TRADE, COMMERCE, BUSINESS AGENCIES AND CONTRACTORS
"Tall oaks from little acorns grow," some one has wisely said, and the remark may well apply to the commercial and financial development of Grand Rapids. They have grown from the six-penny traffic of the founders or pioneers. Exact data or even approximately correct generalizations can not be expected from the chronicler of events on this tract of nine square miles, in the absence of annual reports and reviews and tables, setting forth the volume of business and trace in their various branches, and showing the rate of growth or increase year by year. Only desultory or disjointed points can be given.
As property in civilized life begins in the land and the home, transfers in real estate and changes in its values or prices naturally come foremost in an examination of the course of trade. The original or Government price of lands in all this region of country, as all know or should know, was $1.25 per acre. Nearly the entire city of Grand Rapids was purchased by the pioneers at that rate, thought in some instances thereabout at an early day lands were procured by the use of land warrants of "script" that had been issued by the Government as war bounties, and purchased at a considerable discount of the original holders. Sufficient for the starting point here is the Government price of $1.25 per acre, at which most of the property was "located."
The first sale of village lots in Grand Rapids was that of Louis Campau to Joel Guild, of lots one and two, section eight, Campau Plat; being that on which the National City Bank now stands and the one adjoining it on the south, for $25 each. This was in June, 1833. In the latter part of 1835 they were sold to Junius Hatch, as the agent of a syndicate of land speculators, ?? $560. The portion covered by the bank building was purchased for $13,000 in 1869. Concerning the present value of those pieces of property it is perhaps needless to speculate. One may easier learn it by applying to the owners for purchase, or by consulting the figures upon the assessment rolls and adding liberally thereto. The original proprietors of the plats of the village did not grow enormously rich out of their sales. Almost fabulous prices prevailed during the speculative fever of 1836, but in many cases both sellers and buyers were engaged in other speculations which landed then all about on the common level which the revulsion came in 1837. A few of the real estate transactions of the early days are briefly mentioned in another part of this work.
In the fall of 1849 a vacant lot on the east side of Canal street midway between Lyon street and Crescent avenue, twenty-five feet front, sold for $200, and a few months later was resold for $275. About like that was the course of unimproved property along Canal street at that time. In 1854 the property then known as the "Rathbone Wedge" at the northwest corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets, with a stone block thereon, was sold for $4,000. In 1856 it sold for $11,000, and in 1857 for $17,000. A little earlier the corner property on the opposite side of Monroe street, the place where Luce's block stands, was sold for $4,000. After fire had stripped the building from the "Rathbone Wedge" property, it sold, in 1859, for $9,000. In the fall of 1859 forty feet front on Monroe street where the Gunn hardware store now stands sold for $7,000; and a lot of twenty-one feet front near the same place was sold for $4,500. In May, 1856, a lot thirty feet front by one hundred deep, on Pearl street, next east of the Lovett property, was sold for $5,000, with wooden building thereon. In May, 1859, the property, eight feet front, at the corner south of Bridge and west of Canal street, sold for $10,000. In the fall of the same year the lot, with residence, at the west corner of Fulton and Ransom streets, sold for $8,000.
Among the more valuable properties of the city, now that they are improved by the digging away of Prospect Hill, are the parcels between Kent and Ionia streets from Monroe street two or three blocks northward, where stand the Ledyard Block, the Houseman Block, City Hall and other fine buildings.
The bare ground fronting the west side of Ottawa street between Pearl and Lyon is estimated by some judges of real estate values to be worth at least $60,000. Thirty years ago it would scarcely have sold for a sixth part of that sum. It is the site of the old Daniel Ball and A.D. Rathbone homesteads.
In 1863, the Eagle Hotel property was sold for $4,000, in 1867 for $8,500, in 1872 with some betterments, for $20,000. The old Gilbert, or Bostwick place, as it was once called, on the south side of Cherry street east of Madison avenue, now known as the Morris place, was sold in 1865 for $45,000. It then contained about twenty acres of ground.
ROBERT W. MORRIS, one of the pioneers in the lumber business in Michigan, was born in Steuben County, NY, October 13, 1816. At eighteen years of age he came to Michigan and purchased eighty acres of land in Oakland County. In 1837 he came to Grand Rapids and with W.I. Blakely and Leonard Covell was engaged for a short time in a saw mill near the village. Withdrawing from that, in 1838 he removed to Muskegon and entered a partnership with Martin Ryerson, in lumber manufacture, having lumber yards in Chicago. They continued in this business twenty-seven years, owning, within the time, two large mills at Muskegon, vessels to carry lumber to Chicago, and the first steamer on Lake Michigan running regularly between those two ports. From a joint capital at the beginning in 1838 of $6,000, they so prospered that upon the close of the copartnership in 1865, Mr Morris realized as his share upward of $250,000. Early in the latter year he returned to Grand Rapids for permanent residence and purchased the old Bostwick homestead, with about twenty acres of land and improvements, at the head of State street and south of Cherry -- one of the finest homes in the city. During his residence at Muskegon he was Mayor of that city six years, and held other positions of trust and responsibility; was an attendant at the Congregational Church there, and a generous contributor to all religious denominations. At Chicago, August 4, 1852, he married Sara A Jostling, a native of Sara toga County, NY Of their children, two are living -- Frank W, and Mrs. Mary Addle, wife of William Aldrich Tateum, an enterprising attorney of this city. Mr. Morris lived but about a year after settling his family at Grand Rapids, his death occurring May 5, 1866. He was a man possessed of fine traits of character; abhorred profanity; won the respect and affection of those in his employ, and was at once strong and manly and tender and affectionate in his social and domestic life. Since his death the fine property has been managed by his widow, Mrs. Sarah A Morris. Except the residence part, the homestead is platted and being sold in city lots, many of which are further improved and very valuable. The locality is elevated, slightly and pleasant, and has become one of the most desirable spots for residence within the city.
The old Louis Campau homestead on East Fulton street was recently sold for about $25,000. The property bounded by Monroe, Division, Fulton and Spring streets, now estimated by dealers in real estate to be worth $100,000 exclusive of buildings, was purchased by Lewis Porter about 1868 for $12,000. It was the old Congregational Church property.
The ground where the Park Congregational Church stands cost $2,500 in 1867. The purchase price of the residence of Mrs. E.P. Fuller at 297 East Fulton street at its latest sale was $15,000. A bare lot, on which has since been placed a fine residence, near the northeast corner of Fulton and Prospect streets, was purchased a few years ago for $2,250, and later sold for over $10,000. Vacant ground east of that locality for some distance thirty years ago sold for about $1,000 per acre. A fine residence property on the east side of Lafayette, nearly opposite the head of John street, sold not long ago for $12,000. Lots 155 and 166, Kent Plat, on Ionia street, with a comfortable dwelling, thereon, were sold in 1853 for $950. About the same time the price put upon what was called the Gunnison House property, about 60 by 130 feet, on Monroe street opposite the Morton House, was $2,000. This and the Ionia street parcel just named probably would sell now for eight or ten times those prices, with the improvements as they stand.
Speaking generally, as to all the central business property of the city, it would not only be difficult to set down in figures the exact average growth in value and prices, but also difficult to estimate the proportion of advance representing the legitimate increase from moneys invested, and what belongs to the hard labor and expense of improvement. Cutting and filling and grading and sewering and paving of streets, and particularly the removal of that dense body of clay which was known as Prospect Hill, have cost immense sums of money. Add to the original price all these expenditures with interest and ordinary taxes, and the footing today would doubtless in very many if not most of the cases show a sum at least as large as the present estimated value.
A few further illustrations may serve to exhibit the wide gap between early and late values. The forty-acre tract next north of Fulton street in Kendall's Addition was purchased of the Government by Joel Guild in 1833 at $1.25 per acre. It was sold by him in 1835 for $588.50. George Kendall relates that when he came to Grand Rapids in July, 1846, he occupied the "Hatch House," so called. That house was build by Charles I Walker about 1838, and was on the northwest corner of Fountain and Barclay streets, so far out of town that for a dozen years it was generally vacant to receive new comers as tenants. The Rev Francis H Cuming, some of the Rathbun family, Thomas B Church, and others, had occupied it prior to 1846, when there were but two or three small houses south of it on Barclay street, and two dwelling houses and a school house next to Fulton street. The remainder of what afterward became Kendall's Addition was covered with a growth of small oaks and hickory, with here and there larger trees, an across it were two wagon roads winding through the thicket. Fountain street from Division to Ransom was wet and miry, almost impassable, and extended no further east. Francis H Cuming and George Kendall purchased that Kendall Addition property for $4,500. A short time afterward Kendall purchased Cuming's interest, platted the ground and built the first brick house on that part of the hill, moving into it in the fall of 1851. It was the house that is still his residence. At that time hew was selling large lots at from $100 to $200, which would now sell, if vacant, for from $2,500 to $3,500.
George Kendall relates that his entire taxes on the lots 6 to 18 inclusive in Block 7, Kendall's Addition, were $26.42. This included his homestead and seven other large lots. His buildings were then completed and occupied, and he has since expended about $1,200 in improvements. His taxes for 1888 on his homestead and five of these lots were $486.54. In 1851 he owned sixteen lots, being Block 20, on the Bostwick & Co Addition, on which his tax for that year was on $9.31. St. Andrew's Cathedral is now on that block.
In 1853 Antoine Campau offered to sell his farm of 100 acres, lying on both sides of Division street south of Fifth avenue, for $50 per acre, and actually made a verbal sale of it, to which his wife refused assent, in which matter he soon frankly conceded that she had the better foresight. The entire tract is now popular and valuable city residence property. It was then half a mile south of the city line.
The property known as Grant's Addition was first put in market, platted into five acre lots, in 1850, at $50 per acre. It was then in the woods, entirely unimproved, and the first house built upon it was that of John McConnell, at the northwest corner, where he still lives. In 1868 the west half of the "Penney eighty," lying on the east side of Jefferson avenue, between Wealthy and Fifth avenues, was sold for $15,000. The original purchase for the Kent County Fair Grounds, comprising about 35 acres, was made in 1855 for $100 per acre. The ground now is considered worth $2,000 per acre, and has lately been sold for about that to Joseph Houseman..
Better than isolated instances, by which to judge of the average growth of property values in the city, are the general assessment figures such as are given in a table in the statistical part of this work. The total county valuation in 1851 was $833,014.78. Two years later that of the city alone had grown to be $944,139. In 1856 it was $2,116,904. Going forward to 1872 we find the total as assessed in the city to be $2,941,744, and in the following sixteen years the amount had grown, in 1888, to $18,200,000. Something here must be allowed for a change made in 1882 in the rate of assessment, which nearly doubled the valuation from the previous year. Since then the assessment has been probably about 70 per cent of the true value. It should be remembered also that previously to 1857 the city was only two miles square.
DEALERS AND BROKERS
Dealing in real estate is no small item in the business of Grand Rapids; platters and sellers are numerous, and agency offices for the business are many. An enumeration of real estate agents belongs rather to the directory than to a work like this. It is an occupation that grew into some prominence soon after the incorporation of the city, as a profession, and has grown with the growth of the town. Upward of a hundred names are published in lists of real estate dealers. Among the more prominent of the real estate brokers of the five years previous to 1860 were J.L. Baxter, D.G. Brown, James VanBuren, H.B. Holbrook, J.S. Crosby, A.H. Hovey and J.C. Tryon. At present Wm R Scribner & Bros, A.R. Antisdel, E.G.D. Holden & Sons, C.C. Comstock, M.S. Crosby, John Caulfield, Arthur Meigs, Henry Grinnell, R.C. Hatheway, L.S. Provin, Abel T. Page, S.L. Fuller, P.C. Fuller, Jay D Naysmith, the Tuttle Brothers and four or five score more are in the traffic either as principals or agents.
RUFUS CLAGHORN HATHEWAY was born at "Old Landing" in the old town of Rochester (in that portion which is now Marion), Plymouth County, Massachusetts. He was the second son of the late Hon. Gilbert Hatheway (second son of Col. David Hatheway), who was heavily engaged in whale fishery and commercial pursuits in New Bedford, Mass, and came to Michigan in 1848-49, and started an extensive heavy rived and sawed oak stave business in connection with his large eastern interests. The mother of the subject of this sketch, was the late Abigail Daggett (Hammatt) Hatheway, second daughter of Capt. Joseph and Hannah Claghorn Hammatt, then of Nantucket, Mass, and who subsequently moved into said town of Rochester-Marion. His oldest brother, the late Hon. James Scott Hammon Pitcher, died in Michigan a few years ago. His younger brother, David Gilbert, was lost at sea some thirty-five years ago. His only sister, Mrs Belle Hammatt Wheeler (wife of Adolf Wheeler, a prominent merchant), resides in Adrian, Mich. He passed through the many and varied school studies with much credit; always with the leaders in his numerous classes, finishing quite young at the Academy, preparatory to a higher collegiate course; but he concluded to try the sea for a time, advancing in the position; when, at his mother's solicitation, he decided to seek his fortune on land, and early in the "fifties" he came to Michigan, which has been his home ever since; joining his father in eastern Michigan in his immense business, being the largest stave, timber, mercantile and loan establishment when in the West; its home field of operations being what it sometimes call the "Thumb," from the southeast corner of the State northward into Saginaw Bay; and which he afterward took full charge and control of. He continued the management till 1865, when he removed to the western part of the State, where he opened a large lumbering and commercial business which grew to immense proportions, and which he conducted (though suffering several times severe losses from heavy fires) until burned out the last time in 1879. Since that time he has been engaged largely in handling lumber, real estate and insurance, in which he enjoys a large and lucrative business. In 1860 he married Ama. A, eldest daughter of James and Susan Sage, of Memphis, Mich. They were blessed with several children, only two of whom are living -- the oldest, Gilbert Hatheway, doing a large business in the eastern part of the State; and the youngest, David G Hatheway, born at the death of his mother in 1876, now with his father here. Mr Hatheway again married, in 1883, Lizzie, eldest daughter of Gen. Wm. P. Innes of this city. He and all his family are members of the Episcopal Church. In politics he was one of the early time wheel-horses at the organization of the Republican party in Michigan, and has wrought hard and continued steadfast in that faith to the present time. In Masonry his connections are briefly stated as follows: Past Master; Past High Priest of two different Chapters; Past Thrice Illustrious Master of two different Councils; Past T.P.G.M. of Moriah Lodge of Perfection, A.A.S.R, and has held offices in each of the other four bodies of the Consistory; Past Most Illustrious Grand Master of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Michigan; Past M.W. Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Michigan, and Grand Representative of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of England near the Grand Lodge of Michigan, and represents four Grand Lodges near his Grand Lodge, viz: -- British Columbia, Dakota, England and Montana; besides being past and present presiding officer of numerous other secret societies. Mr Hatheway is an exemplary citizen and business man and is most widely known and respected.
JOHN CAULFIELD is a descendant of a respected family whose lineage in the north of Ireland comes down through several centuries. He was born December 25, 1838, near the village of Hilton, County of Down, Ireland, and adjacent to Rosstrevor, the most charming seaside resort in the northwest part of the United Kingdom. His early education was obtained in the national schools of that country, schools then conducted under Government control. There were annual examinations by Government inspectors. After passing these successfully, at fifteen years of age, having continuously attended school from the age of seven, he was prepared for a private school kept on the estate of Lord Roden, and managed by a professor of wide reputation for learning and ability. Here his stay was short. He was ambitious to enter mercantile life, and he was much elated when a situation was obtained. His books and satchel were shelved, and gaily he went with his father to the seaport of Newry in the same county, and was there bound as an apprentice by indenture of fifty pounds for a term of years to a large and long established firm in the grocer trade. There he learned much of the "El Dorado" west of the Atlantic, decided to come to America, and in November, 1857, sailed in the four-masted American ship John C Calhoun, and landed at New York in the latter part of December. Thence he came direct to Grand Rapids, rested a few weeks, obtained a temporary position as clerk in a grocery store, and soon made a permanent engagement here with the late George W Waterman, then a prominent wholesale and retail grocer, with whom he remained for five years. After this he made a trip West to Iowa, but returned and for a short time was again in the employ of Mr Waterman, and then in the fall of 1864 entered into partnership with the late John Clancy, in the same trade. About a year later Mr Clancy retired from the firm, on account of his extensive lumbering interests, and Mr Caulfield continued business alone. Between those two as long as Mr Clancy lived there existed the warmest feelings of respect and friendship. And during the subsequent twenty years Mr Caulfield conducted a large business successfully, with credit unimpaired and unshaken through all the financial crises, not withstanding the many disappointments, difficulties and losses which beset mercantile life. In 1869 he purchased the old Collins Hall Block, which he rechristened Empire Hall, corner of Canal and Erie streets, and in that year embarked in an exclusively wholesale grocery business. In April, 1871, his store and goods were destroyed by fire. This was a serious setback, as the block was not fully paid for, but with all his losses on stock and building he did not lose courage. With undaunted energy, he rebuilt, finished the present building in 1872, rented it for a time, then opened again himself, and continued the wholesale grocery business there until 1886, when he retired from that trade to give his entire attention to his other interests, chiefly in real estate, which by this time had grown to be of much magnitude. Since that date his son, George B Caulfield, has been associated with him in business. Mr Caufield is among the heavy owners of real estate, having platted large "additions" in valuable city lots. Mr Caufield married, February 14, 1864, Esther Eagan, of Cascade, Michigan. They have seven children -- two sons and five daughters. Mr Caulfield's life has been one of business, and to that he has attended, never allowing any interference by alluring ambitions for official station. So he has held aloof from political strifes. He says that he "has had all the hustling he desired" in the regular way of striving for material success in the mercantile race. An as man, merchant and citizen his name has been a familiar and respected one for more than a quarter of a century.
John Caulfield has platted a valuable tract toward the south city line, west of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad.
Orson C Kellogg has had platted and sold much of the old family homestead farm just east of the city.
Reuben H Smith has made three small plats, in the northwest part of the city. Arthur Meigs has an interest in some city additions southward. And the traffic in real estate has been brisk and profitable for the most part of the last quarter of a century.
ORSON C. KELLOGG, eldest son of Truman and Anna Kellogg, was born in Onondaga County, New York, October 2, 1826. His father, a clothier by trade, came west when Orson was about 11 years old, and bought 160 acres of land a little east of the present limits of the city of Grand Rapids. He built a good house and commenced to clear up a farm, and set out an orchard of apples and peaches, the first bearing orchard near the city. But he was removed by death in 1843, leaving Orson, then about 17 years old, and two younger sons, Mryon H, and Truman Kellogg, also a daughter, Abi Kellogg, who shortly after married William Bemis. Orson being the oldest son, it devolved on him, with the help of his mother, to manage the farm and care for the family. As the family were left without much means besides the land, it was uphill work to get along, and he received only a common school education. October 30, 1851, he married Lydia H McKenzie, daughter of Alexander M and Miriam E McKenzzie. Miss McKenzie was born in Canandaigua, N.Y., June 4, 1831. In the spring of 1839 her family removed to Adrian, Mich, where they remained nine years, then came to Grand Rapids. Orson Kellogg and his wife lived on the homestead with his mother until 1857, when they built a brick house on the opposite side of the road, where they lived upward of thirty years. But the city having grown fast and the property become valuable, they sold their old home in October, 1889, and built a new one a mile from it, but still on the land originally bought by his father. Their family consists of two sons, Orson M and Frank M, both in the lumber business in Aberdeen, Washington, and a daughter, Anna M, who is at home with her parents. Orson Kellogg has always been a regular attendant of the Congregational church, of which his wife is a member. He followed the vocation of a farmer until the war broke out. In 1863 he enlisted in the First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics Regiment and served until the close of the war. Since then his health has not allowed him to farm on a very large scale. He has always been a quiet and peaceful citizen, has never coveted office, and through using economy and frugality in his younger days, bids fair to enjoy his old age in peace and plenty. [See page 513.]
REUBEN S. SMITH, son of David D and Althea Smith, was born in Hamilton, Madison County, N.Y, September 7, 1816, and received a common school education there. In 1838 he came to Michigan and bought and improved the southeast quarter of section 12, town 5 north, range 9 west (now township of Bowne). He was engaged in improving this land, teaching school in the winter seasons, until November, 1848, when he was elected Clerk of Kent County and moved to Grand Rapids. He was twice re-elected, holding the office of County Clerk for six successive years. Sept 12, 1852, he married A. Annette English, daughter of Edson and Abagail English, of Boston, Ionia County, Mich. They have three children living, two sons and a daughter -- David E Smith, a mechanic, residing in Grand Rapids; Velma A, now Mrs Wm B Bernard of this city, and Reuben S. Smith, a graduate of the Michigan University, class of 1888, who in the following year entered the Theological Seminary at Oberlin, Ohio, and is now pastor of the First Presbyterian church at Menominee, Wisconsin. In the spring of 1855, Mr Smith moved upon a farm of 280 acres in the township of Alpine, and remained until 1868, when he returned to Grand Rapids for the purpose of educating his children. Mr Smith held the office of Justice of the Peace in 1844; of Supervisor of Caledonia (then including Bowne) in 1848, and of Supervisor of Alpine in 1856 and 1858. In November, 1874, he was elected County Superintendent of the Poor, and was continued in that position twelve years. From 1872 to 1876 he was a member of the Board of Education. He is a member of the Old Residents' Association of the Grand River Valley, and was its Secretary from 1871 to January, 1890, continuously. His standing in the esteem and confidence of his fellow-citizens is well attested by the public trusts reposed in him during the past forty-six years, in all of which he was served with scrupulous and conscientious fidelity, and to the satisfaction of the community. Mr Smith has been somewhat extensively engaged in real estate business, having bought and sold much farming land, an has platted three small but valuable tracts within the city.
ARTHUR MEIGS was born in Stanbridge, Canada, near the northern extremity of Lake Champlain, in 1846. His parents were natives of Franklin County, Vt, one of his grandparents being among the pioneers of St Albans. At fifteen years of age Arthur became a clerk in a country store. In January, 1866, he came to Grand Rapids an entered the employ of D.W. Bryan as general manager in the real estate business. Two years later he engaged with D.B. Comstock on Canal street, in the wholesale trade in Yankee notions; but after eighteen months sold out and returned to his former employ. In 1871 he entered the Yankee notion business on his own account, running a wholesale wagon. Soon disposing of his, he engaged as traveling salesman for E. Plumb, Sons & Company, dealers in coffee, teas, spices and tobacco. In 1876 he purchased the wholesaling branch of that business and continued it at 14 Pearl street until 1879, when he formed a partnership with William Durham, then of Manistee, for the wholesale grocery trade, under the firm name of Arthur Meigs & Co. In 1880 they moved to 55 and 57 Canal street, and R.G.Peters of Manistee, was admitted as a partner, without change of firm name. In 1883 Mr Dunham retired from the grocery trade, and in the same year Mr Meigs went with Dunham and Peters (Dunham, Peters & Co), into the lumber business, operating at Chase, Lake county, and that vicinity, with lumber yards in Grand Rapids. Meanwhile the grocery business was removed in 1885 from Canal to stores at 77 and 83 South Division street, where their wholesale and retail trade was continued for three years and then sold to Lemon, Hoops & Peters. In 1888 Mr Meigs quit the grocery trade and is now engaged in the real estate and lumber business; Dunham, Peters & Co managing the retail trade in lumber, and Arthur Meigs & CO the wholesale part, having a dry kiln, planing mill and yards in this city. Their operations extend over the western portion of this state -- chiefly in hardwood lumber trade, which they were first to make an exclusive and special business, handling many millions of feet annually, for the various manufacturers in wood. In 1887 Mr Meigs entered partnership if I.M. Weston in real estate dealings and they have platted several additions south of the city line from which they are selling lots for residences or their uses. Arthur Meigs & Company are the owners of a large amount of valuable real estate within the city, including two brick blocks on Ottawa street. Mr Meigs married, November 25, 1869, Charlotte, daughter of Wm R and Caroline Godwin (pioneers in this county.) They have four children, daughters, all born in this city. Mr Meigs is a a member of the Masonic Fraternity -- of Valley City Lodge No 86; Grand Rapids Chapter No 7, R.A.M.; Saladin Temple A.A.O.N. of the Mystic Shrine; DeMolai Commandery No 5, K.T., and of DeWitt Clinton Consistory. Politically he is a stanch Democrat; in religious leaning inclines to the Episcopalian Church doctrines.
A glance at the business of Grand Rapids in the spring of 1837 is interesting. At the foot of Monroe street Antoine Campau was selling teas, groceries, wines and liquors; at the same time trading in furs and Indian supplies, also pipes, tobaccos, cigars, oils, brushes, "mould and dip candles," and "other articles too numerous to mention." Across the way from this store, where the Lovett block stands, was Orson Peck, "wholesale and retail dealer in groceries." Next south of Campau was Jefferson Morrison, dealing in all sorts of goods then marketable. Over Morrison's store was a paint shop, where 7 by 9 and 8 by 10 glazed sash were for sale by the painter, John Beach. Down Water street, opposite the Eagle Hotel, were James M Nelson & Co, with dry goods, hardware and groceries, and on the next corner below was the store of A.H. Smith & Co., stocked with clothing, dry goods, hats, boots and hardware. Near the latter T. Campau had a similar store not advertised in the newspaper of the time. Wm G. Henry and N.H. Finney were at or near the place where the Morton House is, and Myron Hinsdill was landlord of the hotel. Over in "Kent" (as the north part of the hamlet was called) was the Kent Bookstore, at which was advertised a much mixed assortment -- books, stationery, pocket compasses, lucifer matches, snuff boxes, maps razors, oysters, cigars, ready-made clothing, drugs and medicines and boots and shoes. H.R. Osborne had a blacksmith shop on Kent street. E.W. Emerson dealt in hardware, crockery and groceries on Canal street, "opposite the mammoth mill." J.J. Hoag had a drug store near the corner of Kent and Bronson streets, and over it was the shop of "C.H. Taylor, draper and tailor." Samuel L Fuller was a surveyor and drafter, and Hopkins S Miles, surveyor and map maker. There were several parties proffering bargains as real estate and insurance agents. Carroll & Lyon were selling saws, chains, mill supplies, leather and lanterns. John Almy wanted proposals for excavating on the canal, the foot of which at that time was several rods above Bridge street. This synopsis comprises nearly all the business advertised in the first newspaper issued here.
The mercantile business in Grand Rapids began, as did that of all the little stores of half a century ago, with the miscellaneous traffic in all sorts of articles for domestic use; from pins and needles to axes and crowbars; from cotton thread to flannels and jeans; from vinegar to whiskey and brandy; from salt to salt pork and butter; from tacks and shoe-pegs to tenpenny nails and spikes; from pepper and spice and West India molasses, to maple and loaf sugar; from ladies' slippers to stoga and calfskin boots; from pepper boxes to tin and earthen milk pans, and jars and jugs; from gimlets to pod-augers, and from wooden chopping bowls to tin bakers and window glass -- a general melange of all sorts and sizes. Some of the first comers were traders in a small way, and for many years the store keepers along Monroe street had about equal success with the farmers round about, in their efforts to eke out an economical existence. It is related of one early merchant, not a Yankee by nativity, that he bought a small mixed assortment of goods in bulk, with which he began business. With the rest was a basket of gimlets. A customer one day inquired the price of the gimlets. He said he hardly knew; he had not dealt in those things much, but he guessed they were worth about twenty-five cents a quart. There was no lack of amusement in anecdotes of this sort among the early settlers. During the first fifteen years after settlement there was comparatively little classification of goods in the stores. The man who kept pork and pickles also sold silks and calicoes, and nail hammers and hatchets. But after a time came the branching out into specialties in trade.
As a specialty, the drug business took the lead; next was the hardware line, in which Foster & Parry may be considered the pioneers. Theirs began in a tin and sheet iron shop, which was the foundation from which has grown the now prominent hardware establishment of Foster, Stevens & Co. Their store, a little one, and literally packed with tinware, stoves and pipe, and iron utensils for family use, was on Pearl street, a little west of the Arcade. Following this was a small store of a similar sort, which was kept running but a few years, by Joseph Stanford, where now is the Grinnell Block, corner of Canal street and Crescent avenue. Wm and John McConnell sold both hardware and dry goods a little above Waterloo street, on Monroe, and about 1850 branched out into separate establishments, making of each line a specialty. Later came in other retain dealers in hardware.
The very early mercantile business was clustered on Waterloo street, near the Eagle Hotel corner, where were the Lymans, A Hosford Smith, and others; and another little nucleus was at the intersection of Ottawa with Monroe street, where three of four general assortment stores were kept. Still another was at the foot of Crescent avenue, and as far up as Kent street; also there were two or three little stores in the vicinity of the Bridge Street House. In 1842 there were only about a dozen stores of all sorts in the village, but undoubtedly these were as many as were necessary to accommodate the few thousand people then in this region, and that without any rapid accumulation or riches.
When the city was incorporated, a business and professional summary was published, which showed in the place twenty dry goods, two hardware, two clothing, four drug, two hat and cap, and two bookstores, twelve grocery and provision stores, ten boot and shoe stores, eight public houses and victualing establishments, and two printing offices. At that time also, not as commercial establishments strictly, but contributing to the trade and resources of the town, were two tanneries, three flouring mills, five saw-mills, between forty and fifty factories and mechanical shops of various kinds, three bakeries, two regular meat markets, and about one hundred carpenters and joiners. There were then seven churches, with eight resident ministers, twelve lawyers and six physicians in town. From that time forward there was a rapid increase of both mercantile trade and manufacturing business contributing thereto. In 1855 along the streets were upward of sixty stores of various kinds, besides thirty groceries. The doctors had doubled in number, the ministers had remained the same, and the lawyers had increased to twenty-three. Eight steamboats and eight barges and tows were plying to and from this port in 1855. These and similar facts were quite encouraging to the growing and ambitious city. By this time there was less of mixed trade with general assortments of goods in the mercantile line. It was branching out into classifications, such as dry goods, clothing, hardware, groceries, jewelry, yankee notions, etc., each distinct from the others.
To recall the names of some of the early merchants will be interesting to many. Take for instance a period of five or six years from and after 1846. In the grocery trade, which in those days generally included liquors, were Clancy and Brother, Heman Leonard, Harry Eaton, Gideon Surprenant, Sinclair & King, R.C. Luce and others. Among the general merchants of the village period may be recalled Benjamin Smith & CO, Young and Luther, Rose & Covell, Sheldon Leavitt, Kendall Woodward, William Bemis, Boardmand Noble, Talfore and Porter, George & John Kendall, James Lyman, the Winsors, Roberts & Son, G.C. Nelson & Co, C.H. & L.E. Patten, and J.W. & P.R.L. Peirce. In the boot and show business were the brothers Ringuette, and Perkins & Woodward. Dealing in drugs and medicines were Shepard & Putnam, W.G. Henry, Sanford & Wood and Barker & Almy.
JOHN KENDALL, son of Lyman and Martha C Kendall, was born in Greenfield, Mass, April 11, 1825. With his parents he moved to Homer New York, in 1831, and thence to Cleveland, Ohio, in September 1833. His education was that of the common schools. At Cleveland he was for a time engaged in the mercantile business with his brother Charles. In the spring of 1847 he came to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and again entered mercantile trade in partnership with his brother George, in the store owned by Abram W Pike, in Commercial Block, at the foot of Monroe street. This adventure proved very successful, so that in March, 1850, he purchased his brother's interest in trade, and thereafter continued in active business the larger part of the time until his death, which occurred September 11, 1887, from heart disease. In 1870 he sold his stock in trade to his son, John Charles Kendall; but three years later repurchased an interest and resumed active work, continuing the trade until 1881, when under stress of failing health he sold out, entire, and retired therefrom. In the summer of 1875, Mr Kendall erected the fine business block which bears his name, near the head of Monroe street. He also erected the handsome residence, No 40 North Lafayette street, and owned another at No 17 West Park Place. He was a firm Republican in politics, but not an eager politician. In 1872 and again in 1874 he was chosen Alderman for his ward, and served in the Common Council four years; there, as well as in private life, aiding much in the development of the city of his adoption. In 1848 he joined St Mark's Episcopal Church, in which for many years he was an earnest working member, holding for several years the position of Vestryman. September 13, 1847, Mr Kendall married Laurana M, daughter of David Whipple of North Adams, Mass. She proved a help-meet for him, in the highest sense; ever, devoted to assisting and caring for her husband and children, also quick and sympathetic in helping the needy. Five children were born to them, two of whom died young; those living are: John Charles Kendall, Julia M, married to N. Stewart McConnell, and Anna W, now Mrs Wm H Fowler. During the whole of the forty years of his residence in Grand Rapids, John Kendall was sell known in the city and a large region of country about, and by the people highly esteemed. In habits he was quietly domestic, preferring the home to all the blandishments outside; a model husband and a kind father. In business relations and intercourse he was courteous, friendly, sociable and neighborly, and toward the unfortunate he was sympathetic and quietly benevolent. His memory is cherished as that of a worthy man and citizen doing well his part in promoting the welfare and prosperity of the town and community.
Comparatively few of the merchants of thirty years ago are alive and in the mercantile business to-day. Among such are Wilna Cole, Henry Spring, Joseph Houseman, John Cordes, P.M. Goodrich, and Wm S Gunn.
HENRY SPRING is the veteran among the dry goods merchants of Grand Rapids. In the early years of the present century a young couple of Farmersville, Cataraugus County, N.Y., formed a life copartnership. Sturdy, healthy bodies, sound minds and honest purposes composed their stock in trade. They were Jared S Spring and Catharine, his wife. Their simple life moved modestly, in content, through summer's shine and winter's storms, until, one cold, blustering morning, while the snow was drifting about and sifting into their humble home, February 7, 1830, a little boy came there to stay. They named him Henry. He was the oldest of six boys who found good quarters in the hearts of this robust couple. The boys were given the advantage of the district school in the winter -- in summer they were obliged to lend the might of their small strength for family support. Tired at length of living "from hand to mouth," the parents decided to try life in the then "Far West," hoping thus to better the opportunities for their boys. In the spring of 1845 they started, with their sons, their household goods on a wagon, a team of horses, and two cows. From Buffalo they took steamboat for Detroit, and there began the struggle over the log ways and through the deep sands of Michigan. The cows and a bag of meal furnished sustenance until they reached Cannonsburg in Kent county. In Clinton county the horses were exchanged for two yoke of oxen. At the present day the pains and pleasures of such a journey may be more easily imagined than realized. They purchased a farm, and the family struggled onward through fever and ague and dire necessities until fairer skies appeared and they felt that they were literally "out of the woods." Jared and Catharine lived to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary, all the six boys being present, each with wife and family, in Cannon township, Sept 2, 1878. Jared is yet living (1889), at the mature age of eighty-six years, and annually the six sons gather about him; but Catharine, the mother, has lain down to rest. Henry Spring, the subject of this sketch, began business as clerk in a small general assortment store in the village of Cannonsburg, where barter was the fashion of the time. Aspiring to something more, he came, in 1849, to Grand Rapids, applied to Jefferson Morrison, they one of the leading merchants of the place, for a position, and received it. Morrison's store stood near the spot where now is the beautiful four-story front whose sign reads "Spring & Company." In February 1854, while in the employ of Lewis Porter as clerk in a clothing store, Mr Spring had an invitation from two enterprising men of this city -- who were looking for some bright young man of good habits to whom they could intrust the management of a large stock of goods -- to unite his business ability with their capital. They were David Burnett and Amos Rathbone. He promptly accepted their proposal. In February, 1854, he married Annis Salsbury; daughter of a farmer of Clarendon, Orleans County, N.Y. After a few years his partners retired from the mercantile firm, leaving Mr Spring sole proprietor. From this modest beginning has grown the fine business which now for many years has been so well known as that of the firm of Spring & Company. From November, 1860, until the spring of 1876 he was associated with Edwin Avery, under the firm name of Spring & Avery. In the present partnership, which was formed in 1880, Richard D Swartout is the associate. The building now occupied is a colossal brick structure, four stories and a basement, 44 by 265 feet, fronting Monroe and extending through to Louis street. This was built immediately after the straightening of Monroe street and opening of Campau Place. And there Mr Spring caters to the trading public with the same grace and suavity and unpretentious dignity that have been his marked characteristics during his business career of forty years. The trade is wholesale and retail, and crowds closely the figure of $1,000,000 per annum, keeping busy some 120 employees. A recent and pleasing departure in the management is the giving to a number of long-tried and trusty clerks, heads of divisions, a percenage of the net profits. Mr Spring relates an incident of his boyhood which kindled the desire by which he was led into the mercantile life which he has so closely and successfully followed, substantially as follows:
When I was about ten years old we lived near Victor, NY. One morning my mother sent me to the village with a basket of eggs, to exchange them for groceries. It was the first time I had been charged with such a duty, and I felt that a responsibility rested upon me to do the errand so well that she would trust me again. At the store I was received politely by a boy but little older than myself. He attracted me. He was dressed nicely. His shoes were black and his collar was white. He deftly and pleasantly waited upon me, and I was kindled with a desire to occupy such a position -- to know how to wait upon people, especially boys, as well as he did, and be able to trade and figure up as easily. I remained, asking him questions about the business, until there was no excuse to stay longer. The boy was as polite when I left as when I came in. From that hour my chief ambition was to get into a store; and when, at the age of fifteen, I entered a little general store at Cannonsburg I was the happiest boy imaginable.
