Archived Story

Cardinal Charlie: Dowagiac had a 12-piece orchestra in 1917

Published 10:58pm Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Second 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.)

Our high school has a modern agricultural department and we were about to erect a wireless when this great crisis came upon our nation.

There is a high school band consisting of 30 pieces and an orchestra of 12 pieces.

We sent the band to Lansing to the state conference, and when some of the other bands saw and heard ours, gave up and went home.

The first settlers of this city sent their children to a schoolhouse built of clapboards and covered with tar paper on the inside, the students having to sit on rough slab benches.

We are now proud to say that some of our businessmen started their education in this way.

In 1904, a Carnegie library was built and contains 10,000 books and takes about 60 magazines and periodicals. A Ladies Library Association formed in 1909. Sunday is a religious day. We have lots of churches, the Methodist First Baptist, Baptist, Congregational, Christian, Episcopal, Catholic and German Lutheran.

The Christian Scientists held their meeting in the story room of the library. Dowagiac is answering the call of the nation by sending out 35 of their highly respected young men from the high school and city. The high school is discontinuing athletics for the remaining part of this year and is taking up military training and first aid work.

The first aid, superintended by two of the faculty members, are making comfort kits for the boys who left from this city for the front. Several of the businessmen have donated and cut the prices on the things to fill these.

No city the size of Dowagiac in the United States can boast of as fine a theater which was built, as the name associates, in memory of P.D. Beckwith.

The Round Oak offices are situated in this building. Also the post office, bank and public restrooms, which are patronized freely.
There are many pretty places for a person to spend the summer around Dowagiac.

Crystal Springs campground only seven miles from this city belongs to the Methodist church. The grounds are very beautiful. Besides this there are Indian, Dewey, Sister, Magician and Diamond lakes, all of which are great summer resorts.

People from the cities come here to spend their summer and vacations.

There are also dozens and dozens of smaller lakes too numerous to mention.

Dowagiac people take pride in the keeping of their lawns.

E. Lee’s “Rockery” is undoubtedly as elaborate as any home and lawns in this section. There is an old cabin filled with relics of historical interest on his lawn.

The residence of A.B. Gardner is called the “Maples” and is a most beautiful home, winning the admiration of all visitors to this city. The home of D.H. Bishop is of old English style and is also very attractive.

Riverside Cemetery is a place worthy of mention as it is certainly a very beautiful place and in going to this cemetery you cross the falls of the Dowagiac Creek.

Now my dear friends, I have tried my best to give you an idea of our city. I could not explain as much because you would not understand, but I hope if you ever pass through Dowagiac or if you are near Dowagiac, you will come and see us. Everyone is glad to welcome newcomers.

“Cardinal Charlie” Gill writes a nostalgic weekly column about growing up in the Grand Old City. Email him at

His book collecting his columns has just been reprinted.

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