A Thanksgiving poem from 1914 printed in the Belding Banner, Belding Michigan, November 25, 1914. Click the image below to view.
In November of 1833*, Ionia pioneer family, the Cornells: Alfred Cornell, Cornell family patriarch, his wife Nancy and their son Thomas Cornell, his wife and two sons, Alfred, Jr., and Daniel packed up their belongings and left their home. They headed west to Michigan to see the opportunities they could experience. Upon arrival, they stayed with Samuel Dexter, who had already founded Easton Township near what is now the city of Ionia.
The Cornell family hailed from Madison County in New York. Why did the Cornell family leave? Perhaps they viewed posters advertising land for sale that commonly caught the attention of folks eager to relocate and Michigan, a territory at the time, needed thousands of more residents to obtain statehood. Another reason might be that they knew Samuel Dexter, who had settled the area some time prior. An experienced settler, he knew what best plots of land that were available, even though Antoine Campau, brother of Grand Rapids founder, Louis Campau, had already identified the area. A bonus was that there were good relations with natives at the time. It was a great time to make the journey west (1).
Once settled in, Alfred Cornell, Sr. met Erastus Yeomans. Erastus was the town surveyor and set up the first roads. He sold some land to Alfred, Jr., who in turn surveyed the area further for his family. The rest of the colonists worked together and built a log home for the Cornell family. While the men traveled to Detroit to get the rest of their needed supplies, the women hung blankets over window sills and doorways to keep the home warm. Winter transportation was not reliable, but luckily friendly natives assisted with food for the hungry settlers and heavy blankets for warmth until they could establish routine deliveries of supplies (2).
In 1835, Alfred Jr became active in assisting the formation of the local government. He won two appointments for himself as commissioner and inspector of public schools. This dual leadership role tells us that the community viewed this man as being intelligent, organized and capable and of his commitment to the success of the county(3).
In that same year, Alfred, Jr., married Amanda Yeomans, daughter of Erastus and Phoebe and they began their new life. They would go on to have five children together, four boys and one girl. Amanda taught in the first public school and summer school thereafter. In 1859, Alfred preached once a month at First Baptist Society of Portland and continued this for three years. This shows how active they were in their community as a family (3).
I will blog more about Alfred and his family as I explore Branch’s book in the future. I will connect this family with more important events to show how they might have lived their lives and how their contributions impacted the residents of Ionia County.
*Branch writes that they landed in 1893. This date seems to be a typo because it does not fit the timeline of events.
1. Branch, Rev. E., History of Ionia County. University of Michigan, 1916, pp 103-104.
2. Ibid., 474.
3. Ibid., 351.
3. Ibid., .403.
The Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library will be celebrating its centennial anniversary on May 19th this year. It will be a small event, hosted by current staff and supporters, not unlike the celebration that took place 100 years ago. You can read all about the history of the library here.
The official dedication of the current library happened on May 14, 1918, and it was a grand affair. The committee that organized the event were a group of dedicated folks, who worked hard to see that all who attended enjoyed the celebration. Workmen installed the “big Chautauqua tent” along with a stage and chairs for audience attendees to enjoy the ceremony in comfort. Organizers expressed to one another that, “this day will be a day to remember!” and it was.
Many important people attended. Some of them would travel to Belding from as far away as California, Montreal, and Connecticut. Alvah Belding, of the Belding family, for which the town is named, planned to travel to Belding in his car with his son, Fred and some close friends. Milo M. Belding, Alvah’s brother, would come from his home in New York and as the saying went, “All roads lead to Belding.” It was not unusual for important folks to travel to Belding on those familiar roads. When they did come to town for business, they could stay in the Belding Hotel in luxury and comfort. And finally, U.S. Senator, William Alden Smith, also known as the Titanic Senator, because of his involvement in the investigation of the Titanic disaster, attended and spoke at the dedication ceremony.
To allow everyone an equal opportunity in the Belding community to attend the ceremony, organizers placed all schools on a half-day schedule. All mill workers ended their workday at noon and stores closed early.
For the program itself, organizers selected the Belding Cornet Band, a favorite band in town for many years, to play an introduction. Rev. W.A. Bliss offered an opening prayer. The Star Spangled Banner was played to alert attendees of ceremonies about to begin. A dedication speech made by Mayor E. F. Fales formally accepted the Belding family gift of the new physical building of the new library. Alden W. Smith addressed the audience, and Rev. P. Ray Norton closed the ceremony with a benediction. The Cornet Band played the conclusion. After the ceremony, attendees enjoyed a tour of the new building and refreshments to the pleasant sounds of a male quartet courtesy of the Fountain Street Baptist Church out of Grand Rapids.
Alvah never saw the dedication. He fell ill shortly before his planned trip. Instead, his son Fred stepped in to preside over the ceremony. The dedication of this library and its centennial encapsulates 100 years of a community center for the city of Belding. You could say it is even the heart of the city. Even though a close neighbor, the Belrockton is also considered a center and perhaps closer in the minds of folks who live in Belding. It is the library, however, that preserves the history of Belding and its people. Today the library is not just a depository of books and artifacts, but it is a peaceful and serene place to spend time reflecting on the past or the future.
The California gold rush is an integral part of American history. In the 1850s, gold fever drove men and women by the hundreds of thousands to the land known now as California. Wealth distribution was not good at this time. Simply put, most Americans were poor, barely making it or just making it while the top percentage of people were well off or wealthy. Gold provided an opportunity for those seeking fortune and fame, a chance for a better life: a comfortable living, and a legacy to pass on to future generations.
It was, however, an illusion. Once folks arrived after packing up and taking the small amount of what they owned and traveling over treacherous and dangerous routes found little gold they sought. Even so, the migration help to secure land from foreign leaders and built a nation we know today.
Empire Mine State Park is a place where you can visit a real live gold mine set up to accommodate the thousands throng. Bring the family and spend a Saturday learning the history of the mine. The park offers, trails, areas for picnics, and a gift shop. There is something for everyone at this park. Check out their informative website here:
The Empire Mine State Park
Benjamin F. Butler became obsessively interested in politics as soon as he was old enough to vote. His calling wasn’t the big political picture which to him was merely the recognition of the founding principles of how government should operate, but how much investment by the government into affairs of every state or legal proceeding by the Supreme Court affect every individual. His interest and political passion rested solely with the “condition and welfare of the citizen.” (1)
Butler was inspired by the political history of his day and used some of it to analyze, ponder and question. From the forming of government by the founding fathers through presidents that continued to lead the country through Western expansion, foreign relations, and war. Butler, in his memoir, describes his enthusiasm for democracy and the judiciary system that Alexander Hamilton created and nurtured. Butler admired Hamilton’s ideas and beliefs about equality for the citizenry and almost no interference by the Federal Government into personal affairs. Butler took Hamilton’s ideas further to proclaim just what was the Federal Government’s responsibility to protect the rights of citizens. All of Butler’s ideas revolved around equality. How much equality existed at the time? What were the issues of the day that influenced Butler to take a stand for the men, women, and children of the United States? As we examine Butler’s ideas and thoughts from his memoirs, I believe we can find some answers to these questions.
Lowell, Massachusetts, the Mills, and an Idea for Change
Lowell, Massachusetts in 1836 was the second city built in New England and the second largest one in the country where the whole town revolved around manufacturing. Men, women, and children labored every day in the mills. The most improved single water power source in the country at the time drove the machinery. Non-resident stockholders owned all capital from manufacturing in town.
Capital came from several large corporations. All manufacturing businesses operated precisely alike. Bells rang laborers in and out of the mills. Bells tolled to awaken laborers in town for work. They ate breakfast by candlelight. In the summer the evening dinner bell rang at 7 pm. They all got 30 minutes for dinner. Managers set the bells at the same time. I’m assuming this was to combat conflicts for people and wanting to know where they were supposed to be and what time they were supposed to be there. There was no electricity at this time. One manufacturing company could only employ men and women at a time. Meaning if they lost ours and wanted to work at another mill, they had to get a pass.
To get laborers for the mills, managers hired folks from out of state. They only hired the best class of citizens. Mill owners established regulations that made provisions for education to be provided for children and religious instruction as well. They created moral rules of behavior too. Homes were built to provide comfort to laborers at the cheapest rate possible. Each house had a matron in charge, and each person had to report in if they arrived home in the evening past 10 o’clock. Curfew bells wrung at nine. At the 10 o’clock the doors to homes were locked. Mill owners felt if laborers were paid and boarded well they would be content with their wages. All men, women, and children got paid once a month, on a Saturday for the previous month’s work. The workers were required to give up $.30 a month fee to support worship services. No one complained about this.
Three years earlier in 1833, President Jackson visited Lowell. All men and women working in the mills came out to see him. Every woman wore a parasol and was dressed in white muslin with a blue sash except for some wore a black sash: morning a former manager who had died. What else happened during the visit? Butler does not mention anything further. Why was it significant enough to get an entry into his memoir? What did President Jackson observe or not observe on that day?
Mill Work is not Ideal
Butler grew up with mill children. He liked everyone no matter what clothes they wore or what things they owned and he listened to their dreams and complaints. He saw their health deteriorate as the long hours of labor in the mills took its toll.
Mill life averaged about five years. Most quit after they could afford to. Young girls came from the country to work and help pay the mortgage. Men did too for the for the same reason or to save money and start a new business. No one came to Lowell to spend their whole work life at the mills.
An Outside Observer Creates an Opportunity for Change
Butler got to know a town physician very well. The physician told him that he believed a 13 1/2 hour work day, six days a week in the mill was too much for anyone working in the mills. Each worker got 30 minutes to eat their meals in such a rush the doctor explained was not enough for proper food digestion and counterproductive to the physical requirements in labor productivity of factory work. There wasn’t any heavy lifting involved, but running machines required constant attention. The doctor emphasized it was not hazardous but you needed to be out there and in good shape to work in the mills.
Butler Decides to Act
The situation with mill workers influenced Butler’s decision to seek his first political action and propose a law that would reduce daily work hours to 10 hours for anyone working in manufacturing. He gathered support for his idea and prepared for a fight. Mill managers disliked the idea. Arguments became so intense that close friends feared to talk about the concept with Butler at all. Mill managers threatened their mill workers if they were caught discussing it or attending meetings about it they would lose their job and would not find work in Lowell again.
Butler listened to all sides of the argument: managers carried out the will of stockholders, stockholders reinvested some of their money and state programs but how could they compete with neighboring and other states when their mills ran on a 14-hour workday?
Questions to Ponder
Butler does not mention how working conditions affected women and child workers. Perhaps this will come up later in his memoir. He had to have thought about it. He grew up around mill children. He saw how tired folks were from the labor and disliked treatment of the managers and mill supervisors. He detested greedy corporations whom he felt lacked compassion from the working class. Butler thought he had to act. He had a calling to help people, and he knew he has the skill and talent to do just that.
1. Benjamin F. Butler, Butler’s Book: Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major General Benjamin F. Butler : A Review of His Legal, Political, and Military Career (Boston: A.M. Thayer & Co., 1892), 85-92.
What is the National Register of Historic Places?
This register is an official listing of properties in the United States designated for preservation for future use and observation. Qualifications of the list according to the National Park Service can be a site, a district, building, structure or even some type of object. The reasons as to why these things are to be restored and preserved need to be considered for the register. Any of these qualified items may even earn a tax credit to offset costs that the preservation can cause.
History of the Register
In 1966, lawmakers passed the Historic Preservation Act. This act enabled the National Park Service to create an office to manage all the places that need protection from becoming damaged or destroyed. Various managers and directors set up a central networking site for the many different agencies with the same intentions to work together. Through this networking opportunity, archaeologist, financial experts, and administrators established guidelines for grant writing, fundraising and, steps and procedures of running the register. Thus, making the official policies and operations of the Register transparent and accessible to the public. Historic properties that used financial gain to support their preservation acquired an additional tax incentive. This incentive ultimately led to the criteria that any historical property upkeep and profits were to be included criteria for entry into the register.
Register Nominations Criteria
If you want to get your historic property onto the register, you must meet specific criteria. A form provides necessary information such as what it is, what shape it is in and what is its significance. In other words, why should the property be restored or preserved? Is it essential to the location in the community? Is it relevant to the United States as a whole? The National Park Service collects the information on the form and approves it for further action or disapproves it depending on the information provided.
The process for entry to the Registry is a bit complicated. You need to get help from the people who have experience with successful submissions. You must be committed to a finished project, and you must be able to provide money for the upkeep of your preserve property. Once you accomplish this, many rewards can benefit your hard work. This benefit can include support created by remembrance and celebration, tourism and education, revenue and tax incentives. The register provides a real umbrella of protection for the historic property which can provide additional protections that is city or town cannot alone provide.
Check out the register here and browse the current listings. Do you have a history property you would like to preserve and protect?
Young Benjamin F. Butler
In 1839, Benjamin F. Butler met a man named Fisher Aimes Hildreth. Fisher lived in the next town over from Lowell where Ben lived in Massachusetts. Ben and Fisher connected immediately and developed a life-long relationship. That same year Fisher invited Ben to his family Thanksgiving meal. It was there, Ben, met Fisher’s daughter, Sarah. According to Ben, Sarah was attractive, educated, and intelligent and, she had a passion for acting. In fact, she appeared in plays in New York and Boston. Ben showed a curiosity for a romantic relationship with Sarah but she was not interested in giving up her career to accompany a small town lawyer just starting out (1).
As time went on Sarah acquired popularity and stardom for her work. Ben, worked his way into a successful law office, and the two continued to stay in contact with one another. In May of 1844, after a long courtship, they married. Ben brought Sarah to his home in Lowell, and there they lived until she passed away from “an untimely death” in 1877 (2).
Ben and Sarah’s Children
Together Ben and Sarah created a good sized family: a girl named Blanche, and three sons: Paul, who died at age four, Paul II, and Ben-Israel. Ben-Israel decided to follow his father’s footsteps and enter into public service. He was appointed to West Point, graduated with honors and commissioned Lieutenant. Ben, proud of his son’s accomplishments encouraged Ben-Israel to take command and lead a “regiment of colored troops stationed on the Plains [so that] he might have, in addition to his instructions at the academy, the knowledge of the movement and care of the troops in actual service.” The significance of his decision by Ben Butler was that he wanted his son to acquire some military experience working as a volunteer and not someone who earned rank from being nobility (3).
After completing his military service, Ben-Israel planned to join in partnership with his father Benjamin’s law practice. But as Benjamin writes in his memoir, “I had hoped to lean upon him in my declining years, to take my place in that profession which I love and honor. ‘Man proposes. God disposes.'” Ben-Israel’s unexpected sudden death ended any chance of a father- son career dream for both of them. Ben’s daughter married a Civil War General, Adelbert Ames and raised a family while Paul sought a business career upon his graduation from Harvard. Ben, impressed with Paul’s accomplishment at a prestigious university, felt his choice of school would impact Paul favorably later in life if he desired to enter into politics (4).
A Valued Relationship
Throughout Ben Butler’s military and political career, Sarah, his wife, proved to be one of his staunchest supporters. She advised him from time to time. Her intelligence and education were a great asset to Ben. It allowed him to view his world not only from a humanitarian perspective but also that of a woman. Sarah related to Ben on a different level, but she never interfered and trusted Ben’s final judgment. When Ben experienced political strife and controversy, she remained by his side with poise and dignity (5).
