrading and paving of Pearl street; the grading of West Fulton street, of Watson street, Plainfield avenue; and the building of sewers in Cass, South Division, Prescott and other streets. A change was made in the law governing the Police Court, giving it exclusive jurisdiction over examination for crimes committed within the city, and over trials for petty offenses.

1880. At the first meeting of the Council, January 5, the repaving of Canal street with cedar blocks, from Bridge street north to the city limits, was declared necessary. April 19 an ordinance was passed giving certain franchises to the Grand Rapids Electric Light and Power Company. The report at the close of the fiscal year showed revenues from general, special and miscellaneous sources of $305,482.23. The indebtedness, aside from school bonds, was $442,000. Receipts of special taxes from liquor dealers and brewers were about $23,000. Municipal acts during this year were chiefly in the line of regular routine business. Much street work in the aggregate was done in nearly all parts of the city, including sewerage.

1881. At the end of January a new bell was put in Engine House No. 1, on Lagrave street. February 14, the Council ordered the purchase of fifteen two-bushel baskets, to be stored in the city offices ready for carrying out books and papers in case of fire. April 11, the Grand Rapids Electric Light and Power Company were granted leave to erect an addition of one hundred feet to the top of the fire bell tower, for making an experiment as to lighting the city with tower electric lights. April 13, an exhibition was given of electric light on Pearl street bridge. April 26, the duties of the City Physician in detail were defined by the Council, by resolution, which also made him a member ex-officio of the Board of Health. Reports of the city finances showed an outstanding bonded indebtedness, at the end of the fiscal year, of $432,000, exclusive of school bonds. The total assessments of the year were: General, $161,160; special, $92,317. June 16, the Board of Supervisors authorized the construction of a railroad bridge across the lower end of Island No. 3, by the Grand Rapids, Newaygo and Lake Shore Railroad Company. At the same session steps were taken to test and determine the title to the Public or Court House Square, and in October suits were begun with that object. June 20, the Common Council imposed a license tax of $25 for non-residents running hacks in the city. July 18, an ordinance was passed excluding velocipedes and bicycles from sidewalks in business portions of the city east of the river. An elaborate report was made by City Surveyor A. C. Sekell, July 23, to the Board of Public Works, concerning the disposal of sewerage into the river. It appeared that nearly all the east side drainage from Fourth Avenue on the south to Coldbrook street on the north, was by sewers having outlet near the Grand Rapids and Indian Railroad bridge. This outlet was much complained of as a nuisance, on account of the stench arising therefrom. The Surveyor reported two plans of relief, but it does not appear that his plans were adopted. August 8, a contract was made for laying water mains in East and West Fulton streets. August 22, Allen Hoag was given the stone in Lincoln Park, in consideration of making certain improvements therin. An ordinance, adopted November 7, provided that wagons drawing loads of more than 2,500 pounds in the streets must have tires three or more inches wide. November 14, the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners established eleven districts for day and night patrol duty, and prescribed the service therin. On the 28th a memorial on the death of William Hovey, member of the Board of Public Works, was ordered spread upon the record of the Council; and on the 7th of December a similar tribute was paid to the memory of ex-Mayor Henry S. Smith.

1882. January 23 the time as indicated by Albert Preusser s regulator was adopted as the standard city time. In February and March a few cases of smallpox in the city stirred up the genius of the aldermen and health officers to devise prompt measures for preventing the spread of that disease. It soon subsided. On the 4th of April a resolution was adopted to the effect that in making assessment rolls, and in transacting other city business in relation thereto, the original plat of Tanner Taylor s Addition should be followed and treated as a valid plat; and also in relation to the streets, lanes, alleys, and grounds dedicated to public use thereon. An ordinance was adopted, April 17, to govern the construction and operation of the Grand Rapids Junction and Transfer Railroad. April 24 a building for the use of the Sexton and lot owners was ordered erected in Greenwood Cemetery. June 12 rooms for police headquarters were rented in the block at the corner of Lyon and Campau streets. They had previously been for many years at the corner of Monroe and Ionia. An ordinance for the Fuller electric light was passed on August 7. In the middle of October eleven electric, 176 gas, and 430 naphtha lamps were in use upon the streets at the expense of the city. November 20 the Fuller electric light was formally adopted by the Council for street use.

1883. March 3 contract was executed for the building of an iron bridge across the river at Bridge street. March 19 stone stairs from the base to the upper level of Crescent Park were declared necessary. June 18 the Council adopted Detroit time as the standard, setting the city regular forward ten and a half minutes. July 2 an iron bridge at Fulton street was declared necessary. August 7 the building of an engine house in the Eighth Ward was ordered. At the end of October an ordinance was passed prohibiting the blowing of steam whistles in the city, and was vetoed by the Mayor. November 6 the street lighting contract was awarded the Michigan Iron Works Light and Power Company, and the Mayor vetoed that. Electric lights went out of fashion for a short time, but a new contract was made December 13, with the same company. November 19 the city time was changed again, and a little later turned back 28 minutes to the Central Standard.

1884. In January the inner walls of the first and second stories of the jail were lined with boiler iron. February 25, the Street Railway Company was ordered to lay double tracks in Canal and Monroe streets, and the repaving of Canal street was declared necessary. May 12, formal orders were passed for the repaving of Monroe and Canal streets. May 21, the Board of Public Works was requested to begin the erection of the iron bridge at Fulton street. June 23, the Street Railway Company was given permission to lay double tracks in Fulton, Lagrave and East streets, and Wealthy Avenue. September 1, the Third Ward was divided into two election precincts, Wealthy Avenue being the dividing line. The Council in September decided that $6,000 be placed in the annual budget to begin the building of the bridge at Sixth and Newberry streets; also for $20,000 for the Fulton street bridge superstructure. November 2, it was voted that street cars be taxed $15 per year. November 11, a report in Council was made in favor of granting a cable road franchise on Lyon, Union and East Bridge streets, and this recommendation was adopted. November 25, the triangular park at the head of Monroe street was formally set apart for the erection of the monument and fountain in memory of soldiers who had given their lives for their country.

1885. Two amendments to the city charter were drafted and approved by the Council in January, and forwarded to the Legislature - one to grant women the right to vote in school elections; the other with reference to the employment of city prisoners in the jail. February 16, the Valley City Street and Cable Railway ordinance was passed. April 25, the bid was accepted of R. L. Day & Co., of Boston, to take the City Hall bonds at 105.03 and accrued interest; netting a premium to the city of $6,925.50. June 2, an iron bridge at Pearl street was declared necessary. June 15, the Common Council decided to accept a proposition of the Electric Light and Power Company to light the city with electricity by the tower system, at the cost of $26,000 a year, the city to own the towers at the end of five years. This act was vetoed by the Mayor, and again passed over his veto at the next meeting; but it was met June 27, by an injunction issued from the Superior Court. Provision was made by the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners, June 15, for putting into operation in their departments the telephone and signal system. June 29, they were authorized to place signal boxes inside the curb line at street corners. The question of bonding the city in the sum of $300,000, for water works, was submitted to the electors July 7, and negatived. The Common Council, in August, rented ground for a wood and hay market on the west side of Kent street, between Hastings and Trowbridge. December 21, the Council determined to make war upon English sparrows, and the Poundmaster was instructed to exterminate them as speedily as possible. There is no record of the number of birds impounded under this order. About $78,250 was expended this year for street and sewer improvement.

1886. Among the acts of the first session of the Council in 1886 was one authorizing the committee on buildings to sell the stone broken by the prisoners in the jail-yard. January 11 an ordinance was passed for regulating the construction of buildings. February 1, in Council, the scheme of killing sparrows by municipal order was abandoned. From the annual reports at the close of the fiscal year it appears that the bonded indebtedness of the city, including school bonds, April 1, was $701,000. The State Supreme Court decided, April 29, substantially, that the county had no title in the public square. September 8, W. P. Coats, under contract with the Board of Public Works, laid a cast-iron water main, 600 feet long and sixteen inches in diameter, across the river near the pumping works. It was put together on stagings erected for the purpose and lowered bodily into a trench excavated in the rock at the bottom of the stream. A smaller, wrought iron, pipe had been put across there eleven years before, but had become useless. The laying of this larger main without mishaps, and in perfect condition, was considered a remarkable feat of engineering. October 11 the Grand Rapids Hydraulic Company made a second offer to purchase the water works of the city, and to pay therefor $465,066.39; or to lease and perfect them at an annual rent of $25,000 for thirty years. The proposal was referred to a committee who reported it adversely to the Council.

