Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Have you been naughty? Are you just getting a lump of coal for Christmas in your stocking this year? For many years in the early 20th century Albion had several coal and fuel dealers, in the days when houses were heated by coal furnaces. Coal was once the mainstay source of fuel for heating a house. Many of Albion’s older houses have “coal bin rooms” in the basement, or metal “coal windows” where coal was delivered into the basements. Coal storage bins used to be located under the sidewalks in downtown Albion. This week we’d like to feature one of Albion’s historical coal dealers.
Louis C. McDougal (1874-1938) came to Albion in the 1890s, during which time he was a clerk at several grocery and dry goods stores. In 1900 he was hired by local fuel dealer George W. Perkins, who previously had a partnership called Perkins & Steele. Louis ended up marrying his boss’ daughter, Elizabeth in 1901. Consequently, he purchased the business from his father-in-law in 1907.
Louis ran the business by himself until May, 1916, when future Albion Mayor Archer Young (1874-1949) purchased a half-interest, and the firm became known as McDougal & Young. McDougal & Young sold coal, wood, hay, straw, and feed. Their business office location at 116 N. Superior St. was destroyed in the Great Flood of 1908 and was rebuilt.
The coal yard for the firm was located at 221 N. Eaton St., west side, on the property recently acquired by the City of Albion, south of the railroad tracks. Their building here eventually became the headquarters for the firm. Coal was unloaded off railroad cars into bins for purchasing by customers. Today you can still see the cement remains of those old coal bins. Even after the deaths of the partners, the McDougal & Young firm was continued by Archer’s son Ralph into the 1950s. Ralph expanded the firm into Culligan Water Conditioning which was also sold here. The use of coal waned as the 20th century progressed. By the 1950s most Albion homes had converted over to natural gas.
Louis was very active in Albion civic activities. He was a prominent member of the First Presbyterian Church and served on the board of trustees. He was active in supporting Albion Boy Scouts, particularly Troop 58. Professionally, he was an active member of the Michigan Retail Coal Dealers’ Association. He died suddenly in downtown Detroit just prior to attending a Detroit Tigers baseball game in April 1938. Burial was in Riverside Cemetery. Louis’ daughter Elizabeth “Betty” (1915-2002) married Albion Malleable Iron Company executive Gardner Lloyd (1914-2004), and there are still descendants today.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of Louis C. McDougal. How many of our readers remember the McDougal & Young Coal Yard on N. Eaton St.?
Louis C. McDougal (1874-1938)
Next: CHRISTMAS TURKEYS
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic