Something We Could All Cry About
With a new township/village fire station and village water system improvements, let’s go back “not long ago” when Colon didn’t have a fire department to speak of and no water system at all.
About 1890 the Thomas Jefferson Hill family built a house at what is the present site of the Jack and Iona Robbins home, on the corner of St. Joseph and State Street, one block west of the light. That would be on the corner just across the street from the medical building just across from Abbott’s Magic Company. In 1906 a son, Frank Hill added on another part for his mother to live in and he and his family lived on the other side. In 1919 the very large 2 ½ story duplex was sold to Mr. and Mrs. George C. Wattles Sr. and Mr. and Mrs. George A. Wattles Jr., and each moved into one side.
On the sad day of February 5, 1931, Mr. and Mrs. George Wattles, Jr. and their daughter, Barbara, and son-in-law (Kenneth Robbins) and children (Olive, Ken, and Jack ) were off on an extended trip to Texas. Mr. and Mrs. Ed Correll were driving by about eleven that Sunday morning when they noticed a fire in the upper story of the home.
The only fire department equipment was a small chemical outfit. Needless to say, they could do nothing to extinguish what, at this point, was a fairly small fire. The call went out to neighboring fire departments and the best battle plan was to simply try to save other buildings. Meanwhile, neighbors turned out in force to save what furniture could be saved.
The Sturgis community fire truck was the first to arrive, followed by Coldwater, Sherwood, and Mendon. All water used to fight fires had to be hauled on trucks. Burning embers flew all over the area and roof fires were extinguished at the homes of W. R. Scott, O. C. Shane, Chester Smith, G. E. Godfrey, J. E. Mosher, Jerome Slagle, G. E. Farrand, and the Methodist Church.
The home was a total loss, and to make matters worse, George Bond’s home burned the next day. This prompted a public meeting and the move began to establish a water system and to create a fire department.
I am told that the Wattles and Robbins families cried all the way home from Texas.