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, Monday, February 23, 1998, page 4

Albion has been described in the history books as being surrounded by rich agricultural land, quite evident by the numerous grain elevators which were once located here. In our downtown area itself was the White Mill, the Brown Mill, the Stone Mill, the Nowlin Elevators, and the Albion Elevator. Farmers would come from miles around into town to have their grain and other agricultural products processed here.

One prominent elevator businessman in the early 20th century was Frank E. Nowlin (1869-1940), who owned two elevators here, and others in Marengo, Eckford and Springport. His specialty was the bean business, and he was a prominent bean-jobbing person in the State of Michigan. He served as president of the Michigan Bean Jobbers Association for one term, as well as being on the Albion City Council and on the Public Library Board.

Nowlin’s Bean Elevator was located in the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad Freight Office building, which he leased. It was located on the south side of the tracks on the west side of N. Ionia St., but with the approach facing N. Superior St. where the car wash is located today.

It was at this site that our “great bean robbery” occurred. The January 25, 1909 issue of the Recorder reported, “Someone stole a bag of red kidney beans from the Lake Shore depot last Saturday evening. The bag of beans was worth about six dollars and Mr. F. E. Nowlins, the owner of the bag refused to look on the theft as a prank. The trail of red kidney beans led to the small office at the athletic field at the college and from this building, trails led away in several directions. This office seemed to have been used as a point of distribution. The officers armed with search warrants followed up some of the trails but it was discovered that several boys had found the beans in the old office and had taken home various amounts. The real offenders have not yet been found, but it is thought that whoever it was must have been very careless as a hole in the bag left a telltale string of red beans behind.” Imagine – Albion, the red kidney bean capital of Michigan. With its own bean elevator.

Nowlin soon after erected a new elevator building on the southeast corner of Michigan and N. Clinton Sts., and operated it until 1924 when the building became the new headquarters for Norman H. Wiener. A railroad siding off the Michigan Central tracks serviced the site. More than 3000 persons attended the 1913 opening of this particular elevator, and Nowlin provided much entertainment for the event, including dancing, fiddles and banjos. One particular photograph shows 22 loads of wheat totaling 2025 pounds being brought to the site in 1915, for which the farmer received a check for $3,037.35

This week we present a photograph of the original Frank E. Nowlin's Bean Elevator looking east towards N. Ionia St. from N. Superior, and a photograph of Mr. Nowlin.

Nowlin Bean Elevator

Frank E. Nowlin


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