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, September 16, 2012, pg. 16

The 50th wedding anniversary couple published in our August 26 column has been identified as Albion’s 1904-05 Mayor Charles Owen Brownell (1870-1962) and his wife Nettie (Elliott) (1883-1962) by a grandson, Emerson Rice. The Brownell’s were married in Toledo, OH on March 12, 1907, making this a 1957 photo. Thank you so much for your help!

Be sure and come visit me at the Festival of the Forks this coming Saturday, September 22 at my Albion History Booth in front of Citizen’s Bank. I’ll have my Albion history books and materials available and for autographing (no extra charge). I’m looking forward to meeting you. Please let your visiting out-of-town relatives know about my booth, and that my articles in this column are republished on the www.albionmich.com website where they may be enjoyed by everyone across the country and beyond.

During this time of year as we approach the Festival of the Forks, we like to dig back to the beginnings of Albion history. One of the primary sources of this type of information is via the memoirs of Dr. Elmore Palmer (1839-1909), an Albion native who served in the Civil War. His memoirs were published in 1908 and 1909 in the Albion Mirror weekly newspaper in serial form under the title "Biographical Sketches." These were reprinted in the Journal of Albion in 1985, our sesquicentennial year.

This past summer, Claudia Greenwood of Prescott, AZ, a great-granddaughter of Dr. Palmer’s sister Caroline Palmer, visited Albion and yours truly. She visited the sites where her great-uncle was born, lived, and worked. This week we present some recollections Dr. Palmer made in his introductory sketch about early Albion. Enjoy!

"Albion owes a debt to the past…This beautiful little city, all it is, all it stands for and all it expects to be, owes its present position, its present beauty and all that can be hoped for to the toil, enterprise and sacrifice of its pioneers.

Its children are the heirs of a magnificent heritage bequeathed to them at large cost. Albion’s pioneers were of that type of free, strong American man and womanhood which shows an ability to work and succeed in any place, position or circumstance connected with human life…These early settlers of Albion and its nearby surrounding country, were mostly the sturdy sons and daughters of the Empire State.

One by one they came through a trackless wilderness surrounded by unknown dangers; singly and on foot or with their little families and ox teams leaden with their simple belongings. Here they gave their lives and fortunes to found their future homes and rear their children, well knowing that the reward would be only in the generations to come.

No wilderness was ever more wild or beautiful than the surrounding Forks at the time of its first settlement. The gigantic forest trees stood in all their native grandeur having withstood the storms of the revolving years. The lakes and streams abounded with a variety of fish, the forests with beautiful flowers as well as wild fruits, nuts, grapes and game.

More and better meats than now were to be had within gunshot, as the deer, bear, rabbit, wild turkey, quail, partridge, grouse and pigeons inhabited the forests in profusion. Springs of the purest cold water bountifully supplied the necessities of man and beast. Nature had left nothing unsupplied that could add to the sustenance and comfort of the early pioneers."

We close with an excerpt in Sketch No. 3 "Good fellowship and generous hospitality were marked characteristics of the early settlers. These early pioneers possessed all kinds of characteristics except dishonest ones. Dishonesty and swindling were not tolerated in any form in those early days. There were no locks on the doors of the old timers. Oftimes men with their families would go away from their homes for a visit or on business and remain for several days without a thought that anything would be disturbed. Larceny was rarely known. The writer cannot now recall a case of theft in those early times."

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a depiction of the Forks of the Kalamazoo River as depicted on the obverse of the 1986 Festival Trade Dollar (the final year these were issued). Do you have a complete set of these which were issued from 1978 through 1986? Visit me at my booth if you’re missing any. We’ll see you, our readers, on September 22 in downtown Albion.

Depiction of The Forks, obverse side of the 1986 Festival Trade Dollar


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