Cardinal Charlie: ‘Prospering’ Dowagiac built post office in 1917Published 10:15pm Wednesday, August 8, 2012
First of two parts
(This is a copy of an April 25, 1917, letter from a Dowagiac woman whose son wrote to her from college in a previous column.)
It is surprising how things do change.
I was visiting with a pioneer lady the other day and she showed me a picture of the way Dowagiac looked in 1865.
I did not recognize the picture at first and when on closer examination I found that the park with large stately trees now was covered with tall grass and the grand shrubs looked like small bushes.
In this park band concerts are given by the Round Oak Band once a week.
Years ago, from 10 to 50 grain wagons would be waiting to be emptied, as Dowagiac was a grain center.
Dowagiac, located in the corners of Pokagon, Silver Creek, Wayne and LaGrange townships, upon a small, but industrial stream from which it receives its name, is a prosperous city today.
To prove it is prosperous is to see the Round Oak shops, warehouses and office. The Round Oak was established in 1854 by P.D. Beckwith for the purpose of manufacturing stoves, furnaces and ranges.
They are now employing about 1,300 (people or men) but help is getting so scarce among the poor people that they are sending a call out for more men.
Some now employed are making as high as nine dollars a day.
In 1865, a drill works was founded. Here the famous grain drills are manufactured. These are known the world over, especially in South America and the great wheat belts.
The Heddon fish bait factory is supplying many cities, towns and villages with bait.
In 1915, a new factory was planned and was to be erected in Benton Harbor on Lake Michigan or in this city. The city that could raise the required sum first would have the factory. Dowagiac won and the factory was started out on $250,000 so that gave a call for more people.
In 1847, the right of way for the Michigan Central Railroad was procured. Our city is connected by electricity with Lake Michigan and interurban cars make a trip every hour and a half. The line crosses through the fruit belt of southwestern Michigan. It is only 12 miles to Niles, the railroad center.
The “Air Line,” “Big Four” and “Michigan Central” pass through that city and an interurban goes to South Bend and the Catholic School of Notre Dame.
Dowagiac is not through building, although we are prospering. A federal post office is under completion and a Masonic Temple is to be built soon. There is an Elks Temple and a very attractive clubhouse. There are 44 clubs, lodges and fraternity orders in our town.
Dowagiac is businesslike, but it has not neglected its educational duties. We have a high school, Lincoln School for the foreign population and County Normal, McKinley School and Central School.
During the winter there is a night school for those who are seeking more knowledge and have no other way of doing so.
“Cardinal Charlie” Gill writes a nostalgic weekly column about growing up in the Grand Old City. Email him at email@example.com.
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