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History of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) online

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ment which enabled the farmer to haul his produce to market with the
least strain on his horses and the least wear and tear on his wagon ;
everything done to facilitate the traveler on his way has added to the
happiness and contentment of the rural dwellers, to the value of the
farms and to the general prosperity of the country. No equal amount
of money invested has paid a larger dividend or been distributed among
so many people as that expended in the betterment of the public high-
ways.

The old world long ago realized the importance of this cjuestion and
the roads built centuries before our republic had an existence are still
monuments to the skill and enterprise of the ancients. Modern Europe
has done much to improve lier highways and the roads in England and
on the Continent are a never ceasing delight to the local builders and
users as well as to the tourists from all lands.

In the older sections of our own country long strides have been taken
in the betterment of public highways. Every traveler over the country
roads in New England speaks of their beauty and perfection. The
people of New York and Pennsylvania have spent large sums in this
direction. Ohio and Indiana, our near neighbors, have spent many
millions on road improvement and every mile of good road built creates a
demand for more as they see the great advantage, particularly to the



100 HISTORY OF CALHOUN COUNTY

The people of Michigan are awakening- to the importance of this
movement. Recent legislatures have taken action and have put upon the
statute books laws designed to encourage by standardizing different types
of road construction varying in cost per mile, by requiring that the
work be done in a thorough and systematic manner under competent
directors and by so distributing the cost that every tax payer shares in
the payment of all roads built and accepted by the State. This move-
ment is so new in our State and so imperfectly understood and its
general adoption is so sure to leave a visible and enduring landmark from
which the future will measure progress that we feel justified in treating
the subject somewhat at length.



The County Road System Submitted

On the eleventh day of October, 1911, at a regular session of the
Calhoun County Board of Supervisors, E. H. Puffer submitted the
following :

Whereas, it is deemed advisable by the Board of Supervisoi-s here
assembled that a change in the method of constructing highways be con-
sidered, therefore,

Be It Resolved : That the question of adopting the County road sys-
tem be submitted to a vote of the electors of the County of Calhoun at
, the general election to be held on the first day of April, 1912.

iloved by E. H. Puffer and supported by P. E. Strong that the
matter be laid on the table and be made a special order on Wednesday,
October 18, at 10:30 o'clock A. M.

The Board of Supervisors was called to order at ten o'clock A. M.,
October 18, 1911, by Ralph S. Doolittle, Chairman. On roll call mem-
bers answered to their names except John Cotter, Reuben Drinkwater,
Bert Milbourn, Charles Gillis, D. C. Salisbury and C. H. Clute.

It was moved by E. H. Puffer and supported by E. F. Hough that the
Good Roads Resolution be taken from the table. The motion prevailed.
Moved by E. H. Puffer and supported by E. E. Simmons the adoption
of the report.

Mr. Puffer called to the attention of the Board that Mr. Bryant was
present and requested that he be allowed to address the Board on the
question of good roads. After listening to Mr. Brvant, the aye and nay
vote was called for upon the adoption of the resolution with the follow-
ing result: Ayes; G. J. Ashley, Julius Crosby, F. W. Culver, Ralph
Doolittle, A. Emmons, R. E. Eldred, Antone Egeler, George T. Fuller,
James J. Fahey, Julius S. Hall, William T. Hamilton, E. F. Hough,
Burton Hunt, Otis A. Leonard, John Lidaner, C. W. Lewis, Frederick
Katz, Charles Kilmer, L. Monroe, John H. Manby, J. K. O'Hara. E. H.
Puffer, Milton Reed, H. J. Schwark, Frank E." Smith, E. E. Simons,
F. E. Strong, C. E. Wildy, Erwin Warsop, James E. Walkinshaw,
Thomas Celinsky; Nays, Ralph Erskine, Thomas Hunt. The vote stand-
ing thirty-one ayes and two nays. The Chair declared the resolution
adopted.



HISTORY OP CALIIOrX COrXTY 101

The County Road System Adopted

In aeeordaiK'e with the atifiniiative action of the Board of Supervisors,
the question of adopting the County road system was siihniitted to a vote
of tlie electors of the County at the general election held on the first
day of April, 1912, and carried. The vote of the Supervisors ratified by
the people places Calhoun County in the list of forty-four progressive
counties in the State which have already adopted the County system.
Elmer Thompson, Frank ^Mahrlc and George Peet have been appointed
a Board of Count.y Road Coiiimissioners. On the first Monday in April
next, their successors will be elected by the people to serve two, four
and six years respectively from the first day of ^lay, lill:^, and tliere-
after one Commissioner shall be biennially elected for tlie full term
of six years.

The law provides that "any road heretofore laid out, or any part
thereof, shall become a Count.y road if the Board of County Road Com-
missioners shall at any time so determine." It further provides that
after service and publication of such determination "the Board of
County Road Commissioners shall have sole and exclusive jurisdiction
and control of such roads so embraced within such determination, and
the township or inuiiicijijdity within which the same is situated shall be
relieved of all I'espoiisibility therefor."

The law. section li), further provides that the "Board of County
Commissioners shall have authority to grade, drain, construct, gravel or
macadamize, any road under their control or to place thereon any other
form of improvement, which in their judgment may be best, and may
extend and enlarge such improvements; they shall have authority to
construct bridges and culverts on the line of such road and to repair
and maintain the roads, bridges and culverts; they shall have all the
authority in respect to such roads, bridges and culverts which is inves-
ted in highway olificers in townships. ' '

In determining the County tax, section 20 says: "On or tiefore the
first day of October of each year the said Board of County Road Com-
missioners shall determine upon the amount of tax which in their judg-
ment shall be raised for such year in said County for the purposes afore-
said, specifying and itemizing the roads and parts of roads upon which
such moneys are to be expended, stating the amount asked for each of
such roads. * * * Such tax shall not exceed two dollars on each one
thousand dollars of assessed valuation according to the assessment roll of
the last preceding year in counties where such valuation is, (as in Cal-
houn, Ed.) more than twenty millions of dollars." At the annual meet-
ing of the Board of Supervisors in October, the determination of the
County Road Commissioners for their consideration and if a n;ajority of
the Supervisors approve the same, then "such tax shall be apportioned
among the several townships and cities of said County according to
their equalized valuation."

The law provides in section 21, that the "said Board of County
Road Commissioners shall have no power to contract indebtedness for
any amount in excess of the moneys credited to such Board and actually
in tlie hands of the County Treasurer. Provided, that the board may



102 HISTORY OF CALHOUN COUNTY

incur liability upon contracts after a tax is voted to an amount not ex-
ceeding three-fourths of the said tax." Even the Supervisors cannot
contract indebtedness or issue bonds to raise money for the construction
and maintenance of roads without first submitting the proposition to
and receiving the endorsement of the electors of the County at a general
or at a special election called for that purpose.

The law further provides, section 28, that "The Board of Super-
visors of any County, which has adopted or may hereafter adopt the
County road system, may, upon petition of ten freeholders residing in
each of the several townships, incorporated cities and villages in the
County, submit the question of rescinding the vote by which it was
adopted and the resolution to submit and all proceedings thereto, shall,
as nearly as may be, follow the forms and manner of proceedings pro-
vided for voting on the question of adopting the County road system."

When any County votes to rescind the action whereby it adopted the
County road system, "this act shall cease to be operative except for the
purpose of completing work under contract at the time of such re-



The rewards allowed by the State are $250.00, $500.00, $700.00 and
$1000.00 per mile, the reward varying with the style and cost of con-
struction.

The People the Masters

A careful reading of the laws relating to good roads will show that
the people are the real masters of the situation. There can be no Coun-
ty road system instituted in any County without the expressed assent
of a majority of the people, and the system when once adopted, can be
rescinded at any time by a majority vote of the electors.

The rate of taxation for road improvement under the County system
is limited by law. In Calhoun County, it having more than forty million
dollars of assessed valuation, the tax cannot exceed, it may be less, two
mills on the dollar. It will be seen that if a man's property is assessed
at $1,000.00 he would pay $2.00 good road tax. If a farmer or city
dweller is assessed at $5,000.00, he would pay a road tax of $10.00 a
year.

The Board of Supervisors controls the entire system. Not a mile of
road can be built nor a dollar raised by taxation, for this purpose, with-
out their approval. The Board of County Road Commissioners are the
servants of the Supervisors and the Supervisors are the servants of the
people; any member of the board being subject to recall at any spring
election.

The advantage of the system is greatly with the farmer. For under
the County Road law, all County roads end at the corporation line of
cities and villages, whereas the burden of taxation for the building of
such roads is divided between the State, cities and villages and the agri-
cultural property ; whereas under the law as it was, the burden falls en-
tirely on the agricultural property.

Tlie law provides that no township can build more than three miles
in any one year and receive therefor a state reward; but the County



HISTORY OF CALHOUN COUNTY 103

system makes continuous main roads with no breaks at the township
lines.

It is worthy of note that if a County does not adopt the County
road system, it submits to a State tax for tlie good of those who do,
without any direct benefit to itself.

Of the forty-four counties in Michigan which have, up to this time,
1912, adopted the County road system, not one has submitted or pro-
posed to submit the recall, while a number, seeing the great benefits de-
rived, have asked that the maximum tax be imposed.

If the County road system shall continue in force through a series
of years, it will gradually work a revolution in the condition of our
highways ; it will make the farm home more accessible and more desirable
as a place to live ; it will beautify and cause more of the urban people
to come in contact with and enjoy the country, and last but not least,
it will advance the value of all farm property.



CHAPTER VIII

BANKS, BANKING AND BANKERS

Bank of United States op America — Wild-Cat Banking — A National
Currency — Old National Bank of Battle Creek — The First Na-
TioNiiL Bank of Battle Creek — The First National Bank op
Marshall — Central National Bank, Battle Creek — City Bank
op Battle Creek — Merchants Savings Bank of Battle Creek — •
The Commercial and Savings Bank, Albion — Albion State Bank
— First State Bank of Tekonsha — Athens State Bank.

Banks, as places where money is deposited for safe keeping and where
loans for a consideration are made, are among the most ancient institu-
tions of which we have knowledge. The children of Israel, according
to the Book Exodus, 22 :25, not only had banks but indulged in exacting
excessive interest. The money changers flourished in the time of our
Saviour.

Banking reached a high stage of development among the Grecians
and the Romans. Bankers in Greece and Rome seem to have exercised
nearly the same functions as those of the present day, except that they
do not appear to have issued notes. They received money on deposit to
be paid on demand by checks or orders or at some stipulated period,
sometimes paying interest for it and sometimes not. Their profits arose
from their lending the balance at their disposal at higher rates of in-
terest than they allowed the depositors. Among the ancients, as in our
days, bankers were highly esteemed and great confidence was placed in
their integrity.

With the revival of civilization, banking reappeared as one of the
business customs. The bank of Venice is said to antedate all others in
Europe. Banking was' not introduced into England until the 17th
century. The Bank of England, which has long been the principal bank
of deposit and circulation in England and, indeed, in Europe, was
founded in 1694. Among other things under its charter, the corpora-
tion is "prohibited from engaging in any sort of commercial under-
taking other than dealing in bills of exchange and in gold and silver."
Since 1833, the notes of the Bank of England are a legal tender every-
where in that country, except at the bank. The Bank of England does
not allow, either at its home office in London, or at any of its branches,
any interest on deposits.

104



HISTORY OF CALHOUN COl'NTY 105

Bank of United States of America

lu 1816, Congress passed an act authorizing the establishing of the
Bank of the United States of America with a capital of tiiirty-five
millions of dollars, divided into three hundred and fifty thousand shares
of one hundred dollars each. Seventy thousand shares, amounting to
seven millions of dollars, were subscribed and paid for by the United
States government and the remaining two hundred and eighty thousand
shares remained to be subscribed for by individuals, companies or cor-
porations, but no individual, company or corporation could subscribe
for more than three thousand shares. The subscribers to the stock were
created a coi-poratiou and body politic by the name and style of "The
president, directors and company of the Bank of the United States,"
For the management of the affairs of the corporation, there were twenty-
five directors, five of whom were appointed by the President of the
United States, by and with the advise and consent of the Senate. This
bank in the course of the years hccjiiuc entangled in politics, it was one
of the storm centers of rn'sidciit .lackson's administration, and finally
on June 15, 1836, an act was passed by Congress in efliect repealing its
charter. The government deposits were shortly after withdrawn and the
Bank of tlie United States went out of existence.

Wild Cat Banking

Previous to the Civil War, it had been the uniform practice of the
different States to allow banks to be established for the issue of notes,
payable in specie on deinand. In eases where the liability of share-
holders in banks was to be limited to the amount of their shares, they
had up to 1838 to be established by the local legislatures. Charters,
however, were easily obtained, and banks became comparatively numer-
ous. Paper currency was issued in greater volume than in any other
country. From 1811 to 1820, 195 banks in the different States failed
and ruin and distress followed in their wake.

The "Wild Cat" banking and the disastrous panic of 1837 were long
remembered by the people of that day, while the historic recital of them
seems almost incredible to the later generation. There were a number
of causes that contributed to the universal wreckage in the country at
large and in particular to Michigan, which historians agree was the
worst hit of any State in the Union.

The complete payment of the national debt, the accumulation of a
relatively large surplus and the subsequent division of this surplus
among the States, contributed to the wild spirit of speculation, every-
where prevalent from ]\Iaine to Michigan. The withdrawal of deposits
from the National Bank and the placing of them in a large number
of State banks, made money easy to obtain and being eagerly availed of
was another contributing cause to the speculative epidemic which seemed
to seize all classes and conditions of people. Legislatures and legislation
partook of the prevailing .spirit among the electors. ^lany schemes of
internal improvements were devised. Some of them possessing real



106 HISTORY OF CALHOUN COUNTY

merit, but. mostly ahead of their times, others were reckless, extravagant
ajid inexcusable under any conditions.

Michigan had a most virulent ease of the prevailing disease. In
1837, the legislature passed what was termed the General Banking Law.
The declared intent of this law was to allow competition, where is was
charged there had been a monopoly enjoyed by a few individuals. The
law allowed any ten freeholders, with a capital of not less than fifty
nor more than three hundred thousand dollars, to associate themselves
together and form a banking corporation. Scarcely had the act gone
into effect, when the panic of 1837 burst upon the country. The fifteen
old banks, then doing business in the State, suspended specie payments.
Though the legislature had been called in special session, and though the
Governor had reviewed the situation with alarm, he did not recommend
nor did the legislature, acting on its own initiative, repeal the General
Banking Law. The result was that while existing banks were in a
state of suspension, new banks were being organized in every part of
the State. Forty-nine banks were organized before the legislature on
the third of April, 1838, suspended the act. Doubtless a good percent-
age of them were organized in good faith and with honest intent, but
with others the base deceptions resorted to, the dishonest devices inven-
ted to mislead the people and evade the plain provisions of the law,
could leave no room to doubt the purpose of their promoters. These
dishonest speculators on the credulity of the people succeeded in foisting
a million dollars of worthless money upon the general public, Large
sums were sent by these fake banks into other states for circulation.
"While at home there was a sharp decline in prices of every commodity.
Wheat, for example, dropped from two dollars and fifty cents to one
dollar a bushel ; other farm products in like proportion. Distrust seized
upon the people. Every kind of busines seemed paralyzed. All classes
suffered, but laboring men and farmers, particularly, were made to feel
the ill effects. The happy but deceitful illusion of manufacturing money
with the printing press and creating prosperity by a constantly depre-
ciating currency, even to the point of worthlessness, followed the usual
fate of the over-inflation. Our older people still remember the days of
"Wild-cat" banks and "Wild-cat" money, as a delirious dream from
which they awoke to a horrible reality.

This was aggravated by the fanciful schemes of internal improve-
ments recommended by the Governor and undertaken by legislative en-
actments. The first Constitution declared that "Internal improvements
shall be encouraged by the government and to this end, it shall be the
duty of the legislature, as soon as may be, to make provision by law for
ascertaining the proper objects of improvements in relation to roads,
canals and navigable rivers." In obedience to this supreme mandate,
the first session of the legislature, after its admission to the Union, pro-
vided for three lines of railroad extending across the State; for two
canals connecting the eastern and western waters of the State; the
construction of a steamboat canal around the falls of the Saint Mary's
River at the ' ' Soo " ; to improve the Grand River from its mouth to
Lyons, in Ionia County, and to build a canal with locks around the
rapids at what is now Grand Rapids : the improvement of the Kalamazoo



HISTORY OK CALIIOrX ("orXTY 107

River from its iiioiitli to Kalaiiia/.oo, and the Saint Joseph Kiver was to
be improved from its mouth to Union City, in liraneh County. Surveys
were made, estimates were given, and on a number of the pi'ojects work
was begun. The State's share of the surplus from the General Govei*n-
ment, with other available funds, was exhausted. A tive million dollar
loan, duly authorized and partly negotiated, was used and still none of
the great undertakings were completed, and some but little more than well
begun, when the speculative bubble burst. In addition to the enter-
prises entered upon the State, there were not less than twenty-four
railroads and navigation companies, projecting lines in all directions
and designed to connect nearly every village of any consequence with
the main system. These were to be constructed by private corporations,
chartered for the purpose. Among the many projects of this period of
rampant speculation and of internal improvements was the building of a
ship canal from Union City to Homer to connect the waters of the Kal-
amazoo and Saint Joseph Rivers, and another from Kalamazoo to Dex-
ter, which should unite the Kalamazoo and the Huron Rivers. With this
object in view, surveys were actually made and favorable reports re-
turned by the engineers.

Under the then existing conditions, the period of "Wild-cat" bank-
ing was in perfect harmony with the times. Public and private credit
sank to the lowest ebb. The recovery was a slow and tedious process.
There was some compensation however, in the fact that the General
Government, the State legislatures, the private corporations, the banks
and the public at large had each and all learned lessons not soon to be
forgotten.

A N.\TioNAL Currency

One of the incidents of the Civil War was the establishment of a
National Currency. Congress not only provided for the currency, but
it passed an act to secure such by a pledge of United States Stocks and
to provide for its circulation and redemption. In the midst of financial
stress, during the terrific conflict. Congress assumed to give corporate
powers not to one bank, as had been done earlier in the century, but to
many. Indeed, National Banks were established in every part of the
country, sufficient to meet the demands of business.

Whatever constitutional questions were raised at the time or since,
and with which we have here nothing to do, it still remains that the
people have never had a currency of such universal acceptance, with-
out question, anywhere in the United States. Since the resumption of
specie payments, our National currency has been received at its face
value over the counter of every banking establishment of repute on the
globe. Confidence and stability in financial transactions everywhere
attest the faith of the people in our banks and in the banking system.
Occasionally through some local mismanagement or some betrayal of
trust, banks fail and the people lose, but this is the fault of individuals
and not of the system. Our banks, with rare exceptions, are safe places
of deposit. Our bankers, as a rule, are upright and competent men,
worthy of the confidence the people repo.se in them. The banks and
bankers of Calhoun County are not an exception to the rule.



108 HISTORY OF CALHOUN COUNTY

We append hereto a list of the banks now doing business in the
County in the order of their founding, giving the National banks pre-
cedence, with a statement of the condition of each as appears from the
last published report.

Old National Bank of Battle Creek

The old National Bank of Battle Creek, successor to the private bank
of Loyal C. Kellogg, started in July, 1851, was organized under the Na-
tional bank act in June, 1865, application for a permit having been made
on the preceding 28th of March. At a meeting of the stockholders, the
following were elected Directors : David Miller, William Andrus, Thomas
Hart, Loyal C. Kellog, Henry D. Hall, William Wallace, and William
Brooks, who chose Loyal C. Kellog, President; Thomas Llart, Vice-
President; Charles M. Leon, Cashier; William Andrus, Secretary of
Board of Directors.

We submit herewith the first Statement of the Condition of the
"Old National" as published in the Battle Creek Journal, October 2,



Online LibraryWashington GardnerHistory of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 74)