[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Public squares and parks are valuable breathing places in a large city. But Grand Rapids has not much to boast of in the size, number or attractiveness of her parks or pleasure grounds. A considerable number of pretty spots of green about the place are cared for to some extent by the city; but in most cases it seems scarcely appropriate to call them parks. Yet some of them are moderately well kept, and may, in time, grow to be beautiful, and in many ways attractive resorts. The need of them as luxuries is perhaps partially atoned for by the presence of many handsome lawns adjoining private residences, which to some extent do away with the necessity for public parks.
THE BALL FORTY
The largest tract in or about the city suitable for park uses, is that now known as the "Ball Forty," situated upon the bluffs just west of the city limits; consisting, as the name indicates, of forty acres, on the east slope of the hill at the end of West Fulton street. It is thickly wooded with groves of Oak, Maple and Elm trees, and at the summit of the hill affords a fine birds-eye view of the city. It is a natural park, and with little expense could be made a beautiful breathing spot. In the near future it should be dedicated and improved for park purposes.
A nearly level tract of green sward well dotted with trees, measuring some fifteen acres, bounded north by West Bridge street, east by Marion street, south by Jackson street, and west by Garfield avenue, at the west line of the city, is the ground known as Lincoln Park. A little additional improvement, and the erection of a pavilion, would make this spot an excellent one for public open-air gatherings on the West Side. The grounds were purchased in July, 1873, of Jane Tuttle and T. F. Richards, for $11,000.
At the steep acclivity of the hill on Crescent avenue is Crescent Park, lying just west of Bostwick street. In size it is diminutive, containing less than three acres of ground, but in position, with its artificial adornments, it is a very attractive spot, commanding a fine view of the city in all directions except the east. Though not strictly a crescent, it takes its name from its form, having for its boundaries a straight line on Bostwick street, 420 feet in length with a segment of a circle from its north and south points curving westward about half way to Division street in the center; giving it something like a half-moon shape. Up the center from the west is a stairway twelve feet wide, of 56 massive stone steps, cut from the best Joliet stone, with side coping to match. Above this flight of stairs, centrally located, is a fountain, at the top of which is a circular basin surmounted by a female figure pouring water from a jar held in her arms, and surrounded by cat-tail flags from which a spraying mist cools the summer air. Around this basin are miniature lions' heads from whose mouths pour streams of water into the lower basin. As a support to the upper basin are two female figures, sitting on either end of an oblong block, apparently gazing at their shadows reflected in the water below. As a work of art this fountain, and the other decorations of the place, are much admired by visitors. The original movers for the establishment of Crescent Park were George K. Johnson and Francis H. Cuming, who deeded the ground to the city in October, 1858, for Park uses, and under an agreement to that effect Dr. Cuming personally superintended the first grading and rounding into shape of the hill declivity which was then very steep at that point. There is still much to be done before the improvement is so finished as to be permanent. But in that already done have been things undreamed of in the philosophy of those two gentleman. Deep cuts in the brow of the hill have left the houses which they built, and which they hoped thereby to preserve in their original sightliness, on the tops uncomely and treacherous banks of sand.
A hilly grove between nine and ten acres in extent, lying north of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad, between Union street and Grand avenue, constitutes Highland Park. Though not much improved, it is a pleasant resting place and resort for picnic parties. Through it Coldbrook winds its crooked way toward the City Water Works. The scheme for this plat was originated by Bissell and Harlan, who in platting gave to the city three and a half acres on condition that $500 be expended in improving it, and in the spring of 1873, deeded to the city five acres for the nominal sum of $1,200, that being considered the price of the acre and a half added to the original ground. A further addition was subsequently made. It is not yet much improved.
FULTON STREET PARK -- PUBLIC SQUARE
Centrally situated east of the river, is the oldest and best known park in the city, commonly designated by the older citizens the Public Square, though generally now known as Fulton Street Park. It lies between Park street on the north, Fulton street on the south, and the streets known as East and West Park Place on the other two sides respectively. It contains a little more than three acres of ground. In the center is a pavilion in the shape of a Latin cross, capable of holding one or two hundred people, and free for the use of public gatherings, while thickly placed along the graveled walks are seats, upon which the summer stroller and the weary pilgrim alike may rest, and talk or read, with no fear of "move on, please," from the guardian of the city's peace. An object of interest, at least to the scientific man, and of curiosity to many, is a hexagonal box placed in the west portion of the park. Were the box removed we should see the astronomical stone placed there in 1874 by the officers of the United States Lake Survey, giving the latitude of Grand Rapids as 42° 57' 49.02", and the longitude west from Greenwich as 85° 40' 1.65". From Washington the longitude is 8° 37' 13.65" west. This park is upon the site selected by Territorial Commissioners in 1833 for the County Seat of Kent County. It came to the public use by dedication in the original platting, and some subsequent action and expense to quiet the title.
A small, triangular space of green, bordered by shade trees, and having for its boundaries East Fulton, Monroe and North Division streets, although less than a fourth of an acre in size, possesses attractions that draw the stranger as well as the citizen to the scene. Many an old veteran has paused here and gazed on the fine monument in the center of the park, and from which it takes the name, "Monument Park," erected to commemorate the events of the war and the part taken therein by Kent county; and with broken voice and tear-dimmed eye has tried to describe the noble death of some friend and comrade who fell a sacrifice on the altar of Liberty in some one of the engagements the names of which are enduringly placed on this Soldiers' Monument. To the man of science, also, Monument Park has an object of interest. which would probably be overlooked by many. Seated on the bench near the east point of the triangle one might read from the notes of the late Captain Coffinberry: "At a meeting of the Common Council of the city of Grand Rapids, on the 17th of April, 1865 the City Surveyor made a report in pursuance of a previous order to erect a City Grade Bench. The report was accepted and adopted, and the Surveyor was ordered to put the same on record in the City Grade Book." As the record runs:
A large granite boulder, with an iron bolt inserted in the top and leaded in securely, is planted at least three feet in the ground, with the top and iron bolt visible at the surface in the southeast corner of the small triangular park bounded on the south by Fulton street, on the ?vest by Division street, and on the northeast by Monroe street; said bench is to be recognized as the base for all the street grades in the city east of the riser, and must be referred to in all the records for street grades from and after this date. Bearings—Iron post, south 72° east 176 links and 1 inch. Iron post south 77° 45' west 187 links and 1 inch. Recorded April 18, 1865. W. L. COFFINBERRY, City Surveyor.
The bearings referred to are also mentioned in the Government survey of September, I 874. Thus is established a starting point or base, from which surveys and levels are run or calculated in the city engineering. Here at the feet of the observer may be seen the insignificant looking affair on the exact location of which so much depends, and without which lawsuits innumerable might arise. Further inquiry brings the information that the top of the stone is 56. 57 feet above the estimated low water mark at Fulton street bridge, and that, while not officially recognized, for the convenience of civil engineers there is a grade bench in the corner stone of the Eagle Hotel, 28.72 feet, and one on a level with the floor of Fulton street bridge, 24 feet above the same water level.
OTHER GREEN SPOTS
Besides the parks already mentioned there are a few small "greeneries" in other parts of the city—"Ellsworth Park" at the intersection of Ellsworth avenue with Island and South Waterloo streets; " Bridge Street Park" on East Bridge street at its junction with Coit avenue and Barclay street; one at the end of Waverly place where State street runs into Washington, and one east of South Prospect street, between State and Cherry; neither of which exceeds half an acre; nor can they well be dignified by the name of parks. There are also several allotments, such as "Oakdale Park," "Grove Park," "Winsor Park," which as yet are outside of the city, and held as residence property, but which may in time be added to the city, and pleasant parks therein be dedicated to the public.
