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To say that our country leads the Nations of the world in facilities for communication both by land and water, is no boast, but a simple statement of fact. The first railroad, with wooden rails, was made for use in the colleries of Scotland, as early as 1672. The cars were four-wheeled carts, drawn by horses. Iron rails were first used in England, in 1738. The first iron rail was made of a "strap" or bar of iron, about two and a half inches wide and five-eighths of an inch thick, spiked to the wooden rail. The first railway in America was the Quincy Railroad, from Quincy, Mass., to tide-water, formally opened at Boston, October 7, 1826. It was operated by horses. The Mauch Chunk Railway in Pennsylvania was the second, completed in June, 1827. The first passenger railway was opened in England in 1825, and about this time came the practical use of steam as a motive power. The first successful passenger railroad in America was the Mohawk and Hudson, between Albany and Schenectady, chartered in 1829. Upon its completion, in September, 1831, an excursion over the road was given by the company; to which State and city officers and eminent citizens were invited. The accompanying cut is said to be a faithful representation of the train used on that occasion. The cars were simply stage-coach bodies, placed upon trucks, affording seats for from twelve to eighteen passengers each. The picture shows a less number. A speed of about thirty miles an hour was reported--much faster than the average attained for several years later. But it is not the province of this work to trace the steps of railroad progress between that time and the present.

Agitation of projects for securing a railroad into Grand Rapids began in 1845, when the growing hamlet was only twelve years old. In that year, June 25, the citizens held a meeting and resolved to petition the Legislature for charter for a railroad from Battle Creek to Grand Rapids. December 1, following, at another meeting, it was resolved that application be made for a charter for a railroad from Port Huron, or some point on the St. Clair River to Grand Haven. In 1846, the Legislature granted charters for railroads, severally, from Jackson, Battle Creek, and Kalamazoo, to Grand Rapids. From that time forward, for several years, railroad meetings were frequent, with but little immediate practical result, further than to keep up an interest in the public mind on the subject.

About 1847, not long after the Central Railroad had reached Kalamazoo on its western way, a meeting was held in Irving Hall, at which an address was delivered by Dr. Joseph Pinney, on the growth, prospects and coming importance of the village of Grand Rapids, the population of which was only about 2,000 at that time. He urged immediate organization, and efforts to secure the attention of capitalists at home and abroad upon the subject. Home capital was then not very abundant, and gave but poor promise of ability to shoulder a railroad. Recounting some of the principal resources of the village and valley, he likened this place to Rochester, in those days a popular comparison, and astonished his hearers with the prediction: "I do not expect to live to see it (as many of you will), but before the year 1900 I believe the census of the city of Grand Rapids will show a population of 30,000 souls!" This seemed extravagant to many; yet it was in accordance with the general expectation. The citizens were sanguine, but fifty years ahead is so long a period to look through that they scarcely dared to pin their faith there. Comparison of that prediction with the measure of its fulfilment is easily made without further hint, and its especially gratifying.

Discussions continued, and the general demand for a railroad from somewhere grew more and more imperative, until, in the spring of 1853, active work began on what was then called the Oakland and Ottawa Railroad. William P. Innes came about that time, to take charge of the survey between Ada and Grand Haven, and Joel Gray took charge of the work between Ada and Lyons; and then people were kept on tiptoe of expectation until the arrival of cars over that route (which in 1855 became that of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad by consolidation) in July, 1858, over the coming in of that first railroad train there was general joy.

In 1854, as soon as the Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids Plank Road became surety, further excitement and spirited movements began to secure a railroad in that direction. The Great Western Railway through Canada was completed in that year, which circumstance gave additional impetus to the cry for an outlet by rail from Grand Rapids. At a meeting in the Public Hall, March 15, 1855, our citizens bravely resolved: "That we are in flavor of the construction of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, in preference to any other project, and that we, the citizens of Grand Rapids, will organize and build the road alone, if necessary, from this city to Kalamazoo." There was about fourteen years of waiting for the devoutly-wished-for consummation of railroad connection southward; but when it came, there were quickly four roads in the bunch--one from Jackson, one direct and one by way of Allegan from Kalamazoo, and one from Chicago by way of Holland.


The first railroad incorporation within the old Northwest Territory was that of the Pontiac and Detroit Railroad, chartered by the Territorial Legislative July 31, 1830. Five years were allowed to complete the line, but, the corporators failing to carry out their projects, a new corporation, that of the Detroit and Pontiac Railroad Company, was chartered March 7, 1834. In 1835 contracts were let for clearing the line at the Detroit end, but the progress of construction was slow. In 1838 the State loaned to the company $100,000, and before the end of May in that year the road was in operation for a dozen miles. At first the cars were operated by horse power, and on wooden rails. It was opened to Pontiac in July, 1839, and as late as 1845 the cars ran on what was called the strap rail.

The Detroit and Pontiac Railroad Company, chartered March 7, 1834, and the Oakland and Ottawa Railroad Company, chartered in 1848, were consolidated April; 21, 1855, under the name of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railway Company, to construct a road from Detroit to Grand Haven, a distance of 180 miles. The line west of Pontiac was completed by this company November 22, 1858, reaching Grand Rapids early in July, and the first through train from Grand Haven to Detroit passing here September 1, 1858. Trains between Grand Rapids and Detroit began running July 12, 1858. In 1860 the property was sold under foreclosure, and a reorganization under the name of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad Company was effected. In 1873 the new company made default in the interest on its bonds, and the road was put into the hands of C. C. Trowbridge as Receiver, April 11, 1875. September 4, 1878, it was sold to the bondholders, and in November the company was reorganized as the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railway Company. From the west this road crosses the lines of the Chicago and West Michigan and Grand Rapids and Indiana about half a mile north of the city limits, and crossing Grand River, bears in a southeasterly direction to the depot on Plainfield avenue and East Leonard street; thence, skirting the hills past Highland Park, leaves the city line on the east near Waring and East Bridge streets. An average monthly pay roll of $3,500 is distributed among sixty employes. Eight passenger trains are run daily. This road ever since its construction has been operated in connection with a daily line of steamers across Lake Michigan, between Grand Haven and Milwaukee. It has also made connections with steamboats plying between Chicago, Grand Haven and Muskegon.

The principal officers of this railway, up to 1889, have been, since its opening to Grand Rapids: Presidents--C. J. Bridges, 1858 to 1863; C. C. Trowbridge, 1863 to 1878; S. Baker, 1878 to 1880; Frances D. Grey, 1880 to 1882; since 1882, Joseph Hickson. General Superintendents--W. K. Muir, S. R. Calloway, each for a brief period; since August, 1884, W. J. Spicer has been General Manager. Secretaries--1861 to 1864, W. C. Stephens; 1864 to 1866, Thomas Bell; since January, 1866, James H. Muir. Agents at Grand Rapids, in succession--A. B. Nourse, A. M. Nichols, J. C. McKee. W. Wallace, J. W. Orr, and since November, 1882, F. C. Stratton.


The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, though not the first reaching Grand Rapids, as the oldest in the State in its inception, deserves a passing mention of its history. Its beginning was in a charter granted April 22,1833, by the Territorial Legislature of Michigan, to the Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad Company. It was provided with strap rail, and was opened for business in the fall of 1836, the cars then being drawn by horses. The first formal advertisement of the running of trains appeared in the Tolede Blade, May 16, 1837 as follows: TO EMIGRANTS AND TRAVELERS,


This announcement was signed by the Commissioners of the Railroad Company. No time table was given. The passenger fare between Toledo and Adrian (33 miles) was "12 S." ($1.50), with the right of fifty pounds of baggage. Freight was "4 S." ( 50 cents) per 100 lbs; salt $1 per barrel. Soon the first locomotive west of Schenectady was procured; and in July, 1837, was announced "the arrival of a new passenger car of a pretty, though rather singular and fanciful model." The illustration given on next page is vouched for as a good one of the car thus described.

This gothic car was divided into three compartments and would hold twenty-four passengers--eight in each. The entrances were at the side, as the picture shows. It soon went out of use.

The Michigan Southern Railroad was opened and operated by the State, and subsequently sold to parties who also purchased the Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad and organized the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad Company. This mammoth corporation comes into Grand Rapids over its leased line from Kalamazoo (Kalamazoo, Allegan and Grand Rapids Railroad). It reached this city in March, 1869; the construction having been pushed from Kalamazoo by way of Allegan, with great energy and celerity, by Ransom Gardner, from which circumstance it was familiarly known in those days as "The Gardner Road." A bonus of $10,000 was raised by citizens, on condition that the road should reach Grand Rapids on or before March 1, 1869. It came, an engine and flat car entering the town in the afternoon of that day, and the bonus was paid. For a time this company hoped to supplant the Grand Rapids and Indiana in the matter of obtaining the Congressional land grant. In the management, this division of the road extends from Grand Rapids to White Pigeon, ninety-five miles, and is under the charge of R. C. Harris, Division Superintendent, with headquarters at Kalamazoo. In Grand Rapids the freight and passenger depots are on West Bridge street, which is practically the northern terminus of the division, from which all trains start, going in a southerly direction to near south Jefferson street and Butterworth avenue, at which point the road bears to the west, and the west line of the city is passed near Valley and Butterworth avenues, en route for the Eagle Plaster Mills where it crosses the river. The business of the road at Grand Rapids requires from thirty-five to fifty men and a monthly pay roll of from$1,500 to $2,000; with two freight and two passenger trains each way daily. The first regular passenger train from this city to Kalamazoo over this route left the depot at 8:30 a.m., March 29, 1869. At the Bridge street depot connections are made with Grand Rapids and Indiana and Chicago and West Michigan Railroads. Ticket Agent (1889) at Grand Rapids, G. W. Munson; Freight Agent, Kalamazoo Division at Grand Rapids, C. A. Slauson.


At Hartford City, Ind., January 18, 1854, was organized the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company, for the construction of a railroad from that place to the Michigan State Line, in the direction of Grand Rapids. It was intended to make direct connection between Louisville, Ky., and this city. The officers were: President, Joseph Lomax; Secretary, William H. Campbell; Treasurer, Sylvester R. Shelton; Engineer, Josiah D. Cook. To carry out the plan of the company, President Lomax came to, and located in Sturgis, Mich. The Michigan general railroad law was passed and approved, February 12, 1855. The Grand Rapids and Southern Railroad Company was organized at Sturgis, May 29, 1855, to extend the corporate rights and powers of first named company northerly from the State Line to Grand Rapids. August 1, 1855, the two companies signed articles for consolidation, and were merged under the name of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company, at Sturgis, Mich., August 28, 1855, with the following Directors: Sarell Wood and James Scribner, Grand Rapids; Wilson C. Edsell and Abram Hoag, Otsego; Patrick Marantette, Mendon; William Henry, Jonathan G. Wait, Philip H. Buck and Joseph Lomax, Sturgis; Frances F. Jewett, Lima, Ind.; William S. Boyd, La Grange, Ind.; John L. Doty and Richard Hartongue, Northport, Ind.; and for Officers: President, Joseph Lomax; Secretary, William Allman; Treasurer, Richard Reed; Chief Engineer, Josiah D. Cook, all of Sturgis, Mich. In 1855 the Fort Wayne and Southern Railroad Company became entangled in difficulties, and the management changed the southern terminus from Hartford City to Fort Wayne.

Early in the winter of 1856 the company presented petitions praying Congress to grant land aid, to enable them to construct the road from Grand Rapids to the Straits of Mackinaw. Instead of a land grant direct to the railroad companies, the grant was made to the State of Michigan, and the bill approved by President Pierce, July 3, 1856.

The Legislature of Michigan did not meet until 1857, and during the interim two other companies were organized, intent upon obtaining the land grant ­one at Kalamazoo under the management of George A. Fitch; the other at Grand Rapids and Northern Railroad Company; the latter with the following Directors: William A. Richmond, Daniel Ball, John M. Fox, Wilder D. Foster, Charles Shepard, William H. Withey, John Ball, Francis B. Gilbert, Fred W. Worden, Albert H. Hovey, George Coggeshall, George C. Evans, Amasa B. Watson. This company, organized in 1855, to construct a road to some point on or near Traverse Bay, elected John Ball, President; Daniel Ball, Treasurer; Peter R. L. Peirce, Secretary; William P. Innes, Chief Engineer. Mr. Innes and his assistants made a reconnoisance of the county to be traversed by the proposed road, and at a meeting of the Directors, January 3, 1857, presented his report and estimates. The bill to give the land grant to the Grand Rapids and Northern, after a long struggle, passed the Legislature, amended by striking out Grand Rapids and Northern Railroad, and inserting Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, and on February 14, 1857, the Governor approved the act. The grant was accepted by the company February 25, 1857. By its terms they were to complete at least twenty continuous miles of the road each year after December, 1857, and to finish the entire line within seven years from November 15, 1857, failing which they should forfiet the grant. When the grant was conferred, the corporate rights of the company extended only from Hartford City to Grand Rapids. The officers returned from the stubborn fight, victorious to be sure, but with a depleted treasury, and with a large amount of legal obligations on their hands. The question most important was, "how can means enough be raised to extend the line from Grand Rapids north to the end of the grant?" From the stock subscriptions not enough could be raised to pay the year’s expenses.

The law conferring the grant prohibited the issue of stock that was not paid for in full, but a clause in the general railroad law allowed several companies consolidating and merging their stock to agree on the rate at which the stock of each company should go in, and be taken by the new corporation. Under a verbal and mutual arrangement of all the parties interested, the Grand Rapids and Mackinaw Railroad Company was organized May 23, 1857, with the following Directors: Sarell Wood, Grand Rapids; Jonathan G. Wait, William Henry, Benajah M. Adams, Philip H. Buck and Richard Reed, Sturgis; Wilson C. Edsell and Edwin Mann, Otsego; John B. Howe, Lima, Ind., Patrick Marantette, Mendon; John L. Doty, Northport, Ind., Wm. S. Boyd, La Grange, Ind. The line was stated at 215 miles long, from Grand Rapids to the Straits of Mackinaw. June 19, 1857, the Grand Rapids and Fort Wayne Railroad Company was organized at Lima, Ind., to extend from the State line fifty miles to Fort Wayne, with the following Directors: Wm. Allman, Jonathan G. Wait, Richard Reed, Benajah M. Adams and Joseph Lomax, Sturgis; Patrick Marantette, Mendon; Wilson C. Edsell and Abram Hoag, Otsego; Francis T. Jewett, John B. Howe and James B. Howe, Lima; John L. Doty, Northport. June 26, 1857, the three companies consolidated and merged under the original name of Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company, receiving as full paid stock 2,160 shares of the Grand Rapids and Mackinaw Company on which there had been paid ten per cent. The line was located, and maps were placed with the State Department at Lansing, and approved by Kinsley S. Bingham, Governor, November 23, 1857. On January 11, 1858, the Land Department at Washington accepted and approved the line, as the basis of the adjustment of the land grant made to the company. The act of the Legislature of Michigan, conferring the land grant upon this company, gave them the right to sell 120 sections, on the completion of each twenty miles of the land grant part of the road. Adjusted by the proper departments at Washington, the net amount of the grant was 678,889.7 acres, being an average of only 74,398.8 for each twenty miles, or 3,719.94 acres per mile. The expectation was, that the land would sell as soon as the road was constructed for an amount sufficient to pay the funded debt of the company. The company by the grant and its amendments, were to receive about 1,150,000 acres, but by reason of these not being enough unsold public lands, only received about 850,000 acres.

The first twenty miles of the land grant part of the road was one of the most expensive divisions of the line. The withholding of so much of the lands from sale ( that were authorized to be sold by the Congressional grant), the limited time given for the completion of the first twenty miles, and other unforeseen matters proved too much for the company; therefore the Legislature extended the time to December 1, 1859. The company again went on to prosecute the work with renewed energy, but were still unable to complete the first twenty miles in time. The Board of Control had a vague and indefinite power conferred upon them to declare the grant forfeited and confer the lands upon some other party, which, however, seeing the difficulties in the way, the Board did not exercise. Yet, as the time had lapsed, the company could gain no credit or funds on account of the land grant. But they sought and obtained from the Legislature in 1861 further extension of time, by which they were allowed til June 3, 1866 to complete the road.

