Railroad’s Glory Days

 

 

In the glory days of railroading, the village of Wasepi between Nottawa and Mendon was an important junction. Here the Grand Rapids & Indiana and the Airline Division of the Michigan Central crossed. Up to six passenger trains and many freights passed daily through tiny but busy Wasepi. The two railroads operated a union station whose agent was employed jointly by the two lines. In 1880 the agent was Marc W. Conner, who also was agent for the American Express Co. and the U. S. Express Co. His son, William A. H. Conner, was telegraph operator for the two railroads at Wasepi and lived with his father. In their spare time, the two Conners operated the Wasepi Steam Elevator, whose capacity they advertised in the 1880 St. Joseph County Directory as being 16,000 bushels of grain. Another energetic entrepreneur at Wasepi was Frank W. Hoppins, the assistant ticket agent for the two railroads who was postmaster and proprietor of the Wasepi Hotel. The rate in 1880 was $1 a day. Wasepi was started with visions of a real city. In 1910 the population had grown to 300. By comparison, the population of Portage in that same year was only 100! At this point Wasepi could brag that they had stores, two hotels and a fruit-drying factory.

 

 

Looking north along the Grand Rapids & Indiana tracks where they crossed the Michigan Central Air Line at Wasepi. Shown at the left is the union station and part of its attached hotel.

 

Wasepi 1880 Business Directory

 CLASSIFIED BUSINESS DIRECTORY OF THE COUNTY 1880

WASEPI

 

Akey, Henry, laborer, Mendon road, east of Elevator

Air Line Steam Elevator, W. M Connor, prop; capacity 16,000 bushels of grain, Sturgis road

Banard, Rolland, farmer and notary public, Main st. west of Depot.

Bates, Frank, carpenter; res Main st. west of depot

Connor, Mare W. station agent MC (Air Line division) and G R & I railroads; also agent for American and U. S. Express Cos; res west of station.

Connor, Wm. A. H. telegraph operator G R & I  and M C railroad; bds with father

Dillingham, Jas. Farmer, cor Main st and Sturgis road

Frederick, Samuel H. laborer, cor Main st and Sturgis road

Hopkins, Frank M. propr Wasepi Hotel and asst ticket agent and post master

Johnson, Michael, laborer, res William st, near G R & I

Morton, Chas A. night target tender; res Main st, east of G R & I

Palmer, Chas A. farmer and dealer in drain tile, etc; res in township

Palmer, Cyrus A. blacksmith; shop and res Main st

Palmer, Ellis A. engineer; bds east of station

Palmer, Geo W, propr saw and cider mill; res east of station

Powers, Jerrold R. carpenter, William st, east of G R & I

Shaffer, Miss Thills, teacher; bds Wasepi Hotel

Thornton, W E, canvassing agent; res William st, east of G R & I

Wasepi Hotel, Frank M. Hopkins propr; rates $1 per day.

Weeks, Smith, farmer; res Sturgis st. south of elevator.