Some Other Early Workers

Professor Everett's picture may be a little too gloomy, for there was some increase in industry, some new arrivals and the indomitable pioneers clung to the hope that better times were sure to come. In this they eventually were not disappointed. A few instances from the old records will show how Grand Rapids carried on in those darker days. They are selected at random and indicate how some of the settlers of the decade between 1837 and 1846 started in business and how they laid the wider foundations for later growth.

In 1838, William Haskins built an oven on Monroe avenue, opposite Market, and there William Rust baked the first bread and crackers for the inhabitants, who before that ear had been obliged to do their own baking. In 1844 William McConnell established a bakery in the rear basement of Faneuil Hall building, and in 1845 Robert S. Parks opened a bakery in the same block, William Parks being the baker there.

Shoemakers came in, among the early ones being Samuel F. Perkins, William Woodward, Almon Ward, Nelson Rolfe, James Lechlin, J.M. Griffith, Charles W. Taylor, and Major Warden.

Mrs. Phoebe Cramond, afterwards Mrs. Leonard Terry, was encouraged to open a millinery store soon after she came in 1838 with her brother, Howard Jennings. Her shop was over a store at Monroe and Ottawa. It is recorded that her first customer was Mrs. Myron Hinsdill. A few years later Mrs. Alice Twamley opened a millinery shop on Crescent avenue.

About ten glaziers and painters found work here, among them James T. Finney, Henry Tuttle, James Paterson, John O'Keefe, M. C. Colin, William H. Dickinson, Cyrus C. Bemis, Horace McClure, Julius N. Davendorf, and Thomas W. Porter.

Wilder D. Foster, a New Yorker, came in 1838. He opened a tin shop and was among the founders of the hardware trade here.

There was work for blacksmiths, and among those who engaged at that trade were Nehemiah and Charles W. Hathaway, William N. and Josiah M. Cook, David C. Porter, Alson Adams, P. R. Jarvis, Joab Jones and Joseph Emmer. Nehemiah Hathaway set up the first trip hammer in 1844.

Henry Stone and his sons set up a foundry on the banks of the canal. About the same time James McCray removed tools and appliances for a machine shop here from Grandville, forming a partnership with George Ketchum. The first engine, for the steamboat Elgin, was constructed in Henry G. Stone & Co.'s foundry in 1845.

John P. Hanchett went into the saddle and harness business near the old National hotel about 1845. Benjamin P. Arbor was another pioneer in this business.

Eliphalet H. Turner, first clerk of the town of Kent, settled a little southeast of the city boundary but later moved into the city and in 1845-46 built a home on Front avenue, near the head of the rapids---the first stone dwelling of note on the west side. He was a mechanic.

Julius Granger came from Ohio in 1844 and began as a manufacturer on the east side canal, at the "Big Mill." The canal had been completed to its southern terminus in 1842 and created valuable property along its entire length.

Joseph J. Baxter and Hezekiah Green had a carriage shop on Ionia avenue in 1842. Luman Powers and Benjamin F. Martindale worked at the carriage maker's trade after 1844. In 1846 the first covered cab or barouche was turned out by Green & Stewart, for Canton Smith.

In 1843 Stephen Hinsdill set up machinery for wool carding, cloth dressing and the making of satinets, in a building on the east bank of the river near Michigan street. After indifferent success under Mr. Hinsdill and others, the business was abandoned.

Tailors kept coming, among them being Harvey K. Rose, William A. Blackney, John Mathison, Justin M. Stanley, J. C. Lowell, Benjamin S. Hanchett, Edward S. Marsh and James W. Sligh.

About 1845 Christopher Culp established a small pottery near Sheldon avenue and Cherry street, where he made milk pans and other brown eathenware for two or three years.

In 1843 James H. Scott set up a pail factory on Michigan street. Zenas G. Winsor took over the plant and sold it to David Caswell.

Richard E. Butterworth, born in the West Indies, came here in 1845. He was an engineer. He purchased lands southwest of the city, where he developed a gypsum quarry. Moving into the city in 1856, he engaged in the foundry and machine business, buying the iron works at the foot of the east side canal.

Although the pioneer newspaper, the Grand River Times, expired in 1840, the budding metropolis had other weekly newspapers. The Enquirer was established in 1841 and the Eagle in 1844. And in 1845-46 a brass band was organized and gave concerts, under the direction of Professor Marston.

On April 21, 1845, the Enquirer announced that David Kent had begun operating the first truck, or dray, in Grand Rapids.

The winter of 1842-3 is known as "the hard winter." Beginning in November, snow fell to a great depth, and on March 8 the Enquirer recorded that the weather had been cold for more than four months and that the snow was two to four feet deep. The frigid weather did not cease until April. Large numbers of cow and oxen perished from starvation. In March of 1843 Orrin B. Gilbert of this county lost his way and perished in the snow near the south line of Oakland township.

A pamphlet issued in the spring of 1845 contains this brief business inventory of Grand Rapids: Fifteen stores, two saw mills, three flour mills, two furnaces and machine shops, two pail factories, two tanneries, one woolen factory, one sash factory, salt works, plaster mill, two hatters, several blacksmiths, three public houses, two printing offices, four churches, one incorporated academy, three physicians.


Transcriber: Ronnie Aungst
 Created: 14 December 1999