Pioneer Society Collections
Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan
Together with Reports of County, Town and District Pioneer Societies
1877 pages 285-301 Muskegon
Part 6 - The Centennial History of Muskegon
By HENRY H. HOLT
The first school in Muskegon was
a private one, taught by Miss Clark in the winter of 1848-9, in a room
in the dwelling-house of Charles Martin. Among those now living in this
county who attended this school are Henry Lasley of Montague, William,
August, and Joseph Baddeau of Holton, and Mrs. Minerva Curry of this city.
The first school-house erected was built by private subscription, in the
autumn of 1849, on the corner of Clay avenue and Terrace street, where
the Smith, Henderson & Co. wagon-shop now stands. It was 20x30 feet,
one story, and cost about $300. It was afterwards considerably enlarged,
and was for several years the only school-house and place for religious
services in the village. It was finally sold, removed, and converted into
Holt's Hall, which was destroyed in the great fire, Aug. 1st, 1874. Wm.
D. Holt taught in this school-house the first winter. Miss Roberts (afterwards
the wife of Frank Cole) taught during the second winter and the summer
The first union school building was erected in
1860, while Thomas Wheeler was director of the district. This was replaced
by the present building in 1875.
Miss Margaret McIntyre has been engaged in the
public schools in this city, either as principal or first assistant, for
fifteen years prior to the close of the last term, having been employed
continuously excepting one year.
The first priest of the Roman Catholic Church who officiated
in Muskegon after the town was settled, was father Visosky, of Grand Rapids,
who came here in 1835 and held the first services in Lasley's house. Services
were held here occasionally after that time, but nothing was done towards
building a church until 1856, when Father Van Pamel of Grand Rapids commenced
the work. The original building was completed and the first service held
in it in 1857. It was known as St. Mary's church. Since that time several
additions and improvements have been made. The first resident priest in
Muskegon was Father Stonehouse, who settled here in 1857. Father Rievers
has occupied his present position eleven years.
In 1843 Rev. Mr. Waring of the Presbyterian Church
made a visit to Muskegon, when Mr. Ryerson, having fitted up seats in his
boarding house, went around and notified the people of the proposed service.
The settlers were all present, including an old man who was very much under
the influence of liquor. The minister was preaching when the man went in,
and was saying something in regard to the Jews; and as the old man passed
along he chimed in, "and gentiles too." No notice was taken of this intrusion,
and he took his seat on the stairs that led to the floor above. He soon,
however, began to respond very loudly, not with the word amen, but in stead
the Indian on-in-day. Mr. Woodbury, who was sitting near, often making
repeated attempts to keep him quiet, took him by the collar and pulled
him up the stairs, and the service proceeded in an orderly manner. At the
close a collection was taken amounting to $7.50. This was the first Protestant
service held in Muskegon.
From this time until 1850 several ministers who
were here on a visit or otherwise held services, several of whom came at
the request of Rev. Wm. M. Ferry, of Grand Haven. Among them was the Rev.
Mr. Wheeler, who came a number of times in the winter of 1844-5, and held
services in the boarding house occupied by Mr. Maxim. In the spring of
1850 an agreement was made with Rev. Mr. Reynolds of the Congregational
Church, who lived at Lamont, to preach each alternate Sunday. The services
were held in the school-house, and the arrangement was continued through
the summer and part of the following winter, he being the first minister
who had a regular appointment. Sleighs were unknown in Muskegon in those
days, but C. Davis had a one-horse sled on which was a wood-rack, which
was used occasionally when the snow was deep in taking the ladies to church,
accommodating as many as could stand in the rack.
The first M. E. minister who preached here regularly
was Rev. Mr. Bennet in 1844-5.
Rev. J. M. Pratt of the M. E. Church settled
in Muskegon as a minister in 1856, and soon after began to make arrangements
for building a church. The Methodist church was commenced in the spring
of 1857, and was so far advanced that the basement was used in the spring
of 1858; but it was not fully completed until the spring of 1859, when
the dedication services were held on the 9th day of June, Rev. J. K. Gillett
at that time being the pastor. The church, including the bell, cost, as
appeared by the report of the building committee, $11,600.
The first resident Congregationalist minister
of Muskegon was Rev. Mr. Payson, who settled here in 1857, and remained
until 1859. In March, 1859, Rev. A. St. Clair located here and began to
preach, and the Congregationalist Society was organized soon after, the
services being held until 1863 in the basement of the M. E. church, at
the same time the Methodist services were being held in the room above.
In 1863 the Congregatiuonalist church was built, costing about $7,000.
The original Dutch Reform Church was built in
1859. This was a small building, and was sold and removed for a school-house.
The large Dutch Reform Church was built in 1865.
The Dutch Reform Church on Terrace street was
built in 1865.
The Universalist Church was built in 1865.
The Baptist Church was built in 1871.
The Scandinavian Lutheran Church was built in
St. Paul's Episcopal Church was built in 1873.
The Danish Lutheran Church was built in 1874.
The Swedish Lutheran Church was built in 1875.
The first Sunday-school organized in Muskegon
was in 1852, by Mrs. E. W. Merrill, Mrs. J. H. Knickerbocker, Mrs. E. ?,
and Mrs. Chas. Odell. This was discontinued after a time, and a school
was reorganized in 1854 by Fred Bowles, Mrs. Elizabeth Bowles and some
others assisting, since which date a Sunday-school has been continually
in existence in Muskegon.
The Muskegon postoffice was established January
3rd, 1838, at the mouth of Muskegon lake, that being at that time the most
central location for the settlers on the lake, and Henry Penoyer was appointed
postmaster. No provision was made for carrying the mail, and the office
was supplied from Grand Haven, the mail being carried by persons on foot,
usually Indians. After a time the postoffice was removed to the "head of
the lake," as the present site of Muskegon was then designated; but the
business of the office being but small, on the 11th of February, 1847,
it was discontinued.
On the 2d of March, 1848, the postoffice was
re-established, and George W. Walton appointed postmaster. The postoffice
was kept in the old Walton House for several years, when it was removed
to the old warehouse building, now standing near the Chapin & Foss
mill. Here it also remained for several years, until John B. Wheeler was
appointed postmaster, who removed the office to the small building on Water
street, the second building north of T. Merrill's livery stable. The receipts
of the office for the first year amounted to about $36.00. Previous to
the organization of the Muskegon postoffice, the nearest office was Grand
Haven, where the mail matter for the Muskegon people was received. There
was no regular arrangement for getting the mail from Grand Haven, and it
was brought here by persons who might chance to go there, and occasionally
an Indian or some other person was sent for the mail. During the first
few years after the postoffice was established the mail was received from
Grand Rapids via Ravenna once each week. After a time the mail service
was increased to three times per week, which continued until 1860, when,
the Detroit & Milwaukee R. R. being completed, a daily mail route was
established to Ferrysburg.
On to Part 7-The Press,
Muskegon Harbor, Miscellaneous and Conclusion
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