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.


Albion Recorder, December 13, 2001, pg. 11

In the 19th century and early 20th century there was published an annual Michigan Gazetteer Business Directory. This was the yellow pages of those times where a person could look up the name of any community, read a short synopsis about that locale, and read a listing of the merchants and businesses in that town. As the State of Michigan grew, these Gazetteers grew larger each year in size, and by the 1930s were being published several inches thick with hundreds of pages.

These Gazetteers have been a excellent resource for Albion history, as they cover time periods when no village or city directories were published, or where no newspapers survived to be microfilmed. It is always interesting to read these to see how the image of our town was portrayed. Albion appears in the 1838 Gazetteer with this description: Albion, a village of recent origin, situated on the Kalamazoo River, on the located route of the central rail road, in Albion Township, Calhoun County. It has a post office, a saw mill, a flouring mill, a tavern, 3 stores, and 4 physicians. It is on the surveyed road from Monroe to Marshall, andone and a half miles south of the Territorial Road, ten miles from Marshall, and 100 from Detroit. It contains about 40 dwellings, and is in a thriving condition. What would the Gazetteer have to say about our community today? The Territorial Road was the main trail where hundreds of settlers moved across Michigan in the 1830s and 1840s. Today it is known as C Drive North and Comdon Road north of Albion. Austin Avenue on the west, and Michigan Avenue east of Albion were exit roads built by Jesse Crowell to bring people into our community from Territorial Road.

One time period where local historical documentation is sparse is the 1870s, and the Gazetteers are an excellent help. The 1879 Gazetteer gives this description of our community: Albion. An incorporated village of 3,200 inhabitants, situated in the eastern part of Calhoun County, in a fine agricultural region. It is on the Michigan Central railroad, 20 miles west of Jackson, and 12 east of Marshall. The Lansing branch of the L. S. & M. S. Ry. also passes through the place, by which route it is 22 miles north of Jonesville and 38 south of Lansing. The village has a bonded debt of $14,000 school bonds, and the college, under control of the Methodist Episcopal denomination, is a predominating feature. This insitution is now on a much stronger footing than formerly, having secured an endowment of $200,000. The college numbers around 200 students.

There are five union school buildings and six churches in Albion, and it supports two weekly newspapers--the Recorder (Independent), and the Mirror (Democratic). There are three hotels: the Commercial, a first class house under the management of H. A. Foster, formerly of Fosters Coliseum Theatre, Detroit; the Albion House and the Exchange Hotel. There is one bank, the National Exchange with a capital of $100,000, and two private banks. The Western Union Telegraph and United States and American Express companies have offices here. Mail daily. Martin Haven, postmaster.

Following that friendly description of our town is a listing of the businesses and businessmen in alphabetical order. Some sample entries include: Albion Recorder, Horace E. Gemberling Editor and Propr. (Independent Weekly), 26 Superior. Bull, Isaac. Pump Dealer. Constantine, Sidney M. Attorney at Law and Collection Agent, 52 Superior. Coulson, John T. merchant tailor. Graves, Edward L. photographer, Superior. Schwer, George, saloon, Erie. Tremper, Robert H. Surgeon Dentist, 78 Superior.

Many of the old Michigan Gazetteers are on the shelves at the Library of Michigan in Lansing. When visiting the Library, why not look at these and read what Albion was like? Theres alot of interesting information in these. You can also look up neighboring communities such as Duck Lake, Devereaux, Eckford, Marengo, Homer, etc.

From the Archives this week we present the classic photograph of downtown Albion taken in the early 1870s as published in the Journal of Albion, April 30, 1957. The whereabouts of the original is unknown. It shows the west side of the 200 and 300 blocks of S. Superior St. On the far left is the Clift Block as it looked before the Sheldon Block was erected adjacent to it. Here we see the grocery store of Charles E. Bogue. Next in the wood framed building with the peaked roof is the Howard Quinlan Grocery, upon which a sign on top states, The Cheap Grocery Store. Next is a an establishment run by W.A. Harris, thought to be a barber.

The next building with the chimes on top of the roof is the Albion Exchange Bank at 304 S. Superior St., owned by James W. Sheldon. This later became the Albion State Bank. Next is a merchant tailor shop, and on the corner is the National Exchange Bank. Across the street of course is the huge four-story Eslow Block which at the time was part of the Commercial Hotel complex that stretched back into W. Porter St. Erected in 1869, this was the biggest landmark in Albion for many years until the top story was removed in 1919 following a disastrous fire. The original portion of the Hotel, now the site of the Moose, was erected in 1867. Next are two wooden buildings which housed a clothing store and a shoe store. On the far right is the Howard Hall building, a social and community gathering place where a variety of meetings and activities were held in the 1850s and 1860s.

I would like to take time this week to thank members of our community who have supplied me with historical photographs and materials which have helped greatly in the preparation of these articles, and for our sponsor who has helped make this series possible. Be sure and patronize their business establishment this Christmas season.

Superior Street in the 1870s


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