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History and Directory of Kent County, Michigan, Containing a History of Each Township and the City of Grand Rapids, Compiled and Published by Dillenback and Leavitt, County History, Directory and Map Publishers, Grand Rapids: Daily Eagle Steam Printing House, 1870.
CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS
Grand Rapids is located on Grand River -- the largest inland stream in the state -- about forty miles from its mouth, and at the head of navigation. Its site is one of great natural beauty, lying on both sides of the river, between the high bluffs that stand nearly two miles apart, and from whose summits the eye takes in a beautiful panorama of hill, vale and river, with all the streets of the busy city laid out like a map at the feet of the beholder.
Grand River at this point runs nearly south, but soon after leaving the city resumes its general westerly direction. On the west side of the river, the ground is nearly level back to the bluffs, the leveling of which has cost, and is yet to cost, large sums of money. The east side bluffs, once an ornament to the town, are now marred with deep cuts and unsightly excavations, which may be likened to constantly open sores on the face of nature. But the sores are likely, we must add, soon to be healed, and covered by a crown of comfortable homes, with church spires shooting up from their midst to point the way to home above.
In writing this sketch, we are not compelled to go to ancient books and dusty files for the record of how the town has grown; for its founder is still alive and a large proportion of its early settlers. What we write is derived from their lips and if we fail to mould it into the symmetrical form of legitimate history, we beg some allowance to be made to the live elements that compose it, which will persist in sticking out like the hands and feet of a class of vigorous boys and will not be easily folded smoothly down like a "preserved specimen."
We have no knowledge of the first white man who visited the rapids on Grand River, called by the Indians the Owashtenong. An Indian village had long existed here -- of the Ottawa tribe -- before any white men came here to reside. The history of this village, of its chiefs and warriors, of its forays and defences, its councils and treaties, is lost in oblivion from human knowledge, and only written in the books of the Recording Angel.
In 1821 Isaac McCoy -- who was appointed by the Board of Managers of the Baptist Missionary Convention for the United States, to labor in Illinois and Indiana -- visited Gen. Lewis Cass at Detroit, to lay before him the claims of the society and the needs of the Indian tribes of Michigan Territory. The general received him cordially and gave him $450, in goods, for the benefit of his mission at Fort Wayne.
At the Chicago treaty of the same year, through the influence of Col. Trimble of Ohio, the Pottawattomies agreed to give one square mile of land, to be located by the President, in consideration of the promise of the government to locate thereon a teacher and a blacksmith, for the instruction and aid of the Indians, the government agreeing to appropriated $1,000 each year for that object. A similar agreement was afterwards made with the Ottawas, the government agreeing to maintain a teacher, a blacksmith and a farmer, at an expense of $1,500 per year.
Detroit at that time contained only a few hundred inhabitants, and the territory of Michigan was a vast wilderness, with only here and there an oasis, a fort or a trading post. On the west side of the Grand River, and on what is now the Fifth Ward of the city of Grand Rapids, stood, at the time, a collection of 50 or so huts, Kewkishkam being the village chief, acknowledging the control of Noonday, chief of the Ottawas.
On the 28th of June 1822, Mr. McCoy went from Fort Wayne to Detroit, for the purpose of securing the privileges of the Chicago treaty, the war department having placed the matter under the control of Gen. Cass. Gen. Cass commissioned Charles C. Trowbridge to make definite arrangements with the Indians for the sites of the missionary stations. The site for the Pottawattomie station was established on the St. Joseph River and that of the Ottawas on the Rapids of the Grand River. Mr. McCoy visited Grand Rapids in 1823, accompanied by a Frenchman named Paget, and one of his Indian pupils, for the purpose of putting matters into operation at the contemplated station among the Ottawas; but was unable to make an satisfactory arrangement, and soon returned to Carey, as the Pottawattomie station was called. In the fall of the same year he had a blacksmith shop set up at Kalamazoo, but only a little was done with it, so far as we can learn, and it was afterwards removed to Grand Rapids.
Some time in 1824, as near as we can learn, Rev. L. Slater, Baptist missionary and a blacksmith, and one or two other white workmen, came to Grand Rapids and commenced work. The winter proved a very hard one and supplies had to be sent to them on horseback before spring. Mr. Slater erected a log house for himself and a log school house -- the first buildings ever put up in the county.
Religion having let a ray of light into the wilderness, Commerce, her necessary handmaid, was not long in following. The first white settler of Grand Rapids, who came here to found a business and make himself a home, was Louis Campau, an Indian trader. Mr. Campau is still alive, and well known to all the older residents of the city, who honor and respect him as a venerable pioneer and true gentleman. His portrait may be found in the City Directory for 1870, thus making him his face familiar to those who, from their short term of residence, had not yet made his acquaintance. Mr. Campau was born in Detroit, in the year 1791. His ancestors were French, and came to Detroit before the war of the Revolution. He had but a few advantages of early education, but made his own career with a clear head, a strong right arm, and an honest purpose, in the fall of 1814, he went to Saginaw to trade with the Indians, at which place he remained for ten years, before moving to Grand Rapids.
Mr. Campau came to Grand Rapids at the solicitation and under the auspices of William Brewster of Detroit, who was very extensively engaged in the fur business in rivalry with the American Fur Company, and who furnished him with all that he needed to carry on his business. Mr. Campau afterwards opened trading posts and established his agents at Muskegon, Manistee, Kalamazoo, Lowell, Hastings and Eaton Rapids. He had no trouble with the Indians, but found them friendly and peaceable. They were uniformly honest and could be trusted with goods, never failing to pay as soon as they had the ability. They currency of that time was fur. And this was all the Indians had to exchange for the products of civilization.
From 1826 to 1833, Mr. Campau's only white visitors were traders like himself, with a few occasional travelers. He cut down the timber from a few acres of ground to let in the sunlight, but did not any extensive improvements. His brother, Toussaint, then only a youth, was with him most of the time and helped carry on the business. Toussaint Campau is still a resident of Grand Rapids, and not much burdened with the weight of the years.
In 1833, the pioneers of civilization, of whom we may call Mr. Campau the forerunner and scout, began to find their way to Grand Rapids. A land office was opened in White Pigeon in that year, and Louis Campau and Luther Lincoln were the first purchasers. Mr. Campau bought a tract of land in white is now the city of Grand Rapids, and Mr. Lincoln took up a portion of the site of the present village of Grandville.
In the spring of 1833, Mr. Samuel Dexter came to Ionia with a colony of 63 persons from New York, cutting a road through the woods from Pontiac, which was afterwards known as the Dexter trail -- and he laid out what is known as the Dexter Fraction in this city. Several of this company afterwards became residents of Grand Rapids and vicinity. Louis Campau, who carried a quantity of goods up the river in batteaux for Mr. Dexter, brought back with him Mr. Joel Guild, carrying his household goods free. He sold Mr. Guild a lot, adjoining the one on which the City National Bank building now stands, for twenty-five dollars. On this lot Mr. Guild erected, during the next summer, a small frame house, which was the first frame building erected in the city, unless, possibly, we may except a building which Mr. Campau erected, just across the street, for a store, and which was completed about the same time. Mr. Guild came from Paris, Oneida County, New York, and brought with him his family consisting of a wife and seven children. Three of those children are still living: Mrs. Baxter, Mrs. Burton and Consider Guild; the two former in this city, both widows, but both loved and honored by a large circle of friends, for their useful and consistent lives. The latter now carries on a farm in Ottawa county.
Joel Guild, soon after his arrival, was appointed Postmaster, and held that position for some time, being succeeded by Darius Winsor. Mail was brought once a month from Gull Prairie, on the backs of Indian ponies. Postage was two shillings on a letter, and the ties of friendship had to be pretty strong to support a correspondence. A gentleman who came several years later, says that the fifty cents a month required to pay postage on his letters, and the replies of his sweetheart in New York, proved a fearful drain on his pocketbook.
Grand Rapids in 1833 contained but a few acres of cleared land on either side of the river. The Indians had three or four acres cleared on the west side, just below where the bridge of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad now stands, and about as much more on the east side, along what is now Waterloo Street. The timber in that part of the city lying between Fulton and Lyon Streets was mainly oak and the soil light and sandy. Prospect Hill (where are the present residences of Dr. Shepard and Deacon Haldane,) which is now nearly removed, was an elevation of remarkable beauty, but in many places so steep that a wagon could not be drawn up so without much difficulty.
But the time of emigration was now fairly set in this direction, and in that four years Grand Rapids became quite a village.
Eliphalet Turner, whose death occured this fall (1870), came in 1833; also Ira Jones, who survived Mr. Turner by but a few days. During the same year came Jonathan F. Chubb, his wife and two children. Mr. Chubb located and improved a beautiful farm between here and Grandville -- the same now occupied by Mr. A. N. Norton -- but, in a few years, sold out, moved into the city and opened an agricultural store on Canal street. He died several years ago, but his son, A. L. Chubb, is now one of our most active business men.
Rev. Mr. Barrigan, afterward Bishop of the Lake Superior region, also came as a missionary among the Indians, and a church building was commenced on the west side of the river -- a small, framed structure. Mr. Campau wanted the building on the east side, and eventually carried his point, hiring Barney Burton to move it across the river on the ice. Mr. Barrigan did not succeed to suit him and did not remain long.
A saw mill was erected on Indian Creek, about just above Wonderly & Co.'s mammoth mill, some time during the same year.
In the fall of 1833, were Richard Godfroy, who set up a store to trade with the Indians, Robert Barr, Louis Morau, and Lovell Moore, Esq. The first marriage in Grand Rapids occurred in 1834. Mr. Barney Burton and Harriet Guild were the happy pair.
In the fall of 1834, Mr. Campau commenced a large frame building, which now exists as the upper two stories of the Rathbun House. During the year 1835 Edward Guild and Darius Winsor moved down the river from Ionia and quite a large number of settlers arrived, among whom were Hon. Lucius Lyon, Jefferson Morrison, Antoine Campau, James Lyman, A. Hosford Smith, Demetrius Turner, William C. Godfroy, Dr. Wilson, Dr. Charles Shepard, and Julius C. Abel. Dr. Wilson was the first Doctor. He was furnished with a medicine case and a set of instruments by Louis Campau, and commenced practice among a population of about 50 souls. Julius C. Abel was the pioneer lawyer and grew rich out of the misunderstandings of the growing town. James Lyman and Jefferson Morrison set up stores and commenced trading. In the same year, N. O. Sargeant purchased an interest with Lucius Lyon in the Kent Plat and came on with a posse of men to dig a mill race. Judge Almy and wife came at the same time, with Mr. Sargeant. Among the men in his employ was Leonard G. Baxter. The entrance of that number of men was an interesting and exciting event in the little town. The workmen came into the place with their shovels and picks on their shoulders, to the inspiriting notes of a bugle in the hands of one of their number -- Crampton by name, now living in Ada -- who afterward blew the same bugle on the first steamboat that ascended above the Rapids. Old Noonday thought they were enemies and sent Mr. Campau an offer of assistance to expel the invaders.
About this time, Martin Ryerson, then a promising boy sixteen or seventeen years old, came here as a clerk in the employ of Richard Godfroy. He has since become one of the leading lumberman in Chicago, and is now traveling in Europe with his family. Among other young men who came here, and remained for some time, were Lyman and Horace Gray -- the latter a Major in the Fourth Mich. Cavalry during the Rebellion -- and Andrew Robbins. Rev. Andrew Vizoisky also came in 1835, and, for seventeen years, was pastor of the Catholic flock in this city. Mr. Vizoisky was a native of Hungary. He received his education at the Catholic institutions of learning, in Austria, under the patronage of the Hungarian Chancery. From these sources he obtained that profound knowledge of ancient literature and of the history and doctrines of the Holy Catholic Church, which distinguished him even in a Brotherhood of world wide reputation for erudition. He came to the United States in 1831. By the appointment of the Bishop of Detroit he officiated three years in St. Clair County. Thence, in 1835, he removed to the Grand River Mission. His ministry in Grand Rapids was marked by unsurpassed devotion, and the most gratifying success. No road was rough enough, and no weather inclement enough, to keep him from the post of duty. To the poor he brought relief; to the sick, consolation; and to the dying, the absolvatory promises of his office. He died January 2nd, 1852, at the age of sixty years; having living to see a handsome stone church edifice erected on Monroe Street, two years previous to his death and filled with a numerous and prosperous congregation.
1836 witnessed the advent of a large number of new settlers and the mania of speculation possessed the town. Lots were held at almost as high prices as they will bring to-day. If a man bought a piece of land for $100 he immediately set his price at $1,000 and confidently awaited a purchaser. The currency was inflated and "wild cat money" in abundance supported these fictitious values. Every man got largely in debt, and ever man lived to rue the indiscretion, long and bitterly.
Among those who came in 1836, were Hon. John Ball, William A. Richmond, John W. Pierce, Philander Tracy, Ebenezer W. Barnes, Isaac Turner, A. B. Turner, George C. Nelson, James M. Nelson, Warren P. Mills, George Young, Robert Hilton, Billius Stocking, Abram Randal, William A. Richmond, Truman H. Lyon, William Haldane, Loren M. Page, Charles H. Taylor, Jacob Barnes, William Morman, David Burnett, K. S. Pettibone, Asa Pratt, Samuel Howland, J. Mortimer Smith, Hezekiah Green, George Coggeshall, John J. Watson, George Martin, Myron Hinsdill, Stephen Hinsdill, Hiram Hinsdill and Harry Eaton. Mr. Eaton, in 1840, was elected Sheriff of that county. His death occurred in 1859.
Roswell Britton, of Grandville, was the first Representative in the State Legislature from this section. His district comprised Kent, Ottawa, Clinton, and Ionia Counties. The State Constitution had been adopted only the year before -- 1835. Major Britton was succeeded in 1837 by John Almy; in 1838 by John Ball; in 1839 by Noble H. Finney; and in 1840, by C. I. Walker.
Hon. John Ball, who has contributed not a little to the growth and prosperity of the town, is a native of Hebron, N.H., and afterward resided in Lansingburg and Troy, N.Y. He graduated at Dartmouth College in 1820 and afterward practiced law in Troy. He came here as a land operator and has since devoted more of his time to real estate business than to law. He took A. D. Rathbone into partnership with him in 1840, who continued in that relation for about a year. In 1844, Solomon L. Withey became his partner and the firm was known as Ball & Withey. Afterward George Martin became a partner, and the firm was Ball, Martin & Withey. Afterward it was Ball, Withey & Sargeant. It is now Ball & McKee.
Myron Hinsdill erected the National Hotel in 1836 and it soon after went into the hands of Canton Smith.
John W. Peirce, the pioneer dry goods man of Kent, came here with the late Judge Almy and assisted that gentleman in surveying and platting that portion of the city now comprising so much thereof as lies under the bluffs. He erected the dwelling on Ottawa Street in 1842 and resided therein until, within the last few weeks (Oct. 15, 1870) he removed into his new and elegant residence, corner of Bronson and Kent streets -- having occupied the old mansion of nearly twenty-seven consecutive years. He is one of the gentleman who had an abiding faith in Kent, and the Rapids in general, and by great and unwearied perseverance has become comfortably off in this world's goods, and, by his enterprise, added many new buildings to this growing city. Mr. Peirce says that he counted all the frame buildings in Grand Rapids when he came, and there were just thirteen. His book store was the first one in the State, west of Detroit.
John J. Watson came from Detroit, and erected, in 1836, a very large storehouse, about where the skating rink now stands. It was, in the course of time, moved up the river, and became part of W. D. Foster's old wooden store.
George Martin, previously mentioned among the settlers of 1836, was a graduated of Middlebury College, Vt. He was for a number of years County and Circuit Judge of this county, and, at the time of his death, was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Michigan.
In 1836, Richard Godfroy built the first steamboat on Grand River, and called it the "Gov. Mason." The first boat, however, other than the batteaux of the traders, was a pole boat called the "Young Napoleon" constructed for Mr. Campau by Lyman Gray.
The "Gov. Mason" was commanded by Captain Stoddard. It only had a short existence, being wrecked off the mouth of the Muskegon River in 1838. Captain Stoddard died a number of years ago, in Barry County.
We have mentioned Judge Almy as one of the pioneers of the place. His genial disposition, most courteous manners, and unbounded hospitality, added to a physique at once commanding and noble, made him a representative gentleman in the early days. He was a civil engineer and practical surveyor, of eminence, and was in charge, in 1837-8, of the improvement of the Grand and Kalamazoo Rivers; was a member of the State Legislature, and one of the County Judges. He was also a lawyer by profession, but did not practice any after coming to Michigan. Few men, dying, have left behind them the reflection of a better spent life than John Almy's.
The late George Coggeshall emigrated, in 1836, to this place, from Wilmington, N.C., with his family, and invested his means in Kent. He erected the frame house, on the corner of Bridge and Kent streets, now occupied by the distinguished Homeopathic physician, Dr. Charles Hempel, and which has been somewhat modified form its primitive appearance. Mr. Coggeshall was a man of many sterling qualities, and was a firm believer in the future of that once impassable quagmire, "Kent" which is now a part of the most populous ward of the city.
Among those who came here in 1837, were Israel V. Harris, Rev. James Ballard, Leonard Covell, G. M. McCray, William A. Tyron, L. R. Atwater, William L. Klakely, A. Dikeman, H. K. Rose, John F. Godfroy, Gaius S. Deane, Henry Dean, C. P. Calkins, James Scribner, and Col. Samuel F. Butler.
The first banking establishment was the Grand River Bank, established in 1847, Judge Almy being President, and Lucius Lyon, Cashier. It lasted a couple of years, and issued bills which were considered good, but finally succumbed to the hard times, and left its promises to pay, a dead loss in the hands of the holders.
Another bank, called "The People's Bank," was started during the same year, under the auspices of George Coggeshall, with Louis Campau for President, and Simeon Johnson for Cashier. The institution failed to secure cash and nails enough to comply with the State Banking Law, and was soon wound up; John Ball being appointed Receiver.
For several years succeeding 1837 this was a very "blue" place. Folks were terribly poor, and real estate was hardly worth the taxes. A good many French mechanics, who had been attracted here by the rapid growth of the town, were thrown out of employment, and left in disgust.
A little steamboat, called the "John Almy" was built in 1837, to run above the Rapids. It went up the river as far as the mouth of Flat River -- Crampton walking the echoes with his bugle -- but, alas! sunk before it completed its trip, and rotted away in the bed of the river.
A. Dikeman opened the first watchmaker and jeweler's establishment, in 1837, on Monroe Street. It was kept up by him until 1867, and since that time, by his son, E. B. Dikeman, whose store is now on Canal Street.
Among the settlers of 1838, we may mention W. D. Roberts, John T. Holmes, Esq., Amos Roberts, C. W. Taylor, Erastus Clark, J. T. Finney, and Solomon Withey, and his sons, S. L., William, and Orison.
The Bridge Street House was built in 1837, and first kept by John Thompson, subsequently it was kept by Solomon Withey, who was succeeded by William A. Tryon and Truman H. Lyon -- the last two still living in this city.
Amos Rathbun, Ira S. Hatch, Damon Hatch, W. M. Anderson, G. B. Rathbun, and F. D. Richmond, came in 1839. R.E. Butterworth, Heman Leonard, John W. Squier, and Silas Hall, came in 1842.
THE ROCHESTER OF MICHIGAN
The following description of the place and its prospects appeared in the first newspaper ever printed in Grand Rapids and was headed "The Rochester of Michigan." We quote it entire, as it appeared in the editorial columns of the Grand River Times, Tuesday, April 18, 1837:
"Though young in its improvements, the site of this village has long been known, and esteemed for its natural advantages. It was here that the Indian traders long since made their grand depot. It was at this point that the missionary herald established his institution of learning -- taught the forest child the beauties of civilization, and inestimable benefits of the Christian religion. This has been the choicest, dearest spot to the unfortunate Indian, and now is the pride of the white man. Like other villages of the west, its transition from the savage to a civilized state, has been as sudden as its prospects are now flattering.
Who would have believed, to have visited this place two years since, when it was only inhabited by a few families, most of whom were of French origin, a people so eminent for exploring the wilds and meandering rives, that that this place would now contain its twelve hundred inhabitants? Who would have imagined that thus rapid would have been the improvement of this romantic place. The rapidity of its settlement is beyond the most visionary anticipation; but its location, its advantages, and its clime were sufficient to satisfy the observing mind, that nothing but the frown of Providence could blast its prospects!
The river upon which this town is situated is one of the most important and delightful to be found in the country -- not important and beautiful alone for its clear, silver like water winding its way through a romantic valley of some hundred miles, but for its width and depth, its susceptibility for steam navigation, and the immense hydraulic power afforded, at this point.
We feel deeply indebted to our Milwaukee friends for their lucid description of the advantages to be derived from a connection of the waters of this river with those of Detroit, by canal or railroad. A canal is nearly completed around the rapids at this place, sufficiently large to admit boats to pass up and down, with but little detention. Several steamboats are now preparing to commence regular trips from Lyons, at the mouth of the Maple River, to this place, a distance of sixty miles; and from this to Grand Haven, a distance of thirty-five or forty miles; thence to Milwaukee and Chicago.
Thus the village of Grand Rapids, with a navigable stream -- a water power of twenty-five feet fall -- an abundance of crude building materials -- stone of excellent quality -- pine, oak and other timber in immense quantities within its vicinity -- can but be the Rochester of Michigan! The basement story of an extensive mill, one hundred and sixty by forty feet, is now completed; a part of the extensive machinery is soon to be put in operation. There are now several dry goods and grocery stores -- some three or four public houses -- one large church, erected, and soon to be finished in good style, upon the expense of a single individual, who commenced business a few years ago, by a small traffic with the Indians. Such is the encouragement to Western pioneers! The village plat is upon the bold bank of a river, extending back upon an irregular plain, some eighty to a hundred rods, to rising bluffs, from the base and sides of which some of the most pure, crystal like fountains of water burst out in boiling springs, pouring forth streams that murmur over their pebbly bottoms, at once a delight to the eye and an invaluable luxury to the thirsty palate.
New England may surpass this place with her lofty mountains, but not with her greatest boast, purity and clearness of water. Our soil is sandy and mostly dry. The town is delightful, whether you view it from the plain upon the banks of the river, or from the bluffs that overlook the whole surrounding country. To ascend these bluffs you take a gradual rise to the height of a hundred feet, when the horizon only limits the extent of vision. The scenery to an admirer of beautiful landscape is truly picturesque and romantic. Back east of the town is seen a widespread plain of burr oak, at once easy to cultivate and inviting to the agriculturalist. Turning westward, especially at the setting of the sun, you behold the most enchanting prospect -- the din of the ville below -- the broad sheet of water murmuring over the rapids -- the sunbeams dancing upon its swift gliding ripples -- the glassy river at last losing itself in its distant meanderings, presents a scenery that awakes the most lively emotions. But the opposite shore, upon which you behold a rich, fertile plain, still claims no small amount of admiration. Near the bank of the river is seen the little, rude village of the more civilized Indians -- their uncouth framed dwellings -- their little churches, and moundlike burying places. The number and size of the mounds which mark the spot where lies the remains of the proud warrier, and the more humble of his unnamed tribe, too plainly tell the endearment of the lovely plain to the native aborigines, and how quick the mind will follow the train of association to by-gone days, and contrast these reflections with present appearances. Thus we see the scenes of savage life, quickly spread upon the canvas of the imagination -- the proud chieftan seated, and his tribe surrounding the council fires -- the merry war dance -- the wild amusements of the 'red man of the forest' and as soon think of their present unhappy condition; the bright flame of their lighted piles has been extinguished, and with it has faded the keen, expressive brilliancy of the wild man's eye! Their lovely Washtenang, upon which their light canoes have so long glided is now almost deserted!
It is from this point, too, that you can see in the distance the evergreen tops of the lofty pine, waving in majesty above the sturdy oak, the beech, and maple, presenting to the eye a wild, undulating plain, with its thousand charms. Such is the location, the beauties, and the advantages of this youthful town. The citizens are of the most intelligent, enterprising and industrious character. Their buildings are large, tasty, and handsomely furnished -- the clatter of mallet and chisel -- the clink of the hammer -- the many newly raised and recently covered frames -- and the few skeletons upon the wharves of the river, speak loudly for the enterprise of the place! Mechanics of all kinds find abundance of employ, and reap rich reward for their labor. Village property advances in value, and the prospect of wealth is alike flattering to all! What the result of such advantages and prospects will be, time alone must determine.
But a view of this place and its vicinity, where we find a rich and fertile soil, watered with the best of springs, and enjoying as we do the salubrious climate, a healthful atmosphere and the choicest gifts of a benign Benefactor, would satisfy almost any one that this will soon be a bright star in the constellation of western villages. Such, gentle reader, is a faint description of the place from which our paper hails -- from which we hope will emenate matter as pleasing and interesting as the town is beautiful and inviting."
A NOTED INDIAN CHIEF
The following graphic sketch, from the pen of C. W. Eaton, we quote entire: "We have been told many good anecdotes of Meccissininni, the young chief of the Grand River Indians, in an early day, by an old resident of this place. Meccissininni was called the Young Chief and old Black Skin the Old Chief; although Meccissininni was not a very young man, being 45; but, according to the custom of the Indians, a young brave that marries the Chief's daughter is made Chief, and called the Young Chief. He was an eloquent orator, a very proud, haughty Indaina, and "wanted to be like his white brethren" as he often said. He was always dressed like his white brethren and you might often see him on a hot day in the summer carrying an umbrella, when there was no sign of rain -- to keep from being tanned, probably.
He was one of a band of chiefs that went with Louis Campau. Rix Robinson and Rev. Slater when to Washington to make a treaty relative to selling their lands on the west side of the river, which was consummated in 1835. While in Washington, Gen. Jackson wished to make him a good suit of clothes, and asked him what kind he would prefer. He said as General Jackson was chief of his people, and he was chief of the red men, he thought it would be appropriate if he had a suit like his. The General ordered the suit. It was a black frock coat, black satin vest, black pantaloons, silk stockings, and pumps; but the best of the thing was, Gen. Jackson wore at that time a white bell-crowned hat, with a weed on it, being at the time in mourning for his wife. The unsuspecting Indian, not knowing that the weed was a badge of mourning, had one on his hat also, which pleased Gen. Jackson and his Cabinet not a little. He was much delighted with the warm reception he received in the different cities on his return home.
After he returned, a council met to hear the nature of the treaty, where Meccissininni distinguished himself as an orator, in this portral of the treaty. They sold their lands, and the treaty provided for their removal west of the Mississippi, in a certain number of years; where lands were given them. Several of the Chiefs were opposed to the treaty; but Meccissininni was in favor of their removal, and made an eloquent speech in support of it. In his remarks he said that for his part he had rather remain here, and be buried where his forefathers were; but, on his people's account, he had rather go west of the Mississippi, as his people would become debased by association with the pale faces.
In 1841 he was invited to a Fourth of July celebration. The dinner was served up near the present site of Ball's Foundry, where after the oration, and refreshments, the cloth was removed and regular toasts drunk. Meccissininni was called for a toast, and responded as follows.
"The pale faces and the red men -- the former a great nation, and the latter a remnant of a great people; may they ever meet in unity together, and celebrate this great day as a band of brothers."
Our narrator relates an incident which occured while he was keeping a grocery and provision store on the west side, opposite the Barnard House, where the old ferry was located. Meccissininni said he wanted to get trusted for some provisions and would pay at the next Indian payment. When he returned from the annual payment, he was asked to settle his bill. He told the provision vendor that he must put it on paper, send it to his home, and he would pay it. He said he wished to do business like white people. So our friend made out his bill and repaired to the Chief's house, and was ushered in with all the politeness imaginable. He promptly paid the bill, and signified his wish to have it receipted. After showing him all the presents and donning his suit which Gen. Jackson had present him, he brushed his hair back and imitated the walk of the General, taking long strides back and forth across the room; and also mimicked that of the Vice President, Martin Van Buren, by stepping short and quick. Having passed an hour very pleasantly, he took his leave, with a polite invitation from Meccissininni to call again.
About the year 1843 he was attacked with a disease of the lungs, which, after a short illness, terminated his existence, at the age of fifty. He lived and died a professor of the Catholic faith, under the spiritual guidance of the late Rev. Mr. Vizoisky. He was followed to his last resting place by a large concourse of the citizens of Grand Rapids, together with his own tribe."
The Indain burying ground on the west side, in the Fifth Ward, which the denizens of the village of Kent found in 1833, remained, with its rude enclosure, the wonder of all strangers, until about the year 1850, when it had gradually disappeared under the power of decay, and the avarice of man. In this mound -- small portions of which yet remain -- the sainted priest, Vizoisky, had consigned to their final rest the bones of many a converted Ottawa, who had been taught to say his Pater Noster and Ave Maria, and perform his daily Matins in the tiny church, that for years was the spiritual home of that good and devoted Catholic priest.
The first bridge that spanned Grand River was a narrow foot bridge, built by James Scribner and Lovell Moore, in 1843. E. H. Turner and James Scribner built the first wagon bridge in 1845. The first toll bridge, on Bridge Street, was finished in 1852 and for the first year did not pay the expenses of running it. Now there are three in the city, all of which are fine, covered bridges, and pay large dividends. Pearl Street Bridge was completed in 1858, Leonard Street Bridge in 1859. On the sixth day of April 1858, Bridge Street Bridge took fire and was utterly destroyed. A foot bridge was at once commenced and completed by April 10. During the interval between the destruction of the bridge and the completion of a new one, the steamer Nebraska ran back and forth as a ferryboat.
The Grand Rapids Gas-Light Company was incorporated in 1857, and in November of that year the stores on Monroe Street were lit with gas for the first time. Gas-pipes were not extended across the river until 1869.
The plank road from this city to Kalamazoo was completed in 1854, previous to which, stages were two days in going from one town to the other. The plank road enabled them to make the trip in one day. W. H. Withey was the proprietor of the first line of stages on the new road. This road was of immense importance to the rising city and until the completion of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad in 1858, it was the avenue by which nearly all visitors from the east approached the city. The author counted as many as 170 teams in one day, coming to the plaster mills in this city and Wyoming Township. Many of these teams brought loads of corn and pork for the supply of the Grand Rapids market, which then, as at the present time, furnished immense quantities of those staples to the lumbermen in this vicinity, and farther north. In 1869, the toll-gates were abolished, and now the planks are fast breaking up and becoming a nuisance and in many places are entirely taken up.
The first newspaper, called the Grand River Times, was started by George W. Pattison in 1837, and the first number published April 18th, of that year. Several copies of the first number are still extant, having been printed on cloth with a view to their preservation. Uncle Louis Campau has one of these sheets, which was presented to him by the editor, with his name printed on the margin. Mr. Pattison was assisted, as editor, by Noble H. Finney. The press on which this paper was printed was drawn up the river from Grand Haven, on the ice, by a team of dogs. It was purchased the winter previous at Buffalo, by Judge Almy. At Detroit it was shipped for Grand Haven on the steamer Don Quixote, which was wrecked off Thunder Bay, and the press taken around the lakes on another boat. Some years after, the paper passed into the hands of James H. Morse, who published a neutral paper for several years. The political department was divided equally between the Whigs and Democrat. Articles were written on the Democratic side by Simeon M. Johnson, C.H. Taylor, Sylvester Granger and C. I. Walker, and on the Whig side by George Martin, Wm. G. Henry, E. B. Bostwick and T. W. Higginson. Finally Mr. Johnson was employed as editor, and in 1841 changed the name of the paper to Enquirer, after the Richmond Enquirer, which was his favorite paper. In 1843, E. D. Burr became a partner, and hoisted the Democratic flag, with the name of John C. Calhoun for President. In 1844, it supported James K. Polk, and published a campaign sheet called Young Hickory. After this the paper was published by Jacob Barnes, as agent, with T. B. Church, as editor. Then C. H. Taylor became partner and was the editor.
In March 1855, A. E. Gordon started the Daily Herald, which was the first daily paper published in Grand Rapids. This was followed in 1856 by a daily from the Enquirer office, Taylor & Barnes, proprietors, J. P. Thompson, editor. In a short time the two papers were merged in the Enquirer and Herald, Gordon & Thompson, publishers. Mr. Thompson, now assistant editor of the Eagle, left the Enquirer and Herald, and, associated with Charles B. Benedict, established a semi-weekly paper called the Grand Rapids Press. Gordon continued the Enquirer and Herald until it was closed under a mortgage held by H. P. Yale. It was resurrected by N. D. Titus, who afterwards took in Fordham as a partner, and called the Democrat. M.H. Clark soon after obtained an interest in the paper. Titus went out, and Mr. Clark continued it, with a Mr. Burt as partner. After Mr. Burt left, C. C. Sexton and Robert Wilson had an interest in it, and finally Dr. C. B. Smith. The Democrat, under the able management of Mr. Clark, now boasts one of the finest printing establishments in this part of the state, and is a large, well-filled, handsome and prosperous paper.
The Eagle commenced as a weekly, December 25, 1844 (the press and type arriving in time to print tickets for Henry Clay), by A. B. Turner, with George Martin and Charles F. Barstow as nominal editors. Early in 1848, Ralph W. Cole was associate editor. In 1851, James Scribner became a partner, but, being a Democrat, had nothing to do with the editorial department. Mr. Scribner's interest was purchased by A. B. Turner in the fall of 1852. Immediately after the defeat of Scott in 1852, the Eagle abandoned the Whig organization and advocated a new one, which assumed the name of Republican at the Jackson convention, in July 1854. Mr. Turner started a daily May 26, 1856, with telegraphic dispatches by stage from Kalamazoo. He was assisted during the Fremont campaign by Albert Baxter, who continued on the paper until 1860. After that time, L. J. Bates, now of the Detroit Post, assisted him until 1865, when Mr. Baxter returned. Mr. E. F. Harrington has had an interest in the Eagle since 1865. Mr. J. P. Thompson came in September 1869 as another assistant. No man in Grand Rapids has shown more persistent energy, often under the most discouraging circumstances, than has Aaron B. Turner, and he is now at the head of a profitable business, and in prosperous circumstances: his printing office being one of the best in the state.
In 1857-8, C. W. Eaton and W. S. Leffingwell published for a year, a small monthly, called the Young Wolverine, to a file of which we are indebted for some interesting facts. They were then typos in the Enquirer and Herald office. P. R. L. Peirce's exceedingly comical "Rhythmical History of Grand Rapids, More or Less" in choice doggerel, appeared in this little sheet.
In 1857, Thomas D. Worrall started the Great Western Journal, a weekly paper whose high sounding name did not save it from a final collapse in a short time. Several other newspapers have risen and died out since that date.
The Vrijheids Banner -- Banner of Liberty -- a paper printed in the Holland language, is published weekly from the Eagle building, by W. Verburg.
The Times, daily and weekly, C. C. Sexton, proprietor, was started a few months ago, and has achieved a large circulation.
A weekly paper, called the Pioneer, is printed in the German language.
For several years, the question of the location of the Court House and the County offices agitated the Board of Supervisors at almost every session from 1851 to 1861; and it is not clear that it is yet definitely settled. The first building erected for court purposes, was on the square, directly in front of Mr. A. B. Judd's present residence. It was a wooden structure, two stories high, with an imposing cupola in the center of the roof. The second story was used for a court room, and also for religious meetings. The lower floor for a jail, and jailor's residence. In this primitive edifice, Judges Pratt and Whipple of the Circuit, assisted by Side Judge Almy, deceased, E. W. Davis and P. Tracy, both yet living, expounded and interpreted the law, which was being "practiced" by George Martin, A. D. Rathbone, Sylvester Granger, E. E. Sargeant, and others not now living and by T. B. Church, John Ball, J. T. Holmes, J. C. Abel, C. P. Calkins, J. S. Chamberlain and S. L. Withey, who are still on terra firma. Those were high old days for the law, and, had not the records of the county burned in January 1861, some rare information could have been obtained from them; but much of this is still in the head of a gentleman still living amongst us, who was for fourteen years clerk of the county, and who personally knows more of the days we write of than any other man in the city, and can recall with photographic exactness a hundred incidents of particular interest, touching those balmy days of Grand Rapids, which we hope he may some day find it convenient to give the public.
HON. LUCIUS LYON
Among the number of those who contributed not a little to the "opening up" of the future of this city, was the Hon. Lucius Lyon, one of the proprietors, with the late Hon. Charles H. Carroll, of that part of the city called the Kent Plat. Believing that salt could be made here, and knowing that this section indicated, geologically, saline springs, he, in 1841, commenced sinking a well on the west bank of the canal, above the big mill, which, after many difficulties and embarrassments, became a supposed success, and the manufacture of salt was, in 1843-4 and 5, prosecuted with considerable spirit, by means of boiling and evaporation But it failed to be profitable, owing to the difficulties in keeping out fresh water which diluted the brine. We believe Mr. Lyon expended upwards of $20,000 in this experiment, and his profits were nothing. Subsequently, in 1858 to 1864, Messrs. Ball & McKee, J. W. Winsor, W. T. Powers, C. W. Taylor, and the late James Scribner, with others, renewed the effort to make salt, and several wells were sunk, and several thousand barrels made, but East Saginaw had, in the meantime, found the "Seat of Empire," and, from superior and purer brine, soon demonstrated that she was master of the situation, and our people could not compete with her, and the works in this city gradually went the way of all unprofitable enterprises.
Hon. Solomon L. Withey was born in St. Albans, Vermont. He came to this city in 1838. After studying law for some time he was admitted to the bar and became the law partner of Hon. John Ball in 1844. He was also, for several years, law partner of Hon. George Martin, afterwards Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Michigan -- now deceased. In 1848 he was chosen Judge of Probate for Kent county and held that office for four years. In 1860 he was elected State Senator, and served during the regular session, and two extra sessions called to meet the exigencies of the rebellion. Upon the organization of the Western District of Michigan, in 1863, he was appointed by President Lincoln to the honorable position of United States District Judge thereof, in which capacity he has since served. In 1869 he was tendered an appointment as Judge of the United States Circuit, comprising the States of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, which, after due consideration, he declined. He is President of First National Bank of Grand Rapids, and enjoys, to a remarkable degree, the respect and confidence of the public.
W. D. FOSTER
W. D. Foster came to Grand Rapids, from Rochester, N. Y. in the year 1838. He started a small "7x9" store, at the foot of Monroe Street, in 1845, keeping a general assortment of tin whistles, patty pans, skimmers, pie plates and such like cutting and hammering them all out, and soldering the same with his own hands, there not being enough business to warrant having a journeyman. He did quite a thriving trade for several years, gradually, by great industry, economy and perseverance, accumulating and adding to his slow gains, until, having been prospered, as such men will be, he has become the foremost man in the hardware line in Western Michigan, owner of a large brick block, five stories high, filled from top to bottom with his own merchandise; and not to know Wilder D. Foster is to acknowledge one's self unknown. He employs men by the dozens, and his trade is measured annually in the tens of thousands. Mr. Foster has had several partners. The firm for a time was Foster & Perry, then Henry Martin and Martin Metcalf became his associates, and it was W. D. Foster & Co. Afterward it was Foster, Martin & Metcalf, then Foster & Metcalf, and since 1862, W. D. Foster alone. He built his present block in 1868. "Live and let live" has ever been Mr. Foster's motto, and, if the gratitude of hundreds to whom he has lent substantial assistance in time of need, is worth anything, he is rich in something better than earthly stores.
Hon. P. R. L. PEIRCE
Probably no man has been more intimately connected with public affairs in Kent County, during the past twenty years, than Hon. P. R. L. Peirce, a native of Geneseo, N. Y., or Peter Peirce, as he is familiarly called by half the men in the county. It is possible that some men in the county work harder than Mr. Peirce, and that some man may get off more jokes, but entirely improbable that any other man works as hard and says as many funny things as he does. He came to Grand Rapids to reside in the year 1840, from Detroit, and studied law in the office of Judge Martin, along the Hon. S. L. Withey, acting as Deputy County Clerk in 1842-3. In 1853 and 1854 he was City Clerk, and in 1854, he was elected Clerk of Kent County, which office he held during a period of fourteen years. He was generally conceded to be as good a County Clerk as any in the State, and was always in high favor with the Judge and members of the bar. The young lawyers regarded him almost as a father, and men from all parts of the county came to him with their grievances, sure of sympathy, and assistance if it lay in press, on various topics of personal and local interest to the community, and is a walking encyclopedia of useful information with regard to all that has transpired in the county since he came here. He enjoyed great popularity with the soldiers during the rebellion, and has worked steadily for their interests at all times. In 1868 he was elected State Senator, in which capacity he has proved one of the most influential men from this part of the State. He is now assistant to Hon. William A. Howard, in the Land Office of the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad, for which position his rare clerical skill renders him peculiarly fitted.
HENRY R. WILLIAMS
Among those who are worthy to be mentioned as having contributed not a little to the growth of this city, was the late Henry R. Williams. Mr. W. came to Grand Rapids in 1841, from Rochester, N. Y., and entered into business with Warren Granger, of Buffalo, N. Y. and occupied one of the Nelson stores, on the corner of Canal and Bronson streets -- being now a portion of the Bronson House. The firm of Warren, Granger & Co. were engaged in merchandising, flouring and boating, and Mr. Williams built up a splendid reputation as a prompt, efficient and reliable business man. He was once a candidate for Congress against Hon. Samuel Clark (lately deceased). His genial companionship, and earnest endeavors to open up this once wild section, endeared him to all of the then denizens; and the "old settlers" recall his memory with feelings of uniform kindness and pleasure. He died some twelve or five years ago. In his lifetime, he built the elegant stone residence on the hill overlooking Bronson Street, now owned by Mr. O. S. Camp.
Rev. DR. CUMING
Any history of this city would be imperfect without a brief reference to Rev. F. H. Cuming, D. D., who died in 1863. Doct. Cuming came here from Ann Arbor (and Rochester, N. Y.) in 1843, and took charge of the Episcopal Church. He was a man of large business capacity, of indomitable energy, and a wonderful perseverance, and, outside of his immediate pastoral labors, he gave much of his time to the various enterprises of a local and public nature, calculated to advance the growth and renown to the interest of the city. He had many tempting offers to go to various cities, where his vast capacity could have a larger field of usefulness, but he declined them all, for he had great faith in the future of this city and county, and ventured the prognostication that persons were then born who would live to see a population of 30,000 inhabitants here. Doct. Cuming erected the substantial residence (on the hill between Bridge and Bronson), now occupied by his esteemed widow and family and was eighteen years rector of the Episcopal Church, erecting, with the aid of his flock, the large stone edifice on Division, at the head of Pearl Street, now occupied by the St. Mark's Congregation.
Rev. JAMES BALLARD
One of the pioneers who has made his mark in the valley City, is the Rev. James Ballard, a native of Charlemont, Massachusetts, who graduated at Williams College, and after residing for some time in Vermont, found his way to this city in 1837. He was pastor of the Congregational Church for ten years, and during that time, exhibited such zeal and enterprise as will forever associate his name with the history of that society. The old Congregational Church building, in use until about a year ago, through his efforts, purchased of Mr. Louis Campau, and Mr. Ballard walked seventeen hundred miles, through the Eastern States, and appealed to the churches there to assist him in buying a Catholic Church building, for the use of a Protestant society. When he had raised the greater part of the sum required he came home and mortgaged his own property to pay the remainder. (The old church was built by Mr. Campau, in 1837, and, until the last stick of it is in ashes, it will be a monument to the noble, religious seal of Louis Campau, the Catholic, and James Ballard, the Protestant. Mr. Campau sold it because his business affairs required the use of a part of the money which it cost, and the Church was not able to refund it.) When the church changed hands, the Catholics reserved the iron cross which surmounted the cupola and removing it, a man lost his life.
Mr. Ballard, as mentioned hereafter, has been, at different times, principal of both the Union Schools in this city. He still resides here, as active as ever, and now State Agent for the Freedman's Aid Society, in which capacity he is, as usual, doing a good work. He is also very extensively known for his labors in the Sunday School case.
GRAND RAPIDS IN 1846
Prof. Franklin Everett, in the City Directory for 1865, thus describes the infant city of twenty-four years ago:
"We will step back about twenty years to the time when I first saw the village in the wilderness. Then, forty acres was about the extent of the place. Division Street might be said to bound civilization on the east, Monroe street on the south, Bridge street on the north, and the river on the west. There were scattered buildings, only, outside of those limits. A wing dam ran half way across the river, and furnished water power for three saw mills, two grist mills, and some minor works. Irving Hall, Fanuel Hall, Commercial Block, Backus' Block, corner of Canal and Bronson Streets, and Peirce's Franklin Block, where the stores par eminence -- the last two "clear out of town." Sinclair's store, where Luce's Block now is, was the business stand fartherest up Monroe street -- "two far out of town to do business." Canal street was the muddiest hole in creation. A two foot side walk, supported on posts, kept the pedestrians out of the mud. It must be borne in mind that this street has been filled from five to ten feet. Where Fitch & Raymond's carriage shop now is, and around there, was a fine, musical frog pond, and there was another, (which by the way is not now altogether filled), northwest of there. The stumps were in the street, and the houses were all one story. Our communication with the outside world was by the Battle Creek stage. People came to church with ox teams. They came to worship God -- not, as we go now, to show dry goods. There were no fashionables; men and women dressed plain, and almost all had the ague. Every cow had a bell on, of course; hence we lacked not for music. Wood was one dollar a cord, and a drug at that. Wheat, fifty cents a bushel; corn, twenty-five cents; venison, half a cent a pound; pork and beef three cents; young ladies were scarce and in active demand. Mr. Ballard was preaching in the Congregational Church, and got his living by farming. The Episcopal Church was the building, since much improved, opposite Fitch & Raymond's shop. The Catholics used a dwelling house for a chapel. The Methodists had their present house. We had no fashionable churches or christians. Poor people could go to meeting and be considered decent; and I observed that people spoke of the sermons more than the dresses. It was an out-of-the-way, stirring, primitive place, with warm hearts and energetic heads."
THE PRESENT CITY
On the first day of June 1870, Grand Rapids contained, according to the United States Census, 16,507 inhabitants, and is therefore the second city in the State, in population. It contains fifteen hotels, twenty dry goods stores, upwards of fifty groceries, eight hardware stores, nine drug stores, twelve clothing stores, sixteen boot and shoe stores, six photograph galleries, seven watchmaker and jewelers' establishments, seven printing offices, three book-binderies, upwards of fifty lawyers, upwards of forty physicians, fourteen dentists, six banking houses, eight machine shops, five flouring mills, four breweries, six furniture manufactories, three large brick manufactories, one fanning mill manufactory, one file manufactory, one mammoth box factory, one axe factory, two hub factories, two marble cutting establishments, one organ factory, two woolen mills, seven planing mills, eight saw mills, one immense factory for the manufacture of Water's patent barrels, fourteen wagon and carriage manufactories, etc., etc. The traveler can approach or leave the city by railroad, in six different directions, and several new roads are contemplated, and will soon be constructed.
A street railway extends from the depot of the Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad, the full length of Canal and Lyon streets, a distance of over two miles.
Grand Rapids was behind none of her sister cities in her support of the government during the late civil war. The Third and Eighth Infantry Regiment had their rendezvous here, and the Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh, and Tenth Cavalry regiments; all of which were largely filled by volunteers from this vicinity. Each and all did credit to the city and the State on many well fought fields.
That portion of Grand Rapids which lies upon the east side of Grand River, and south of the Coldbrook District, was, in the year 1849, organized under the school law then existing, as School District No. 1, of the City of Grand Rapids. The stone building which stood on the hill, known as the "Central School" was erected in the autumn of 1849. The first school in it was opened in 1850, under the supervision of Mr. Johnson, with four assistants. Mr. Johnson was soon after succeeded by Rev. James Ballard, who had charge of the school about three years, when he was followed by the late Prof. Edward Chesebro. After Prof. Chesebro resigned, on account of illness, his brother, George Chesebro, was Superintendent for a short time, when Prof. Danforth took the place, with Prof. Edwin Strong, as Principal of the High School department. Prof. Danforth remained about three years, and was succeeded, in 1863, by Prof. Strong, who has since filled the place to the complete satisfaction of all.
In 1867, the stone building having become to small to accommodate the greatly increased attendance, and as it was thought unsafe by reason of defective walls, the present edifice was commenced. It was completed and the old building removed in 1868. Having a commanding site, its tower 137 feet high, it is the first object that attracts the eye of a stranger on entering the city, and the last he sees after leaving it. The cost of the building was about $50,000.
Primary No. 1, is a commodious and nicely arranged brick building, on the corner of Division and Bridge Streets, and cost about $15,000.
Primary No. 2, is on South Division Street. It is a frame building with a brick basement and has cost about $5,000.
Primary No. 3, is located on Fountain Street, east of Prospect, and is a large wooden structure.
Primary No. 4, is situated on the corner of Wealthy Avenue and Lafayette street. This building was completed in 1869, is of brick, and cost $12,000.
The West Side Central School building was erected in 1855, and during the summer of 1869, thoroughly overhauled and re-arranged.
In 1869, a brick school house was begun in the Fifth Ward, which, when completed, will cost about $15,000. A part of it is now in use. Prof. S. Montgomery is Superintendent of the West Side Schools.
GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS COLLEGE AND TELEGRAPHIC INSTITUTE
The Grand Rapids Business College and Telegraphic Institute, Swensberg & Robbins, proprietors, has been in successful operation for the last five years, and, during that time, has educated several hundred young ladies and gentleman. We can safely say that no similiar institution in the northwest is more favorably regarded, or offers better advantages to students, who desire a thorough business education. Prof. C. G. Swensberg, who gives his whole time to the school, with able assistants, is one of the finest penmen and most accomplished teachers in the west. The large and commodious rooms of this institution are located in Luce's Block, Monroe Street.
There are, in this city, twenty church buildings, and two more in process of erection. The finest among these are the Congregational, Methodist Episcopal, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Catholic (new), True Reformed, Second Reformed, and Universalist Churches. Anything like a satisfactory history of the different societies would far transcend the limits of this sketch.
The first train of cars entered Grand Rapids on tenth day of July 1858, at 4:30 P.M.; the Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad Company having that day completed their road to the expectant and previously isolated city. This was one of the most important events, as touching the development of the town, that we have to record, and let in at once a new tide of enterprise and capital.
The next road that led out from the place was a section of the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad, from here to Cedar Springs, on which regular trains commenced running on the twenty-third day of December 1867. Through trains commenced running on this road, to Fort Wayne, Indiana, on the tenth day of October 1870, opening a new market for our manufactures, which promises to prove of great importance to the leading branches of industry.
The first train of cars on the Kalamazoo, Allegan & Grand Rapids Railroad, now a division of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, arrived on the first day of March 1869.
Regular trains commenced running on the Grand River Valley Railroad, now a branch of the Michigan Central, on the seventeenth day of January 1870.
F. GODFREY & BROS.
plaster works are situated in the city, on the Grand River, and convenient to all the railroads for shipping. They have 100 acres of plaster land. The stratum of plaster is about twelve feet thick, exposed by removing the earth above it, and furnishes 35,000 tons per acre. F. Godfrey discovered plaster at this point in 1859, and works were erected in 1860, the product for that year being about 1,000 tons. From this amount the yearly product has steadily increased until 1869, in which year they quarried 12,000 tons. They have one water mill and a steam mill, each with two run of stone, and can grind in the two mills 80 tons of plaster in ten hours, or 160 tons in 20 hours. Their calcining works are very extensive, being sufficient to manufacture 260 barrels of calcined plaster per day, and their capital is amply sufficient for all their purposes.
THE WEST SIDE OF GRAND RIVER
The first plaster discoveries on the west side of Grand River were made by Mr. R. E. Butterworth, an English gentleman of culture and enterprise, now proprietor of one of the principal machine shops and foundries in Grand Rapids. He purchased 162 acres of land, now owned by the Grand Rapids Plaster Company, in 1842. His knowledge of geology led him to think that his land contained plaster rock, and he made repeated borings to ascertain the fact. In 1849 he discovered plaster near the present site of the Eagle Mills, and erected a plaster mill in 1852. In 1856 he sold to Hovey & Co. for $35,000.
Hovey & Co. bought their property in 1856, and built their mill during the summer of 1857. The first year they mined about 2,000 tons. The business steadily increased until 1860, when the Grand Rapids Plaster Company was organized and the firm of Hovey & Co. merged in that. The amount of plaster quarried and sold by them prior to 1869 was about 98,000 tons and for 1869 the total was about 18,000 tons. They have now increased their facilities, so that they can grind 200 tons of land plaster in 20 hours, and have the power to double their capacity if they choose. They have just completed and put in running order a new engine of 200 horse power, and have facilities for loading from 40 and 50 cars per day. They have also recently put in one of the Illinois Pneumatic Gas Company's machines for lighting their quarry and mill. The quarry is under a low bluff, and is widely known as the great plaster cave, being about five acres in extent and covered with from 20 to 75 feet of earth and rock. The stratum is about 12 feet in thickness. The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad (Kalamazoo Division) runs through their mill yard, connecting with other railroads leading into the city.
These mills are owned by C. H. Taylor, B. F. McReynolds, P. R. L. Peirce and L. G. Mason, under the firm name, however, of Taylor & McReynolds, who own about 40 acres of plaster land, which will work out about 35,000 tons per acre. They bought the properly three years ago, and have mined for the past three years an average of 10,000 tons per year. Their works were trebled in extent during the year 1870, and can manufacture 200 tons of ground plaster in 22 hours, and 20,000 barrels of stucco per year. Their location is on Grand River, near the city limits, and on the line of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad (Kalamazoo Division) and they quarry under the hill the same as the Eagle Mills. The product of this mills for 1870 will be about 10,000 tons.
The companies above named, together with Geo. H. White & Co., mentioned in the history of Wyoming, are all that are engaged in plaster mining in Grand Rapids and vicinity and the aggregate capital now engaged in this business is about $400,000. The total of the production of the plaster in and near Grand Rapids, up to the close of 1869, was about 277,000 tons, and the aggregate value thereof has been $1,248,000. The total of the production of 1869 was about 50,000 tons. Plaster has been found at Grandville, seven miles below Grand Rapids, on Grand River, and also at points two and three miles above Grand Rapids, and it is possible that many good quarries may be opened in the future, should the demands of the trade require it. The beds now worked are practically inexhaustible.
C. C. COMSTOCK'S MANUFACTORIES
Mr. C. C. Comstock is one of the leading manufacturers in Grand Rapids. He has two saw mills, a pail and tub factory, planing mill and sash, blind and door factory. His principal manufactories are situated on the east side of Canal street, between Mason and Newberry streets, occupying, with the yard for piling staves and lumber, drying houses, etc., sixteen lots, 50x100 feet each. The principal building is of brick and 220 feet in length, averaging 45 feet in width, three stories high, is covered with a durable tin roof and is divided by fire walls and iron doors into six apartments. In the other buildings and the old pail factory, 45x100 feet, and two stories high, a full set of pail machinery is running. In another building, 22x70 feet, ten saws are run, cutting pail and tub staves and bottoms. On the grounds are nine dry kilns, either built or lined with brick, the largest quite expensive, and fire proof, beside a number of large buildings for drying, storage, etc. The number of men in his employ is about 50, and it requires an outlay of nearly or quite $150,000 per year to carry on his business.
NELSON, MATTER & CO.
It would be hard to find in this part of the West a more complete establishment for the manufacture and sale of furniture, than that of the above named firm, in this city. Their manufactory at the front of Lyon street is 68x90 feet in size, four stories high, and full of the most improved machinery for turning, sawing and carving the numerous styles of furniture which they manufacture. Their storehouses on Huron Street are 54x68 in size, and four stories high, and their elegant sales rooms, 29 and 31 Canal Street, are 54x80 feet, and occupy three floors. They employ, constantly about 90 workmen, and ship their manufactures to all parts of Michigan, to Illinois, to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
GRAND RAPIDS MANUFACTURING COMPANY
The above named company have their works on Water street, west side and their office in Ball's new block, Canal Street, and are extensively engaged in the manufacture of agricultural implements and machinery. They make, among other things, large numbers of Sulky Rakes, and of the Buckey Saw Machine; employing from 30 to 40 men. The sales rooms of the company, in Ball's block, are 23x100 feet in size, and occupy four floors of that elegant building. The business was first established by the late J. F. Chubb, in 1850, and went into the hands of the present company about a year ago. Mr. A. L. Chubb has been connected with the works ever since they were started, and is now President of the company.
EMPIRE ORGAN COMPANY
The Empire Organ Company is one of the manufacturing institutions which reflects credit on the city. It was first established in Kalamazoo, in 1867, and removed here last April. The excellence of the musical instruments which they send out, achieves for the makers success, esteem and patronage, which other manufacturers have not been able to acquire in years. Mr. Piggott has had a long experience in this branch of manufactures, and there is not a more thorough master of the art of making reed instruments than he. Their instruments have taken the first premium in competition with Smith's American, Mason & Hamlin, and Estey organs. Their factory and music store is located at 65 Monroe Street, and occupies three floors, employing several first-class workmen. The firm consists of George Piggott and A. F. Burch. Mr. E. A. Baird is a traveling agent.
One of the largest manufacturing establishments in the city is the lumber wagon manufactory of Wm. Harrison, occupying two buildings, one of Front Street, west side of the river, and the other on Mill Street, east side. Mr. H. commenced the manufacture of wagons in the building situated on the west side of the river, fourteen years ago. His business becoming very extensive he finally found it necessary to occupy a second building, devoting the one on this side of the river to machinery work, and the other to hand work. The latter building is a large, stone structure, 40x30 feet in size, three stories high. The former is 50x70 feet in size, and is two stories high.
Mr. Harrison has about 35 men constantly in employ, and has turned out during the past year 700 wagons. He is doing a large wholesale business throughout the state, and sends some of his wagons as far as Texas. They are sold, in large numbers, in the States of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa. He does not confine himself to the wholesale trade, however, but does a large retail business. Everybody has heard of "Harrison's wagons" and very many in this vicinity, and elsewhere, can testify to their strength and durability.
BUTTERWORTH & LOWE'S FOUNDRY AND MACHINE SHOP
Located near the foot of the east side canal, in the very heart of the city, are the Foundry and Machine Shops of Butterworth & Lowe. Long years ago a portion of the site on which they stand was occupied by Uncle Louis Campau's Indian trading post. These works were first started by James McCray, since deceased, in 1843. In 1844, Mr. Daniel Ball became a partner. In 1851, Mr. McCray died, and the business was carried on by Mr. Ball, in company with G. M. and S. B. McCray -- sons of the first proprietor. Mr. Bal finally bought out their interests, and, in 1856, admitted Mr. R. E. Butterworth. Mr. Butterworth, two years later, bought out Mr. Ball, and was sole proprietor until 1869, when he admitted his present partner, Mr. James Lowe, recently from near Manchester, England. Mr. G. M. McCray is now principal foreman. These works are among the oldest and largest in western Michigan, and occupy, with foundry, machine shops, blacksmith shops, agricultural shop, pattern shop, storehouses, etc., over half an acre of ground; giving employment to from fifty to sixty hands.
BERKEY BROS & GAY
Berkey Bros. & Gay have one of the most extensive furniture manufactories in the Western States. Their factory is situated on the east side canal, near Bridge street, and is 50x140 feet in size, with four floors. On the corner of Kent and Hastings streets they have two warehouses for shipping and storage purposes, each 35x100 feet in size, and three stories high. Their retail rooms are situated at No. 43 Monroe Street, occupying three floors, each 25x90 feet in size, in one block, and two of about the same dimensions in an adjoining building. They are now making, and keep on hand, some of the finest upholstery work, lamberkins and cornices, manufactured in the country. During the past year they have shipped about $150,000 worth of furniture of their own manufacture, and their trade extends not only over our own state, but into New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado. They employ as many as 120 men in and about their establishment, and keep on hand some 1,500,000 feet of walnut and other valuable lumber.
EMPIRE GANG SAW MILLS
Among the most important manufacturing establishments in Grand Rapids are the extensive steam saw mills of Wonderly & Co., situated on the west side of Grand River, between Leonard Street Bridge and the track of the Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad. This enterprising firm, thoroughly acquainted with the lumber business in Pennsylvania, commenced operations here in the latter part of October 1869. Since that time they have erected one of the most extensive saw mills in the State, capable of cutting 15,000,000 feet per season, and manufactured, up to November 1st, 1870, over 8,000,000 feet of lumber. Their main building is 50x116 feet in size, two stories high, and has engine and boiler rooms attached. The machinery is run by two engines of 150 horse power. A gang of saws, in which twenty-eight saws can be run when necessary, converts the largest log into boards in a few minutes, it being first trimmed on two sides by a five foot circular saw. The lumber is distribute in the yard by means of some 4,500 feet of horseway, elevated about ten feet from the ground. A railroad track extends to the yard, which, with about 1,000 feet of track between the different lumber piles, gives easy access to all railroads extending from the city. Their logs are procured on Rouge River, Flat River, Fish Creek and their tributaries, where the have a supply of pine timber that will last for many years. Their booms hold about 2,000,000 feet of logs at one time. They ship immense quantities of lumber to Southern Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and some to Pennsylvania, competing successfully with Chicago dealers. In connection with the saw mill is a large planing mill, containing two heavy flooring and matching machines, a surfacing machine, patent siding mill, circular re-sawing machine, etc. J. H. Wonderly and D. E. Little, both young men, compose the firm.
THE MICHIGAN BARREL COMPANY
have recently erected an immense factory near the depot of the Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad, in which they have one of the largest steam engines in Western Michigan. They manufacture the "Water's improved barrel," bail, salt and grease boxes, and all kinds of rim work, employing a large number of men and boys, and shipping their manufactures to nearly all parts of the union. The building which they occupy is vast in its proportions, and admirably arranged throughout.