Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

ERNEST STOKOE PROMINENT DEVEREAUX BUSINESSMAN

Morning Star, July 14, 2002, pg. 9

Just a quick reminder here that autographed copies of my new book, “Albion in the 20th Century” are only available at the Albion Chamber of Commerce, 416 S. Superior St. If your high school class is having a reunion this summer, be sure and pick up a few copies for your event. I also have them at my house. Give me a call at 629-5402.

In the February 24 edition of this column we featured the village of Devereaux located 6 miles northeast of Albion. This week we’d like to feature the major force in the development of that community in the 20th century: Ernest E. Stokoe (1880-1960). Mr. Stokoe came to Devereaux to work on a farm in 1907. The following year he began his hardware/appliance and farm implement business and erected a building on the south side of Devereaux Road. The building also served as the Devereaux Post Office and Mr. Stokoe was the postmaster until the government closed the office around 1920. Mr. Stokoe ran a grocery/general store here for a brief time, and later bought and sold the general store across the street. Mr. Stokoe was one of the organizers of the Devereaux Creamery Company. He later converted the building into the first frozen food locker plant in Jackson County, which was especially popular in the 1950s and 1960s. He also ran an area lumberyard.

Mr. Stokoe began expanding his business enterprise facility in the early 1940s, after the New York Central Railroad abandoned their tracks from Springport to Lansing. Mr. Stokoe purchased the closed Devereaux railroad depot and moved it 650 feet southwest across the road to his property, where he used it as a warehouse for various items.

In 1948 Mr. Stokoe further expanded his operations and erected a $90,000 hardware and farm implement addition attached to the east of his original building. The business attracted hundreds of customers from across southern Michigan, who drove from miles around to shop in Devereaux during the 1950s. Stokoe would never turn away a customer, and was known for his personal service and friendly personality. His business peaked in 1954-55 when he did a half-million dollars worth of business. Mr. Stokoe sold John Deere farm equipment, General Electric appliances, ran a furnace and heating repair department, plumbing and electrical department, and a full service auto and tractor service garage on the site. His firm was known as E. E. Stokoe & Co. The original building became the radio repair business of Lester Sykes.

Mr. Stokoe once observed that the meagerly-paid country school teachers in the districts adjacent to Devereaux (both in Jackson and Calhoun Counties) were purchasing candy for their pupils at Christmastime at their own expense, and often were “short” due to cost, leaving some children without candy. As a gesture of goodwill, Ernest purchased a half-pound of candy for every pupil at Christmastime beginning in 1945, a practice he continued for 10 years. News of his generosity spread, and he eventually supplied up to 50 rural schools with Christmas party candy, totaling a ton and a half!

Ernest retired in March, 1957 after 50 years of business, selling his establishment to Ralph R. Cline (1920-1974), formerly the manager of the Albion Kroger store. Stokoe’s son Harold retained ownership of the bottled gas plant. In his personal life, Ernest married Devereaux native Alice Elmer in 1906; she passed away in 1954. The following year he married widow Mrs. Alice Cuatt, and the two traveled across the western states and Alaska in 1958 following Ernest’s retirement. Ernest Stokoe died on June 6, 1960 at his home in Devereaux, and was buried in the village cemetery.

From our Historical Notebook this week, courtesy of Kris Waito, we present a March, 1957 photo showing Mr. Stokoe on the extreme right, handing the sale deed of his business to Ralph Cline on the left. The duo are standing in front of the original hardware store. The signs in the windows state: “Sykes Radio,” and “Radio Television Appliance, Sylvania.” On the far left is the 1948 addition. The overhead signs state, “John Deere. E. E. Stokoe Devereaux,” “Philgas Bottled Gas Appliances-Service,” and “Speed Queen, Washers-Ironers.” Next week: Devereaux Furniture.


Mr. Stokoe and Ralph Cline

Next: DEVEREAUX FURNITURE


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