The interruption in financial affairs caused by the War of the Rebellion, together with the high prices and great scarcity of iron and all railroad equipements, prevented the company from making much advance, and at times things looked so dark as to discourage the stockholders, and for several years the Directors held over for want of a sufficient representation at the annual meetings, until July 15, 1868, when there being a quorum, the following named persons were elected Directors: Joseph K. Edgerton, Pliny Hoagland, James R. Bunyan, Jonathan G. Wait, Richard Reed, Israel Kellogg, James W. Walter, George H. White and Mancel Talcott.

In the President’s report at that time, July 1, 1868, is the following statement: "The following equipement is now in use, viz: 2 engines, the Pioneer and Muskegon; 1 passenger coach, 1 baggage car, 6 new box cars, 24 flat cars, 5 hand cars­total, 2 locomotives and 39 cars, the aggregate valuation of which is $43,000." The contract between that and the present equipement is both interesting and instructive; the enumeration now showing 66 locomotives, valued at $304,060, and 3,140 cars,$1,020,000; total, July 1, 1888, $1,324,060. The gross earnings in 1867 were $22,767.13, as against $2,361,901.44 in 1887.

March 3, 1865, an act was passed by Congress extending the time for the completion of the road, eight years, until June 3, 1874. The protection of the land grant by the extension, and the bonds issued by various corporation and villages enhanced the credit of the company, and enabled them to complete the first twenty miles, from Bridge street in Grand Rapids, to Cedar Springs, which was opened for business December 25, 1867. But the failure of the company to pay the interest on the bonds issued under the mortgages, again hurt their credit.

July 14, 1868, the Board of Directors authorized the President to endorse all municipal bonds voted and issued under the provisions of an act of the Legislature of Michigan, approved February 5, 1864, in aid of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, with similar guaranty endorsed on the bonds of the City of Fort Wayne, and also guaranteeing the payment of the interest coupons semi-annually in the City of New York. The City of Grand Rapids had voted $100,000 of aid bonds, which were pronounced unconstitutional and void by the State Supreme Court, but in 1872 they were held valid by the United States courts.

Early in 1869 the company were vexed by a suit in behalf of judgement creditors residing at Allegan and Grand Rapids, praying for an injunction, the appointment of a receiver, and a dissolution of the corporation, alleging its insolvency. This was stopped by payment of the claims. But, as it became apparent to the company that more adequate judicial protection was needed for self-defence, suit was instituted in the United States Circuit Court for the Western District of Michigan, by William Fleming, in behalf of himself and other bondholders, and on January 19, 1869, Jesse L. Williams of Fort Wayne, with the assent of the company and without prejudice to its rights, was appointed Receiver. Similar proceeding with similar result was had in the United States Court in Indiana. Receiver Williams immediately took possession and managed the affairs and construction of the road with signal energy and ability until June 14, 1871.

In the early part of 1869, it became evident that unless more effective measures could be adopted, the land grant would pass from the control of the corporation, and, May 1, an agreement was entered into with the Continental Improvement Company to complete the line from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Little Traverse Bay, Michigan, "within the time and in the manner limited and provided by the acts of Congress and State Laws applicable thereof." To perform this contract, it was necessary, on the part of the Continental Improvement Company, to construct twenty miles of railroad, from Cedar Springs to Morley, within sixty days. This seemingly impossible task of getting all the material together, engaging men to do the labor, cutting the ties, grading the road, and putting it into good running order, was accomplished, and June 21, 1869, fifty-one days from the date of the agreement, the last rail of that section was laid, and the Governor notified. Thus was the grant saved, and the work was formally accepted by the Governor, September 1, 1869.

June 20, 1871, formal notice was published by the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company of the discharge of the Receiver and that the Continental Improvement Company had taken possession of the property under terms of a mutual agreement. A history of this road would not be complete without reference to this Continental Improvement Company, whose completion of the work contributed so largely to the prosperity of our city. It was a corporation created under the laws of Pennsylvania, and chartered in 1868, for the purpose of building the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad. George W. Cass, of Pittsburg, President of the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway, became interested in the road, and succeeded in securing the co-operation of certain Indiana and Pennsylvania capitalists, and the Continental Improvement Company was organized with a capital stock of $2,000,000­George W. Cass, President; William Thaw, Vice-President; William R. Shelby, Secretary and Treasurer; Thomas A. Scott, Director. At first the principal offices were at Pittsburg, but in September, 1871, were moved to Grand Rapids, with W. R. Shelby as Treasurer and Secretary in charge. The operation of the road was in charge of J. N. McCullough, of Pittsburg, as General Manager; Charles E. Gorham, of Fort Wayne, as Superintendent, and Harry D. Wallen, Jr. , Assistant Superintendent.

Under the terms of the agreement, bonds were to be issued by G. R. & I. R. Co., to the amount of $8,000,000, secured by a mortgage upon its railroad, and grants, and franchises. September 30, 1869, the G. R. & I. R.R. Co. Made an agreement with Pittsburg, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway Company, by which the latter company became the guarantor of the interest on $4,000,000 of the bonds thus secured which agreement was assigned to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, October 1, 1869. In pursuance of this agreement, the Continental Improvement Company contracted to finish the entire road, on or before June 3, 1874, in accordance with the act of March 3, 1865, fixing that as the limit of time for completion. From this time on, the Continental Improvement Company built, operated and practically controlled the road until December 1, 1873, at which date they turned it over to the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company.

October 1, 1870, the line from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Paris, Michigan (201 miles), was opened for business, the first "through" train between those points running over the line at that date. The track from the south into Grand Rapids was finished September 13, 1870. The entire line from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Petoskey, Michigan, a distance of 333 miles, was finished November 25, 1873, and on December 23, a committee appointed by the directors, consisting of Robert B. Potter, Thomas D. Messler and Pliny Hoagland, began the examination and submitted a report of the work January 14, 1874, upon the basis of which, two days later, a settlement contract was issued between the two companies, by the terms of which the road was accepted by the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company as completed, December 1, 1873.

June 1, 1871, the Cincinnati, Richmond and Fort Wayne Railroad Company leased its road and property to the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company. The former road was opened for business January 1, 1872, at which date it was turned over to the lessees.

Thus the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, with its direct connections, furnishes the longest north and south line in the country, and its history is of prominent importance, in its relation to the business and commercial affairs of this city. The road was opened to Mackinaw City July 3, 1882, and the distance by this line from that point to Cincinnati is 529 miles, connecting at the latter place with railway system running nearly due south to the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1886 the company projected an "airline" branch to Muskegon, and on December 1 of the same year it was open for business, a distance of 39 _ miles, thus bringing that best port on the east side of Lake Michigan within about an hour’s ride of Grand Rapids.

From December 1, 1872, until February, 1874, Charles E. Gorham was Assistant General Manager of the G.R. & I.; since that time W.O. Hughart has been President and General Manager. The local freight agents at Grand Rapids have been: W. H. Lobdell, 1870-71; C. G. Douglas, 1871-73; A. M. Healy, 1873-75; W. A. May, 1875-77; I. C. Smith, 1877-82; H. P. Burgwin, 1882-84; W. B. Bostock, 1884-87, and since then Robert Orr. From December, 1870, to May, 1872, W. S. Cook was Agent at West Grand Rapids.

In 1889 the following officers were reported as located at Grand Rapids: President and General Manager, W. O. Hughart; Vice President and Treasurer, W. R. Shelby; Auditor, F. A. Gorham; Secretary and Assistant to the President, J. H. P. Hughart; Superintendent of Northern Division, J. M. Metheany; Chief Engineer, G. S. Johnson; General Passenger Agent, C. L. Lockwood; General Freight Agent, C. E. Gill; General Counsel, T. J. O’Brien; and of the company Directors, W. O. Hughart, Harvey J. Hollister and W. R. Shelby.

This road has been one of the chief factors, indeed through this region the very chief, in the development of Northern Michigan. It has promoted the building of important commercial and industrial centers where but twenty years ago was a wilderness unbroken save by the lumberman’s ax, and these towns with their rural population have vital interest in, and dependence upon, Grand Rapids.

William R. Shelby, for the past twenty years connected with railroad interests and management in Grand Rapids, was born December 4, 1842, in Lincoln County, Kentucky. His education was acquired in the preparatory schools and Centre College of Danville, Kentucky. By the turbulent times in that State at the breaking out of the War of the Rebellion he was prevented from completing a full collegiate course of studies. When Kentucky was occupied, notwithstanding her "neutrality" policy, by the Rebel and Union armies, though but nineteen years of age, having an extended acquaintance with citizens of Kentucky and their political difference, and a good knowlege of the country thereabout, he was able to render valuable aid to the Union cause in the "Home Guard" service, and in enrolling and recruiting men for the National Army. From 1863 to 1865 he was engaged in supplying wood to steamers on the Mississippi River at Island No. 47, under protection of United States gunboats. Afterward until 1868, he was connected with the Adams Express Company’s office in Louisville, Kentucky, but in 1869 he moved to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and accepted the position of Treasurer and Secretary of the Continental Improvement Company; organized for the purpose of constructing the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad in Indiana and Michigan. At the head of this company were Gen. G. W. Cass, Thomas A. Scott and William Thaw, the first being President, and associated with them in the work were such eminent men and financiers as the Hon. Samuel J. Tilden and J. F. D. Lanier of New York, the Hon. John Sherman of Ohio, Reuben Springer of Cincinnati, and others. The three leading Directors of the Continnental Improvement Company, at that time being officers of other prominent railroads, necessarily threw much of the financial management upon the Treasurer, and that his work was creditably performed results have shown. Mr. Shelby was also, from 1870 to 1873, Treasurer of the Southern Railway Security Company, which controlled the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia, the Memphis and Charleston, and other southern railroads. In 1871 a branch office of the Continental Improvement Company was established in Grand Rapids, and Mr. Shelby removed here, taking charge, having in the year previous been elected Treasurer and Secretary of the Grand Rapids and Indiana and the Michigan and Lake Shore Railroad Companies also. In March, 1877, he resigned his official connection with the Continental Improvement Company and was elected Vice President and Treasurer of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company, which position he still holds, besides performing the duties of Purchasing Agent. He is, and has been, extensively engaged in wheat raising in the Northwest, and has managed the "Cass Farm," a portion of what is more generally known as the "Great Dalrymple Farm," in Dakota, since its opening in 1875. He is President of a farming company in Indiana and Illinois, engaged in draining some 20,000 acres of land about fifty miles south of Chicago. He is a Director of the "Old National Bank" of Grand Rapids, Mich., and President and Director in a number of manufacturing companies in this city. Mr. Shelby is Senior Warden of St. Mark’s (Episcopal) Church. He has served as a member on the Board of Education, and while there, as Chairman of the Committee on Grounds, established the system of adorning and ornamenting a portion of the public school grounds, which renders them such an attractive feature of the city, at the same time leaving room for playgrounds for the children. At present he is a member of the Board of Public Works, to which position he was appointed in May, 1888. Politically he is an adherent of the Democratic party. Mr. Shelby married, June 1, 1869, at St. Stephen’s Church, Sewickley, Pennsylvania, Mary C., daughter of Gen. George W. Cass. From this union seven children were born ­five sons and two daughters ­six of whom are now living. An engraving of Mr. Shelby’s handsome residence on Lafayette street appears in this volume. He is a representative man among the enterprising, public-spirited people of the Valley City.


The Michigan Central Railroad is one of the great trunk lines, and reaches this city over the Grand Rapids Division of its system. This branch was built from Jackson to Grand Rapids, a distance of ninety-four miles, in 1869, and was then known as the Grand River Valley Railroad. The first train from Jackson over this line arrived January 1, 1870, and consisted of the locomotive "Muskegon" drawing six cars. It was the first run on the then new time card which promised four trains daily each way, and made a very appropriate New Year’s gift to the business interests of the city. But it did not long remain an independent road. From its conception almost it had been an adjunct of and controlled by the Michigan Central, and on the 18th of April, 1870, it passed entirely under the management and became a branch of that corporation. In common with the G.R. & I., C. & W. M., and D., L. & N., it uses the Union Depot for its passenger traffic, and jointly with the East Grand Rapids station of the Chicago and West Michigan attends to the freight business. During the twelve months prior to July, 1888, the volume of its traffic equaled a monthly average of 4,508 tons forwarded and 5,078 tons received; with an average monthly revenue of $20,245.54.

For the construction of this road the company received a subsidy from the city of Grand Rapids, which originally was to have been $100,000, but was settled by the payment of $25,000, according to an amicable agreement.

The principal officers have been since the road reached this city: Presidents ­James F. Joy till 1877; Samuel Sloan, 1877-78; Wm. H. Vanderbilt, 1878-83; Henry B. Ledyard from last named date. General Agents at Grand Rapids Station­A. B. Nourse, W. R. Martin, and J. R. Wood, prior to December, 1876; C. J. Hupp, 1876-83; J. T. Schultz, 1883-84; C. H. Norris, 1884-88; from September, 1888, F. M. Briggs. Local Agents at G. R. Station­To December, 1876, A. B. Nourse, W. R. Martin and J. R. Wood, in succession; 1876-83, C. J. Hupp; 1883-84, J. T. Schultz; 1884-87, E. H. Dayrell; since May, 1887, A. E. Snuggs.


The Chicago and West Michigan Railway, while not strictly speaking a Grand Rapids road, is very closely connected with the history of the city; the headquarters of the General Superintendent and General Passenger Agent being here. The company was formed October 1, 1881, by the consolidation of the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad from New Buffalo to Pentwater, a distance of 170 miles and with 92 miles of branch line giving 262 miles of track; the Grand Rapids, Newaygo and Lake Shore Railroad from Grand Rapids to White Cloud, a distance of 46 miles; the Grand Haven Railroad from Allegan to Muskegon, 57, miles, and the Indiana and Michigan Railroad of Indiana. The Chicago and Michigan Lake Shore Railroad Company was organized April 24, 1869, and reorganized as the Chicago and West Michigan Railway Company January 1, 1879. The Grand Haven Railroad Company was organized February 16, 1869, as the Michigan Lake Shore Railroad Company. The Grand Rapids, Newaygo d Lake Shore Railroad Company was organized September 11, 1869, and opened to White Cloud September 24, 1875. The company use the Union Depot in connection with the Grand Rapids and Indiana; Detroit, Lansing and Northern, and Michigan Central Railroads, and a Bridge street connect with the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad and with the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee at the Junction north of the city limits. They have between three and four miles of track in the city, entering on the south at Godfrey avenue from Grandville, and on the north at North street from Mill Creek, making connection for this Division at Holland, 25 miles southwest, and with the Big Rapids branch on the Newaygo Division , 47 miles north at White Cloud. The opening of the division from Holland to this city, was accomplished January 6, 1872, and that of the Newaygo division took place September 11 of the same year. The company has in the city about 120 men on the station pay rolls, which amounts to some $12,000 per month. For the handing of freight on this line there are two freight depots, one on Cherry street in connection with the Michigan Central, and the other, called West Grand Rapids, on Winter Street. Some idea of the importance of this station may be had from the following figures of freight handled (1888): West Grand Rapids depot­monthly average of freight forwarded 4,326 tons; revenue there from $5,630.29; freight received, $8,552.47. East side office­tons forwarded, average, 2,417; revenue $3,729.13; received, tons, 5,356; revenue $5,297.28. The pushing through to Newaygo of that branch of the road in 1872 was accomplished in the face of great difficulties by the indefatigable energy and persistence of David P. Clay, then its President, and the strong backing of Directors James W. Converse and others. During the administration of J. B. Mulliken and Chas. M. Heald the line has been extended from Baldwin to Traverse City, which gives the north a direct line to Chicago. At Grand Rapids in 1890 are all the general offices of the Chicago and West Michigan; Detroit, Lansing and Northern, and Saginaw Valley and St. Louis Railroads, under one management: General Manager, Charles M. Heald; General Superintendent J. K. V. Agnew; Chief Engineer J. J. McVean; General Passenger Agent, W. A. Gavett; Assistant General Freight Agent, M. W. Rose; General Attorney, William Alden Smith, and Local Freight Agent, A. E. Snuggs.


As yet but little can be said of the Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit Railroad, the infant not having made much record, but it is fast working that way, having one of the finest and best freight depots in the city. The articles of incorporation were filed with the Secretary of State May 20, 1887, the company being formed for the purpose of constructing and operating a railroad between Grand Rapids and Lansing, to be branch of the Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad. The right of way was quietly purchased by the officers of the D., L. & N. R.R. Co. And persons in their behalf, and in July 1888, the new line was opened and a saving of time and distance proclaimed between Grand Rapids and Detroit, all trains going to the Union Depot pending the construction and equipement of its own buildings. It now claims to be making the fastest time of any railroad in the State, covering the distance from Grand Rapids to Detroit, 153 miles, in three hours and fifty minutes.


Who would turn the wheels of the railway back to forty years ago? Grand Rapids was then in a condition of almost complete isolation from the rest of the world, the only means of communication being over the rough and muddy wagon roads, south and southeasterly, for distance ranging from forty to a hundred miles, by horse or ox teams; and in the summer season passage by the river and lakes. The change from that day to this has been such as even to have even dreamed of would have astounded the pioneers, and yet, in traffic and travel it is not greater in proportion than the increase in population, wealth and trade. Then the little village was but an out-of-the-way, advance picket of civilization. Then the railroad was far in the rear of the colonist. These conditions are reversed. The railroad now leads the settler. It precedes the farmer, carries him to a new home, and returns the first fruits of his toil to a profitable market. In 1847 a young mechanic here picked up his tools and packed his trunk preparatory to going back to his native eastern town. "Stay where you are, my lad," said Henry R. Williams, "you will yet see the day when we shall have by these rapids twelve thousand inhabitants." Little did even Williams dream that his prediction would be verified seven fold.

In thirty years we have seen the railroad become not only an indispensable convenience to all the country, but the maker of cities, as well, and of great commercial marts. Grand Rapids has become the fortunate center of a system of railroads, putting her men of brains, of pluck, enterprise and capital, in direct communication with all the world. These iron arms of commerce stretch out in every direction. Beginning no farther back than 1858, we have seen the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railroad, the Grand Rapids and Indiana, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, the Michigan Central, the Chicago and West Michigan, and, almost to an hour thirty years after the arrival of the first railroad train, the opening of the Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit Railroad, the newest of these helping hands, extended to our city. From two trains a day on one road we have come to a system of six roads, with trains arriving and departing in ten different directions, at an average of one every ten minutes, day and night. From the town of few thousand people, the name of which was then but just becoming known, we have grown to be the second city in the State, with its products sought for in every part of the civilized world.

The acquisition of this railroad system involved a struggle, hard, long, energetic and persistent. The consummation brings a rich reward. There was scolding about the men and money that did it, censuring of "land-grabbers" and "bloated capitalists," but now, who will say that the conquest is not worth all its cost? Look at Grand Rapids, whose stature is increased tenfold in population, and twenty fold in wealth­by railroads. Look at these thriving manufacturing establishments, and the growing cities and villages about us, helped into existence and pushed steadily forward­by railroads. Look at thousands of farms, brought from the wild state under cultivation; opened, cleared, and improved to ten or twenty times their original value, and with markets for their products amounting annually to hundreds of thousands of dollars, created for them at their very doors­by railroads. Study for a moment the divisions of labor, and the great field given to the many different classes of laborers and mechanics in the city and all through this region­by railroads. Think of all these, and of the interdependence and mutual relations existing between them, and then answer-­who would turn back the wheels? In the West especially, railroads develop the country, stimulate enterprise, and build up cities. Without the aid of these highways of commerical intercourse, pluck, energy and enthusiasm would be of comparatively little avail.



1864................891 1839.................71
1865................931 1840................. 104
1866................943 1841................. 147
1867................ 1,066 1842................. 147
1868................ 1,124 1843................. 180
1869................ 1,362 1844................. 220
1870................ 1,736 1845................. 233
1871................ 2,293 1846................. 279
1872................ 2,822 1847................. 279
1873................ 3,252 1848................. 326
1874................ 3,313 1849................ 336
1875................ 3,327 1850................ 380
1876................ 3,410 1851................. 421
1877................ 3,455 1852................. 425
1878................ 3,564 1853................. 425
1879................ 3,657 1854................. 425
1880................ 3,823 1855................. 462
1881................ 4,252 1856................. 530
1882................ 4,609 1857................. 579
1883................ 4,966 1858................. 703
1884................ 5,120 1859................. 770
1885................ 5,247 1860................. 770
1886................ 5,577 1861................. 777
1887................ 5,768 1862................. 811
1888................ 6,399 1863................. 812
1889................ 7,050


The Grand Rapids Transfer and Junction Railroad Company was organized under the general railroad law of the State and incorporated February 1, 1882, by Franklin B. Wallin, President; Wm. T. Bently, Vice President; Adrian C. Zwemer, Treasurer; Charles Bentley, Secretary; Charles Welch, and A.L. Chubb; for the purpose of building a junction road to connect with the Chicago and West Michigan Railway near Watson street and the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern at Straight street, a distance of about two miles. It is owned and operated by the Chicago and West Michigan Company under a verbal lease at will.

The Grand Rapids Freight Bureau was organized in 1886 with George W. Gay, President, and Charles R. Sligh, Secretary, for the purpose of securing uniform freight rates and classification and abolishing discriminations against Grand Rapids Manufactories. While in existence the Bureau did good work toward accomplishing its object, but on the organization of the Grand Rapids Board of Trade that body assumed the work of this organization, taking its books and papers and carrying on the work not only for one branch of industry but for the benefit of all the industrial interests of the city.


In November, 1853, William Chart, of Plainwell, started a light parcels express between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, which he operated for some time. The business was done with horses and spring wagons, but little less cumbrous than the lumber wagon of the time.

In 1854 the American Express Company began business in Grand Rapids, with William J. Welles as agent. In 1859 Truman H. Lyon was agent for the same company, and was soon succeeded by Crawford Angell, who, in May, 1880, was promoted to be Assistant Superintendent of the Michigan Division, which place he sill holds. Mr. Angell was the first express messenger on the railroad, bringing the first through express run from Detroit over the Detroit and Milwaukee line, July 3, 1858, on which trip the engine jumped the track two or three times between Saddlebag Swamp and Grand Rapids station. He had before been stage agent and express messenger between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

Crawford Angell was born in Massachusetts, April 2, 1827, and came to Grand Rapids in 1845, and for several years was about the National Hotel in various capacities; meantime attending the Grand Rapids Academy two years and doing chores to pay for his board. He has been Treasurer and Mayor of the city, as is noted elsewhere; but his chief pursuit has been in the express business.

S. P. Wormley, the present agent of the American Express Company, who succeeded Angell in 1880, is one of the oldest express men in point of service in the United States, having been in the employ of the company as messenger and agent between Buffalo and Detroit before the existence of western railroads, making his runs on stage coaches and such other modes of conveyance as were used in those earlier days.

The Adams Express Company began business in Grand Rapids in 1879, but by agreement with the United States Express Company and interchange of territory with them the office was discontinued in 1882 and reopened again in January, 1887, on account of a contract to cover all the lines operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. At the time Robert W. Innes was appointed agent, and was succeeded in April, 1888, by O. A. Wells, the present agent, who has been an employe of the company since 1883. The number of men employed is at present twenty-four, which in the busy season is increased to thirty, the average monthly pay roll being about $1,500. In connection with and operated by Adams are the Texas, Pitt and Scott’s Foreign, and the Southern Express, thus giving Grand Rapids direct connection "as the crow flies" by express with all parts of the world.

The United States Express Company opened their office in Grand Rapids in 1871­W. S. Bradley, Agent. He was followed by C. E. Cone, who acted as agent until 1877, when it was consolidated with the American Express Company, with Crawford Angell, Agent. In 1882 they opened a separate office, with Thomas Haggart, Agent, who was succeeded by M. H. Sorrick, the present agent, February 15, 1886. The present force is nine with a monthly pay roll of $600. Under the same management is represented the Baltimore and Ohio Express Company, the Pacific Express Company and the Morris European and American (Foreign) Express.

The Union Express Company, engaged in freighting goods in special cars, opened an office in Grand Rapids in February, 1857, with Sidney S. Ball as agent, which was operated for some time.

The Grand Rapids Cold Storage and Transfer Company whose main business is the handling of goods and property in transit to and fro between the railroad depot and merchants and business men of the city, is the successor of a transfer agency which for some ten years had been conducted by John L. Shaw, Horace W. Davis and others.

Horace W. Davis is a native of Niagara County, New York, born December 11, 1833. In 1836 the family came to Grand Rapids and soon settled just south of Leonard street, by the west bank of the river, where his father, Ebenezer Davis, now living in Wyoming township, took a fractional eighty of Government land in 1840. They moved to the farm in Wyoming in 1852. Horace received a common school education, and in early life worked at farming. About 1873 he received the appointment of mail route agent on what is now the Chicago and West Michigan Railway. After serving a year in that position he resigned it and entered the dry goods trade at Grandville, in which he was associated with M. H. McCoy, remaining in that business about three years, when he sold out. In 1877 he was appointed Deputy Sheriff of Kent County, in which the office he served faithfully four years, and was reappointed in 1881, continuing in that position until appointed by the Mayor Chief of Police in May of that year, when the Board of Police and and Fire Commissioners was constituted, which appointment was unanimously confirmed by the Board. After serving as Chief three months he purchased an interest in the Transfer Agency of J. L. Shaw & Co., and continued in the management of that until in March, 1890, he sold the business to the Grand Rapids Cold Storage and Transfer Company. At present he is engaged in house moving, farming and the raising of fine blooded horses. Mr. Davis married at Grandville, October 1, 1865, Mary A. Moody, daughter of the late Lewis Moody, one of the very early settlers of this county. They had one child, Mary Angie, who died young. Mrs. Davis died January 13, 1873, aged thirty years. Mr. Davis is a member of Grand Rapids Lodge No. 34, F. & A. M.; of Grand Rapids Chapter, R.A.M.; of De Moli Commandery No. 5, Knights Templar, and of DeWitt Clinton Consistory, in which he has taken all the degrees to and including the thirty-second. A resident from early childhood, he has seen all that there is of the growth and progress of this region.

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: Barb Jones
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/baxter1891/47railways.html
Created: 16 February 2001[an error occurred while processing this directive]