Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, November 30, 1997, pg. 23
Just north of the Junior High School is a small triangular sliver of land on the NW corner of Mulberry and N. Huron Streets. This was once the site of one of Albion’s most productive late-19th century industries, the Wolcott Union Windmill Company. It was organized in 1876. President of the firm was E. J. Wood, with L. J. Wolcott (1849-1931) as the secretary and treasurer. Wolcott, who served as the first president of the Homestead Loan and Building Association, was the inventor of several windmill designs which were patented by the firm. Their sectional windmills were known across the country and some were even shipped overseas.
The firm was reorganized at the turn of the century into the Albion Wind Mill & Improvement Company, and shortly thereafter was purchased by Mr. Cook from Homer and reorganized into the Cook Manufacturing Company. This firm continued to make windmills, but added small gasoline engines to its line. Henry Montgomery Dearing (1839-1927) was president of the company, which was managed by his son Palmer Montgomery Dearing (1865-1932).
The company began losing money, and so the secretary-treasurer and manger of the company, Palmer, forged loan notes via the Albion National Bank where his father Henry was cashier. Over $300,000 was forged, and the son-father scheme was uncovered on New Year’s Day, 1912. The company stayed open under the management of John A. Rathbone, formerly of Detroit before closing in 1914.
That year the Cement Casket Manufacturing Company was organized by F. O. Downer of Battle Creek. President of the firm was F. N. Arbaugh. The firm produced a full line of caskets which were shipped across the U.S. The company folded in the mid-1920s. Following that the site became the headquarters of the newly-organized Decker Screw Company in 1927. A year later, the Albion Machine & Tool Company had its start here under the direction of its founder, Albert Beatty. So it can be said that this building was once Albion’s first “industrial incubator.”
The building was then purchased by Union Steel Products, which had already obtained the windmill patents from the old Cook Company and had been producing them for many years. The building then became officially known as “Plant 3,” but was most commonly referred to as “The Morgue,” a reference to the days when the building was used to make caskets.
The building was abandoned by Union Steel and was demolished in three weeks’ time in December, 1956. A parking lot was constructed on the site, but you can still see traces of the building foundation near the sidewalk on Mulberry Street today.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present an 1894 photograph of the Wolcott Union Windmill Company building. Does anyone in the area still have a Wolcott Union or a Union Steel windmill on their farm today? Let me know.
Wolcott Union Windmill Company
Next: JW BRANT CO.
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic