Rockford Area Historical Society

Rockford Area Historical Society News & Update

April 12, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society We will begin with a correction from last week’s column. I gave readers the wrong date for the benefit play “Ragweed Blues.” The performance by the Rogue River Community Theatre will take place on Sunday, April 29 at the Kent Theatre in Cedar Springs at 2:00 p.m. The cost is $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens, and $4 for students. All proceeds will go toward the Rockford Area Museum fundraising effort. Tickets are available at Independent Bank, from the society at (616) 866-0530, or the theatre group at (616) 874-5264. It was my fault that the date was wrong. Let’s move on to my last trivia question, which asked for the team sport that won our first state championship. Girls gymnastics recorded the feat in the 1988-89 school year. I talked to several interested people and had some incorrect answers. However, Dick Tatebe, whose daughter Tracey was one of the top performers on the team, called with the right answer. Rockford won the state meet with a score of 140.50. Troy Athens (139.90) and Midland Dow (138.30) finished second and third in the Friday, March 17, 1989 event. The coach of the squad was John Figueroa and team members were: seniors, Tracey Tatebe and Heather Shaffer; sophomore, Jill Stuart; and freshmen, Stacie Launstein, Renee Norkoli, Michelle Ferraresse and Nancy Tatebe. Four girls, Stuart (36.55), T. Tatebe  (36.30), Launstein (34.70) and Norkoli (32.95), did all of Rockford’s scoring. What a proud event in Rockford High School history. After all, only one team can be the first! Last week at our historical society meeting, our museum director, Pat Frye, made some comments for us to consider. She mentioned that we have a lot of information on our history but that NOT much of it deals with the more recent times. Her point was well taken and her emphasis was that we needed to document our recent history now so that in 50 years we will have it, and it will not be forgotten. Yesterday, last week, last month and last year are now history, but what have we saved or written about it? With that in mind, I thought it appropriate to ask another athletic state championship trivia […]

Structures from Great Depression tell a story of Rockford today

April 5, 2012 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA Take a look at some of Rockford’s buildings today and you will find a history lesson about a time when jobs were scarce, the economy was terrible and people were unemployed in record numbers. Many structures dating from the Great Depression years are still in use today and tell a story about public works and community spirit during those hard times. Former Rockford resident Jerry DeMaagd was the speaker at the February 2 meeting of the Rockford Area Historical Society on what was happening in our town during the decade of 1930 to 1940. “I was born in 1936 so I wasn’t around to see most of it myself,” he stated at the meeting’s start. He said he researched the issues of The Rockford Register (now The Rockford Squire) on microfilm at the library to find information. “It was a big job” he noted. A hobby photographer and “aesthetic archeologist,” DeMaagd’s interest in architecture provided a base for this study. Also, the pictures are “a noticing choice”; what to photograph is a personal choice as well as a historical record. The first image is probably something every Rockford resident has probably driven past without a second thought: the classical detailing on the former Kent County “Barn” (Road Commission Garage on Northland Drive), built when Warren Townsend was chairman of the Kent County Road Commission (Townsend Park is named after him) and is now owned by Wolverine World Wide. That structure reflects the influence of the day, showing classical detailing on the columns did not add to the functionality of the building, but common to architects who were classically trained. To set the atmosphere of the times behind his discussion, DeMaagd spoke of his father, Gerald DeMaagd M.D., who had his first office over the Kimm furniture store and rented a room in the building now occupied by the Pederson Funeral Home. He held up the doctor’s books from that time—literally a book where the doctor’s income and expenses were handwritten. “The average cost of a call to a doctor’s office at that time was $1.50,” he said. DeMaagd said his father married and the couple’s first child was stillborn on May 16, 1935. That baby girl, who would have been his oldest […]

Rockford Area Historical Society News and Updates

January 19, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society On Monday, Jan. 9, at the monthly meeting of the Rockford City Council, I presented information to Council members regarding the progress made by the Rockford Area Historical Society (RAHS) dealing with our museum relocation project. When the Council gave their consent in July 2011 to allow us the opportunity to move to the vacant courthouse, they also set up a series of objectives that they would like to be completed by certain dates. One of those was that RAHS would raise one half of their needed money at the end of six months. January 9, 2012 was the six-month date. We originally projected a needed total of $343,000 which included $125,000 to update areas that the City wanted to be done to bring the building up to the same standards as City Hall. Over the last six months, much discussion has occurred and the money figures have been looked at with care as fundraising began. Money was pledged or donated and some businesses offered to help in certain areas of construction by contributing their services. If we stay with our $343,000 figure, half of it would be $171,500. At the Council meeting I reported that we had $110,000 in pledges and money, but could not put a figure on the in-kind services. I emphasized that several future fundraising projects are set up and will bring in additional funds. It was also mentioned that the overall money needed would be less, but how much less was still not known. A fairly pleasant discussion followed with the major issue being money. A major point was that fundraising was not over and many potential donors are still out there. It was concluded that RAHS needed to do several things: 1. to firm up their money amounts; 2. to determine how much money would be saved through in-kind help; 3. to show what the inside of the new museum would look like. To me, it was obvious that the Council was concerned that we had not raised half of our goal. HOWEVER, it was very clear that they were supportive of our efforts and some members praised what had happened thus far. It was then decided that, because of the situation, […]

Rockford Area Historical Society News & Update

January 12, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society Someone told me a few months ago that the key ingredient to having a successful project was to get people to believe in your cause. When the project is to move our museum to a much better location, the first believers have to be those promoting the move because they have the job of convincing others to help. To me there was one major point that made it easy to believe that the opportunity to improve the museum situation had to be battled for now. It was simple: “The move would make Rockford and our area a better place.” Fortunately, others felt the same way and the fight was on. Because funding was needed, it was important that the Rockford Area Historical Society (RAHS) step up to the plate and start the donation process. About a year ago in January, RAHS voted to give $40,000 to get things started. A contribution of that size shows a resounding commitment and belief in the new museum project. When the City of Rockford approved the idea of the move last July and gave RAHS a year to work on it, the question was, “Can they do it?” Our job was to make believers out of enough people and organizations to raise the funds to renovate the courthouse, design and make displays, and to move our historical archives. We also had to show how our new museum would be available and staffed. A fundraising committee, led by a tireless worker Paul Krupp, has been working now for a bit over three months. Many businesses and individuals have been contacted and the results are encouraging. Donations have come to us in three ways: pledges, money and in-kind services. Most of the donors have agreed to let us publicize their names and a list of them follows (donors as of January 7, 2012): Walter and Marianne Andersen Judy and Tom Baer Harold and Donna Bailey Richard and Sue Bakita James and Shirley Balk Foundation Eric and Anita Bennett Donald and Patricia Bixby Neil and Mary 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 […]

History of weapons during Michigan’s frontier recounted

January 5, 2012 // 0 Comments

Weapons changed as settlers arrived and the state developed by BETH ALTENA As big game disappeared from Michigan’s landscape and the needs of pioneer settlers changed, so did the weapons they used in day-to-day life, explained Rockford resident and firearms historian Jon Stamp. Stamp was the presenter during the November Rockford Area Historical Society meeting at the Community Cabin on Thursday, Nov. 3. He described the evolution of the weaponry the state’s earliest settlers relied upon as they increasingly conquered the wilderness of Michigan since the early 1600s. Stamp said Michigan is unique and has history of non-native American activities as far back as there is for the country’s east coast. When the first white settlers arrived, Michigan was home to about 15,000 Indians. They were Algonquians and included regional tribes of Miamis, Chippewa, Menominee, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Wyandot. White settlers came to the area as far back 100 years before the Revolutionary War because the area was rich in the fur trade industry. Stamp said he is a shooter and historian and not really a historical reenactor. Original guns are far too valuable and many times too rare to use for shooting and reenacting. Therefore, replicas or custom-built weapons are used for these purposes. He showed the crowd a replica of a gun that would have been typical to early settlers, a smooth-bored flintlock musket, that could be loaded with whatever was available—round lead ball, birdshot, buckshot or in extreme cases even tacks or pebbles. It was fired by a piece of flint gripped in the hammer hitting a piece of steel, creating sparks to fire off the weapon. The British had a paper cartridge in which gunpowder was wrapped. The sparks lit the packet of gunpowder, firing the gun. They used the weapon for fighting and had the typical technique of standing a certain distance from the enemy line, shooting at them and then rushing forward to fight with the bayonet on the end of the weapon. The lack of open fields here confused the British and French. Settlers more typically stored their gunpowder in a horn and poured a measure into the barrel of the weapon. The pretty big caliber ball often used in the musket meant the user had to be […]

1 3 4 5 6 7 8