Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, February 24, 2002, pg. 7
Name some communities in Michigan that end with the letter “X.” Hmmm, let’s see. There’s Charlevoix, and Climax, and oh, what’s the other one? Here’s a hint: It is located 6 miles northeast of Albion, or about 4 miles south of Springport. DEVEREAUX! That’s it! This week in our Historical Notebook we go “on the road” again and visit this once bustling quaint little village that has quite a history in itself.
Our story begins with the arrival of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad in 1871-72. The line began at Hillsdale, and went north through Jonesville, Litchfield, Homer, Albion, Devereaux, Springport, Eaton Rapids, Dimondale, and on into Lansing. In addition to the already-established communities, “flag stops” were made at a few rural road crossings for convenient loading and unloading of passengers and freight. One of them was at what is today Devereaux Road.
Back then one of the big railroad promoters was a man by the name of J. H. Devereux (notice there is no “a” in his name) who was a big-wig for the LSMSRR, and a director of the Kalamazoo & White Pigeon RR. The flag stop was named for him, and a small community named Devereaux (with the letter “a” added) sprouted up beginning in 1872 along the road near the new railroad tracks. Additionally, there was even a train switch engine with the name of Devereux which the LSMSRR used for many years. The sign on the railroad depot spelled the man’s name right: Devereux.
U.S. Mail was delivered by train in those days, and mail bags were regularly dropped off at Devereaux for distribution to the locals. The Devereaux post office was instituted on March 18, 1873, with farmer Lewis H. King as the first postmaster. The Michigan State Gazetteers (not published every year) are excellent resources for this type of information. We find that the name of Devereaux first appears in the 1875 edition, with L. H. King as postmaster, and William A. King as operating a general store in the new village. E. G. Champion was the railroad agent, and G. W. Bortlesaut as express agent. In subsequent Gazetteers, the population of the village generally ranges between 70 to 100 persons.
As was the case of small burgs in those days, the postmaster or their spouse often ran the village general store. King’s name appears as postmaster through the 1879 Gazetteer. Subsequent editions list the following postmasters: 1881-farmer George P. Godfrey; 1883 through 1888--store operator Mrs. A. H. Coykendall; 1889 through 1905--store operator Nathan F. Wilder whose store first appears listed in 1893; 1907-08 Franklin C. Crittenden; 1909-10--Joseph D. Honeywell; and 1911 through 1920--Ernest E. Stokoe.
One prominent member of the Devereaux community for many years was Ernest E. Stokoe (1880-1960). He operated his grocery, hardware, and farm implement establishment on the south side of the street. Stokoe was Devereaux’s last postmaster, and the post office was located in his hardware, implement and grocery store. He got out of the grocery business early and sold his stock to the competition across the street: Barnes & Crittenden.
The general store of Barnes & Crittenden is listed from 1899 through the 1919 editions of the Gazetteer. Afterwards Bert R. Tuxworth took it over. Kime and Edith Merritt purchased it in 1945 and it has been known as Merrit’s General Store ever since, now operated by Dan and Jackie Merritt. This store was the first built in Devereaux (1872, King store), and owners are listed in the Gazetteers.
Across the street, Mr. Stokoe erected a new hardware building between his original store and his house to the east in 1948, and demolished his original hardware store. He later sold the business which was transformed into Devereaux Furniture. It operated until it burned in a spectacular fire. Today just the foundation remains and a large chain-link fence surrounds the property.
How big was Devereaux? The 1917 Gazetteer gives the following listing (population 66): Barnes & Crittenden, general store and coal; Leon Cuatt, blacksmith; Elmer Brothers, livestock; Elmer Creamery; William Hoag, livestock; William Inman, auctioneer; Frank Martin, poultry breeder; E. E. Stokoe, hardware, farm implements, hay, grain, produce, poultry, shipper, cider and grist mill and postmaster; Frank Austin, railroad and express agent. In addition, Devereaux once had its own school, Grange Hall, and Methodist Church. It also had a garage operated by Ernest Grundeman, an adjacent soda shop run by his daughters Hilda and Wilda, and a barber shop.
Times changed in Devereaux following World War I. The U.S. government discontinued the post office around 1920 (I’m still looking for the exact date), and addresses were assigned to Albion. When telephone service began, residents were given a choice of having an Albion or a Springport phone. Later the Springport system was assigned the territory and those with Albion phones had to give them up and get a long-distance Springport number instead. The railroad was torn up in 1969 following 30 years of sparatic use. There’s much more about the history of the village of Devereaux we probably should mention, but don’t have the space. So drive through Devereaux this week and stop and visit Merritt’s General Store, and take a tour of the town. From Albion, go north on 28 or 29 Mile Road and turn right (east) on J Drive North, which becomes Devereaux Road in Jackson County, and on into the village.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the original Ernest E. Stokoe Hardware and former Devereaux Post Office on the right, and the Ernest Grundeman garage on the left, both of which are now gone. Special thanks to Ray and Dorothy Martin for this week’s photograph.
Devereaux, circa 1920
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic