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The original movement for the establishment of a street railway in Grand Rapids was made by William A. Richmond, John W. Peirce, Henry Grinnell, Wm. H. Withey and others, who on May 19, 1864, secured the passage of an ordinance by the Common Council giving them the right to construct a street railroad from the D. & M. R. R. depot down Canal and up Monroe and Fulton streets as far as Jefferson avenue.  It required a license fee and an annual tax of $15 per car.  This charter was repealed, October 11, 1864, and a new one passed, granting similar privileges to George Jerome of Detroit, Daniel Owen of New York and Thomas S. Sprague of Saginaw.  The cars were started May 10, 1865.  In December, 1869, the line was sold for $39,200.  George S. Frost, trustee for himself and others, was the purchaser.  The Canal and Monroe street line was the only one until the summer of 1873, when the Division street extension to the fair grounds was constructed and cars began running there early in September of that year.  In 1875 the line to Reeds Lake was put into operation.  This was afterward made a "dummy" road, worked by a steam engine.  As started, this project included a line through the city to the West Side and in two or three streets there.  From the lake it came down Wealthy avenue, Lagrave, Monroe, Division and Lyon and through Kent street.  Its officers in 1875 were Hiram Knapp, President; David Thompson Secretary; J. W. Boynton, Treasurer and General Manager.  Within the following ten years lines were built in Scribner, Stocking and West Bridge streets, crossing both the Bridge and Pearl street bridges in their connections.  In 1883 an association of Cleveland and Grand Rapids capitalists purchased the several street railway franchises; and by an ordinance passed in August, 1885, they were consolidated in a single corporation: President, Charles A. Otis; Vice President, L. H. Withey; Treasurer, M. S. Crosby; Secretary, I. M. Weston.  From that time increased investments and great improvements were the order, as well as extension of the lines of street track.  The corporation as thus organized is known as The Street Railway Company of Grand Rapids.  Of the prior or intermediary companies, George W. Thayer was Manager and Ebenezer Anderson Superintendent of the Grand Rapids Street Railway Company, for several years; of the Reeds Lake branch line George W. Thayer and J. H. McKee were managers; of the Division street line William Winegar was President and Superintendent and Jacob Kleinhans Secretary; of the Scribner street line J. W. Boynton was Manager.  The new arrangement brought all the lines constructed prior to 1886 under one control.  The company has since made heavy outlays in the construction of new roads, tracks, routes, buildings and other betterments, and in the purchase of cars and equipments.  They have a capital of $1,000,000 invested; and are operating about twenty-six miles of track including the dummy line to the Reeds Lake resort, where they have spacious and handsome grounds and a pretty pavilion.  They control five lines, have their own car shops and barns; employ 180 men, 120 cars, and nearly 500 horses; cover a daily travel averaging about 4,500 miles, and carried in the year preceding July 1, 1889, some 4,500,000 passengers.  Average speed of cars - five and a half miles per hour.  All lines are run without change of cars, and each passes through the business center of the city.  The lines as at present systematized are: Canal, Monroe and Division streets, from the north line to the south line of the city; Wealthy avenue and Scribner street, from the east city line across Bridge street bridge and north to the city limits; Stocking street and Jefferson avenue, from north end of Stocking street across Bridge street bridge and by way of South Division, Blakely avenue, Jefferson avenue and Hall street to near the southeast corner of the city; Cherry street and Eighth Ward from the east city line across Pearl street bridge to near the southwest corner of the city; Bridge street from the west city line to Canal street and thence to the Union Depot.  On the first mentioned line cars run every five minutes; on the others every ten minutes.  The dummy line to Reeds Lake has not hitherto been operated in the winter season; in the open season it makes close connection with the horse car lines in the city.  The company have received a concession for the use of electric power in run[ning] the cars, and preparations are in progress for that change.  At the company election in June, 1889, the following were chosen: President Samuel Mather; Vice President, C. G. Swensberg; Treasurer, George R. Perry; Secretary, George C. Peirce; Superintendent, Andries Bevier.


The Reeds Lake Electric Railway Company, organized April 15, 1890, is constructing a street railway line to be operated by electricity by the overhead wire system, from the east line of the city, starting at Fulton street, and running to the north side of Reeds Lake, a distance of about two miles. Officers: Sybrant Wesselius, President; John Dregge, Secretary and Treasurer; Daniel McCoy, J. C. Porter, John Dregge, S. Wesselius, Directors.


The North Park Street Railway Company, organized in 1889, have a track completed, starting from a junction with the Valley City Street and Cable Railway Company's line and extending from the north line of the city at Taylor street past the Soldiers' Home and to the bank of Grand River at what is known as the town-line or gravel road bridge.  It is two and a half miles in length.  It is well equipped and operated by steam power.  George W. Thayer is President, and C. C. Comstock Secretary and Treasurer of the company.  Directors: G. W. Thayer, C. C. Comstock, John E. More, Julius Houseman, A. J. Bowne, G. G. Briggs, James Blair.


November 10, 1884, a report made in the Common Council recommended that permission be given for the construction of a cable railway in Lyon, Union and East Bridge streets, and an ordinance was passed February 16, 1885, granting a franchise with conditions.  Some efforts toward starting the work were made in the following year, without much progress.  The Valley City Street and Cable Railway was incorporated June 6, 1887 - President, Wm. P. Innes; Secretary and Treasurer, Robert W. Innes; Engineer, Wm. Phenix.  Their first cable line was in Lyon street, from the foot to Grand avenue; and horse-car lines in connection were constructed from the foot of Lyon to Waterloo and down Grandville avenue to the south city line, also across Fulton street bridge and to the west city line, and one north from Lyon on Barclay street.  The company began work in August, and the horse-car branches were running in October.  The cable in Lyon street was drawn to place April 13, 1888, grip cars ran on the 16th, and soon began their regular trips.  The power house is by the Lyon street and Grand avenue corner, where very powerful steam machinery is placed to operate the line.  The lines in the early part of 1890 are:

Lyon and Bridge street (cable), from the corner of East Fulton and East streets over Fulton, Union, Lyon, Canal, and East Bridge streets and Grand avenue.  Ottawa street (cable), from the City Hall by the way of Canal and East Bridge streets to Ottawa, and over North Ionia and Taylor streets to the north city line at Sweet street.  West Third ward line (cable), from Pearl street and business center to city limits by Louis, Spring, Wealthy avenue, Sheldon, Wenham avenue and Lafayette streets.  Grandville avenue line (horse), from Canal street and business center to city limits south on Grandville avenue.  West Fulton street line (horse), Fulton, Straight, Jackson, Pine and Bridge and business center.  Barclay street line (horse), Coit, Trowbridge and Clancy to D., G. H. & M. track.  Ionia street line, south on Ionia to and beyond the city limits.

Some seven miles of roadway are completed, or nearly so.  A central power house plant is in the course of development and construction, at the foot of Lyon street, between Campau street and the river.  Twenty-five passenger and twenty-three grip (cable) cars are in use, also fifteen passenger cars drawn by horses.  The capital invested is near half a million dollars.  There has been some change of officers and management.  Directors chosen July 3, 1889: A. J. Bowne, James Blair, John W. Blodgett and A. D. Rathbone, of Grand Rapids; W. S. Crosby and John M. Hagar, of Chicago; H. P. Breed, of Minneapolis - President, A. J. Bowne; Vice President, J. W. Blodgett; Secretary, W. S. Crosby; Assistant Secretary, Accountant and Purchasing Agent, H. P. Baker; Treasurer, James Blair.


Notwithstanding an abundance of material of excellent quality, and places within easy reach, the idea of constructing good gravel roads, after the fashion of the New England turnpike, seems not to have been entertained here until after the advent of railroads, or until the settlement was nearly thirty-five years old.  Most of the pioneers had been somewhat familiar with the success of turnpike toll roads in the eastern country, but no attempts were made to imitate them here.  Road improvements for a quarter of a century were, chiefly, simply such as could be made by the farmers, working out their highway taxes under the supervision of a pathmaster.  They consisted only of making the roads tolerably passable by slightly raising the center, constructing cheap bridges where these were indispensable, digging ditches upon either side for drainage, and across swamps or marshy places the corduroy road.  This latter was made by laying in close contact, rails, split logs, poles, or in some cases large logs, crosswise along the track, with a thin covering, usually of brush or of the adjacent soil.  They were not very agreeable carriage ways, but served for the passage of loaded teams over what were otherwise almost impassable sloughs.  Macadamizing was not attempted here on country roads.  The idea of plank roads was the first seized upon for improvement, but only in a few instances put into practice.  At length, as the State became thickly settled, and more permanent and solid roadways were needed from the city into the country, or from the country to its market, the scheme of making gravel roads, and supporting them by the exaction of toll, was entered upon, and the Legislature enacted a general law, under which companies might be incorporated for their construction.  For these highways, a moderately elevated road-bed is constructed, of the proper width and curvature of surface, with easy grades, avoiding as much as possible the climbing of hills, and the track is then surfaced with a layer of coarse, pebbly gravel, several inches in depth.  This material packs, under constant use, so as to become very solid and durable, and easily kept in good repair.  Of these gravel roads there are now no less than eight leading from this city to distances varying from five to fifteen miles, in as many different directions.  They are managed by corporations, with an aggregate capital of about $175,000 invested.  They may be regarded as feeders to the main city streets from those surrounding portions of country whither they lead.


