By Mrs. W. H. Judd
March 7, 1949,Sturgis Journal: ”A peek into the personal diary of Grant
Farrand of Colon reveals many interesting events that otherwise have
been long forgotten – or perhaps never known.
This modest gentleman celebrated his 85th birthday anniversary last September, and ever since he could write has kept a daily diary, neatly indexed and filed; not by the years, but by events. There would be but few incidents during the past 80 years that Farrand could not find an account of in his memoranda.
Farrand’s father and grandfather must have had considerable faith in Colon, for in the year 1837, they left their native New York, came to Colon and cleared a section of forest land just northwest of the village limits. This was to become their home and in later years become know familiarly as “Farrand” land.
Ownership of Farrand property gradually expanded through generations and it now extends on both side of the St. Joseph River.
Built Bridge in 1840
One of the interesting events describe in the pages is construction of the “Farrand” bridge, which crosses the St. Joseph River a mile west and a mile north of this village.
But first it should be explained that the present bridge is not the original. After the father and grandfather became settled in their new home they forded the river in 1838 and 1840, and a crude wooden bridge was completed and named “Farrand” bridge.
Set up on piles, it was the first bridge to be built across this river in Colon Township, and was the third bridge to be built across the river. After giving the horse and buggy faithful service for more than 20 years, it collapsed, and it is interesting to know that some of its wood still rests at the bottom of the river. Wood kept under water lasts as long as wood kept entirely free from moisture.
Present Bridge in 1868
In 1868 work was begun on construction of the new Farrand bridge and during its process a ferry boat furnished transportation across the river. Farrand vividly recalls that at the age of five he was old enough to accompany his father Phineas Farrand, a highway commissioner, on his many trips around the county.
The bridge material was purchased from a company in Syracuse, N. Y., and construction was under the direction of Simon DeGraff, also of that place. He roomed and boarded with the Farrands, and employed local help.
First step was the building of a foundation – which consists of two abutments and two piers. The abutments were no problem – but that cannot be said for the piers and in case anyone wonders how the task was accomplished, here is the answer.
Sink Scows For Piers
Workmen first built the abutments on both sides of the river; then measuring 80 feet towards the center of the river, they sank a scow by filling it full of rock and stone. After placing it in exactly the correct position, they poured it full of water-lime and quck-lime (cement was unpopular in those days).
The base of the pier was an approximate 20 by 9 feet and was built to graduate to an approximate 16 by 6 foot top. Then another scow was taken another 80 feet into the river, and the same procedure was followed, making a second pier. On this foundation they erected three 80-foot spans of cast-iron bridge, which stands today.
The driveway across the bridge is only about 12 feet wide, since it accommodates only one-way traffic for horse and buggy.
Material Hauled By Team
Completion of the bridge took about eight months, and one of the handicaps was that every piece of material that was used in the bridge had to be shipped to Burr Oak via the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad and then hauled to Colon by team. There was no railroad here at that time.
One year later still under the supervision of DeGraff, the Leland Bridge was built across the river at a point about five miles east of the Farrand bridge. Both bridges were struck by automobiles and collapsed within the last seven years. While the Leland Bridge has never been replaced, the Bennett Bridge is now being rebuilt.
Bulk of traffic from here to M-60 now passes over Farrand bridge and although it has not been officially condemned by the highway department, the increased volume of traffic has forced the department to place a restricted load limit here.
Only One Left
Although another bridge of this type was built at Constantine by DeGraff, it has since collapsed and has been replaced, and as far as can be determined, the Farrand Bridge is the only cast-iron bridge of this kind remaining.
One off the unique chapters of this diary gives an account of a family whose members are buried on the banks of the St. Joe on the back lot of one of the Farrand farms.
One by one, the members of the McAuley family, who rented this farm died and today there are five tombstones bearing the names of John McAuley who died in 1835, Margaret McAuley who died in 1847, John McAuley who died in 1836, Ellen McAuley Wallace who died in 1868, and Eliza McAuley who died in 1878.
The little private cemetery is marked off by a arm fence which was built by a group of neighbors in 1889. the project was sponsored by John Bennett, who subscribed funds from those most interested. Incidentally, this John Bennet was the neighbor for whom the Bennett bridge was named.
