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 request. The yard signs can be picked up at the library or delivered to your home, as preferred. Library hours The library is open for appointments Monday – Saturday 10-2, and Wednesday evening 4-7. Curbside pick-up is available for all of the above hours plus 4-8 on Wednesdays. Requests can be made through Facebook, email (info@wdlib.org) or phone, 269-463-6382.


100 years ago – 1920 Wesley L. Brown left for Mancelona, Mich., where he has a position as principal of the high school. He recently graduated from Albion College. The Coloma high school rooms are crowded. Enrollment is up to 73. Spare seats have been wedged in. An eight period school day is established, ending the school day at 3:40. We solicit the purchase, sale and exchange of farm and town properties. Horace G. Krake, Agency, State Bank Building Coloma 60 years ago – 1960 The State Highway Commissioner announced plans for another section of Interstate 96 to be build. This interstate connects with the Detroit-Chicago Freeway. This section will be 7.7 miles in length. Garry McDaniels has been selected as an assistant resident advisor in the men’s residence hall at the University of Michigan. Mr. and Mrs. George Etheridge welcome a baby girl to their home. Her name is Virginia Kay. Friends surprised Bill and Betty Williams with a house warming party. Their new home is on Hampton Drive in Riverside. The Women’s Fellowship of the First Congregational Church will have a paid luncheon. Chairman is Mrs. Ted Soulard. 30 years ago – 1990 Citizens voiced their concern of the future of the Coloma Ambulance Service. Due to the financial situation, service may be discontinued at the end of the month. Jack Martorano’s Pizza Dine In or Take Out – 168 Paw Paw Sarett Nature Center’s Old-Fashioned Country Fair will be held Saturday. Games, arts-n-crafts, rummage, horse-drawn wagon rides, square dancing and more, will be featured. Grandma’s Country Kitchen will serve lunch and homemade baked goods. The North Berrien Historical Society will meet in the basement of the Coloma Methodist Church. A report of the progress of the museum construction will be given. 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 by appointment; Curbside Service only, Sat 10-2. Phone: 269-468-3431


100 years ago – 1920 The familiar peal of the school bell Monday morning summoned Hartford students from summer vacation to their studies. The local schools opened with an enrolment of 185 students in the first eight grades. Two grades, the third and fourth, are housed in the Congregational Church with Miss Beatrice Eagan and Miss Thelma Harrison as teachers. A crowd of 1200 farmers and their families from over the county attended the Farm Bureau picnic at the Hartford fair grounds. Hartford was a deserted town Monday. Practically all businesses with the exception of the drug stores, cigar stores, restaurants and garages, were closed for the Labor Day observance. 75 years ago – 1945 Mothers of World War II raised $165.15 through the sale of tags for furnishing a visitor’s room at a new veteran’s hospital at Fort Custer. The prisoner of war labor program in Van Buren County is meeting with much more success this year. In contrast to last year when escapes were rather frequent, there has not been a single prisoner escape this season. Prisoners assigned to work details are lined up eagerly at the stockade gates each morning waiting for farmer’s trucks to pick them up. Hartford’s fire department got caught in a traffic jam Sunday night and fortunately, there wasn’t any fire. A mid-evening alarm called apparatus and fire fighters to a purported burning truck on Marion Avenue at the same time that a freight train was waiting on a siding for another to pass. Firemen found the W. Main rail crossing blocked and their truck hemmed in by the flock of cars attracted to the siren. Despite a diligent search of Marion Avenue, no burning truck could be found. 50 years ago – 1970 The large barn on the James Fellner farm just south of Hartford was destroyed by fire Saturday afternoon. Hartford Fire Department used three trucks in quelling the blaze. Lost in the blaze were some farm equipment and fruit crates. Cause of the blaze was not determined. A pony that was stabled in the barn was rescued. Mrs. Bruce Dowd will be installed as president of the Modern Mother’s Club when the group holds its first meeting of the fall season tonight at the home of Mrs. Duane DeNeff. Mrs. Gail Weberg will be cohostess. Submitted by Librarian Stephanie Daniels at Hartford Public Library from microfilm copies of the Hartford Day Spring. The Hartford Public Library is now open at 12 Church St. New hours are: Mon 10am-6pm; Tue-Fri 10am-5pm; Sat 10am-2pm. Phone: 269-621-3408


90 years ago – 1930 On Sept. 3, 1930, Mrs. J.E. Moser, pioneer resident of South Watervliet, celebrated her 80th birthday anniversary at her farm home, and in honor of the occasion her children were all home to spend the evening with her. City Clerk Doric C. Hawks and Twp. Clerk Clyde Scherer drove to Lansing with the ballot boxes of the two local voting precincts. The two Watervliet clerks acted on orders to have the boxes at the Capital at 1 o’clock, for the recount for the Republican Nomination for Governor. Joe Pitcher is tearing down the house on the farm he recently purchased. 60 years ago – 1960 Bob Wingler, who graduated from the University of Michigan, left for induction in the U.S. Army two weeks ago and is now temporarily stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Mr. Val Friederick Jr., manager of the Watervliet Paper Company, presented to the Watervliet Public Library, books on paper making in memory of the late V.F. Quigley. Mr. and Mrs. Chellace Fish are the proud parents of their baby boy, Fred Chellace, who was born Sept. 6, 1960 and weighed in at 9 pounds and 11 ounces 30 years ago – 1990 Marianne Milham has been selected as “Student of the Week” at Watervliet High School. She was recognized for the hard work and positive attitude she has demonstrated. Marianne is active in the music program playing the flute in the marching and concert bands. She is a member of the cross-country team and has been involved with quiz bowl activities for two years. Marianne has been in the National Honor Society as well as Who’s Who among American High School Students. Navy Seaman Recruit Travis C. McKinney, Watervliet, has completed recruit training at Great Lakes, Illinois. He is a 1990 graduate of WHS. The Watervliet District Library, with funds from a title 1 grant for serving senior citizens, has purchased 300 large print books and a magnifying lamp. Fiction, non-fiction and mystery books in hardcover and paperback are now available. Use Your Library. Reading is Fun. Submitted by Sally Q. Gonzalez from files at Watervliet District Library of the Watervliet Record newspapers donated by the Tri-City Record. Access hours by appt: Mon-Sat 10-2, Wed 4-7 and Curbside service: Mon–Fri 10–2, Wed 4–8 and Sat 12–2 Phone: 269-463-6382


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