I Remember Colon 1912, Dale Baad

     I Remember Colon in 1912

 

From The Colon Express, April 15, 1981; by Dale Baad: “I remember the first automobiles were equipped with acetylene gas lights.

Boys and girls sold corncobs for 5¢ a bag that were used as kindling to start fires. They picked up the cobs at the mill, free. They would fill five or six bags and make their rounds. Some “dealers” had regular customers, … one bag every Saturday.

Ninety-five per cent of the homes and stores were heated in winter by one or more “Round Oak” heaters. Cooking and baking were done on cast iron ranges during the cold months and a kerosene stove in summer … kerosene was 10¢ a gallon.

The Sunday excursions on the “Air Line” to Jackson and Detroit … leave Colon on the 7 a.m. train and return on the 9 p.m. train.

I remember the arrival of the “Nickalo” movies  … admission 5¢ for children, 10¢ for adults … black and white pictures, silent, but accompanied by a live piano player using the popular ragtime music.

Madame Marantette with her trained horse and ostrich act … performing on the street at least once each summer.

The horse-drawn sprinkling wagon, which wet down the main streets in summer to control the dust. The driver filled the wagon at the millrace with a hand pump.

Balloon ascensions … a feature attraction for every celebration.

The arrival of the “Kentucky Boys” and the “Indiana Gang” , who tented on Sturgeon lake for three weeks of fishing and entertaining.

The LKG factory whistle blew at 7 a.m. (begin work), at 12 noon (dinner), 1 p.m. (start afternoon work), and 5 p.m. (stop work). We set our clocks by the whistle.

“Gene” Grimes and his popcorn wagon on the SE corner of State and Main (Blackstone). Even if you didn’t like popcorn, the tantalizing aroma “got” to you!

The large third floor hall … over Bartholomew’s and O.

Hartman’s (the Godfrey Block) was the location of public dances and a roller skating rink.

Gertie Palmer … dressmaker to the elite. She was a very clever designer and an excellent seamstress.

I have been thinking about the work opportunities in Colon in 1912. Lamb Knit was certainly the largest employer. They had 100 to 150 men and women employed during their peak periods. Considering that the total population of the village was 398, you can see how great the impact was of this one factory.

Two railroad section gangs worked out of Colon. There was a foreman and four to six men in each gang. The going rate for a section gang worker was $1.25 per day, 10 hours a day, six days a week, and 52 weeks a year ($399.50 per year) to a school teacher’s $400 to $500 a year, or the Superintendent’s (school) annual salary of $1,000. The work was very hard. All leveling and spacing of track involved digging and raking gravel by hand. Ties and rails were moved and set in place by hand. Spikes were driven into the ties with lots of back and arm muscle.

The “Mint Marshes” furnished work for men and high school boys during the spring and summer. Hoeing, weeding and the labors of distilling waited the strong back. The mint had to be cut and transported to large vats where it was pressure cooked to extract the oil.

The heavy cooked-down mint stalks and leaves then had to be removed from the vats. Ten cents an hour and carry your dinner.

Many town people kept a cow and hired a boy in summers to take the cow to pasture in the morning and return to the barn in the evening. Fifty cents to a dollar a week, depending on the distance to the pasture.

There were four passenger trains through Colon daily on the “Air Line” between Jackson and Niles. Eastbound arrived at 7:00 a.m. and noon, and west-bound arrived at non and 9:00 p.m. There was a local freight each way daily, picking up and discharging freight. Every commodity arrived and left Colon by train, even the mail. Each passenger train carried a mail car and mail clerk.

About 1910 autos became more numerous, mostly as a status symbol. There were no hard-surfaced toads and no snowplows. Autos were stored in the garage as soon as the snow fell until the roads were settled after the spring thaw. Horse drawn vehicles were the dependable form of transportation.

The April 25, 1912 issue of the Colon Express carried the following advertisement: “Chas. Hafer Auto Agency in Colon, Leonidas & Matteson Twps. 5 passenger Ford Touring Car, $690 complete with top, windshield and speedometer.”

Historians have labeled the 15 years between 1900 and the beginning of World War I as one of the bright spots in economic history. Wages were low but prices of goods and services were nearer in balance with income. This was the beginning of the transition from “hand and home” power to mechanization  … the introduction of new products and the corresponding growth in production and outlets for the new items. Consequently. Changes in methods, demands, and opportunities began a new cycle that is still going on.

Magic Capital of the World, Patrick West

The Magic Capital of the World

Written by Patrick West
(A thesis for graduate history at Central Michigan University, 1976)

Foreword

In the study of history, one of the most interesting questions to investigate is, “How did it happen?” In this paper the writer will consider the unique subject of how Colon, Michigan came to be known by magicians and laymen alike as the “Magic Capital of the World”.
The task of determining how any situation or event happens, necessarily involves an investigation of the past occurrences leading to the particular event chosen for study. In this case, these past events comprise the history of a small southwestern Michigan community located in St. Joseph County. Specifically, the study will concentrate on the years of 1926 through 1975, and on one aspect of the community’s history, namely; the development of the magic business.
A topic such as this leads one to the investigation of the public lives of the individuals directly responsible for the establishment and operation of the unique business of manufacturing magical effects for magicians. An historical account will also be given of the development of the Abbott Magic Get-Together, an annual convention for magicians from around the world which is staged in Colon. There will be a discussion of the legitimacy of the claim that Colon is the “Magic Capital of the World”.
Throughout the investigation, an attempt has been made by the writer to be objective in relating the true and factual story of the magic business in Colon. Before examining the arrival of Colon’s first magician, it is prudent to look at the physical features of the area, the founding of the community, and its early history. In order to do this, one must begin with the year 1829.
In that year, 1829, Roswell Shellhous traveled from Ohio to the newly organized St. Joseph County where he built a two-room log cabin on the Nottawa prairie. His cabin was used as a hotel by land-lookers who came into the county to observe what was described as: “…the best county in the state …. The soil is exceedingly fertile, and consists principally of oak openings and prairies with innumerable water privileges.”
Roswell Shelhous moved on to Illinois, but he had encouraged his brother Lorancie to come to the area.
Lorancie Shellhous arrived at the present-day location of Colon in 1830, and bought the land on Swan Creek which later became the mill site. Lorancie went back to Ohio after purchasing the land and returned with his family and two other brothers (George and Martin) in May of 1831. That spring he built a cabin at the mill site and, after making his own plow, planted six acres of prairie” … growing vegetables, melons, and broom corn”. In the fall of 1831, Charles Palmer arrived and purchased 300 acres east of Swan Creek. Palmer, his wife and six children lived out the winter of 1831-32 with Lorancie and his wife and their five children. The following spring, Palmer built his own cabin, alleviating what must have been, at the least, a tense situation for the two families.
Colon’s first industry began that spring when Shellhous constructed a saw mill at the dam where Palmer Lake flows into Swan Creek. Shellhous’s mill produced 1,200 feet of lumber before the dam was washed out that year. Lorancie sold his mill site to his brother Martin, in order to finance the building of a new dam.
After surviving a severe attack of the “fever and ague”, the tiny settlement progressed toward becoming a village. In 1832 George Shellhous and a man known as Indian Trader Hatch survey that plat of land that was later to become the village which lies between Palmer Lake and Sturgeon Lake. It was then that the name for the new village was decided upon. Lorancie Shellhous turned randomly in a dictionary to the word “colon” and remarked, “We will call it Colon, for the lake and river correspond in their relations exactly to the position of the colon.”
Colon grew and developed much in the usual fashion of many rural Michigan communities, progressing in population, agriculture and industries through the second half of the 19th century. By 1839, Colon had a post office which received mail once a week. In 1837, Colon could boast of a log school house, 24 feet square. A frame school had been erected by 1847. The villagers were very conscious of their duty to provide higher education for their children. Following a common practice of the day, they sold stock to local citizens and established a seminary. The school was organized in 1858 and operated until 1867 when the brick structure housing the school was rented to the school board.
Businesses in Colon also grew in number during the years of 1830 through 1900. The E. Hill and Sons bank was established in 1870. By 1889 colon had a flour mill, a tannery, a canning factory, a machine shop for repairing windmills, a daily stage run to Leonidas, and “two good hotels” with telephone connections through Michigan Bell Telephone Company. The village was linked to the major cities of Michigan, Indiana and Illinois by rail through the Air Line division of the Michigan Central Railroad which had been completed to Colon from Jackson on July 3, 1871.
The medical needs of the community were being met in the early 1860s by the community’s own doctor and druggist. The social and spiritual aspects of community life were served by a Masonic Lodge and four churches; the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Universalist. The trappings of civilization had come to Colon.
Colon developed into a vigorous agricultural community in the latter half of the 19th century. In 1876 agricultural products shipped from Colon on the Michigan Central Railroad were listed as follows: 745 barrels of flour, 26 cars of hogs, six cars of sheep, five cars of cattle, 46,450 bushels of grain. The first decade of the 20th century found Colon a well-developed village and the community was incorporated as such. Another industry had come to town … a knitting factory which in the year 1903 produced 58,457 dozen pairs of knit gloves and mittens. Social life in the community was further augmented during the first and second decades of the 20th century by road show companies performing at the Hill Opera House which had a seating capacity of 800. Further entertainment was provided in the early 20’s when the people were treated to silent movies at the Dreamland Theater. Educational opportunities were increased by the construction of a library and a new high school. A fire department was established in 1904 following a fire which destroyed two major buildings. In short, Colon developed in much the same way as other farming communities in Michigan. Colon’s history, however, was to take a unique turn in the summer of 1926 when a man by the name of Harry Blackstone visited Colon.

 This is Harry Blackstone.  His second wife is at the top center, just in back of him.  She is the mother of Harry Blackstone Jr. Sally Banks (Della Coppin), wife of Ted, is at the lower left. Harry Blackstone was one of the more prominent stage magicians of the 1920’s and 30’s. Harry Bouton (Blackstone was his stage name) was born in Chicago, the son of a hat maker. He and his brother Peter began their stage careers doing comedy magic. Gradually, the art evolved into a full evening show of illusions with Harry doing the performing and Peter working behind the scenes building the illusions. Blackstone’s show grew in size and by 1927 a crew of a dozen people worked and traveled with Blackstone.
During the off-seasons of the early 20’s, Blackstone and his troop traveled to West Lake near Kalamazoo to refit old equipment, build new effects, and relax. The company grew too large for the accommodations at West Lake and Blackstone looked elsewhere for a summer place. In the summer of 1926, his wife, Inez, drove her car south (by chance) from Kalamazoo through Leonidas and into Colon. At the western edge of the village she noticed Angel Island in Sturgeon Lake. Upon investigation, she found that the island was for sale, and she placed a down payment on the property. Harry found that the island was ideally suited for his purposes. There was a frame house and a large barn where the stage equipment could be stored and many animals which were used in the show could be kept. The barn would also serve as a worship. There were several cottages which could be used to house the crew. Blackstone purchased the island that summer and from then until 1949 Blackstone called Colon his home. Blackstone moved to California (for health reasons) in 1949. However, he always claimed that he would rather live in Colon than anywhere else in the world.

