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Article on Early Nunica

 

NUNICA

Friday, August 21, 1931
The Coopersville (Mich.) Observer Page Three

Nunica Railroad Depot

A Brief History of the Village, Its Churches, School and People. Written by Harry and Some of the Observer Staff. One of a Series of Stories to Appear in This Paper.

As the third in the series of stories we are preparing on the past and present history of this part of Ottawa county, we have selected the village of Nunica.

Nunica is the principal settlement in Crockery township and enjoys a find trade from the rich territory surrounding it, which places it among the better places in the county in which to live.

The first white settler in crockery township of whom there is any record was Manley Patchin, who came there in 1836 to make his home. He was followed in 1938 by Wm. Hathaway Jr., and Josephus Hathaway.

More and more settlers migrated to the district during the years following until in 1845 the township was organized. At the first organization the township was combined with Spring Lake, and the first meeting was held at the home of Col. Amos Norton, an early and prominent man of the community, who was engaged in lumbering. The township was called Norton in his honor.

Mr. Norton was elected first supervisor of the township and Dr. Timothy Eastman was chosen as surveyor. Richard M. Mason, Richard Hathaway and C. T. Gibbs were elected commissioners of highway and the road was soon opened from Spring Lake through the present site of Nunica to the township line on the east.

In 1849 the present township of Crockery was formed by the division of the township of Norton and the first meeting was held in the spring of the year at the home of William Hathaway, who was made first supervisor of the new township. Mr. Hathaway and Manley Patchin were also named Justices of the Peace.

Wm. Hathaway, called Judge Hathaway, was very prominently identified not only with the early history of Crockery township, but with that of Ottawa county as well. He came from Claremont, Mass., to Grand Haven in 1837 and to the mouth of Crockery Creek in November, 1839. There he lived king of the realm for six years, and during these years he farmed, made shingles and lumbered. He received from one dollar to one-fifty per thousand for shingles and from two to two-fifty per thousand for logs, delivered at Grand Haven. At one time Mrs. Hathaway did not see a white woman for four months. They had Indian neighbors with whom they always lived upon the most friendly terms. At the time Mr. Hathaway settled here there were no roads of any kind, the river being the only thoroughfare for the travelers. As in all parts of the country at that date, the tangled fallen timber, the swamps and the ravines rendered traveling other than on foot out of the question.

Most of the land in the township was state land and the settlers generally located the land on state script, which they were able to buy for from fifty to sixty cents on the dollar, paying nominally $1.25 per acre. Some of the land in Crockery township was located upon the bounty warrants of the soldiers of the war of 1812.

The land in this vicinity escaped the eyes of the land speculators who were numerous in the years 1836-37 and when the land was bought it was by those who meant to occupy it and make for themselves a home.

The three Patchin brothers put the first pine logs into Grand river out of Crockery township in 1838.

From the early forties the settlers came more and more numerously to this district to make their homes and the land was taken up, the work of clearing and putting it into cultivation being a herculean task. These hardy men put their shoulders to the wheel however and in spite of the hardship the work was carried on.

In 1849 the first school district of the township was organized in front of the home of Theron F. Hunter, his wood pile being utilized for the seating of the company. Theron F. and Silas O. Hunter came to the township in 1846.

The village of Nunica was first platted August 25th , 1865, by Henry Ernst, and later others platted portions of the village, among them being Mr. Holcomb. A portion of the village has never been platted but still is governed by metes and bounds.

Grand Haven and Muskegon Railroad Depot, Nunica, Michigan

The village closely followed the establishment of the railroad in this district, the Detroit and Milwaukee having been built through here in 1863. A few years later came the Chicago, Milwaukee and Lake Shore Railway into the territory and after a rather stormy existence, faded out of the picture.

A newspaper was started in Nunica in the early days by Hi Potts. This paper was later removed to Spring Lake and then to Grand Haven and is now being published as the Grand Haven Tribune.

Crockery Creek, wending its way through the township is said to have received its name from the fact that a large amount of broken crockery or earthenware was found along its banks. The name Nunica was given to the Village in commemoration of this as a man conversant with the Indian language of the Ottawas gave the information that this is a perversion of "Menonica," which signifies the clay or earth used by the Indians in the manufacture of their earthenware.

A short distance south of the village three Indian mounds, discovered and opened in the 70’s were found to contain, besides a large number of skeletons, a variety of stone and copper implements and earthenware vases, some of which were very elaborately decorated, a testimonial to the skill of these primitive people. Around these mounds Indian bones and relics were found so close to the surface that they were thrown out by the plow.

In the year 1873 this township which at that time had 3,883 acres of improved lands, produced about 3,000 bushels of wheat, 8,368 bushels of corn and about 10,000 bushels of other grain; 10,000 bushels of potatoes; 2,000 tons of hay; 4,000 pounds of wool; 24,000 pounds of butter; 7,000 pounds of maple sugar and something over $5,500 worth of fruit and garden products. The population of the township at this time was 1124 and the real and personal property of the residents was valued at $248,231.09.

The men whose names we have mentioned in the foregoing and many others who followed them into this district have had a large part in making the history of the community, and their descendants still make their home in and around Nunica and are carrying on the good work started by their forefathers.

The people of Nunica are almost all of old pioneer stock. Nearly all the business men of the village are natives of Crockery or nearby townships. These people have neighbored together since early childhood. They have shared their mutual joys and sorrows, have united in promoting the common interests of their group and are all willing to go on record in proving that Nunica is a good place to make your home.

When Nunica was first platted by Henry Ernst, lumbering was the premier industry of the district. There were already some very good farms and many of the land owners combined farming with the cutting of logs, peeling tanbark and other forest land occupations. With the passing of the years and the clearing of the land, farming and stock raising took precedence until the present high state of cultivation was reached.

About 1900 the Grand Haven and Muskegon interurban railway was built and until the past few years gave the community regular passenger service. The coming of the busses forced the interurban to abandon their service as it has practically all over the country.

There was at one time a chair factory located in Nunica, a product of this concern being in daily use in the home of C. B. Westover, a sturdily built chair that promises to last for many years to come.

As in all other communities, the settling of the territory brought out the need for schools and churches. The first school building of this community was located on the river road south of the village, on the Gordon farm. This location was inconvenient for the Nunica pupils and the proposition of moving the school to the village was put to a vote. The project lost by one vote, but the villagers were not defeated in their desires and accordingly banded together on a Saturday night and journeyed to the site of the school, "lifted" the building and moved it to the village. Their object being accomplished, the argument was dropped and the school has since then been a part of the village.

The site of the school was donated to the village by Henry Ernst, familiarly known as "the father of Nunica." Mr. Ernst settled in Nunica, in 1861 and lived to the ripe old age of 94 years. The Ernst home is a landmark on the Grand Haven-Grand Rapids pike. It is a large brick house situated not far to the east of the "entrance" to Nunica.

The present school building was built in 1875, the work on the structure being performed by John Westover, father of C. B. Westover and the first teachers were A. W. Taylor and Mary Smith. The school at the present time is a ten grade school employing four teachers. A. C. Kelly is principal of the school, Ethel Easterly is teacher of the 6th and 7th and 8th grades; Florence Maebius the 3rd, 4th and 5th and Edith Scott primary.

Wm. H. Ernst, proprietor of one of Nunica’s hardware stores, was born on the old homestead in 1862 and has grown up with the community. He spent his boyhood days with many of the men with whom he has now joined hand in conducting the business and promoting the welfare of his home town. Not only does Mr. Ernst conduct the hardware store mentioned above but he is actively engaged as owner and manager of two farms, which take a large share of his time and is also president of the Nunica State Bank. He is a busy man from morning until night, and seems to have the faculty of handling his various duties in such a way that all receive the amount of attention necessary to make them successful. Mr. Ernst fills a community need and his value to the business of the village is untold.

The Nunica State Bank was first organized as a private banking business in 1912 by Wm. Ernst and W. E. Slater, present cashier of the bank. Nine years later, in 1912 it was reorganized as a state bank with a capital of $20,000, and from that time has enjoyed a fine patronage. Mr. Slater has the reputation of being a good business man and a conservative banker, his patrons having the utmost confidence in the institution of which he is in charge.

This bank at the present time has in addition to the capital stock of $20,000 surplus fund of $10,000 and undivided profits of nearly $7,000. The commercial and savings deposits of the institution are $145,200.75. The stockholders of the bank own their own building, which was designed and built to adequately take care of the needs of the business.

Mr. Slater formerly operated a farm two miles east of Nunica and has lived in Crockery township for twenty years, at the present time being supervisor. Before moving to this community he made his home in Grand Rapids.

Besides Messrs. Ernst and Slater, the officers and directors of the bank are Claus Erhorn, Ed. Cooper, Chas. Eckhoff, John Ahrens and B. P. Sherwood. Messrs. Erhorn and Eckhoff are farms of the community, Mr. Cooper is a contractor living on the Bolt Highway near Muskegon and Mr. Sherwood is a well known banker of Grand Haven.

This bank has paid dividends regularly and the fine showing of the institution is not only a testimonial to the ability of the management but is also a proof of the financial strength of the community which it serves.

C. B. Westover, who conducts one of the most popular general stores of the village was born in Nunica and moved with his parents to a farm at the age of ten years. The family was a large one and when at the age of thirteen years he lost his mother, Mr. Westover decided to see the country. He was never afraid of work and has tried his hand at whatever was offered in the meantime covering a very considerable portion of the country.

Mr. Westover in his desire to check on his ability to perform different tasks joined the United States army, the greater portion of his enlistment being served at New York Harbor. He was a member of the artillery corps and has many tales to tell of his experiences while a servant of Uncle Sam.

In 1895 Mr. Westover took to himself a wife and in 1896 returned to the home of his boyhood days, Nunica, with a desire to settle down and "let the moss grow." Upon his return to the community he took up the occupation of farming which occupied his time until in 1910, when he entered the mercantile life of the village and has continued through the years which have followed.

The building which Mr. Westover occupies with his business is the oldest structure in the village. When built it occupied the site where the bank now stands and was moved to its present location about thirty years ago.

Mr. Westover was appointed postmaster of the village September 25, 1923, during the administration of President Harding and during the eight years he has held that office has given perfect satisfaction to his patrons. The office serves approximately 1500 patrons locally and on the rural route which centers here.

Until June 1st the patrons of two rural routes were served from the Nunica office but on that date, Mr. Chas. E. Jubb, who had served his full allotted time as a carrier retired from the service and the two routes were consolidated, C. H. Bond now carrying the combined route, which is 59 miles in length. Mr. Bond also farms a piece of land in addition to his duties at the post office.

E. A. Brown, proprietor of Nunica’s drug store is the oldest merchant in point of service in the village. Mr. Brown was born on a farm near Coopersville but migrated with his parents to Nunica, where in 1883 his father built a grist mill, E. A. being associated with him in the conduct of the business. This mill they conducted for many years until it was destroyed by fire after which Mr. Brown entered the business he now conducts.

He was appointed postmaster in 1901 by President McKinley and served in that capacity for fifteen years. He has always been keenly interested in the politics of the state and nation as well as those of the village of Nunica. During his connection with business services of the village, Mr. Brown has watched the coming and going of many new faces in the mercantile life of the community and his acquaintances have ripened into friendships until now every man, woman and child in the village and for miles around, all customers and all friends, have a warm spot in their hearts for "Ed."

J. D. Pickett & Son started in the grocery business in Nunica in 1892, and after some time farm implements were added to their stock in trade. In the course of time the farm implement line dominated the situation and the stock of groceries was disposed of that more time could be devoted to their growing trade with the farmers. Mr. Pickett, Sr., passed away last February and since that time the son, Wm. H. Pickett has assumed the entire burden of the business.

Mr. Pickett was born and reared in Nunica and comes of one of the older families of the community, his grandfather having platted part of the village. He has a keen business sense and the courtesy which he dispenses liberally to the visitor in his office is one of the primary reasons for the success and growth which this establishment has enjoyed.

We have been unable to fix the exact date when the building of the Methodist Episcopal church of Nunica was accomplished, but available information shows that it was in the early 70’s.

The building of this church was a task which called for great steadfastness of faith as the lumber used in its construction was cut from the virgin forest by members of the congregation, James Wildey, Charles Hatch and Charles Ritner performing the greater part of this labor. When the lumber was available the entire community joined hands in construction of the edifice, its erection being entirely labor of love. That the work was well done is evidenced by the fact that the building still stands unmarred by the action of the elements during all the years that have passed.

When built, the church stood where the old interurban station is now located. When the interurban came to Nunica the church property was purchased by the railway company as a site for its station and the church was moved to its present location.

The earliest written records which we have been able to find, show a meeting of the church officials which was held on August 29, 1877, the principal object of this meeting being to appoint a committee to canvass the community for funds with which to paint the new church. The pastor of the church was Rev. O. E. Witeman, and the secretary was S. S. Slyter. The church was well established at that time and the interest in the new church was keen.

On May 5, 1878, a petition was circulated by the treasurer, F. Flanders, the object being to raise funds to finish paying for the church. During this same year an organ was purchased for the church and this instrument is still being used at all services held there.

On December 26, 1888, a petition was circulated among the congregation, for funds with which to purchase a "not less than five hundred pound bell." The money collected at this time however, by the consent of the recording steward, was used to pay the indebtedness of the Sunday school and also what was due the presiding elder. A short time later however, the bell was purchased and still hangs in the belfry, each Sunday faithfully calling the congregation to worship.

Authentic records of organized work by the church people are available, which show that the activities of the church societies began as early as the year 1870. A sewing society was organized on September 27, 1870 at the Good Templars hall, at which meeting Mrs. Mary Hamilton was chosen as president of the organization, Mrs. Ricknor, vice president; Mrs. L. B. Green, secretary; Mrs. Hathaway, treasurer and Mrs. Carrie Witeman, general chairman. The constitution and by-laws of the organization were also given. This society was apparently chosen from all denominations and was a community proposition.

The church services at this time were held in the school house, a frame structure which stood upon the location of the present school. This building was later sold to the German people of the community to be used as a church. The building was moved to a different location, and when the present German Evangelical church was built this structure was abandoned and later torn down.

The first M. E. church society was organized on May 17, 1870, the name of the organization being the Ladies’ Good Intent Society. Upon the organization of this society a new constitution and by-laws were prepared by the pastor and presented to the organization for adoption.

One of the by-laws adopted at the time is of peculiar interest as it emphasizes the thriftiness of these pioneer people, and we give it as a set down in the minutes of the meeting at which it was adopted: "At five o’clock a plain tea, consisting of no more than biscuit or bread and butter pickles or cheese, pie or cake, cookies or tarts, one kind of sauce with tea. A fine of fifty cents shall be imposed for each additional extra."

There are two charter members of this society who are still living and who make their home in Nunica, Mrs. Wildey, who has attained the age of 79 years and Mrs. Barden who is now 85 years old.

Among these papers, to which, owing to the kindness of Mrs. Wildey we were given access, was the report of this organization, signed by Mrs. C. Spencer as secretary, showing the receipts and disbursements of the society for the preceding year. This report bore the date of May 19, 1874.

There was for many years a Congregational church in Nunica, but the people of this denomination became so few in number that services were discontinued and the church stood idle for several years. About two years ago the building was sold and moved away.

Nunica Lodge No. 454, I.O.O.F. was organized in the year 1895, with a membership of thirty. This number has been increased with the passing years until at the present time there are 101 active members of the order there. The lodge owns its own home which is a building of generous size, containing a spacious lodge room, the floor of which is suitable for the holding of dances. The room is also equipped with a stage which is large enough to allow for the production of the ordinary play. The building is also provided with a dining room and kitchen and many of the social functions of the village are held here.

The present officers of the lodge are: Noble Grand, Lee Bell; Vice Grand, Fred Wickert; Secretary, F. H. Easterly; Financial Secretary, Charles Westover; Treasurer, Fred Douck. The order meets every Tuesday evening, good attendance being enjoyed at all meetings.

Gibbs Rebekah Lodge No. 276 of Nunica has a membership of 120, the members of the order taking an active part in the social life of the village. This organization meets the first and third Wednesday of each month.

Earl Baldus, who conducts a general merchandise store in the village was born in Polkton township and came to Nunica about seventeen years ago. He formerly was in charge of a creamery for Hinken & Zylstra and after leaving that occupation bought interests of Parkhurst Bros. in the store which he now occupies.

Mr. Baldus carries a very complete line of groceries, dry goods, shoes and fresh meats and enjoys the patronage of customers covering a wide range of territory. He is assisted in the store by his brother Howard.

The building which houses the mercantile establishment of Mr. Baldus was erected by J. B. Perham more than fifty years ago and has been used continuously since then in the conduct of this business.

John Borchers, another merchant of Nunica, handling a line of general merchandise is a native son of Crockery township, having been born on a farm near the village where he spent his boyhood. In later years he migrated to Saginaw where for some years he was engaged in business. From Saginaw he went to Dennison, and after a few years in business there took up the occupation of farming near that place. He remained on this farm about twelve years and eight years ago came back to his native village and took over the business which he now conducts.

Mr. Borchers is kept busy supplying the needs of his increasing number of customers and his never failing courtesy assure him the continued patronage of those who make his store their buying headquarters. Mrs. Borchers is an able assistant to her husband in the conduct of the business.

Wm. Mines and Wm. Smith erected the building which is occupied by the business of Mr. Borchers, it having been built more than forty years ago.

The firm of Peterson & Easterly supply the hardware needs of the village from their well selected line of goods. Both of these gentlemen were born on farms in the township and their early business experience was gained in the marketing of the produce they raised during the years they tilled the soil.

Mr. Peterson farmed for seventeen years before he associated himself with Mr. Easterly in the purchase of their present business.

In addition to the hardware business these men are also proprietors of the Nunica Lumber Yard, where everything in the line of building material is carried, as well as fuel.

They are boosters for their community, active in the affairs of the village as well as of the I. O. O. F., of which organization both are members. Their store is a model of neatness and rare is the time when the article you need may not be found in their place of business.

R. O. Brown, proprietor of the Nunica mill and elevator, was born in Chester township and removed from there with his parents when but five years old, going to Polkton township where the family farmed for a number of years. Mr. Brown followed the occupation of farming until nineteen years ago when he purchased the mill business from G. Sheeley and has made his home in Nunica since that time.

Mr. Brown does custom grinding and mixing of feeds for the farmers of his trade territory, buys grain and beans and also handles a general line of feeds and fertilizers.

The first mill in Nunica stood a short distance north of the present structure and after taking care of the needs of the community for a number of years was burned in 1901. For the next three years there was no mill in the village, but in 1904, Emil Haas constructed the present mill. Since then there have been several additions to the structure to accommodate the ever increasing business.

Mr. Brown runs a truck through the country, picking up grain from the farmers of his district and also delivering to them their feed after grinding same. His customers are scattered over a wide territory and his policy of fair dealing makes them "once a customer, always a customer."

The H. J. Heinz Co. have a pickle packing plant at Nunica which was established there over thirty years ago. This plant makes the large pack of any of the plants of this company in Western Michigan. The interests of the company at the Nunica plant are looked after by William Shiele, whose home is on rural route No. 4, Coopersville, where he occupies his time at farming after the pickle season is over.

The plant employs about ten men and their season covers a period of about two and one-half months. This year promises a very heavy pack and the stock is of very good quality. With a little more rain at the present time the crop of cucumbers would be increased immeasurably.

Mr. Shiele has been in the employ of the Heinz company for the past eleven years and in the jargon of the day "he knows his pickles."

________________

Among the early settlers of Crockery township were Joseph and Benjamin Murray, who came from Oneida county, New York, to Hillsdale County, Michigan, in 1851, and in the spring of 1852 came to Crockery township, where they settled on land in section 25, a few miles southeast of the present village of Nunica. Among their neighbors in the early days were the Wm. Thompson family, Silas and Theron Hunter, John Spoon, Judge Augustus Taylor, father of Herbert Taylor, whose home was in Coopersville until the death of Mrs. Taylor a year ago, but now lives with his son Bert, near Nunica; Benjamin F. and Harlow Hopkins, Arza Bartholomew, Sam and Benjamin Smith, and others whose names we do not remember.

Mr. Murray made his home there until 1918, the latter years with his son L. C. Murray, and when the old home place was sold, they came to Coopersville, where Joseph Murray passed away on Christmas morning, 1923, almost three months past the great age of one hundred years. A daughter, Mrs. A. C. Muzzall, also lives in Coopersville and other daughters at Oak Harbor, Washington.

*To us of the present day, the examples of those who first came into the country and helped in the development, seem like terrible hardships, but the hardy pioneers were willing to brave the dangers for the sake of making homes for themselves and for their posterity. Roads in those days were unknown, there was no method of travel except on ___?___ or to follow the waterways, but _____ those who came in the___ _____ lived to see the automobile become the principal means of travel, and have ____ _____ where they ___ ___ ___ on foot it took long ____ ____ work to get a farm. ____ ____ one ____ and to bring ____ productivity, but they had _______ ___ cost, and were ____ slowly. It is hard for us in these later days to realize the patience and the determination that were necessary, but all in all, it would seem that they had more time for the serious things of life than we have.
(*This portion of the newspaper was very difficult to read.)


Transcriber: Susan G. Davis
Created: 9 August 2003
URL: http://ottawa.migenweb.net/towns/nunica.html