GO-GETTER WRITES OF PIONEER DAYS
From the Colon Express, June 7, 1928: ”As promised last week, we are continuing our history of the community, with a brief outline of the village: –
In 1832, George Shellhouse and an Indian trader, name Hatch, laid off a plot of ground for a village. In casting about for a name, Lorensi Schellhouse turned to a dictionary, one of the few books of the day, for an inspiration. His eyes fell on the word ‘colon’, and he turned to his brother and said, “let’s call it Colon, for its two lakes for two dots on the map.”
Things were very quiet in the village for the next two years and it was not until the completion of the flourmill by Dr. Isaac Voorhis, in 1839, that Colon began its upward climb. The first run of stones for this mill was dressed by Wm. Eck of Three Rivers, and he also ground the first grist.
We now hear of John H. and Wm. F. Bowman, who were very prominent in the formative period of the village. In January 1844, they made the first survey to be recorded. The first retail stock of goods was displayed by Chas. L. Miller in 1841, using a cooper shop until he could build a store building. Then followed other industries. A wagon shop, operated by Erastus Mills, in 1846, and the foundry, by Shuert & Duel, in 1847. in 1854 Wm. Bowman opened a planning mill on the site of Anderson’s blacksmith shop.
Sometime just prior to 1860,l David Brownfield built the tannery, which of course was in operation since many of us today can remember. In 1851, E. Hill and sons commenced in the retail business and were leaders until 1863. the sons later engaged in the banking business and founded the exchange bank of E. Hill & Sons’ in 1870. In 1908 a re-organization took place and the present E. Hill & Sons’ State Bank resulted.
The greatest and most important feature in the development of Colon was in securing the railroad. This was first undertaken in 1863-64, when the Grand Trunk of Canada wanted direct communication with Chicago from Port Huron. The line was being considered from Jackson to Centreville and the first meeting was held in Jackson in 1865. Among the citizens prominent in locating the railroad here were Henry K. Farrand, Dr. A. J. Kinnie, C. B. Hoffman and E. R. Hill. Shortly after this meeting in Jackson, the company was organized under the name of the Grand Trunk Railroad of Michigan and subscriptions were obtained therefore. The Grand Trunk of Canada did not keep their part of the agreement and gave no financial aid. The stockholders then took other steps and changed the name of the company to the Michigan Air Line Railroad, and asked the village to help finance them by bonding the town for $36,000.00. The records show this proposition was defeated. The above gentlemen then got busy and raised and collected $38,000.00 in subscription and the road was graded. Again the village was asked to help and this time voted $25,000.00 and the road to Colon was completed on July 3rd, 1871.
That the railroad paid, is shown by the figures from the agent, F. L. Thompson. During the year 1876, from Colon, seven million, thirteen thousand, eight hundred and ninety-two pounds of freight were shipped, including 7450 bushels of grain. The ticket sales for that year were $3,082.45. The first newspapers in the village were the Colon Enterprise, edited by H. Egabrod, and the Colon Standard in 1875, by L. E. Jacobs. This was a democrat sheet and had a fair circulation. The first Colon Express was published in the fall of 1886 by McDowell brothers.
There are no dates recorded, but the first resident lawyer mentioned was Hiram Draper. He practiced his profession just once and was beaten in the case by Henry Farrand. Next in prominence to the railroad for the welfare of the community was the founding of the Lamb Knit Goods Company in 1889. Issac W. Lamb, inventor of the knitting machine from which the company took its name, was superintendent during its first year of operation in the village. Every year has seen a large increase in volume of business until today the company is recognized as one of the leaders in the manufacture of knitted outerwear.
Schools and churches always play a prominent part in the welfare of a community and Colon was justly proud of the fact that she had the best of both of any township in the county. The first Methodist Episcopal society was formed in 1844. The Baptist was formed in 1845. In August 1837, school district No. 4 was laid out and included the village. The first schoolhouse was of logs and on the Castle farm east of town. The first frame school house was built in 1847 and used until 1853, when the seminary company was formed and school held in another frame building, until 1862, the three story portion of what is now the Lamb Knit Goods Company building was built and classes were held there. In 1871, the district was incorporated as a union district and the schools have progressed until today the high school is on the University accredited list, a much-sought honor.
(Note – The township history of last week and this article regarding Colon village in the early days was prepared and submitted by Ray M. Farrand, of the publicity committee of the Go-Getters).”