Among the many monuments, that from time to time have been erected by citizens and comrades to carry the honor of soldiers down to further ages, and perpetuate the memory of services rendered and sacrifices made by those who served their country in the time of her need and danger, the comely and stately one here described is worthy of a prominent place. The Kent County Soldiers' Monument Association was organized February 13, 1864, while our soldiery were in the very heat of the struggle for the preservation of the Union. The original incorporators were: Truman H. Lyon, Peter R. L. Pierce, Alfred X. Cary, George W. Allen, Eben Smith, Jr., Henry Grinnell, Thomas D. Gilbert: Henry Fralick, Wilder D. Foster. First officers: President, Thomas D. Gilbert; Treasurer: Ransom C. Luce; Secretary, Eben Smith, Jr. It was started on the dollar membership plan, and local societies were organized in the townships of the county; the proposition being to raise a fund of $5,000 for the purpose of erecting a monument to the memory of the soldiers of Kent county who died while serving the United States in the then pending war. Calls upon the purses of the people were at that time so numerous and urgent that but slow progress was made. Six hundred members brought $600 to the fund, when interest in the project flagged and nearly died out, and further action was held at abeyance for about twenty years, except the careful investment by Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Fralick of the fund in hand. Finally plans were solicited and a contract made with the Detroit Bronze Company, in 1885, for a monument to cost $3,500, to be in readiness for unveiling and dedication at the Annual Reunion of the Army of the Cumberland, held in Grand Rapids, April 16 and 17, 1885. Mr. Gilbert becoming personally responsible for any balance that might be needed when the work should be done. Success crowned the effort, and a great concourse of people were present to rejoice at the consummation of the work. The cost of this monument and its surroundings was $4,150. In connection with its payment is a striking illustration of the cumulative property of money judiciously invested. The original $600 with its increment of interest had grown to be $2,223. Then of the subscription raised to entertain the veterans of the Army of the Cumberland there was a surplus of $750, which was turned over to the monument fund. The balance needed — $1,117 — was provided by private subscription. The Soldiers' Monument is so placed in the triangular park at the intersection of Fulton, Division and Monroe Streets that the statue of the soldier at the summit of the shaft, faces northwest. The basin surrounding the base of the monument is sixteen feet in diameter and circular in form, built of native stone, surmounted by a coping of sand stone. The monument proper rests upon a base of native stone cut in the from of a Greek cross. From this rises the bronze base of the structure, ornamented in appropriate designs, with medallion portraits of Lincoln, Grant, Farragut and Garfield, and inscribed thereupon are the names and dates of the following engagements, all of which were participated in by Kent County soldiers: Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861; Fort Donaldson, February 16, 1852; Monitor and Merrimac, March 9, 1862; New Orleans, April 24, 1862; Atlanta, September 2, 1862; Yorktown, April 4, May 4, 1862; Fair Oaks, May 31, June 1, 1862; Vicksburg, June 22, July 4, 1863; Appomatox, April 8, 1865; Mobile, March 30, April 12, 1865; Stone River, January 2, 1863; Port Royal, January 1, 1862. This section has a height of seven feet from the stone base.
The next section is square in form, having on the front side in bas relief a scene representing a woman giving aid to a wounded soldier and the inscription "Woman's Mission of Mercy" — probably the first recognition in the history of soldiers' monuments of the work of women. The idea of doing so in this case was conceived by Mrs. Thomas D. Gilbert, and embodied in the plans by the committee. The other three sides of this section have three inscriptions.
"A Government of the people, by the people and for the people." — Lincoln
"The Union must and shall be preserved." — Jackson
"Let us have peace — This is a Nation." — Grant
"The war for the Union was right, eternally right." — Garfield.
Upon the next section, on the front, is the inscription, "In honor of the soldiers from Kent County, 1861-1865. Erected 1885." Above is a draped shaft upon which is the life-sized figure of a soldier in the uniform of a private, and standing at parade rest. Around the pedestal on which the statue stands are: "Petersburg," "Winchester," "Mission Ridge," "Antietam."
The height of the monument from the ground to the top of the soldier's cap, is thirty-four feet. It is one of the most elaborate, up to that time, made of this material, "white bronze," which is believed to be indestructible, and is of a rich gray color. When the water is turned on jets play from cannon peeping out of miniature embrasures into the lower basin, while four draped cherubs spout water into the upper basin. The park was formally set apart for this monument and fountain November 25, 1884, by action of the Common Council.
INDIAN BURIAL GROUNDS
When the white people came into this region there was an Indian burial ground on the West Side, nearly opposite the foot of the rapids. Its use as a cemetery was continued by the Catholic priest or missionary who came here, and near it the little church of Father Baraga was situated. Thus it became the early Catholic cemetery, and was used as such until after the Indians removed and other grounds were procured by the Catholics on the east side of the river. Another Indian burial place on the West side was further north, in some mounds nearly opposite the Pearl street bridge. Early settlers tell of burying large numbers of Indians in that southwest part of the city, at times of prevalence of contagious diseases among them. This whole ground of the mounds and burial places has since been very thoroughly dug up and leveled in making city improvements, and little remains but a dim remembrance of dead men's bones, and the ancient relics unearthed.
FIRST VILLAGE CEMETERY
The first piece of ground set apart for cemetery uses in this town, as appears by the "Plat of the Village of Kent," made by John Almy in 1835, was a parcel lying west of Livingston street, and between Walbridge and Coldbrook streets. It contained nearly eight acres, being 650 feet north and south by 510 feet east and west. A few graves were made there at an early day, and occasional burials down as late as 1855. It was never formally dedicated to the public other than by platting, though the City Council recognized it in 1853 by an order for fencing it. This, however, was not carried into effect, and a few years later the remains interred there were removed, chiefly to Fulton Street Cemetery. About 1855 a pest-house was erected among the bushes on or near the south end of this ground, and two or three victims of smallpox were buried there. There were the no residences near it. Afterward the interest of the public in the ground was allowed to lapse and it reverted to its original owners.
A TEMPORARY BURIAL PLACE
In the early village days a parcel of ground near where is now the corner of Madison avenue and Cherry street was used occasionally for burial purposes. Subsequently the remains which had been placed there were removed to the Fulton Street Cemetery. There was a story to the effect that a man named Baker, familiarly known as "Big Baker," on account of his large frame (he was very tall and weighed 260 pounds), was buried there and that at the removal of his coffin was found empty. The daughter of Samuel Baker afterward discredited this, so far as was related to the place of burial. She thought he was buried at Fulton Street Cemetery, but the family were unable to find his remains or even any appearance of a grave at the spot where they saw him buried.
FULTON STREET CEMETERY
July 9, 1838, the Trustees of the Village purchased of James Ballard six acres of ground comprising what is now a part of the Fulton Street Cemetery. The purchase price was $300. It was to be reserved and used expressly as a cemetery for the Village of Grand Rapids, one-third of it for the Roman Catholics, and was to be kept in order and repair at the expense of the Village. Twenty years later this ground was found too small for the needs of the then rapidly growing city, and additions were made to it of parcels adjoining, by deeds of Thomas D. Gilbert and others, in 1862, 1863 and 1864. In the early part of 1868, the "Fulton Street Cemetery Association of the City of Grand Rapids" was incorporated, under the law of the State relating to such associations, by the owners of lots in that cemetery, and the following officers were elected: President, Thomas D. Gilbert; Clerk, James B. Willson; Treasurer, J. Frederic Baars; Sexton, John Suttle; Directors, L. R. Atwater, A. Lamont Chubb, Alonzo Platt. At the same meeting by-laws were adopted and an assessment of $600 was levied on the members for the improvement of the grounds. Since that time they have been well cared for by this association. The present officers are: President, George W. Sones; Secretary and Treasurer, J. F. Baars; Sexton, John Ringold. The grounds with their alleys and carriage ways are well laid out and carefully and neatly kept, and in them are a considerable number of handsome and costly monuments. The trees and shrubbery, judiciously and tastefully trimmed, give the place much the appearance of an attractive park. The area of this cemetery is nearly twelve acres.
