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Volume 39, number 4

January 2018

Grand River Times The Newsletter of the Grand Rapids Historical Society Inside this issue: Cover Story: January program Letter from our President page 2 History Detectives page 4 Happening in History page 6 Photo Sleuth page 7 Search: Grand Rapids Historical Society

Next program: After the

January program, the Grand Rapids Historical Society’s next program will be on February 8, 2018 at the Grand Rapids Public Library. Maureen Shirey will be speaking about: Wagoosh: The Fox: Louis Campau

Charles Garfield—A Useful and Fascinating Citizen PRESENTED BY: Chris Reader Thursday, January 18, 2018, 7:00 p.m. **(NOTE: This is the 3rd Thursday of the month)** On his memory stone, it says "Chas. W. Garfield - Useful Citizen, Lover of Trees." Charles W. Garfield, was not just a useful citizen, but one of our most fascinating. A teacher, graduate and staff member of Michigan State, horticulturalist, forester, bicycle enthusiast, reporter, museum founder, banker, city planner, state representative, and donor and promoter of parks and playgrounds, Garfield's influence on Grand Rapids and Michigan is profound, even today! Charles Garfield was born in Wisconsin in 1848, where his father Samuel worked as a sawmill superintendent. In 1858, the Garfields moved to Grand Rapids, purchasing a portion of the Burton farm, near what is now the intersection of Burton and Madison, and planted much of the land with orchards. Charles said of the move: "We moved from the bank of the Menominee River, near Milwaukee, when I was ten years old and it was a great event in my life. Everything was so different here in Michigan from my experiences in Wisconsin. Our neighbors were largely German in the Badger State, and the neighborhood we entered here in Michigan was entirely made up of native Americans." Continued on page 3

Grand River Times



The Grand River Times is the newsletter of the Grand Rapids Historical Society, published six times annually. Established in 1894, the Grand Rapids Historical Society is dedicated to exploring the history of West Michigan; to discover its romance and tragedy, its heroes and scoundrels, its leaders and its ordinary citizens. The Society collects and preserves our heritage, passing it on to new generations through books, lectures, and education projects. Executive Committee: Gina Bivins, president Matthew Daley, vice-president John Gelderloos, treasurer Nan Schichtel, secretary Board members: Alan Bennett Charles Bocskey Thomas Dilley Marilyn Hamill Chris Kaupa Gordon Olson, emeritus Wilhelm Seeger, emeritus Jeff Sytsma Jim Winslow Tony Wright Kurt Yost Jessica Riley, editor Grand Rapids Historical Society c/o Grand Rapids Public Library 111 Library St. NE Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Grand River Times

Parks. Grand Rapids has some very nice parks. I spent many summer afternoons playing softball at Aberdeen Park. I was one of the Aberdeen Angels, the name our team gave ourselves back in the early 1960s. One of the Roach girls was the park leader and our coach. Kit Todish, Mary Alanowski, Dee Dee Hay, myself, and at least five others were on the team. The rest of the names escape me. The Angels were the Playground Softball League Champions in 1963. I no longer remember how or who took us to the various parks to play.

I do remember that we beat the Madison Park team for that championship. There was also Briggs Park which we went to for swimming. It took me two tries to get through beginner swimming. But I did it. It was quite a hike to get to the pool from my house, thirteen blocks, but if we wanted to swim, we walked it. A little further away was Riverside Park. Once in a while we would venture that far. Aberdeen was pretty much treeless. Briggs Park had some trees. Riverside Park was an oasis, and still is. I never thought about how the parks got their names or how the City acquired the land. I was a kid. I was happy to have a place to play softball, to ice skate in the winter, to swim at on a hot summer day. In January we have the opportunity to learn about one of the people a grand City park is named for, Charles Garfield. This is a park that takes up more than six city blocks on the southeast side. Many a childhood memory was surely made in this playground.

About the Grand Rapids Historical Society. The Grand Rapids Historical Society sponsors eight programs each year, beginning in September and running through May, including lectures, audio/video presentations, demonstrations, collections, or special tours.

Membership. Membership is open to all interested persons with annual dues of $30 per family, $20 for seniors and students, or $400 for a lifetime membership. The membership year runs from May to the following May. Members of the Grand Rapids Historical Society receive eight newsletters each year and a subscription to our annual magazine, Grand River Valley History. Members also receive a 20% discount on books published by the society as well as books published by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission. Change of Address. If you will be permanently or temporarily moving to a new address, please notify GRHS before your change occurs. Let us know your new address and the date you plan to leave and plan to return. Email to, or mail to Grand Rapids Historical Society, c/o Grand Rapids Public Library, 111 Library Street NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 2


Continued from front page In 1864, Charles, along with three other classmates, organized the Kent Institute - a scientific club - which evolved into what is today the Grand Rapids Public Museum. After graduating high school, Charles taught school at Seymore School for two years in 1866 and 1867. Picture yourself a lad of seventeen in charge of a country school of 81 pupils, the school house having a seating capacity of only 68, two upon a seat. It was in the old days when there was little arrangement of the course of study. There was absolutely nothing done in the way of grading; there were 38 recitations in a day, covering all the ground from the A, B, C little ones to a class in quadratics in algerbra. ... The compensation of the teacher was $30.00 a month. This was to be used as a fund to help through college, so, not-withstanding all of the untoward conditions, hope was high, for the net earnings meant a wider opportunity for education. As a way to keep his students engaged, he proposed a classroom museum, where they gathered and studied local artifacts. He began attending Michigan Agricultural College (now MSU) in 1868, intending to study teaching, but due to a health problem, was encouraged to pursue a career outdoors. Instead of teaching, he chose to study horticulture. He finished the four year course of study in three years, graduating with honors. His love of children, teaching, science, and nature would intertwine for the rest of life. After college, Charles served an apprenticeship at a tree nursery in Ohio, and then returned to Grand Rapids, and started a tree nursery, planting 60 acres of fruit trees near Reeds Lake. The first winter was particularly harsh, and all of the young trees were killed. The business failed. Charles then returned to the MAC, received a Master of Science in Agriculture, worked as foreman of the campus gardens, and also served as correspondent for the Grand Rapids Democrat. As foreman of the gardens Garfield worked with Professor William J. Beal to establish botanical gardens. The gardens still exist, and are the oldest continuously run botanical gardens in the nation. Garfield helped found the Michigan State Horticultural Society, and was elected Secretary. He became editor of the agricultural and horticultural department of the Detroit Free Press, and then created a Farm Department for the Free Press. He organized a Farmer's Institute, and began advertising Michigan fruit. Garfield promoted Michigan fruit at every opportunity, as well as the study and expansion of fruit farming. Garfield's efforts were central to creating the fruit industry we have today. Garfield was a early cycling enthusiast - touring England by bicycle, and founding a bicycling magazine: An interesting newspaper adventure was conceived by the attaches of the Grand Rapids Democrat in 1892. Burridge Butler, Clark Sproat, Al Apted, myself (Garfield) and others squandered brain storms, pocket savings and great expectations in its behalf. It was called "“The Michigan Cyclist" and arose on the waves of cycle enthusiasm, sinking into the troughs of the journalistic sea as the amateur exuberance dwindled into apathy. Continued on page 5 Grand River Times



History Detectives—Saturday, January 20, 2018 9:30 a.m.—10:15 a.m. Welcome to the Madison Square Don Bryant Sponsored by the Western MI Genealogical Society While researching his church's first hundred years for This Far by Faith: The Unfinished Story of Madison Square Church (2017), Don Bryant discovered surprising connections among people, organizations, and events that characterize the Grand Rapids neighborhood in which the church was planted in 1914. As the first business district outside downtown, the Square's long history provides fodder for compelling looks at the area’s past. 10:30 a.m.—11:15 a.m. Elective Detectives & Crowdsourcing Grand Rapids Women’s History Julia Bouwkamp & Jo Ellyn Clarey Sponsored by the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council & Grand Rapids City Archives The historical charting of Grand Rapids women's runs for public office beginning in 1887 is upending conventional wisdom and offering surprises about dates, the numbers of races, and the identities of losers. This unique historical accounting hopes to inspire other cities to create their own elective histories. Julia Bouwkamp and Jo Ellyn Clarey will report that now Her Hat Was in the Ring, a national crowdsourcing project, has invited local researchers to share their data with the world, to help others complete and complicate American women's history by seeking out every woman who ran before 1920. 11:30 a.m.—12:15 p.m. Marking History: State Historical Markers in Grand Rapids Jeff Neumann Sponsored by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission Located around Michigan are over 1700 historical markers that tell the story of the state and its people. Each and every one of them provides a wonderful reminder of our history and offers insights about where we are headed. Fifty of the historical site markers are located in Kent County, both in and around Grand Rapids. We will take a virtual tour within the city limits of Grand Rapids to seek out and highlight these hidden gems. 1:00 p.m.— 1:45 p.m. African Americans in Early Grand Rapids Ruth Van Stee Sponsored by the Grand Rapids Historical Society & Kutsche Office of Local History at GVSU From 1850 to 1920 African Americans in Grand Rapids were a steady 1% of the city’s rapidly growing population. Ruth Van Stee will present on the vibrant community’s broader population before providing snapshots of business, cultural, and political leaders. She will also discuss how she explored some of her examples: a wealthy business man; a women's club leader; and a citizen with the YMCA overseas during WWI. Grandserving River Times

2:00 p.m.—2:45 p.m. Dress Discoveries: Fashion and the Voigt Family Andrea Melvin Sponsored by the Grand Rapids Public Museum Peer into the incredible closet of a prominent Grand Rapids entrepreneurial family, the Voigts. The collection of over 600 items of personal dress date from the 1890s through the 1970s and include pieces rarely appearing in museum collections, particularly the active wear and clothing worn privately in the home. The garments will be used to explore the fashion, culture and society of Grand Rapids from the Victorian Era to the middle of the twentieth century and help weave together the personal stories of the Voigt family, Carl and Elizabeth, their six children, and extended family. 3:00 p.m.—3:45 p.m. The North End Gets a Name Michael Page Sponsored by the Grand Rapids Public Library Through day-to-day accounts in Loren M. Page’s journal, kept from 1847 to 1852, get a peek at life at the “north-end” of early Grand Rapids, now the Creston neighborhood. Accounts in the diary provide a detailed and personal look at upper and lower class life in the young city, and will be supplemented by photographs and maps. Recently donated to the library archives, the journal recounts Page’s travels from Grand Rapids to Ontario and Sacramento, as well as the long-time investment of the Page family in the Creston neighborhood for the last 70 years. Lunch – Reserve ahead of time! 12:15 p.m.—1:00 p.m. Boxed lunches are $10 and must be ordered in advance. Choose a turkey, ham or vegetarian sandwich (or make any of these gluten-free). Also included in the lunches are a fruit cup, pasta salad, cookie, condiments and bottled water. Pop will be available for an additional $1.00. To reserve a lunch, call 616.988.5492 or email by 5:00 PM on Monday, January 10. Cash payment is due at the event. Lunches by Cherry Deli; afternoon cookies by Lomonaco Sicilian Cookies. Parking Limited parking is available in the Library parking lot and is free with a validated parking lot ticket 4


Continued from page 3 As a state representative, and as a citizen, Garfield advocated for "good roads." Bicycle technology and the advocacy of bicycling enthusiasts for quality roads created the conditions that made the development of the early automobile industry feasible. In 1894, he urged the trustees of Michigan Agricultural College to treat women enrolled at the MAC more equally. Garfield persuaded the University of Michigan regents to develop a forestry program at University of Michigan. He devised a land grant system to fund the department, by getting lumbermen to donate "worthless" cut over land. Garfield's goal was to begin reforesting the logged off land, particularly in northern Michigan. Garfield, through his work on reforestation, was instrumental in the establishment of Michigan's first forest reserve. He was a leader in the American Park and Outdoor Art Association. He helped establish the Grand Rapids park system through the Park and Boulevard Association. The Park and Boulevard Association also obtained the right of way for Grand River Boulevard to Grandville and later made Reeds Lake Boulevard a reality. Garfield and his family donated two parks - GarfieldFletcher (now Garfield) and Chesebro - and a nature center (Burton Woods) to the citizens of Grand Rapids. We are thinking of people with small places, or no homes at all, and the arrangement for them of such simple ways of recreation as will give them advantages of ample grounds and perfect appliances. Garfield was head of the City Planning Commission when the concept of city planning still was new, and chaired the first master plan for Grand Rapids. It is still referenced today, and many of the goals it captured have been re-enacted in our current plans. In later life he was active and treasured, widely recognized as a Grand Old Man, and noted for his wisdom, good nature, and kindness. It is doubtful if anyone will ever know to the full extent the value of the life work and the influence of Charles W. Garfield upon Grand Rapids, its citizens and its-citizens-to-be. He has been, and still is, so active in municipal, social and civic affairs that no brief sketch such as this can hope to but touch on the high points of his outstanding career. Grand Rapids Spokes-O'-The-Wheel - Charles W. Garfield Edition - March 14, 1929 Grand River Times



HAPPENING IN HISTORY: JANUARY 2018 Western Michigan Genealogical Society Mini-Class Saturday, January 6, 2018, 12:00 p.m. Main Library-Ryerson Auditorium 111 Library St. NE Topic: Document Detective Presenter: Linda Guth Documents can be helpful in giving us clues about our ancestor. Let’s search these resources to discover what information they give us. Western Michigan Genealogical Society Saturday, January 6, 2018 1:30 p.m. Main Library-Ryerson Auditorium 111 Library St. NE Topic: The Wives (and Lives) of the Early Dutch Pastors Presenter: Janet Sheeres The Christian Reformed Church in North America was founded in 1857, and is headquartered in Grand Rapids. The lives of its pastors have been well documented and written about. However, the stories of the wives of these pastors have been sadly ignored in the history writings of the church. In her recently published book For Better For Worse, Janet Sheeres has brought some of these women out of obscurity and describes their challenges and living conditions. Since she began writing about thirty years ago she has published three books, over 70 articles in various national and international historical and genealogical journals. Janet was born in the Netherlands, speaks fluent Dutch.

Grand River Times

Grand Rapids Civil War Round Table Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 7:30 p.m. NOTE CHANGE: Doors open at 6:30 p.m. De Witt Student Center Kuyper College West Dining Room 3333 East Beltline NE This meeting will be a true Civil War round table discussion with members encouraged to bring their own Civil War pictures, documents, artifacts, etc. to share with the group. The program this month will be a true Civil War round table. They need you, and fellow members, to bring Civil War related artifacts, pictures, documents, and stories to the January meeting to share them with the rest of the group. You say you have your great-great grandfather's ’61 Springfield? Bring it and tell them about it. You say you have your great -greatgrandmothers letters that she received from her husband during the war? Bring them and tell the group about them. You say you have some artifacts that you’ve collected and know something about their history? They want to see them and hear about them. You say you went to Petersburg on vacation this past summer? Bring the pictures and talk about it. They really do want to see and hear about your Civil War antiques, histories, and vacations. No item or story is too big or too small.

Be sure to check out the Round Table at:


GRAND RAPIDS HISTORICAL SOCIETY JOIN THE GRAND RAPIDS HISTORICAL SOCIETY OR GIVE A MEMBERSHIP AS A GIFT The Grand Rapids Historical Society sponsors eight lectures each year. Members of the society enjoy these benefits: 

The Grand River Times is the newsletter of the Grand Rapids Historical Society. Published and mailed to members eight times a year, it includes current items of historical interest, details of upcoming lectures, historically relevant activities, and short articles.

The Grand River Valley History is the society’s annual magazine. Featured are illustrated articles by local history researchers and contributions from the Grand Rapids Public Museum, the City Archivist, the Grand Rapids Public Library, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

20% Discount on all books and other items published by the society.

Please enroll me as a member of the Grand Rapids Historical Society: ____ New ___Renewal ____Gift _____Lifetime:

$400.00 one-time fee

_____Individual/Family Membership

$30.00 per year

_____Senior Citizen or Student

$20.00 per year

Name: Address: City/State/Zip:

Please make check payable to the Grand Rapids Historical Society and mail it with this form to: Grand Rapids Historical Society, c/o Grand Rapids Public Library, 111 Library Street NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

GRAND RAPIDS PUBLIC LIBRARY PHOTO SLEUTH January's Photo Sleuth comes from the Murch Morris Collection. This 1928 photo contains a group of 17 unidentified young men who were part of the East Congregational Church's Boys' Choir. If you know any of these youngsters, please email the Grand Rapids Public Library's Local History Department at

Grand River Times


Non-Profit Org. U.S. postage PAID Grand Rapids, MI Permit No. 234

Grand Rapids Historical Society, Inc. c/o Grand Rapids Public Library 111 Library St. NE Grand Rapids, MI 49503


Charles Garfield—A Useful and Fascinating Citizen PRESENTED BY: Chris Reader Thursday, January 18, 2018, 7:00 p.m. **(NOTE: This is the 3rd Thursday of the month)**

INSIDE THIS ISSUE Cover Story: January program Letter from our President page 2 History Detectives page 4 Happening in History page 6 Photo Sleuth page 7

For more information on Historical Society programs, please visit Grand River Times


2018 01 GRHS Grand River Times 39-04  

“Charles Garfield—A Useful and Fascinating Citizen”, presented by Chris Reader. On his memory stone, it says “Chas. W. Garfield—Useful Citi...

2018 01 GRHS Grand River Times 39-04  

“Charles Garfield—A Useful and Fascinating Citizen”, presented by Chris Reader. On his memory stone, it says “Chas. W. Garfield—Useful Citi...