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A History of Hartford
153 pg transcript

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Early History of Hartford and Lawrence

By Katherine V. Minshall

May 1976  


Transcribed for the
History of Hartford Internet Site

By Emma Thornburg Sefcik

  June 2001

Katherine V. Minshall
b 8/23/1907
d 12/2/1993

 

 

Katherine and Marshall Minshall

  
         Ive taken information from various sources for my brief history of Hartford and Lawrence. These are:  History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties by Franklin Ellis, dated 1880; History of Van Buren County by Capt. Oran W. Roland, dated 1912; Hartford Day Spring; Manuscript written by Lewis P. Walker in 1939; Articles written by Hon. Alexander B. Copley and read at a meeting of the Van Buren County Pioneer Association in 1894; and information given to me in 1946 by my father, Conrad Kabel, who came with his parents to Hartford Township in April 1878.  


 
       The first inhabitants of this area were the Indians.  The first of whom belonged to the tribe of Miami, but after they migrated to the eastward, their camp fires had scarcely ceased to burn before the ancestors of the present Potawatomies swept south around Lake Michigan from Ouisconsin (Wisconsin) taking possession of this beautiful land. 
     Roving bands of Pottawattamies, Ottawas, and a few Chippewas gathered near the large maple groves to make sugar, (sis-bah-quet) which they exchanged with the white men for such articles as they wanted, which generally was first, whiskey, next more whiskey, then bread, (quashque) and port, (koo-dosah). The largest of these sugar orchards were in the Brown, Dowd, Shafer, Johnson, Delong, and Miles neighborhoods.  
        In the summer season they moved their wigwams to the borders of berry swamps and near good fishing.  In the fall season they would select a place in the heavy timber where they were protected from the wind. The game was principally deer, wild turkeys, and the fur bearing animals.
   They used to strip ash to make baskets. In fact there were some families in 1946 who still made baskets, and would have a tent at the Van Buren County Fair from which they sold baskets. I still have a round picnic basket, rather faded now, made by Indians. I had several others through the years for which I usually traded something, usually clothing my children had outgrown.  
      
I well remember when it was built from this fact:  They came to me to get a job of cutting down about ten acres of timber that they might obtain money with which to buy shingles.  They agreed to commence the job Rush Lake Catholic Church - date of picture is unknown.the following day.  I told them I would be over.  While I paused, I heard the falling of the great trees as if a cyclone was abroad in the timber.  Advancing in haste I saw the timber crashing down the whole width of the ten acres.  Again I paused, for the crashing of the falling timber, intermixed with the pow-pow war-whoops created a confusion of sounds.
          As I met the tribe starting home they informed me that the whole tribe had turned out and commenced cutting the timber part way down on the east side of the job and when they reached the west side they had formed a line across the entire front and felled the timber eastward and that one tree had pushed down the next and had fallen, saving them much chopping.  But what a job!  

       

Both churches are now gone.  The cemetery is now under the care of the Van Buren Historical Society.  

       
Saturdays were the joy days for the Indians, for they always came into town, and had a happy time if they could get something to drink.  The town Marshall was kept busy running the drunked Indians out of town.   
       In summer the Town Marshall would st
art them on their way home with orders to stay out of town, and they were supposed to get home under their own power.  In those early days it wasnt at all unusual for the team of horses to spread apart and walk around the Indian lying in the road.  As far as I was able to find out none of those Indians were killed.
       In winter the town Marshall would contact the farms and when they were ready to go home would get the drunken Indians out of jail, and together they would load the Indians into the back of the sleigh.  The farmer would take the Indians to the road that led to the Indians home, and they would unload them.  If the Indian couldnt get out of the sleigh under his own power, he was thrown out.  If he wanted to ride farther, as was the usual thing, a good healthy poke on the jaw would help him change his mind, and he would get out of the sleigh in a hurry.  By such co-operation between the farmers and the Town Marshall there werent many Indians left to spend the Saturday night in jail.  
     This section of our country was not surveyed until several years after its cession by the Chicago Treaty of 1821, and opened for settlement about 1829, when emigrants from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the eastern states began to flow in slowly along the St. Joseph River, but Hartford was the home only of Indians and wild animals.  
       About 1835, a noted hunter and trapper, Harvey Saulsbury, came first into what is now Hartford Township, built a cabin of basswood logs, with roof of bark, on the bank of the creek on the SW of Section 14, 1 miles east of Hartford.  This cabin was occupied by him on his hunting trips, in which he ranged the line of swamps from the Dowagiac to the Black Rivers, a short of half way house between the northern and southern limits of his range.  
       
His summers were spent mostly at Niles, but as the hunting and trapping season came on, he started out dressed in deerskin trousers, blouse, and slouch hat, with his rifle on his shoulder, and a load of traps on his back.  He made his way to this place, and generally remained there till spring, occasionally going to PawPaw[2] to exchange his furs for articles to sell to the Indians.  He continued his hunting and trapping excursions till 1844-1845.
        The first actual settlers of Hartford township were Ferdino Olds and family, consisting of his wife and daughter, Julia.  They emigrated from New York State in 1836 and settled on Section 29.  Ferdino Olds five brothers came soon after he did and settled in and about the township.
       Harry Hammond was the next settler.  He and his wife worked together in building a log house, sixteen feet by twenty-seven feet, and moved into it as soon as completed.  On January 3, 1838 a daughter was born, the first white child born in Hartford township.  

       
Thomas Conklin, a native of New Y
ork, with his brother, James Conklin, and a Mr. Sellick, came in 1836 with a yoke of oxen and a wagon.  His son, Luke Conklin, born December 3, 1838 was the first white male child born in Hartford Township.  
        Some of the other early settlers were Hezakiah Olds, Horace Down[3], Alvah Delong, and Charles F. Sheldon.  They came here between 1837 and 1844.   
        Felix Rassette came in the fall of 1836, one of a group of thirty-two men, twenty-eight of whom were Canadian Frenchmen, to Watervliet from New York, in the employ of Smith, Merrick & Co. to work on improvements in the constructions of mills, digging a race, and clearing land on the spot.  He purchased land and built a frame house on the Watervliet road in 1843.  Later he kept the Rassette House, a hotel which stood where the Van Buren State Bank build now stands.  Mr. Rassettes grandson married my cousin and gave me a small, two-handled lamp which had been used in the Rassette House.   
        The first settler in Lawrence township was Stephen Fountain, a bachelor.   He settled on the west shore of Prospect Lake in June 1835.  However he stayed there for a very short time.   
        In June, 1835, John Allen founded the village of Mason, now the village of Lawrence.  This was named in honor of the (then) governor of Michigan.  Allen had no idea of settling here has he was a speculator, but he got Ephraim Palmer and his wife to come.  They cleared a spot on the bank of Brush Creek, about 35 rods north of the Lawrence school-house which was on the east side of Paw Paw[4] Street.  Here he build a log cabin.  After the logs were cut, Allen, Palmer, Fountain, E. Barnum, who had just come in from Paw Paw, and a man who happened to be there in search of land, raised the house seven logs high.  The cabin had a door but no window, and for a while the Palmers lived in it without floor or roof.  The fireplace was against the logs of the side-wall, and a hole in the roof served instead of a chimney.  Palmer stayed about a month and then left to go west.  
        Shortly after he left John Reynolds, his wife and brother, George Reynolds, moved into the cabin which was twelve foot square.  On November 15, 1836, eleven people, ten of whom had come to settle, all stayed overnight in this house.   
        Shortly after Allen built a double log house, and called it a tavern.  It had on the ground floor two rooms, each fourteen feet square, with sleeping rooms above.  Dexter Gibbs was the landlord of the tavern.   These early settlers were the Eaton Branch, Dexter Gibbs and Thomas S. Camp families.  
        In 1843, eight years later, the people living there were:  Watson Poole, a carpenter; Alexander Newton, farmer; Norman Birse, cabinet maker; Israel Branch, farmer; A.H. Phelps, fur-trader and miller; J.P. Fisk, blacksmith; Benjamin Dunning, blacksmith; and Rudolphus Howe, stock-dealer.  At this time the settlement was called Brush Creek, from the stream flowing through it.  Allen had mortgaged the Mason village property to John R. Baker, and to satisfy that Baker was compelled to take the land and thus became the village proprietor, and renamed it Lawrence.   
        Lawrence was hit by fire in 1859.  On Dec. 31 the west side of PawPaw Street was burned.  Two stores, and the places of five people, destroying nearly the entire business portion of the town.   
        In 1837, J.R. Monroe settled in Lawrence.  One of the many positions he held was that of County Commissioner of the poor as well as being judge.  Often poor people stayed at his home and it became known as the poormasters house.  This story is told:

      One day, the judge, in old work clothes, was working in a ditch on his farm.  An apparent traveling pauper asked the judge,
where is the poormasters house?  After pointing to his own home he asked:  Do you work for him?  Yes, replied the Judge.  And what does he give you for working?  Oh, he give me just what he has himself, was the judges answer; pork, beans, potatoes, Johnny cake, and old clothes.  Well, exclaimed the tramp, if thats all a fellow can expect, Ill be goll-darned if I stop with the old hedge-hog.  And away he went.
        Lawrence township was organized in 1837 and included at the time was the territory now occupied by Lawrence, Arlington, and Hartford townships.  Hartford was set off in 1840 and Arlington in 1841.  
         At the first township meeting held April 3, 1837 one of the resolutions passed was: 
That there be a bounty of five dollars on each wolf-scalp or each panther-scalp caught in this town the present year.  
       The township of Hartford was organized in 184
0, by the act of the legislature.  Ferdino Olds, being the first settler, was permitted to name the town, which he did, calling it Hartland, after his native town in the State of New York.  But learning of another town of the same name in the state, at the suggestion of Mr. Olney, the name was changed to Hartford.  

     The first township meeting was ordered to be be held at the home of Smith Johnson in said township.  After the first election, nearly every man in the township was filling one or more offices.

     In 1879, at the town meeting, which was held on the four corners in Hartford, a motion was made to raise $25.00 to gravel Main Street one block long, and so sandy it was almost impossible to pull a wagon through it at times.  The motion was seconded and voted on.  Mr. Hart, the instigator and a supervisor, had enough friends in the crowd so that the motion carried.  Many of the people at the meeting thought that Mr. Hart was losing his mind, for they had all the taxes they could stand without being burdened with this extra tax.   
        A village is started.  About 1852 Francis Wilkes, a bachelor, came to this place, and with a Mr. Fowler, erected a frame house on the corner of Main and Center Streets and put in a few goods and more whiskey.  The place became somewhat notorious and was known by the name of
Bloody Corners.  Fowler, Wilkes, Drew and others were always in active pursuit of horse thieves, which were almost, but never quite caught.   
        In 1853, the sole industry at these four corners, that later became Hartford, as Stephen Stowe remembers, was a blacksmith shop that one Jim Smith had built on North Center Street.  There was a house or two at Stoughton Corners, a mile and a half north, then a dream town.  A Mr. Stoughton had started a shoe shop.  The one other local industry was a crude saw mill at the river north of town, which was later transformed into the pioneer Anderson Grist Mill.  
        Not until the state-mail route from St. Joseph to PawPaw came through in 1855, did a village begin to develop on the present site of Hartford.  The development was slow until the railroad was built in 1870.  That gave Hartford its first boom and by 1880 the village had acquired a population of 800.   
        The Village of Hartford, the only village in the township, is located on sections fifteen and sixteen, so near the center of the township, that it was formerly called Hartford Center.  It was platted on the third of March, 1859.  Since the original plat was made, there were 16 additions to the town by 1946.  It was incorporated by a special act of the legislature in 1877.  That same year the business part of the village was nearly destroyed by fire.  Thirteen business places being burned.   
        By 1880 the village had:  5 dry goods stores; 2 groceries; 2 hardware stores; 2 drug stores; 5 blacksmith shops; 2 wagon shops; post office; school house; newspaper office; 2 cabinet shops; 2 millinery stores; 1 harness shop; stave factory; 2 cider mills; 2 saw mills; 2 sash-door & blind factories; 1 lumberyard; 1 flour & feed store; 2 livery stables; 1 jewelry store; 2 restaurants; 1 boot & shoe store; 2 insurance offices; 1 hair store; 2 warehouses; depot-telegraph & express office; 2 lawyers; and 4 physicians.  
        The dress of the settlers was of the most primitive style, both as to fashion and material.  With the men, the old time hunting shirt had given way to a garment called a wamus, a loose blouse with a narrow binding at the top and single button at the throat, the skirt reaching to the hips when loose, or to the waist when tied by the corners as it was usually worn.  The material was linsey, a homespun cloth of cotton and wool woven plain.  Pantaloons were of jeans, blue or butternut, with different shades of color as the different skeins of yarn took on a light or dark hue in the dying.  Occasionally buckskin trousers were worn, or trousers faced with buckskin, fore and aft, as a sailor would say, were the protection would be the most serviceable.   
        In the 80s all the socks were made at home.  Usually two white fleece and one black fleece would be taken to the carding mill at Bangor, and the result would be the gray yarn.  My Great-grandmother Ament usually spent from two to four weeks every summer with my Grand-mother Kabel, and during that time would knit the yearly supply of stockings for the family.  
      
The farming tools of the pioneer were the simplest kind, hardly differing from their ancestors of fifty to a hundred years before.  An ax, iron wedge, bar share plow, usually with wooden teeth, a heavy hoe, and a sickle for cutting grain, which after being cut, was stacked around a circular threshing floor of dirt, upon which it was tramped out by horses and winnowed by one man throwing it into the air, while the other men flopped a sheet to run it.  
       
Until the late seventies and early eighties oxen were used.  My grandfather had both oxen and horses. 
        As a new area is settled there are, of course, many firsts.  Mrs. Thomas Conklin, who came to Hartford Township in 1837, taught the first school in Hartford township in her home.   
       
The first school-house was built in 1842 and the first teacher was Olive Pool, with only five pupils.  She received $1.25 per week.
        In 1855 the first post office was established at Hartford Center, with James Griffin as the first post-master.  A man named Dolph carried the mail on horse back previously. 
         
Dr. Milton F. Palmer, settled in Hartford and commenced the practice of medicine in 1857.  He was the second postmaster in the place and a great sportsman.  He planted an apple orchard in the center of the village and said at that time that the fruit it would produce would be much better for the children than his medicine, all of which was verified in time.  At least, it cost them less than pills, and he was never known to drive a child out of his orchard.  He never hitched his horse to a buggy but always rode to visit his patients.  His daughter, Harriet, married Azra A. Palmer, also a physician, who bought the practice of the old physician and continued the practice and also the residence until his death.  Incidentally, in 1946, the house was still standing and a Dr. Palmer used it for his office.
        The first saw mill was erected in 1855.  The first steam grist-mill in the village was built in 1878 by K. J. Walker.  It was known as the Hartford City Mills.  In 1894 they added more machinery and began manufacturing barrel hoops in addition to the sawmill work.  
        The first store in the village was built by Willard Stratton who did a small mercantile business.  He was succeeded by Henry Baird, who found the business to be neither very extensive or profitable.  Baird said,
that a mouse, that he had tried in vain to catch, had eaten up all his profits.  

         E.R. Olds built the first hotel, later known as the Hartford House. 

       The first livery in the place was established by Jacob Craiger, who ran a daily line of stages between St. Joseph and PawPaw until the completion of the Pere Marquette Railway, after which he continued the line between Hartford and PawPaw until the opening of the Narrow Gauge railway in 1883.  
        Great Concord coaches drawn by four horses were used and the passenger traffic carried in them was no small item.  In addition to the passenger traffic, mail was also transported over the same line which was an additional source of revenue.  
        In 1878 a bridge was washed out on the Narrow Gauge line and Jake Craiger made two stage coach trips.  My father thrilled to the sight of an eight-horse team pulling the coach as it started on one of these trips.  
        The first railroad to go north and south through Hartford was the Chicago and Michigan Lake Shore Railroad.  
        The first engines were wood burning and the railroad company made contracts with the settlers to furnish the wood.  The wood was to be 20 inches long, all body wood, and put in piles 8 feet high, at certain designated places along the track.  One of these wood piles was in front of my grandfathers house.  While the trainmen were loading wood, my father had a good chance to get acquainted with them.  If my father would throw off the wood from the top of the pile the trainmen would let him ride into Hartford.  One day Father had a basket containing sweet apples, butter, and eggs to take to Auntie Byrd, a friend, who lived in Hartford.  He was very happy to have a ride.   After they were on their way, (he was riding in the caboose) one of the men asked who the apples were for, and on learning that they were for Mrs. Byrd said that he knew her and that she wouldnt care if he took an apple.  Which he proceeded to do.  The other men said they knew Auntie Byrd too, and when Father arrived in Hartford he had no apples left.  As he got off the train he told the men in no uncertain words that he would never ride on their dirty old train again.   
        In the fall of 1880 my grandfather noticed an engine with a short smoke stack and remarked that the engine must have been in a wreck and had lost part of its smoke stack.  After seeing two such engines he realized that the engines were using coal for fuel instead of wood.  
        The first east-west railroad was the Toledo and South Haven Railroad, running between Lawton and Hartford.  It was a narrow gauge road.  The first nine miles were opened for traffic in 1877.  Within a few years it extended to Hartford.  
        The first newspaper published in Hartford was the
Hartford Day Spring.  The first issue published on November 16, 1871. 

Now some first for Lawrence.

         Elizabeth Camp was the first school teacher in the summer of 1837.  The second terms teacher was Truman Foster of Keeler with thirty scholars.  Uriel T. Barnes daughter tells of her first day of school when Foster was teacher.  After walking what seemed a great distance through the dense woods, I came to a house and inquired how far it was to the village.  To the village, dear? returned the woman, why you are in the village now, only you cant see it for the trees    Well, said I, where is the schoolhouse?  Only a little way farther in the woods, was her response, and after walking what appeared to be half a mile, I found the school house.   
        
In 1840 A.H. Phelps and brother Theodore Phelps built the Chadwick Mill.  Later
H. N. Phelps, a fur trader, manufactured deer-skin gloves and mittens.   
        The first birth in Lawrence was that of Sarah Reynolds, on March 21, 1836.  
        The first marriage in the township was that of Ephraim Taylor and Emeline Gibbs in the fall of 1836.   
        The first death in the settlement was that of Mrs. Dexter Gibbs in April 1838.  
        The first township road was laid out in the summer of 1837.  
        In 1837, John Allen, had the government contract for carrying mail between Kalamazoo and St. Joseph.  He had a road built from Mason (Lawrence) to Keeler so that mail was brought to Mason on the trip.  
        Horace Stimso
n was the first postmaster when the Lawrence post office was established in 1837.  
       
The first saw-mill was build on Brush Creek in 1836. 
        The first newspaper,
The Lawrence Advertiser, began in February 1874.  
         On September 15, 1877 the first train reached Lawrence on the Toledo and South Haven railway.  
        The religious and social life of the people of the Hartford area were taken care of by the beginning of the following between the years 1858 and 1890:  

            The Methodist Society, 1859
           
The First Baptist Church 1858             
            The Congregational Church 1874 
            The Christian or Disciple Church - 1874  
            Church of Latter Day Saints - 1874
            Charter Oak Lodge, No. 231 (I.O. of O.F.) 1874
            Florida Lodge, No. 309, A. and A.M. 1873
            Benevolence Eastern Star Lodge, No. 45 1877
            Hartford Rebekah Degree Lodge, No. 24 1879
            Hartford Lodge, No. 862, I.O. of Good Templars 1875
            Knights of Pythias 1875
            Hartford Grange, No. 89, P. of H. 
(Transcriber note:  no date shown)

In Lawrence from 1837 to 1875 these churches and societies had their beginnings:

          First Congregational Church 1837
            The First Baptist Church of Lawrence 1838
            The Methodist Episcopal church of Lawrence 1840
            Latter Day Saints 1868
            First Free Methodist Church  - 1871
            Disciple Church 1874
            PawPaw Valley Agricultural Society 1863 

                    (purpose was holding annual autumn fairs at Lawrence)

            Rising Sun Lodge, No. 119, F. and A.M. 1860
            Lawrence Chapter, No. 95, R.A.M 1875
            Lawrence Grange, No. 32 1875


       
Life in the early days was not devoid of excitement, humor, practical jokes and entertainment. 
        In 1835 John Allen opened a business in Brush Creek, (Lawrence) on the credit system, and made a failure.  Being of a speculative turn he conceived the idea of platting a village and disposing of the lots to strangers in the east. 
        At that time Waterford (Watervliet) was in its infancy.  Hog Creek, about one-half mile west of the village of Hartford was about halfway between Brush Creek and Waterford, and so our pioneer speculator located his imaginary village on the stream referred to, a few rods north where it emptied its waters into the PawPaw River, naming the town Middletown, and proceeded with Yankee shrewdness to make sales of lots to people in his former Green Mountain home.  At that time the late Luther Sutton, then but a lad, was one of the parties to a practical joke in connection with Allens paper town.  
        Some half dozen families had gathered at Brush Creek and supposing Middletown to be quite a village, planned to make it a visit.  The company, consisted of some half dozen ragged men and as many barefoot boys.  Bent on reaching the town, the party started westward, past Mud and Sutton Lakes, through the brush and over logs, finally reaching a small stream where they halted to partake of their lunch.  A Mr. Barnum then informed them that he would take them to the Public Square and introduce them to the leading citizens of the place.  And piloting them up the bluff bank of the creek said,
Here they are boys, the residents of the place are all cannibals (mosquitoes).  Flee for your lives.
        The site of this paper village was covered by a dense forest for years thereafter.  It was finally cleared off, with the expectation of converting it into a skunk farm, but skunks skins declined in value and so the place escaped being called skunksville. 
        A bit of excitement was caused by Hezikah Olds, who had employed Thomas Conklin to erect for him a log house, eighteen feet by twenty-four feet, in consideration for which he was to receive a cow.  The work was completed in thirteen days.  Mr. Olds raked up the chips, burned them, and also burned the new house.  This happened in 1839.         
        Nathan Delong, a Civil War Veteran, and grandson of Frances Delong, the only Revolutionary soldier who ever lived in Van Buren County, was a great hunter, known as the Nimrod of the family.  The following anecdote was related in his own words: 

I had been out hunting one day and as I was returning home, just south of the Jackson Hotel (now the site of the Van Buren State Bank) a big buck jumped up within a few feet of me.  I fired and he fell as if dead, but when I came to where he lay, I saw that the ball had broken off one of his horns close to this head.  I commenced to reload, but found there was not a ball in my pouch.  I grabbed a rope that I always took with me while hunting, tied it about his neck, and hitched him to a staddle (small tree) close by.  I had no sooner done this than he recovered from the shock and sprang to his feet, and all of the pitchings, divings, and gyrations that that buck went through was a sin to snakes.  It beat any circus performance I ever did see.  I ran half a mile to my home in the pinery, reloaded my bun and returned as quickly as I could.  My prisoner was as quiet as a lamb, but when he saw me the circus again began in earnest. I fired.  The circus was ended.  When dressed that buck weighed two hundred pounds.

  
        Another bit of excitement took place when Wallace Allen was the proprietor of a dry goods store as well as being township treasurer.  He kept the township money in an old safe in the store and one night two men tried to rob the safe.  Rutt Stickney, who lived next to the store, heard the noise and investigated.  One of the men shot at him and then they ran toward the railroad tracks.  Stickney got a group of men together and they started out after the robbers.  The night train came through about that time and Fred Allen, son of Wallace Allen, and one of the men in the group, went on the train to Bangor, after the engineer told them he would help them watch for the robbers along the tracks.  The rest of the group, of which my grandfather was a member, started out on foot, going down the railroad tracks toward Bangor.  One of the members carrying a lighted lantern.  As the train neared Bangor the two robbers were seen to be hiding near some bushes along the track.  When the train stopped at Bangor, Fred Allen and his partner got off and found the Town Marshall, who had the reputation of not being afraid of the devil himself.  They started down the tracks toward Hartford, the Town Marshall in front, and the other two directly behind him, each with a gun.  They met the robbers coming toward Bangor and quickly handcuffed them.  They went back to Bangor and waited for the next train back to Hartford.  There was one thing that happened that night that has always puzzled me.  Why did the group of men hunting for the robbers and walking down the tracks carry a lighted lantern?   
        A circus about once a year was fine entertainment.  The circus traveled in wagons from town to town. In 1879 a circus came from Bangor to Hartford.  There were seven or eight elephants with the circus and when they got to the PawPaw River bridge, about one-half mile north of Hartford, the lead elephant would not cross the bridge.  The keeper tried to make him go, but he wouldnt  He roared and jumped into the river and the other elephants followed.  They stayed in the river for several hours.  The rest of the circus went on and they had the parade in Hartford without the elephants.  If anyone got too near the elephants he was given a shower.  In the afternoon one of the circus men came back to the river and succeeded in getting one of the elephants to come out.  After he was out the others followed and the elephants performed that evening.   
        Another form of entertainment was the Italian with his Performing Bear.  These men would come through the country walking down the railroad track from one town to another.  My grandparents lived very close to the track so Grandfather would always have the Italian and his bear stop and perform for the children.  While my grandmother was getting some food for the man, my father and the other older children, would run in all directions to the neighbors to let everyone know the Italian and his bear were going to perform.  For ten cents or a quarter he would give a fine entertainment.  The bear would waltz, do other dances, climb a telegraph pole to the music of a little tin horn played by the man.  At a given signal the bear would come down the pole, and that would end the program.

        C. H. Engle tells of an unusual happening during the Civil War.  He relates:

       I was called on to marry a couple some distance north of the village.  The groom arrived on the scene very late in the evening, and then astonished and disappointed the bridal party by refusing to marry the girl.  I asked him what he meant by such action.  He started for the door and beckoned me to follow.  When we were on the outside he said he was engaged to the girl before the breaking out of the war, but so many had enlisted that men were getting scarce and said he, I am now sure I can do better.  I was dumbfounded and told him that there was no punishment known to the law that was adequate to his case.  I learned afterward that he was drafted and hustled off to the front, but it was near the close of the war, and he soon returned home.  He had the cheek to again ask that girls hand in marriage, but the plucky maiden replied, No, Sir, the volunteer boys are now home and I can do better. 

          Thus, from these happenings the monotony of work and more work, was broken.

        From a background such as this, I think anyone can realize why a certain area means so much to those who live there.  For, through the influence of these early happenings, we are what we are today.  It makes us appreciate and feel proud of our home.


[1] Rush Lake Catholic Church.  Origin and date of this photo is unknown, but was donated by Helen (Lamb) Weston.  It is assumed to have been printed in the 1990s?  Photo was not part of the original transcript by Katherine V. Minshall.

[2] PawPaw typed as in original transcript, without a space between the two words.  (Transcriber note)

[3] Although Katherine Minshall typed DOWN in the original transcript, I believe it should be DOWD.  (Transcriber note)

[4] Paw Paw typed as in original transcript, with a space between the two words. (Transcriber note)

The photo of Katherine and Marshall Minshall was contributed by Jason Meachum in 2002.

 

Information for this web site was gathered from personal interviews, newspaper articles, scrapbooks, personal photo albums, and other documented materials - many available to the public at the Hartford Public Library or Van Buren County Historical Museum.  Please report any typographical errors, updated information, or incorrectly stated information to the webmaster for correction.  Reprinting for personal and instructional purposes is permitted, however, unauthorized commercial reprinting of this information or unauthorized linking to photos-pictures on this site is strictly prohibited without written permission from the webmaster. 



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A Pictorial History of Hartford, Michigan
Emma Thornburg Sefcik,
Competent Secretarial Service
Copyright 2000 - All rights reserved.


Revised: March 02, 2015


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