09-10-2020 Tri-City Area History Page


Bicyclist visits the livery … the old and the new at the turn of the 20th century. The livery barn was located where the former U.S. Post Office was on Logan Street in Coloma. Can you identify any of the three men in this photo? Do you have any stories combining the old and new? If you have a story to tell, please contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 269-468-3330, or info@northberrienhistory.org. North Berrien Historical Museum is open for private tours, Tues. thru Fri. 10-4. Stop by for a tour. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma


Reminiscing with Pearl Playford

Thursday, July 23, 1959 The size of Watervliet doesn’t indicate that it is one of the oldest communities in Berrien County and that it is older than Chicago, but according to old records available, it was settled in 1835, 124 years ago. According to the records, two men, named Smith and Merrick, started a sawmill on Paw Paw River, about three miles north of Bainbridge. They named the settlement Waterford, but it was later changed to Watervliet. In those pioneer days Paw Paw River was a busy stream, carrying upon its surface huge rafts of logs, and work in the sawmills was the chief occupation. Coloma is also rooted in the sawmill days. Says the Record: “It became evident that a trading post at a point, now Coloma, would be a convenience so two men, Gilson Osgood of Watervliet and Martin Musser, and a few others built a tannery, put up a shanty, into which a small stock of goods was offered for sale, and called it a store. It was the first store in what is now called Coloma, but was then called Dickerville.” When Osgood’s store opened for business, the first day’s trade, history recounts, was heavy and many gathered from near and far. Money was scarce and the age-old system of bartering was resorted to. Settlers brought all kinds of farm produce to exchange for tobacco, calicos, boots, and whatnot, and dickered long over rates of exchange. In fact, says the account, “there was so much dickering that the name ‘Dickerville’ was suggested, and the label stuck until 1855 when Stephen Gilson changed the name to Coloma.” Watervliet was 100 years old in 1935, but because of the Century of Progress in Chicago that year there was no effort made for a centennial observance.

Thursday, July 30, 1959 Interest generally was not too keen when, several years ago, Watervliet City purchased of the late Charles B. Hays of Kalamazoo a tract of land for a recreation center, but today Watervliet is proud of the development that has converted an idle 17 acres into an athletic field and public park that is a credit to the community. At the time of the purchase, few realized the value of the tract. It was plain that the portion adjacent to the highway was well adapted to the needs of an athletic field, but only a few were aware that at the rear of the tract and bordering on Paw Paw River was a choice wooded area which, when cleared of underbrush and improved, combined the great majority of the natural assets of a recreation park. In the winter of 1933-34 as a part of the government rehabilitation program, the city received a grant of $3,000 to be used in hiring unemployed men to improve the park and to this sum the city added $600 from the park fund to be used in the purchase of necessary material. The money was carefully spent, but was not sufficient, so in the spring another grant was obtained which with the aid of necessary material furnished by the city from the park fund the project was completed and on July 4, 1936, Hays Park was dedicated to a homecoming celebration that brought thousands here, many of whom agreed that Watervliet’s recreational facilities were equaled by very few cities and towns anywhere. Shrubs and trees of various kinds were planted the first year, not only to beautify, but to make a bird paradise. Several Watervliet and Paw Paw Lake residents gave liberally of shrubs, plants and bulbs from their own gardens, which would have cost the city $200, said the mayor, the late Willis Emerson. Many of those who have contributed have since passed away, but they will long be remembered for their co-operation in making Hays Park a favorite spot for many family reunions, picnic dinners and suppers and other gatherings.

Watervliet District Library matches grant to upgrade technology Nearly one year ago the Watervliet District Library was awarded a $7,000 challenge grant to support a major computer equipment upgrade. Community members had made progress towards completing that match when health and safety concerns around COVID-19 required public libraries across the State of Michigan to close. With the lifting of restrictions, donations once again began to arrive. A substantial contribution has been received from an anonymous donor in honor of former and past Watervliet District Library Board members. This generous donation has enabled the library to fully meet the grant match, ahead of the original deadline of Sept. 10. Grant deadlines were extended in light of the pandemic and accompanying economic downturn, to January, 2021. With the funding match achieved ahead of schedule, the library will be able to offer public computer users a much smoother and more effective online experience at the library and at home, sooner rather than later. The Upton Foundation recognized the need for flexibility very early into the current crisis. Although the library’s initial grant request specified replacing the eleven aging public computers, the grantors are allowing the replacements to include in-house laptops and take-home tablets, as well. These changes will provide better opportunities for social distancing within the library and for virtual work from home. Library Director Sharon Crotser-Toy stated, “I am delighted to accept this unexpected donation that’s put us over the top. Board members, past and present, are certainly worthy of this honor; it’s a great way to share appreciation of the many Trustees who’ve worked on our behalf. I’m also thankful to the many members of the public who’ve contributed great and small amounts over the past year to help us reach our goal. Watervliet has an inspiring spirit of community support!” Crotser-Toy shared that she expects computer replacements to begin shortly, as soon as various documentation requirements are completed.

Watervliet District Library News Best Recent UFOs via Zoom Find out what one of Michigan’s top UFO researchers has to say Thursday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m., via Zoom. “Best Recent UFOs” will be presented by William Konkolesky, director of the state’s Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). Latest UFO sightings will be shared, followed by a Q&A. Viewing details will be posted on the library’s Facebook page and website. Third Monday Book Group The Third Monday Book Group will meet Sept. 21 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss “Radium Girls,” by author Kate Moore. Books are available at the library for anyone wanting to join the group. Contact the library for location details. Card Sign-up Month September is Library Card Sign-Up Month and the Watervliet District Library is celebrating! Anyone requesting or holding a library card will receive a mini yard sign with the slogan, “Library Card Holders Live Here,” upon