Rockford is a community with a rich and interesting history, and people willing to take the time and effort to keep it from being forgotten. At last month’s Historical Society, Gene Berry shared the story of two of the town’s older families – the Berrys and the Ammermans.
The presentation included dates and names going back to as far as 1693, but also philosophical thoughts. There was no television in pioneer days and families often consisted of 12 or 13 children. Is there any cause and effect to those two facts? Berry’s research also showed that marriages often took place between relatively close neighbors, most likely a result of less opportunity to travel and meet spouses from farther away.
Berry’s narration traveled the course of generations, listing homes that still exist as well as towns which no longer do. It included discussion of names and their interesting origins. His family tree boasts a Thankful Shears, mother of Shears Berry who fought in the Revolutionary Army. Names like Thankful and Blessing expressed settlers’ gratitude at finally arriving at their new home after a grueling trip.
Also discussed was the Ammerman family, traced back to 1784 and settling in Rockford in 1900. Barb Stevens (nee Ammerman) remembers her childhood in the now red farm house at 275 W. Division (Ten Mile Road) west of Rockford on the north side of the road. The home is over 100 years old and used to be white. It also had a huge red barn, now gone.
Her favorite memories of the farm include picking up dropped apples, which were pressed into cider and kept all winter long. In 1963 her grandfather died and one acre of farm with the house on it was sold. The other 79 acres was sold to a developer. It is now the Highlands.
She recalled how vibrant Rockford was in the ’50s, with a much greater diversity of stores than today.
Gene Berry said his first memory is of a team of horses pulling the wire to provide electricity to his home in 1937. He was one year old.
The Historical Society is always looking for new members to help keep the town’s past from being forgotten. Museum Director Pat Frye is currently seeking photos from before 1950 for a history book that is planned. The museum has no winter hours except by appointment. Call (616) 866-2235.
The Rockford Historical Society meets Thursday, February 5, at 1 p.m. at the Community Cabin, 221 Monroe Street. Pete Kruer, owner of Rockford Hardware is the speaker and will talk about the history of one of the oldest businesses in the area. Hostesses are Jo Case and Madge Bolt.