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J.C. Wheeler Public Library


A patron dropped off a small pile of papers in a plastic bread bag that he had found. The last page was brittle and nearly apart, the edges of all pages were yellowed with age. There is no author, and the end of the last page is ended because the ink pen ran out of ink. Here is what was written on these pages.

Martin History from 1900-1925

Gun Swamp – dark dismal, a howling wilderness. Rattlesnake county, Early 1900's logs were cut and floated down Gun River to a saw mill. A few trails but no good roads between Gun Lake and 4th Street until early 1930's, then no bridge for several more years. Began to clear and dredge 1922.

Township has rural schools: Blossom, Gun River, Walker, Crittenden, and Oak Shade. (Gun River was built later than others.) Martin school in 1909 when Alton Young attended had a primary room, beginners, grades 1, 2, 3 and 4 and a Grammar room, grades 5, 6, 7, and 8. Rest was in H.S. The “new” school was built in 1909. Alton told about how they had a large outside toilet. Some big (H.S.) boys didn't like the Supt. When they saw him go into toilet they grabbed some planks and blocks of wood and tipped toilet over with doors down and Supt. Inside. In 1917 when Alton started to H.S. There was around 60 students. Law said everyone must go to school until 16 unless they passed 8th grade. Many big boys and girls – many dropped out before becoming seniors. No buses – people furnished own transportation. Also pain own tuition, not easy as money was scarce.

Martin streets were just dirt. Dr. Ladd would park his car in front of his office. Sometimes tires would be frozen fast in the mud. Dr. would come out with teakettle full of boiling water to thaw out.

Corner building (now – drug store) was also Post Office and had a lunch counter where sandwiches, cold drinks, and ice cream were served.

Horses and buggies in 1900. By 1925 most people had cars, although many didn't attempt to use them in winter time. Cars would be set upon blocks in the barn. Roads weren't plowed.

Mail men went their routes with horses and buggies or cutters.

No electricity in country until 1940's. Water pumped by hand or with gasoline engine. People put up ice to use in summer to cool milk. When ice was thick on lakes men sawed it into big blocks and packed it in sawdust in ice houses. Nice to have ice to make home made ice cream.

Threshing machines made their rounds at harvest time. Lots of hard work pitching bundles into separators, grain poured into bags which had to be tied and carried carefully and dumped into a bin. Women had to cook for 25 to 30 men. No refrigeration so if it rained one could start from scratch another time. Both dinners (at noon) and supper had to be provided as long hours and had to take advantage of good weather. Sometimes the engine crew stayed overnight and generally slept in the barn. Neighbors helped one another.

Houses weren't insulated so extremely hot in summer and cold in winter. Children often slept downstairs on the floor as too hot upstairs. In winter they'd undress by the fire (a wood or coal burning heating stove) and carry hot flat irons wrapped in rags to put in their beds.

People raised most everything they ate. Even in town there were cows and chickens and a garden was a necessity. Food was dried or canned (after the advent of canning jars). Apples made into cider and vinegar. Some apples were individually wrapped and stored in barrels down cellar. Vegetables, the roast kind, such as carrots, celery etc were packed in sand and stored in cellars. Meat was smoked, made into bacon, hams, or sausage and some fried down and packed in lard so no air could get to it. Some of the smoked hams and bacon would be hung from rafters in a store room or attic.

Chickens were hatched in incubators or the hens allowed to set and hatch them out. Every farmer had a chicken crop and enough hens to produce eggs to trade for groceries. Every wife had egg money.

By 1900 most types of clothing could be purchased ready made. Not much choice in materials or colors. Children wore long legged underwear all winter and girls hated the long black stockings they had to wear. The legs of the underwear had to be turned over and tightened before stockings were put on. That showed. Boys wearing pants could cover up the underwear better.

The depot in Martin was a busy place. Both passenger and freight trains came through and cars had to be switched. Telegrams were sent and received. Instead of the agent delivering them himself as much as possible he'd phone and read the message.

There was a telephone exchange in Martin, located where bank is. One had to call central and she would ring the party asked for. Service not good – far too many on a line. A long ring at noon alerted everyone and central gave the weather report. A long ring also meant “fire” - in an emergency everyone listened to location and rushed to the scene. Sometimes a bucket brigade took place until the fire truck could get there. Often water was obtained from lakes or creeks and carried in milk cans when milk hauler and his truck were in the vicinity.

Shortly before 1925 grocery stores carried bakery bread and sometimes doughnuts or rolls. No cake mixes, etc. Some tins. Dried prunes, peaches and apricots came in 5 pound wooden boxes, sardines were in wooden boxes, also cod fish. Bananas came in a big bunch which was hoisted up by a rope. When one wanted to buy bananas they were cut off then. No self serve stores. Must tell the clerk what was wanted. After eggs were taken from basket brought in, groceries were put in. No paper bags. My mother in law told the first thing she had to learn when working in a grocery store was how to take a piece of brown paper, put sugar on it, weight it an then wrap the package and tie to so the sugar wouldn't leak out.

Had a livery barn in Martin – back of drug store. One could rent a rig for as long as needed, either with a driver or as drive yourself! There was a saw mill at the pond just west of Martin Corners as it used to be called. A creamery was located just across the rail road track.

There were 3 churches in Martin in early 1900's, two Presbyterian – one in “Woodchuck Hollow” about where the Professional building is, and the other where city parking got is now. Ad the Methodist in same location as present.

Geo. Merchant had Barber shop in early 1900's. He also was a Chevrolet dealer, Clyde Patterson had hardware in building that is now the Variety store. Dr. Ladd had office in his home; Dr. Bartholomew's office was beside bank building. Meat market near bank and next to it the post office after it moved from Hall's drug store building.

Geib's must have come to Martin about 1925. It was there when I came in 1927. Garage replaced livery stable. Harol Carpenter had it for years.

Interurban (Electric R.R.) crossed Martin Twp. Ran from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids and from Battle Creek to Allegan. The junction was at Monteith, south of Martin. A bunch of boys and girls came from Neeley and Hooper to Martin to H.S. By way of interurban – also a bunch from Shelbyville. Alton told how any one could just wave his arms and car would stop and let him on. He used to take his gun and dog on a leash, car would stop for him on 120th and he'd ride farther north and go hunting. Several times he and Dean and Dale Lapham would take game and dogs and ride to Grand Rapids to Lapham's Grandparents in an area where it was good squirrel hunting. Dogs rode with them – not in baggage car. Cars generally well-filled. Depots in Martin and Shelbyville too.

General Stores – two in Martin, two in Shelbyville, East Martin had one, also a store run by the William's family and a store at Hooper. All were here in 1920's.

At Martin a funeral home, now the Carriage Stop Restaurant.

Lunch car in Martin situated across the street from present location.

Martin Twp. Hall was struck by lightning in 1939. An apartment was upstairs. The family living there at the time weren't at home at the time. Rescuers weren't sure of that. I don't know when the building was put up but it was there in 1920's.

The Presbyterian church in “Woodchuck Hollow” was bought by the Christian Reform people and building was moved to East Martin. A wind storm destroyed it. The Walker rural school was situated where the parking lot is.

A cranberry marsh in low part across from East Martin Cemetery. It was destroyed by fire.

After Gun Swamp was drained onions were the most important crops. Some carrots and other truck gardening long before potatoes were grown in the muck.

Following that stack of papers were other random papers written in another woman's penmanship.

Manufacturing in Martin

Manufacturing – statistics for 1905 – Paper manufacture...

No. of factories was 89 and the total employed was 1,067.

Number of                      Factories                                       Employees

Allegan                               25                                                   214

Douglas                               1                                                   128

Fennville                              2                                                     9

Otsego                                 9                                                  468

Plainwell                              14                                                  99

Wayland                                5                                                   26

In 1900 there were 234 establishments in Allegan county classed under manufacturing. The total capital was 1,348,336, the average numbers of wage-earning employees was 1,066 representing about 3 per cent of the population, and their earning capacity was measured by the sum of 445,914. These plants produced articles valued at 1,862,480. Of the 31 paper and pulp mills in Michigan, 3 were located in Allegan county. The one in Otsego was the largest in productive capacity. The one in Plainwell grew at a rapid pace in 1906 the capitol stock was increased from 56 thousand to 175 thousand dollars; and then the plant shut down for remodeling. Education

In 1900 the per capital amount was $2.15. In 1906, the account of the back taxes on railroads paid during the year the per capita distribution was $12. The moneys used for the support of the schools were the interest from Primary School Fund, the one mill tax, the unappropriated dog tax, the library moneys – appropriated by township board for school use, tuition of non-resident pupils and the voted tax of the district. The primary school interest for 1900 was $25,967.70 and in 1905 it was $39,405.30.

In September 1903, the state legislature made a law which permitted the transportation of to and from school at the expense of the districts concerned.

Also in 1903 law was passed authorizing the establishment of County Normal Training for Teachers in rural areas. Class was organized in accordance with this law in 1905 at Dawson, with 19 students taking the course.

In 1905-06 law passed requiring all children between 7 – 15 to attend school while in session.


By 1906 banks were located in Allegan (Allegan State Savings Bank, First National Bank of Allegan and First State Bank); Douglas (Private Bank); Glenn (Private Bank); Hopkins (Exchange Bank); Martin (Martin Exchange Bank); Fennville (Old State Bank); Wayland (Wayland State Bank); Otsego (First State and Savings Bank); Plainwell (Citizens State Savings Bank); Saugatuck (First Growers Bank).

History of the Press

In 1907, the Allegan Gazette was a quarter century old and edited by Edwy Campbell Reid. The increase of postal receipts in 1905, caused Allegan to be made a city free delivery office.

The Hopkins Times was started in 1906, with publisher G.O. Currey. It devoted interest of events in vicinity.

The Saturday Globe, changed to Wayland Globe in 1906, was edited by Fay C. Wing.

Medicine and Surgery

There were forty-five physicians registered in Allegan County in 1905.

Courts and Lawyers

There were 27 practicing attorneys in Allegan County in 1905.

Politics in Allegan County

In the fall election of 1906 there was remarkable difference in spirit between political contest of state and county officer with that of that of 50 years before. There was a notable absence of excitement or tension among the people, local business went on as usual. (Crossed out on paper but worth mentioning just the same – And if the surface of political sentiment was disturbed at all it was due to the remarkable contest in New York State rather than at home.) Old-time rallies and political mass meetings were no longer, an the few meetings held throughout the county were poorly attended and unenthusiastic.

The newspaper and quicker diffusion of knowledge had the most to do with changing politics from an absorbing excitement to a quietness. The newspaper reached more people, and reached them more convincingly than the campaign orator. Furthermore solid facts were now demanded by voters as a basis for judgment of men and issues. Allegan county at this time had been Whig and Republicans, except for a brief exception, for nearly 70 years.

Libraries and Literary Clubs

One of the most popular and valuable institutions of Allegan County is the public library which have been developed from the usual grade of township library to one of wide range of usefulness. Up to 1903 the library was of the ordinary type, was maintained without a library system, and only the incidental fees and taxes were devoted to its support.

(Last Page seems random bits of information)

Dr. Ryno built and equipped a “first class” canning factory on his own farm in Wayland in 1901. In that year he canned 7,000 bushels, which increased yearly. In 1905 he canned over 42,000. During canning season he employed over 100 workers.

There were twenty four creameries, skimming stations and cheese factories in the county in 1906. They received over 45,125,000 pounds of milk; 141,580 pounds of cream; and manufactured over 1,961,400 pounds of butter; and 833 pounds of cheese.

Foreign population in 1900 was 1,716

Theodosius Wade represented the 2nd District of Allegan County in the State Capital in 1903.

Wayland History 1880-1907 by

Twentieth Century History of Allegan County, Michigan by Dr. Henry F. Thomas, 1907

Clara Youngs -