1887. At the election, April 4, the vote of the city on the Prohibition amendment to the State Constitution, submitted by the Legislature, was - Yes, 1,385; No, 4,876. In May the Grand Rapids National Bank was made the depository for city funds for a year. The fourteenth annual reunion of the State Firemen s Association was held here, May 3 and 4. The association was given the use of the Common Council Room for its deliberations; was warmly welcomed and tendered the hospitalities of the city by the Mayor, and the Fire Department gave it special opportunities for inspection of apparatus and engine houses, adding a review on parade. May 16 a new electric light ordinance was passed. June 6 the Council voted to extend the time for closing saloons and restaurants from 10 to 11 o clock p.m.; and on the 20th they gave another hour, making midnight the closing time, so far as a vote of the Aldermen could do that against the law of the State which prescribed 10 o clock p.m. as the limit. An amendment to the city charter, which took effect May 1, made important changes in regard to the duties of the Treasurer and Marshal, also as to the Board of Health, and some other matters. July 11 an ordinance was passed granting franchises in certain streets to the Valley City Street and Cable Railway Company. July 22 Judge Burlingame of the Superior Court rendered a decision to the effect that title to the public square was vested in the city. September 12 right of way was granted in the city for the Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit Railroad. The Cherry street railway ordinance, at a third trial, and after two vetoes by the Mayor, was passed October 10. The Board of Public Works contracted for an elevator in the City Hall early in August. In October the Council contracted with the Phoenix Furniture Company for furnishing the rooms of the City Hall. The so-called iron-clad liquor law became operative in the latter part of September. Its very stringent provisions may be found in the statute books.

1888. The Council, January 3, changed the amount of fine imposed for violation of the street ordinances, from a sum not exceeding $500 to one of not less than $1 nor more than $25. January 9, several ordinances were amended, and an ordinance relative to vagrants passed in 1875 was repealed. January16, a resolution was adopted in Council recommending the raising by the county of $150,000 to building a court house. The Valley City Street and Cable Railway Company, on January, was granted a franchise in Grand Avenue north from Crescent Avenue. Ordinances relative to fires, dogs, buildings and obstructions along the river shores, the storage of inflammable or explosive oils or fluids, the fire alarm telegraph, and houses of ill-fame, were amended. There was much similar legislation by the municipal legislature during 1888, amounting nearly to a general revision of the ordinances. The April election returns showed 9,362 votes cast in the city. The Mayor s annual report showed the bonded debt of the city, including school bonds, to be $768,000. The Treasurer s report, April 21, showed a balance of $184,455.15 in the treasury. The assessments during the year for general and special purposes had been $283,030. Among the early acts of the incoming Council was the granting of upward of one hundred and forty licenses for liquor saloons. The ordinance relative to building within fire limits was materially amended in June. September 26 the new City Hall was dedicated with formal ceremonies. The Council met in the old rooms for the purpose of bidding them good-bye, which was done by giving three cheers; after which, the members, led by a band of music, marched to the new hall. The first session of the Council in its new quarters was held October 1. The persons having positions for the care of the hall had been previously appointed. The Custodian was Charles T. Brenner.

1889. January 15 the Council passed a resolution allowing the boys and girls to slide down hill with sleds on several streets. In the latter part of February the Common Council petitioned the Legislature for authority to procure by loan $80,000 to improve the water works, extend the mains, and erect a stand pipe. The act was passed, and the work done this year. An ordinance granting a water-gas franchise was passed March 4. October 14 the Street Railway Company was granted a franchise to use electricity as a motive power for street cars. Most of the rest of municipal doings to this date were of the usual business routine order. September 27 the annual tax budget, amounting to $351,423.33, was adopted. By ordinance a portion of Almy and Oakes streets has been vacated, to give more room for railroad station and tract uses adjacent to the Union Depot.

Document Source: Baxter, Albert, History of the City of Grand Rapids, New York and Grand Rapids: Munsell & Company, Publishers, 1891. (Name Index)
Location of Original: Various.

Transcriber: Donna Rogers
Created: 1 January 2002