1867-69 Manchester Highlights
When Manchester was young, about a hundred years ago, one of the biggest concerns seemed to be the education of the young. This has not changed. In October, 1867, the announcement that the Union School would be open on November 4th of that year was received with enthusiasm.
Prof. E. C. Olney was to be assisted by Eugene C. Olney, Miss Mary Hitchcock and Miss Viola Gordon. It was pointed out that a Union School is systematic and orderly. "Children must obey for the principal is king. Children do not go to school under the direction (much less whims) of parents—only in so far as they coincide with the principal and teachers."
In October of that year a special school meeting approved a $1,000 bond at 10 percent interest for building fences and other improvements. With this additional money the Union school cost $21,000.
Plans were underway for a Planing Mill, Sash & Blind factory and the old stone building near depot had been purchased for this by a Mr. Parsons. Morgan & Torrey added 40 acres on the east side of the village and were dividing them into lots.
The new Goodyear Hall in the Goodyear new brick block was dedicated Nov. 22, 1867. The size was 50 x 80 feet with a large stage and beautiful scenery. The building was owned by Henry Goodyear. Professor Beck's band played and a supper was served at Exchange Hotel.
These were the times that S. W. Lockwood was advertising that he had bought out Stowell & Crafts and as the village's new undertaker he wanted it known that a hearse would attend funerals.
Fine calicoes brought 10 cents a yard, ginghams, a shilling, fine black all wool doeskin brought eight shillings and a person could get enough heavy all wool beaver for an overcoat for five dollars-and a hoop skirt sold for 6 to 8 shillings.
About 300 people greeted the New Year at the biggest party ever held in the community when they gathered at Goodyear's hall, 1868.
A vast amount of snow fell during the winter of 1867-68. This was followed by heavy rain. Old inhabitants of the area recalled that they could not remember of so much property being destroyed. The continuous rains caused the ice to break in the upper pond and it floated down against the Brewery bridge, sweeping it away on Sunday. On the next Wednesday, the Tannery dam gave way as did the dam at Clinton. The water gushed on, ripping out the Tecumseh Red Mill dam and the bridge on Ridgeway road, on March 11, 1868.
The Methodist Church purchased a new bell that weighed 1280 pounds and it called the congregation to worship for the first time, Sunday, May 3, 1868.
Wm. Kirchgessner started in the bakery business in June of 1868, in the building which had been occupied by Rose and Rothchild.
In the same year, the city fathers approved building cross walks so that (according to the Manchester Enterprise) "we will be enabled to cross without danger of having our heads kicked oft, or getting in the mud." The board walks included one at the east side of the Union School.
After one year of publishing the local paper Geo. S. Spafford sold to Mat Blosser who began publishing on November 26, 1868.
Land in this area was selling for about $40 an acre and real estate was changing hands swiftly in Sharon township. In 1868, houses ranged from $800 to $2,000. Rent for the smaller home was $2 or $3 a week. Houses were in great demand.
A foundry and machine works was one of the early industries of the village. This was owned by A. Dickerson and was located in the eastern part of the village. It commanded one of the finest water sites of the area on the east bank of the Raisin.
Champion and Curtis plows were manufactured along with corn cultivators and other farm implements which were shipped to other parts of the country.
A shingle machine was also located in the establishment and more than 3500 shingles were sawed in a couple of months. There was also a blacksmith shop in connection with the factory, making new parts and repairing old.
In August 1869, the voters gave approval to raise $80,000 for the Detroit & Hillsdale railroad.
On June 17, 1869, Mat. Blosser interviewed some of the older people of the community who remembered when Manchester was young—some forty years before. These veterans remembered when the area was a vast wilderness. They were the people who should be credited with the development of civilization and wealth of Manchester more than the tradesman and statesman who followed them.
One such early settler arrived in Manchester June 3, 1834, by horse and wagon from New York State. He decided to stop here, not only because of the fertility of the land, but because, even then, the flour mill stood on the bank of the Raisin. The mill and two other buildings, Union Hall and another building owned by Chas. Gwinner, were all that marked the inroad of civilization. Among those early men were Barnabas, Arthur and Emanuel Case and William and Elijah Carr.
They had the satisfaction of seeing the community thrive. From a sturdy forest which afforded shade for the wild beasts and a hunting ground for the uncivilized Indian they watched a village flourish and develop into one of the most beautiful inland villages in the state. From the brick buildings on the Main Street could be heard the roar of the water as it tumbled over the falls, sweeping through field and forest as it swept along toward Lake Erie.
By 1869 there were three dams and the river afforded unlimited resources for manufacturing. J. S. Reynolds kept the mill in operation night and day turning out an average of 150 barrels of flour per day. The Woolen Mill across the street deserved equal mention. The 12 employees of Porter & Jaynes could manufacture 100 yards of wool a day. The mill had cost some $13,000 to build and $70 a week was needed to meet the payroll. Materials consumed would be about $240.
Other enterprises and manufacturing indicated that Manchester, Michigan, was indeed destined to symbolize the great manufacturing and commercial city in England from which she derived her name.
The same energy that puts forth its strong arm in battle for wealth had not been forgotten in the early days when education took its footing beneath the roof of the rustic log school house. Just how they valued their school and education was shown by their crowning effort—the erection of the Union School. The three-story structure was erected in 1867 at a cost of $2,000 with improvements planned for years ahead.
The six churches in 1869 were ample to meet the needs of the community. Each pulpit of the churches had ministers of ability, men whose Bible study placed them high in the rank with the noble soldiers of the Almighty.
At that time one of the largest and finest hotels in the state was the Goodyear House with a fine location near the depot.
A stroll around town would satisfy the most fastidious, that in the construction of private residences, the citizens displayed a degree of taste and refinement difficult to rival.
A long row of fine brick homes on Ann Arbor Street overlooked the Raisin. "Cobble Hill", a little farther on and on the opposite side of the street, boasted of an elegantly constructed mansion owned by Hon. J. D. Corey.
The railroad through the village afforded the facility for getting produce into the large markets of the east and south. Manchester was the hub for all the immense quantities of all kinds of produce which the rich plains afford.
There is an old saying that "what has been done once can be done again". With this in mind some were giving thought to a second railroad for Manchester. There was the Central which started in Detroit and on to Chicago. The other, the Southern, started in Toledo and also terminated in Chicago. The two vast facilities, with their cargo of rolling stock, was insufficient to meet the increasing demands. At this time another road was being planned from Detroit to Ypsilanti, Manchester, Hilisdale and also to be terminated in Chicago.
To this Manchester township voted $50,000, believing that every dollar would help farmers, merchants and mechanics. Instead of being the victim of a monopoly these railroads would serve better because they would be operating on a competitive basis.
Money was beginning to circulate more freely with the wool crop coming into market. Local buyers, with strict orders from the east, were paying as high as 35 to 40 cents. J. P. Gillett of Sharon received recognition for raising Saxton sheep, which European fairs were still hailing as a "best of breeds." Some Michigan breeders were changing to larger sheep with heavier fleeces.
Among the early enterprises of the village was the Pierce & Wortley marble works. The shop was on Railroad Street and the owners came from Ypsilanti. The marble was from the celebrated quaries of Vermont. Monuments were sold to residents in many of the surrounding communities and an impressive one is on the grave of Lawson W. Leap in Oak Grove.
As the wheels of time rolled on vast changes were taking place. Work shops were springing up in every direction and the clang of the anvil and the sound of hammer and saw were heard from early morning to late at night. It was no longer necessary to go to Jackson or other places for wagons that would withstand the wear and tear of the hilly country roads with heavy loads of grain or merchandise. Comfortable carriages were manufactured here, too. P. C. Vreeland and Company had the reputation of manufacturing some of the finest wagons and carriages in "the west." The shops were on the east side of the river. The iron work and painting was done on Water Street.
Seven men were employed with others working part time. They manufactured more than one vehicle a week and prices ranged from $150 to $400. Wagons were selling at $110 and a good month's sales averaged $1,500.