Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, July 28, 2002, pg. 11
As I sit writing this article, we’ve experienced several days of 90 degree weather along with several weeks of little precipitation. Have you noticed that ever since the city of Albion raised the water and sewer rates earlier this year, hardly anyone is watering their lawn anymore? Brown lawns, it seems, are “in.” We should be thankful, however, that we have an abundant water supply here in Albion--unlike the greater Detroit suburbs where there is water rationing.
Our biggest natural resource, the Kalamazoo River, was the main attraction that brought settlers here in the 1830s. Our water resources were well known across the State of Michigan. The 1863-64 Michigan State Gazetteer declared, “The Kalamazoo River and branches furnish an abundant water power, which has been improved by the erection of three flouring mills and a number of other manufactories...Among the noticeable features of Albion is the artesian well on the premises of Jesse Crowell, Esq., the only well of the kind in the county. It is 285 feet in depth and discharges a continuous stream of pure water, at the rate of two barrels per minute, the water maintaining a mean temperature of 53 degrees Farenheit, which never varies a single degree in summer or winter.” The Gazetteer was probably referring to the artesian well which once flowed near Jesse Crowell’s Mill office building, located approximately where the former Gordon Pahl Jewelers and Fedco buildings sit today. There used to be a “community cup” at the well which passersby could dip and take a drink of that nice, fresh natural water.
Crowell of course, developed a massive water-powered mill complex on S. Superior St. His 1845-built Stone Mill became a landmark in downtown Albion. Today it is the building housing Citizens Bank. The Market Place “alley” behind the buildings on the east side of S. Superior St. was once a flowing raceway used to turn the wheel at the Stone Mill.
Steam power later came along and the brick elevator was erected in 1881 just to the north. It was known as the W. B. Knickerbocker Mill, and later the W. H. Nelson Grain, Flour, and Feed. Flour from this mill was shipped to every state in the Union, and was also exported to places such as England, Ireland, Scotland, Holland, and Belgium. The business complex went bankrupt during the 1910s. In 1916 the Stone Mill building was purchased by the Commercial & Savings Bank and remodeled into their new headquarters. The brick elevator building was organized into a co-operative, and was moved back 132 feet eastwards in August and September, 1917, at a rate of 6 inches a day! It then became known as the Albion Elevator. It is this landmark building in the Market Place which is soon to be demolished so that a pre-fab health care center can be erected on the site.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present an 1894 photograph of the two mills when they were together on S. Superior St. Notice the brick mill on the left had the original nine metal braces in the building that still are there today. In front are numerous horse and buggies, with bags of flour in their wagons. Between the two buildings in the rear is the old Eslow Door and Sash factory, which later burned. Today that is the site of the Albion Meat Locker.
The Albion Elevator
All text copyright, 2014 © all rights reserved Frank Passic