1856 MICHIGAN STATE GAZETTEER
The second city in the state in point of population, wealth and business. It is beautifully situated on both sides of the Grand River, 40 miles from its mouth, and 165 northwest from Detroit. From an interesting sketch of the city, written by M. L. Dodge, esq., and from another by Professor Franklin Everett, we make the following extracts:
"Its location is somewhat picturesque, level on the west side, and on the east diversified with hills and plains, the ground gradually rising as it receeds (sp) from the river in the southern part by a gentle and varied ascent; in the middle by a bold hill or bluff, while in the north it is broken by a ravine, through which runs the beautiful Cold Brook and the Detroit and Milwaukee railroad. Separate from the main part of the city at the distance of half a mile is the Cold Brook division, which appears as an independent village, where the depot is. The two sides of the river are connected by three substantial and costly bridges.
The place derives its name from the rapids in the river, which here makes a nearly uniform descent of eighteen feet in a, mile and a half, furnishing an immense water-power, which is, at present, but imperfectly developed. A dam crosses the river midway on the rapids, turns the water into a large canal on the east side.
Religion was here, as in many other instances, the precursor of civilization. In 1822, Mr. McCoy obtained possession, by treaty, of lands situated on the west side of Grand River, for the purpose of establishing a mission. Two years later, under his auspices, Rev. L. Slater and family came to establish a Baptist mission among the Indians. A log hut and school house erected by Mr. Slater, were the first buildings ever put up in this county. The mission was not very successful – as indeed few missions among the Indians ever have been – and was subsequently removed to Gull Prairie, where Mr. Slater still resides.
Commerce, if it does not precede religion in the march of civilization, is soon found in its wake. Accordingly we find a trading post established here in 1826, by Louis Campau, who brought here five thousand dollars worth of merchandise, on horseback, by way of Indian trail. In 1833, the desire of civilizing and Christianizing the Indians led to the establishment of another mission, under the control of the Roman Catholic Church. This mission was also located on the west side of the river, south of the Baptist mission, and was under the care of Rev. mr. Barrigan, who was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Vizosky in 1835. Father Vizosky built the first church ever erected in this city.
The year 1833 may be considered as the date when civilization fairly entered this region. Then several enterprising families sought their homes in these Western wilds, and laid the foundation of our prosperous and thriving city, and surrounding country. Then the first frame house was erected, the first hotel built, the first store started, and the pioneer physician and lawyer commenced their practice.
Two years later, what now constitutes the central portion of the city was platted out and improved. The only means of communication, at that time, with the East, was by Indian trial to Kalamazoo, which also served as mail route, once a week. The "Post-Office" was established in the succeeding year, 1836. One year after the incorporation of Kent County, (1837) the village was incorporated, which in 1850 became a city.
The enterprise and public spirit of the citizens of Grand Rapids is abundantly manifest in the elegance of their public buildings, and the many improvements that adorn the streets of their city. Not yet twelve years old, as a city, Grand Rapids already boasts of its paved streets, its hydraulic works, its gas light, and takes a just pride in the four noble bridges that, built at a cost of nearly $20,000 each, span the river.
This place enjoys abundant facilities for communication with the adjoining States, and the far East and West. The Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad, though scarcely four years in operation, is fast becoming the favorite summer route, to the tide of travelers that is flowing continually back and forth from East to West. Another railroad is in process of construction which will bring the region in connection with Indiana and the South, and Mackinaw on the North. As elsewhere, so here, the railroad has supplanted the Steamboat. But several boats, during the summer season supply between this place and Grand Haven a delightful trip – it is coasting along the woody banks and past the thriving town that on either hand greet the eye. The route between this place and Kalamazoo established in 1836, is still a popular route to travel.
The first newspaper printed in the valley bears the date of "April 18, 1837". The press was brought the winter previous, from Grand Haven, on a dog dray. This journal was printed on cloth, and was named, "The Grand River Times". George W. Pattison was the Editor. At present our reading public support one daily, one semi-weekly, one weekly and one monthly paper.
The improvement of the water power became an object of importance and interest to the first settlers. Accordingly in 1835, we find Judge Almy with a posse of thirty men and a store of provisions and tools, after enduring many hardships in their tedious way here from Detroit, arriving here and commencing their work of building a canal at mill-race. Perhaps the first wheel that was turned by the improved water-power, was that of the flouring mill, familiarly known as "Sweet’s old mill," erected in 1838, by Messrs. Carroll and Lion, on the farside "Kent Company". Since that time several mills, (saw and flouring) a woolen factory, a tannery, an axe factory, a pail and tub factory, machine shops, and lathes of various kinds have been driven by this water-power. A project has recently been started to improve the water-power on the west side of the river, where it is proposed to build large manufacturing establishments. We hope the day is not far distant when this plan shall be realized and that thus the manufacturing interests of our prosperous city may be advanced.
The farming country about Grand Rapids is extensive. Much wild land of superior quality remains yet to be converted into productive and beautiful farms. Immediately about the city the soil is light, but at the distance of a few miles, becomes rich and heavy. The entire county as a wheat growing region is unsurpassed. North and northwest from the city towards Muskegon, lie extensive pineries which furnish our market, and that of Chicago, with lumber and shingles. The lumber interest is indeed one of the most important ones of our city. Two other and purely local interests have more recently grown up, and promise to become the leading ones of the place. We refer to the Plaster and to the Salt interests, which in the past two years seemed to have attained a new importance. The existence of our salt springs and plaster beds was early discovered. In 1833 the plaster beds were first discovered by a company of surveyors, who were appointed by the U. S. government to survey the Grand River Turnpike road, from Detroit to Grand Haven. This bed lies where the "old mill" now stands, on the Granville road. Gen. Brown, one of the commissioners, reported the discovery, and DeGarmo Jones, a wealthy shipping merchant of Detroit, bought the land containing the bed. From his hands it passed into those of Henry R. Williams, who subsequently, in company with D. Ball, first worked the beds and erected the first plaster mill, still standing, and owned at present by the G. R. Plaster Company. Since that time the plaster business has been steadily growing, until about two years ago, when it received a new impulse, mainly from the better localities for transportation afforded by the opening of the Detroit and Milwaukee railway. The several firms formerly engaged in the plaster business were last year consolidated into the "Grand Rapids Plaster Company". The demand for plaster is continually increasing; over twelve thousand tons of gypsum and plaster, and about eight thousand barrels of calcined plaster, were shipped from this place within the past year. "Stucco", or calcined plaster, moulded in blocks and polished becomes "Grand Rapids Marble", and as such is used to beautify the fronts of many of our blocks. Its durability as a building material, formerly disputed, is becoming less doubted. Both for beauty and durability, the front of Messrs. Stuart and McReynolds’ new block is acknowledged to take the palm – being equal if not superior to any thing of the kind in Detroit or Chicago. "For the year ending July 1st, 1862, there were obtained from the mines of the Grand Rapids Plaster Company, and ground at their mills: 6,030 --- of land plaster sold in bulk, and 3,554 ---- sold in barrels, 4,352 barrels of calcined plaster, or "stucco", and 1,875 tons of "plaster rock". On the east side of the river Freeman Godfrey, Esq., has a mine, from which he obtains about 3,000 tons per year. The wholesale price of land plaster, delivered on board the cars at Grand Rapids, is $3.25 per ton. Calcined plaster, at the mill, is worth (wholesale price), $1.50 per barrel. Plaster rock, is delivered on the cars for $2.25 per ton. About 10,000 tons are here manufactured per year. The principal plaster mine now in operation, is that of the "Eagle Mill", about two miles below the city, on the west side, and within a quarter of a mile of the river. Here the plaster exists in an immense bed, extending for an indefinite distance, at from fifteen to twenty feet below the surface, and of a uniform thickness of about thirteen feet. At this mine the plaster is found in a side-hill, or rather under a hill, which has been excavated to a distance of about three hundred feet. The entrance to the mine is on a level with the carriage road, and decends a short distance, when it extends nearly on a level, in various directions, to the extent of several acres. The layer of plaster is found between two layers of slate rock, and is cut out clear, from the floor to the ceiling, with the exception of occasional supporting pillars. Cars, running upon railroad tracks, are moved to all parts of the mine. Owing to its peculiar situation, the mine is always dry, while the temperature remains about the same in summer and winter. The gypsum is mined by blasting, with the aid of the ordinary bar and pick, the miner working generally in a bent position, and being guided in his labors by the light of an oil lamp. The plaster id drawn out by horse power to the "turn table" where steam power is applied to draw it to the mill. At the mill, which is within a few yards of the entrance to the mine, the plaster is broken up by hand, then into smaller particles by a crashing machine, after which it is ground up into fine powder by being passed through a run of stones exactly similar to those used for grinding wheat. The plaster used for stucco, is subjected to a still further process of bolting, previous to which it is placed in large cauldrons and boiled until it becomes perfectly white, it then becomes the substance known as "plaster of Paris", and is carefully packed in barrels, and shipped to all parts of the country.
The Grand Rapids salt interest, since the wonderful development of the Saginaw Valley salt deposits, has received but little attention although the experiments that have been made were such as to warrant the belief that salt of the best quality can be successfully and profitably manufactured. But one of the several companies recently started (Wm. T. Powers & Co.), is now in operation, the amount manufactured being about 3,000 barrels per year. The brine I said to be stronger than that of Syracuse, though hardly equal to that of Saginaw. It is not probable that this great interest, notwithstanding its flattering prospects of success, will be carried on with much vigor, as the superior advantages of Saginaw will continue to attract all capital that may be disposed to enter the business.
The situation of Grand Rapids, in the center of a rich agricultural district, is such that it will continue to enjoy superior commercial advantages. 40,000 barrels of flour are here manufactured annually, - 30,000 barrels being from the mills of M. L. Sweet & Co, 300,000 pounds of wool are purchased annually, by merchants within the city. The city at present contains a population of about 10,000, and has 17 churches, six hotels, one woolen factory, four iron foundries and machine shops, three flour mills, five saw mills, two stave factories, three breweries, one saleratus factory, one spoke and hub manufactory, one oil refinery, one edge-tool factory, four carriage manufactories, three sash and blind factories, two tanneries, tow barrel manufactories, two plaster manufactories, two private banking houses, one commercial college, four newspapers, and upwards of one hundred stores and shops. There are, also, two lodges, one chapter, one council and one commandery of Free and Accepted Masons, a county agricultural society, an orphan asylum, and a scientific association.
The public schools enjoy an excellent reputation, and are said to be conducted in a style that reflects credit upon them as models of system and order. Possessing a healthy climate, in addition to all the advantages above enumerated, Grand Rapids can scarcely fail of keeping its present position as the second city in the State of Michigan.
The city council meets every Thursday evening in council chamber, post office building. Municipal election first Monday in April.
Mayor – George H. White; Recorder – John W. Champlin; Marshal – Leonard Snyder; Clerk – Charles W. Eaton; Attorney – James W. Ransom
Aldermen – 1st Ward-William H. Godfroy, J. L. Crittenden; 2nd Ward-James F. Grove, G. M. Huntley; 3rd Ward – Ransom C. Luce, Henry S. Smith; 4th Ward – J. T. Elliott, John R. Long; 5th Ward – Newton T. Smith, Martinus Keator
Chief Engineer – A. A. Lawyer; Asst. Engineers – Wm E. Grove, Samuel O. Dishman, Stephen H. Ballard, Thomas W. Porter
Alert Engine Co., No. 1 – Monroe street, Joseph M. Cook, foreman
Niagara Engine Company No. 2 – Kent street, Philip H. Edge, foreman
Wolverine Engine Co., No. 3 – Scribner street, George R. Pierce, foreman
Rescue Hook and Ladder Co., No. 1 – Monroe street, S. O. Kingsbury, foreman
Union School No. 1 – Temple Hill, east side
Union School No. 2 – Turner street, west side
Union School No. 3 – Prospect Hill, Coldbrook
Ward School, No. 1 – Corner of Bridge and Division streets
Ward School, No. 2 – Division street
Ward School, No. 3 – Fulton street
Ward School, No. 4 – Wealthy avenue
First Baptist Church – Corner of Broman and Division streets, Rev. J. F. VanWinkle, pastor
Congregational Church – Corner of Monroe and Division streets, Rev. S. N. N. Greeley, pastor
Dutch Reformed Church – Bostwick, between Fountain and Lyon streets, Rev. Cornelius Van der Meulen, pastor
German Lutheran Church – Southeast corner of Division and Bridge streets, Rev. Wm Achenback, pastor
Methodist Episcopal Church – Corner of Division and Fountain Streets, D. R. Latham, pastor
Methodist Episcopal Church – Corner of Bridge and Front streets, Rev. J. W. Robinson, pastor
First Presbyterian Church – Corner of Scribner and First streets, Rev. M. Ball, pastor
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church – Division street, opposite Pearl, (vacant)
St. Andrew’s Catholic Church – Monroe street, corner Justice, Rev. J. Kindekline?, pastor
St. Mary’s German Catholic Church – Corner of First and Broadway, Rev. Ferdinand Allgaier, pastor
New Jerusalem Church – Corner of Division and Lyon streets, Rev. J. N. Smith, pastor
Second Baptist Church – Mills & Clancy’s Hall, Canal street, Rev. Henry Stanwood, pastor
Universalist Church – Luce’s Hall, Monroe street, Rev. A. W. Mason, pastor
True Reformed Holland Church – Justice street, Rev. J. Van den Bos, pastor
German Methodist Church – Hovey’s Hall, Rev. Mr. Bens, pastor
Second Presbyterian Church – Corner of Division and Lyon streets, Rev. Courtney Smith, pastor
First Dutch Reformed Church – Bridge street, Rev. J. M. Ferris, pastor
Grand River Lodge, No. 34, F. & A. M. – meets Wednesday on or before each full moon, at Masonic Hall, Canal street
Valley City Lodge, No. 86, F. & A.M. – meets Tuesday on or before each full moon, at Masonic Hall
Grand Rapids Chapter, No. 7, F. & A. M. – meets Monday on or before each full moon at Masonic Hall
Tyre Council, No. 10, F. A. M. – meets first Thursday evening in March, June, September and December, at Masonic Hall
DeMolay Commandery, No. 5, F. & A. M. – meets first Friday evening in each month, at Masonic Hall
Grand Rapids Lodge, I. O. of O. F. – meets every Friday evening at Odd Fellows’ Hall, foot of Monroe street
Grand Rapids Typographical Union, No. 39 – Organized 1859. Meets on the first Tuesday evening of each month at the Union Rooms, Nevins? Block, Monroe street
President – Charles W. Eaton; Secretary – Eli F. Harrington; Treasurer – C. W. Warrell
Kent County Agricultural Society – meets annually, during the first week in October or last week in September, at the society’s grounds, in Grand Rapids.
President – W. R. Cady; Secretary – O. R. L. Crozier; Treasurer – A. L. Chubb
Grand Rapids Scientific Assn – Organized 1860. Meets every month at society’s hall, Monroe street, Luce’s block
President – J. A. McNeil; Vice Presidents – A. O. Curren, F. Everett; Secretary – J. C. Parker
Valley City Medical Society – Organized 1857. Meets every Monday evening at the office of the president.
Grand Rapids Orphan Asylum – Organized 1857. East side of Lagrave, between
Island and Oakes streets.
President – Noyes L. Avery; Vice President – Gains S. Dean; Secretary – James H. McKee; Treasurer – Thomas D. Gilbert
Grand Rapids Gas Light Company – Organized November, 1857. Capital, $40,000.
Works corner of Justice and Ferry
President – F. B. Gilbert; Sec’y & Treasurer – T. D. Gilbert
Grand Rapids Plaster Company – Organized 1850. Capital, $500,000. Office on Canal street. Works two miles below the city, on west side
President – Henry Fisher; Vice President – Charles H. Stewart; Secretary – James W. Converse; Treasurer – Wm Hovey
PUBLIC BUILDINGS, HALLS, BLOCKS, ETC.
Abel’s Block – Monroe, between Waterloo and Justice streets
Allen’s Block – Canal, between Lyon and Bronson streets
Backus’ Block – Corner of Canal and Bronson streets
Ball’s Block – Corner of Pearl and Canal streets
Collins’ Block – Corner of Canal and Erie streets
Commercial Block – Monroe, near Pearl street
County Buildings – Corner of Lyon and Kent streets
Franklin Block – Canal, opposite Bronson street
Irving Hall – Monroe, near Pearl Street
Lovett’s Block – Corner of Pearl and Canal streets
Luce’s Hall – Corner of Monroe and Justice streets
Ledyard & Aldrich’s Block – Corner of Monroe and Justice streets
Masonic Hall – Canal, between Pearl and Lyon streets
Mills & Clancy’s Block – Canal, between Lyon and Pearl Streets
McConnell’s Block – Monroe, between Waterloo and Justice streets
Nevins’ Block – Monroe, between Pearl and Justice streets
Odd Fellows’ Hall – Foot of Monroe street
Porter & Withey’s Block – Corner of Canal and Lyon streets
Perkins’ Block – Monroe, near Pearl street
Stewart & McReynold’s Block – Corner of Canal and Lyon streets
Squire’s Opera Hall – Canal, corner of Bridge street
Grand Rapids Eagle – (Daily & Weekly) – Daily, $5.00, weekly, $1.50 per year. Published on Lyon street, opposite post office by A. B. Turner, editor and proprietor – Republican.
The Semi-Weekly Enquirer - $3.00 per year; Weekly Enquirer - $1.50 per year. Published (semi-weekly) Tuesday and Friday; (weekly) Wednesday, by E. D. Burr, editor and proprietor on Monroe street – Democratic
The Valley City Advertiser – (Monthly), $.25 cents per year. Published on first of every month by P. G. Hodenpyl, editor and proprietor, on Monroe street
Amerikaansche Stoompost – (Weekly), $1.50 per year. Published every Wednesday, on Monroe street, by J. Quintus, editor and proprietor. (Hollandische) - Democratic