Robert Cowles, 13, Killed

Tragedy on Long Lake

Colon Express, October 2, 1941: “The duck hunting season opened Wednesday morning and because of it, sadness prevailed in a Battle Creek family. Robert Cowles, 13, was killed instantly at Long Lake when a gun was accidentally discharged. Robert and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lester Cowles, and grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Culp, came out to the home of Roy Jenkins at Findley Tuesday evening to spend the night, and the men went duck hunting early yesterday morning on Long Lake. About 3:00 P. M. they landed their boat at the Steinke landing on the southeast shore of the lake. Robert was in the brow of the boat, his father rowing, and his grandfather in the back seat. The boy evidently intended to remove the guns from the boat, and after picking up one gun, reached for the other and as he drew it toward him, it is believed the guns came together in such a manner as to discharge one of these, the discharge striking the boy in the head, killing him almost immediately. The coroner was called and the body was taken to a Sturgis undertaking parlor and later removed to Battle Creek.”

Maurice Kane Electrocuted 1941

Colon Man Electrocuted

Colon Express, May 8, 1941: “The most shocking news of the death of Maurice Kane reached here last evening. Maurice was electrocuted yesterday afternoon while on duty for the Detroit-Edison Company in Detroit. Maurice was assisting in placing a service wire into a building. He was connecting the service wire to the building when the loose wire came into contact with a 4800-volt line, this current passing through his body. Inhalators and other equipment were rushed to the spot by firemen and others called in emergencies of this kind, and after working over Maurice for nearly three hours, failed to restore a heart beat, and he was pronounced dead at 6:45. Dr. G. E. Godfrey, Mr. Kane’s father-in-law, accompanied Mr. Conklin to Detroit, leaving here at ten o’clock and returning with the body at 7:30 this morning. While the funeral arrangements have not been definitely decided, it will be held Sunday afternoon, probably at the Conklin Funeral Home or the Methodist Church. Maurice L. Kane was 38 years of age, born May 11, 1903, the son of William and Berta Kane, and his school days and early life were spent at the farm home just east of Colon. He followed the carpenter trade for some time, then took up the work as lineman for the Consumers Power Company in Battle Creek. After three years with this company, he was employed by the Myers Electric Construction Co., working out of Jackson. Only four weeks ago Maurice transferred to a much better job with the Detroit-Edison company in Detroit. Mrs. Kane was in Detroit Friday and Saturday with her husband and while there they started proceedings to purchase a home in Dearborn. If the immediate family surviving are the bereaved widow, Louise, and their two children, Richard aged 4 years and Barbara aged six months, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wm, Kane and two sisters, Mrs. Mildred Johnson of Kalamazoo and Mr. L. E. Hart of Elkhart. Mrs. Kane and children are at the home of her parents, Dr. and Mrs. G. E. Godfrey.”

The next week’s issue reported on the funeral; “Funeral Services for Maurice Kane were held from the Conklin Funeral Home at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon. Seating capacity was not adequate to take care of the many friends of Maurice who came to pay final respect and more than one hundred assembled outside. The beautiful flowers formed a complete blanket over the grave in Lakeside Cemetery. The Rev. Richard Beckett, pastor of the local Methodist Church, officiated. The casket bearers were Randall Wattles, Lyle Michael, Earl Brown, Virgil Farrand, Henry Alderman and Ray Gibbs.”

Robert Wagner Writes WWII

Robert Wagner Writes Home

Colon Express, October 12, 1944: “Mr. & Mrs. Irwin Wagner received a letter from their son, Robert, written September 5: At last I am getting around to write again. We have been so busy lately that we have hardly had time to wash our face and hands once a day. Well, we have battled our way to Belgium. I wonder where we are going next. I don’t think there are very many who don’t have some idea and I think they’re right. It has been sort of hard the last few days, but it’s been fun in another. I can’t tell you what has happened, but we really have had a time … never a dull moment. I have helped chase the so and so’s too darn far to give in now. I never got to see Paris on the way up, but I hope to go back after the fighting is done and see what the place is like. I would like to spend about a year after the war going around these countries. The last few days in France the people were really good to us. One day we were moving up and had to stop for a while. The people who lived in the house that we stopped by were eating dinner and they had some pie. As hard up as they were for food, they gave us the pie, and believe me it really seemed good to get something like that, as we get darn awful tired eating out of a tin can. We can’t complain about our food. There is hardly a time when we don’t have all we want. Boy, these truck companies sure had to work keeping stuff up to us. The Germans would blow a bridge and before the smoke would get settled, here would be some outfit behind us with a bridge. We would put it across and take off again. We saw some of the old places that were used in the other war. They were pretty well caved in, trees have grown up around them, so you couldn’t tell much what they were really like, but you could tell that they were old trenches. Well, I must close, as I want to find out where there is a radio. I haven’t heard any new for nearly a week. Love, Bob.”  January 28, 1941: “John Perry is now in business “on his own” purchasing Hill’s Hardware last week. The business is not new to John, as he has managed the store for the late Mrs. S. G. Hill for the past four years. Mr. Perry had a bit of bad luck this week, coming down with the mumps on Monday and has been confined to his house since. Rather an inappropriate time to be compelled to take time out as the week of the opening of the fishing season is the rush time of the year in that particular business. John Lake is doing his best to take care of the business until the new proprietor returns.” In 1931: “Kenneth Robbins was seriously injured in a crack-up as he was attempting to land his Waco airplane at the Kellogg airport in Battle Creek, Tuesday afternoon, June 27th.

Muriel Eberhard Writes WWII

Lieutenant Muriel Eberhard Writes

Colon Express, January 18, 1945: “Dear Family; It’s ages since I’ve written you a newsy letter so here goes for a try at it. It seemed, as though we were about due to move, if Lt. Dawson and I shampooed our hair and did it up in pin curls, we were sure to leave pronto. I have traveled Europe and England with my hair up in pin curls under a knit cap … such glamour … and my combat suit of clothes is so flattering to ones figure. You should see me … G. I long underwear (bless it) wool inner liners and outer trousers and wool shirt plus field coat and liner. Knit cap, with helmet liner and steel helmet, wool socks … two pair, and field shoes with 4-buckle artics. It’s quite a job to dig down to find me. Most of our quarters were not heated so we didn’t do much undressing to go to bed … just the outer layer. When we crossed the channel we were on British food rations and ate in a dining room with white tablecloths, china and silverware. We hardly knew how to eat with such equipment, as it is a very drastic change from mess gear. We lived for a while in a French Chateau, which had been used by the Germans as hospital, the French said. Some of the rooms still have wallpaper on them … it was large flowers in quite gay colors, and there were lots of bath-rooms, but French plumbing isn’t so good at times. So far I have managed to skip pup tents and slit trenches, but that’s about all. We went through the mess line inside but had to go out into the yard to ear our food. You should see me balancing my mess gear and trying to keep an eye on my canteen cup so someone wouldn’t step on it. One morning, horror of horrors, I spilled my breakfast and had to make a second run through the mess line. We had a hardboiled egg for lunch the Saturday before Christmas, the first fresh egg I’d seen for several weeks. This morning I had an apple, my first since Thanksgiving Day. One of the patients was going to throw them away but we nurses saved them to eat. I have an orthopedic ward at present, so my experience at Percy Jones should help now. Also I had a piece of fruitcake this morning … another gift from a patient. He had gotten it for a Christmas present. Can you picture me, who never cared for fruitcake, enjoying it? Well, I did. We lived on C. and K. rations for several days and they are sufficient so far as their nutritional value goes, but they can’t be considered the best of food. I even got some that were packed by Kellogg in Battle Creek. It sure looked like home. This year we had our Christmas dinner sitting on our blanket rolls in a train station. It consisted of a turkey sandwich and nothing ever tasted quite so good. By rumor I hear that we are to have turkey with all the trimmings tomorrow … oh happy days, if that one is true. At present Rousch and myself are sharing a double room, but within a few days Dawson and I expect to have a double room together. Last night (letter was written Dec 30) I sent you a V-mail asking for my glasses … those I want rather much. When you can, I should like you to send some face cream. I never used creams before but I sure need something over here. I’m wearing those seersucker uniforms now, at long last, and the French maids will do our washing so I guess we will be able to keep clean. At present, everything I own is dirty, and I do mean dirty. Have seen a lot of French clothes but haven’t bought any as it does not seem worth the price at present. I have what I need anyway. We will have our footlocker soon and then I can get at the radio Capt. Campbell loaned me … oh happy day that will be. Guess it is time to close for this time. Will write again when I can. Love, Muriel.”


William Oldenberg Dies

Colon Fire is Fatal

May 17, 1945; Colon Express: “At approximately seven o’clock last Sunday evening the fire department rushed to Herman Oldenberg home on the east side. Discovering that an error had been made, they speeded to the William F. Oldenberg home on the west side, a house owned by Mrs. Jennie Hovis of Brunson. By that time the fire in the dwelling had been extinguished by the prompt and heroic work of Charles Snyder and Henry Slagle. Prior to getting ready to attend the evening church service, Mr. Oldenberg was starting a fire in the circulating heater in the dining room. Unaware of live coals in the stove, Mr. Oldenberg poured kerosene from a five-gallon can containing about a gallon of oil. The can exploded with such intensity that the bottom was blown out and Mr. Oldenberg was saturated with burning oil. He ran from the house a flaming torch, cast off his coat on the porch and rolled in the grass in a vain attempt to extinguish the fire. Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Hopper of Hamlet, Indiana, mother and stepfather of Mrs. Oldenberg were visiting in the Oldenberg home, and Mr. Hopper seized a heavy woolen blanket and Mrs. Oldenberg a gunny sack and extinguished the flames that encircled her husband. Neighbors hearing the explosion and the cries of Mrs. Oldenberg hurried to the tragic scene. Billy Kiefer and Rily Schaeffer promptly placed Mr. Oldenberg into the Hopper car and drove him to Dr. Brunson’s home and not finding him in, drove to Dr. Hoekzema’s home, who was also out. They then went to George Conklin’s for an ambulance and he too was gone. A few minutes later Dr. Brunson came along in his car and the men hailed him. Mr. Oldenberg was immediately transferred from the Hopper car into Dr. Brunson’s car and no time was lost in rushing him to Sturgis Memorial hospital where he died the following day. While Dr. Brunson had little or no hope of Mr. Oldenberg’s recovery, he faithfully remained with him several hours, doing what he could under the circumstances. Mrs. Hopper was trapped in the house but made her way out to safety, sustaining only slight burns on her forehead and the back of her neck. Five-year-old Esther Oldenberg was trapped in the bedroom just off of the dining room and remained there until her Grandmother Oldenberg, discovering the child was not outside, rushed into the house and through the fire and smoke and brought her out to safety. The fire was confined to the dining room where it did considerable damage. Every room in the house received its share of smoke. William Oldenberg was born on December 11, 1891. He married Bertha Crabb in 1915 and had three children; Doris, Herman, and Roy.”

John Tenney Letter Home WWII

John Tenney’ Letter Home in WWII

“Dear Mother and Dad: I was over Japan on V-J day! It was some ride, some 3,000 miles in a B-29 from our Saipan field to Osaka. I was lucky to go on a mission dropping “Prisoner of War” supplies. We left Saipan about three in the morning. I took a little nap right away. When I awakened it was just sunrise time and the clouds were beautiful floating along below us. We flew over Iwo and didn’t see much for sometime. Another catnap and woke up to find it foggy out. I decided to play tail gunner and crawled back in the tail and sat there for an hour or so. I had on earphones and told the pilot I was back there. I was a bit nervous when I heard the pilot and the navigator discuss the rough weather and when the order came to give the navigator my name, rank, and serial number, I was beginning to wish someone else had made the trip. Finally the fog opened up and we dove down through a break. We flew pretty low over the water and were ordered to wear our Mae West’s in case we crash landed. Next I tried sitting on the waist gunner’s seat and from there I saw the Japanese coastline. The radar man was busy now trying to adjust our radar set which is invaluable in showing the height of mountains. We followed the coastline to Osaka. The terrain was similar to Oregon, rocky and covered with pines. Occasionally one would see very nice homes snuggled in the hills. We passed over many small fishing boats or “sampans” as they say out here. When we finally reached Osaka we saw numbers of sunken ships in the harbor. We circled over the city until we saw our American Prisoner of War Camp, all well marked with big white P. W’s on the road. We buzzed over once and how they all waved! Again we circled back and really came in low. The supplies were dropped and all the red and green chutes landed right in the field by the camp. We buzzed over again and away went another load. The first bunch had already been picked up. The boys below all waved very happily and I bet they were plenty glad to get the food and other necessities. Then away on a little joy ride around Osaka and viewing the great damage done there by our bombers. Many blocks were burned level, factories completely wrecked and harbor installations ruined. I was quite amazed to see modern hotels, streetcars and theatres. It made me almost homesick to see a city even in Japan, which had a resemblance to those back in the U.S.A., which I haven’t seen for such a long time. The pilot meanwhile was very kindly talking like a guide on a tour. I think he was enjoying it also and he would say, “look off to your left at that Jap castle,” or some other scenic object. I attempted to take pictures but it was dark from a recent rain and I fear they will not be successful. The Jap civilians don’t seem overly excited at our appearance, at least they did not run. However groups of them were looking up and traffic stopped for a mile back. Probably a bomber without bombs was a real novelty. When we passed over a train low, I could see people’s heads out of the windows. We then climbed high and took off for Iwo. The cabin was pressurized. We all wore our chutes as it was plenty foggy but before we hit Iwo the fog cleared. I had been sleeping but now the waist gunner wanted a rest so I took his seat and got quite a kick out of saying “Waist gunner to pilot there’s another 29 at 3 o’clock” and the pilot answered, “Roger.” Iwo was a barren looking Island. It was quite flat and with little of the green foliage that Saipan and most of the islands have. We had just enough gas to reach home so we didn’t stop. We had radioed in earlier that we would but now the weather was clear with smooth flying, so we kept right on to our Marianna base high up over the clouds. A few ships below looked like rowboats. We landed very smoothly at our home field in Saipan just at sunset. I am very glad I could make this trip. I feel amazed that such intricate and “Buck Roigerish” type instruments can actually be made and controlled by man. You needn’t start worrying; I probably will never be able to take another ride. There were only two of us from the communications group who made it. We were just lucky that our names were the ones drawn from the hat and also that the plan wasn’t scratched at the last minute as many were. So now I can always remember a wonderful experience on this day of Victory. Good night, John.”

John Tenney, son of Mark and Amelia Tenney of Colon, died recently in Florida.

Joe Schonover and Horse

Joe Schonover and The Pulling Horse!


Joe Ganger


Found in the Historical Society Archives; author was Ralph Clement, date is unknown: “Joe ran a livery barn in Colon. It was located on Blackstone Avenue about midway between the Davis Hotel and State Street. He was a big man, is his 60’s, and weighed well over 200 pounds. One day he was sitting on a salt barrel in front of our store on State Street, and several other men were there also. My father drove up with a nice looking bay horse hitched to a buggy and tied him to the hitching post. As my father came onto the sidewalk, Joe spoke to him and said, “Charley, if I had to drive a horse with all that toggle on him I would stop driving horses.”  The “toggle” which Joe spoke about was the arrangement of the reins. They were not buckled to the bit, but were fastened to the back band securely, then brought forward to a small pulley, fastened to the bit, then back into the buggy.  My father said, “Joe, you get in and drive around the block and see how he drives.” Joe did just that. He backed the horse onto the road, headed west, got in the buggy, picked up the reins the same way he drove his old livery horses. Each line had a foot or more of slack. He slapped the loose lines on the horse’s back and said, “GITTAP’. The horse did not know what to make of such treatment! He jumped forward and broke into a keen run. He went west to Blackstone Avenue, turned left, going south towards the Lamb Knit Goods factory. I ran to the corner. The horse was running as fast as he could go, but at the end of the street managed to turn left onto Franklin Street. It was one block to the barn, which stood just off the street to the right. The horse was going too fast to turn into the open barn door and plunged into a big stack of hay, which stood near the barn. Dr. Hartman’s barn was across the street one-half block away. His caretaker, a young colored man, had seen him go by. He quickly went over and helped Joe dig the horse out of the haystack. They got him out and neither the horse nor Joe was hurt. The young man said, “Joe, I guess everything is alright. Now you can get in the buggy and drive the horse back.”  “No,” said Joe, “I will never ride behind that horse again! You drive him down to Charley.” So the young caretaker did just that, going right down Swan Street to State Street. We, at the store, saw him coming. A wide grin was on his face. He knew how to drive such a horse. He tied him to the hitching post. The episode was over.”

The Godfrey’s by Monk Watson

Monk’s Memories of the Godfrey Family!

Written by Monk Watson in 1967: “As I look back through the years I can hear, “Hold your horses, here comes Dr. Godfrey in that new horseless carriage.” The Doctor had one of the first automobiles in this part of the country. It was a great thrill for me to be asked to take a ride over the country roads to visit a patient with the good doctor. He also had a very different bicycle with no chain. This he would ride to make local calls near his office. He even let me ride that bike a couple of times. I’m talking about Ervin Godfrey and the year was about 1902. He had followed in his father’s footsteps, as his father had become one of the outstanding doctors in St. Joseph County. In the history of the county it mentions Dr. L. M. Godfrey, father of Ervin, as one of the leading widely known physicians of the homeopathic school of medicine. So Ervin had a good start here in Colon, where he stepped into a good practice made possible by his father.




Dr. Ervin Godfrey standing by his car in front of his home.


In 1885 Ervin built one of the show places in St. Joseph County, in handsome brick home, which is still standing and still beautiful to look at. Dr Erwin and his wife had five children, three boys and two girls. Dr. Glenn Godfrey followed along, but he studied to be a dentist, opening his office in the Opera House block in 1906, and remained in that office until he retired after over 50 years of taking care of not only Colon, but patients from all over Michigan. Dr Glenn was named “man of the year” and the banquet hall was crowded and he was met with a standing ovation when he gave a short talk. Glenn, as we all knew him, was president of the Southwestern Michigan Dental Society, life member of the Colon Masonic bodies and Order of Eastern Star. Glenn and his wife, Louise Kane, of Sturgis had two fine children. When Louise moved from Colon, it closed the book on one of the finest families in Colon Township. So now we have a beautiful brick home of Dr. Ervin, and the large white home of the Glenn Godfrey family. The brick house is now the very modern and lovely funeral home of Ted Schipper, and the big white house is now the home of the Allen Kings.”


The only change to add to Monk’s article is an update. It is still the Schipper Funeral Home, with Todd Schipper at the helm, but Baker’s own the white house. The Opera House Block, in case you don’t know, is the building that stood at the present location of Citizen’s Bank. For those of us who remember Dr. Glenn Godfrey, the good memories are a bit blurred by memories of that old slow drill. What a difference fifty years makes in the agonies associated with a dentist visit.


The Opera House Block is now gone.

Charles W. Knox Obituary, 1931



From The Colon Express, April 2, 1931: “Charles W. Know, eldest son of William and Frances Knox, was born at Nottawa, Michigan, on Feb 10, 1877, and departed this life Thursday evening, March 26, 1931, at the age of 54 years.

He spent his boyhood days at the parental home in Nottawa, and in 1896 was united in marriage to Miss Emma Kleinfeldt, who survives him. To this union were born two children, John W. Knox and Mrs. Hilda Hovis of Colon.

At the age of nineteen Mr. Knox entered into the employ of the Lamb Knit Goods Company of Colon, where he worked almost continuously through the remaining years of his life.
While not in the best of health for some months he was forced to give up his work only three weeks prior to his death and on March 5, was taken to the New Borgess hospital in Kalamazoo, where an operation was performed which proved to be to no avail. Despite the surgical and medical aid and the almost constant attention and comforting of his wife and children, death proved the victor in his brave struggle for live and health.

“The achievement of greatness in a public sense was neither his ambition nor desire. His interests centered in his home and family, and when his own little family had grown to manhood and womanhood the companionship of his two grandchildren, Raymond and Juanita Hovis, was ever a source of pleasure to him. While his utmost thought was always to do for his own, it was also his ambition and desire to be a friend to all and the host of friends who mourn his passing is evidence of the realization of this desire.  His genial smile and hearty greeting will be sadly missed by his fellow works and all with whom he was wont to come in contact.

Besides his widow and two children he leaves to mourn their loss, six sisters, two brothers, two grandchildren and many other relatives and numerous friends.

Funeral services were held at two o’clock on Sunday afternoon, March 29, in the Colon Methodist Church. Reverend Frederick M. Clough, pastor, officiating. Interment was in lakeside cemetery.

Oliver B. Culver’s Will

From the Union City Newspaper



The Last Testament of This Wealthy Matteson Farmer is Read

Mary and Oliver B. Culver

Oliver B. Culver, the wealthy Matteson township farmer who died several weeks ago, was the uncle of Mrs. Glenn G. Worden, of this city, and Mr. and Mrs. Worden went to the Culver home in Matteson, Monday to hear the will read. Mr. Culver’s chief benefactors were to Colon Village, and to Miss Mattie Myers, who lived with him for some time. To Colon he gave funds for a fine public library, and to Miss Myers he gave about $22,000. The whole estate was valued at $38,000. Below may be found a summary of the Culver benefactions, and from them it will be noted that Mrs. Worden will receive $400.

Village of Colon $15,000 for a library building and $1,000 for library books.

Village of Colon, Village property valued at $300.

John Green, $1,000.

Chas. Culver, $500.

Mrs. Glenn G. Worden, of Union City, $400.

Bertha Clinefeldt, $100.

Mr. Maynard, $100.

Mrs. Maynard, $100

Mr. Thrams, $100.

Harding Brothers, $100.

Mr. Babcock, $100.

Methodist, Baptist, St. Paul’s and Grace Churches of Colon, $500 each.

Matteson Township, for keeping cemetery lot, $500.

Mattie Myers, $1,000 and the residue of estate, estimated at $22,000.




According to the inflation calculator, $38,000 in 1910 would be equivalent to $922,384.00 in 2012 dollars.


For those who got $100, that is equivalent to $2,427.32 in 2012 dollars.