Colon’s romance with magic began that summer of 1926. Blackstone gave many of the townspeople their first taste of magic at a local citizens’ club lawn party that first summer. The impression Blackstone made on the people that afternoon was very favorable. The local newspaper reported that his performance at the lawn party was the surprise of the afternoon and referred to him as the world’s greatest magician. The townspeople enjoyed having a celebrity in their midst.
Blackstone Island, as it was renamed, formed a fairy-tale setting in those days. There was only one dirt road of access which crossed a small land bridge between the village and the island. There were row boats for fishing Sturgeon Lake and the St. Joseph River which flowed through the north end of the lake. It was like having one big family for the members of the troop.
A typical day on the island began at about 7:30 a.m., with lazy smoke circling out of the chimney from the kitchen cook stove in the main house signaling that it was time for the entire crew, sometimes as many as 22 people, to come for breakfast. Afterwards, each person would go about his assigned duties.
The stock boy’s duties included looking after the livestock which included a camel, a horse, and many smaller animals and fowl such as: ducks, geese, doves, and, of course, rabbits. Those involved with the actual presentations of the show had to rehearse, particularly the new tricks. Set designers and stage hands were busy building and designing stage equipment and painting the backdrops, curtains, and other stage scenery. Everyone put in a full day’s work.
Another large meal would be served at the main house in the evening. On many occasions, the generous Blackstone would add to the numerous table guests by inviting friends from the village to dinner. Frequently, other magicians came to the island to visit the well-known magician and, they too became members of the household for the duration of their visits. Colon’s summers were from this time on transformed by the many unusual and exciting happenings related to magic.
Such was the spring and the summer of 1927, which found Blackstone at home in Colon after closing his road show in South Bend, Indiana for the season. The month of May was a busy one for the crew, taking care of the “carloads” of equipment. It should be mentioned here that the show traveled by rail; Blackstone rented an entire Pullman car for his troupe and a box car for the equipment. Extra space for magical equipment was gained by using the passengers’ luggage space in the baggage car. Each member of the show was allowed to take only carry-on luggage.
That May the crew was especially preparing new illusions to be presented by Blackstone at the second annual convention at the International Brotherhood of Magicians, of which he was vice-president. It was at this convention in Kenton, Ohio that Blackstone renewed an acquaintanceship with an Australian magician, Percy Abbott. Blackstone invited Abbott to returned to Colon with him to enjoy some fishing and the relaxing environment of the small town. The local citizens were so preoccupied and awed by Blackstone’s underwater escape in Sturgeon Lake, that the man who would be most responsible for making Colon the “Magic Capital of the World” went unnoticed. The local newspaper stated that a crowd of nearly 2,000 was on hand for the feat, which created a traffic jam on the island. Blackstone was bound up in rope by ” …local and well-known people who were sure they could bind Harry so that he could not loosen the shackles …” He was then placed in a box and the lid nailed shut. The box was lowered into Sturgeon Lake and a short time later Blackstone appeared on the dock. Publicity for the event was well done and “Two moving picture operators were on hand to film the feat …” Blackstone certainly was the “world’s greatest magician” as far as the people of Colon were concerned.
When Percy Abbott arrived in Colon that summer, he intended to relax, visit with Blackstone, do a little fishing, and then resume his tour of the United States. Instead, he stayed a life-time in Colon. He married a local girl, raised four children, and founded what was to become the largest magic manufacturing company in the world. Over the course of the next 30 years, Abbott was to become a name known the world over by magicians. Though Percy Abbott never took the place of Harry Blackstone in the hearts of his fellow “Colonites”, he did as much or more to put Colon “on the map”.
At this point, it is proper to include a little background material on Percy Abbott. Abbott was a native Australian, came from humble origins. He lost his parents early in life and was raised by a strict aunt. Percy struck out to make his own way while still in his early teens, doing odd jobs in Sydney. It was in Sydney where Percy became interested in magic and opened a magic shop called the Abbott Magic Novelty Company. Throughout the early 20’s , he toured the Orient, playing many small theaters and sometimes earning only enough for passage to the next island. He returned to Sydney and his shop periodically, when bookings and/or income failed. It was such a tour that brought him to the United States, where he enjoyed moderate success. His passport listed England as his destination, but he was not to arrive there until 32 years later.
A few days after his arrival at Blackstone Island, Percy met Gladys Goodrich, a local girl, and decided to make Colon his home. During the year 1927, Colon’s first magic business was “established and arranged” between Abbott and Blackstone. The Blackstone Magic Company, as it was called, was dissolved after only 18 months and the men never met publicly or privately for the rest of their lives. The great Blackstone never appeared at a Get-Together until after Abbott’s death. In his biography, Percy preferred to “…skip over this particular era …” because it held unpleasant memories which were not good for him nor would they be good for the reader.
Actually, there was no real scandal behind the split. It was more of a misunderstanding which, because of the personalities of the two men, became an irreproachable breach. While on the road, Blackstone “traded” an amount of merchandise from the magic shop to a magician for an illusion. (An illusion differs from a trick in the size of the presentation, and might be referred to as a big trick.) The magician promptly sent to the Blackstone Magic Company the illusion and a list of merchandise promised to him by Blackstone. Percy sent the merchandise and assumed that the illusion then belonged to the company. Later, Percy sold the illusion to another magician. Blackstone finished his tour and returned to Colon, only to find that “his” illusion had been sold. The situation simmered for a short time and then a verbal storm erupted when the two men met in a local store. Percy closed up the shop and that was the end of Colon’s first magic company.

The history of the magic manufacturing business in Colon from this point on coincides with the life of Percy Abbott, rather than Harry Blackstone. While Blackstone brought fame to his name as a great magician, “Abbott built a magic manufacturing company which has become world famous for its quality-built magical effects.
Following the closing of the magic shop, it was back to the road shows for Abbott. He accepted a job working with Jean Huggard in the spring of 1929. Huggard produced a show which had been playing at Coney Island, New York successfully for years. 1929 was the year of the stock market crash and people had no money to spend on Coney Island or magic shows. After trading an illusion for a spare tire, Percy returned to Colon.
Abbott married Gladys Goodrich and they began playing schools and auditoriums. They continued this for the next five years, earning a reliable income in a time of financial disaster. The couple added to their school dates with theater bookings and two summer sessions with a carnival. In February 1934, Abbott’s first child was born. This brought a halt to road shows for the couple. Percy felt it was not a good idea to raise children “en route” and the couple settled permanently in Colon.
 A rare photo of Harry Blackstone and Percy Abbott together!  It would have been taken prior to 1929. From left to right is Ted Banks, Arthur Derway, Harry Blackstone, Frank  Luckner, and Percy Abbott.  They are dressed in shirts from the “Lamb Knit” company of Colon.

In January of 1934, Abbott opened his second magic company in Colon and named it after the shop he had owned in Sydney, Australia. The Abbott Magic Company was located above the A&- Grocery. Percy went to the local printer on credit. In order to supplement the income of the business during its infancy, Percy continued to play shows at local schools and nearby theaters.
In March of 1934, a young magician from Eaton, Ohio came to Colon to see Abbott about enlarging his act. Recil Bordner was that magician and had received one of Percy’s catalogues in the mail. The two men had met before in 1931 in Montpelier, Ohio. Percy had been working with the Skippy LaMore Show, a road company that did three-act plays. He did magic tricks during intermission.
Bordner was the son of a thrifty Ohio farmer. Farming, however, did not appeal to the young man and he decided to become a “mindreader” in order to earn enough money to go south for the winter. With a cousin as a partner and a home-built radio set, Bordner performed his first and last mind-reading act in Hicksville, Ohio. It was his last mind-reading act because people asked question which could not be answered. The questions pertaining to the stock market were particularly hard. In one incident, a woman followed Bordner back stage, demanding an answer to her question concerning stocks. This experience convinced Recil that it would be safer to become a magician. He has seen a hand bill that a magician by the name of Abbott would be appearing in Montpelier and decided to attend, hoping to pick up a few pointers from a professional.
Following the performance, Recil went back stage to meet the magician and ask questions. Abbot recognized an economic opportunity and promptly sold the amateur magician three lessons in magic for ten dollars…. quite a sizable amount, considering the fact that the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. Bordner received lesson number one that night along with a small trick. Lesson number two was given the following week at the same theater in Montpelier when the road show returned on its circuit. That night the attendance was so low that the theater manager canceled the company’s engagement for the rest of the season. Bordner had to travel to Colon in order receive the third lesson. This was Recil’s first visit to Colon, where, two years later he was to become a partner in a magic business destined to be the largest in the world.
Bordner spent 1932 and 1933 doing small magic in Ohio and Indiana. He enjoyed enough success to make him consider enlarging his act to include illusions. He thought this would enable him to book carnivals and county fairs. With this in mind, Bordner traveled again to Colon in March of 1934 to see Percy Abbott.

Abbot was in debt to the local printer for printing the 20-page catalogue of tricks and again recognized an economic opportunity in Recil Bordner. He convinced Bordner that if he wanted to invest in magic, it would be wiser to buy into the business of manufacturing magic, specifically, the Abbott Magic Novelty Company. Bordner borrowed $1,000 from his father and bought half interest in the company, and a partnership was formed which lasted until 1959.
The new business remained above the grocery store until Labor Day of 1934, when the partners leased a building which had been a carriage factory from Atty. Jay Peters. The two-story frame building was well suited for the new business with the first floor serving as an office and workshop while the second floor was converted into “…a beautiful little theater with proper setting for performing the new magic ….” which the firm was to build. During working hours, the second floor was also used as a paint shop. The partners painted the building black. Recil used a stencil which he had cut for an illusion and painted white skeletons on the structure. The present-day factory is painted in the same eerie fashion.

In an attempt to increase lagging sales, the partners decided to hold an open house on Saturday, Sept. 15, 1934. Advertisements were placed in trade journals. The event was attended by 80 magicians and sales totaled $88.00. Magicians came from Kalamazoo, South Bend, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Cincinnatti, Toledo, and Fort Wayne to watch two hours of magic performed by several magicians including Recil Bordner. Abbott acted as master of ceremonies, and his wife, Gladys, accompanied the performers on the piano. Following the show, a buffet luncheon was served to the performers and audience. The open house was closed to the public in general. However, several local dignitaries were invited, including Dr. Niendorf and his wife and the Superintendent of Schools, A. Jaffe and his wife.
Considering the one day’s sales of $88.00, the occasion had been a financial, as well as a social, success for the new partners. Encouraged by the success of their open house, the partners gave public performances on Nov. 3 and 4 that Autumn. Children were admitted for 10 cents and adults for 35 cents. The show was again two hours in length, but this time only two outside acts were booked. Abbott and Bordner were the main attractions. Bordner performed “Paintings from the Great Beyond” and Percy presented the company’s “latest magic creations”. The success of the two public shows and that of the open house convinced the partners to host the first annual Abbott Get-Together in the autumn of 1935. That year it was still a one-night affair, held in the tiny Abbott Theater which could accommodate an audience of only about 100 people. Again, only magicians were invited. It was during this convention that Lester Lake (Marvelo), an escape artist, coined the phrase “Magic Capital of the World”. He chose this phrase to describe Colon because Abbott’s Magic Novelty company was fast becoming a leading producer of magical apparatus in the United States; because the Great Blackstone made his home in Colon; and because the Abbott Get-Together was becoming a major attraction for magicians. The phrase caught on and is still being used today.
The 1936 Get-Together was held Sept. 12th at the Abbott factory and was referred to as the Third Annual Get-together. The partners counted the open house of 1934 as having been the first. The Saturday night show had been increased to 14 acts and the theater was enlarged. Some of the more famous magicians of the day were present in 1936, including the “Great Nichola Marvelo“, Lester Lake, who had the “biggest show in America” that year. Lake, a good friend of Abbott, directed an impromptu performance outside the magic shop on Saturday afternoon, which the public was allowed to view. The following acts appeared: Geo. Paxton, Ed Little, Bob Gysel, Al Saal, John Skinta, Percy Abbott, F. W., Thomas, Dr. Zola, Jimmy Trimble, L. L. Ireland, Joe Bert, C. L. Breindenstien, Mahendra, and Dave Coleman.
In that year another aspect of the Get-Together developed when there was an extemporaneous performance for early arrivals on Friday evening. This became a standard feature of the Get-Together and is now called the Night Before Party. Two hundred and fifty magicians registered for the 1936 convention. The Saturday night show, the largest yet, included the following acts: Sid Loraine, emcee; Bob Wedertz, Recil Bordner and Percy Abbott, creations; Harry Cecil, George Paxton, illusions: Ralph W. Hull, cards; Lyman, originalities; Kathryn Elliott and Marvelo of “Burned Alive” fame; Doc Coleman in Hokum; Jimmy Trumble, artist magician; The Great Nicola.
The popularity of the Get-Together was growing at a rapid rate and Colon’s name was becoming associated with magic by a growing number of magicians. Following the Get-Together of 1936, the local newspaper, The Colon Express, referred to Colon as the “Magic Capital of the World” for the first time. The paper justified the boast stating that, “Abbott’s original made magic is supplied to magicians in all parts of the world, and through the activities of the Abbott Magic Novelty Company, Colon, Michigan is recognized as “The Magic Capital of the World.”
The Abbott Theater proved to be inadequately small in 1936 and the Saturday evening show was followed by many impromptu performances on the sidewalks and in the street in front of the magic factory. Because of the increase of attendance and public interest, the partners rented the high school gymnasium for the 1937 Get-Together.
Over 500 magicians were registered in 1937 and the pubic was invited for the first time to an Abbott Get-Together. There was a special performance staged at the auditorium for the public on Saturday afternoon. A portion of the public must have obtained admittance to the evening performance as well, because there were over 1,000 spectators crowded into the auditorium, which had an official capacity of only 800. There were many “on the spot” antics that year, including one magician who was suspended upside down from a downtown fire escape in a straight jacket from which he escaped.
In addition to the Night Before Show, which was held at the factory for magicians only, there were lectures, discussions, and demonstrations at the Abbott factory all day Saturday and late into the night following the evening performance. The Abbott Get-Together had come of age as a major convention for magicians from all over the United States.
Obviously, the influx of 500 people into a village with a population of 1,000 was an exciting event and the local merchants and residents of Colon looked forward to the Abbott Get-Together. Many of the magicians arrived a day or two early and stayed until late Sunday. While some of the magicians stayed in motels in Sturgis, Coldwater, and Battle Creek, a large proportion rented rooms from local residents at one dollar per night. Merchants, naturally enjoyed good business during the festive week end and the event was given much coverage by the local newspaper.
The success of the 1936 and 1937 Get-Together was augmented by the establishment, in January of 1936 of The Tops – An Independent Magazine of Magic. The monthly magazine was printed by the Abbott Magic Novelty Company on a press purchased from Frank Damon, publisher of The Colon Express. Paul Goss, who worked for Damon, set type for the magazine at night. Percy was the editor of the magazine until 1941, when he turned the job over to Mel Melson, an artist from New York who was hired in 1940 to do the artistic illustrations for the Abbott catalogue.
The magazine, which was from 40 to 60 pages in length, was filled with articles written by magicians giving instructions for performing their favorite tricks; gripe columns; advertisements for all types of tricks; and written materials concerning the presentation of magic. The magazine differed from other magic magazines in that membership in a fraternal magicians organization was not necessary in order to obtain a subscription. Subscription for the year was reasonably priced at one dollar. The magazine brought to the company increased status as a leading producer of magical effect. It has continued to be published to the present time with the exception of a four-year period, 1957 through 1960, which will be discussed later.
Today, Tops has a circulation of more than 4,000 and is mailed to countries throughout the world with the exception of Red China and the Soviet Union. The magazine is now under its third editor, Neil Foster. Foster, a professional magician, settled in Colon following the 1959 Get-Together to work for Abbott’s as the artist for the catalogue, which had grown to over 400 pages in length. When Tops resumed publication in January of 1961, Foster became the editor. The present $9.00-a-year subscription, and advertisement sales do not make the magazine a profit-making venture, but the president of Abbott’s (Recil Bordner) feels that it is worthwhile because it distinguishes Abbott’s Magic company from all other smaller manufacturers of magic and provides valuable publicity for the company.

Following the financial success and expansion of the business in 1936 and 1937, Abbott and Bordner anticipated an equally good year in 1938. The first eight months of 1938 did bring good fortune. The partners purchased the building that they had been leasing since 1934. The 1938 Get-Together was a repeat of the successful 1937 Get-Together with over 500 magicians in attendance. There were hours of magical performances at the factory and impromptu acts on main street of Colon all day Saturday, culminating with the big public show at the high school auditorium on Saturday night. Then fortune changed for the Abbott Magic Novelty Company. The week end after the 1938 Get-Together found Recil Bordner and Percy Abbott both out of town on well-deserved vacations. That Saturday night disaster struck when fire gutted the frame building housing the magic company. Nothing but a shell was left. The local fire department was able to save some of the files, but the loss of stock and the building was still estimated at $10.000.
The partners were faced with a grim, but not hopeless, situation. The loss was only partially covered by insurance, but the Abbott Magic company’s reputation and credit were both very sound. Percy was able to negotiate a loan from a personal friend in Jackson, Michigan. Jessey Dowly, a magician and a owner of a spring factory, loaned the money for rebuilding, with the understanding the Percy would teach Dowly’s two sons to be magicians.
 

January 3, 1938…The narrative is from the Crosley Radio Corporation: ” Harry Blackstone, world’s greatest magician, was in Cincinnati during   Christmas week. Here he is shown making a high-ball sing in the glass,   while a group of envious eyes looked on. Offered a highball to drink and “cheer up”, Blackstone replied, “Cheer me   up, nothing! I’ll cheer the highball up and make it sing!” And that’s what he did before a group of skeptical onlookers, as he took   up his magic wand and touching it to the glass, bringing forth in all   distinctness of tone a program coming from the WLW transmitter at Mason.”

During the days immediately following the fire, the partners received many offers from surrounding cities to relocate their business. Some proposals were very generous, offering such inducements as free rent on building that could be occupied by the firm. However, for various reasons, the partners never gave serious consideration to these proposals. Most of the employees were local residents. Abbott and Bordner themselves had established homes in Colon and had become personally attached to the village. Therefore, once the loan had been acquired, a contractor was hired immediately to construct a new cement block building on the site of the original shop.
During the interim, the Abbott Magic company was relocated in temporary quarters. The office and showroom were set up in the warehouse of the Lamb Knit Goods Company and the workshop and printing shop in the vacant S. G. Snyder building across town. The conditions of these buildings were less than ideal. Because of insurance difficulties, there could be no fire for heat in the warehouse and the only warmth that October and November came from a hotplate beside the typewriter of the office manager. The situation was only slightly better in the workshop where a small wood stove was installed. These hardships were of short term, however, and the new $3,600.00 cement block building was ready for the company to occupy by December.
The year of 1939 was a hectic one for the magic firm which had to rebuild its inventory of tricks, fill standard orders, and make preparations for the coming Get-Together. The sixth annual Get-Together was a one-day affair and somewhat smaller than the previous year with the demonstrations and impromptu performances taking place in the basement of the new building.
The year of 1940 found the Abbott Magic Novelty Company on the road to recovery from the setback of 1938, and the Get-Together that September was attended by nearly 500 magicians. The Night Before Show was held at the Abbott plant and Percy demonstrated the latest Abbott effects with such intriguing titles as “Phantasmo: an illusion in which a girl’s head became invisible. The first year of the new decade indicated good things to come for the magic business in Colon.
December 1941, however, brought bad news for the nation and difficult times for the Abbott Magic Novelty Company. Young men volunteered for the armed forces and others were drafted. Abbott’s lost several craftsmen, including Paul Goss, the printer, and Wake Drake, business manager. Unlike other builders of magical apparatus at that time, however, Abbott’s managed to adjust and improvise. Retired men who had worked at Abbott’s returned to help out. While some companies had trouble obtaining raw materials, Abbott’s did not. The Magic company had obtained a government rating as a vital industry. The special rating was granted because the company supplied books on slight-of-hand for the Army, which used the books in their recreational programs for soldiers.
Because of this, the company was able to buy surplus and scrap metal. The firm improvised and many tricks were built from materials that would not have been considered worth using before the war. The company “made do” and survived the war years.

During the war years, Abbott’s continued to host the Get-Togethers, which had become too large for the high school auditorium. In 1942, there were three public shows held in the opera house. Also in that year Skippy LaMore died, and Abbott’s purchased the tent theater used by the road show. The 1943 and 1944 Get-Togethers were hosted in this tent. The tent theater was set up on a vacant lot. The work was supervised by the “boss canvas man” who had worked with the Skippy LaMore Show, Harley Otis from Hodunk, Michigan.
In 1945 the Get-Together’s public performances were canceled due to “uncertain conditions” concerning the end of the war. However, there was a one-night open house, for magicians only, at the Abbott plant where a small tent was set up to accommodate the crowd. With the end of the war, the partners anticipated a return to the pre-war prosperity which the company had experienced.
The post-war era proved to be one of boom and expansion for the Abbott Magic Novelty Company. Abbott and Bordner increased the size of their building almost once and again with a $2,600.00 addition. The Get-Together, which had grown to three public shows, plus the Night Before Show for magicians only, was more successful than ever before. The big tent was especially suited for the Get-Together activities, and helped to create a carnival atmosphere. Saturday night performances were followed by special midnight spook shows. The official capacity of the tent was 1,100, consisting of 700 folding canvas seats and 400 bleacher seats. Actually, however, by show time, the audience surpassed this number when an extra 100 folding chairs were crowded into the tent and standing admissions were sold.
The gross sales for the business surpassed $200,000 for the first time in 1946. This increase in sales was due in part to a renewed interest in magic following the war and more directly to the expansion activities of the Abbott firm which had opened branch retail shops across the country. The New York shop was managed by Jim Renaux and Ken Allen. Karrell Fox and Ron Kissel ran the Detroit shop. In Indianapolis, Duke Stern was manager and salesman. George Coon and Doug O’Day operated the Chicago outlet. The Los Angeles store was managed by Geo. Boston. The late forties were indeed exciting and prosperous years for the partners in magic.
The hopes and expectations of the late forties dispersed in the first years of the fifties. The magic business declined for assorted reasons to the end of the decade. In 1950, a dance instructor in Los Angeles, purchased a device called “Pufferoo” from Abbott’s branch store located there. The device was operated by a foot pedal which ignited black powder producing a harmless puff of smoke. It was used by magicians for flash appearances. This Pufferoo was to be used to enhance a dance recital. It seems that the customer was not satisfied with the amount of smoke produced and, thus, a stage hand added either more powder that was recommended or perhaps some other material to increase the flash. The result was a large flash of fire which badly burned the legs of a 13-year-old student dancer. The student’s parents filed a damage suit against Percy Abbott and Recil Bordner for $52,000. The suit dragged out over the nest two years. The partners had no insurance to cover such an incident. They could not find a carrier for their unusual business. Only Lloyds of London would consider a policy and the partners had found the premium too expensive. Needless to say, such a sum as asked for in the suit would have been a great loss to the company and Percy feared that it would actually mean the end of the business. This uncertainty led the partners to cancel plans for the 1950 and 1951 Get-Togethers. Finally, the case was settled out of court with a considerably smaller judgment award to the family.
With the anxiety of the law suit behind them, the partners decided to host a Get-Together once again in 1952. The convention, which was held in the tent theater, was well attended with over 600 magicians registered. Magicians were eager to attend, and those appearing on the programs for the public performances were happy to have been booked. Following the event, however, Percy vowed not to have another Get-Together in Colon because he felt the local citizens had taken advantage of the magicians by raising room rents from $1.00 to $2.00 a night. Percy also expressed disappointment with the lack of cooperation on the part of local businessmen, whom he felt should cosponsor the event. After all, the local businessmen did benefit by the tourist trade during the week of the Get-Together. Businessmen in nearby towns had made offers to cosponsor the event, and in October, 1952 Percy and Recil accepted such an offer from the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce for the 1953 Get-Together. The “Magic Capital of the World” had lost the most prestigious gathering in magical circles.
Misfortune again struck the Abbott Magic company in the early morning hours of Saturday, November 15, 1952. Once again, it came in the form of a fire which leveled a building that had been recently purchased to house the metal shop. In addition to losing the stock and some of the metal working equipment, the firm lost the tent theater and stage equipment which had been stored in the building. The cause of the fire was never fully discovered, but faulty wiring was suspected. The building was only partly covered by insurance and, because of the faltering financial situation of the business, the partners decided not to replace the structure. The metal shop tools were moved into the basement of the cement block building.
A period of decline in the popularity of magic set in, and the expansion of the late 1940’s were contrasted by the atrophy of the business in the early 1950’s. The business was failing to get the orders it had in the past. Magicians were not buying new tricks. Some magicians were not even replacing worn out equipment. Magicians, in general, were finding it difficult to find bookings. Some professional magicians were forced into other lines of work to earn a living. One major reason for all this, as explained by Percy, was the advent of television. When he found out that one of his employees had purchased a television set, he exclaimed, “Don’t you know that is bad for business?” In his opinion (Bordner concurred), people would simply not turn out to see a live entertainment when they could sit in the comfort of their own homes and be entertained by the “magic box”. He was correct. Working magicians became fewer and fewer. The ultimate “trick” could be purchased at the electrical appliance store. How could pulling a rabbit out of a hat compete with a magical tube that could transport the viewer into fantasy land?
The orders continued to decline and business fell off. The branch and retail stores were closed. Gradually, Abbott and Bordner were forced to lay-off many of their employees. Though not a large number, under normal circumstances about 30, the number of employees dropped to an all-time low in 1957. There were two people in the wood shop, one painter, one printer, and one employee in the sewing department. Recil and Percy handled all the office work, including the shipping. In March of 1957, the last issue of Tops was published and the following year the annual Abbott catalogue was simply a reissue of the 1957 edition with no new material. Gross sales in 1959 had dropped to $55,000.00.
The only bright spot for the magical enterprise during these years was the Get-together, which brought many magicians into contact with Abbott merchandise. These Get-Togethers were held in various nearby cities including Sturgis in 1955, Battle Creek in 1956, Niles in 1957 and 1958, and Coldwater in 1959. Regardless of the good attendance at the Get-Togethers, Colon had suffered greatly during the decade which some writers now characterize as the “Good Times” era.

Percy Abbott had arrived in the United States in 1926, enroute to England. He had never completed his journey. Following the Get-Together of 1959, he decided the time had come, not only to finish the journey, but also to retire from the business which he had founded. Percy’s partner from the beginning, Recil Bordner, purchased Abbott’s half of the business and became sole owner of the world’s largest magical apparatus manufacturing firm. Percy Abbott, with his wife, Gladys, left for the long-awaited visit to England.  

Percy Abbott finally arrives in England in 1959…
greeted by fellow magicians. Only 32 years late!!!

 

 Television’s “This is Your Life Blackstone”, was aired March 9, 1960.   Pictured here is Ralph Edwards interviewing Sally Banks, while a   surprised Mr. Blackstone looks on. Sally became a nanny for the   Blackstones. In an effort to re-vitalize the business, Bordner embarked on an advertising campaign in several magic magazines. He made plans to resume the Get-Together in 1960. He planned to host it once again in Colon, but canceled the event when his former partner died in August. Throughout the remaining months of 1960, Bordner continued his advertising campaign, and in January of 1961 the company resumed publication of its magazine under the title of The New Tops.
At the same time, Bordner had a catalogue printed with over 450 pages containing more than 100 magical items, including a substantial number of new effects offered for the first time. All of this activity pointed toward August of 1961 and the resumption of the Get-Together. Bordner had patched the breach between the company and local businessmen. Plans were made to stage the event in the gymnasium of the new high school with the Lions Club as cosponsor. The stage of the new facility was adequately equipped and extra bleachers set up at the rear, making the seating capacity nearly 2,000.
The success of the 1961 Get-Together was insured when Bordner made arrangements for Harry Blackstone to perform for the first time at a Get-Together. The elderly Blackstone, as previously stated, had not been invited to past Get-Togethers because of the long standing disagreement between him and Percy Abbott.

Blackstone’s appearance at the 1961 Get-Together was a smashing success, as the magicians watched him with nostalgia as he re-created the illusion of the “Dancing Handkerchief”.
The Great Blackstone received a standing ovation from the audience of conjurers and laymen. The Get-Together had returned as the greatest magic convention of them all and Colon was truly the “Magic Capital of the World”. Blackstone died a short while after the 1961 Get-Together and was buried in the Colon Lakeside Cemetery. Thus, the first two giants of Colon’s magical experience were gone, but the third carried on with renewed vigor. The 1961 Get-Together was a great success and Recil Bordner’s magic manufacturing company was on the road to economic recovery.
Bordner continued to invest in advertising and throughout the 1960’s the company received additional free advertising from the local and national news media. The company was featured on television in a program called, “Industry on Parade”. The Saturday Evening Post ran a story on the business, and Recil Bordner appeared on the television program “To Tell the Truth”. The publicity for the company was tremendous and sales continued to rise.

 Percy and Gladys Abbott, at their home in Colon By the mid-sixties, Abbott’s business was back to its previous level of prosperity and continued to grow. Each year brought more magicians to the Abbott convention than the previous one. New attendance records were set at the public shows. The magic business, in general, experienced a renaissance.
Magicians were being booked to entertain at all types of events, from children’s parties to business trade shows, where magical effects are used to demonstrate new products. Television, one the enemy of magic, now proved to be a tremendous promoter for conjurers. There were weekly children’s magic shows and magicians appeared on late night talk shows.
A great boost to Bordner’s business was the building of the props for the “Ice Capades” show which featured Harry Blackstone, Jr. in a magical extravaganza. The special equipment which had to be custom built, took several weeks to construct and the total income

to the company was several thousand dollars. Just as the business was thriving and new goals were being considered, Recil Bordner was hospitalized in the spring of 1967. He had suffered a stroke as the result of pain from ulcers. The 1967 Get-Together was canceled, but Bordner’s recovery was swift and the 1968 Get-Together was a complete success. By 1970, Recil was again looking forward to expanding the business.
Bordner purchased a building on the main street of Colon to use as a retail outlet, but more important as a diversionary device to keep the curiosity seekers at bay during the chaotic month of August when tourists swell the population of the town to twice its normal size. It was not that Recil did not like people to visit the showroom at the factory, but August is the month when preparation for the Get-Together is at its frantic peak. Unless a “customer ” is seriously interested in buying magical equipment, there is little time for sales people or Recil himself to spend time socializing. Therefore, Recil decided it would best suit his purposes to open the store “downtown” during the summer months to accommodate the curiosity seekers and beginning magicians. It was better to have one salesman occupied than disrupt four or five employees at the main showroom.

In 1973, Bordner decided to make another sizable investment by paying one-half the expense for having the high school gymnasium air-conditioned. His share was $9,000. The other half of the money came from the school board, the Lions Club, American Legion, and individual contributions. The air-conditioning system was installed in record time and was ready for use during the 1973 Get-Together, making conditions in the gymnasium much more comfortable. Previously, the audience and performers had suffered greatly as the August temperatures had made the gymnasium virtually a giant sauna. The spectators for the public performances, by 1973, numbered over 1600 each night, and they did not seem to mind paying more for their tickets, considering the new comfort of the gymnasium.
In 1974, Bordner began to make plans for further physical expansion, by purchasing a relatively new building just outside the city limits. This building, recently vacated by a plastics molding company, was twice the size of the original factory. Bordner’s plan was to relocate his wood shop, which makes the custom-built illusions, in the new building. This would allow the metal shop to expand into the space previously occupied by the wood shop. The new building would also be altered to accommodate a paint room, where spray-painting and silk-screening could be done. All painting had previously been done in a small two-room building beside the original factory. This building, by 1974, was simply
 

Partners, Percy Abbott and Recil Bordner.

not large enough to do all the work being produced by the metal, plastic and wood departments. Now, painting would be done at both locations. A great deal of new equipment, such as power table saws, band saws, drill presses, drum sanders, and routers, was purchased and installed. The new building was occupied in June of 1975.
Today, Abbott’s Magic Manufacturing Company is in better financial shape than ever before. The 1975 Get-Together set new all-time records for both magicians registered and public attendance at the four evening performances, where over 1800 people were entertained each night. The elementary gymnasium was packed from early in the morning until late afternoon each day, with magicians watching demonstrations of new tricks, discussing old and new techniques, and remembering the greats and near greats.

CONCLUSIONS

In the production of magic, Colon has a unique place in Michigan history. No other town its size can claim such wide-spread notoriety. No matter where you go, it seems that someone has heard or read about Colon, “The Magic Capital of the World”. Just whether this is a legitimate claim or not, is answered only in the affirmative by the citizens of Colon. It appears to this writer that such a claim is valid. The 1600-plus magicians registered for the 1975 Get-Together in Colon, demonstrated by their attendance, that Abbott’s Magic Manufacturing Company is the oldest and most reliable source of magical effects in the world.
To illustrate: F. A. Peller from Nigeria first came to Colon in August of 1972 and returned to the 1975 Get-Together. His trip to Colon in 1975 was primarily a business excursion. He ordered a number of large illusions valued at several thousand dollars. When asked why he had traveled all the way to Colon, Michigan to buy his magical effects, he replied: “Abbott’s is the oldest company and has a reputation for building the best magical equipment in the world.”
What lies ahead for the magic business in Colon? This question has been asked more frequently in the last couple of years. Considering the success of the Get-Togethers and recent expansion of the workshops, it is evident that the business is economically sound. At the time of the preparation of this paper, sales for the company were at an all-time high and there were no signs indicating a tapering off. The business provides employment for about 35 local people and has substantial influence on the economy of Colon. In addition to providing a livelihood for its own employees, Abbott’s is a principal customer for the local hardware store and lumber year. During the Get-together, all businesses in Colon had an added opportunity for profit because of the influx of people attending the event. Recil Bordner has brought his son, Greg (a business school graduate from Michigan State University) into the firm. Some rumors indicate that Recil will soon retire. Regardless of his retirement date, it appears that the magic industry will continue in Colon for many years and Recil will undoubtedly be involved directly or indirectly with the magic business.
The Abbott company has brought several professional magicians to Colon who have decided to make their homes in the serene little town. At the time of this writing, there were no fewer than 12 professional magicians residing in Colon. Through the work of these men and the efforts of Recil Bordner and all the employees at Abbott’s Magic Manufacturing Company, Colon’s reputations as the “Magic Capital of the World” will be sustained for many years to come.

BIBLIOGRAPHIC ESSAY

Fortunately for the study of the History of the “Magic Capital of the World”, there is a wealth of primary sources. The best is Recil Bordner, present owner of the Abbott Magic Manufacturing Company. Bordner is also a good source concerning Percy Abbott. For contemporary accounts of Harry Blackstone for the years 1917 through 1927, Inez Blackstone, his first wife, is the most reliable source. Sally Banks, box hopper (a girl who appears and disappears in illusions), a nanny for Harry, Jr. and a personal friend of Harry Blackstone, is a good source for the years 1927 through 1949. Good material on Blackstone can also be obtained from Monk Watson, a contemporary entertainer of Blackstone’s era who was acquainted with him at the early date of 1917. Wade Drake, the company’s first bookkeeper, is useful for details about the business from 1934 through 1941. The most knowledgeable source for material concerning Tops is Neil Foster, the magazine’s present editor. Arthur West, the longest active employee of the magic company, is the best source for material concerning details of the Get-Togethers and on construction of special effects. Information concerning all areas of the business and men who made it can be gleaned from The Colon ExpressL. Percy Abbott’s biography, A lifetime In Magic, is a good source for personal background material, but unfortunately it stops with the founding of the business. Articles appearing in other magazines and newspapers must be scrutinized carefully, to separate fact from fiction.


The author of this work can currently be contacted at:
Patrick West / 911 Willow Drive / Colonj, MI 49040 / (616) 432-3136

 

 

Mastodon Bones in Colon Area

 

 

They Found some bones to pick

 

Discovery of mastodon remains prompts research by farm family

 

By VIRGINIA GUST

COLON – If there is one thing that can draw a family together with a single purpose, it’s a bunch of old bones.

Old bones have sent the Ansel Wattles family to museums, prompted talks with paleontologists and caused a search for information about prehistoric creatures ever since the skeletal remains of a mastodon were discovered on the family farm.

“We’ve been studying up on mastodons,” said Wattles, looking at the rows of weary brown bones arranged on boards in a building behind the family’s home on Jackson Road. “When Spring comes, we’re going back to the field and look for more bones.”

Digs to date have turned up 10,000 year old teeth, leg bones, ribs, vertebrae and pieces of skull and tusk that once belonged to the elephant-like vegetarian.

It was a seven-inch-long tooth that started it all. Wattles found it last fall while combining in a field of soybeans.

“I saw some white showing against the green soybeans, it was sticking up among the plants,” he said. “I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it belong to something that hadn’t been around for quite a while.”

Wattles brought the relic to the house and his son, Evan, 12, took it to school. The ball started rolling, when Evan’s teacher, Paul Blake, took the tooth to Kingman Museum of Natural History in Battle Creek, where it was verified as having belonged to a mastodon.

Carbon-14 test of other mastodon remains found in Michigan date them as being at least 10,000 years old.

Mastodons were a sturdy lot. They roamed in herds more that a million years ago, but by the time of the Ice Age rolled around only a few herds remained.

They were formidable-looking creatures with great curved tusks and long hair covering their six-ton frames. From the mastodons developed the mammoth and, much later, the elephant.

Their remains have been found in postglacial swamps, peat bogs and muck.

After the Wattles’ initial find, they returned to the field to search for more. Six more teeth and other bones were uncovered only two feet below the surface in an area bout eight feet in diameter.

Many of the bones had been broken into fragments by plows that had worked the field for more that a half century. “The bones were close to the surface and that’s why the tillage over the years wrecked much of the find,” he said.

He believes the4 animal drowned while walking in a swamp, which is now muck land that covers much of the Wattles 520-acre farm.

The teeth of the Wattles’ mastodon have heavy grinding surfaces. They are badly wore from chewing the vast amounts of prehistoric shrubs and grasses needed to satisfy the tummy of the ancient creature, whose heritage goes back some 40 million years to the first mastodons, who were the size of pigs.

Wattles learned to identify the bones during a visit to the museum at the University of Michigan, where a complete skeleton is mounted  “That’s how I got to know what we had,” he said.

Wattles said museum officials told him there have been about 160 mastodons found in Michigan, but none was a whole skeleton.

At first, a section of a tusk measuring about six feet long was found by a youth in Assyria. Two years later, mastodon bones were found at Fort Custer’s Eagle Lake by workers digging a ditch.  In 1954, several bones were found in a marl pit near Spring port, and in 1960 a 13-year-old boy hunting turtles at Sherman Lake came across a jawbone where a channel had be3en dug two years earlier.

The largest bones in the Wattles’ collection are those of a front leg, and the longest bones are a pair of ribs. There is a bone the size of a large platter that Wattles said is a vertebra.

In a candy box are fragments of the mastodon’s great tusks, reduced over the centuries to nothing more than layers of curved bark.

There are several pieces of skull, surprisingly thin, which are smooth on one side and riddled with channels on the underside. Parts of the skull still are at the site, Wattles said.

Elsewhere in the storage building is a washtub filled with smaller bones about the size of tennis balls.

When weather permits it will be back in the mastodon digs for the Wattles, “We’ve got to go back and fool around there again,” Wattles said.

 

 

 

 

The Life of Lorancie Schellhous

 LORANCIE SCHELLHOUS

Written by him in March, 1873

Harrison Edward Schellhous (1885-1969), grandson of Lorancie’s younger brother Cyrus, transcribed the original manuscript. In a correspondence (circa 1963-1965) to the Niendorf family, Harrison Edward Schellhous describes a 24 page manuscript that he received in 1962 from Ellis L. Schellhous, a grandson of Lorancie. The description read… “in long-hand, old, brittle, hard to decipher, with run-on sentences and no capitals…”. Harrison then transcribed the manuscript onto type-written pages, double-spaced, and subsequently sent copies to numerous descendants. – Thanks to Dana Niendorf, a direct descendant of Lorancie SCHELLHOUS, for providing this history of the original manuscript transcription.


Lorancie SCHELLHOUS-1867

By request of my children I will try to give a short history sketch of my life. I was born in the state of Vermont and county of Addison, township of Ferrisburgh in A.D. 1793 May the tenth. My father, Martin Schellhous settled in that township soon after the Revolutionary War with Great Britain. He made large improvements before my remembrance, was by trade a tanner and curer. The first of my remembrance to labor was grinding bark with an old fashioned cog wheel, when rolling around and around with a horse which I had to perform the task of following around with a rake, to keep the bark under the wheel. As I grew older I was put to harder work. Sometimes on the farm and in the tanyard, and was brought up to hard labor. My chance for education was quite limited. Our folks often called me an unlucky boy. I had broken one of my legs, a few years after was driving some sheep from the orchard, fell on a sharp stone which cut the flesh from the bone, which laid me up for a long time. The Doctor at one time thought I should have to have it taken off, and it caused me to be lame for a long time. This was just before the war with Great Britain in A.D. 1812. I was at that time nearly eighteen years old. A draft was to take place to raise an army. I was examined by a surgeon of the regiment, and he gave me a certificate pronouncing me not a fit subject for military service, which cleared me from the war.

Just before the trouble with Britain my father had bought a tract of land in addition to his farm which involved him in debt, he was dependent on Canada market to sell his leather but the imbargo between the U.S. and England stopped all trade. Father was obliged to sell at quite a

loss. Having made up his mind to sell, he moved to some new county. He had heard of the western reserve in Ohio, by some of our friends that had gone there the year before, and my oldest sister who had married a man by the name of J.J. Sexton and Stephen Cable who had married my mother’s sister and Martin G. Schellhous knew about the country. They brought favorable news about the country. Martin was my oldest brother, by that news father made up his mind to move to that state. He accordingly sold in the spring of 1813 and intended to move. In the fall, he was taken sick with the dropsy the Doctor told him he could not live. If any thing would help him it would be his journey. He made up his mind to start as soon as we could get ready. At this time it was getting late in the season so on the fourth of Oct. we started on our perilous journey with two teams, the family of father, mother and nine children, of whom I was the oldest, the youngest being two years old. I can not tell all the trails and difficulties we had to pass through. I will only mention a part. Father was helpless; I had to carry him from the wagon to the house and back to the wagon. In that condition we traveled on to Lansingburgh, then came into the road that leads from Troy to Buffalo, which was very muddy; got along very slowly. Our mother was almost worn out with fatigue, setting up and watching every night, or had to hire some one to watch which was very expensive. I had all the care of the teams, providing food for the family I had many hard words said to me by the inhabitants for trying to get a loaf of bread. They often told me we had no business to travel in time of war and so late in that season of the year. So we traveled on finally got to Cuggay Lake where we had an uncle living there by the name of George Alford, our mother’s brother; stopped to rest a few days. We stayed there a few days. As we stopped journeying father grew worse. He was anxious to get through, so we traveled on through mud.

Here I must tell a little circumstance which happened before we got to Buffalo. Those of the children that could walk some times went on foot ahead of the others, which I was driving and was close behind. The forward team came to a large mud hole, undertook to shun it, run the wheels on a sidling rock which turned the wagon over in the mud hole, had to pull the little ones out of the puckering string, then there was trouble in good earnest, had to unload, right up the wagon, load up the best we could, started on again. But to Buffalo. There we had the Privilege of seeing Commodore Perry and most of the British Prisoners, was bound about a week, had to leave a part of our goods on the account of bad roads and heavy loads. Father still kept failing yet we keep moving, gained a little every day. Got to Euclid, had a chance to trade one of our horses for a yoke of oxen, then got to Cleveland. There we met our Uncle Stephen Cable, and he helped us to our journey’s end. Arrived in Bridgeville (Ridgeville) the 17, day of November and on the 27th day our father died. After attending the funeral services obtained a small log house which answered for a shelter for the family. Then returned to eighteen mile Creek for the goods which we left there. Got back in about two weeks. Now the next thing was to prepare for winter. Provisions were scarce and hard to be got. Got some corn by paying one dollar per bushel, had to husk it ourselves, then take it to mill on horse back about 8 or 10 miles through woods and swamp, which would take two days. Could get but little wheat flour. My uncle was a good hunter and taught me to hunt deer, raccoon, turkey and honey bees, which was plenty. There were also plenty of excellent fish in the river at the mouth of the rivers in the spring. By that means the family were supplied with food.

The next thing was to find a piece of land for a house. Could not get any that was suitable so we stayed in Ridgeville until the next winter. Brother Martin was left behind in Vermont to Settle up the business. He had not yet come to Ohio, yet did not expect him under a year and a half or two years. Mother got quite uneasy about a place for a home. We had heard that there was a good chance to buy land in the Township of Florence about eighteen miles west, farms that some people had left in time of war. Then I got Mr. Cable, my uncle to go with me to see what we could see. We took our rifles and started one morning through the wilderness, with no signs of the Black river and the Vermilion, got through to the settlement that night, found the agent of the land, got a description of a lot, got the papers the next morning. Mother was much pleased with the description. There was on it about ten acres of improvements. It was then about the middle of December, the next winter after we arrived in Ridgeville. At that time the snow was about eight or ten inches deep. We had kept the ox team. Then we had concluded to try the woods, to go around by the way of the lake road. It would be about fifty miles, so I hired a man with his ox team to take a load of our goods, got two young men to go with us to cut a road. We finally got ready, started one morning, got to one branch of the Black river where the city of Elyria now stands, then all wilderness, got across both branches in safety, took a bee line west, got about half way the first day, camped out and the next morning started on again. We got through the same afternoon in time to unload and make preparation for the night. Mother was well pleased with the situation, and felt at home once more. Then I took a job of clearing a piece of land which supplied in part for that winter’s provisions.

Brother Martin returned or came to Ohio, stopped in Ridgeville. He married a wife in Vermont after we left that state, and finally he came to Florence to see how the family got along, paid for the land that I had agreed for. He finally concluded to settle in Florence. By that time I concluded to try to do something for myself. I had heard that a man by the name of Parks on the Huron River wanted to hire a hand to work in a tan yard. I went to see him, hired out to him for twenty five dollars per month. After working two or three month’s he offered to sell the yard and forty acres of land to me and a man that worked for said Parks, if we would tan 400 hides which he had on hand. The yard was well stocked with tools, a bood bark mill, quite a lot of bark on hand. The man’s name was Barker, I finally agreed to go in partnership with him. I was to have one half of the premises. We had quite a large quantity of the hides worked into the bark. I had been some time from home, took a notion to visit a few days in Florence and Ridgeville so I left expecting to return in a few days. I had formed an acquaintance with my first wife when I was in Ridgeville. A young man asked me to take a ride to the P.O. at Dover on the lake shore. I got a horse to take of my Brother Martin, started, got about one and a half miles stopped for a few minutes, then I went to get on my horse as I put my foot in the stirrup, gave a spring to get on, the horse wheeled right towards me (not being on my guard as I ought to have been) and ptiched me over the horses’ back. I struck on my shoulder, broke my arm above the elbow. I was then in a bad fix. My partner left alone with a double task to perform. I was laid up two or three months. What to do it was hard to tell, as soon as I was able went back to see how my partner got along I found myself so far behind with no means to help. I told him I should be obliged to give up not being able to use my arm. I could not work. Finally we came to a settlement. He turned me out a horse called about $70 and about $60 dollars worth of leather. I sold the horse for shock fed pork, took the leather and pork, went back to Florence where mother lived, went to work and built a small log shop for a shoe shop. I had some experience in shoe making, and went to work that winter. That winter made up my leather for provisions for the family.

That was the end of my first years labor for myself. Martin had lost his wife while in Ridgeville, had moved his goods to Florence, and he told me I had better go to work at tanning. He would let me have sixteen acres of his land where my shop stood, and start a tannery, as there was plenty of hides in the country. After thinking the matter over I made up my mind to do so, accordingly went to work. Martin had brought some tools with him for that purpose from Vermont. He said he would help me start. This I think was in the month of March 1816. Lumber was scarce so I took some large white wood logs, dug them out for vats, then made me a bark wheel ful of cogs, got all ready for work. The inhabitants found out what I was doing, brought in all I could ask for, and when the bark would peel I went to Peeling bark, got quite a quantity on hand. The next thing was a housekeeper, then went to Ridgeville, and married my wife, brought her home (if you could call that home) on horse back with all the goods she possessed, we were quite destitute.

The road I had cut through the woods, by this time was quite a traveled road. Martin seeing our situation told me he would lend us bed and bedding until I could furnish myself, also some dishes, so we went to keeping house on that scale. I continued my tanning business through the season. My wife got dissatisfied living away from her friends, which made me somewhat discouraged, provisions scarce, leather not tanned enought to finish off. I finally got quite discouraged, told Martin I should have to go at something that would realize sooner that the business that I was then in. Finally he told me that he would give me (if I was determined to quit) a yoke of steers and a cart, the hind wheels of a wagon and the bed and bedding and what other articles I had borrowed worth in thos days, about $125 or $130. Then it was quite late in the season and I had not any preparation for winter. Concluded to accept the offer. I went and fixed a box on my cart, packed our duds on the same, hitched my cattle on, got my wife on top of said treasures, and started back to Ridgeville to my wife’s father. Left her there that winter then I went to Medina County to one of our old Vermont neighbors’, by the name of Rufus Ferris who was employed to make improvements at the county seat. of that county. Took a job of chopping not much used to chopping, but soon it came handy. I chopped or winrowed twelve acres or about that, bought me a cow and some iron ware and several articles for house-keeping. Returned to where my wife was, much pleased with my winter’s work.

Then in the month of April I had an addition to my family. My daughter Martha was born, after I had returned from my winter’s work. I and my brother-in-law took a job of chopping one acre of heavy timber where the city of Elyrea stands, had to cut all the stumps level with the ground. I got half a bl. of pork, got some other necessaries, then prepared to go somewhere to find a place to make a home. So I gathered up my whole treasures consisting of my wife, one child, one cow, and one cow yoke of oxen and my cart, started west to the town of Black River was called afterwards Amherst. Contracted a piece of land, got the privilege of staying in a house with a family by the name of Webster until I could build a house. Then I went to work, cut logs, cleared a spot large enough to set my house all alone. We had a good spring of water close by. After working making what improvements I could alone, the next winter I was taken with the rheumatism so bad I could hardly help myself, knees were swelled as large again as usual which continued all winter, in the spring I told my wife I was going to the mouth of Balck (Black) River a fishing. She told me I had better stay at home. I could not fish if I were there. I made up my mind to try it at any rate. All the way I could walk was to place my hands on my legs above me knees and in that situation hobble along. In that situation I got my oxen hitched to my cart, took my lunch and started for the mouth of the river, got there in season to prepare for fishing. I found quite a number of fisherman on the ground; and they seeing my helpless condition, assisted me with torch bark, when it was dark enough we lit up our bark torches. I hobbled into the river or water, spear in one hand, torch in the other, waded around, did not venture into very deep water. The water seemed cold at first. I caught two or three pike, fish came out of the river where we had a nice fire, stood around it, got warm then in the river again, continued all night. I had caught quite a lot of fish that night. In the morning found to my great joy that the swelling of my knees was almost gone. I could stand up quite straight, then loaded up, went home rejoicing. My wife was as much surprised as myself. My health grew better, and I was soon able to work again. I had a great liking for hunting deer. They were plenty so in the first of Oct. I commenced hunting, hunted until the first of January had killed seventy two deer, sold most of the hides. I dressed some having learned the art of indian smoke dress. After dressing some good skins I cut and made me some leather overalls, which answered a good purpose for me. In those days of hard time.

I have not space or patience to tell all the trials we had to pass through; but I must tell a story about snakes on that place was often found rattlesnakes about us. One morning our daughter Martha, about one year and a half old was playing by the side of the house; as I passed by where she sat, I discovered a large yellow rattlesnake not more than three or four feet from her lay couled in a ring I tell you I sprang for the child more scared than hurt. The snake did not live long, I assure you. The neighbors and myself had discovered where they had a den on the banks of a creek nearly half a mile off, so we agreed to visit the place daily by taking turns, one at a time. So the next spring when it became warm they would crawl from the den and lay in the sun to warm themselves. So we commenced our warfare, took our regular turns after the first meeting, only four of five of us agreed to cut a notch on a sapling for every snake we killed. So we continued as long as we could find a snake, came to count up the notches, found it to be sixty odd. Now to tell all the trials we had it would take too long.

I had made quite a good improvement. There was a Railroad layed out through the center of my place, by this time I was to make a payment on the place, money was scarce but kept at work. Several families had moved into the neighborhood with the rest Jesse Webster and family, (this is now my wife). About this time I had another addition to my family. Leonard Schellhous was born. My wife was telling not long since, that she was the one that put on him the first shirt he ever wore. Finally to cut the story short there was an old Quaker came along, offered to buy my place. I thought to better myself, and sold out to him. Then my brother Martin in Florence offered me fifty acres of land joining his with a log house on it and a small clearing. I bought it and had money enough to pay for it. Then once more packed up, and moved back to Florence; then I concluded I had a home of my own. I went to work in earnest. In the meanwhile the road was altered that ran by my house, which left me some ways from the road. After a while I built another quite good log house. Made quite a good many improvements. Built a frame barn, was doing as well as I could. About that time my wife was taken sick with consumption, was not able to do but little, began to feel dissatisfied with living away from all her friends, was anxious to once more return back to Elyria, So I had a chance to sell if I would take my pay in stock. I told him if I could turn the stock to pay for another place, I would trade. Money was scarce, hard to get then. I went to see what I could do. Herman Ely was the owner of the township Elyria, and I soon found a piece of land that suited me. He agreed to take the stock if I would pay it in oxen, one yoke a year. I then sold out on those conditions. Closed both bargains then had to begin on a new farm again, in the woods.

The Charles J. Thrams and Nancy Schellhous family—-
(Top row, from left to right) Benjamin H. Thrams (1878-1966), Norman Thrams (1875-1953),
Ernest Thrams (1880-1949), (Bottom row from left to right), Charles J. Thrams (1852-1908),
Bertha Thrams (1882-1967), and Nancy Schellhous (1841-1923).

(Nancy Schellhous is the daughter of George Schellhous and the niece of Lorancie Schellhous)

I built another log house, moved back to Elyria, stayed on the place a year or two. My brother-in-law owned a piece of land on the state road. He wanted to trade with me, he had a good log house, and some improvements so I traded with him. I changed places and I was then on the very road that I cut through the wilderness when I first came to Ohio. It had become a state road, from Cleveland to Sandusky. After I had moved, had paid for the land almost, and was trying to live again, the best we could, my wife grew worse, through the winter, and finally died early in the spring. I think in March, her sister Polly had stayed with her through the winter. I broke up housekeeping, for a time, went to work at carpenter work with brother George. Martha went to live with her grandmother; Leonard with his uncle Clark Eldred, worked at the business some time, got uneasy, and concluded to give up that business. I often thought of my home I had left. I had formerly formed the acquaintance of a person by the name of Cynthia Webster, who was one of our neighbors when living in Amherst. She had lost her husband, about four years ago, she had two children named Teresa, Nine years old, and Melissa, five years, after a while I concluded to call on her and make her a visit. I also did so, was received kindly. After talking over our situations, I finally popped the question. She finally accepted and we were married. I then took my family of wife and four children to my place in Elyria. Then concluded to build an addition to our house and barn for the purpose of keeping, Tavern, as there was considerable travel on that road. Finally got ready, put out our shingle. We soon found all the customers we wanted. The next year after we were married we had another addition to our family, our son Loran was born.

Now for Michigan. In the year 1829, brother Roswell left Ohio, moved to Michigan, bought on Nottawa Prairie, built him a small log house with two rooms, extoled the country very highly, which gave our friends the Michigan fever. At that time I had a slight attack, but got over it. When brother Marten and Samuel Noyes and brother George went to see the country, they liked it well. Marten and Samuel Noyes and brother George went and each entered a quarter section, which took all the money that George had. He got a man to enter a fraction of 119 acres where Colon now stands, told me he could redeem it in a year or two. Then he came back to Ohio, told me the situation. I took the fever and agreed to go with him, if I could sell. I soon found a chance to sell, and sold cheap, took the money, and started with them to Michigan.

I paid for the mill site as it was then called, bought a fraction of land where Mr. Scott now lives on Little Prairie. Then I returned home again; this was in the fall of the year 1830. Next thing was to get ready to go to Michigan. Had the winter before us, our mill irons to make, got a blacksmith to make them. Got the irons for a breaking plow, got all things ready to start the last of April. The company that was with us as follows, my family with five children, Loran was the youngest (he was two years old) brother Marten and family; George Brooks and family; in all thirty one souls. Eighteen of us ate together or messed together. I had two wagons, five yoke of oxen, three cows, a noble sow with eight shoats. I finally got started on in good spirits with plenty of provisions. Got along slowly, had no bad luck, roads quite muddy, came to the Maumee Swamp, had a hard time to get through but finally got to Maumee River, crossed it in a ferry boat, then went on to Monrowe, had to camp out a good many nights. If we could find a good place to bait our teams we would stop, sometimes stay all night, start in the morning early. We got to Coldwater Prairie, there was one log shanty in the whole prairie. The man had plowed two or three acres. We found a good place to feed our teams, camped there all night. The next day camped at hog creek, then the next got through to Nottawa prairie where brother Roswell lived; on the 16th day of May 1831. While we were talking and shaking hands our comrade Brooks had unloaded; his bedding and the other articles filed one of the rooms, and had no chance to hardly turn around, finally got straightened around, got some mush and milk for supper, took our wagons for lodgings the best we could. In the morning got some breakfast. My wife said to me, “If we have a place to go to let us go there.” “I glory in your spunk,” so said I. So I told George our calculations, and got our teams together, loaded up the family. This was Sunday morning, and started, got to the creek about the middle of the afternoon, turned our teams out and drove them to the marsh. There was then good bait for the cattle. Then went to work to fix a tent, went on the creek bottom below where the mill stands, cut some poles and crotches, peeled some bark, barked it up, stuck down the crotches put on the poles, covered the top with bark, hung up some blankets, built a good fire, prepared our supper and got a good nights rest. We felt glad we had got through thus far Monday and got a good night’s rest. We commenced cutting house logs, cleared a place to set the house after we had logs cut, commenced hauling placing the foundation, hauling and rolling up with the oxen, continued that way as far as we could without help, then we got our neighbors to help put on the last long, then for the roof, cut down a large tree, and sawed it in blocks, three feet long, then rive it in shingles, then called shakes, covered the house. I took one of my wagon boxes to make a door, built a stick chimney at one end of the side of the house, then placed our long shingles on them, then placed our beds which answered for beds the same week Saturday night we moved into our house, one week from the commencement of building. Then Monday morning went to work to wood our breaking plow. Found a winding tree to make a moldboard, make a complete plow, then went down to Roswell, broke up six acres of prairie, dropped the corn in the edge of the furrow, so the next furrow covered the corn. Before we went to the prairie we tried to plough at home, ploughed about 1/? acre for garden, we did no more to our corn. In the fall and had a nice piece of corn. When we got plowing and planting corn done it was the sixth day of June, 1831. In the meantime we planted our garden, raised a nice lot of vegetables, melons, broom corn, and our stock made us no trouble, came home every night. Great fat hogs lived on shack which laid on the ground all winter.

A little before we moved to Michigan the country had been burnt over The white oak openings was as black as you please, in two or three weeks it changed its appearance and became like a beautiful garden. Then after making all necessary arrangements commenced to begin to make our arrangements cut and hewed some timber. Cut timber for the dam, finally concluded to let it rest until the next spring. It had got too late to put in the dam, so George went back to Ohio, was gone most of the winter. Late in the fall Charles Palmer came to Michigan, moved into our house which was then quite full. He selected the land east of the creek, then moved into it. George got back, then we commenced to build a mill hired a mill wright to make the running gear. Hired several hands to help. Got the dam and the mill frame up and plank for the flume from Hog Creek, Then on the Chicago turnpike called Adams and Kents mill. Finally got the mill a running, then commenced the sickness, all through the country, fever and ague. Out of the thirty-one souls all sick but myself. I cannot tell all the particulars we had.

We sawed about 12,000 ft. By some means the water found a hole under the flume, which tore a hole ten or twelve feet deep under the flume tore out about sixty feet of the dam, then I felt rather down in the mouth but there was no other way but to repair the loss, so went to work again, pried up the mill, got it level again, then cut logs about twelve long, placed them like a log house, notched them as you would to build a log house, commenced on the top of the water site over the hole under the corner of the mill, and flume continued in that way until the crib of logs had settled on the bottom, then filled it full of brush, and gravel then repaired the dam, got the mill almost ready to run again. Previous to this my mother and brother Cyrus and family had moved to Michigan. Cyrus had bought a lot of land where F.O. Vaughn lives. Had built a plank house, had moved into it.

Mother was taken sick with all the family, had to leave our work to care for the sick. Our mother died in that situation. We had neglected the dam, and a small place in the dam was not finished graveling. The water in the pond had raised faster than we were aware of which found a way under the dam, which tore away another part of the dam, about sixty or seventy feet further over. At that time my means were almost exhausted, except my fraction of land on Little Prairie, where Scott now lives. I had to sell that to get means to put in another dam, so I sold it to brother Marten for $1.75 per acre, threw that into the creek with the rest, not quite discouraged yet, built up the dam again (I believe it stands there yet). We had in the meantime quite a lot of saw logs which we had cut on government land up the St. Jo river almost two hundred, got the mill running in good order.

About this time my wife and myself had concluded that partnership was leaky and we thought best at that time to get out of it before it went down, so I told George we had not prospered in our co-partnership I told him I wished to dissolve; told him to make me an offer, what he would give or take. I told him if he would give seven hundred dollars, six in money and one in timber, which he agreed to do, made no writings at all, but took his word; we then dissolved. Brother Cyrus had bought a piece of land where F.O. Vaughn lives, I bought off Cyrus; George was to pay Cyrus for it. We then moved into the plank house, where our mother died on the place. We then thought we had once more got on safe ground. After spending three years of hard toil and sickness was not worth as much as we were before we left Ohio. We had lived on that place but a short time when Ben Stebbens and wife came along on horseback, wanted to buy my place, sold to him; took the money and entered 120 acres, the land I sold afterwards to O.W. Legg and his wife, which was one of our family, after I had bought concluded to make final home, built a frame house built a barn, made quite an improvement, made up our minds to have our son Loren live with us and have the farm. He tried to work but could not stand it. It made him sick to work, was quite weakly. He thought he would rather do some other way, took it into his head to be a clerk in some store so we let him have his own way. When Leonard was 19 years old I gave him his time. Gave him 40 acres of land where Sam Gorton lives. He built the old house Gorton lives in. After our children married off and left us, I will not say any more about them. If you want to know any more about them, you must ask them, they are all of age and at this time all alive and have a care for old, unworth us. Now I will go back to the beginning of the settlement on Michigan.

The first summer we had no water to use only the creek water. I went in search of a spring of water. I finally found one under the hill close to the lake, it seemed to boil up through the marsh. I cleared away the muck found it to be cold and good. It was marsh all around the place except a small bunch of willows. I then took my team, hauled down a Sycamore tub about five feet long, pressed it over the spring kept digging around it, digging out the inside; working that way until within one foot of the top; then drew gravel and filled all around, packed it until the water ran over the top of the tub, then there was quite a rejoicing in the family, that remains to be seen this day.

All the neighbors we had were living nearly five miles on the west line of the township, Brother Roswell, Marten, M.G. Brooks and Dr. McMellen. That summer we had plenty of Indians passing by on Indian Trail which passed our house. They often passed by sometimes 50 or 60 in drove Indians, Squaws, dogs and ponies, going past to the timber land to hunt.

I must tell a little circumstance that happened. The hog that we drove with us from Ohio, would go to the marsh near the trail, as a large lot of Indians were passing with dogs, I heard the hog squeal. I saw that it was the Indians coming I took my rifle and ran to where the dog was. The dog had the hog by the hind parts and I then shot at the dog. He left the hog and ran after the Indians. I followed as far as I could, got to the creek before the Indians crossed. I had a canoe to cross in and I jumped into it and followed after the dog. I followed after the dog pounded the dog with a paddle until I thought he was dead, then returned to the shore then took up my rifle which laid on the ground turned the breech, raised it up before the big Indian, looked him straight in the eye; I tried to look as savage as I could. The Indian stood, looked amazed, never as much as winked, then I pretend call down pointing to the canoe told them to march across the creek, they passed on and after a few days they returned from their hunt. Every dog had a bridle on their noses tied together. I had no more trouble with dogs that season. After that the Indians were quite friendly, appeared to be glad to meet me and shake hands. Then the Indians were friendly, but when they had whiskey they were troublesom. A man by the name of Hatch had a shanty on or near the river for the purpose of trading with the Indians, kept whiskey for the Indians. I will mention one more circumstance which happened while I was absent from home; one night a parcel of drunken Indians came to our house in the latter part of the night. They came into the house when the family were all in bed, which frightened my wife. She got out of bed, dressed in a hurry, went to where the Indians were. They pretended to warm themselves. She told them as well as she could to clear out but they refused. There was one amongst them that appeared to be more sober than the rest. My wife motioned to him to clear them out. She then took up the fire shovel intending to drive them out, then they began to depart. She gave them a brand of fire, told them to build a fire out of doors. By that time the children were frightened. After reading this to my wife she told me it was not quite right, as she heard the Indians coming sometime before they got to the house. Got Leonard up and tried to fasten the door but could not fasten it before they got in. I shall not say much more about the Indians.

Only a short time after this they killed my breeding sow which I considered worth forty dollars at that time. At that time the government paid the Indians for their reserved claims. I threw in my claim for the hog. I was allowed eighteen dollars for it. Now I will return to some other affairs.

The next season after coming to Michigan we had to go to Coldwater to get blacksmithing done for the mill, there was a blacksmith just moved in on the east end of the prairie by the name of Bingham; to get there had to go to Hog Creek on the Chicago road, then to Coldwater had to go south and an ox team would take two days, to go and back.

About this time there was a great cry about the lauk war. There was a company of militia formed, a draft to be made; it happened that brother George and the mill wright, by the name of Kirke were both drafted. They had to start immediately to meet the Indians that were expected to go through Michigan to destroy all the inhabitants. Those behind thought best to build a fort, we had a meeting, for that purpose, agreed to build a picket fence to be twelve feet about the ground to plough and take the trees to build a breastwork inside breast high. I was chosen to select the pickets and help load, when commenced hauling we worked hard for a few days, I had to leave my family at home. We did not feel much alarmed. Some of the inhabitants of the county left, went to Detroit, after a few days news came that the Indians were stopped, did not come as far as Chicago. Then we gave up building the fort. Then we returned to our business, then in a few years we began to think of building roads, to get out. The inhabitants began to flock in, from all directions. The township was not organized the first few years. The township was combined with Leonidas, did the business as one township.

Now perhaps you would like to know how this town came by the name of Colon. Well I will try to tell; in the first settlement of the county there was a great stir about building cities on paper. George and Hatch took into their heads to lay out a city plot on the land that I then owned finally arrangements were made, got a surveyor, laid it out, into lots when completed, we wished to give a name could not find one to suit. Finally I happened to take up an old dictionary, the first word I put my eyes on was Colon. Looking to see the definition, we will call the name of it Colon, looked up there see the lake and river coming along, that is exactly the definition. Agreed says they, that is the way the name of Colon came. When the township was organized, the name was established by the legislature. That was the end of our city. About this time I had left Colon, went to work building a house myself. I built quite a good house for the times. Had a little blacksmith shop no blackmith short of White Pigeon. The neighbors wanted some little job done which I could not refuse, so I tinkered on. Started a turning lathe, began to make chairs to supply the inhabitants. After which there were wheels wanted so I made wooden wheels as they were called, and reels, then the little Flax wheel which kept me busy for a long time. After a while I was appointed Postmaster. Had to get the mail from Kent and Adams on the Chicago road, had to get it once a week, had the proceeds of the post office. Letters were then 25 cents each, which was rather small business for me, but I kept on for the benefit for the settlers. The first town meeting was held at my house. After the officers were elected we unanimously agreed to serve the town without charge this continued two or three years, until we were set off as a township by itself from Leonidas. Now I shall go back a ways and tell about roads. We were rather shut off on account of getting out east, George and myself started to try to find a road to the county of Branch County seat. We went east to the foot of Matteson Lake now called, then east as near as we could, to his place Findley, found the place, the people there had commenced some public buildings. They seemed pleased with the idea, concluded to help survey the road, got a survey on our own expense, surveyed the road to our place then some of the inhabitants turned out and cut part of the road through the timber lands of Branch cut it the other which answered several years. A few years after Amos Matteson came to that town the town was named by him called after his name. A. Culver and M. Corsen all had settled on a section line, examined the line for the purpose of getting a road to Coldwater. Found it to be suitable to build a road. Then petitioned the legislature for state road from Coldwater to Centreville, St. Joseph County. I was the one to carry the chain. Cut and stuck and marked every mile from Matteson to Centreville, then I went on the line to Centreville, got up a subscription of nearly two dollars then got what help we could, went to work, cut the road, bridged the streams, made cross-way the town of Matteson, Culver. Matteson and Corsen did their share. It was a hard road at first, but it was tolerable good. Now I must tell about one little circumstance which happened to me about this time of the building the Court house in Centreville.

I was appointed collector to collect the taxes in Colon. I had collected pretty much all except Dr. McMellon‘s. He stood out would not pay, I told him I should have to take property and sell it. I had only time to advertise told him, turned out some property, he then turned out his old horse to pay his tax which was ten dollars. I advertised the horse the day of the sale came, I could get no bidders. I adjourned the sale, tried again, could not find anyone to bid on the old horse, the law was such I was obliged to make up the money if I could find property, so I bid off the horse myself, after keeping the horse a few weeks, I had a chance to sell the horse just enough to pay the tax and his keeping, then he sued for the horse, had a trial before the justice of the peace. I beat him there, then he appealed to the county court. My lawyer told me I was safe, came to the trial, everything appeared to look well in my favor. Then the judge commenced summing up the matter, as a going lawyer Stewart arose and said: it is a matter of law, would it not be best to further consider the matter? After that it was carried to the Chancery. There it was decided against me. Last and all amounted to over $100. Then some of the Lawyer got up a contribution of $40.00. That was all the law-suits I ever had of any importance.

Now there is so many things I might mention which you are all acquainted with, will forbear only to say most of my time has been occupied in labor building roads, bridges and school houses, meeting houses. Tried to serve the public, postmaster nearly 17 years, had to quit labor to take care of my dear wife who has been blind nearly 12 years. Not been able to earn anything for our support. Have been sustained through the providence of a kind Heavenly Father. I have always tried to keep out of debt, most always had a little means on hand.

Bought wheat we needed and payed down for it did not buy what we did not want. And now being eighty years old lacking a few weeks and my wife a little over eighty years, waiting for our deliverance, trusting in the Lord, thinking it is better to trust in him and keep his commandments, than to follow the traditions of men, finally to heed the instruction of Solomon, hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep his commandments which is the whole duty of man.

Lorancie Schellhous