The Centennial Committee wishes to thank all those who have made this book possible by the loan of pictures, information and valuable time in its preparation. We give our special thanks to Vladas Vijeikis who so generously gave of his time and talents in designing our seals, and printing our shares, subpoenas and this Centennial Book.
The Mound Dwellers, named after their earth works of various sizes all over this region, were believed it’s first dwellers. Where they came from or where they went is a matter of conjecture.
Many believe this civilization, melters of copper, makers of specialized stone tools, implements and arrowheads, migrated south, where they established the Kingdom of Mexico. In 1519, Cortes, the Spanish conqueror who invaded Mexico said the natives there were as advanced in arts and sciences as the Spanish, except they had no knowledge of gunpowder. That these implements and utensils were not the work of the Algonquins and (Potawatomies) is verified by them, the only Indian races known to the white man in this area. The story goes and this was verified later; that one of their chiefs while hunting (about 300 years ago) came upon a huge copper kettle partially buried in the forest and overgrown with roots. It’s size was such that a whole deer or bear could be cooked in it. The kettle was still like new as the spot in the center of the bottom still was shiny. The writing of an educated Indian, Chief Blackbird, also confirmed the story, adding from this and other relics, “the former inhabitants were further advanced in the arts and sciences than we.” The (Potawatomies) Indians dominated this area for many years. They had migrated to this area (including the largest part of South Western Michigan) from southern Wisconsin around 1740. The Indians did not believe (or were interested) in land ownership. While they lived on it, they protected it.
However as soon as they moved, it became the possession of the next resident. They constructed their shelters, called wigwams by placing saplings in the ground and bending over the tops, then covering them with bark, grass matting or boughs. Sometimes these habitations were built large enough for six or eight people.
Chief Pokagon, their spokesman was a well educated and highly articulate man. His beautiful prose is recorded many times in the annals of the history of Michigan, and he is hailed as the most remarkable Indian writer in America. “But our campfires have all gone out! Our council fires burn no more! Our wigwams, and they who built them with their children have forever disappeared from this beautiful land. And Pokagon alone of all the chiefs is permitted to behold it once again! And what a change! Where our cabins and wigwams once stood, now stand churches, school houses, cottages and castles. And where we walked in single file along our winding trails, now locomotives scream as they rush along their iron rails like beasts of prey!”
“Alas for us, our day is o’er, Our fires are out from shore to shore: No more for us the wild deer bounds; The plow is on our hunting grounds! The pale-mans axe ring throughout our woods, the pale-man’s sails skim o’er our floods, our pleasant springs are dry. Our children – look by power oppressed! Beyond the mountains of the West, Our children go to die!”…*
Between Saddle Lake and Silver Lake stood wigwams of the – (Potawatomies) This location was ideal for them with the fishing and plentiful deer in the area, they did not have far to obtain food. They were still in this area after Bangor and Breedsville were building their towns.
The population of Van Buren Co. in 1810 was 4,762 and it increased to 28,829 by 1870. Van Buren County was organized in 1829. It was divided into seven townships: South Haven, Clynch, Lawrence, Lafayette, Antwerp, Covington and Decatur. South Haven township included: Columbia, Bangor Covert, Geneva and South Haven. In 1854, Van Buren County was reorganized into the townships as we know them now.
Public lands Sold for $1.25 per acre and much of this land was used for building roads. Prior to Grand Junction’s formation, the great forests of white pine and hemlock and their great potential, had induced many lumber companies to buy up the land for many years. When knowledge of the railroads coming became known, interest increased as well as planning.
Mr. Daniel Young, an enterprising young man from Geneva township, knowing that when the railroads came to Grand Junction, accommodations would be needed, purchased six lots on the site he believed would be the town, near where the Grand Junction lumber was located. Mr. Young was the first settler with his closest neighbors in Breedsville. The second person to settle in Grand Junction was a black man named Hungerford. The plat of G.J. in 1873 shows a Hungerford residence across the street from the present school house.The lumbering firms of Dickenson and Rogers donated 40 acres of land for the townsite of G.J. It lies where the corners of sections 51 61 8 and 9 meet. The proprietors were Samuel Rogers, Marvin Hannas, Conrad Crouse and George W. Crouch. The village was surveyed by H.J. Pierce and recorded Dec. 8, 1871. D. Young built his hotel for the (accommodation) of the railroad passengers who would arrive here, and when the trains came, 300 to 400 people disembarking was the normal business! Homes were built of newly sawed lumber in contrast to the log cabins (normally) built. There were six bars, the Young Hotel, and the railroad had buildings on their forty acres of land. The railroad owned everything south of Main Street, including all the land where the Michigan Blueberry Growers Association is located and a large piece of land where Dr. Keefe’s blueberries are now. Grand Junction also had some other small businesses and residences. Most of the town was located on the north side of Main Street and that part of the town east of the Post Office as well as on the road that goes to Breedsville. It extended all the way to the present Catholic cemetery, where the first school was located and said to be built on stumps for a foundation.
In establishing school land in 1787, an ordinance said: “Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education, shall be forever encouraged!” Teachers had to be physically qualified, as well as educated for their profession. “Big boys” had a reputation of trying to “clean out” their teachers. When this happened, the next teacher was more muscular!
Even as Grand Junction was being built, burning debris ignited forest fires in the area and burned most of the town except for the Young Hotel and a few of the smaller buildings. Thirty days after the fire, a proprietor named Nichols, rebuilt the railroad eating house, prior to this rebuilding, the passengers had to eat at Bangor. Grand Junction was the most important railroad point between New Buffalo and the Kalamazoo river. Conrad Crouse opened the first store a year later. John A. Wright built the first sawmill in the town in 1874. It stood beside the Chicago and Michigan Lake Shore Railroad, north of the former Frank DeMoss residence.
During the fire many trees had to be cut and trains were delayed so the logs were still waiting to be shipped out. Thousands of logs were hauled to the railway along the Black River and floated to South Haven. Some of the trees were four to five centuries old. It was said the biggest tree of them all, was cut by Joe Lundy. The tree was 158 feet tall.
The last ice-age, the Pleistocene (Pli-o-sen), the snow cap was relatively light, being 100 to 300 feet deep. Where Lake Michigan is now was Lake Chicago and this water covered most of Van Buren County, giving us the sandy soils of today. It was formed from a lake bottom. Grand Junction is located in a favorable area, for fruit production, by its nearness to Lake Michigan. As the forests receded under the hand of the axe of the lumberman and the new settlers, fruit trees and vines grew up to provide the land owners a new way to get sustenance from the soil that had been “natures’ forest primeval”. 1865 through 1890 stands out as the Golden age of agriculture in this area. The soils were fertile and the farmers practice kept them that way, also labor was in abundance. During the 1890s, the early part of that decade saw severe droughts, and later a series of new insects and diseases (descend) on crops and prices fell to disastrous levels. Gradually, as better agricultural methods were found and mechanization increased, fruit farming increased and prospered. Our area was, indeed, fortunate to have the right conditions, climate and soils, for blueberry production, which ultimately, would be Grand Junction’s prime crop.
Grand Junction’s business directory in 1873: Daniel Young, proprietor of Young’s Hotel, corner of State and Kalamazoo Street. Conrad Crouse, dealer in Dry Goods, ready made clothing, groceries, provisions, boots, hats, caps, notions, etc., corner of Main and State Street. G. W. Crouch, Railroad agent and Notary Public. Wm. Peck, Dealer in groceries and provisions. Highest cash prices paid for produce of all kinds.In 1881, a fire swept Grand Junction according to an account told by Will Crouse who saw the first flames start in a hotel. The only building remaining was the Adam Crouse store that is run by Mr. Charles Kreiger and Vern Kreiger. The same store that survived the fire of 1871. Mr. Crouse went to work for the Railroad in 1893 as operator and operated the switch tower as part of his duties. He remembers at that time that the “Gospel Trumpet” published by the Gospel Trumpet Co. (Church of God) was shipped all over the world. The Gospel Trumpet received mail by the baggage wagon load and they shipped as much or more. The Lester Lake camp grounds then, as well as now, were owned by them. Unable to obtain more ground when their building burned down, they moved to Indiana.
The Acme Hotel, also was actively engaged in boarding the many daily Railroad travelers, lumberjacks, etc., as well as an eating house. Owned by Mrs. W. Larson for many years. (Then by Mr. and Mrs. Swaninger.) The Railroad at this time employed 3 operators and a baggage man. Mr. John Wauchek. (a pioneer here) reported 36 trains a day. Three round trips from South Haven to Kalamazoo, and over (thirty) trains on the Michigan, Lake Shore R.R.
Other recollections of the time were the horse drawn lumber trains on railroad tracks from Ousterhoust Lake to Grand Junction, where the sawmills were located. The sawmill was operated by Wm. Erkenbeck; the Gristmill by Will Rippey as well as the railroad coaling station. The water pumping station, operated by Fred Reinshuttle received its water by a 10 inch wooden pipe from Coffee Lake.
Grand Junction’s most famous and popular pioneer teacher, the late Miss Emma Pugh, began her teaching in 1891. Starting near Paw Paw, at Arlington Center, near Bangor; Saddle Lake school and then to Grand Junction, where she taught for 27 years. For many years, everyone in Grand Junction had her for their teacher at some time in their schooling. The writers of Grand Junction’s history are deeply indebted to the fact she preserved so many of the pictures of her Grand Junction 1911 day that were so kindly loaned by her niece, Mrs. Marjorie Hill. Miss Pugh told how she received twenty dollars per month in wages. Her father, Nicholas Pugh, another pioneer, was school director for many years.The first summer cottage on Silver Lake was built by Mr. Wm. Erkenbeck around 1900, a beautiful lake that later was Grand Junction’s resort center. Mr. Erkenbeck retired from his career of being a sea captain and besides having a boat landing at Saddle Lake, he modeled his lake-side cottage after the interior of a ship.
In the early 1900s, the Commercial House was, also, one of the villages grand hotels! It stood on the west end of Main Street on the north. Just east of what was the Feazel Hall. Next wassa (hardware) store, Will Smiths drug-store and then, the Adam Crouse store. The Commercial House was moved in the early 1900s. Mr. Peck bought half of the building and it is now Rawlings’ home. Mr. Herbster bought the other half and it is now the 0.F. Montgomery residence. All buildings on the north side are gone except the old Adam Crouse building.
Board walks were common for many years, but photos of 1910 and later show, what appear to be, concrete walks. On the opposite side of the street, where Mac’s grocery is today, was also a grocery store and where Fred Pages’ gas station is today, a furniture store that sold furniture and caskets.
Julia West was another Grand Junction pioneer, being the first woman dealer under direct contract to Henry Ford to sell his Model-T in Grand Junction or the State, selling as many cars as he would let her have; about 25 cars a year.To get them, she had to drive them from Detroit and the roads were very poor. The company cautioned her not to drive over 25 miles per hour, which was still too fast! Her franchise called for her to build a building to hold her salesroom. At first, she was told an investment of around $2000 was necessary to begin her building. And it was begun around 1919. The footing is located, where the new U.S. Post-office now stands. Later, in (1920), the Ford Motor Company said she would have to put up at least $10,000 in her building to keep her franchise, and she refused.
On the corner of Mrs. Peck’s yard (south of the new P.O.) stood a blacksmith shop. A Doctor Chadwick bought it, raised it up after moving to where the Peck house is now and built another story under it. The Young Hotel has an infamous history. A salesman was supposedly murdered in it. (His body was never found). That part of the building is now Mrs. Leona Griffith’s home.
Mr. William Erkenbeck owned a lumber business near Ousterhout Lake. Brown’s Station, listed as a railway stop, was another sawmill. A cider press stood on the site of the old Blueberry Association warehouse. Isadore and Josephine Bean were teachers in Grand Junction school and also owned a store at the site of George Riede’ sold home, adjoining the Walstead’s Blueberry Inn. That store was in business many years before burning down. Mr. and Mrs. Roy Cleveland had a grocery and separate meat market across the street in the building still used by Mr. Kreiger for his Outlet store. The building dates back to the Chicago fire.
The entire Burns family became railroaders. Mrs. Dorothy Burns has spent many years working for the C.&O. R.R. at the South Haven station. George Burns, Jr. has worked now for 27 years and Bob the youngest, has devoted 23 years. Mr. Burns died in 1963. Mrs. Burns is retired now and resides with her son Bob on their pretty farm north of Grand Junction. At the Grand Junction depot in those days, Mr. Burns ran the day shift and Claude Peck and Will Crouse ran the night shift. In the 1920s, Grand Junction farmers organized a “Complete Farmers Marketing organization”. The Bangor Advance called it a “Farm Bureau Local” It was the year George Burns when that “magic in the air”, radio, came into being and people stayed up all night to hear a voice come through on their crystal sets. Groceries advertized in the stores mentioned dry beans at $.09 per lb., Lard: $.25 per lb., Cranberries: 2# for $.25, Picnic hams: $.22 per lb., Coffee at $.29 and the best coffee: $.55 per lb.The Consumers Ice Plant located next to North Lake was on the site of the present day McKibbon Machine Shop, built about 1901. It was a high building, 40 feet tall and about 100 feet square, built of pine and thick, double walls. The ice was usually cut in January and February, when the ice was the thickest and, perhaps, the most solid. The people, who ran it, lived in Chicago and oversaw the project. They would hire all the local men they could get. That was about the only work available at that time of year, so many men depended on those three or four weeks it took to “harvest the ice.” In Grand Junction, the Budlong pickle factory was located just south and west of the village along the Pere Marquette spur. It contracted pickles from anyone who would grow them and furnished the seed to the farmers. Mr. John Wauchek ran the plant for many years. Grand Junction’s second school burned down March 5, 1925. After smelling smoke all day and unable to find any fire, it finally was discovered when the younger pupils were in their afternoon recess. They called the South Haven’s fire department and although Grand Junction had a local fire dept. and other citizens helped, it was a complete loss. With the loss of this school, the upper classes attended school in the Congregational church and the lower classes were at Will Page’s residence. By the end of 1925, the new school, as we know it now, was completed and classes resumed there. The Congregational Church was founded in the year 1881 by Mr. Samual Rogers, Mr. Crouch and others. The earlier services had to be held in a school house. The church is still where it was originally built, on the piece of ground donated by Mr. Adam Crouse. The original building cost $1200 and seated 150 persons. Baptizing was carried out in Silver Lake or North Lake by immersion. The first Minister was Rev. James A. McKay, who served from October, 1881 to October 1883. In 1940, Rev. Seth Clay served both G.J. and Pullman. The church celebrated it’s 65th anniversary in 1947 and it’s 75 in 1956. Approx. 40 ministers have served this community church. Rev. Chester Alling is the present pastor. (1970). St. Cyril’s Catholic church began in a small building on it’s present location in the year 1886 with the first mass. At that time it was St. Casper’s Mission church, becoming St. Cyril in 1887. Rev. Father Louis Barous serving many missions, in eluding the settlement of Grand Junction as it’s first pastor. The Catholic cemetery was donated to the church by Jacob Bean in 1896, consisting of one acre of land and purchased from a Dewey Rogers. Many pastors have served this church. The present one being Rev Father L. Ceru.
For entertainment in the early part of the century, there was a medicine man, Arkansas Jim Slover and his medicine show, complete with Marionette performances, sleight of hand, magic and burlesque. A first rate ventriloquist, he made his own dolls and dressed them. People will speak of his beautiful hair worn long and reaching almost to his waist. He weighed 250 pounds. Jim could give shows for two weeks without repeating.
Every home was the center of fun and music and dancing. The fiddler (seldom able to read music), his fiddle, his bow and piece of “rosin”, provided the music. He called or chanted: “All join hands and circle to the left!” “Right and left all!” “Change partners!” “Grand right and left!” through the quadrille. “Seat your partners!” brought the dance to a temporary stop until the music began again.
In the early thirty’s there was an oil boom in the Bloomingdale and Grand Junction area. There are still many oil wells operating in this location. It is believed that there are large pockets of oil yet to be discovered between G.J. and Lake Michigan. An oil firm is hoping to strike oil and a well is being drilled 1/2 mile East of G.J. at this time. The first electric power in Grand Junction homes was supplied by individual dynamos installed in the owners home. Consumers Power Co. came to Grand Junction in 1925. Electric Lights and some light motor requirements was about all that was used then. In 1936, Consumers replaced the main line with more power available and made three-phase available. Industry, stores and homes are now supplied with sufficient electricity to run any conceivable appliance. The following Grand Junction couples have celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversaries.
Mr. and Mrs. Eli Wooley
Mr. and Mrs. William Crouse Sept. 16, 1950
Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Mossbarger Feb. 26, 1952
Mr. and Mrs. Roy Cleveland
Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Jenkins Mar. 28, 1955
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kreiger Aug. 19, 1960
Mr. and Mrs. John A. Nelson May 16, 1967
Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Goodrich Oct. 11, 1970
Mr. and Mrs. Earnest Vincent Nov. 1970
Civic Organizations in Grand Junction in 1970 included: Congregational Guild, Mother’s Club, Arts and Crafts Club, Grand Junction Ski Club, Grand Junction Conservation Club. There is also a Boy Scout and Cub Scout Troop and Camp-Fire and Bluebird Groups. Former organizations in Grand Junction were: The Lyceum Club, New Idea Club, Home Economics Club, Best of Friends, Bunco Club and the Extension Club.
Mr. John F. Strong in the early days, also believed there was a place for blueberries in Grand Junction. He set out three rows on his farm, south of the village, consisting of three varieties: Rubel, Pioneer and Cabot.
In the early 1930’s, it was evident the blueberry business would have to be organized in such a manner that planting, production and marketing could and would be done in an efficient manner. In November 1936, at a preliminary meeting the following growers: H. L. Willis, East Lansing; J. F. Strong, Detroit; Wm. G. Riemer, Grand Junction; Wm. Devine, Douglas; Bernard c. Jones, Dowagiac; A. H. Crosby, New Buffalo; W. J. Heuser, Hartford; M. T. Shoesmith, Leslie; J. R. Spelman, South Haven; and Stanley Johnston of the South Haven Experiment Station met and set a meeting for January 9, 1937.
January 9, 1937 at the first official meeting of the new Michigan Blueberry Growers Association, the first board of directors was elected. Henry Willis, President; Bernard C. Jones, Vice-president; Mr. J. F. Strong, the first secretary. Other directors were William G. Riemer and John R. Spelman.Mr. William G, Riemer is very well known in this area as the manager, for many years, of the Dr. Keefe Blueberry Plantation, the largest of its kind in this area.
In 1936, Paul and Bernard C. Jones bought an eighty acre farm one mile south of Grand Junction. Here, after many hard hours of clearing woods in all kinds of weather, with grubaxes, dynamite and pure muscle, they set out several acres of plants. Another fruit grower, Mrs. Ruth Strong, planted out 18 acres and was Grower No. 13, which was never in anyway a carrier of bad luck, but to the contrary, is still being used by her daughter, Faith and son-in-law Ken Hodgman, who has cleared and set out many more acres.
Mr. Paul Brower was the first Quality Control Inspector. He toured the plantations on a regular basis. In the mid-1940s, Mr. Edwin Grunst (1946) became it’s first sales manager. Prior to this, the C, H. Robinson Company had marketed the berries. Mr. Grunst remained the manager until 1950.
Mr. William Donald became a full time General Manager having had a long career in marketing vegetable and other commodities. The small warehouse was expanded by an addition of an office and doubling the receiving space.
The blueberry business proceeded to grow to the extent the Association built a larger warehouse and office space in 1954. The new warehouse had a floor space of 180 fr. by 106 fr. A cold storage room, 40 fr. by 50 fr. that can hold 13,000 crates of blues to 40 degrees. There was also, a large office addition, a laboratory and director’s meeting room.The membership increased to well over 400 members. During this time, the dusting program under the able direction of their Research Director, John W. Nelson, came into being and it was required to dust if you wanted your crop sold. At that time as well as now, samples of each growers fruit were cooked and sampled to see that they met the Pure Food and Drug standards. All buyers praise the Association for their high-standards in their insect and quality control. During the middle forties, the Association made progress in selling processed berries (berries sold in bulk to buyers that put up their own fruit in hotpack or freeze them) and this gave the grower the opportunity to increase the length of their picking day as well as letting them pick part of their crop when wet with dew or rain.
The board of directors chose Mr. J. P. (Pete) Holbein as their new General Manager in 1962.
Mr. Holbein brought into being many new uses of blueberries, increasing their use in the processing market as well as expanding the fresh market to include 10# cartons and 8 qt. cartons as well as the regular 12 pint crates.
Mr. Kirk McCreasry was hired in 1963 as Ass’t Manager. In 1963 Paul Jones working with Eldon McKibbon began working on mechanical pickers. Their first effort was a two-man electric hand vibrator that shook the berries off the bush into a canvas catcher. The cleaner they developed, cleaned these berries to Association specifications.
Their ultimate picker, dubbed the “Monster”, picks the berries by straddling the bush and as the bush enters the open center of the frame, it is compressed and electric fingers turn on an axle and vibrate at the bush. The riper berries are shaken off and they fall into a catcher-conveyor belt that carries them to the rear of the machine. Men who attend this machine put lug containers where the berries are caught and when the lug is full they are set in the row and another lug is quickly put in its place. These lugs, like from the hand vibrators, are picked up with small tractors and trailers.
With the coming of mechanical picking, new ways had to be devised to catch the berries off the cleaning belt and put in pints. Many commercial firms are working in mechanizing this phase.
In the Grand Junction office under the very able direction of the Associations General Manager, Mr. Holbein, are Mr. Kirk McCreary, the Ass’t Manager; Mr. John W. Nelson, Director of Research; Rev. Merlin Hansel, Public Relation’s Director.
The Research department, headed by Research Director, John Nelson, is busy on a year around basis, with soil and leaf analysis lasting late summer through early winter, determining the fertilizer needed for each particular grower requesting it. Mr. Nelson must keep abreast to keep the “Great Lakes” blueberries ‘the best!’
The General Manager is in charge of all business pretaining to the operation of the warehouses, the sale and delivery of the fruit, the purchase of supplies all within the frame work of the rulings decided on by the Association’s Board of Directors.
The Board of Directors members are elected at the annual meetings (normally held the first part of November), for a term of three years, provided that not more then three of them are from the same warehouse area and in 1970, voted that no director may serve more than two consecutive terms of three years without one year intervals off between the two terms. The Association has always been fortunate in selecting men, who have the interest of the growers at heart and with the excellent General Manager and Staff working with the board the future of the Association should always be bright.