Hon. Solomon L. Withey was born in St. Albans, Vermont. He came to Grand Rapids in 1838, and after studying law for some time, he was admitted to the bar. He soon built up a large and profitable practice. 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. Upon the organization of the Western District of Michigan, in 1863, he was appointed its first Western District of Michigan, in 1863, he was appointed its first United States District Judge, which office he still holds. He is President of the First National Bank of Grand Rapids, and enjoys 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 store at the foot of Monroe street in 1845, keeping a general assortment of tin ware, manufactured by himself. His business soon increased, and after several years of great industry he became the leading hardware dealer in western Michigan. He died in the summer of 1873, and his loss was mourned by the whole people. He was a useful, worthy citizen.
Hon. P. R. L. Peirce
Hon. P. R. L. Peirce, a native of Genesee, N.Y., came to Grand Rapids in 1840. He studied law in the office of Judge Martin, 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. In 1868 he was elected State Senator, in which capacity he proved one of the most influential men from this part of the State. He is now serving the people of Grand Rapids in the high office of Mayor.
Rev. James Ballard
This gentleman came to Grand Rapids in 1837. He is a native of Charlemont, Massachusetts, and a graduate of William’s College of that State. He was pastor of the Congregational church of Grand Rapids for ten years, and the untiring zeal and enterprise displayed by him during that time will always associate his memory with that society. His faithful and untiring efforts in behalf of his flock are clearly proved by the fact that he undertook and performed a journey of over seventeen hundred miles, on foot and alone, through the Eastern States to raise funds to purchase a building for a church. His noble efforts were rewarded with complete success.
Mr. Ballard has, at different times, held the office of Principal in the Union Schools of Grand Rapids, and at the present time is State agent for the Freedman’s Aid Society, in which office he still continues to labor for the benefit of this fellow men.
A. Dikeman came to Grand Rapids in 1837 and commenced the watch and jewelry business, when there were not more than thirteen houses in the place. In 1855 he was joined in partnership by Mr. Bolza, and in 1857 Mr. Bolza left and Mr. Dikeman continued the business tell 1864, when Mr. Parks joined him in a partnership which lasted about four years. In 1866 Mr. Ed. B. Dikeman, his son, purchased a third interest, and in 1867 Mr. A. Dikeman retired. In 1869 Mr. Ed. B. Dikeman purchased the entire interest, which he has carried on since, being now at No. 38 Canal street.
Dr. H. G. Saunders
Dr. Saunders came to Michigan in the fall of 1854, and traveled along the shore of the lake as far north as Pentwater, and located 1,500 acres of land. At that time there were two small mills and boarding houses at Pentwater. The Doctor came to Grand Rapids in 1858 and has practiced here since; also in the government claim and insurance business, in which he has been quite successful. Dr. Saunders has long been interested in real estate and fruit growing, and was the first President of the State Pomological Society, organized in 1870.
Hon. Lucius Lyon
Among the number of those whol contributed not a little to the "opening up" of the future of the city was the Hon. Lucius Lyon, one of the proprietors, with the late Hon. Charles H. Carroll, of that part of the city called Kent Plat. Believing that slat 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 embarassments, became a supposed success, and the manufacture of salt was, in 1843-4 and 5, prosecuted with considerable spirit, by means of boiling and evaporating. But if failed of being profitable, owning to the difficulties in keeping out fresh water which diluted the brine. We believe Mr. Lyon expended upwards of $20,000 of 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.
Horton Bros & Co.
This is a new firm, which commenced the subscription book business in Grand Rapids in October 1873. They have been eminently successful in establishing a large business, and have now engaged under their supervision a large number of agents. Their present office is at 69 Bronson street, but we understand they contemplate opening an office "down towns" at an early day. Mr. Fred L. Horton, the leading partner of the firm, is an active, energetic man, who can scarcely fail of success. Under his supervision over two thousand copies of the "History of Michigan" were sold in Grand Rapids.