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07-16-2020 Tri-City Area History Page

Bill Nelson and Frank Breed leaning on a car at Nelson Brothers … Notice the old type gas pump on the right and near center. Do you have a story involving a vehicle the pops into your mind? We would love to hear your story, please contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 269-468-3330, or The museum is open for private tours only. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma


EDITOR’S NOTE … the recent passing of longtime columnist Roy “Bud” Davis necessitates adding local history columns. Beginning with July issues our popular local history columnists, Pearl Playford, Dorothy Cannell, and Roy “Bud” Davis will rotate through a 3-week cycle. Enjoy!

This is an answer to the suggestion that I write a weekly column for the Record, recalling early days in Coloma and Watervliet, similar to that written by Roy Davis about Hartford – that is, of course, with the help of Record readers. I have thought a lot about this challenge. It is true that, any day now, I’ll be an “old-timer” who has strings to this community stretching way back. It is also true that I have been involved in several basic projects about the history of these communities. First, there were long, pleasant days in the summer of 1975 spent with my mother, Mabel Branch Stark, at my home on Magician Lake, typing, editing and adding personal stories to complete her book, “Trails From Shingle Diggin’s”. We so wanted to help her finish one final copy before her 90th birthday, which would be on August 26. She had gathered material all of her adult life, interviewed people 50 years ago who were 90 then. Many of the stories had been in area news-papers for which she was a reporter. The stories were basically there. Being a good newspaper reporter she was great on getting the facts, but we, my sister Allene and I, were trying to get her to include some human interest stories of her own life. “This is history,” she would insist. “People don’t want to hear about me. They want to hear about ‘old-timers!’” We finally convinced her that she was an old-timer and she reluctantly allowed some of her memories in. And we did have a completed copy of the book for her 90th birthday. In fact, Evelyn Kittel Appel, who had been a childhood neighbor of ours, baked a beautiful cake, decorated with a book on top and imprinted with the name. Her friends, the Howard Kosbaus, worked with us to get it published, and although she died before this was finished we always felt that we had helped Mom bring completion to her life’s work. Second, there was further research and writing experience acquired in the project for the Coloma sesquicentennial, which we called “Shingle Diggin’s Came First.” That had been Allene’s choice for the book title, but “Trails From Shingle Diggin’s” prevailed because the book emphasized that it reached into Paw Paw Lake, Hagar and Bainbridge townships, and Watervliet. I also handled some of the newspaper publicity for the drama presentations. There was more research for an ill-fated attempt to write a drama for Watervliet’s sesquicentennial. The committee decided against it, but we did a few parts for a North Berrien Historical Society meeting. Finally, I was on the committee, headed by Sylvia Prager, which published last year the book “Glimpses of the Past,” family stories written by many people of this community. And those were eye-openers for anyone interested in “the old days” of this area or history in general. My maternal grandparents, Laura and Eaton Branch, settled on Hagar Shore Road among such neighbors as the John Pecks, the Wicklunds, the Lavelys, the Friesens, the Hutchins family (Amelia was Laura’s sister) and east of the Stickneys and the Harts. (She was Laura’s sister too. They ran a dairy and Ethel Hart, also a cousin, became Mrs. Joe Pitcher, well-remembered residents of Watervliet.) Beyond them there were the Coons and the McConnels and another Branch, brother of Eaton, who moved before my day to White Cloud, where today you’ll find “bunches of Branches”. I remember my mom mentioning also the Schoonovers (Susie, a special friend) and the Doolittles, and just off Hagar Shore were the Pocketts. Mom’s sister, Aunt Nora, married Gard Pockett and I am now staying in Florida with Muriel, one of their children. Mabel, my Uncle Earl and Aunt Nora, along with children from many families mentioned, attended Stickney School. I have some memories of it myself as we lived the World War I years across from my grandparents. However, I started school at Ingrahm, a few miles east on Hagar Shore Road, nearer where I graduated much later, of course, from Coloma High School. My grandparents also lived in Watervliet on Mill Creek in the Holland tenant house and Mom attended school there in 1892 and ‘93. She was a member of the Forty-Year Club (people who attended Watervliet School 40 years before they join). Is it still in existence? I’m not sure. I feel foolish going on so long about myself and family but sense a need to establish credibility for my doing a column such as Record editor/publisher Karl requested. This letter is kind of a resume. And to be honest, I must also include some negative considerations. I’m a snowbird several months of the year (Thank God, this winter!) but know a number of local people who are here, too, and good for a few stories. My present interests and concerns reach beyond local history and might creep into any column I’d write. I’d like to try a little reminiscence, a little humor, travel, some challenge toward the opportunities available today, and a bit of dreaming about the future. With some contributions from others, perhaps it would work – as it works for Roy and Hartford. If you’re willing to open the door, I’d like to try.

Coloma Public Library News Special Access Services On Monday, July 13, the Coloma Public Library opened for Special Access Services. Hours of service are Monday-Friday 12-6. The library will continue Curbside Service on Saturdays from 10-2. Special Access Services means they may only allow a limited number of patrons in the library building at a time. Visits are limited to 30 minutes when there are others waiting for access. As mandated by the State of Michigan, face masks are required for entry. Social distancing is to be maintained for the safety of staff and patrons. Computers will be available with limited assistance from staff. Faxing and printing is available. Summer Reading Program Summer Reading has officially begun! This year’s offering is virtual so children, teens, and adults can participate in fun reading challenges online! However, the library will also provide paper logs and craft kits (while supplies last). Visit for details. Please call, email, or reach out to staff through Facebook for any questions. Newspaper Archives Coloma Public Library has an extensive archive of local newspaper editions including the Coloma Courier, Watervliet Record, and Tri-City Record. The link is found on the right-hand side of the library’s home page. A library card is not needed to access this wealth of historical knowledge. Little Free Cart Weather permitting, the library will place a cart outside the front doors with free reading materials. Materials come from donations and are an eclectic assortment.

Read your hometown paper online … Subscribers can read the Tri-City Record online for free Email: for a link


100 years ago – 1920 The remains of the late Henry Estborne arrived from the American military cemetery in France. He was stricken with disease while on shipboard. His widow requested the body be sent to Coloma for burial. The Methodist church announces the annual meeting at the Crystal Springs camp. Exceptionally fine speakers have been secured. Mrs. Maria Baker died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Wm. Van Derveer. Her family came to America from Ireland when she was four years of age, her parents not surviving the voyage across the ocean. 60 years ago – 1960 Notaries Public serving Coloma are Blanche K. Plummer, Laverne E. Muth and Edna Nagle. Four projects are part of the bond issue for Coloma Community Schools. If you expect to be away, pick up an absentee ballot. Approved swimming and boat mooring sites have been designated. They are: in front of Paw Paw Lake Yacht Club, Paw Paw Island No. 1 and at the home of Miss Connie Burk. Coloma Class of 1925 holds reunion. 30 years ago – 1990 Residents may be without ambulance service unless alternative funding support can be obtained. Ambulance Service President Brian Balow has written a proposal to both the City and Township, but heard no reply. The Glad-Peach Festival proudly honors Marion Boyer Smith as the 23rd Grand Marshal of the parade. She is a direct descendent of early settlers and has been very active in community events since 1939. Owner Pat Swierbut and Manager Sharon Shuck prepare homemade bread at the newly opened Subway sandwich shop on Main Street. Ken Littke is a five-gallon donor. Red Cross coordinator Florine Issac presents Ken with a 5-gallon pin. Lenny and Terry VanPelt celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They were former owners of The Last Resort and now reside in Florida. Submitted by volunteer Sandi Musick Munchow at Coloma Public Library from the Coloma Courier newspapers donated by the Tri-City Record. Special Access Services are Mon-Fri 12-6; Curbside Service, Sat 10-2. Phone: 269-468-3431


100 years ago – 1920 Work is being done on the laying of a new water main on Haver Street from Main to Olds Street, and east on Olds to Edwin Street. William Mix is digging the trench. The house on the Frank Bair farm, a mile and a half east of the village burned to the ground yesterday morning. The fire originated in a wood-box behind the kitchen stove. When he first discovered the fire, it was confined to the wood-box and could have been extinguished with a pail of water. Mr. Bair rushed to the pump, but the pump had run down and before he could secure the water the fire was beyond control. An alarm was sounded and the local firemen went to the farm with a truck. They were obliged to drive over the new roadbed under construction and the big truck stalled several times. Their arrival was delayed and the house was doomed before they reached the scene. 75 years ago – 1945 The State Board of Aeronautics has granted a 30-day commercial airport permit to Leach airport and will grant a permanent license as soon as certain markers are installed. The temporary permit will allow use of the airport by planes carrying passengers and freight for hire and for flying instruction. Miss Rhonda Lee has been entered in a “Miss Fighting Lady” contest being conducted by Life magazine at the request of a navy aircraft carrier known as “The Fighting Lady”. Pictures of entrants in the contest are being submitted and carrier crewmen who asked the magazine to find an official pin-up girl for their ship will judge the contest. Mrs. Marie Finley will entertain the Hartford Art study class Monday afternoon at her home. Mrs. Nellie Smith will present the lesson on “Spanish Paintings”. Dr. Leo Latus has been blue-gillin’ night and morning at Rush Lake where he puddled around as a boy and learned all the fishing spots. With the help of his sons he brought in 26 8-to-10 inchers the other evening. 50 years ago – 1970 Workers are busy this week putting the finishing touches on the new fairgrounds for the Van Buren County Youth Fair. It will be the first year for the fair at its new permanent location along Red Arrow Highway between Hartford and Lawrence. It was previously held at the old county fairgrounds in Hartford. Entrance to the fair will be on a new road running from CR-681 to the center of the grounds. Parking will be available on the grounds. The fair has a 50-year lease on the site and plans to develop a modern fairgrounds in coming years. Submitted by Librarian Stephanie Daniels at Hartford Public Library from microfilm copies of the Hartford Day Spring. Revised Hours: Mon – Fri 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Phone: 269-621-3408


90 years ago – 1930 Wanda’s Brown Bobby Kitchen is the name of the new Watervliet enterprise operating in Mrs. Peer’s building on Main Street. The products are greaseless Brown Bobby Donuts and the output is reported going over big. H.G. Geisler Advertisement: Wash Dresses which are really lovely, boasting many and varied fashion touches of printed Voile, Pique, Prints, Soisettes and Dimities. Prices from $.98 – $1.98 and $2.95. Will Hilliard has built a glass porch on the north side of his residence in the Lewis Addition. 60 years ago – 1960 On July 16, 1960, the official count for the “Open House” at the Watervliet Paper Mill was 2,268. On the east side entrance greeting visitors were Val Freidrich, General Manager, and L.J. Scheid, Director of Manufacturing. One display case featured the names and labels of companies for which the mill produces paper. Twenty-four hundred donuts were consumed, 500 cups of coffee poured along with many cases of soft drinks. Miss Martha Stennecke attended the Sheridan Indiana Centennial Twirling Contest sanctioned by the USTA. Marsha won a first place trophy in the 16 years and over age group and won the Senior Divisional Centennial Queen Trophy. Mr. and Mrs. Doyle Martin are the proud parents of their baby boy, Michael Dean, born July 6, 1960 and weighed 6 pounds, 8 ounces. 30 years ago – 1990 Margaret Stanley celebrated her 80th birthday on July 21, 1990, at an outdoor event hosted by her 7 children and spouses. Among her guests was a surprise visit from her brother, Robert Hathaway and his wife from Scottsdale, Arizona and her grandson, Robert Stanley and all of his family from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Only one brother, Roy Hathaway of Washington could not attend her special day. The owners of the newly opened Historic House Antiques on Main Street recently donated four parchment copies of American historic documents to the Watervliet Library. The documents are Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. There will be a book signing event at the Tri-City Record featuring our own, Roy Davis author of “Paw Paw River – Times and People”. When asked who his publisher is, he laughed and stated, “I am acting as my own publisher and I’m in the hands of a madman.” Submitted by Sally Q. Gonzalez from files at Watervliet District Library of the Watervliet Record newspapers donated by the Tri-City Record. Curbside hours: Mon – Fri 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Wed 4 – 8 p.m. and Sat 12 – 2 p.m. Phone: 269-463-6382


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