Factory and residence of Warren Babcock, Lowell Michigan

Factory and residence of Warren Babcock, Lowell Michigan

The History of Lowell, Michigan, Kent County, Michigan -- township and village.

Lowell is one of the eastern tiers of the townships of Kent County. In the description by United States survey it is town six N., of range nine W. It is bounded on the north by Vergennes Township, East by Boston (Ionia County), South by Bowne and West by Cascade. Grand River traverses the town from east to west near the south line of north tier of sections. Flat River enters Grand River from the North about a mile and one third below the East town line. A pretty spring creek, some three or 4 miles in length comes into Grand River on the north side, about half a mile below the mouth of Flat River. On the South side are a few rivulets entering the river from sources among and beyond the bluffs toward the center of the town. The bottoms of the River Valley average here a mile in width and were originally the plate covered with Al, Ash, soft maple and other timber indigenous to low, marshy 8 or moist lands in this region. The soil is productive, and under and improvement has been transformed into fine farms, meadows and gardens. The southern two thirds of the township have a rolling surface and an elevation of perhaps 100 feet or more above the river level. Half a dozen lakes and several swamps contribute to the diversity of the surface. Of the lakes or ponds, Pratt Lake on section 25 is the largest, having an area of some 300 acres. It's out let is a small brook, toward the Thornapple River. McEwan Lake, on section 32, is next in size, long and narrow and saddlebag shaped, and bordered by marshy or swampy ground, covering about 1/8 of the section, or a little more. In its primitive state the swampy grounds in the aggregate comprised a considerable share of the township area; but these have been mostly improved and converted into good farm property by judicious training and cultivation. Good springs are not very numerous on the elevated plateau of this southern portion; but good water for domestic use is procured by sinking wells to a depth of 50 feet or more. The timber in this part was originally oak, hard maple, beech, basswood, some black walnut along the east side, and in some tracts had a heavy growth. Generally, the soil in the township is excellent for farm uses and a large the writing of crops. Among cultivated fruits the Apple is most thrifty. A brief description of the physical geography of this township, as given from his survey notes of about 1842-43 by the late John ball of Grand Rapids, appears on pages 12 and 13 of the history of the city of Grand Rapids, in this volume.

The Indian occupants
As to the Indian history prior to the coming in of white men, little is known. By the mouth of Flat River, or near it was a little village collection, the headquarters of a few hundred Indians, who is chief was Co-mo-sa (in English, “the Walker”). This tape should have been a good Mormon -- he had several wives; some thought parties say three and others say six. He was short and thick in stature, yet a shrewd chief, though after white men came he became a drunkard and a vagrant. The head chief of the Platte River clams was “Long Nose,” or Ke-wi-quash-cum, who incurred the enmity of his people by signing the treaty which ceded away their lands, and he was killed by one of them. Among them came as a trader, some years previous to 1821 Madame Laframboise, a French woman and some remains of the foundation of her trading house are said to be still preserved. Rix Robinson, when he came to the mouth of the Thornapple River in 1821 purchased her stock, including the servants or attendance about her. Daniel Marsac came to Lowell for traffic with the Indians in 1829, and in 1831 built himself a log hut on the south side of Grand River, near where the railroad station now is.
in 1835 and 1836 several white settlers began making homes within the present limits of Lowell Township, most of them nearby or at the present site of the village. Luther Lincoln, previously at Grand Rapids, who was one of them; among the others were Lucas, Lewis and Rodney Robinson and Philander Tracy. The Robinsons remained as permanent settlers; Lincoln went up Flat River, and Tracy afterwards moved to Grand Rapids. In 1830 7/2 a dozen families came and settled along the north side of Grand River, below Flat River. In fact year a school was established, then the only one between Ionia and Grand Rapids, and in January, 1839, Caleb Page married the first teacher, Caroline Beard, in the log school house. Sylvester Hodges and Alva Jones were also among the settlers in 1836. The lands taken by Luther Lincoln, and also some land occupied by Lewis Robinson and Philander Tracy, part of which is now in the village, were found to be in the “university grant.” The Indians also sought to hold some portion of it which they had been telling, but the government decided that they could not hold lands in their own names, so long as they remain in allegiance to their tribe. There, near the right bank of Flat River, Sylvester Hodges set the first apple trees. In 1837 were many newcomers. Among them Charles Newton, Matthew Patrick, Samuel P. Rolf, Joseph B. Daniels, Thompson I. Daniels, George Brown, William Van Deusen, Iraq A. Danes, Jacob Francisco, and perhaps 10 or dozen more within the township. For those who first settled north of Grand River, took up land before it was surveyed and regularly in the market. The settlement at that time extended along the north bank of the river on the old grand River Road from two to five miles west of flat River. This road came from Ionia by way of Fallasburg, where that River was first bridge in 1840 striking grand River about 2 miles below flat River, thence passing down the river bottoms near the bluffs. Lands north of the river were put in the market in August, 1839.
Settlement on the south side of grand River was begun in 1842 by George Post, on section 23, and between that time and 1850, the families of Peter Hornbrook, Charles Gordon, Harrison Wickham, George Monk, W. H. Montague, and several others were improving farms in that part of the township. Able Avery, then of Ionia, in 1850, bought of Daniel Marsac the original Luther Lincoln claim, which had been planted by Marsac in 1848 and named Dansville. Cyprian S. Hooker came into the town in 1846, began a house on the 18th day of December and moved into it on Christmas day following. This was the first framed house in the township. Mr. Hooker subsequently had a pleasant place among the lots south of the river, where he resided until his death which occurred in 1881. He was born at Thompson, Windham County, Connecticut, October 7, 1796. Mrs. Hooker died August 29, 1890. William Proctor and family settled on section 27 in 1853, and there improved a very large farm. Leander J. Post came with his parents five years later, and has another finely improved farm a little northeast of Mr. Proctor.

William Proctor was born in the parish of Ingleton, County of York, England, November 20, 1808. He received a fair education in the common branches at private schools. In his native country he was a farmer and was fairly successful in his occupation. In 1853 he came with his family to Michigan. Here he bought a farm of 320 acres on section 27 in Lowell Township. It was then in the wildwood state, some of it heavily timbered, with no good roads and with everything pertaining to improvement yet to be worked out by patient labor. That place is still his farm and home, in a good state of cultivation; well stocked, and supplied with most kinds of fruit. He has thereon a substantial brick house, and all needed farm buildings and appliances for use and comfort. Himself and family have been industrious and economical, and he has the enjoyment of being in easy circumstances as regards property in the evening of life; and is in the midst of a pleasant community well supplied with schools and church privileges, and other advantages of this progressive period of modern civilization.
Mr. Proctor married, on May 7, 1831 Katharine Graham, in the parish of Benthem, County of York, England. She died at their home in Lowell, November 4, 1887, in a neat monument erected by him marks her resting place in the neighboring cemetery. They had five children, three sons and two daughters, of whom three are yet living at and near by the old homestead, namely: William Jr., Sarah (now Mrs. William Graham), and Henry. Mr. and Mrs. Proctor belong to the Episcopalian Church -- there is at present no church at this of that denomination near him. Politically he is a staunch Republican and a firm believer in tariff protection. In God, speech and action he is independent, and had no official ambitions, and enjoys as an upright citizen the esteem of his community.

Leander J. Post was born September 6, 1846, at Westbrook, Connecticut. His parents were of English descent; his father a native of Connecticut and his mother of Rhode Island. His educational privileges were those of the common schools and Lowell high school. The family came to Lowell in October, 1858, and settled upon the farm where the subject of this sketch still resides. His life occupation is that of a farmer, and he owns 230 acres of land on sections 14 and 23 in that township, in a good state of improvement, with substantial homestead buildings. It is known as Spring Hill Farm. He is an enthusiastic agriculturist and fruit raiser; has for many years given especial attention to the raising of potatoes with much success, his crop of that esculent amounting to some thousands of bushels annually. He has a wide acquaintance with prominent agriculturists in the state; is well informed upon all that pertains to their profession, and one who pains to keep abreast with the age in scientific farm culture. Mr. Post married, at Lowell, September 9, 1868, Ella Calista Carter, who was born at Savanna, New York, August 20, 1850, and came to Lowell in 1855. They have four children -- Zeno H., Born July 4, 1869; Wilbur E., Born March 20, 1877: Audie E., Born October 8, 1878, and Otice C., Born November 10, 1883. Mr. and Mrs. Post are adherents of the Baptist Church in religious faith, and Mr. Post has many years been Sunday school superintendent. Politically, Mr. Post has been the main parties, a star through publican, and on the liquor question inclines in sentiment to prohibition. He is a stirring, energetic, public -- spirited citizen, whose nature it is to be busily employed. He was one of the census enumerator is in 1890, and is a member of the Board of review of his township.

Full was first organized as a township with Vergennes in 1838, but two constituting one town under the name of Vergennes, until 10 years later. During that time however the settlement at the mouth of Flat River maintained its social autonomy. Lowell Township was organized and its first election held in April, 1848, at the house of Timothy White. At this election, among other things, it was voted that $100 be raised for the incidental township expenses of the consuming year, that $245 be raised toward building a bridge across Grand River near Flat River and that $.50 per scholar be raised in the town for the support of public schools.

Fruit culture
The fruit business of Lowell and vicinity although in its infancy, has made a wonderful growth. Noah P. Husted and James D. Husted commenced planting nursery stock in 1862, on section 20 of Lowell, by putting out 40,000 apple trees and 40,000 peach trees, and increasing their planning each year for several years, which undertakings stimulated the growing of fruit. The soil in and around Lowell is unsurpassed for tree culture and fruit growing. There were shipped from this point during the year 1889, 40,000 barrels of apples at an average price of $1.50 per barrel, and $15,000 worth of peaches. Within a radius of 10 miles there are 18 fruit evaporator's which shipped about $55,000 worth of evaporated fruit. There were shipped nearly $1500 worth of sun-dried fruit. Of pears, plums, cherries, berries, grapes and quinces, the estimated shipments will not fall short of $10,000. Lowell between 10 and 20 years ago, stood for a number of years third in the amounts of agricultural products on the whole line of the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railway.

Morgan Lyon, a prosperous farmer Vergennes, Kent County, Michigan, was born at Norwich, Chenango County, New York, October 16, 1810. His father, Thomas Lyon, was a soldier in the revolutionary war, and also in the war of 1812. When he was young, the family was poor, struggling with farm life and pioneer privations in a newly and thinly settled region. His early education was only such as could be gained in country districts schools of that period. In 1836, looking forward for a chance of bettering his prospects, he and grated to Howell, Livingston County, Michigan, where he settled upon a farm of 160 acres. Into the most unbroken wilderness of Vergennes, where he entered, in June, 1838, upon 160 acres of land on section 20 of that township, where he made his home and still resides. He engaged with vigor and strong courage in its improvement and with such success that it is now one of the finest and most valuable farms in that the vicinity. Moreover he has been able to add to his real estate possessions; to the home farm till it contains 270 acres, and East and West until he owns in all 510 acres. His homestead residence is a large, square, two story would house nicely finished and furnished; and his barns and other accompanying buildings are capacious and in keeping with the needs of such an estate. He raises some fruit, but his staple products are grain, potatoes, and the whole range of farm crops. The soil is good, and intelligent cultivation renders it handsomely productive. On two of his smaller farms, also, he has good buildings and other furnishings. He has spent a thriving farmer, and successful beyond the average of agriculturists. Besides his country property, he owns in Lowell Village one half the fine brick block of eight storefronts, called the Lyon Block, and one store in Union block across the way, on Main Street. Hence, in the evening of life, at four score years, he is comfortably and pleasantly situated. Mr. Lyon married in January, 1835, Mary Purple, at Norwich, his native town, who with him shares the labors and predations incident to building up a home in a new country. She died in August, 1849. They had three children, of whom the eldest, Matilda Lyon, is deceased. The other two were James and Emily -- the former now a resident of Grand Rapids. Mr. Lyon again married, in 1850 at Norwich, Louisa Purple, sister of his first wife, still his companion in life. They have one daughter, Mary now the wife of Omar Q. Adams, living near the family Homestead in Vergennes. About 1865 Mr. Lyon moved to the village of Lowell, and lived there some three years, but meantime retained his farm, to which he returned. He does not belong to any church organization. In politics he has acted with the Democratic Party, except for the time when the greenback party had a distinct organization. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity. In his town he has held the offices of Justice of the peace and supervisor.

Banking in Lowell

Prior to 1865 exchange brokerage, to a limited extent, was the only banking business done in Lowell. In May of that year the Lowell National Bank what's organized, with a capital stock of $50,000. First Board of Directors: Arba Richards, E. J. Booth, J. E. Chapin, J. W. Mann, W. W. Hatch, M. H. Norton, A. S. Stannard, A. F. Lee, J. C. Burroughs. In 1871 the capital stock was raised to $100,000; but reduced to the original amount in 1879. This bank had a fairly prosperous business for some 20 years -- during the life of its original charter; but after 1885 became embarrassed and closed its doors September 11, 1888. The following had been its presidents: W. W. Hatch, 1865; H. A. Rice, 1871; W. W. Hatch, 1872; C. T. Wooding, 1879; after him M. N. Heine, who was president at the time it closed, September 11, 1888, with E. A. Sunderlin as cashier. John S. Lawrence was appointed receiver September 19, 1888, and took possession September 25, 1888. Dividends were paid to creditors under the receivership: December 1, 1888, 40%; April 20, 1889, 50%; February 11, 1898, 10% and interest. Francis King was then chosen agent by the stockholders, April 24, 1890, the remaining assets of the corporation were transferred to him by the Controller of the Currency and the receiver; thus terminating that trust.

Charles J. Church &, & Son who established a bank in Greenville many years ago, opened a private banking office at Lowell September, 1888. John Q. Look is the cashier in this establishment.

A J. Bowne, R. E. Combs and Daniel Stryker opened a private bank immediately after the failure of the Lowell National Bank, and went into business at October 1, 1888. M. C. Griswold is cashier.
Both of these banks are on Main Street, and, being convenient for many people in the village and adjacent country, have a run of custom which is no doubt profitable.

Lowell Hotels

The first hotel was built of logs by Daniel Marsac at or near the present site of Music Hall Block sometime in the 40s, and was called the Lowell House. Not long afterwards the law house property was purchased by Uncle Tim White; who built a frame addition in rear of the log building. At the time uncle Tim was running the hotel, the question of bridging Grand River and the location of the bridge came up, and the old resident relates that it was decided in the following novel way:
“The residents of the township and a portion of the inhabitants of the territory now occupied by the village, favored the location of the mouth of the Flat River, but uncle Tim and his followers having friends in Boston, Ionia County favored a site farther upstream; and when the highway commissioners met to decide the location of the bridge, Uncle Tim's argument -- a barrel of free whiskey -- carried the day, and the bridge was built at the place now occupied by the upper bridge. As the township of Lowell, or 5/6 of it, lies west of this village it soon became evident and necessary that another bridge should be built, and this was done at the present site of the lower bridge area. Had the first bridge been placed in a more central location at or near the mouth of the Flat River, the expense of keeping up and maintaining a second bridge would have been saved to the township.”

Arza H. King came to Lowell in 1850 and soon after purchase the Lowell House property, and in 1853 tore away the Log part and erected a large two story building in its place, and kept the hotel for seven years. From 1860 to 1863 it changed hands two or three times, and finally was purchased by W. R. Mason, who was proprietor and landlord at the time it burned in May, 1864.

The American Hotel was built a few years after the Lowell House by Samuel Cook and Hiram Robinson; run as a hotel but Hotel but a short time, and was converted into a dwelling and boarding house. It was at the corner of Bridge and Monroe streets.
The Franklin house was built by Cyprian S. Hooker in 1855. He occupied and conducted it one year, leased it to Milton Bliss for one year, and after Bliss’ lease expired again took charge of and occupied it about a year, when he sold it to Elias D. Parker, who managed the house until he sold to Arza King, in about 1861. Mr. King was owner and proprietor of the Franklin house during the war, and accumulated considerable means. During the war and to the time it burned, the Franklin house was the chief hotel of the place. After Mr. King sold the property it passed through the hands of Theodore Nelson, Thompson I. Daniels, Daniel and William H. Misner, when it became heavily mortgaged to Anthony Yerkes of Vergennes, who became owner by virtue of foreclosure, but soon sold it to Freeman S. Jones, who leased the hotel to L.W. Davis. October 1882, the hotel burned and the old site is now occupied by a two-story brick block, in which are seven stores and one bank, known as Jones & Lyon block.
Train’s Hotel is a large and commodious three-story brick building, built to meet the growing requirements of the town in 1882, and was dedicated on Christmas Day of that year. The building was erected by the enterprising townsman Jarvis C. Train, whose name it bears. Chester D. Hodges was first lessee of the hotel, and occupied it two years. Mr. Train entered the hotel in the spring of 1885, and continued therein until May 1, 1889, when he leased it to the present popular landlord, Joseph McKee. The hotel is on the southwest corner of Main and Broadway St., west of Flat River, and is the leading hotel of the town. The Davis House was changed from a wagon shop to a hotel and boarding house about the year 1883. The first lessee was Lauren W. Davis, after whom the hotel was named. Austin B. Waterman, an old hotel man, succeeded Mr. Davis, and remained in the Davis House until the spring of 1888. Samuel Taylor and wife are the present occupants, and are keeping a good house.
The Farmer’s home, on the west bank of the Flat River is a two story frame building and is well patronized by the farmers. It is owned by Ann Lane, and is at presently leased by Martin Rattigan.
The National Hotel at Lowell Station, on the D., G. H. & M. Railway, is a two-story brick structure built by Peter Halpen, now dead. Charles Lawyer leases it of the administrator and is doing well.

There are two newspapers printed in Lowell. The Journal (Republican) was founded in 1864 by Webster Morris. It has been the only newspaper printed here until 1889. The journal has been on an edited by Webster Morris, Morris & Hine (Webster Morris and James W. Hine), James W. Hine, James D. Ellenwood, and Charles Quick, the present proprietor. The Democrat was started in the summer of 1889 by C. H. Elliott, and is Democratic with free trade proclivities.

The village has the best system of waterworks, and the purest of flowing spring water that can be found in this region of country. The Lowell Water Company was organized in 1887 by the Grand Rapids capitalists, with Edwin F. Sweet, President, and John E. Moore, Secretary and Treasurer. A. R. Hendrix, plumber, was appointed resident superintent. The plant has 5 miles of mains and 55 double fire hydrants. It is operated with steam boiler and engine of 45 hp; Smith & Vail high pressure pump, with 750,000 gallons per day capacity, and 70 pounds pressure from reservoir situate on Booths Hill.

The village early, about 1870, adopted naphtha lamp lighting system for the principal streets, and had been well lighted for a long time. The present council, not wishing to be outdone by surrounding villages and cities, entered into a contract with a Lowell Electric Light and Power Company, for electric lighting, in the latter part of the summer of 1890. September 20, 1890, the company commenced lighting the village. The company furnished light by the Thompson-Houston system, operated by a boiler and engine of 60 horsepower, with two dynamos; one for 30 arc and the other for 300 incandescent lights. The larger part of the stock of the company is held by foreign capitalists, with Charles J. Church and Son as resident managers.

The Lowell Furniture Company own and occupy the plant commenced by Seth Cogswell, on what is now called Koph Creek, on section 11 of Lowell, just before it enters grand River from the south. In 1856 Mr. Cogswell built a sawmill and ran it until he sold it to John Koph, who directed a furniture factory in 1867 in addition to said sawmill, at a cost of $12,000 including machinery. Mr. Koph was an experienced workman in furniture, and did a business at one time of $20,000 a year. A warehouse and finishing room were added to the plant in 1872. Mr. Koph, besides manufacturing furniture, conducted a retail furniture store in the village, with undertaking attached. With his business so divided, he entered into a partnership in 1879 on his retail and undertaking business, with Orton hill and H. Milton Trask. In 1881 the firm of Koph, hill & Trask was instrumental in organizing the Lowell Furniture Company with a capital stock of $25,000, turning in John Koph’s furniture plant as stock. The present company has added buildings and machinery until the water became insufficient, and were compelled to add steam, and now used the combined power. They are working about 30 hands, and have a capacity for 75. The average annual sales are about $30,000-$35,000. They are now principally engaged in manufacturing cases for the Princess Dress Case Company, of Grand Rapids. The present executive offers are N. B. Blain, President; S. P. Hicks, Vice President; M. N. Hine, Secretary, and Charles A. Church, Treasurer.
The Lowell Creamery Co. was organized in 1883, and buildings erected the same year. They are about 30 rods west of the depot. The company sold the plant to Hilton Brothers & Co. of Boston, Massachusetts in 1888. T. D. Tarleton, their manager, purchased the creamery in 1889, ran it one year and let it go back. During the winter of 1889-90, John O. Chapin, formerly a stockholder in the first organization, purchased the creamery, and is operating it on an oil test system, manufacturing from 900 to 1100 pounds of butter daily, and pays as high as $120 per day for cream. Hilton Brothers & Company, commission merchants, take all the butter he can manufacture.
Robert J. Flanagan and Albertus H. Peckham, copartners, are the proprietors of the Lowell Cutter Factory. This occupies the site of Avery & Johnson's old planing mill that burned in 1867. The following year the mill was rebuilt by Avery & Johnson. The planing mill changed hands several times, until the Lowell Cutter Company was formed, purchased it and converted it into a wood-work cutter factory. The capacity of the factory at its best was 200 Cutter bodies are per day. In an unlikely moment this factory formed an alliance with a Chicago firm, the Cragen Cutter Factory, which took the bodies and running gears made here, and ironed, painted and finished them for market. Business was booming, and the combined company sold cutters to parties in Colorado whose paper went to protest; and the Lowell factory went to the wall, for the west end of the concern was owing the east end, with no means to pay. Flanagan and Peckham purchased the Lowell plant in February, 1889, and give employment to 30 men during the summer. They are adding machinery for manufacturing the iron braces and pieces necessary to fully iron the cutters manufactured by them.

The state census reports of 1874 and 1884 show the following items in respect to farming and gardening and township of Lowell, including the village. Comparisons are left to the reader:
Census of 1874 -- population, 2,876; area of taxable land, 21,401 acres; number of farms, 262; number of acres in farms, 19,300. Farm products in 1873: bushels of wheat, 31,515

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