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, June 16, 2019, pg. 11

On Memorial Day weekend a "porta-john" was placed in Riverside Cemetery near the Veteranís Memorial Stage for the convenience of those attending the service there after the parade. The porta-john was placed next to the Porr family (not their financial condition, but their actual surname) lot in Block 70. The Porr family-clan was prominent in Albion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and ironically, a couple of them worked for the City of Albion as Albion city sewer inspector and head of the water department. The most prominent one was William J. Porr.

William J. Porr (1856-1938) was the son of William & Katherine (Prush) Porr, and was born in Cochecton, Sullivan County, New York. He came to Albion and established his occupation as a plumber during the days when Albionís water system was being developed. He first worked for the Union Windmill Company as its agent before going into business for himself.

Active in civic affairs, William became a member of the volunteer fire department, called the Union Hose Company No. 2. He also served as a city Alderman and lived at 404 Washington St. His plumbing firm was located at 111 E. Cass St. His advertisement in the Albion 1895 City Directory stated, "City plumber, steam and gas fitter. A full line of plumberís supplies always on hand."

Porr was a member of the board of public works, and became Albionís sewer inspector and foreman. His most well-known accomplishment was converting the "black ditch" drainage trough into a major sewer line across the southwest portion of Albion in 1912. On July 2, 1912, the Albion Recorder wrote, "Black Ditch Sewer Well Under Way. One-third of the Big Tube already laid by William Porr and his Laborers. Have Passed Culver St. with Construction Work. Although many people in the city are probably of the opinion that very little is being done on the controversy of the big Black Ditch Sewer system this summer, William Porr and his men are quietly working away on this job which is the biggest ever attempted by an Albion sewer commissioner." The ditch passed through land on what we remember as the George Grenevitch farm, and the south part of the Dalrymple School property.

William also went into the bottled soda-pop business with Oliver Gassette around 1901. The firm was called Porr & Gassette. Porr soon purchased the interest of his partner in 1902 and renamed his company the Albion Bottling Works. He produced and sold hundreds of bottles in the period from 1902 to 1910, with Albionís slogan "Albion Just Right" on the bottom of each bottle.

William retired in 1913 following the completion of the Black Ditch project, and moved to California, He was married twice. His first wife was Kate Raymond (1860-1920), and the couple had one daughter, May. Following the death of his first wife, William married Albion photographer Mrs. Anna Grant here in 1926. He died on December 6, 1938 in Compton, Los Angeles County, California, and is interred in the Inglewood Park Mausoleum next to his first wife, in Inglewood, California.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present an 1883 photograph of William J. Porr as part of the Albion Union Hose Company No. 2. How many of our readers know where the "Black Ditch" sewer line goes through southwest Albion? Hint: It gives us that "bump" on S. Eaton St. at the intersection with W. Oak St.

1883 photograph of William J. Porr, Albion Union Hose Company No. 2


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