Value of Family
Benjamin F. Butler’s credited his success as a lawyer, veteran, and political figure to the strong family support system he created with his wife, Sarah. He also credits his family upbringing as inspiration and passion for a lifetime of civil service to others. We can interpret his decisions and actions in his life through his experiences and thoughts about them.
1. Benjamin F. Butler, Butler’s Book: Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major General Benj F. Butler : A Review of His Legal, Political, and Military Career (Boston: A.M. Thayer & Co., 1892),78-79.
I hope everyone is enjoying the Christmas holiday in whatever way shape or form is possible. I like this time of year because I can spend quality time with family and friends. I enjoy the old traditions and look forward to making new ones.
This year I came across an American Civil War Christmas poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ( 1807-1882 ). I thought it would be fun to share. I can relate to it because of the many Christmas holidays I spent away from my family and only doom and gloom surrounded me. Those were difficult times to get through. Still, through it all, I managed to enjoy some of those holidays. Here is the poem. Enjoy!
I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.” (1)
By the 1850s, the pharmacy became big business in America. Americans increasingly found the availability of retail drug stores convenient and affordable. When a customer entered a drug store, they would see the Apothecary (owner of the drug store) managing pharmacists, employing sales and stock clerks and providing quality product based on the United States Pharmacopeia. The future of the pharmaceutical profession looked promising for growth and potential. However, this was not simply the case. Salespeople outside of the pharmacy began imitating and selling imitations of products sold in drugstores. Not only were customers unaware of the falsehood of their purchases but that some of the drugs they purchased also posed a danger to public health. The American Pharmaceutical Association was aware that there was no effective way to regulate these false remedies. Even with this growing threat to the professional pharmaceutical business, Pharmacist’s could not find a way to combat the problem even though possible solutions were sought and discussed (1).
Shortly after 1852, the newly established American Pharmaceutical Association dealt with some serious issues affecting the pharmaceutical profession. The financial crisis, brought on by a world trade economic problem, slowed pharmaceutical commerce, and this caused many retail drug stores to close down. Between the years 1860 and 1865, the Civil War, like other wars before, strengthened the professional side of pharmacy by the speedy fulfillment of medicine to the battlefield. The fast pace that continued in peacetime after the war allowed pharmacists to re-open the market but, capitalism once again affected the profession. The fast production of medicines and remedies meant less quality of the product. Between 1880 and 1890, state regulators addressed the problem by expediting the regulation of the manufacturing and sale of drugs. This improved the quality of pharmaceuticals, thus strengthening public safety and contributed to consumer satisfaction once again (2).
As physicians and pharmacists separated their profession, pharmacists concentrated specifically on their chemistry skills to create custom medicines and remedies for patient comfort. Pharmacists labeled their medications with their name and photo and directions for use of the product. By doing this pharmacists stood by his or her product to ensure the product was legitimate and safe. Factories increased the production of pills by using a press to replicate them. However, mass production decreased the value of the product. To change this, pharmacist’s added a variety of store features in order to entice customers. These included refreshing soda fountains, photography supplies, veterinary products and women’s cosmetics (3).
As business improved at the turn of the century, capitalism inadvertently sent the pharmaceutical profession spinning ahead to meet demands of industrialism and twentieth-century innovation. Customers could still enjoy the convenience of a speedy Medicine, and medicinal remedies and they could trust the product was worth every penny spent. The convenience of mass marketing and capitalism both supported the development of the American pharmacy into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
(1) Glenn Sonnedecker, The American Practice of Pharmacy, 1902-1952, in Gregory Higby and Elaine Condouris Stroud, American Pharmacy (1852-2002): A Collection of Historical Essays (Madison, WI: American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, 2005), 5-6.
(2) Ibid., 6.; For general information (not a scholarly source) on the financial crisis see, Panic of 1857, last modified on May 16, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1857
(3) Sonnedecker, 6.