As was hinted in the beginning of this sketch, Mr Spring leads all now in that business in length of continuous prosecution of the dry goods in this city. In 1859 thirteen dry good stores were noted in the city directory; of the names there given only that of Henry Spring now remains in the same connection. Though his head is "silvered o'er," his eye is bright, his step elastic, his countenance smiling and pleasing, his greeting hearty and cordial. Public spirited and generous, with ready ear and open hand for those in misfortune or distress, he is everywhere recognized as an honorable, wholehearted and genial citizen.
John Cordes has followed the business of a retail grocer upward of forty years. He is a native of Westphalia, Prussia, born in 1822, and came to Grand Rapids in 1843. He was burned out three times at an early day, but since 1850 has been steadily in business with a fair degree of success, and leads all the grocers of the city in years of continuous trade. Phillip Kusterer, German by birth and an American citizen by choice, has been in the grocery trade some thirty years. He was also been connected with brewing and other business enterprises. The retail grocery house of the Rasch Brothers, now Alois Rasch, has a record of about twenty years.
Wm L Waring in July, 1843, began to advertise dry goods and groceries at "wholesale and retail," and following him in 1844, as a wholesaler, was Samuel B. Ball. But the growth of the wholesale trade was slow, there being, prior to the coming in of railroads, but a few little villages about with stores to be supplied. In the hardware line Foster & Parry and Wm H McConnell had begun wholesaling, or "jobbing" as it is nowadays called, as early as 1848. Others followed, from time to time; but this was usually in connection with retail business by the same parties until in 1864 L.H. Randall started an exclusively wholesale trade in groceries and liquors; after which the growth of wholesaling was quite rapid. From two or three houses engaged thus twenty-five years ago the number has increased to about seventy, the aggregate of whose business is upward of $12,000,000 per annum.
SAMUEL B. BALL was a native of Rochester, New York, where he was born June 7, 1818. His boyhood and youthful life were passed in or near that place. He was an active member of the First M.E. Church of Rochester. He married Catherine W. Winn (now Mrs A.H. Botsford), and they came to Grand Rapids in the early part of its village period. Here he was for some time engaged as clerk and book-keeper in the store of his uncle, Daniel Ball, or of Granger & Ball, which occupation he followed until 1844. In that year he built the first brick block erected in Grand Rapids. It was of the old style, gable roofed, three stories high, with frontage for two stores, and had a hall in the upper story, which when Irving Lodge No 11 was organized, was used for its lodge room. He named the building Irving Hall, and by that designation it is familiar to the early settlers. In 1868 it was torn down, and in its place stands the handsome four story block now occupied as a bookstore at 22 and 22 Monroe street. Mr Ball, with a partner, opened a store in that building in the fall of 1844. Thus he was the pioneer in the erection of brick blocks here. He also led off in the wholesale trade. His forecast and ambition went beyond his physical powers of endurance. His health failed before he was thirty years of age, and the people of the embryo city who esteemed him highly had the regretful experience of seeing him droop steadily and surely down to his death, at thirty-two -- July 20, 1850. Irving Lodge No 11, of which he was one of the founders and its first Noble Grand, and the first deceased of its membership, passed resolutions of sorrow, sympathy and condolence, and the Grand Rapids Enquirer characterized him as an "affectionate, solicitous husband; as a friend always the same; beloved by all acquainted with him."
A list of the later prominent wholesalers in the principal lines of the general mercantile trade of the city comprises, amount others, the following.
Books and Stationery -- Eaton, Lyon & Company
Boots and Shoes -- G.H. Reeder; Rindge, Bertsch & Company
Carpets and Oil Cloths -- Voigt, Herpolsheimer & Co; Smith & Sanford
Cigars and Tobacco -- John E Kenning & CO; C.G. Pulcher; H.Schneider & Co
Clothing -- Leonard Benjamins; Giant Clothing Company; Houseman, Donnally & Jones; Star Clothing House; T.W. Strahan, Tower Clothing Company
Confectionery and Fruits -- The Putnam Candy Company
Crockery -- H. Leonard & Sons; Cummings & Yale.
Some plain crockery in the early days was part of the stock in trade of nearly every general assortment store. Gradually it became concentrated into fewer houses, until the larger part in wholesaling is confined to two or three, each with a larger business than once was dreamed of for the entire traffic. Few in the State show as large and handsome stocks as do H. Leonard & Sons, and H. Leonard's Sons & Co, in their palatial blocks at 134 and 142 E Fulton street, and at 29-31 Monroe street. Theirs is an establishment of forty-five years standing; grown from small beginnings.
Herman Leonard come to Grand Rapids in 1842. He was a native of Parma, N.Y., born April 15, 1812. Here, after keeping the Eagle Hotel for a time, he began in the grocery trade on Monroe street, which he afterward gradually changed to the crockery business. About 1868 he built a brick block on the site of his original small wooden store. He continued in the steadily increased his crockery trade during his life; but some years previous to his death associated with himself his sons (Charles H., Frank E. and Frederick Leonard), and they have since magnified their traffic greatly. Mr Leonard was a man of great energy, strong and steady in purpose; commanding respect among those who laid the foundations for the healthy growth of this town. He died in 1884.
Dry Goods -- P. Steketee & Sons
Groceries -- Ball-Barnhard-Putname Company, I.M Clark and Sons; Hawkins, Perry & Company; Lemon & Peters; Musselman & Widdicomb; Olney & Judson Grocer Company.
SAMUEL McBIRNEY LEMON, one of the prominent wholesale grocers of Grand Rapids, as the senior partner of the firm of Lemon & Peters, was born November 27, 1846, at Corneycrew, Parish of Mullabrack, in the County of Armagh, Ireland. His parents, Samuel and Rachael Lemon, were of the famous Scotch-Irish ancestry, which sturdy stock has left a lasting mark on American institutions, in the great names it has contributed to every department of American life. As has been well said, "the Scotch-Irish were the first to declare independence from Great Britain, and foremost in the Revolutionary struggle; leaders in the formation and adoption of the Constitution, and its most powerful defenders; most active in the extension of our National domain, and the hardiest pioneers in its development." The Puritan, the Huguenot and the Dutch must gratefully salute with admiration this race which has given to the American Pantheon the names of Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, James Madison, John Marshall, Andrew Jackson, James K Polk, James Buchanan, Horace Greeley, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S Grant. Mr Lemon was blessed only with the characteristics which he inherited from such a race, but although the record of his life is short, it exhibits a singleness of purpose and a tenacity in the pursuit of business which has commanded success even under adverse conditions. It was the intention of his parents that he should prepare for the ministry, but he early expressed his desire to follow a mercantile life, and after receiving the best education his native county afforded, his father apprenticed him at the age of eighteen years to one of the largest grocers in Ireland, at Potadown, Armagh County. Here he remained for five years, without pay, working hard to perfect his knowledge of the business, and soon after the completion of his apprenticeship, in November, 1870, set sail for America. On landing in New York, he secured a place with the grocery firm of Acker, Merrill & Condit, at the modest salary of $10 per week, paying $8 of this amount per week for his board. But within seven months, so valuable were the services of Mr Lemon to his employers, that his salary was raised three times. His next move was to accept a position with A.M. Semple, of Rochester, and after five years of service there, Mr Lemon had become manager of that extensive wholesale and retail grocery business at a fine salary. Tempted by a better offer, he then transferred his services to Lautz Brothers & Co, of Buffalo, and for five years was engaged in selling their goods, with conspicuous success. Although drawing a salary which was equaled by few in his line, the ambition which would not let the Irish lad remain in his native land, still impelled him on, and he decided to begin business for himself. His travels had familiarized him with the growth and prospects of Grand Rapids, and admiring its push and enterprise, he decided to link his fortunes with its future. Consequently in 1880 Mr Lemon removed to Grand Rapids, and became a member of the wholesale grocery firm of Shields, Bulkley & Lemon, which after years of successful operation has been succeeded by the firm of Lemon & Peters, the junior member being R.G. Peters of Manistee, well known as one of the foremost business men on the western shore of Michigan. Mr Lemon married, in Rochester, N.Y., January 17, 1883, Miss Mary M Peoples. His career has been marked by a steady and undeviating purpose to succeed in his chosen business. He has aimed to be a wholesale grocer, and has not been tempted into other lines, but has made himself a place in the business world which does him credit. In the prime of life, with a fine presence and the qualities of mind and heart which have made him a host of friends, Mr Lemon is one of the business men of Grand Rapids who believe thoroughly in its future, and who show in their own lives the advantages America gives, and what may be done in a few years by a poor foreign boy in this favored land. Patriotic and public spirited, intensely American because he knows personally the difference between a Republic and a Monarchy, it is from the ranks of such men the high types of American citizens are ever coming. P.
Hardware -- Foster, Stevens & Company; Gunn Hardware Company.
William S Gunn settled at Cascade in 1846, and about three years later came into Grand Rapids, where he has since resided, and has been engaged in the hardware trade upward of thirty years.
Meats -- Nelson Morris & Company; L. F. Swift & Company
Millinery and Fancy Goods -- Corl, Knott & Company
Notions -- Voigt, Herpolsheimer & Company; F.A. Wurzburg & Company
AMOS ROBERTS, a prominent early merchant at the foot of Monroe street, was born at Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1786. In 1809 he married Sally Hurd, at Middle Haddam, Conn. In 1838 he came to Grand Rapids and established a general assortment store, into which he took his son, Wm. D. Roberts, in 1839 as a partner, and the business was conducted under firm name of A. Roberst & Son during both their lives. In 1843-44 Amos Roberts and A.W. Pike built the stone store called Commercial Block, which stood at the foot of Monroe street until that thoroughfare was straightened through in 1873. Co. Roberts, as he was familiarly called, was a man of fine presence and business ability, and had steady and uniform success as a merchant. He was a member of St Mark's Church, and at his death in 1873 was buried with Masonic honors. His residence for some thirty years was where the Peninsular Club House stands, corner of Fountain and Ottawa streets. Mrs Roberts is now over 100 years of age. She was born July 3, 1790, and on the hundredth anniversary of that day shook hands and conversed with several hundred people who called upon and congratulated her.
EXPORT AND HOME COMMERCE
In the absence of detailed annual reports and records or reviews of trade, it is impossible to give, with accuracy and in detail, the volumes and values of the various branches of the commerce of this city. Nor has there been any reliable compilation of the aggregate of commercial transactions, either in outgoing or incoming merchandise.
During the first twenty-five years from settlement, the principal avenue of commerce was by Grand River and through the port of Grand Haven. The proportion of transportation overland was comparatively small. Of the volume of imports in that period no record was been found. A few statements have been discovered of the exports from Grand River, of which three quarters may have been furnished from Grand Rapids. In 1841 they amounted to $103,490. The principal items were: Lumber and shingles, $46,000; flour, $27,130; furs, $25,000. In March and April, 1844, there were forty-eight arrivals and forty-six departures of lake vessels at Grand Haven. They carried out 1,914,260 feet of lumber, 1,103,500 shingles, 8,900 bushels of wheat, 37 dozen pails, 31 cords of shingle bolts, 875 bundles of lath, 16 cords of wood, 21 barrels of plaster, and 3,500 lights of window sash. In 1845 the exports from the mouth of the river were estimated at $138,367. In that year there were 383 arrivals and 385 departures of lake vessels. In 1846 the exports were $179,539; in 1847, $258,697; in 1851, $393,162; in 1852, $407,332; in 1853, $651,770. In 1854, the shipments from the port of Grand Haven, amounted as inventoried to $834,849. The heavier items were: Lumber and shingles, $542,392; flour, $112,500; timber, $33,750; furs, about $25,000. Among the imports in that year were 1,683 barrels of pork and 1,458 barrels of whisky. A query as to "why so much pork with so little whisky?" was never satisfactorily answered. Imports also included 3,511 barrels of salt, 80,000 brick, and 352 wheelbarrows. These last were probably for work east of here on the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad grade. In 1855 the aggregate of exports was about $1,500,000.
In 1841 the cost of sending a barrel of flour from Grand Rapids to New York was $2.14. This, of course, was by water transportation; there was then no railroad within fifty miles.
Plaster of Paris, both as an article for export and for domestic use, has been a steady source of commercial revenue in Grand Rapids. The sales of stucco and land plaster now amount to nearly or quite $200,000 per annum. The trade was somewhat smaller a quarter of a century ago. Imperfect returns made at the State census of 1864, showed 14,000 tons mined the previous year, valued at $30,000, or about $2.14 per ton.
Wool has been chiefly an article of commerce rather than of home consumption; domestic manufacture being small in comparison with the total amount handled here. Grand Rapids dealers purchased in 1860 about 80,000 pounds, and in 1866 upward of 420,000 pounds.
In 1869, sales of their products by the manufactures in the city, as returned to the Internal Revenue officers, footed up $1,413,274. These were exclusive of sales amounting to less than $5,000 in the year. In twenty years such sales have increased to nearly $24,000,000 per annum.
The lumber trade of the last ten or twelve years has probably averaged upward of $4,000,000 annually. This includes dressed lumber in all its varieties.
Dealings in wheat, flour and other cereal products average in the neighborhood of $2,000,000 yearly. In 1869 the millers of the city paid about $500,000 of wheat. Wheat buying at the Kent Mills began as early as 1844.
A canvas of the business of the city at the end of 1884, showed that the total sales of that year (mercantile and of manufactures) amounted to about $24,000,000. It also showed that the business of the year was about five per cent less than that of the year 1883, which had been one of very great activity.
In 1867 a Co-operative Union store was organized by Labor Union men. The project was started with a President and Board of five Directors -- an association of 150 stockholders, no person to hold but one share, the shares of be $20, and the store to be conducted by a business agent. This co-operative scheme was kept alive several years, but finally failed, either from a lack of business capacity or from want of amicable support and coherence.
Some idea of the real magnitude of the commerce of this city may be formed from a study of the average monthly railroad freighting business for the twelve months ending June 30, 1888, a summary of which shows the following facts and figures
Railroads | tons | revenue
Grand Rapids and Indiana | 8,500 | $23,982.52
Chicago and West Michigan | 6,743 | 9,359.42
Michigan Central | 4,508 | 9,864.39
Lake Shore and Mich Southern | 2,338 | 5,345.66
Detroit, Grand Haven and Mil | 2,209 | 3,750.00
Total Monthly average | 24,298 | $52,301.99
Railroads | tons | revenue
Grand Rapids and Indiana | 27,977 | $46,654.36
Chicago and West Michigan | 15,011 | 13,849.75
Michigan Central | 6,833 | 4,250.00
Lake Shore and Mich Southern | 5,078 | 10,381.15
Detroit, Grand Haven and Mil | 4,890 | 7,764.52
Total Monthly average | 59,789 | $82,899.78
This shows, approximately, 292,576 tons of freight forwarded and 717,468 tons received, during the year, upon which the amount paid for transportation was $1,622,421.24.
As estimated from reports gathered by the Board of Trade, the value of goods imported by merchants and manufactures during the year 1887 was $4,778,500. The same authority gives $1,901,755 as the amount invested in new buildings in the city during the year 1888.
In connection with this subject of freights, the following schedule of the transportation rates by water in the summer of 1844, fourteen years before the days of railroading here, affords a topic for study. It was published at the time for the information of shippers:
-- cents --
From Lyons or Ionia to Grand Rapids - per bbl. bulk (light goods) 37 ½
- per hundred weight (heavy goods) 18 ¾
- wheat per bushel, in barrels 8
- ashes per cask 37 ½
- flour per barrel 25
From Ionia to G. Rapids - wheat per bu. in bbls 6
Cartage and storage at G. Rapids - per bbl. bulk 6
- per cwt 3
- wheat per bushel 2
- ashes per cask 12 ½
River freight from G. Rapids to Grand Haven
- per bbl bulk 25
- per cwt 12 ½
- per bushel 6
- flour in quantity 12 ½
- ashes per cask 31 ¼
Storage at Grand Haven - per bbl bulk 5
- per cwt 3
- per bush., wheat in bulk 3
- ashes per cask 12 ½
- flour per bbl 5
Transportation from G. Haven to Buffalo, New York
- per bbl bulk 50
- per cwt 31 ¼
- ashes per cask 75
- flour per bbl 43 ¾
Storage at Buffalo - per bbl bulk 5
- per cwt 4
- ashes per cask 18 ¾
- flour per bbl 5
Transpt'n from Buffalo to N.Y. - per bbl bulk 87 ½
- per cwt 72
Freight in return from New York to Buffalo (merchandise)
- per cwt (heavy goods) 75
- per cwt (light goods) 90
Buffalo charges - on heavy goods 8
- on light goods 16
Freight from Buffalo to G. Haven - per bbl bulk (light goods) 43 ¾
- per cwt (heavy goods) 25
From Detroit to G. Haven - per cwt (heavy goods) 25
- per bbl bulk (light goods) 43 ¾
Freight, Storage and Cartage from Grand Haven to Lyons, the same as down freight from Lyons to G. Haven.
BOARD OF TRADE
The Grand Rapids Board of Trade was organized in November, 1887, and made a corporate body under the State laws, starting with about 350 members:
President -- George G Briggs
First Vice President -- L.J. Rindge
Second Vice President -- J.A. Covode
Third Vice President -- C.W. Watkins
Secretary -- H.D.C. Van Asmus
Treasurer -- E.Crofton Fox.
The declared purpose of the Board was to promote the business interests of the city in every possible way. An idea of the range of its action may be gotten from the list of its standing committees: On Appeals, on Arbitration, on Transportation, on Grain and Produce, on Lumber, on Provisions, on Printing, on Statistics, on Legislation, on Auditing, on Public Improvements, and on Municipal Affairs. The membership fee is $15; annual dues, $10. Its rooms at present are at 13 Canal street, in charge of the Secretary, who is the only salaried officer, and is required to devote his time to the position. The Board in 1888 issued two editions of a publication entitled "Grand Rapids as It Is," elaborately illustrated, pamphlet form with pages 7 ½ by 10 inches, devoted to setting forth the progress, the improvements, the resources, the industries, the trade, and the financial standing of the city. In October, 1889, the Board received and handsomely entertained the representatives of Central and South American governments, then by invitation holding an International Commercial Congress at Washington, D.C. The Board of Trade has also taken an active interest in a project to secure, by canal work or river dredging, communication by lake vessels between Lake Michigan and Grand Rapids, expending considerable money in surveys, and petitioning Congress for National aid by appropriation. The officers and directors of the Board in the fall of 1889 were: President -- George G Briggs, First Vice-President -- Charles R Sligh, Second Vice-President -- O.A. Ball, Third Vice-President -- E.G. Studley, Secretary -- H.D.C. Van Asmus, Treasurer -- E. Crofton Fox, Directors -- S.F. Aspinwall, O.A. Ball, J.M. Barnett, George G Briggs, O.E. Brown, J.A. Covode, M.S. Crosby, E.B. Fisher, E. Crofton Fox, T.D. Gilbert, H.F. Hastings, L.E. Hawkins, Julius Houseman, C.B. Judd, S.M. Lemon, C.H. Leonard, F. Letellier, A.S. Musselman, Daniel McCoy, Gaius W. Perkins, W.H. Powers, L.J. Rindge, W.R. Shelby, C.R. Sligh, S.F. Stevens, E.G. Studley, J.D. Utley, C.G.A. Voigt, H.D.C. Van Asmus, D.H. Waters, John Widdicomb.
GENERAL BUSINESS SUMMARY
The Grand Rapids Eagle, in the fall of 1889, gathered, compiled and published the following condensed statements concerning the mercantile and other trade interest of the city for the previous year:
Agricultural implements, 7; bakeries and confectioners, 35; bird dealers, 2; books and stationery, 10; boots and shoes, 31; cigars and tobacco, 23; clothing, 14; coal and wood, 17; creameries, 4; crockery, 4; dry goods, 35; druggists, 47; fancy goods and toys, 5; flour and feed, 36; furniture, new, 19; furniture, second hand, 6; general stocks, 3; men's furnishing goods, 4; grocers, 237; hair goods, 7; hardware, 32; harness, 15; hats, 3; house furnishing goods, 9; hygienic goods, 2; mill supplies, 7; millinery and fancy goods, 19; music, 6; news depots, 11; oil stores, 7; oyster and fish stores, 5; restaurants, 31; seed stores 4; sewing machine agencies, 7; sporting goods, 4; umbrellas and canes, 1; wall paper, picture frames, etc, 13.
CONTRACTORS, TRADES, PROFESSIONS
Architects, 6; building movers, 4; dentists, 35; blacksmiths, 25; brokers, 9; building contractors, 42; barber shops, 61; boot and shoe shops, 56; butchers, 90; carpet cleaning shops, 4; electrical supply houses, 4; florist and nurserymen, 15; undertakers, 8; gold and silver platers, 2; gunsmiths, 3; hack and baggage lines, 2; horse shoeing shops, 14; insurance agents, 46; intelligence offices, 4; laundries (steam), 4; livery stables, 28; lapidarian, 1; locksmiths, 2; attorneys-at-law, 115; manicure, 2; manufacturers' agents, 3; merchant tailors, 20; millwrights, 3; oculists and aurists, 3; photographers, 17; physicians, 154; real estate dealers, 56; stair builders, 2; steamship agencies, 7; stenographers, 3; taxidermists, 3; veterinary surgeons, 8; renovators (clothes), 7; bath (turkish), 1; junk dealers, 5; pawn brokers, 4; agents for office safes, 2; savety deposit vaults, 2; sanitariums, 2; tailors, 48; telegraphs, 3; telephone, 2; meat markets, 81; mercantile agencies, 4; mineral waters, 3; opticians, 2; painters, 36; plumbing and gas fitting, 9; printing (job and book), 31; roofers, 4; insurance companies, 2; artists, 8; bankers, 7; baths, 3; bill poster, 1; business colleges, 5; chimney sweeps, 1; civil engineer, 2; musical conservatories, 2; detective agency, 1; designing school, 1; dyers, 4; electricians, 4; elocution schools, 3; express companies, 3.
List of Houses | No. | Capital | Sales | No. Em
Agricultural Imp'ts | 5 | $125,000 | $337,000 | 77
Books and Statin'ry | 1 | $100,000 | $300,000 | 49
Boots, Shoes and Rubbers | 4 | $200,000 | $365,000 | 29
Clothing | 2 | $125,000 | $300,000 | 125
Commission and Produce | 8 | $ 60,000 | $445,500 | 60
Crockery | 2 | $115,000 | $221,000 | 49
Drugs and Medicin's | 2 | $190,000 | $500,000 | 36
Dry Goods | 4 | $585,000 | $1,726,000 | 334
Fish | 1 | $ 10,000 | $ 65,000 | 9
Glass | 1 | $ 0 | $0 | 0
Grain | 3 | $300,000 | $1,000,000 | 25
Groceries | 6 | $615,000 | $5,226,000 | 0
Hardware | 2 | $300,000 | $1,000,000 | 21
Hides, Pelts and Leather | 4 | $ 68,000 | $700,400 | 37
Lime, Cement and Sewer Pipe | 5 | $ 55,000 | $460,000 | 29
Liquors | 9 | $170,000 | $620,000 | 49
Marble and Granite | 6 | $ 47,000 | $142,000 | 54
Packers | 4 | $ 58,000 | $790,000 | 47
Paints, Oils, etc | 3 | $ 50,000 | $169,000 | 27
Photographers' Supplies | 2 | $ 12,000 | $ 43,000 | 7
Rags and Peddlers' Supplies | 3 | $100,000 | $600,000 | 27
Saddlery Hardware | 2 | $100,000 | $385,000 | 30
Wool | 4 | $500,000 | $500,000 | 95
TOTALS | 83 | $3,885,900 | $15,894,900 | 1216
BUILDING AND IMPROVEMENTS
During the fiscal year the building improvements in the city were substantially as shown by the following table.
First Ward....................... $248,635
Second Ward................... $204,850
Third Ward...................... $369,810
Fourth Ward.................... $396,200
Fifth Ward....................... $123,750
Sixth Ward...................... $124,508
Seventh Ward.................. $ 98,750
Eighth Ward.................... $132,600
Next to city limits, east.... $ 93,040
Southeast of East street... $108,752
The insurance business of Grand Rapids is coexistent with the organized life of the town. As early as 1836 insurance agents were among the villagers. Simeon M Johnson, Francis H Cumings, John W Peirce and John Strong were taking fire risks as early as 1844. Dr Cuming during all the early part of his residence here was especially active, and usually after a fire would appear his advertisement in the newspaper. Addison Tracy opened as agent for the Portage Mutual in the fall of 1845, and made that his chief business for many years. In 1850 he procured of a home mechanic 1,000 neat gilt signs, for buildings on which he placed insurance. Among subsequent fire and life insurance agents prior to 1867 were S.O. Kingsbury, Robert P Sinclair, Thompson Sinclair, A.P. Sinclair, J.S. Crosby, E.G.D. Holden, Skinner & Willard, O.R. Wilmarth and others. Since that time many changes have occurred in insurance agencies, and such men as M.W. Bates, S.F. Aspinwall, Simeon Hunt, J.D. Naysmith, S.W. Watkins, R.B. Loomis, Henry Grinnell, L.S. Provin, Fred Loettgert, M.S. Crosby, James Gallup, C.E. Perkins, A.B. Mason, W.A. Shinkman, P.O. Voorheis and Henry F Burtch have been added to the list. The volume of insurance business has so largely increased that it is a very important factor in the prosperity of the city. It is estimated that the premiums annually taken for companies organized outside the State would aggregate nearly a quarter of a million dollars; while the Grand Rapids company, organized in 1882, of which Julius Houseman is President, reports a total income for 1888 of over $120,000. Many thousands of dollars in addition are annually paid in Grand Rapids for mutual insurance. A Board of Underwriters was formed in June, 1866, with the object of securing uniform rates, and another similar associations was organized in 1879, but these institutions do not seem to have been overburdened with the qualities of unity and amicable perseverance.
There are two insurance companies in the city -- the Grand Rapids Fire Insurance Company, of which Julius Houseman is President, and the Manufactures' Mutual Insurance Company, Elias Matter, President; but by far the greater amount of insurance is done by foreign companies, which draw from the place large sums of money that might better be saved at home.
The Grand Rapids Insurance Company began business in 1882 -- Julius Houseman, President; S.F. Aspinwall, Secretary. With a paid capital of $200,000 it has had a prosperous career. In 1888 its assets had grown to upward of $300,000, its income was $123,240, and it had a surplus of $35,983 at the end of the year.
Prominent among insurance agents for the past twenty years and more have been E.G.D. Holden and his sons, Charles and Henry S. Holden.
Eugene E.Winsor, the first form of permanent white settlers in the Grand River Valley, after spending many years in connection with mercantile trade, in various capacities, has for the past fifteen years given his attention to life and fire insurance as an agent, doing a fair business.
BUILDERS AND CONTRACTORS
As soon as the settlement was fairly started there was work for the contractor and builder, and he made his appearance accordingly. Eliphalet H. Tuner, in 1834 and 1835, put up some building for the Campaus, among them a warehouse on the bank of the river below the Eagle Hotel. After him, among the architects and building contractors, were Robert Hilton, Leonard Covell, David Burnett, Kendall Woodward, James M Haldane, Harry H Ives, and others before 1840, who found abundant employment, except for a year or two after the financial revulsion of 1837. Mr Burnett became a very prominent builder and constructed bridges and dams across nearly all the streams of this region, the most prominent being the early ones across the rapids of Grand River. Mr Hilton's handiwork is still visible upon many of the larger of the old structures in the place, and the same may be said of the works of Burnett and Ives. William I Blakely, Wilson Jones, Baker Borden, and Benjamin Luce were among the early house carpenters and joiners, and with or soon following them, William K Wheeler, Henry R Naysmith, Isaac H Nichols, Reuben Wheeler, Silas Pelton, Silas Hall, Aldridge W Pelton, and several others before the city reached a population of 6,000, some of whom are still residents. Several of them were also, at times, engaged in the manufacture of sash, blinds and other trimmings for house finishing.
Wilson Jones has been busy at house carpentry and similar work most of the time since he came to Grand Rapids in 1843. He is one of the old-time, steady and trustworthy citizens.
With the great increase of building since the war period, has naturally come a corresponding increase among workmen of this class, and it is useless to further particularize names, in a city containing more than 12,000 stores, dwellings an other structures, and rapidly adding to the number.
HARRY H. IVES was born in Wallingford, Conn., July 21, 1816, on the farm where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather were born and lived. His educational advantages were limited to attendance for three months in a year at the district school, in a little read building supplied with benches made of oak slabs brought from a neighboring saw-mill. No geography nor grammar was taught in that school. The State law was that the pupils should be taught reading, writing, spelling, and the first four rules in Daboll's Arithmetic. In youth he was bound out as an apprentice until twenty-one years old -- four years -- to learn the trade of carpenter and joiner, clothing himself and receiving $25 a year. Leaving that in the spring of 1837, he came directly to Grand Rapids, by way of the Erie Canal to Buffalo; was four weeks on the journey, six days walking from Detroit, and arrived on the 5th of June. Having lamed a foot on the way, he was carried over some bad spots on the back of a friend. On reaching Grand Rapids, Mr Ives quickly found employment, his first work being on the residence of General Solomon Withey, which stood at the junction of Ottawa and Coldbrook streets, and part of which is still standing. During the next winter he erected a mill for William H. Withey, some miles up the river on the west side, frequently with his men backing provisions through the snow to their camp. Provisions were scarce, and in the spring, as he used to say, "the principal food was rice and sturgeon,' (flour being $25 and pork $40 to $50 per barrel, potatoes $4 per bushel, and other things in proportion.) Mr Ives was "clear grit," however, and satisfactorily filled his contract. While at that work, he also got out and framed, in the woods by the mill, the timber for a house erected the following summer by E.B. Bostwick, on the Fulton street hill -- the same that for many years afterward was the well-known mansion of Louis Campau. Considerably changed, and moved, that building is yet standing, and is used for a barn. From that time forward, his life has been one of energy and activity in his calling; building and moving buildings; nearly all the time having several on new underpinnings and several more than forty years ago, he erected forty tenements in this town and county. After the burning of the old National Hotel in 1855, he erected the new structure on the same ground, 78 by 32 feet, of wood, four stories high. Prior to that, in the years 1846 to 1850, he built the Hopkins mill at Mill Point; the Wartrous mill on Mill Creek; the Winsor residence at the foot of Washington and State streets; the Public Hall on Canal street, and a bridge across Grand River at Plainfield. In the season of 1857 he built and owned a saw mill at Nunica, and in the following year erected the station houses of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad from Ada to Nunica. Mr Ives married Sarah Peck, October 14, 1838. Of their three children but one survives -- Calvin L Ives, the well-known liveryman, residing on Lyon street. Mrs Ives died February 19, 1863. March 4, 1864, he married Mrs C.E. Pepper. Two children by this union died young. She "passed on" February 3, 1889, they having lived together a quarter of a century, less one month. October 10, 1889, he married Mrs Mary Shafer, his present wife. Religiously, Mr Ives was reared in a Methodist family, so conscientiously strict that he was not allowed on Sunday to indulge in the Yankee exercise of whittling. Later in life he "progressed," as he expresses it, and has for a long series of years been a firm believer in Spiritualism. Politically, he was reared a Democrat, and adhered to the fortunes of the Democratic party until the advent of the Greenback party, since which he was favored the latter. Through not an aspiring politician, he has represented his ward eight years as Alderman, and eleven years as Supervisor, serving faithfully and efficiently. Lately retired from active labor, he is yet apparently hale and hearty, and enjoys the high respect of his fellow men.
Brick and stone masons may properly come in this department. Among the early workers upon stone structures were James McCrath, who was here in 1836, Patrick McGurrin, the Davidson brothers (William C and Lewis C), Simeon S Stewart, Ebenezer Anderson, and several others of the era of limestone-building. In brick work at an early day were the Davidsons, Josiah L Wheeler, Isaac Leonard, and others, when the building of brick blocks began. The workmen at this trade having increased by dozens and fifties and hundreds, until they may be seen in swarms upon the scores of brick blocks and palatial brick residences now annually rising within the city, to undertake giving a list of them would be a task unnecessary for a work like this.
Contractors, both for wood and brick work, and for all classes of building, now number two or three scores, and several who were here in the village days are yet in business. Prominent among the wood-work house-builders of twenty years ago were Reuben Wheeler & Co. and Nichols & Naysmith. Aldridge Pelton is a veteran of forty years experience in building, and still active.
The firm of Farr & Vincent (John S Farr and J.C. Vincent), contractors, started in 1874; and their handiwork of that year is in the Morton House, Morey Block, Godfrey-White-Aldrich block, and the Turner Street School House. In 1876-77 they were engaged in laying the walls of the Postoffice.
J.C. and W.S. Vincent, in 1886 or since, have been engaged on the New Houseman Block, the Chicago and West Michigan and Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit railroad round houses, the Little Sisters of the Poor building, and the Hartment and Shepard, Leonard, Nelson, Matter & Co, and Colby blocks, among others.
Among contractors of the past dozen years is Isaac B Mathewson, granite cutter by trade, but in this city operating chiefly as a contractor on public street and sewer works.
ISAAC BELKNAP MATHEWSON, son of Paris and Phee Mathewson, was born in Johnston, county of Providence, Rhode Island, January 11, 1836. His profession trade is that of granite stone cutter. In January, 1854, he went to California by the Nicaragua route. At San Francisco he was in the water business nearly two years, and afterward engaged in a hotel. There he was an eye-witness to the actions of the Vigilance Committee of 1856, during the most exciting period of the effort to ride the community of its lawless, reckless and criminal elements. He next went to the mines in Yreka, Siskiyou county, California, and was there engaged in underground or "deep" mining some three years with a fair measure of success. He then returned to Rhode Island and attended a commercial college for about a year, when he graduated. April 29, 1861, Mr Mathewson married, at Johnston, R.I., Rebecca M, daughter of John and Joanna W Foster. They were married at the noon hour and in the evening left for New York city, from which place they sailed May 1 for California, going by way of Panama. Returning to Siskiyou county, a daughter was born to them April 7, 1862, their only child, who died and her form was laid to rest in the cemetery at Yreka. Mr Mathewson again engaged in mining, until the noted floods of 1862 finished his mining prospects in that section. Disposing of what few effects they had left, he with his wife emigrated to Idaho, then a new country and almost wholly unprotected by the Government. Their emigration outfit consisted of a two-horse team and wagon. They carried their own provisions, camped out by the way and were about a month in making the journey, arriving at Bannock (now Idaho) City, June 27, 1863. Here he worked by the day for a year, and then bought an interest in what proved to be one of the best mining claims in that region, which he worked for a year and then made a visit to Rhode Island, where he left his wife; returned new year to Idaho City and pursued his mining business with very good success. During their first year in Idaho they lived for a time in a brush house, and then in a log cabin with only one room. Provisions were very dear -- flour at one time being $32 for fifty pounds, butter 60 to 80 cents per pound, potatoes 40 to 75 cents per pound, and other things in proportion. Supplies were carried from Salt Lake City, the Columbia River, Walla Walla or the Dalles, about 300 miles, by pack animals, mules, there then being no road but the old Lewis & Clarke overland trail to Oregon. Mr Mathewson returned to Rhode Island and in 1870 engaged in the manufacture of woolen goods, which he followed three or four years, at Geneva Mills, near Providence, R.I. For the next few years he did little but ship horses from the West to eastern markets. In 1877 he went to Deadwood, Dakota, to look over the new mining fields. In 1878 he came to Grand Rapids; afterward visited Leadville for nearly a year and returned to this city. Here he has since operated as a contractor; constructing sewers, laying water pipes, grading streets, and similar works; in which he is still engaged. Mr Mathewson is a man of strictly temperate habits; declares that he has never taken a glass of any spirituous of intoxicating liquors as a beverage; nor used tobacco in any form. In politics he is a stanch Republican. He is a stirring, busy man, and has a pleasant home on Barclay street, a little south of East Bridge street.