When the Campau Centennial committee was organized it commissioned the A. P. Johnson company to prepare a booklet giving the history of early Grand Rapids, the Civil War period and modern times, with a prophecy of future developement of the city. Compilation was left to the undersigned. The early historical portion grew to such dimensions that the plans were changed and a larger publication, devoted principally to the beginnings of community life, to the development of pioneer industry, commerce, transportation, education, civic activities and government, was decided upon. No attempt has been made to write history after 1860, except when it was necessary to trace government, education and some civic enterprises more nearly to 1926.
The intent of this publication is to give the reader an idea of how Grand Rapids grew from a wilderness and out of swamps into a modern, progressive, well-governed municipality.
The sketch of Louis Campau is probably the most complete in print. As a historical character, the founder of Grand Rapids grows more fascinating. Before all those who knew him have passed away, a comprehensive history of his life should be written. You can go nowhere in the downtown section without finding his impress. We have Campau square, Campau avenue, Louis street and three Campau additions, named for him; out South Division way is Antoine Campau park, and another Campau addition, on the site once belonging to his brother, Antoine. The Public library building is the gift of Martin A. Ryerson, whose mother was Antoine Campau's daughter.
The compiler has taken facts, figures and dates concerning old times and up to 1890 from Baxter's "History of the City of Grand Rapids." This is as accurate, all-inclusive and interesting a history as ever has been written about the early days of any American community. The histories of Franklin Everett, Dwight Goss, E. B. Fisher, Arthur S. White, Charles W. Garfield and others have been consulted, and credit due all historians is cheerfully given.
The pictures of early scenes are from photographs collected during many years by George E. Fitch. To him the compiler and the public are deeply indebted for his contribution to this volume. Credit is here given to Herman Van Aalderen for dates and facts obtained from transfers of property; to city, county and federal officials who, whenever requested, furnished valuable and accurate information. Also to Samuel H. Ranck and his efficient and obliging assistants at the Public library. Many other individuals aided the compiler, all without stint of time or effort.
William J. Etten
Transcriber: Ronnie Aungst
Created: 22 September 2000