MOUNT CAVALRY CEMETERY
The Catholic cemetery on the west side of the river is known as Mount Cavalry — a plat of about seventeen acres just west of the city at the junction of Walker avenue and West Leonard street. It was purchased by the Rev. I. G. Ehrenstrasser, the pastor of St. Mary's Church, April 10, 1882, and soon after was formally consecrated according to the Roman Catholic ritual. The land was purchased by the pastor with his own money, and during his life he gave four acres to the church, and on his death December 6, 1886, he left the remainder of the plat to the congregation of St. Mary's church, his intention, as expressed, having been to reside on the portion withheld, should he become superannuated before his death. In connection with the Parish of St. Mary's, the cemetery is used by the Parish of St. Adelbert, the Polish Catholic Church. The first member of the parish buried in this "city of the dead," was Frank Berles, August 5, 1884; although prior to this several children of Polish families had been buried there. Among the monuments in the course of construction, is a very elegant mausoleum to the memory of Father Ehrenstrasser, costing five thousand dollars. There are many small but tasty monuments, among which are noticed those of Frank Berles, Peter Kreider, Frank Roetz, Charles Greulich, John Goebel and Peter Beierly, mainly the work of Charles Schmidt, a member of the Congregation.
ST. ANDREW'S CEMETERY
The St. Andrew's (Catholic) Cemetery, situated on the east side of Madison Avenue between Prince and Jones streets, and comprising about ten acres of ground, was deeded to Bishop Peter Paul LeFevre in December 1852. Previous to that time the Catholic burial ground on the east side of the river was in the gore between Cherry street and Lake avenue, and east of the city line. The grounds are well platted, and contain several fine monuments. That of the Reverend Father Andrew Viszocsky bears Latin, French, German and English inscriptions. The John Clancy vault is the object of much interest to visitors.
VALLEY CITY CEMETERY
Situated about a quarter of a mile east of the fair grounds, in the town of Paris, is the Valley City Cemetery, being the east part of the north half of the northeast quarter of Section 6 in that township, about forty acres of ground. This was purchased by direction of the Common Council in February 1859, and was dedicated by the city authorities to cemetery purposes December 17, 1860. The grounds are handsomely laid out in a grove of natural oaks, with convenient walks and drives, and are well kept. It has a number of fine monuments, and a city vault of capacity to receive twenty-four caskets, the latter built by a California gentleman.
THE HEBREW BURIAL PLACE
The first meeting of the Hebrews in this city was held September 20, 1857, to take action regarding the death of one Jacob Levy. Joseph Houseman was Chairman, and David L. Newborg, Secretary. Those present resolved themselves into a Benevolent and Burial Society, and authorized the Chairman to procure suitable grounds for a cemetery. These he secured, by deed from Joseph J. Baxter and Julia A. Baxter, his wife, dated September 20, 1857, conveying that parcel of land which is the southwest quarter of Oak Hill Cemetery. This was the first ground dedicated to such use in that neighborhood; Oak Hill and Valley City Cemeteries being established later. It is owned and used by the Congregation Emanuel as the Hebrew Burial Ground, and is neatly, sweetly and carefully cared for.
OAK HILL CEMETERY
In the southeast corner of the city is Oak Hill Cemetery, comprising about forty acres, in square form. The original plat, made by W. L. Coffinberry, shows 1,350 lots, averaging 16 by 30 feet in size. Its central avenue is 40 feet wide, the circular drive ways are 24 feet wide, and that around the outside is 20 feet wide. It has an estimated capacity fro 21,600 graves. This cemetery was dedicated October 25, 1859. The southwest quarter of this ground constitutes the burial place of the Hebrews.
A little northwest of the city, in the township of Walker, is a cemetery tract of twenty acres called Greenwood. It was purchased by the city in February 1859, and was dedicated as the city cemetery December 17, 1860. It is tastefully laid out and nicely cared for. Near the center is a neat family vault of moderate dimensions. The ground has several miles of walks and driveways, the latter bordered by strips of lawn; and many of the lots are marked with monuments of granite and marble.
CARE OF THE CEMETERIES.
