Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan
Histories of Old Towns
by Mike Connell
other authors as noted
The following articles are excerpts from the Times Herald.
Mike Connell offers monthly installments of local histories. Some of these areas are no longer recognized as towns
and can be difficult to find on even local maps. I hope you enjoy these reflections and appreciate their historic
|Atkins||Port Huron City - 1st Ward||Ruby|
|**NOTE** Pictures have not been included here due to size. If you would like a copy of this article, please contact the Times Herald directly.|
Town came and went with railroad - Atkins gone from maps, not from memory
By MIKE CONNELL - Originally published Saturday, January 31, 2004
ATKINS -- The traffic on Wildcat Road doesn't slow for Atkins, which is easy enough to understand. Atkins was never much of a town, and today it's not even that.
"It's a ghost town," says 80-year-old Al Kota, who attended Atkins School as a boy.
As much a memory as a place, Atkins sits -- or sat -- on Feick Road, an unpaved lane off Wildcat Road, a mile north of the Dorsey House restaurant.
A century ago, the tiny town consisted of a railroad depot with two sidings, a one-room schoolhouse, a general store-post office and a scattering of dwellings including the home of the railroad's section foreman. At the edge of town, a pond supplied a large water tower built by the railroad.
"It was all poor folks," Kota says of the community.
Not that anyone knew they were poor. "I don't remember being poor at all," says Wanda MacRury Child, who lived in Atkins as a child during the Great Depression of the 1930s. "We always had enough to eat. We didn't have a lot, but we didn't want for anything."
Atkins was named for the Rev. Allen -- some sources spell it Allan -- Atkins, a pioneer settler of Clyde Township.
According to the Biographical Memoirs of St. Clair County, a book published in 1903, Atkins was born Sept. 8, 1808, near Glasgow, Scotland. He was still a child when his mother died and his father emigrated to Canada, settling near Sombra on the St. Clair River. The elder Atkins, who would have 11 children by two wives, later established a large farm at what is now Marine City.
Allen Atkins grew up in Scotland under the care of an older brother, John. In 1828, he emigrated to Canada. Two years later, he moved to Clyde Township, where he joined another brother, Alex, who worked as a shingle maker near Ruby.
In 1835, Atkins married a Scottish bride, Agnes Young. They would have eight children. Although he made his living as a farmer, Atkins became a Methodist minister in 1845. He continued to preach until the day he died -- Nov. 27, 1902. He was 94.
"Death came to him while he was apparently in his usual health, the machinery of life simply becoming worn out," his biographical sketch concluded.
Birth of a settlement
His legacy survived him at Atkins, where a post office was established April 30, 1873, with Jonathan Morden as postmaster.
Today, Feick Road runs only a few hundred feet before it ends at the edge of the Port Huron State Game Area.
But in 1873, when the settlement was forming, Feick Road linked Wildcat Road with Ruby, then the county's most populous and prosperous inland town.
The stonework of the old Feick Road bridge still can be seen beside the Black River just north of the Beard Road (M-136) bridge.
Few developments were more significant for Atkins than the construction of the Port Huron & Northwestern Railway, a narrow-gauge line that opened in 1879 between Port Huron and Croswell.
Originally, developers intended to follow the shoreline with a railroad from Port Huron to Sand Beach (Harbor Beach) via Lexington. The route was moved inland after Wildman Mills, a leading resident of Croswell, raised $28,000 in subscriptions for the railroad and donated land for a depot.
One of the railroad's founders was James Beard, a prominent Port Huron businessman and the son of Ai Beard, an early timber baron who owned a sawmill near the confluence of Mill Creek and the Black River. Another of Ai's sons, John Beard, owned the sawmill when the route for the railroad was being surveyed. John died less than three weeks after the first train reached Croswell.
Kota suspects the railroad was built through Atkins because of its proximity to Beard's mill. "They could have hauled it (lumber) up the hill to Atkins and put it on the train," he says.
By 1880, the PH&NW had been extended to Palms in northern Sanilac County, where it separated into its Sand Beach and Port Austin branches. Another branch, completed in 1882, ran from Zion -- a community about two miles north of Atkins -- to East Saginaw via Fargo, Hartsuff and Yale.
Historian Kathryn Meneghin, a former mayor of Croswell, wrote that the PH&NW converted its narrow-gauge tracks to regular gauge in 1889, when the company was sold to the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad.
In her book, Looking Back on Croswell, Meneghin recalled how Thumb families would take the train into Port Huron
for "special" shopping trips. She said passenger service between Croswell and Port Huron -- a 103-minute
trip when the train was on time -- ended in 1942, its demise brought about by the automobile.
In 1947, the Chesapeake & Ohio (later Chessie System) bought the railroad and began converting its steam engines to diesel.
Post office moves
Atkins faded with the railroad. In mid-1935, the post office moved from Atkins to Blaine, where Kota says it remained for a few years before being transferred again to its present location at North Street.
Atkins never had much of a chance to prosper. With the felling of the forests and the collapse of the timber business, Clyde Township saw its population drop from 1,252 in 1880 -- the first census after Atkins' founding -- to 791 in 1910.
"This area was very sparsely populated," recalls Art Corry, who as a boy walked to Atkins School from
his home near the crossing of Vincent and McIntyre roads.
Corry was among 11 people, most of them former residents of Atkins, who gathered in the fall at the Ruby Lions Club to reminisce about the old town. The gathering was organized by the Clyde Township Historical Society.
The one-room schoolhouse still exists, although it has been renovated into a single-family home at the intersection
of Wildcat and Feick roads.
Corry says the school typically had 25 to 30 children enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade. The teacher was Agnes Atkins, a descendant of the town's namesake.
"She was the teacher, the janitor, the everything," says Doris Pabst Richards, one of four graduates in the school's eighth-grade class of 1933.
Gangsters in town
Wanda MacRury Child, whose grandparents owned the Atkins general store, recalls a story about a group of sinister-looking men in overcoats entering the store and requesting change for a large-denomination bill.
Her father said he could not handle such a large bill, and the strangers left without incident. Child says her father believed they were gangsters, a suspicion that only grew in March 1934 when Herbert Youngblood, who had helped John Dillinger escape from an Indiana prison, died in a gunfight with Port Huron police.
The pond by the water tower furnished the community with ice. Dorothy Eaton Crouch remembers her father and other men cutting ice into large blocks, transporting them with a horse-drawn bobsled and packing the blocks in sawdust in an ice house.
Twins Geneva Heck Glenn and Virginia Heck McCallum grew up in Atkins, where their father was the section crew foreman responsible for the 10 miles of track between Atkins and Port Huron.
McCallum recalls her father firing up a large gasoline motor -- a so-called "hit-and-miss engine" -- to pump water into the tower, which was supported by five concrete pillars spaced about 20 feet apart. The tower and pond were on a huge tract of land bought by Detroit industrialist Emory Ford, who built a hunting lodge in the Beard's Hill area in 1930.
"Ford used dynamite and blasted (the tower) out," McCallum says.
Ford also took possession of most of Feick Road, which stranded Atkins on a dead-end road.
One huge turtle
Although part of the Ford estate remains as the private Wingford Farms, about 7,000 acres -- including the site of the water tower -- were donated to the state for a hunting preserve. The Department of Natural Resources drained the old pond and in the process removed a mud turtle of almost mythical proportions.
Jerry Easton recalls how the enormous turtle would rise to the surface for air every seven minutes. "You could set your watch by that turtle," he says.
Removing the turtle from the drained pond required the labor of "a team of horses and a whole bunch of firemen," Easton says. "That turtle was huge. They busted three blocks and tackle getting him out."
Easton was in the sixth grade in 1955, the year Atkins School closed with the students transferring to Fort Gratiot.
By the mid-1950s, the railroad was on its last legs. "Once the trucks started running, that was the end of the railroad," Richards says.
Atkins died in stages -- the road being barricaded, the store and post office moving, the depot and the school closing, the railroad failing. Piece by piece, the town faded, until only memories remained.
Forester won't fade away
By MIKE CONNELL - Originally published Saturday, March 27, 2004
FORESTER -- An era is coming to a close in this lakefront settlement, where two 19th century buildings are scheduled for demolition this year.
The old general store and drug store, once the cornerstones of a bustling town but now abandoned and decrepit, have been red-tagged by Sanilac County and will be razed by their owners.
While buildings come and go, Forester itself goes on.
"It's a good town, a good place to live," said Tom Thompson, a fellow who would know.
At "19 going on 84," Thompson is the oldest resident of Forester. He was born here in 1920 -- in a house that stood across North Lakeshore Road from the county park -- and he returned in 1981 after retiring from Chrysler.
In 1820, Gov. Lewis Cass set the boundaries of a theoretical Sanilac County, then a wilderness of virgin pine forest and tangled swamp.
"Sanilac and Lapeer counties were laid out (on Sept. 10, 1820) and were attached to Oakland County for all purposes," the Pioneer Society of Michigan reported in an article published in 1883.
It wasn't until Jan. 1, 1850, that Sanilac County residents began to govern themselves from the original county seat at Lexington. At the time, Forester also was beginning to take shape.
Neva DuMont, author of Thumb Diggings, dated Forester's first building -- a barn -- to 1849. The first frame house, occupied by the Jacob Sharp family, came three years later.
By 1855, when Forester Township was carved from Austin Township, there were no more than 20 homes in the entire township, historian Jane Miller wrote in 1984's History of Sanilac County.
In 1857, Forester Township lost 3 square miles to Sanilac Township. What remained was one of the smallest and oddest-shaped townships in Michigan. Forester Township is about 9 miles long and 3 miles wide.
Miller said Forester presumably took its name from its verdant woodlands. Tradition says it originally was spelled Forrester with two Rs, a theory that gets credence from the Michigan State Gazetteer & Business Directory for 1863-64. In a listing of post offices, Forrester was spelled with double-Rs. In a listing of townships, Forester was spelled as it is today.
The Gazetteer also estimated the township's 1863 population at 1,100.
A bustling port
Forester, like so much of Michigan, grew rapidly in the years immediately following the Civil War. By the 1870s, the village had grist mills, sawmills, blacksmith shops, a cooperage (barrel maker) and a shingle mill.
It also had several hotels. The Tanner House, which still stands, was built in either 1871 or 1876 -- sources differ on the date. By 1884, it had been joined by the Adams House and the Lakeview House.
The hotels catered to lake freighters, which tied up at a massive dock at the foot of Forester Road. A vast amount of timber was shipped from Forester, while passenger steamers such as the Flora made regular stops. Late in the 19th century, passengers embarking at Forester paid $1 for a ticket to Port Huron, $1.50 to Detroit and $2.25 to Cleveland.
Edward Smith and James Kelly founded several businesses in Forester, including the general store. The town's post office was housed in their store until moving next door to Dr. Henry Roy's drugstore, where it remained until 1907, when the post office was discontinued.
The general store and the drugstore are the buildings scheduled for demolition.
Forester's grandest building was its Methodist Church, built in 1870 with money donated by Smith and Frederick Imlay, another well-to-do merchant. For generations, the church was regarded as the most magnificent structure in Sanilac County.
"It was the first and most beautiful edifice in the county with a tall bell steeple, which could be seen for miles, as well as a landmark for the passing ships," Miller wrote in her historical sketch.
The church burned in 1954 after being struck by lightning during a fierce storm.
Fire and tempest have played critical roles in Forester's history.
An 1871 wildfire destroyed what was left of the township's forests and hastened the local economy's switch from logging to farming. In 1881, the Great Thumb Fire -- a fast-moving inferno that scorched 1.2 million acres and claimed 282 lives -- destroyed part of the town.
The rebuilding of Forester was led by Harmon Allen, who founded a fishery in the late 1880s. Forester would remain a fishing town until the middle of the 20th century, when the lamprey eel killed off the lake trout and whitefish.
The fishing industry suffered greatly but survived the Great Storm of 1913, which claimed eight ships and at least 235 lives. The three-day gale, with winds that reached 79 mph at Cleveland, washed away the docks in Forester and other port towns, wrecking the shipping industry and sending Forester into a gradual but relentless decline.
One by one, the hotels closed, as did the town's shops and stores. By 1972, when James Donahue wrote a sketch of Forester for the Times Herald, the town had only three businesses -- a bar, a service station and a small factory making seats for snowmobiles and motorcycles.
Donahue interviewed Mrs. Harry Shaw, then the town's oldest resident.
"Forester was once a larger town than it is now," she said. "I remember four large warehouses on the lake and the freighters and passenger shops coming in here. When I was a little girl, I remember how the ships would blow their whistles, and everybody would run down to the shore and watch them come in."
Thompson, the town's current elder, remembers the demolition of Forester's town hall and school in 1933. A two-story structure with a bell tower, the school was on the first floor and the town hall on the second floor.
A new school was built, and Thompson completed the eighth grade there in 1935 before advancing to Deckerville High School, where he was graduated in 1939. The district bought its first school bus before his senior year.
Then as now, Thompson said, Forester and the surrounding countryside produced excellent football players for the Eagles of Deckerville High. "We had some fellows who could play," he said.
He was living in Royal Oak and working for Chrysler when Forester School closed. The abandoned school is still there, though its roof was damaged in high winds this past winter.
Of all his childhood memories, few are fonder than the square dances on Saturday nights during the Depression in a dancehall at the back of the general store.
"It was big enough they could get eight sets going at one time," he recalled. "People came from all over for the dances. Back in those days, square dancing was quite the entertainment."
The Forester of his boyhood was a farming and fishing town. "We had five fish companies in town," he said.
He also recalled how a small creek on the north side of Forester was dammed every autumn. "They'd put in a plug, let it fill up with water and get three or four cuttings of ice each winter," he said. "They used it to pack fish rather than having to buy the ice."
The forests, the freighters and the fishery have lost economic importance, as have the ghosts of Forester.
About 15 years ago, a former owner of the Forester Inn, Bill Clugston, promoted the town's ghosts, particularly the specter of Minnie Quay, a 14-year-old girl who drowned in 1876 after her boyfriend was lost in a shipwreck.
Tour buses brought visitors from Detroit who hoped to catch sight of an apparition. They also got food and drink at the inn.
Forester's ghosts received wide publicity, but Thompson for one believes it was more hoax than haunting.
"There's nothing to it," he said. "Minnie Quay never lived in what's called the Quay House. Her family lived on Lake Street, and their house was gone by the 1920s when I was a boy.
"They would bring people up and give them a meal, then they'd go over and walk around the house looking for Minnie Quay's ghost. The story was built up, but she never even lived there."
Remembering Port Huron's old 1st Ward
'It was simply beautiful'
By MIKE CONNELL - Originally published Sunday, February 29, 2004
Any number of words -- busy, bustling, poor, hard-scrabble, tolerant, safe, friendly -- might describe the old 1st Ward of Port Huron, but Helen David prefers another.
"Beautiful," she said. "It was simply beautiful."
She was born in 1915 in an apartment above her father's confectionery store. She lives there still, although the store is now The Brass Rail, the tavern she opened June 15, 1937.
"Every store was busy," David said, describing the 1st Ward of her childhood. "Penney's, Sears, Sperry's -- they were all here. And there were lots and lots of theaters. Downtown we had the Majestic, the Family, the Grand Riviera, the Bijou, the Strand. Oh, it was beautiful."
The 1st Ward, the commercial heart of the city from its earliest days, was bounded by the St. Clair River on the east, the Black River on the south, Huron Avenue on the west and Glenwood Avenue (earlier known as Suffern Street) on the north. Though Sperry's, the old City Hall and other buildings on the west side of Huron were technically in the 3rd Ward, most people seem to have regarded both sides of the city's main shopping street as part of the 1st Ward.
'Everyone got along'
In the 1920s, it was a bustling, densely populated neighborhood.
"This was all houses," David said with a sweep of a hand. "Before urban renewal, the 1st Ward had quite a population."
It was an unusually cosmopolitan and diverse population, too. Blacks lived next door to whites. The children of newly arrived immigrants played with the offspring of fourth-generation Americans.
"Everyone got along. We never locked our doors," said David, a daughter of immigrants. Her parents, Elizabeth and Tony Hibye, were natives of Lebanon -- or "Syrians" as people called them in the 1920s.
David acknowledged the 1st Ward deserved its reputation as "a red-light district." Prostitutes solicited customers from their front porches, and blind pigs -- unlicensed bars -- did a brisk business during Prohibition. But if the neighborhood had its rough edges, it was still a safe and cheerful place for a child.
"There were never any problems," David said. "You never had anything to worry about. My friend Ann (Thomas) and I would walk home, and we would never worry how late it was."
John Bajis also grew up in the 1st Ward in an immigrant family.
He was born Constantino Venizelos Bachacas in 1917 in Antofagasta, Chile. His parents, natives of Greece, moved from Chile to Massachusetts in 1920. Two years later, they settled in Port Huron.
"Dad's half-brother, Nick Bajis, ran the White Lunch by the Military Street Bridge," Bajis said.
He came home in tears from his first day of kindergarten at Harrison School, where someone had made fun of his 11-syllable name. His father scooped him up, took him to a priest and had him christened John Frank Bajis.
Bajis remembers the 1st Ward as "totally integrated ... blacks, Irish, Syrians, Greeks, everything."
What they all shared was poverty. "We didn't really understand we were poor because everybody was in the same boat -- the same leaky boat," Bajis said.
He recalls riding the street car, the Port Huron & Detroit, from the depot on Military Street into the city. "When you're 10 or 11 years old, that was quite a ride."
Diving for coins
Bajis also traveled to Detroit "with the band playing" aboard the Tashmoo, a 303-foot steamer that made daily excursions between Detroit and Port Huron.
In summertime, neighborhood boys would await the arrival of the Tashmoo at the foot of Grand River Avenue. Passengers would throw coins into the swift-flowing St. Clair River, and the boys would dive to retrieve them.
"The water was pretty deep," Bajis said. "When Scuba diving first came in, people told me it was like finding a gold mine down there. I would imagine there are coins down there still."
Along with diving for dimes and quarters, Bajis and his friends earned money by setting up pins in bowling alleys and selling newspapers on street corners. He also recalls being paid to build wooden bleachers beside the Black River where the Port Huron Yacht Club stands today.
"It was for the Johnny Robinson prize fight sponsored by the owner of the Ritz Theater," he said. "Kids in the 1st Ward helped build the stands. We drove nails for 10 cents an hour or 10 cents a day; I can't remember which."
'Our swimming hole'
A darker memory involves a boy named Henry Kidd.
"There were a lot of rotten docks beside the river," Bajis said, "and one day 10 or 12 of us boys were down there playing 'Follow the Leader' or 'Run, My Sheepy, Run.' The next day we find out Henry Kidd is missing. They found his body in the river. ... What must have happened is he fell and hit his head on a piling or something and drowned. He could swim. Every kid in the 1st Ward could swim. The St. Clair River was our swimming hole."
Youngsters also flocked to the old YMCA, which stood beside the Masonic Hall on 6th Street. The Y's physical director was Fred Vincent Sr., also the sports editor of the Times Herald.
"He was a good man," Bajis said. "He was like a godfather to all of us boys. A lot of the values I have were instilled by him. Such as, 'You smoke, you don't play on my basketball team.' Which is why I don't smoke."
In 1940, Bajis enlisted in the Army Air Force and left the 1st Ward. For years, he ran the Tally Ho, a tavern opened by his father in North Lakeport. He dabbled in politics and is a former chairman of the county Republican Party.
'It was different'
Wilson Glaab was born in 1916 -- "across the corner from Helen David," to use his description.
He recalls excursion boats such as the South American, the North American and the City of Cleveland pulling up to the docks at the foot of Grand River.
"They would let the passengers off for an hour or two to stretch their legs," he said. "They would wander up Grand River where there were fruit stands, ice cream parlors, plenty of things for them to do."
Glaab worked for three years at Mueller Brass, then joined the fire department in 1938. He was assistant fire chief at his retirement in 1979 -- 25 years ago this month.
He said the 1st Ward of his childhood bore little resemblance to the modern downtown.
"I'm telling you, it was different. It was busy all the time," he said. "You couldn't compare it with today."
'A classy place'
Feaster Speer was born in Georgia in 1926, but at age 2 or 3, his mother died, and he was sent to live with an aunt, Mahalie Gaines, in the 1st Ward.
"It was just like you see in the movies," he said, referring to Depression-era films such as Angels With Dirty Faces. "We fought, as kids will do, but never with knives or rocks or guns. We just wrestled. If you could throw the other guy down, you were considered a top-notch guy."
He said the 1st Ward was among the most-integrated neighborhoods in Michigan, if not the country. "My playmates were Mexican, Italian, Polish, Irish," he said. "One of my best friends was an Italian boy, John Pellegrino, who was later a captain in the State Police. We were raised up together."
As with others who lived there, he readily ticks off a long list of former 1st Ward businesses, from Houston James' shoeshine stand to Joe Thomas' hamburger place to fine stores such as Sperry's and Ballentine's "where all the rich professionals would go."
The well-to-do also favored the Rodney Tea Room run by Samantha Jackson. "It was a classy place," Speer said.
In 1943, he graduated from Port Huron High and joined the Army Air Force. After the war, he came home and worked 24 years at Peerless Cement and another 12 or 13 years for Mich-Con Gas.
He recalls much of the 1st Ward being razed in the 1950s. Homes and businesses gave way to government buildings and parking lots in the name of urban renewal.
"The 1st Ward was a red-light district," Speer said. "All the big shots and professional leadership would come down there and do their thing, to tell you the truth of it. I guess the upper class decided people were having too much fun, and so they got rid of it."
He looks back on the 1st Ward with a certain wistfulness.
"Everybody got along good with everyone else," he said. "There was some bigotry, yes, but if you were a good fellow, you were accepted. People got along. They were regular."
Lakes steamer gives Ruby its name
By ANGELA MULLINS - Originally published Wednesday, February 25, 2004
"RUBY -- There's not much left of what Doris Richards, 73, has called home since 1930.
The once-rural roads of this northern St. Clair County locale now are busy with traffic.
Family names such as Phillips and Gould once were common among Richards' playmates but are rarely seen in modern-day address books.
The Clyde Township location -- it long ago saw its peak during the logging boom of the 1800s and early 1900s -- continues to see residential growth, but has kept one thing unchanged through time: its name.
"When I was little, I knew everybody who lived in Ruby; now I hardly know anyone," said Richards, who lives on Rabidue Road.
"We've got so many houses now."
It was during the logging days that the area -- a mile area bordered by Imlay City, Cribbins, Phillips, Abbottsford and Brott roads -- would take its name.
The moniker Ruby, which replaced the area's original name of Fairfield, was coined by John Beard in what is believed to have been in the mid-1800s.
According to local history, Beard, the son of the area's first settler, Ai Beard, named the area after the prominent Michigan steamship Ruby, which hauled logs between Port Huron and Detroit and frequently passed the town's banks along the Black River.
The town's name survived a location change in the late 1920s, when industrialist Emory Ford, an executive with Wyandotte Chemical Co. in Detroit, moved Ruby further inland from the banks of the river.
While the name has stuck through the years, much of what used to be Ruby has not.
The grocery stores, sawmills and bustle of small-town life have been replaced mainly by residential growth. Ruby's main attractions now are the 150-year-old Ruby United Methodist Church, the township's fire hall, a grocery store and Lions Club hall.
"There were giant, huge white pines ... farm mills ... there was a flour mill ... it was the largest community in Clyde Township in the late 1800s," said Janet Kruger, co-founder of the Clyde Township Historical Society.
"There's hardly anything old anymore."
