Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, November 18, 2001, pg. 9
Continuing from last week, mail service in Marengo Township began in 1831 at the home of pioneer/first postmaster Seeley Neal on the south side of Michigan Ave. a mile west of the future village. The office was moved across the road to the nearby tavern of Loren Maynard (who then became postmaster) in 1833 when a regular stage-coach mail route was established. The 1877 “History of Calhoun County” lists successive early postmasters as: Charles George, Enos Houck, Peter Mulvaney, and John Evans, some of which may have been after the office was moved to the village. The book “Michigan Place Names” states that James Winters became the “first postmaster” on June 23, 1842, which is probably the date the office was moved from Michigan Ave. into the new village of Marengo.
The history of the Marengo post office parallels the history of various general stores, where the store owner or spouse served concurrently as the postmaster, too. Long-time postmaster was flour mill operator John Evans (1792-1881), who served from 1852 until his death in 1881. The PO was located in the “Marengo General Store” operated by his youngest son, Harvey M. Evans (1843-1902). It was located on the southwest “corner” of Elizabeth and College Sts., across from the Marengo Hotel. Harvey succeeded his father as postmaster and is listed as such in the 1883 “Michigan Gazetteer.” The 1885 edition lists Albert Claire Pattison (1857-1940) as postmaster and general store operator. The 1887-88 through 1893-94 editions list Frank L. Gunnison (1835-1911) as postmaster.
At some point in time the PO location was moved. The 1894 Atlas of Calhoun County shows a new store at 308 State St. south of the railroad depot. The structure is still standing today as a home. The 1895-96 Gazetteer lists Frank Reed (1853-1907) as postmaster/general store operator, while John C. Cooper (1854-1918) is listed in the 1897 through 1910 editions. In the 1905 edition the name of Irwin Adams (1868-1936) appears as another general store operator, probably in the newly-built store north of the railroad tracks that eventually became the Erie Lake General Store. The 1911-12 Gazetteer switches the roles, with Adams as the postmaster and Cooper just a general store operator. This means that the PO was moved around 1910 to its final location in the store at 412 State St. Adams resigned his position after one year however in December, 1911. He had been paid $148 annually for the work.
The store was sold to Robert Angus Raymond (1867-1918) who operated it from 1911 until his death in 1918. He was a well-known area bridge contractor and engineer. It was his wife Mary (Garfield) Raymond (1868-1960) who served as Marengo postmistress (as titled back then) during those years. (Note: Her brother David A. Garfield was president of the Albion State Bank). Succeeding Mary as postmaster/store operator was Warren S. Nowlin (1896-1955) as listed in the 1919-20 through the 1925-26 Gazetteers. L. H. Jacobs then purchased the store and his wife Eva served as the postmistress, as listed in the 1927-28 Gazetteer. In 1922, Erie Lake (1894-1983) purchased the Cooper general store south of the railroad tracks and operated it during the 1920s. He then purchased the L.H. Jacobs store at 412 State St. north of the tracks around 1930 and moved his business there, assuming the postmastership. The store was known as the Erie Lake General Store.
Mr. Lake was the final postmaster of Marengo. In a budget cutting move during the Great Depression, the U.S. government closed the Marengo Post Office on October 31, 1933 (Halloween) and since then the village of Marengo has been “assigned” to the Albion PO. Old letters bearing a Marengo postmark are collector’s items today. Some street names are the same as in Albion (Mechanic, Elizabeth, and College) which causes postal confusion, and only address numbers distinguish between the two communities today. Although residents of Marengo have an Albion address and some an Albion phone, their children attend Mar-Lee and Marshall Public Schools.
Why didn’t Marengo grow? I heard rumors that years ago the residents determined they wanted their community to remain rural, small and peaceful, and thus discouraged any industry from coming in. I also heard that residents did not want an exit constructed at 23 Mile Road and I-94 when it was offered in the late 1950s, lest commercial highway development and traffic from the north blight their village. An exit was built at 22½ Mile Road instead, away from Marengo. There are no village limit signs upon entering Marengo.
Furthermore, State St./23 Mile Rd. down the center of Marengo forms the boundary/barrier line between the 517 and 616 telephone area codes. Thus it has been “long-distance” to call across the street which has divided the community for decades. In the 1970s the railroad closed the College St. crossing in Marengo next to the Methodist Church thus giving it another unnatural boundary division. Whatever the contributing factors are/were, Marengo has remained a quiet bedroom community located off busy Michigan Avenue/old U.S.-12. As one 1942 reference I read put it, “Marengo...lost its ambition to become a big town or city and is content to accept its lot as a quiet country village...” That’s the way they like it. Next time you drive between Albion and Marshall, drive through the village of Marengo. Enjoy the “pioneer” look as you try to find old remaining landmarks. There’s more to write about Marengo, however. We’ll try to squeeze in another article or two sometime early next year.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a very historic photograph of the Marengo Post Office and the Robert Angus Raymond (1867-1918) General Store at 412 State St., circa 1915. The photo is courtesy of Jim Utter. Mr. Raymond is standing on the wooden porch near the large milk cans. The “Post Office” sign hangs out front. To the right is the first gasoline pump which states, “Gasoline, Auto Filling Station. R.A. Raymond & Co.” How many of our readers have other historical photographs of Marengo?
Marengo Post Office and General Store
Next: A HUNTING PHOTOGRAPH
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic