Dale Brothers Excelsior Pad Company
History of Kent County, Pages 352 - 354 - Dale Brothers Excelsior Pad Company. The three brothers who are the constituent principals of this important Grand Rapids industrial concern are native sons of Grand Rapids and are here representatives of the third generation of the Dale family in Kent county, with whose history the family name has been prominently and influentially linked since the year that marked the admission of Michigan Territory as one of the sovereign states of the Union. It is a matter of authentic historical record that the father of the Dale brothers of this company was the first white child born in Kent county, and this fact bears its own significance as touching the family association with the annals of development and progress in this now opulent and favored section of Michigan. In 1837 John Dale, Sr., rigged up a heavy sled, to which he yoked his oxen, and with this cumbersome and primitive vehicle of transportation he and his wife set forth from Detroit to make their way to the little settlement that had been made on the banks of Grand river in Kent county. The winter in which they thus set forth was one of extreme cold, and the careful and thoughtful pioneer, John Dale, placed a canopy over the sled, and inside this covering was placed a cook stove of the type common to that day, the same having supplied heat as well as medium for preparing food on the long and tedious journey through the forests to the site of what is now the city of Grand Rapids, there having been no roads through this section of the new state at that period, and five weeks having been required to complete the journey to the new home. On the 16th of December, 1837, as the sled, with its occupants and its little assemblage of household effects, approached the pioneer settlement that was the nucleus of Grand Rapids, a child was born on the primitive vehicle of transit, and that child was John Dale, Jr., who thus became the first white child to be born within the limits of what is now Kent county. The parents lived up to the full tension of frontier life and were closely identified with the movements that made for civic and material development and advancement in the new community, they having continued as honored pioneer citizens of Kent county until their death. John Dale, Jr., was reared under the conditions and influences of the pioneer days, attended school in a little school house that stood at what is now the corner of Fulton and Jefferson streets, and in later years he frequently referred to his clear memory of the building of the first dwelling house of any pretentiousness in the little village, this having been erected by Doctor Sheppard and having been on the site of the present fine club house of the Peninsular Club. He recalled also that the great event of the decade of the fifties was the arrival, July 4, 1858, of the first train over the old Great Western Railroad, and the settlers from miles around assembled in Grand Rapids to witness this important event. As a boy Mr. Dale assisted in building the first wagon road that entered Grand Rapids, this having been the historic old plank road extending from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids and constituting the route over which passed the stages operated between the two embryonic cities. For several years Mr. Dale drove a stage over this road, and upon his retiring from this service he assumed the position of engineer on the little steamboat that plied the Grand river between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven, the latter place being the nearest port on Lake Michigan. Later he was employed by L. H. Withey in the capacity of lumber inspector, Mr. Withey having been one of the prominent lumber operators of the state at that time. Some time later he and William Solomon purchased timber near Ashland, Osceola county. This timber was cut at Harry Watrus' mill at Ashland. After his return to Grand Rapids, Mr. Dale formed a partnership with John Dregge, and the firm of Dale & Dregge here engaged in the lumber business, which was successfully continued for a term of several years. In 1890 Mr Dale purchased the Butts excelsior factory and business, and this enterprise he continued until 1896, when his sons, Robert H, Frank A and Oden F assumed the active management and he retired from the vigorous association with business affairs that had long engrossed the greater part of this time and attention. John Dale Jr., lived to see the little pioneer village of Grand Rapids develop into a metropolitan community of 150,000 population, and here he continued to reside, honored by the entire community, until his death, September 21, 1919, at the venerable age of eighty-two years. Thus passed away the sterling pioneer citizen who had the distinction of having been the first white child born in Kent county. The three sons continued the manufacturing of excelsior until changing conditions led them to transform operations into the manufacture of excelsior pads, for use in packing furniture, and at this juncture, in 1926, Robert H. and Frank A with their younger brother, Oden F, formed their present partnership, under the title of the Dale Brothers Excelsior Pad Company. The well equipped manufacturing plant is at 1560 Taylor avenue, and the products are shipped throughout the various states of the Union, the enterprise contributing to the industrial and commercial prestige of Grand Rapids. The sons are well upholding the honors of the family name and are numbered among the representative business men of their native city. Their father went forth from Kent county as a gallant soldier of the Union in the Civil war, and in later years he vitalized his interest in and associated with his old comrades by his active affiliation with the Grand Army of the Republic. He was a Democrat in politics. His venerable widow was long a devoted member of the Congregational church. Mrs. Dale whose maiden name was Jessie Muir, was born in Scotland, and was a child at the time her parents established their home in Michigan. Mrs. Dale passed to the life eternal on September 25, 1925, and was buried in Grand Rapids. She was the mother of eight children of whom four sons and three daughters are living. Three sons have been mentioned above, and the other son, Wm. B., is with the Kent County State Bank. The daughters are Margaret, now the widow of E. A. Morse; Daisy Agnes, widow of Walter Behnke, and Grace, now Mrs. Wm. Carew, of Grand Rapids.
Transcriber: Terry Start
Created: 4 March 2003