Of the cemeteries in the city of Grand Rapids, generally speaking, it may be said that they contain many illustrations of the growth by culture of the taste of the people, in the matter of their improvement and adornment. Therein are a great many samples of artistic conception and skill shown in the chiseled marble, and of the manifestations of affection in family circles exhibited in the shrubbery and floral decorations about the resting places of their loved ones departed. Under the charter the city is empowered to purchase and hold grounds for cemeteries within or without the limits of the corporation, to ordain appropriate names for them, and cause record to be made of their metes and bounds. It is provided also that such lands shall be ``forever dedicated to cemetery purposes. " Prior to 1883 the Common Council appointed one Commissioner of the city cemeteries. The term of the office was two years. In May, 1883, by act of the Legislature a Board to be known as the Cemetery Commissioners of the City of Grand Rapids was constituted, to be composed of three members. These are appointed by the Mayor, by and with the consent of the Council. The term is three years, and one is appointed on the first Monday in May of each year. The act requires that this Board shall have exclusive control of all lands owned by the city and dedicated to cemetery uses, and also of all properties, buildings and improvements connected therewith; shall have exclusive care, custody and management of the same, and shall employ Superintendents and such Sextons and laborers as they may deem proper. They also have power to regulate sales of lots, and interments, and make such regulations and improvements as they may see fit; in no case, however, must a fee be charged to visitors. Suitable lots are required to be set apart for the burial of the poor and cared for at the public expense. All cemetery property belonging to the city and all places of burial are exempt from assessment and taxation, and from liability for the payment of debts. The city has police jurisdiction in all the cemetery grounds. The Commissioners are entitled to a salary for their services in the discretion of the Council, not to exceed $100 per annum. Of the annual receipts of the cemeteries for the sale of lots and otherwise an amount not less than ten per cent. constitutes a repair fund, not to exceed, however, $50,000, the interest of which must be applied solely to the repairing of cemetery property. The Commissioners are required to make quarterly reports of their receipts and expenditures. The members of the Board in 1888 were Smith W. Osterhout, Isaac Sigler and Ransom C. Luce. In 1889, Isaac Sigler, R. C. Luce and W. F. Raiguel. Among earlier Cemetery Commissioners have been: Warren P. Mills, Charles P. Babcock, 1859; T. D. Gilbert, Ebenezer Anderson, 1867; R. C. Luce, Robert Swain, 1878. Mr. Luce has served in that capacity most of the time for thirty years.
In the early days coffin making was part of the trade of every cabinet maker. Joiners and wagon makers also sometimes made to order plain coffins. These were usually of simple construction, of cherry or black walnut, or of some softer wood and stained, with rarely any trimmings except sometimes cheap handles upon the sides, for convenience in carrying. And at funerals the common custom was for four or six of the friends or neighbors of the deceased to carry the body, inclosed in such a coffin, from the house to the church or the grave in a procession, upon the bier, which was a simply constructed, unpainted, frame of wood with side-rails, cross-slats and four posts; or, if the route was of much length, a plain wagon with a square box u as used for part of the service. There were very few ostentatious funerals in Grand Rapids previous to 1850, and the cost of burials was very light compared with even the most humble of the present day. Nor was it often that other special services than those of the maker of the coffin, the grave digger and the priest were required, sympathetic hands supplying the rest, and frequently all, of the needed assistance. Not until about 1846 came the time when "the doctor told the sexton and the sexton tolled the bell." Robert I Shoemaker and Harry Dean were for some time tollers of the bell on the Congregational church, and the former by appointment of the Village Trustees in 1847 became the Village Section. A few years after the incorporation of the city one or two furniture makers began to make coffins ready-made a part of their stock in trade.
Albert B. Judd, starting about 1858, was the first to make of undertaking and supplying of all materials for funerals a distinct and exclusive business or trade. This he followed for about twenty years at 30 Canal Street.
Prominent among the local undertakers, or, as they are now called, funeral directors, is Allen Durfee, who began on the corner of Pearl and Campau streets in 1871. He remained there four years, when he moved to his present location on Ottawa street. In 1879 he conceived the idea of organizing a State association of undertakers, and a convention was called, meeting at Jackson January 14, 1880, when the organization was perfected and Mr. Durfee chosen President, which office he held for two terms. This was the first attempt of the kind in the United States, the object of being to discuss all matters pertaining to the business, and the outcome of it has been a National Association of which Mr. Durfee has also been a prominent member ever since its organization. His business has increased so that in his rooms he now carries a full and complete stock of funeral furnishings; having also three hearses, five horses and three assistants. September 6, 1888, he admitted A. D. Leavenworth to partnership, with one-third interest in the business which was inventoried $7,000, and the style of the firm was changed to Allen Durfee & Co. He has for years dispensed with ice, and embalmed instead, using a solution which preserves the body for a long time with little change.
