Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, April 15, 2007, Pg. 13
Perhaps you have seen persons in Albion with one of those “metal detectors” scavenging around some of Albion’s parks or playgrounds, looking for buried treasure. Today’s detectors are more sophisticated, and can distinguish between bottle caps, pull tabs, and real coins. I’ve occasionally heard of people digging up some interesting items within our city limits.
There is still a bonanza awaiting treasure hunters in Albion. Gold is involved, as well as silver. Our story goes back to the Great Flood of March, 1908 when the floodwaters of the Kalamazoo River rose to a foot over the Superior St. bridge in downtown Albion. The bridge, then an arched cement and brick structure, could not withstand the onslaught of the raging waters. Ice chunks pounded the foundations of the bridge, as well as the pillars supporting the buildings/businesses that had been erected over the River.
The Edgar Deyoe grocery was located over the River in the north portion of the Parker-Kessler Block on the west side of N. Superior St. At 11 o’clock on Saturday night March 7, 1908, the building began to shake, and Mr. Deyoe fled his store. Next door in the north edge of the building was Robert Cascarelli’s fruit stand. Above both was the Masonic Hall. Cascarelli’s family had wisely fled their backroom apartment the day before to stay at the Commercial Hotel on W. Porter St. (presently the Moose building).
Next to Cascarelli’s on the north was a 1-story structure containing the jewelry store of Richard F. Church, site of today’s “Rick’s New and Used” (formerly the Dan Siler Insurance building). That was followed on the north by the 2-story Morse Clothing Store building. The local paper reported at the time, “Mr. Church felt some fears about his building and about 11 o’clock commenced carrying out his stock. He had barely started when the three storefronts [Deyoe, Cascarelli, Church] fell with a crash, the people within barely escaping with their lives.”
Almost in the same minute the Church store, the fruit store with the second story, and part of the Masonic Hall fell with another loud crash into the River. The air was filled with brick and lime dust and a horror-stricken crowd shrank back from the piles of bricks that was so short a time before handsome stores.”
A month later as clean-up continued, the paper reported in its April 9, 1908 edition, “Digging for gold in Albion and especially in the heart of Superior St. is indeed an unusual thing. But this was the case Saturday when a workman examined all of the dirt and wreckage in the ruins of Church’s jewelry store in the River in quest of lost articles. A large crowd gathered on the bridge to watch the project, and a comparatively large pile of rings and trinkets were unearthed in a few hours time.”
Did they retrieve everything? Apparently not. There have been stories of Albion boys wading into the River in back of City Hall during the 1930s, digging for objects, and coming up with gold and silver coins, as well as other items. About 20 years ago yours truly took a screen sifter during a summer low-water period, and dug up a few silver dimes from this area. Who knows what other valuable objects fell into the river and sank between Superior and Clinton Sts., awaiting treasure hunters today? Gold coins? Gold rings? Did Church’s cash register really fall into the River? What is still there today?
From our Historical Notebook this week, we present a close-up flood photo showing the Church Jewelry Store collapsing in the center. The Masonic Hall roof has slid over and collapsed on top of the jewelry store. To the left sharing a section of the Parker-Kessler Block is the Deyoe Grocery (small sign on the left), and in the right portion, the Cascarelli Fruit Stand. Notice a hole is already forming on the Superior St. bridge in the foreground. To the right is the Morse Clothing Store.
The Church Jewelry Store Collapsing in the Flood of 1908
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic