Jo-Ann Boepple: Letters tell history of Cass County from 130 years agoPublished 12:55pm Thursday, September 17, 2009
Why would anyone be interested in these old papers? Well, they tell a story of Edwardsburg’s beginnings. This will be an attempt to try to summarize the contents of these letters and papers.
The dictionary defines these papers as ephemera-printed matter of passing interest. The papers were from the property of the Kingsbury/Ritter families of Cassopolis. As one of the founders of Cass County, Mr. Kingsbury was the original founder of The First National Bank of Cassopolis.
Asa Kingsbury according to the History of Cass County written by Howard Rogers in 1875 was a merchant dealing in general merchandise, had a distillery and sold real estate. He operated a private banking office until it merged with the First National Bank of which he was the president. A close friend was George W. Jones of Marcellus. One of his daughters was the wife of Dr. Holland of Edwardsburg, another daughter, Amanda was the wife of Joseph K. Ritter.
The bank held notes for many of the Edwardsburg merchants and the letters accompanied the payments on the notes. The oldest was dated January 1875 from the office H. C. DeWitt, General Merchandise.
Another group of letters was from the Office of J. M. Edmiston & Co. dealers in Lumber, Timber, Lath, Shingles, Fence Posts, Pickets, Etc with a notation that Planing and Job Work Done Promptly. C. R. Brownell is listed on the stationery also. These also are dated 1876 and ’77. At one point, Edmiston writes that he will take the train to Cassopolis to pay his note and if he can’t get on the early train he will take the later freight train.
The next group of letters are from J. R. Reese dealer in Dry Goods, Clothing, Hats, Caps, Boots & Shoes, Hardware, Groceries, Etc and dated 1876. They were for payments on notes to J. Boyd Thomas, Moses Adams, Ephraim Hanson, Dyer Dunning, and Lee Quimby. Dyer Dunning owned a hardware store in Edwardsburg and along with Thomas and other merchants was unsuccessful in securing the Cincinnati, Wabash and Michigan Railroad to come through Edwardsburg.
The last letter of the 1870s is dated 1878 and the stationery is from Chas. W. Smith and Will. M. Walter dealers in Dry Goods, Groceries, Boots, Shoes, Etc. and is signed by Willard M. Walter. Walter and Reese were fierce competitors both owning general stores.
Some of the names of the writers of the letters were familiar and some are very new to the history buffs of the Museum. Next week more of the papers will be examined.
Jo-Ann Boepple provides Reflections of the Past, a weekly feature from the Edwardsburg Museum Group and Historical Collection. She is a third generation Edwardsburg resident.