ALLEN DURFEE was born at Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, January 15, 1829, and lived there until the fall of 1853, with his father's people, on the farm where he was born. October 5, 1853, he married Phebe B. Thayer, a native of that county, and on the 18th of the same month they came to Grand Rapids, he having purchased a part of the Bemis farm, near the river, four miles below this city. There he lived until September 1868. In 1856 he was elected Justice of the Peace; in 1862-63 he held the office of Treasurer of Walker township; in 1866 was again chosen Justice of the Peace, and in 1868 was nominated for Supervisor, but failed of an election. In September 1868, he sold his farm and purchased a home in this city, where he has since resided. In June 1869 he engaged for J. H. Farwell in the manufacture of funeral goods, and remained with that gentleman a little more than two years. October 15, 1871, he established his present business -- that of undertaker, or as it is now called, funeral director -- in which he since that date has continued uninterruptedly. He took a leading part in forming a State Association of Funeral Directors, which was done in the early part of 1880, was chosen its President, and has been active in discussions and measures for the improvement in all that pertains to their profession and business. Mr. Durfee is a member of the Knights of Honor, of the A. O. U. W., of the Covenant Mutual Association of Galesburg, and of the Old Residents' Association of the Grand River Valley. In person he is gentlemanly, sociable, kind and affectionate in the domestic circle, and has a warm and generous hand for the needy and unfortunate. Mr. Durfee and his wife are members and earnest supporters of the Park Congregational Church. In politics he is a Republican. As a man and citizen he has the good will and esteem of the community.
The Powers & Walker Casket Company had its origin in 1873 as Powers & Walker, with a capital of about $18,000, and in 1884 was incorporated under the present name with an authorized capital stock of $100,000, of which $70,000 was paid in. The official board stands: President, William H. Powers; Vice President, J. H. Walker; Secretary and Treasurer, William E. Cox. They have large and convenient buildings at 77 to 88 South Front street. The factory on the east side of the street is four stories and basement, fitted with the most approved machinery and connected by an elevated tramway with the finishing, store and show rooms, on the west side of the street, where is kept for the trade nearly everything needed in undertakers' supplies. In their manufacture they make a specialty of fine cloth caskets, and also of burial cases. Their shipments go to all parts of the country, as far west even as California, and average annually $150,000; the manufacture of which distributes monthly about $2,000 among fifty to seventy-five workmen. They are the patentees of a sliding-face-lid casket, in which the removal of the lid is rendered unnecessary by a simple device.
James Dolbee started in the undertaking business in 1876 in partnership with James M. Kennedy and John W. Drew, under the firm name of Dolbee, Kennedy & Co., at 11w4 Monroe street. Later, Kennedy and Drew retired from the firm and were succeeded by Peter McCallum, and the firm name was changed to James Dolbee & Co. In 1881 the Grand Rapids Cloth Casket Company was organized with a capital stock of $2,500, making a specialty of cloth covered caskets and general undertakers' supplies. Their trade is mostly local, giving employment to four men and amounting to about $12,000 yearly. Their present place of business is at the corner south of Fountain and west of Ionia street.
On Crescent avenue, near Canal street, is a well preserved building erected in 1838 (the first stone dwelling in the village), part of which is now occupied by P. H. O'Brien for undertaking purposes, succeeding O'Brien & Powers, with a capital of $2,000 and one hearse. He has three assistants.
William Koch has been in the undertaking business some twenty years, his rooms being on West Bridge street. Among funeral directors of late, also, are Jacob Raushenberger and August C. Posner, on North Front street; Jacob Keukelaar at 303 Ottawa; Peter Kornoelje, North College avenue, and G. G. Van Houtum, 33 Ottawa and 274 College avenue.