Varied cultures still define South Park neighborhoods
By RYAN WERBECK - Originally published Wednesday, March 31, 2004
One hundred years ago, building homes in concert with new factories was a good idea for a group of Port Huron businessmen.
They found land on the city's south side and began making plans to develop South Park. Simply enough, the name springs from its location in the city and nearby parkland.
Now, a century later, the factories that formed the base of South Park's economy have left and been replaced by different ventures. But South Park has remained a staple of Port Huron society and one of the more diverse areas of the city.
"By those things coming in, it produced a better base for the economy," said Marguerite Stanley, a former South Park resident. "The diversity is another reason for the success."
Heritages ranging from Hispanic to German-Irish dot the landscape of South Park, said T.J. Gaffney, curator of collections at the Port Huron Museum.
"It's a rich area culturally," Gaffney said. "People are finally starting to see that as the positive idea that it is."
South Park, an area bounded by Dove Road, 16th Street, 32nd Street and Ravenswood Avenue, in the early 1900s was home to several notable businesses that drew people from all backgrounds to work there.
Among the companies were Port Huron Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Port Huron Engine and Thresher Co.; Hardy Motor Works; and Port Huron Steel and Screw Co. Ltd.
Outside of the businesses, the area also was home to numerous churches and a park between North and South boulevards.
Lincoln Park, site of the former Lincoln School, now has playground equipment and areas with patches of flowers.
South Park has endured its share of issues over the years, ranging from businesses leaving to criminal activity.
In 1991, residents organized a march to dissuade drug dealers from working on South Park's streets.
"The people loved the area," Stanley said. "They were dedicated to whatever they were about."
AT A GLANCE
By World War I, 10 factories were located in South Park.
The area is home to several racial and ethnic groups, including blacks and Hispanics.
South Park once was home to Indian burial grounds.
The area has seen its ups and downs, including a tornado in the 1950s.
SOUTH PARK HERITAGE GROUP
Past and present South Park residents are trying to compile a history of the area and want old pictures and stories about the neighborhood from residents. The group meets at 7 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Sturges Memorial Congregational Church, 2729 Ravenswood Road. For details, call Marian Greig at (810) 359-8105.
Despite what addresses say, Wadhams exists to residents
By ERIN KOSNAC - Originally published Wednesday, March 10, 2004
KIMBALL TWP. -- Robert Stein has lived in Wadhams all of his life -- even though his address says otherwise.
"I live in Wadhams," Stein, 70, said. "My address might be Kimball, but this is Wadhams, always will be."
And unlike many, Stein is familiar with how this northern Kimball Township community became known as such.
About 46 years ago, Stein bought the farmhouse and land where his grandfather had a dairy farm on Lapeer Road in Wadhams. His grandfather had settled in the spot after leaving Germany in the late 1800s.
In a filing cabinet in his home, Stein keeps careful record of the history of the area. He's also mentally tucked away information that was passed on to him from relatives about Wadhams, which is centered around the intersection of Wadhams and Lapeer roads.
The tales Stein's been told match with those of local historians.
In 1825, Robert Smart built a mill on the Black River and named the area Clyde Mills, after a river in his native Scotland. Smart later sold the land to Ralph Wadhams, a farmer and postmaster, and the area took on a new name.
"The newer people haven't got the slightest idea where the name comes from," Stein said. "But there's a lot of us older folks around, and we all know."
Many businesses along the streets in the community have incorporated the former postmaster's moniker into their names: Wadhams House of Pizza, Wadhams Video Hut, Wadhams Country Kitchen. That's a sign to Stein the Wadhams name is there for good.
"It's been Wadhams for a long time," Stein said.
"A lot of the old people have never let go of that name, and I don't think they ever will."
John Galbraith owns Deer Country Lawn and Garden Equipment on Lapeer Road. When describing where his business is located, Galbraith always says Wadhams. Galbraith said it can drive truck drivers, who are making deliveries at his store, crazy to hear Kimball Township or Smiths Creek.
"But Wadhams, that's something everybody's familiar with," he said. "Maybe they don't know how it got its name, but they know where it is."