Copied from The State Republican – Lansing, Michigan – Tuesday, May 9, 1905
Pioneer Times At North End
By J. E. Warner
Old Settlers are often importuned to tell the present generation what they knew about Lansing before the majority of its present inhabitants were born. I have on several occasions made a public revelation of what I knew of its early history, but now am requested to brush up my memory and reveal to the readers of the State Republican something of the early history of that particular locality called by comment consent, North Lansing.
Fifty-five years ago in March, I came by the “Foot and Walker” line from Wayne county and landed in North Lansing and somehow the attractions that I stumbled onto in that locality proved so magnetic that I have been chained, as it were to the part of our city all these years.
Business at that time was very much condensed and clustered about the corners of Franklin and Center sts. Jas. Seymour and his co-partners owned nearly all the land in this immediate vicinity, and to boom their property, erected a fine hotel which they called the Seymour house. This was the attractive feature of the village, and for several years the leading hotel in Lansing. This hotel was headquarters for the law makers of the state who were at that time in session in the new capitol, located on the block bordered by Washington and Capitol aves on the east and west, and by Allegan and Washtenaw sts on the north and south. As an aggregation of law makers and fun makers, this first general assembly here out Webstered Daniel the Great and put to shame the favorite Sons of Momus.
Social events were limited for the lack of convenient places to meet. There were no theaters, no clubs, and no special attractions, and when the men and boys wanted an evening of good solid enjoyment they would gather in the spacious bar room of the hotel and listen to the jokes and yarns of their neighbors.
A two-plank walk extended from the hotel to the capitol, over which the distinguished sojourners were wont to tramp, to and from every day during their stay in the city of the woods. One member, an old hunter, always carried his gun and one night he came home with a large turkey strung over his shoulder that he killed near the hill where Bailey M. Buck lives. Fresh meat, other than wild game was a scarce article. Partridges and quail were plenty, and as there was no law limiting for killing, the hotel table was always well supplied with these dainty and palatable meats, and when the warm spring days brought the chattering squirrel from his winter hiding place, the landlord would go or send a man out with a shot gun, who would return in an hour or so with a dozen black squirrels, that would provide a delicious pot-pie for dinner.
Quite frequently deer were killed within what is now the corporate limits of the city, and one day I remember a large black bear came into the village. Just west of the bridge two Indians took the trail and captured the animal about where the School for the Blind is located.
Indians were very plenty here in those days, Old Okemos, a noted chief, with his tribe, made frequent visits to the village. They would go into camp in what was known as the Turner woods, now occupied by the spacious residence of Hon. F. L. Dodge. They would remain several days, exchanging furs, dried venison, roots, herbs, etc. for such articles as their tastes desired and of which the two merchants kept a good supply especially for the Indian trade. A small quantity of “fire water” was usually sandwiched in with other purchases. It was an interesting sight to see the Indians coming to town. They came on their ponies, Indian file or to make it plain to the uninitiated, single file. Old Okemos always in the lead. The squaws, like the males, rode astride and carried their camp equipage strapped on behind the rider. The train always reached from Center st. out beyond the Camp farm nearly a mile in length. It was always a half-holiday when this great caravan was headed for the camping ground in the Turner woods, and one occasion the attraction proved so great that the legistlature adjourned and loaned their august presence as spectators to this wild and weird pagent, illustrated by our original American citizens.
Another incentive for the assembling of the people was the arrival of the stage from Detroit. The Seymour house was the landing place for the stage and at its arrival daily about 6 p. m., the sound of the driver’s horn, for which the inhabitants were listening would cause a stampede of the whole population for the corners, and about the hotel. The stage driver was a bigger man than Gen. Jackson. The interest and excitement that occurs about our railroad stations of the present day on arrival of trains are not compared with the interest taken in the arrival of the old Concord coach, drawn by four foaming steeds and the crack and flourish of the Jehu’s whip.
North Lansing was about the whole thing in those days. It was the principal part of what is now our beautiful city. We were one happy family. No jealousies, no social distinction – all seemed united in the one great object of building up a city, peopled with fathers and mothers, of whom our children, in after years, might with pride turn back the pages of the book of progress and say “they were my ancestors.” Of such was North Lansing 55 years ago.
Photo Caption: Joseph E. Warner. Author of Interesting Sketch of Early Days at North End.
Note from Timothy: Joseph Warner was Mayor of all the city of Lansing in 1878, and his home still stands today at 1230 West Willow Street.