Rockford Area Historical Society News and Updates for 12/21/2017

By Terry Konkle – President

A couple of readers asked me about the results of the twenty question quiz that was taken at our Rockford Area Historical Society Christmas potluck meeting. There were about forty people in attendance and all of them took the quiz. Some felt that it was very difficult, and no person got all the answers. The top score was fifteen correct and that was posted by long time member, Carla Blandford. Her prize was a sport card of Grand Rapids bowling legend Marian Ladewig. The card was signed by the star bowler in blue ballpoint pen.

Last week in looking through some columns written by Homer Burch, I found one (August 4, 1966 – Rockford Register) in which he discussed Rockford and the early cars associated with our town. According to Mr. Burch, the first automobile in Rockford was an Oldsmobile owned by Alexander Darrow. It was purchased from an agent in Grand Rapids and was driven to Rockford. Mr. Burch does not mention the exact year it was bought or for how much, but he does say that brand new Oldsmobile’s cost $650.00 in the early days.

Often, Mr. Darrow drove the car into town, but an incident occurred that scared him and caused him to trade the car to Wesley Hessler, the Druggist in the Hessler Building. The trade was for a team of horses. It seems that the car frightened a horse pulling a carriage with a mother and children in it, and although no injuries happened, Mr. Darrow was afraid that a future similar episode might be worse, so he got rid of the car. I had never heard the story before, and we can all be thankful that Homer Burch not only recalled many things, but wrote them down. His columns are available in the Rockford Area Museum (RAM) and much positive information can be found in them.

This week’s “Nugget of Rockford History” will consist of two questions about a Rockford history book written by Homer Burch. It was called “From Sawmill to City” and came out at the time of Rockford’s 125th anniversary (Quasquicentennial – 1843-1968). Here are the two questions: (1) How much did the first edition of the book cost back then? And (2) To whom was the book dedicated? Contact me by e-mail at or by phone at 616-866-0530 with your answers. Homer’s book has been reprinted and copies are for sale at the RAM.

In closing, as president of the RAHS I will wish everyone a “Merry Christmas” on behalf of the group and also thank people for the support we have received. Remember also that questions, comments, suggestions and corrections are always welcome. Have a great week!