Rockford Area Historical Society News and Updates for 7-5-2018

By Terry Konkle, President

Recently, I have been reading a lot about Rockford area history using newspaper clippings and columns written by Homer Burch. Most of this week’s column will revolve around new information that I learned or didn’t know much about before doing the research. Here are some examples!

1. For many years Rockford had a water storage tank located at the top of West Bridge Street. According to Homer Burch the pump operator had no way of telling how full the tank was except by seeing it overflow. In a picture in one of his columns the tank is shown will a lot of ice buildup on the outside.

2. Water pressure in the town of Rockford used to go way down and sometimes stopped when trains would fill up with water near the depot area.

3. Around 1900 a person wishing to go from Rockford to Grand Rapids by train would often leave our town in the afternoon and arrive back about midnight.

4. Rockford area rural mail service started on February 15, 1901. L. H. Wilkinson was the carrier.

5. On Wednesday, February 8, 1871 the first issue of the “Rockford Weekly Register” was published. Charles Cowdin and his wife Margaret printed it on a hand press at their print shop on North Main Street (about where “Car Care” is today).

6. Up until 1905 names of people who had mail that had not been picked up at the Rockford Post Office were published in the local paper.

7. Miles Douglas, who enlisted into the military on May 10, 1917 at age 17, was killed a year later (May 9, 1918) in France thus becoming the first Rockford soldier to die serving his country in World War I.

8. In 1848 the village of Plainfield which was located on the north side of the Grand River where a ferry took passengers back and forth (about where the bridge is by Blythefield Country Club today 2018), had several hundred inhabitants, four hotels, several stores, six saloons, a post office, a blacksmith shop and a few other buildings. A steamboat on the Grand stopped there also. When the railroad went through Belmont and bypassed Plainfield in 1866, the town went into decline.

9. At one time the Rockford Post Office would be open for one hour each Sunday so that people coming to town for church services could pick up their mail.

10. In the mid 1850’s William Thornton, platted our city, named the streets and planted trees in rows to provide shade and show where the road edge was located. The use of trees continued and Rockford was known for it tree lined streets. Many people still continue tree planting today.

In the future from time to time I will use other parts of our history in columns, but readers should know that the Rockford Area Museum (RAM) is filled with interesting and educational material. Please visit or revisit when possible. There is never an admission charge!

In closing, I will encourage readers to contact me by email ( or by phone at 866-0530 with questions, comments, concerns, ideas and corrections. Have a great, positive week!