Rockford Area Historical Society News & Update

Rockford Area Historical Society News and Update

June 7, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society Last week’s “Nugget of Rockford History” question solicited many correct answers and also brought out a lot of information. So far, 18 people have contacted me,  and all of them knew that Clayton Cahill was the well-known Rockford constable who had a bear caged on his property on Jericho Street. But the bear is just a part of the Cahill saga. Let me relate what people have told me! Mr. Cahill had two bears plus other animals. Several responders remembered a donkey, and many recalled monkeys. In addition there were foxes, wolves, a horse, a bobcat and at least one pet raccoon. Terri Gogo Byrne mentioned that the donkey could be heard often and that the animal had a name: “Teal.” Bud Graverson, who managed the Corner Bar for 20 years and the hotel for 15 said that the monkeys got loose and could be seen “swinging through parts of town.” Others also spoke of the monkeys getting out. Many told me that Mr. Cahill had animals in his house, including the raccoon. Ken Ploeg, who knows much about Mr. Cahill’s menagerie, said that when Constable Cahill went on night patrol, he would sometimes take the raccoon with him. Chief Lyle Ford, who worked during the day, did not appreciate the mess left by the raccoon in the police car (Rockford only had one police vehicle then). Many people mentioned that the Cahill property was often referred to as the “Rockford Zoo,” and that families would sometimes drive by to view the animals. I know that I drove my kids by the place more than once. Apparently at one time there were two cages on the property with one larger than the other. A few mentioned a white fence around the front cage. Bernie Young called from Florida to tell me about the bear. From his house on Fremont Street his family could see the bear in his cage and guests sometimes wondered what they were seeing when stopping by for cocktails. It was fun stopping at the Youngs’ residence for an opportunity to view the “bear in the zoo.” Whatever happened to the two bears? Next week I will recount the details as given to me […]

Rockford Area Historical Society News & Update

February 9, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society Rockford Educational  Leaders – Superintendents Construction on Rockford’s first high school began in 1869 and was completed in 1870. Students, however, did not begin to attend the building until the fall of 1871. At that time my research shows that O.O. Fletcher replaced E.J. McEwan as principal at the building and became the educational leader of our school system. Actually, he was a teacher, but he also did the duties of what the principal and superintendent would do today (2012). For about the next 30 years, Rockford’s superintendent was also the principal and a teacher. At about the start of the last century (1899-1900 school year) when C.E. Smith was listed as superintendent, a different person, Edna Haner, was listed as the principal. Rockford has had both educational positions since that time. Starting with the 1871-72 school year through the 1940-41 school year, Rockford had 22 superintendents. This means that for 70 school years, we had 22 different leaders. Since that time and including the current school year, 71 more years have happened. During those 71 school years, Rockford has had only four more superintendents. All four of them stayed at the job longer than any of their predecessors. Before 1940-41, Edmond Thorne held the position for seven years (1934-35 to 1940-41) and had the distinction of having the job the longest at that time. Many Rockford people will recall E.J. Kleinert. He became superintendent in 1940-41 and did a fine job for 20 years. James Bale followed him in 1961-62 and remained for 18 school campaigns. When Mr. Bale retired, Joe Raymer took over and had the job for nine years, but was ill for some of his tenure. Present superintendent, Dr. Michael Shibler, took over in 1988-89 and is now in his 24th year on the job. He holds the Rockford school record for being our superintendent the longest. Three of our earlier superintendents only stayed one year. Next week, Rockford principals will be covered. Also the names of the correct responders to last week’s Rockford trivia question will be given. There is still time to contact me with your answer: (616) 866-0530. Finally, donations continue to come in to support the museum move. Please […]

Rockford Area Historical Society News & Update

February 2, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society My writing this week will be devoted mostly to sharing some information about the history of the Rockford area. I call this a “Did YouKnow” column. Did you know: • Smith Laphams’ daughter, Amy Ann, was Rockford’s first school teacher. • Fremont Street was named after John Fremont who was the Republican presidential candidate in 1856. His running mate as vice president was William Dayton, and Dayton Street is named for him. Fremont lost to James Buchanan. • In 1869, Rockford built a new three-story brick school building by bonding the district for $20,000. The school housed all grade levels most of the time for many years before being destroyed by fire in February 1922. • A new school, with all rooms on one floor andhousing all grades of Rocford students from 1923 to 1954, was built on North Main Street. • Parkside Elementary School was built to ease the overcrowding of the school on North Main by moving the lower grades out of the building to the new location on Lewis Street. • The coming of the railroad to our town caused a name change from Laphamville to Rockford, because railroad officials wanted a different name. • A major fire in April 1878 destroyed several Rockford downtown buildings. • Another fire in December 1883 demolished about 75 percent of the Rockford downtown businesses about 10 days before Christmas. • A third fire in April 1896 burned out businesses on the block between Bridge and Courtland streets on the east side of Main Street. • Many of the brick buildings that are now (2012) on the east side of Main Street between Bridge and Courtland were built after the fire of 1896. The Hessler Opera House is one of them. So is the building housing the Rogue River Tavern. Let’s conclude this section with a trivia question. If you know the correct answer, contact me at (616) 866-0530 or The Rockford Squire at (616) 866-4465. Each correct responder will receive a surprise gift that can be picked up at the Squire office. The trivia question is: “In 1910, what was the tallest building in Rockford?” Finally, please consider supporting our project of moving the museum. Donations can be sent to: Rockford […]

Rockford Area Historical Society News & Update

January 26, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society One area of our museum expansion projects that has been getting a lot of action recently is the planning of the exhibits to be featured. Jerry Adams from Media Rare in Grand Rapids has been a consultant for our project and has designed the new displays. Members of the Rockford Area Historical Society (RAHS) board of directors were updated on his ideas during a two-hour presentation last week and were impressed with his plans. Changes could still be made, but the layout and use of space is well thought out. The next step is to price out the cost of the exhibits, so that we can see how it fits into our budget. The Rockford City Council has asked for the layout and the cost, and both will be done soon. Fundraising continues and the responses are greatly appreciated. When we started the project, some people told us that the timing was bad, and the economic situation would work against us. The courthouse was available now so the timing was also now. Several of us looked at each other and said, “This is Rockford.” If any area can make it work, Rockford can. Because I have lived here for 52 years, I know the pride that exists in the community. In my experiences with education and athletics as a teacher and coach at Rockford High School, I often saw our area band together to get things done. We have a great and valuable history and the following is an updated list of donors who are supporting our new museum. Donors as of January 22, 2012 Walter and Marianne Andersen, Judy and Tom Baer, Harold and Donna Bailey, Richard and Sue Bakita, James and Shirley Balk Foundation, William and Christine Bedford, Eric and Anita Bennett, Gene and Sharon Berry, Donald and Patricia Bixby, Neil and Mary Blakeslee, Paul and Joyce Blakeslee, Blakeslee Plumbing and Heating, Blakeslee Rop PLC, Carla Blandford, Jim and Susan Bodenner, Andrew and Kelly Bolt, Jack and Madelyn Bolt, Katherine Bolt, Polly Bolt, James and Nancy Ferrand Boxall, Robert Boyer, Marvin and Joan Bunn, Robert and Nancy Burch, Byrne Electrical Specialists Inc., Robert and Kathryn Christensen, Virginia H. Cox, Jerry and Joan DeMaagd, Tim Durham, […]

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