Grand Rapids in 1846 and 1874 -- The Growth of the ValleyCity
Having briefly traced some of the incidents in the early settlementof the several townships in Kent County, we will now return to the cityof Grand Rapids. In our mention of the several towns, however, we mustbe excused for not giving the growth of each in detail, since the limitsof this little work will not admit of anything more than a partial historyof the county.
To say that Grand Rapids city has had a rapid growth in all her industries,and that everything in her present condition combines to demonstrate herfuture greatness, is truly within reason. That the city will, in time,contain a population almost equal to Detroit there can be but little doubt,and that it will always maintain a second position among the cities ofMichigan, no person acquainted with the advantages of the location andthe great enterprise of the citizens of the Grand River Valley, will dispute.
If we desire to see what the growth of the city has been, let us takea view of it in 1846, only twenty-seven years ago. Then, forty acres wasabout the extent of the place. Division street might be said to bound civilizationon the east, Monroe street on the south, Bridge street on the north, andthe river on the West. There were scattered buildings only outside of thoselimits. A wing dam ran half way across the river, and furnished water powerfor three saw mills, two grist mills and some minor works. Irving Hall,Faneul Hall, Commercial Block, Backus Block, and Pierce’s Franklin Blockwere the principal stores, the last two mentioned being nearly "out oftown." St. Claire’s store, where Luce’s Hall now is, was the business standfarthest up Monroe Street. Canal street was a mud hole from one end tothe other, and a two-foot side walk, supported by posts, kept the pedestriansout of the mud. This street has since been filled in from five to ten feet.Where Fitch & Raymond’s carriage shop was afterwards built, and aroundthere, was a fine, musical frog-pond. The stumps were in the street andthe houses were all one story. The only communication with the outsideworld, besides the river and the lakes, was by the Battle Creek stage.People came to church with ox teams. There were no fashionables, peopledressed plain and nearly all had the ague. Every cow could boast a bell,and thus the little town was amply supplied with music. Wood was one dollara cord, wheat fifty cents a bushel, corn twenty-five cents, venison one-halfcent a pound, pork and beef three cents.
At this time Mr. Ballard was preaching in the Congregational Church,and got his living by farming. The Catholics used a dwelling house fora chapel. Such was Grand Rapids in 1846.
But to-day Grand Rapids is a large and prosperous city, with a populationof nearly twenty-five thousand, among whom are some of the most enterprisingmen in the Northwest.
To avoid writing in a general way I will take up the several institutionsof the city separately. By this means the reader may become acquaintedwith the growth and history of the city more definitely. In this I shallmake no distinction as to the merits of the several institutions noticed.Churches, manufacturing establishments, schools and banks, commercialshouses and libraries, or whatever have contributed to the growth of thecity, or by their own growth and development have become important interestsin the city, will be taken up without regard to any particular order.