Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, July 21, 2002, pg. 10
A bit of historic downtown Albion was lost this week with the removal of the bricks from E. Erie St. Remember when this was one of the last segments to allow angle parking into the 1960s? When you stop by the Chamber of Commerce to purchase my new book “Albion in the 20th Century,” you might like to know there are some copies of the Albion Malleable Iron Company magazine the “Circle-A-Tor” from the 1950s available there, filled with historical photographs and articles. These make great memorabilia from our closed foundry.
Continuing from last week the saga about the village of Devereaux, Mr. Cline continued the business for four years. In November, 1961, he sold the John Deere farm implement portion to Darry E. Wertz, who moved it west to the Devereaux cider mill building. The hardware portion was sold to Merritt’s General Store across the street where it still operates today. The appliance and furniture portion was sold to Richard “Dick” Teets of Eaton Rapids, who operated several stores in Southern Michigan.
The business was transformed into Devereaux Furniture. For those who lived in this area in the early 1960s, Devereaux Furniture was a household name--it was advertised extensively, especially on WILX-TV Channel 10. People from Jackson, Lansing, Albion, Battle Creek, and other communities flocked to this little village of 70 persons between Albion and Springport to buy furniture! Devereaux Furniture was Devereaux’ life-line. It attracted business to the community and kept the village “on the map.” Residents could have their choice of either an Albion or Springport phone number.
Unfortunately, Devereaux has a charred history which resulted in its demise. It began on Tuesday, March 17, 1964, when a trash fire destroyed the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad depot building being used as a warehouse by Devereaux Furniture. The fire was started by sparks from a nearby incinerator. The building contained numerous carpets, 2 semi-truckloads of bedroom furniture, new television sets, refrigerators and other appliances which were all destroyed.
Eight months later on December 22, 1964, a large Quonset-type storage warehouse behind Devereaux Furniture caught fire, destroying it completely. This caused at least $100,000 in damage, as the facility was packed with new appliance merchandise and Christmas-gift items.
The final blow came another eight months later on August 6, 1965. The main Devereaux Furniture building burned to the ground in a spectacular fire that was fought by seven area fire departments. Flames and debris shot up 20 feet up in the air, and thick black smoked enveloped the small village. It is believed the fire started on the loading dock while stoves were being unloaded, possibly by hot brake drums on the delivery truck. The business was a total loss, with damage estimated at over $175,000. Firefighters were fortunately able to save the Stokoe residence next door to the east.
Devereaux subsequently experienced a downhill slide which it never recovered from, as other remaining businesses closed. The village school was annexed to Springport and closed. The railroad was abandoned in 1968 and the tracks were subsequently removed. The Springport phone system claimed the village and Albion phones were removed. Today, a chain-link fence surrounds the former Stokoe Hardware/Devereaux Furniture site, now overgrown with weeds. Only the Merritt General Store remains today as the only retail establishment open in the once-prosperous village of Devereaux.
Many Albion residents don’t even know the village is there nor have they ever visited it. There is no “Devereaux Village” sign upon entering the community, and the sign on M-99 has been stolen several times. I encourage our readers to drive through Devereaux this week and look at “what used to be” across the street from Merritt’s General Store. Also, stop into Merritts and buy something, too. Tell them Frank sent you.
From our Historical Notebook this week courtesy of Chris Waito, we present a classic photograph of “Devereaux on Fire,” August 6, 1965. Firefighters and onlookers watch helplessly as Devereaux Furniture and the old Devereaux Post Office buildings burn to the ground. Fireman are shown spraying water on the structure to help keep the blaze from spreading to surrounding buildings. Clouds of smoke billow into the community. On the right is the railroad crossing ahead sign. Next is the former Devereaux cider mill building which then was being used as the D. E. Wertz farm implement business. The sign states, “John Deere. D. E. Wertz & Co.” Next is an advertising sign that states, “The Sign of a Good Dealer. New Idea,” followed by a school zone sign for the Devereaux school which once existed.
Devereaux on Fire
Next: ALBION WATER RESOURCES
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic