Archived Story

Surfaced milk bottles’ source found

Published 10:43pm Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The pint milk bottle found in Buchanan’s McCoy Creek came from the William Calvin “W.C.” Rice Dairy.

It was located near the corner of 13th and Regent streets until the Great Depression, when his son, Roy, sold it to Producer’s Dairy, one of five in Niles along with Exner Dairy, City Dairy, Niles Creamery and Victory Dairy.

Rice also owned a livery stable on the northwest corner of Main and Eighth streets, according to Barbara Cook, a genealogist who chairs the Cass County Planning Commission and is the former Pokagon Township supervisor.

Cook’s grandmother was a Rice descendant. Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served as Niles mayors.

Mortimer Schwartz and Charles Fetcher bought the livery in 1899.

W.C. was also a drayman for the railroad and worked at the Michigan Central freight depot. His last business was a cigar store on Main Street downtown.

“About the age of 62 or 63, W.C. decided not to continue working and started renting four upstairs bedrooms in their large house to travelers, as at that time there were no motels,” Cook said Tuesday. “Lillian fed the guests breakfast, so one could say she was in the ‘bed and breakfast’ business.”

W.C., who lived to be 106, was born Dec. 27, 1859, in a log house on the south side of Starke Road (now Matthew Road West) in Niles Charter Township to Tillman and Melinda “Ellen” Martin Rice. At one time, Rices owned most of the land on the south side of Matthew Road.

W.C. married Margaret Irwin, daughter of George D. Irwin and Jeanette Read. They lived in a field stone house, now 4623 Lake Chapin Rd.
on the east side of the St. Joseph River near Berrien Springs.

The Rices operated a dairy at that location, with butter stored in the spring on top of the bluff until they could cross Lake Chapin to sell it.

The Rices had three children, Alta Edna, who married J. Walter Wood; Roy Herbert, who married Ethel Adele Stryker; and Ethel Jeanette Rice, who married Karl B. Schmidt.
Margaret died Feb. 22, 1920, and is buried in Silverbrook Cemetery.

A year later, W.C. married his second wife, London-born widow Elizabeth Lillian Eisner. He and both of his wives lived at 42 N. St. Joseph Ave. across from Pawating (now Lakeland Community Hospital) in a large frame house which no longer exists.

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