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, November 1, 2020, pg. 8

This week Iíd like to write about another person in Albionís history who had an unusual occupation. Do you know what an apiarist is? Do you know how to pronounce that? Itís a beekeeper, and an apiarist keeps his bees in an apiary, a collection of hives placed there for the collection of honey.

George Encke (1851-1936) was Albionís leading apiarist over a century ago. A native of Hope, New Jersey, George moved to Michigan from Hope with his parents in 1865. George was first married to Della Bidwell (1850-1879), the daughter of Wellington Bidwell, a local Albion grocer.

George worked at Wellingtonís store and learned the grocery trade before operating his own store in the 1890s. During that time, he lived at 403 Irwin Avenue. Unfortunately, Della passed away early in their marriage, and George was subsequently remarried twice. Their son LaVerne Encke (1877-1935) operated the Oak Grove Service Station on Austin Avenue during the 1920s.

George purchased a 31-acre farm at 28207 Territorial Road, now C Drive North, where he grew strawberries, fruits, melons, and grapes. The northern strip of his property is where the apiary was located, which today is the back property of Network Family Church (formerly named New Hope Worship Center) on 28 Mile Road. Concrete foundations of old barns, sheds and a well still remain at the old apiary location today, surrounded by pear and walnut trees, and raspberry bushes.

The 1904 "Biographical Review of Calhoun County" by Hobart & Mather states (pg. 275): "He [George Encke] also has a good apiary and has handled bees for 35 years. In fact, he has come to be the leading apiarist in eastern Calhoun County, and has given to the subject much study and consideration. His honey product last year will amount to more than 3,000 pounds, and as it is always of excellent quality, he commands the highest market price."

Living in Sheridan Township had its problems back then, however. The Albion Recorder reported in early July, 1910, "Wine Stolen from Cellar. George Encke Loses 35 Gallons of Wine. Officer Mallory Locates Stolen Juice and Thinks he has a Thief. In these times of dryness in Calhoun, it is not altogether uncommon for people to manufacture their own liquid refreshments. Such was the course taken by George Encke north of the city. He had a large quantity of fine homemade grape wine stored away in his cellar, but a week ago he found his supply considerably diminished. It was evident that it had been stolen, so he put Office Mallory on the case. After a little detective work the office fastened his suspicions on John Harris, who lived near the home of Mr. Encke. Tuesday morning Mr. Mallory drove out and secured what wine there was left and this morning brought in Mr. Harris who appeared before Justice McCutcheon."

About 20 years ago, relatives of Mr. Encke visited Albion from Pennsylvania, and I had the honor of giving them a tour of the old apiary location. From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of George Encke, Albionís leading apiarist.

George Encke (1851-1936)


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