Lansing’s First Fire Engine and Three Pioneer Fire Fighters

Copied from The State Journal – Lansing, Michigan – Wednesday, August 13, 1913 – Pages 1 and 6.

Lansing’s First Fire Engine and Three Pioneer Fire Fighters

A feature that will arouse enthusiasm among the old settlers at the September home-coming and afford an excellent comparison of fire-fighting methods of a half century ago and the present time, will be a demonstration with the old Torrent No. 1, hand fire engine, at the City National bank corner on some date of the week’s celebration.

Captain Julius N. Baker, of the Bingham st. fire station, one of the old living fire fighters of the city, has planned the demonstration with the old engine in which he first broke into the fire fighting game in the city. Captain Baker is very desirous of obtaining the names of any members of the old squads who at any time helped operate the pumps at pioneer time conflagrations. He requests that all old members of the company send in their names to him either by telephone or postcard so that he can get a list and organize a second later day “Torrent Company” for the demonstration.

Hand Engine Valued Relic

The ancient engine now finds a shelter in the Bingham st. fire station after 60 years, a part of the time being a very necessary adjunct to the city’s safety. It was purchased by this city early in the year 1856 from a firm in Rochester, N. Y. At the meeting where the action was taken to buy the equipment, George W. Peck was chairman and R. C. Dart, secretary.

The engine was shipped to Lansing by a devious route from Rochester, owing to the lack of railroad facilities. It was packed and shipped in sections to Buffalo by rail and thence to Detroit by sail boat. From Detroit, after many delays, the engine was forwarded over the Michigan Central to Jackson. Jackson ended its rail journey and after that its sections were loaded onto “pungs” drawn by oxen over partially broken roads. One section of it was stuck in the mud near Rives Junction and with difficulty gotten out of the swamp.

The whole engine finally arrived overland in Lansing May 12, 1856. The sections were unpacked near where the Grand Trunk railroad station now stands. At this point it was assembled, decorated with flowers and headed by throngs of “dressed up” and enthusiastic citizens was hauled to its house on the south side of East Allegan st. The day of the arrival of the engine was made a gala one. There were speeches and a general celebration. Immediately after the arrival of the equipment a company was formed and named “Torrent No. 1.” The organization derived its name from the fact that the majority of the members had been members of a fire company in Rochester, N. Y., of the same name. Nearly all the early pioneers were New Yorkers.

Sold to Cheboygan

The engine, after this city had otganized a fire department under the jurisdiction of the council, was sold to the city of Cheboygan. A year ago James P. Edmonds, whose father was of the city’s early fire chiefs and who had often directed the movements of the ancient water thrower, and Alderman Oscar McKinley, discovered the ancient engine while at Cheboygan. Sentiment prompted them to purchase it. After years of disuse and neglect it was finally returned to the city where it was formerly held in considerable respect by the early pioneers.

Captain Baker’s proposed demonstration will be at the old reservoir at Washington and Michigan aves., a water storage that hundreds of persons walk over each day without knowing of its existence. The reservoir is kept filled to this day for emergency purposes and will hold over 1,000 barrels of water. Two similar reservoirs are located beneath the streets at the south of the Buck furniture store and north of the F. N. Arbaugh department store.

Talk of the Old Days.

“Lansing practically burned up under that engine,” said Capt. Baker of No. 4, indicating the old hand pump, which is on exhibition at the station. Although it has been strenuous service for many years and has been retired for half a century, the apparatus is in excellent condition and could yet give a hearty account of itself. The pumps are double-acting and are of a powerful mechanical type, and are operated by handles on each side of the engine and capable of throwing three streams at high pressure. The body of the truck is of solid mahogany, inlaid and the casting are of solid brass. The metal frame work of the engine is hand wrought, and withal the apparatus is a work of art.

“Fires which broke out in the old town from time to time consumed blocks of the business district during the service of the old hand engine, manned by volunteers.” said Capt. Baker, who has been a fire fighter for over 38 years. Coming to Lansing in 1858, Mr. Baker’s acquaintance with the development from a village in the swamps dates from that time.

Walked Here From Detroit

“I walked here from Detroit by way of the old plank road, which ran through the college campus and onto Franklin avenue,” said Mr. Baker. “This was the route of the old stage, which then turned south through the woods down the present route of Washington avenue to the present town.” No stage ever came over East Michigan avenue between here and East Lansing. The terminal for the stage was the old Ohio hotel at the corner of Washtenaw and Washington, opposite the Hotel Downey.

“When I came here I lived with an uncle at the corner of Washington and Shiawassee. At that time the only brick buildings in the upper town were those of the Cole and Bailey blocks at the corner of Washington and Michigan avenues. The Episcopal church at that time stood on the present site of the opera house and the city school building was the Townsend st. school. I remember attending the laying of the cornerstone for the old Catholic church, which was then built in the woods near the corner of Madison and Chestnut.”

Fires Visit Village

“An early fire, which is remembered by few residents, burned the block from the Downey to the Butler on a cold winter morning, and a similar blaze took the buildings between Kalamazoo and the present Commercial hotel. V. R. Canfield, the coal man, and myself got our ears frozen during the first fire, which occurred shortly after the old steamer had been introduced. The extreme cold froze water in the air chambers and caused them to burst leaving the firemen practically helpless except for the valiant service of the old hand engine.”

Westcott Was First Chief

“K. W. Westcott was the original chief of the old volunteer department, which comprised the two companies of the upper town and that at North Lansing. Saginaw st. was established as the fighting line, and although in times of fire the two companies gave the heartiest cooperation, no fireman ever crossed the line alone without taking chance of a fight”

“If a fireman from the upper town ventured down to the north village he invited an attack from the fireman of that locality and similarly were the north end boys shy of crossing Saginaw. I remember that my uncle sent me to the North Lansing mill to get bran for his cow. I took a wheelbarrow as far as Saginaw, where I sat down and waited the length of time it would take to make the trip, and returned with the report that I could get none, not carrying to take a licking from any of the Dutch.”

“A half-way house of the old wayside inn type, which stood on the corner of Saginaw and Washington avenue, which is still vacant, caught fire one night and both companies responded. A dispute arose over which company was to take charge of the fire and developed into a fight between the “Dutch” and the firemen from the upper town, the building meanwhile burning down.”

Active in Social Life

“There was only one social class in Lansing at that time, the residents comprising a single happy family. Church socials were the principal feature and were always largely attended. During the winter, skating on the Grand river was a popular social diversion, participated in by everybody. At times the volunteer company belonging to a single engine numbered as high as 10 men, and always took part in social activities. Many of the prominent business men were members of the fire companies; often becoming so to escape jury service from which firemen were exempt.”

“The town was an informal community in those days” continued Mr. Baker. “I remember when the Prudden block was originally built, that the stores occupying the site were moved into the street where they remained while the merchants continued to do business in them until the completion of the new stores. Whenever a new building was to be raised clerks from the capitol which was than a square brick building, would come out and make it a function.”

An attempt will be made to secure several of the old firemen’s trumpets which are in the hands of a number of Lansing families. The trophies were won by the Lansing boys in contests at Ionia and with Ann Arbor and other firemen from points about the state.

Photo Caption: K. W. Westcott, original chief, with Fireman Alex Cline and Ned Burton of North Lansing. All are dead.


Lansing's first fire engine and three pioneer fire fighters-1913-08-13-Lansing, MI-firemen photo

original article - page 1

original article – page 1


original article - page 6

original article – page 6


Motor Car Age Wipes Out Last Sign of Old Interurban Line

Copied from The State Journal – Lansing, Michigan – Sunday, July 27, 1952

Motor Car Age Wipes Out Last Sign of Old Interurban Line

US-127 Job Brings Back Memories

By Fred C. Olds, Journal Staff Writer

The big green interurban car was hitting a fast clip as it rounded the long curve at the Harper road crossing and started south down the straightaway toward Mason.

This was a “time” stretch and time was all-important for the Michigan United Railway’s limited runs, listed on the time card at 1 hour and 10 minutes for the 37 miles between Lansing and Jackson.

Dropping down the well-balasted grade the motorman advanced his controller and the miles began to fly as he edged the big car’s speed past 50, 60, 65 and up to 70 miles an hour.

Slower-paced autos and an occasional farm team traveling on the adjacent blacktop highway blurred past the car windows and a low-throated whistle beeped its mellow warning at rural crossings.

Pride of the Line

The Lansing-Jackson “limited” runs were the pride of the old M. U. R.’s interurban network reaching from Lansing to Jackson and westerly to Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.

From Lansing, divisions also ran east to Owosso and north to St. Johns. In its heyday the company listed 400 miles of line. But it has been only history for many years. The M. U. R. called it quits in these parts in 1929.

Bulldozers and huge earth-moving equipment even now are engaged, between Holt and Mason, tearing up the old M. U. R. right-of-way to provide room for the new divided highway on US-127.

Ironically, the automobile, which perhaps more than anything else served to destroy the interurban, now repossesses the latter’s “iron” road to speed its travels between Lansing and Ingham’s county seat.

Recalls Final Trip

Charles Grof, of 225 Shepard st., who for many years was a conductor with the company, made the last run May 27, 1929, on the St. Johns line. The last run from Owosso to Jackson via Lansing (a night run) came the following day.

That was 20 years after commencement of interurban service between Lansing and Jackson, with through service starting in November of that year, Mr. Grof recalls.

Work started at both the north and south ends of this division and, for a time, cars were operated between Lansing and Mason before the Jackson link was completed.

Service was then extended to St. Johns and then to Owosso. While the Lansing-Jackson line was being built, steam locomotives were used before it was electrified. The St. Johns run operated for a time, however, as a steam line, Mr. Grof recalls.

Roy Adams of Mason, at one time station agent there, remembers the difficulty the company experienced in putting rails through the city.

As was the case in many other communities of that era, merchants sought to have the interurban tracks built through the business section, but the company balked at such a move in Mason.

Finally, to forestall such action, the electric line organized as a steam railroad, giving it power to take right-of-way where needed and, armed with this, put its rails west of the business section on the west banks of the Sycamore creek. The station, part of which is used now as a Consumer Power company station, was located on W. Ash st. near the New York Central railroad crossing in Mason.

Day service was hourly on the Owosso-Lansing and Jackson-Lansing divisions, with alternate runs being “local” and “limited.” Service to St. Johns was on a two-hour basis during the day.

The lines also furnished freight service and passenger cars provided express service to Jackson and Owosso and carried mail on the St. Johns run.

Operated Street Cars Here

The M. U. R. later renamed the Michigan Electric Railway company, also operated the Lansing street car lines which halted operations on April 15, 1933.

The interurban line from Jackson traveled in Lansing on the street car rails from the corner of S. Washington and Mt. Hope ave., to the downtown section. It used the street car barns located where the city market now is, but heavy repairs to interurban equipment were made at the company shops in Albion.

The interurban depot was first located where the Lansing theater now stands, according to Mr. Grof. It later was moved to a building which is now part of the Sears Roebuck store, and then later across the street.

History is progress, someone has said. Which gives point to the fact that gasoline equipment is now engaged in tearing out the old traction line’s right-of-way toward Mason.

A Michigan historian termed the interurban “a transition in modern transportation” which caused people to travel a great deal more and educated folks to look upon travel, not as a luxury, but as a part of normal routine.


Motor car age wipes out last sign of interurban line-1952-07-27-Lansing, MI-map photoMotor car age wipes out last sign of interurban line-1952-07-27-Lansing, MI

Lansing Business University history

Copied from the 1986 book – Lansing: Capital, Campus, And Cars – Pages 139 & 140.

Lansing Business University history

In 1867, Lansing was a bustling capital city of nearly 10,000 people. State government was expanding and industry such as carriage manufacturing and mill work was developing. However, many of these men wanted more than these laboring jobs, but work in state government required skills.

That year Henry P. Bartlett and E. P. Holbrook opened the Lansing Commercial College in the Lansing Academy, located in the old Benton House at the northwest corner of Washington Avenue and Main Street. The Benton House was Lansing’s first “fine hotel”, but it was being converted to apartments and commercial use. The school was started to “train young men for positions in the counting houses,” by means of courses in bookkeeping, penmanship, commercial arithmetic, commercial law and business correspondence. By 1880 Bartlett, who taught most of the classes himself, was also offering courses in grammar, algebra, and geometry. He also changed the name to Bartlett’s Business College. Bartlett sold it to W. A. and C. E. Johnson in 1887, and the brothers changed the name to Interlake Business College.

In 1898 Herbert J. Beck purchased the school, naming it Lansing Business University and adding A. C. Wessel in 1904 as a teaching partner. Competition appeared in 1905 when the Central Michigan Business College was incorporated. Competition between the two schools was intense, but they settled their differences in 1907 with a merger. In 1914 Charles E. Ebersol took over and combined the operation with the Lansing Commercial Institute.

William Dowden acquired the school in 1920, broadening the curriculum and in 1923 moved the school to 130 W. Ionia Street where it remained for more than 30 years. He continued as president and manager until his death in 1932, and he was succeeded as president by his wife. Mrs. Dowden continued until 1951 when she sold the school to Robert Sneden of Grand Rapids.

In 1961 Clark Construction Company built an eight-story building at Capitol Avenue and Ottawa Street to house the school and other offices. In August 1977 the school moved to its own building at East Kalamazoo Avenue and Cherry Street. In 1979 the school was acquired by Davenport College of Business, a Grand Rapids institution that grants two-year associate business degrees, and the name was changed to the Davenport College of Business.


Additional Information that I have gathered:

– According to a September 6, 1887 Lansing’s Pride article, the proprietors – Johnson Brothers acquired it December 1886 and was known as the Capital City Business College. Contradiction to the above article.

– In a February 22, 1893 newspaper ad, L.B.U. was located in the Baird & Hudson Building, corner of Washington Avenue and Washtenaw street.

– From a program that I have, LBU graduation exercises on April 22, 1952 were held in the Hotel Olds Ballroom.

– About May 2000, Davenport College became Davenport University.

– Main Street’s name was changed to Malcolm X Street in 2011.

– And in the Summer of 2013, Davenport University moved to 200 S. Grand Ave. at Allegan St.


photo from Aug. 2013

photo from Aug. 2013

Buck family furniture company history

Copied from The State Journal – Lansing, Michigan – Saturday, March 16, 1929

Three Generations Have Carried on Business History of Michigan Furniture Store, From Log Shop Started in 1848, to Present Establishment

From a small cabinet making shop started Oct. 8, 1848, to the present large furniture store which several days ago voluntarily petitioned the courts for liquidation is briefly the beginning and the end of the M. J. and B. M. Buck company, Michigan’s oldest furniture dealers.

Daniel W. Buck, the founder, was a native of New York state, born in East Lansing, Tompkins county, April 21, 1828. He was a son of Daniel Buck and a grandfather of the Rev. Daniel Buck, who served as an American soldier in the Revolutionary war. Daniel Buck, the father, was born in New York state, and became a substantial citizen of East Lansing, and was a deacon in the Baptist church there.

That old New York state community has an interesting relationship with the present capital city of Michigan and that was due chiefly to members of the Buck family. Levi Buck, a elder brother of Daniel W., early in the decade of the forties came out to Michigan in company with a number of other pioneers from Tompkins county, including an uncle, Joseph North. Their chief reason for coming to this wilderness was to test some wonderful stories that had been spread over Tompkins county by a party of hunters, who had fabricated a glowing account of a city which had been founded by them at the junction of Grand and Cedar rivers, the site of the present Lansing city.

This party of hunters in the strength of their representations (or rather misrepresentations) succeeded in selling some lots of their supposed city to citizens of East Lansing. The substance of their stories and the city itself were however, a product of vivid imagination, largely prompted by mercenary motives, and the entire location which they described was little more than a swamp.

Two Come On

A little later those who had been inducted to buy lots at East Lansing organized a party to go out and take possession and they reached Detroit before they had learned the real truth about the swindle. So discouraged were they that some of the party turned back but Levi Buck and his uncle Joseph North, determined to make the best of a bad bargain, and accordingly came out to the location of the town that had been pictured to them, and there took up tracts of government land. It was Levi Buck and Joseph North who afterwards really established the site of the town of Lansing, which they named in honor of their old home village in New York state.

In 1847 Daniel W. Buck, a young man not yet 20 years of age, whose experience had come from a quiet life in Tompkins county with an education in the local schools, set out for Michigan to visit his brother at Lansing and incidentally to procure employment. After a short stay he found that he was “broke” so then and there he decided to remain with the young community. Having served an apprenticeship in the cabinet maker’s trade at Ithaca, N.Y., he engaged in business at his trade. Thus the founding of the M. J. and B. M. Buck company located in Lansing for over 80 years.

His first shop was a hunter’s cabin, 8 by 12 feet, 5 feet high and constructed of logs without windows. In those cramped quarters he fitted up a bench and began work on his first piece of furniture Oct. 8, 1948. The first article made in the primitive shop was a table with folding leaves and was sold for $4.

This table was made of red cherry wood. The tree that supplied the material for it once spread its branches over the bank of a “gully” at the intersection of what is now the northwest corner of Michigan and Washington avenues.

Build Log Shop

After the old cabin had been his headquarters for about six weeks, Mr. Buck’s brother built a log and board shop at what is now the northeast corner of Michigan and Washington avenues. Daniel W. Buck had acquired the land there and later sold the lot for $300. The same corner today is regarded as the the most valuable piece of real estate in Lansing, located as it is in the very heart of the business section. Somewhat later he acquired the lot on Washington avenue where the Beck clothing store now stands but sold that for a $20 gold piece.

Six months from the humble beginning of his work as a cabinet maker he was employing a force of 10 men in his furniture factory, and from year to year his business increased until there was from 40 to 60 employees under his general direction. In 1856-? a large factory was erected on the northwest corner of Washington avenue and Ionia street, the site of the present store building. For many years the factory continued to produce all kinds of furniture, much of it hand-made and with a reputation for durability and finish such as only the highest priced goods of the present day could equal. The first bureau manufactured in Mr. Buck’s shop was sold for a load of potatoes, an equivalent of $12. The output of the factory was sold through his own retail shop.

There were no ledgers in those days and Mr. Buck kept what he called memorandum, not on a “memo pad” but on the wall paper that covered part of some of the walls of his store. From the wall he would transfer his ??????? into a day book.

In those early days the advertising columns of the papers were of much greater interest than the news column for the reason that the conception of the news. In the pioneer days was vastly different from that of the present. The merchant announcing his wares and his bargains provided the real news of the day. Mr. Buck was one of the very first merchants to realize the advantage of advertising which was done mostly by the distribution of handbills. But even as early as his day, wood “cuts” were used for display, although it was rare indeed to see a two column “ad.”

In 1880-?, largely due to the invasion of machine and corporation methods of manufacture, Mr. Buck discontinued the manufacturing end and devoted his time entirely to selling furniture at retail. For 54 years he was in the business on one site and at the time of his death, March 30, 1908, was the oldest business man in point of active experience in Lansing, his aggregate of service comprising 61 years.

Other Interests

While his career as manufacturing and merchant was sufficient to give him distinction among Lansing’s citizens. It by no means included all his activities in the community.

To him is due the credit for the erection of the Buck opera house, which was dedicated in March 1873, and opened the following May by Edwin Booth, and for many years was the home of theatrical and musical entertainment in the city. Mr. Buck and his son, Mayton J., conducted this opera house until 1891.

In politics a Democrat, Mr. Buck took an active part in the affairs of his party. He was a member of the board of alderman during the early 70’s and in 1874 was elected mayor of the city, followed by re-election in 1875. He was again elected to the office of mayor in 1886.

He saw Lansing grow from a primitive village of less than 200 inhabitants to a city of 65,000 and it that growth his own business enterprise was a conspicuous factor. From a cabinet maker with a log cabin shop, located practically in the woods, his business had been developed to a furniture factory employing over half a hundred workmen and after his retirement from manufacturing he continued as of the city’s foremost merchants throughout his long and eventful career in Lansing.

He erected the present store building in 1875 and shortly afterward took in his two sons, Mayton J. and Bailey M. Buck who continued to operate the business successfully after the death of their father. In 1914-? the present building was remodeled and numerous developments have since been made.

Since the deaths of Bailey Buck in 1920 and Mayton Buck the following year the business has remained in the same family and has continued under the manager-ship of B. Russell Buck, son of Bailey Buck.

D. W. Buck was also the founder of the first undertaking establishment in the city which he conducted in connection with his furniture store. This part of the business however will be continued under the same directorship as formerly.

Transcription of Photo Caption:
Here is shown left to right, Daniel W. Buck, founder of the present M. J. and B. M. Buck company, Mayton J. Buck and Bailey M. Buck, his two sons who succeeded him in the business and B. Russel Buck, son of Bailey M. Buck, who is the present head of the institution. The three generations in the operation of the local store, have given Lansing the honor of being the home of the oldest furniture establishment in the state. This long record is about to end, the company having decided to close out its furniture line. In the changes made on Lansing’s “main street” by time, few have been of greater historical interest than this one.


original article

original article

Cemeteries are part of city’s heritage

Copied from The State Journal – Lansing, Michigan – Friday, May 28, 1976

Cemeteries are part of city’s heritage

By Mike Hughes, Staff Writer

They are sprawling pieces of Lansing history.

There are 38,000 people buried there, including R.E. Olds and James Turner and J. W. Knapp and Howard Stoddard and E. W. Sparrow and a young drowning victim whose name is still unknown.

THERE’S A soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War and a soldier who fought with Sherman in the Civil War and long rows of soldiers who fought in other wars.

There are simple old headstones now marred and broken and unreadable. And there are giant memorials, shaped like houses and towers and trees and angels.

There are quiet, powerful signs of the devastation of war and disease.

LANSING’S city-owned cemeteries are all spruced up, ready to greet the rush of Memorial Day visitors.

This is the high time of the year for the cemeteries,” Parks Director Ted Haskell said. “I think it used to be just people visiting veterans’ graves, but now it seems like a general time for everyone to visit the cemetery.”

Howard Cannady, who is in charge of the cemeteries agrees, “We’ve had quite a crowd here already,” he said. “Tuesday, we had to empty the trash cans twice.”

NOT ALL of those visitors are there because of friends or relatives. Some are genealogy buffs. Some simply like to be near solitude and beauty and history.

Solitude? Well, maybe not a North Cemetery, a little old place that has been attacked by progress. Now it has an apartment building towering over one side, busy throughways and brash commercial strips closing in on other sides.

But at the other two, Mt. Hope and Evergreen, there’s a feeling of quiet serenity. There’s a total of nearly 200 acres, with rolling hills, woods and a rural mood.

BEAUTY? BOTH the landscaping and the monuments are often spectacular.

The history? Haskell began noticing that when he started working for the parks department 26 years ago.

His job then was to cut the grass and trim the trees, but he often found himself stopping to read the headstones. “It reminds you of the play ‘Our Town.’ You remember how that was set in a cemetery, with each one having its own story.”

THERE ARE plenty of those stories in the Lansing cemeteries.

Even if you’d never heard of him, for instance, you could tell that Ransom Eli Olds must have been someone special. His large, columned mausoleum is at the top of a hill. To get to it, you walk up a shrub-lined stairway with 17 stone steps. The building has stained-glass windows and a copper door.

By contrast, one recent headstone has no name on it. The young man’s body was found in a river and was not identified. Still, a woman comes and decorates his grave, apparently because she feels someone ought to. This year, she’s planning to bring a flower urn.

AND ANOTHER gravestone tells of a young family, with three children, that was killed in a car accident. At the top of the stone, there are statues of three angels.

The city bought new flags this year for each of the veterans’ graves in area cemeteries: 3,600 of them. “It’s only when all the flags are out like this that you see how great the local involvement was,” Haskell said.

Many of those 3,600 weren’t war victims. But many others were, and part of that story is told at the “Little Arlington” section of Evergreen.

HASKELL AND Cannady walk among the rows of flags there and read the dates on the gravestones – 1944, 1945, 1944. 1944, 1945, 1943, 1945 … on and on. “You know, you hear so much about taxes,” Haskell said. “I suppose this is another kind of tax that a community pays.”

It’s the Little Arlington section that receives the spotlight each Memorial Day weekend.

After World War II, Lansing people began looking for a special memorial. The city agreed to set aside a special hillside spot, with enough room for 125 graves. Some 11,417 people and groups contributed a total of $25,000 for a monument.

THAT MONUMENT, dedicated in 1950, is an imposing sight. It’s a 17 ½-foot, 36-ton spire of Vermont granite. Chiseled on one side are these words: “To those who served their country well and those who died that our ideals of freedom should not be forever lost, this memorial is sincerely and humbly dedicated.”

There will be a parade at 10 a.m. Saturday in downtown Lansing, followed by a quiet noon ceremony at Little Arlington. Then, throughout the long three-day weekend, thousands of people will come to visit.

The cemeteries that thousands will visit this weekend have come a long way since they were first developed more than a century ago.

THE CITY has had a cemetery even before it had any parks. The first one was in what’s now Oak Park, in the northern part of town.

Then, in 1873 the city picked out an obscure spot at what was then the southern city limit. “People thought it was just a hopeless old sand hill,” Haskell says.

With planning and care, that “hopeless sandhill” became Mt. Hope Cemetery, a stunning peace of landscaping. Now it stretches over 84 acres, with 27,500 people buried there. (The Oak Park burials were eventually moved there.)

EVERGREEN WAS added in 1922. It totals 104 acres, with 11,005 burials so far.

And North was added when the city annexed some land from Delhi Township in 1960. It includes 3.77 acres and 356 burials.

Mt. Hope and North are already sold out, although there are still some spots for families that reserved large sections. There are about 500 new burials a year and at this pace Evergreen will be sold out in another 30 years or so.

OVER THE years, the city’s cemetery division has grown into a $250,000-a-year operation, with nine people working full time and 19 other seasonal workers. The interest from the perpetual care fund alone comes to $90,000 a year.

The parks people are in charge, and Haskell says that’s a logical enough combination. The basic elements are the same as in the rest of the parks work – landscaping, maintaining and management.

Haskell, like previous Lansing parks directors, is a forestry graduate who had no background in running a cemetery. But he’s picked it up along the way, and has even written a nationally published pamphlet on cemetery management.

THE CEMETERIES reflect the fact that foresters have been in charge. They offer plush mixtures of different types of trees, shrubs and greens.

And the monuments also provide a visual feast.

At one point, near the entrance of Mt. Hope, huge markers reel off the names that have become famous in Lansing – Olds, Dodge, Turner, Sparrow, Potter, Ranney, Scott, Stoddard, Prudden, etc.

THE JAMES Turner spire towers into the sky. The Prudden mausoleum is huge and imposing. The Dr. George Ranney monument includes a plaque spelling out the colorful highlights of his life – surgeon and prisoner-of-war during the Civil War … Congressional Medal of Honor winner … founder of the state medical society in 1866 … wrote paper in 1874 that first showed the relationship between bad water and typhoid fever outbreaks … etc.

And then there’s the “Little Arlington” monument at Evergreen, towering and dominating. Another inscription there will be seen by a lot of people during the Memorial Day weekend.

By the grace of almighty God may all who pass this way hold sacred in their hearts the memories of those who fought and died that liberty might live.”


photo-1976-05-28-Cemeteries are part of city's heritage-Lansing, MI1976-05-28-Cemeteries are part of city's heritage-Lansing, MI



Michigan School for the Blind 100th Anniversary

Copied from the Lansing State Journal – MI – Sunday, September 28, 1980

Blind students treated ‘too normally,’ they say

MSB alums rap modern schooling

By Sharon M. Bertsch – Staff Writer

Football teams and broom making, boarding school deviltry and a chance “to be normal” – the Michigan School for the Blind gave all these things to its children.

For 100 years, it was the boarding school for Michigan’s brightest blind children.

An American revolution occurred in the 1970s, though. State and federal special education laws moved three-quarters of Michigan’s blind children back to their homes and community schools.

Multiply-handicapped blind children were taken out of mental institutions and sent to school for the first time in history.

ABOUT HALF of the school’s students now are retarded, if only because blindness makes it hard for them to conquer their other handicaps. More than half the 115 students are “severely multiply-impaired.”

Teaching these children is so expensive that the executive branch of the state government is trying to merge MSB with the School for the Deaf in Flint or find a way to cut costs.

Many of the school’s graduates view the revolution with horror.

It’s a revolution that no one was prepared for,” says poet Lucille Sawyer, who attended the school in 1920-28 and now lives in the Riverfront Apartments.

Shunted” into public schools, blind children can’t shine socially or in extracurricular activities, many Lansing MSB graduates believe.

The sighted world will “accept an unsighted child to a line, and beyond that they won’t go,” John Noland declared in his wife Erna’s concession stand in the Highway Building downtown.

NOLAND ENTERED the school’s fourth grade in 1920 and left in 1929. His wife finished the last three years of high school there in 1933.

MSB, though, had football, basketball and wrestling teams playing other small high schools like Williamston and Webberville. MSB had marching bands, proms and plays.

School Superintendent Nancy Bryant likes the change. “I would not send my own children away to school,” she has said.

Attending boarding school for years – going home only for summer vacations and perhaps Christmas and Easter – “disenfranchised them from their communities in a sense,” she says.

That’s why the neighborhood around the school has been a virtual “ghetto” of MSB graduates for years, she contends.

Laughter and deviltry transformed a strict school into a home they loved, though.

We laughed our way through school,” recalls Mrs. Sawyer.

RULES WERE strict. In the early years, boys and girls weren’t supposed to play together or even write a member of the opposite sex.

Boys and girls, as everywhere, though, found ways to get together.

Oh gosh, there’s all kinds of corners up there. It’s a blessing the school house can’t talk,” Noland joked.

I don’t think we were any better than the teenagers today,” agrees Mrs. Noland.

Like boarding students elsewhere, they filched the domestic science teacher’s fudge supply and raided a custodian’s cache of Prohibition wine and cider from the broom shop.

And they skipped school at 11 p.m. to walk to Potter Park to swim, recalls Clarence Horton, former supervisor of Michigan’s blind concession stand operators. The boys had “a standing rule that worked on everything.”

The superintendent at the time admired their spunk. Some of the pranks he tolerated would cause a statewide scandal nowadays.

THE BOYS pitched an unpopular principal, dressed in his best wedding suit, into a bathtub of cold water. When every boy in school confessed to the crime, the superintendent just took their senior dance away.

Life wasn’t all fun, though.

Several graduates mention one administrator who beat and taunted the orphans, illegitimate children or “people from the Southeastern part of Europe.”

When Lillian Hart, now 95, went to the school as a teacher in 1918, it was still “an institution.”

The school dressmaker had one pattern and dressed the state wards – orphans – alike in Indianhead cotton uniforms and sateen bloomers, Miss Hart and Clarence and Agnes Horton recall.

You could tell the girls on the state.” Horton said. “They didn’t do that to the boys. They took them to Kositchek’s” clothing store.

When “a child from a loving home” entered MSB, Mrs. Sawyer could “smell the difference.”

He had another dimension from us. He smelled different, of nice clothes and Ivory soap.”

WE DIDN’T have the confidence that blind children do now. We were more institutionalized.”

By the 1920’s, the school was loosening up a bit. Radios expanded the children’s world, Miss Hart recalled. She lived at the school as a geography teacher until she retired in 1946 and moved to West Michigan Avenue.

By the time Mrs. Horton became an MSB music teacher in the 1930s, the Lions Club Auxiliary was providing used clothing for the orphans.

Another big change occurred when the school convinced Michigan State College professors that blind students were as mentally able as the sightless.

An even bigger change occurred when the school began helping its graduates find jobs in the late 1950s and 1960s, Mrs. Horton recalled.

Mrs. Noland got a teaching certificate from MSC, for example. But no school district would hire a blind teacher. Her younger brother Harold, also blind, was hired by Lansing School District only because a West Junior High teacher befriended him. Harold, who still teaches at Everett High, was one of the first blind teachers in Michigan.

For many children, MSB was their only chance for an education.

Few school districts outside big cities like Detroit and Grand Rapids had classes for blind students.

When Agnes Horton’s parents moved from Chicago to Michigan in 1918, they left six-year-old Agnes in a boarding house so she could attend Chicago’s only school for the blind.

SHE WENT crosstown daily on a street car. A policeman and a student hired for the purpose met her at the two transfer points. When she moved to the Michigan School for the Blind at aged eight, it seemed more like home.

Teachers were dedicated and tried to alleviate the institutional atmosphere with little personal touches, Mrs. Horton recalls.

She liked the matron who dabbed each girl with a drop of perfume before marching them off to church on Sundays.

Early teachers weren’t trained to teach blind children, however. When Miss Hart came in 1918, it was “just another teaching job,” she thought. Braille was “really Greek to me.”

Later she was one of the few teachers to learn to read Braille.

Hired for $40 a month – the same wage teachers received when the school opened in 1880 – Miss Hart worked day and night, and Saturday and Sunday.

Most teachers stayed only a couple of years, got married or moved on,” Miss Hart said.

AMERICANS TODAY understand handicaps better, Mrs. Sawyer thinks.

At the time, though, the school pleaded with parents to treat their blind children like “normal youngsters.”

Now, as Mrs. Sawyer complains, they’re treating blind children so normally that they’re taking them out of the Michigan School for the Blind and putting them in regular public schools.

And she and her schoolmates don’t approve one bit.


Note: In 1994, the Michigan School for the Blind closed in Lansing and merged with the Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint.




original 1980 article

original 1980 article


Early Telephone History in Lansing

Copied from The State Journal – Lansing, MI – Sunday, May 24, 1959

Telephones: Earliest Service Started Here With 60 Customers

Century-old Lansing had just come of age when the infant telephone industry was born in the capital city in 1880.

From that time to the present, telephones have strengthened and lengthened Lansing’s voice to the point where today some 92,500 telephone customers here may call more than 63 million phones in the United States and most of the 118 million phones in the world.

But in 1880, only 60 Lansing customers were interested in telephone conversation.

It was in that year that William A. Jackson, general manager of the Telephone and Telegraph Construction company of Detroit, agreed to establish an exchange here if 50 subscribers signed up. Jackson had brought Michigan’s first telephone to Detroit in 1877, establishing an exchange there the following year.


Jackson commissioned Alfred Beamer, then Western Union manager at Lansing, to line up customers after which the first commercially-used telephone was installed in the old Lansing House, later known as the Downey hotel. The building was torn down years ago to make room for a large department store building.

Within a year from the opening date on Dec. 16, 1880, the exchange boasted 100 phones.

Though this city did not have the first exchange in the state, a Lansing man experimented with the telephone idea three years before the actual installation.

In the period between 1876 and 1879, Dr. George P. Richmond, Lansing dentist and inventor, tinkered with electrical transmission of sound, as did many other scientists throughout the world, including Alexander Graham Bell.

With a simple diaphragm instrument, Dr. Richmond was able to carry on a conversation between his home and office.

Dr. Richmond’s “hydrophone” worked on the variable resistance principle of Bell’s “liquid transmitter” – the one which carried the historic words, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!” in March of 1876.

But Bell felt that the manipulation of a container of liquid and the use of “wet” batteries was not practical at that time for untrained persons, so he went on to the “magnetic induction” telephone as being easier to operate.


In 1877, with the assistance of Beamer, Dr. Richmond connected two instruments to a Western Union telegraph line which ran from Lansing to Detroit and back again.

A story in the Lansing Republican of Nov. 19, 1877 told of setting up the 230-mile loop, connecting two instruments in different Lansing locations, and attaching a battery of 372 cups of liquid in the Detroit office. An excerpt said:

Connections were at once made with the circuit, the transmitting instrument being placed in the grocery of H. W. Squires, one door east, and the receiver in the express office. Soon they heard the words, distinctly uttered (by Richmond), “Beamer, Beamer, do you hear me? I will sing, and in an instant the tones of ‘Marching On’ were distinctly heard at a distance of 20 feet from the instrument.

A Bell telephone then also was attached in the Detroit operating room, over which listeners there heard songs and conversations.

Many successful experiments were conducted with the Richmond instrument over lines of varying distances, but it never reached widespread use because of the introduction of new, more practical developments in telephony and lack of financial backing.

In 1881 the first telephone directory was listed with 93 names, but no numbers. Operators memorized the names and their positions on the switchboards, and as new customers were added, holders of directories wrote in new names by hand.

Only three telephones were installed in the Capitol building at that time.

Except in emergencies, the exchange was open from 7 a. m. to 10 p. m.

The first Lansing telephone office was located at 229 Washington st., but with expansion the exchange outgrew the location. Early in the 1880’s it was moved to the old State building.

First telephone operator in Lansing was Miss Nellie Potter, later Mrs. C. R. White of Baltimore. Her assistant was Miss Gertie Beamer. Other early operators included Miss Alice Carr, later Mrs. Chris Breisch; Mrs. Fred Keith, and Mrs. Alice Hill.

Early in 1883 the first long-distance line stretched out from Lansing to Mason, which was followed in June by another to Detroit. In the next two months others spread out to Ionia and Battle Creek.

Though skepticism ran high about early telephones, business places invited people in to “try the new-fangled contraption” and thus helped bring in more trade as people “threw their voices an unbelievable distance.”


By 1898, newer telephone equipment had been installed, many more long distance lines had been built, and 400 phones were operating in the community. In that year Beamer was succeeded as manager by J. H. Lyons, who was followed in 1902 by E. C. Ewer, and Glen L. Williams in 1905. Other early managers included J. E. Scott in 1908, and E. J. Holihan. Ben R. Marsh, later Michigan Bell’s vice president and general manager and chairman of the board, was manager here in 1911.

In 1902 the crank-type telephone left the Lansing scene and was replaced by the “common battery” system which permitted reaching the operator by merely lifting the receiver.

With expiration of Bell’s original telephone patents in 1893, competing companies sprang up around the country and appeared in Lansing at the turn of the century when the Citizens Telephone company was formed.


The Citizens company gave good service for those days but required customers to have two telephones to be connected with others in town. The costly duplication of service came to an end in 1923 when the Michigan State company (which became Michigan Bell the next year) purchased the assets of its competitor. Properties included he Citizens central office building at 220 N. Capitol.

To provide enough space to house both phone systems in the building, the company erected a three-story addition and converted both systems to modern dial operation.

Two years later the exchange has grown to more than 14,000 telephones and reached 18,000 by 1930. To keep pace with that growth, Michigan Bell had erected a fourth floor atop the previous addition in 1927.

With a new high of 30,000 telephones in 1940, Michigan Bell razed the original Citizens building and built a two-winged four-story structure at a cost of $700,000, including $285,000 in new dial equipment.


In succeeding years more central office equipment was added to meet service demands for customers who numbered more than 40,000 in 1945 and soared to 55,000 by 1950.

The immediate post-war years also saw inauguration of Lansing mobile telephone service in 1948. The following year the company launched the extended area service plan here so telephone users could call Dimondale, Holt, Mason and Potterville without toll charges.

When the spectacular $5 million fire hit the state office building in 1951, the telephone company faced the largest emergency project in Lansing since the famed sleet storm in 1922.

Damage to the switchboard and telephone equipment was estimated at $125,000. But even before firemen arrived on the scene, signals on the big 10-ton switchboard on the seventh floor of the building told of big trouble, and restoral plans began almost immediately.

Michigan Bell marshalled forces of up to 60 plant department men, some from Grand Rapids and Jackson, and installed temporary switchboards as rapidly as state agencies obtained temporary quarters. Meanwhile, Western Electric company, manufacturing and supply arm of the Bell system, sent emergency equipment from Detroit and Chicago.

One week after the fire, Michigan Bell had nine switchboards operating.


Installation began in 1952 of a new dial switchboard to serve state agencies, and after testing it was put into service Jan. 6, 1953, representing a total cost of $119,000. It replaced 1 manual switchboards which had served the capitol since the fire.

By 1952 the number of Lansing phones exceeded 65,000 and in that year the automatic answering device nicknamed “Amanda” was introduced for the benefit of business customers who wanted their telephone attended even though they were out.

IN 1954 the new Turner office on Jolly rd. was opened and was the first Lansing proper to use the two-letter-five-numeral telephone numbers. The same type of numbers came to the rest of Lansing and surrounding towns in 1955 to pave the way for eventual development of direct distance dialing here.


In 1956” said Emerson B. Ohl, Michigan Bell manager in Lansing, “more than 90 percent of Lansing’s households had telephone service. And from 1946 to 1956 the number of phones increased from 41,000 to 76,000 nearly doubled in a 10-year period. At present, some 92,500 telephones are now in service in the Lansing exchange.”

Ohl also said that in 1957 some $2 million in new construction was completed in Lansing, which brought the post-war construction total here to more than $16.6 million.

In that same year, 846 Michigan Bell employees were working in the Lansing area and were paid some $3.7 million wages and salaries.

The telephone in Lansing has come a long way since the first 60 subscribers signed up nearly 80 years ago,” said Ohl. “And the future of telephony is just as bright as its past.”


Photo Captions:
1. OLD TIME SWITCHBOARD – This old timer – called a Gilliland switchboard – was used at Golden, Colo., in 1880, the same year Lansing received its first telephone exchange. Sixty subscribers signed up here for the capital city’s first telephone service, an exchange set up by William A. Jackson, general manager of the Telephone and Telegrapg Construction company of Detroit, and the first man to bring Bell’s new telephone to Michigan.
2. EARLY PHONE – One of more modern phones of its day, this “Blake Transmitter” went into commercial service late in 1878. The above 1880 version sat on a desk stand for support. Bell Telephone company acquired rights to this transmitter in November of 1878, which improved upon the “loose contact” principle of producing undulating current. The principle was described in Bell’s original patent and still is in use today. Loose electrical contact is a means of varying the intensity of current, thus permitting speech.
3. EARLY OFFICE – This brick building at 123 S. Grand ave., now the home of the Lansing Insurance agency, was an early Lansing telephone office, as the familiar Bell telephone signs on the front window in this photo indicate.
4. INSTALLED CABLE – In the early days of telephony, equipment trucks like this helped install lines and underground cable after the turn of the century. The Michigan State Telephone company (note name on truck) because the Michigan Bell Telephone company in 1924 after it purchased the assets of the Citizens Telephone company the year before. Much costly duplication of having two telephone systems in one community thereafter was eliminated.
5. PHONE NERVE CENTER – In 1885, two years after long-distance telephone service came to Lansing, this photo was taken showing Lansing’s operating room. Note the “no smoking” sign on the wall and tin cup beneath it. By 1898 newer telephone equipment had been installed and 400 phones were operating in Lansing.

michigan bell logo

original article - 1 of 2

original article – 1 of 2

original article - 2 of 2

original article – 2 of 2