Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, January 27, 2013, pg. 13

Occasionally in this column we like to focus on one of Albion’s street names. One of Albion’s shorter streets, now bisected in two parts, is Pearl St. located in the southwest portion of our city. It runs northwards from the end of W. Elm St. all the way to the Kalamazoo River with the exception of one block which was closed to build the Mather Apartments. Nearby is Ann St. What do these two street names have in common?

William Munson Pearl (ca. 1806-1889) was an early pioneer of our community. His first wife Ora Jackson of Blandford, Hampden County, Massachusetts passed away there in 1835. He came to Michigan in 1833, first settling in Marshall where he kept the Marshall House. In 1834 he purchased 80 acres of land from the U.S. Government in Section 4 of Fredonia Township (just west of Fish Lake) in September of that year. William later purchased another 80 acres in Section 25 of Sheridan Township on April 9, 1835, covering an area east of 29 Mile Rd. along C Drive North northeast of Albion. The following month his name appears in the first chancery suit held in Calhoun County court in the case William M. Pearl vs. Putnam Root. William apparently moved at some point to Albion for he was the moderator at the first annual town meeting of Albion Township held in April, 1837. With that information we can assume he was living in the Albion Township portion of the then-unincorporated Village of Albion.

William’s 2nd wife was Ann Martha Warner (1805-1853), daughter of Albion pioneer Wareham Warner (1779-1854) whom he married here on November 20, 1836. William and his first wife had one daughter: Mary Ameila (1834-1900) who married James W. Peabody (1829-1903) in Rough and Ready, CA in 1853. His other three daughters (via his 2nd wife Ann) were Augusta Ann Pearl (1838-1909) who was married to David Peabody, brother of the aforementioned and son of Albion’s first settler, Tenney Peabody; Lura E. Pearl (1842-1914) who was married to an Albion Village president, Orris Robertson (1828-1898); and Ella Pearl (1843-1927) who was married to Albion druggist Charles Williams (1841-1892).

When the Wareham Warner property west of S. Eaton St. and north of W. Erie St. was subdivided and streets were added, Wareham named Ann St. after his daughter, and Pearl St. after his son-in-law William M. Pearl. That is the connection between the two nearby street names.

William Pearl caught the "gold fever" of the California Gold Rush and was part of a group of around two dozen men who left Albion on March 1, 1849. They arrived in California in October, 1849. The Albion contingent settled in the Yuba and Nevada Counties area of California about 40 miles north of Sacramento. They settled in tiny gold rush towns within a 10-mile radius of each other, with names like Rose Bar, Timbuctoo, Smartsville, Sucker Flat, Empire Ranch, Mooney Flat, Rough and Ready, Spenceville, and Lone Tree.

William’s wife Ann Pearl was ill and so left Albion for California in 1852 with hopes that her health would improve. That same year William Pearl first appears in a California state census, living at a boarding house with other miners. Ann unfortunately died there on November 20, 1853. In 1856 William was one of the founders of the Masonic lodge in Rose Bar. Just two years later on September 18, 1858 William was named Postmaster of Timbuctoo, California. In 1872 he moved to a new community, Smartsville where he purchased some property and erected a drugstore on the site. That business failed due to competition located across the street, and his building then became the Smartsville Saloon. Today the building is still there, but is boarded up and vacant. He was still living there in the 1880 Census.

After living in California for three decades, William M. Pearl returned to Albion in 1882. He is listed in the 1885 Albion City Directory as living at 29 N. Eaton St. with his daughter Lura Robertson and family. That location was the NW corner of W. Chestnut St. and N. Eaton Sts. William died Monday, October 21, (another reference says October 16) 1889 in Albion at the age of 83.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present photograph of the Pearl Street sign here in Albion. Special thanks to Kathleen Smith of Smartsville, CA for information included in this week’s article. How many of our readers live on Pearl Street?

Pearl Street sign


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