Mendon by Raymond Meyer




By Raymond  C. Meyer Sr., April 18, 1990: ”The first white visitors to the Michigan aborigines of Nottawa-seepe were missionaries. There were followed by the fur traders. Most of the early traders were French. The French had a much better track record with the Indians than that of the English.

The fort traders were Peter and J. J. Godfrol, located near the Marantette residence. The first settler was Francois Moutan. The next was Patrick Marantette; he took charge of the trading post and then married a daughter of Moutan.

Mr. Marantette had a very good relationship with the Indians. He built a beautiful home, called The Queen of the Prairie, next to the river off Simpson Road. I will never forget my visit there for Prairie Farmer WLS. I was awestruck when I beheld this beautiful historic dwelling. Mr. John Marantette was standing on the veranda as though he was expecting me. (Many times I was told that it was known that I was in the neighborhood). My visit here was one of the highlights of the day.

The Marantette raised and trained blooded horses, and about the turn of the century Madam Marantette was famous for her horsemanship and her trained ostrich that she raced and showed.

The next comers were Peter Neddeaux, Leander Metha, Moses Taft, William Harrington, Abraham Voorhees, Wesly Maring, James Barnabee, Fordyee and Samuel Johnson and the Wakeman brothers. Wakeman house has been restored and still offers accommodations.

These able men were active in Nottawa Township and then in 1843 organized their own township. Peter House came from Mendon, New York, and Moses Taft from Mendon, Massachusetts, so it was suggested that the new township be called Mendon; the suggestion was soon carried unanimously.

Mush of Mendon is prairie and there is little or no stone in the township. It is very productive soil. The St. Joseph river and the Big and Small Portage rivers and bear creek drain the township, and there is also Portage Lake.

In an early article I used The Trail of Broken Treaties by Chief Goodwin, who went to great lengths proving that EVERY one of the treaties we had with the Indians was broken by the whites. Before the Indians were forced off their reservations and ancestral land, the whites cast jaundiced eyes on that land; the white trespassed, cut the trees and allowed their livestock to destroy the Indians’ gardens; and if that wasn’t enough, the whites furnished whisky to them, which was forbidden by law. The proud Indian people were soon reduced to poverty.

Mendon suffered great loss by fire years ago, as so many villages had. I recall stores called the Hickmott Co., and Thoms Store in Nottawa Township. Ely & Meyer grocery & Market purchased the Thoms safe and when it was sold again it became the property of the Colon Creamery Co. One night, safe-crackers blew this old safe to rubble; they got nothing for their efforts; it was empty.

The G. R & I railroad served Mendon until recent years. It, like so many, could no longer compete. Cousin Paul Etheridge did chores for the Sturgis family that lived on Brandt Road. He would drive their daughters, who taught in Grand Rapids, to meet their train in Mendon.

There are several churches in Mendon and one at the crossroads of M-60 and Silver Street. The first services were held at the trading post by Roman Catholic missionaries in 1831-32 .  The first mass was celebrated in 1839.

The first frame school in the district was built in 1837. A school was taught in one of the log buildings of the trading post.

There are several cemeteries in the township, one on M-60. My great-grandfather Hatch and his son William are buried hear the highway in the latter.

There is a large corn-buying operation in the old elevator in the village next to where the railroad crossed. When I was with Prairie Farmer, the manager of the elevator lived at the corner of M-60 and Silver Street.

The first post office was established in 1859. The postmaster, William Pellet, was commissioned in 1858. The mail had been served through the Nottawa office prior to this. A former classmate, Lloyd Miller, once served Mendon as postmaster and Arden Mahoney was the postmaster when I was at Sherwood.

As a field representative for Prairie Farmer WLS, I was following the Centreville route at the time of the Grange Fair week in 1957. I decided to move to Mendon’s route one during this week, so I would meet more farmers at home. North of Mendon, I first met Mason Meyer. He had returned from the state police to operate the family farm after the death of his father. Later, Mason served as St. Joseph County Sheriff and also with the county historical society. Over the years we have met numerous times.

I also met the widow of Joe Olney; she was a school teacher and had just returned home when I called. Joe was the manager of the Colon Elevator company in the late 1920s and early ‘30s. Gay Dingman lived across from what is now Judd athletic field in Colon. A daughter, Dorothy, was living in Mendon at that time. I met Elwood Wills, and Carl and Lee Huff. Edna Huff went to school with my mother; she was a daughter off the late Louis Thrams. And I met George Copenhafer; he was head of PCA and he and the Huffs were raising and showing hogs.

Late one afternoon I called on Harold and Guila Eldridge. She was our teacher in the fifth grade. She was the mother of Paticia Wattles and a cousin of my good friends, Vere and Robert Mowry. Their land was level as a floor. They told me that they grain farmed and after the fall harvest traveled south for the winters. I enjoyed our visit.

Mendon high school has enjoyed the honors of championship athletic titile. I purchased a beautiful paint stallion of Jane Cupp. The stallion was named Champ after he school captured a championship.

Our Bicentennial Wagon Train in 1976 received a tumultuous welcome on the Mendon streets, which were lined with patriots waving flags as we paraded down M-60 and through the town to the school ground. Here their school band played some beautiful numbers as we circled the wagons. I was so glad that I could take part in this once-in-a-lifetime event. I pulled out then, to join again west of Bronson on the 17th of May, then joined it at Coldwater and separated on the 19th.”