Organized August 20, 1873, with a capital stock Of $25,000, for the purpose of making a gravel road from the city limits at East street to the junction of two roads on section 29 in the town of Grand Rapids, from which point it divides into two branches, one running on the south side of Reeds Lake about two miles in length, the other leading past the north side of the lake to the town line between Grand Rapids and Cascade, about five miles long, making a total of about eight miles.  The incorporators were Erastus Spaulding, President, J. W. Boynton, Vice President; J. Kleinhans, Secretary; Byron G. Stout, Treasurer, and D. W. Kleinhans.  The present officers and directors are: Wm. H. Anderson, President, Chas. W. Garfield, Secretary; Joseph Houseman, Treasurer; John Youell and J. Kleinhans.


This corporation resulted from a meeting held in the office of Henry Grinnell, July, 2, 1877, the following being the organizers: Leonard Covell, President; Henry Grinnell, Secretary; Luther H. Johnson, Treasurer; P. F. Covell, Smith Thorington, A. B. Watson and J. Wallen.  It was organized under the State law, for the purpose of improving and maintaining a toll road from Grand Rapids to the town line between Walker and Alpine on the northwest branch of the road, and to within one mile of the county line on the west branch.  The road is about eight miles long, and constructed and graveled under an amendment to the old plank road law.  Present officers: Wm. H. Anderson, President; Henry Grinnell, Secretary and Treasurer.  Directors - James M. Barnett, S. M. Pearsall, George Kendall, S. L. Fuller, Wm. H. Anderson.  Capital stock, $25,000.


Chartered June 7, 1879, for the purpose of constructing, owning, using and keeping in repair a gravel or plank road north from North street a distance of five miles to a point near Alpine Station.  In August, 1881, the road was extended four miles further, to Englishville.  The officers at the incorporation were: President, Leonard Covell; Secretary, Henry Grinnell; Treasurer, C. L. Grinnell; Directors, A. B. Watson, L. H. Withey, James M. Barnett, Henry Niehaus. Present Board: Directors, James M. Barnett, L. H. Withey, Aaron B. Hills, Henry Niehaus, Wm. H. Anderson - President, J. M. Barnett; Secretary, C. L. Grinnell; Treasurer, L. H. Withey.  Capital stock, $25,000.


Incorporated February, 1880, by D. B. Ellsby, Norman Richardson and W. A. Nason, of Plainfield, and W. B. Ledyard, M. L. Sweet and J. M. Barnett, of Grand Rapids - D. B. Ellsby, President; J. M. Barnett, Secretary and Treasurer.  It was organized for building and maintaining a gravel road from the north city limits at Plainfield avenue to the bridge crossing Grand River in the town of Plainfield, a distance of nine miles.  Present officers: Samuel L. Fuller, President; J. M. Barnett, Secretary and Treasurer.  Its cost has been about $17,000.


Organized August 9, 1881, by Anson N. Norton, Isaac Phelps, Martin L. Sweet, Solomon L. Withey, Peter Davis, John Porter, Edward W. Withey and Noyes L. Avery.  Officers: Anson N. Norton, President; Isaac Phelps, Treasurer; Edward W. Withey, Secretary.  It was chartered to maintain and operate a gravel road from the south limits of the city on Hall street to the village of Grandville, a distance of about five miles.


Organized September 9, 1881, with a capital stock Of $20,000; to construct and maintain a gravel road from the south city limits at Hall and South Division street to the town line of Gaines and Byron, a distance of about six miles.  The incorporators were: Austin Richardson, President; Charles W. Garfield, Secretary; Joseph Houseman, Treasurer; John W. Pennell, L. S. Scranton, O. H. Simonds, W. R. Cady, A. J. Daniels and W. T. Adams.  The present Board of Directors are: N. A. Fletcher, President; Charles W. Garfield, Secretary; Joseph Houseman, Treasurer; Wm. H. Anderson, Superintendent, and W. T. Adams.  The road has been extended three and a half miles further south.  It is the longest gravel road leading from the city, and has a profitable business.


Organized June 27, 1883, with the following officers and Board: President, Henry D. Plumb; Secretary, John E. More; Treasurer, John W. Champlin; Directors, Francis Letellier, Henry D. Plumb, John W. Champlin, Nathaniel W. Stowell, C. C. Comstock.  The line of the road is properly an extension of Canal street to the village of Plainfield, a distance of about eight miles.  The present officers are: President, E. B. Dikeman, Secretary and Treasurer, John E. More.


Organized July, 1886 - officers: William Harrison, President; Herman Vedders, Vice President; William Dunham, Treasurer; S. G. Ketcham, Secretary, who, together with Stephen Cool, Wm. H. Anderson and John Delaney, constituted the Board of Directors.  The company was organized for the purpose of running a road from the city limits at West Bridge street through the townships of Walker and Allendale to Grand River, a distance of nine miles.  The management remains substantially unchanged.

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.
Transcribers: Ed Howe
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/baxter1891/48strailways.html
Created: 8 April 2000[an error occurred while processing this directive]