Recalls 1894 Murder
There were murders in these days, too. Farrand relates the story of one Willard Johnson who resided somewhere between Factoryville and Athens. He was murdered and his body thrown in the river on Farrand property. The body was discovered by Ward E. Farrand on Saturday, October 13, 1894,who called for his brother, Joe Farrand. One of the brothers kept a vigil over the body while the other went to notify authorities.
In 1832 a single acre of ground was purchased from the Farrand family and thus was Lakeside Cemetery established. In 1838, the cemetery was regularly laid out and an additional piece of land purchased.
In 1876 the cemetery again was enlarged to eight acres and additional purchases have brought to a present 13-acre area, which extends from the shores of Sturgeon Lake to the road. The first body to be buried in this cemetery was that of Mrs. Emily Noyes in 1833.
Ferry On Sturgeon Lake
However, when citizens became dissatisfied with the location of the cemetery in Colon, several bodies were exhumed and transferred to Lakeside Cemetery. In this location now stands the Baptist Church, the Baptist parsonage and the Methodist Church. Farrand is a member of the present cemetery board.
For the convenience of those who wished to visit the cemetery in olden days, A boat furnished transportation from the east to the west shore of Sturgeon Lake, which joins the east section of the cemetery.
The first school in Colon Township was built on the Farrand property, and when the log structure became unusable a more suitable location was found for rebuilding the school which is now known as the Deno School, located about two miles west of Colon.
Records All Fires
Since fires at one time or another destroyed most of Colon’s business district, Farrand has witnessed the construction of every business establishment here with the exception of one – the business block where the Perry hardware store is located.
Farrand has an accurate account of each major fire in his diary, and also remembers the building of five village churches, as well as the Michigan Central Railroad, which was built through here in 1871.
While residents of this community are familiar with some of the homes belonging to the Farrand estate, there is one home that in its day attracted more than an unusual amount of attention.
The home, located just outside of the village limits, is now occupied by a son, Roy Farrand, and his family. The large cement home was built by a family by the name of Kinne in the late 1850’s and purchased later by the Farrand family.
House Said Haunted
Rumors claimed that the place was haunted and that a secret tunnel led from the cellar of the house across to the cemetery. According to other rumors, the cupola built on the second story of the house was to have been for the occupants to get in to shoot at Indians.
Farrand says that there is no passageway to his knowledge and the cupola was built purely for design and sightseeing. He does not know whether or not the place was haunted, leaving that phase entirely to one’s own judgment.
However, he added that a series of weird event there would explain some of the rumors. Colon was once inhabited by a group of spiritualists and on several occasions the group met at this home for their séance and on several occasions the group claimed to have received spiritual communications from the graves of their loved ones. On one occasion one of the members was sure that the arms of a relative were outstretched during one of the sessions.
“Witch” Appears At House
The house also had a freak door, which for no reason at all would open and close, and as it did so a mournful sound escaped from it. Farrand attributes such incidents as this to a draft or breeze that does the same to any swinging door.
But then, there is the true story of Mr. and Mrs. Bill Goodrich who later resided there. One morning while Mrs. Goodrich was preparing breakfast she was summoned to the back door by a rap, only to find standing in front of her a witch like, black-clothed woman.
Raising long bony fingers, the figure asked Mrs. Goodrich needed any help, explaining she had returned to earth good will and assistance where needed.
When the astonished mistress of the house said she needed nothing, the weird creature simply vanished in thin air, according to Mrs. Goodrich, who was horrified. Goodrich lives today to verify the story.
Didn’t Hurt Renting
Farrand says that the rumor about the house being haunted did not present much difficulty in renting it and recalls on one occasion when a prospective tenant was viewing the surroundings Farrand said, “I think I should tell you that this house has the reputation for being haunted,” to which the man replied, “Good, then it is just the place we want.” That’s the story of Colon’s haunted house.
Every personal diary contains weather reports, and so it is with Farrand’s diary. According to his records, we had the mildest winter in 1894, just 55 years ago.
There was no snow and neither was the any frost in the ground during the months of January and February.
He well remembers that winter too, for the family was preparing to build a new barn from timber that they cut in their own woodlot east of the road. After waiting most of the winter for some snow in order to sled the logs into Colon’s sawmill, they finally had to haul the logs by truck, as the snow did not come.