Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, December 15, 2002, pg. 2
Remaining copies of my latest book “Albion in the 20th Century” are selling fast at the Albion Chamber of Commerce, 416 S. Superior St. (517) 629-5533. This book would make an excellent Christmas gift for someone who use to live in Albion. Pick up your copy today while they are still in print (I’m on the last box now).
We go “on the road” this week and travel to a nearby neighborhood just a few miles east of Albion in Concord Township in Jackson County: Bath Mills. Bath Mills is a geographic area generally accepted to be along Bath Mills Road between Erie and Albion Roads, and along Albion Road in the vicinity of the former schoolhouse and cemetery behind it.
The neighborhood received its name from the mill that was once located there along the Kalamazoo River east of the road. The original settler (1836) of Bath Mills was Sylvanus Parkinson. Sylvanus’ father and four uncles had fought in the Revolutionary War. The family came from Erie County, New York, and for many years lived in a home just north of the railroad tracks near the mill. Years later the family erected a farmhouse along Albion Road where they spent the remainder of their lives. Today this house is owned by the Wright family at 1136 Albion Road. Another family, the Cuatt family, arrived in 1866 from Groton in Tompkins County, New York, and there are still descendants who live at Bath Mills today.
Sylvanus received permission to dam the river and did so, first erecting a sawmill which he operated. Having went into debt over the enterprise, Sylvanus sold the farm and mill to his son William, before Sylvanus passed away in 1843. William operated the sawmill only briefly, and quickly sold it to John Graham. Graham continued operating the sawmill for a few years, then erected a flour/grist mill on the property which proved to be a much more successful enterprise. In the 1960s there was an article in the Journal of Albion newspaper claiming that Graham’s mill invented and produced “Graham flour,” i.e. Graham cracker flour. That was a totally untrue rumor which should be dispelled here, lest someone wishes to inform us of that “discovery article.”
Graham disposed of the mill to Charles Kilbourne, who soon sold it to Chauncey E. Goodrich (1827-1891) around 1850. Chauncey operated it for almost 40 years as a flour and feed mill. The Mill suffered a disastrous fire in January, 1888, and was destroyed. A worker who slept in the back of the mill office, William Losley, was burned to death in the fire, where “his charred remains, little else than bones were found” near the door, as described in news accounts at the time. The mill was uninsured but Mr. Goodrich rebuilt it, receiving help from friends and businessmen of Albion.
Following the death of Goodrich in 1891, the mill property was acquired by his son-in-law Henry Overy (1858-1917). Profits on flour were declining at the time, and so Overy converted it into a feed mill only which he ran for several years before closing it. The closed mill was torn down in 1908. The water rights were sold back to the farmers, and the river was drained and dredged. While driving on Albion Road today, you can look north into the valley and see where the old millpond used to be.
Bath Mills was one of those communities that stayed small; there was no post office established there. It did however become a stop on the Michigan Central Railroad when it was built in 1844. A small station was located there and a railroad agent lived there, too. The station was closed with the reduction of the flour and feed mill business in the 1890s. When the railroad was laying a second track in 1902, it dug a gravel pit near Bath Mills to obtain dirt for the second line, and this was known as the “Bloomerville Pit.” When the interurban electric railroad was built, it went through the center of Bath Mills just to the north of the Kalamazoo River; the old raised right-of-way can still be ascertained today. Bath Mills was one of the “local” stops along the line, which operated from 1903 to 1929.
There was also a neighborhood schoolhouse which served the early settlers of Bath Mills. It was a brick structure located near the southeast corner of Bath Mills and Elm Row Roads. It was used in the 1840s and part of the 1850s until a new schoolhouse was erected “up the hill” in 1855 at a cost of $200. The new school was located on land owned by William F. Parkinson. The present former Bath Mills Schoolhouse was erected in the summer of 1890 on the same site at a cost of $455 to replace the 1855-built one. The Bath Mills district was annexed by the Albion Public Schools in 1966, and operated through the 1966-67 school year before it was permanently closed in June, 1967. How many of our readers went to Bath Mills School?
The cemetery behind the schoolhouse consists of about 20 graves containing the surnames of early settlers: Parkinson, Bayn, Bean, Goodrich, Lum, Lewis, and Marsters. The earliest tombstone burial is dated 1839, while the last is dated 1872.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of pioneer Bath Mills settler, William F. Parkinson (1819-1910). Take a drive through Bath Mills this weekend, and bring your binoculars.
Pioneer Bath Mills settler, William F. Parkinson
Next: CEMETERY FISH POND
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic