Sunday, September 28, 2008

Atlas Gristmill

From colonial times and into the first half of the nineteenth century, gristmills flourished in America by meeting an important local need in agricultural communities: grinding the farmers' grain with large, circular stones, and levying a toll, usually in kind, for the service.

The founding father of Atlas, Michigan was Judge Norman D
avison, who arrived here in 1831 from Livingston County, New York. He cleared the land and built a house for his family near the river on the site where the Atlas Country Club now stands. He erected a sawmill in 1833 and a gristmill in 1836. The town was first known as Davisonville, and the first post office was started in 1837 with Mr. Davison as the postmaster. (In 1854 the name was changed from Davisonville to Atlas due to confusion with the mail between the town and the Davison Station on the Grand Trunk Railroad. The Atlas Post Office is considered one of the oldest in the state.)

Soon after Davison settled in this location, many more settlers came to the town. The first blacksmith, Enas Rockafellow, arrived in 1837. Fitch R. Tracy started a mercantile business in the late 1830's. Dr. Elbridge Gale started his practice in Atlas in 1837. Due to his interest in tanning, sheep were introduced to this area. With the coming of sheep, Oliver Palmer built a wool carding and stock dressing business. A woolen mill was erected next to the gristmill during the 1850's. The first tavern appeared on the scene in 1840. Noah Hull, as a carpenter and millwright, helped build many of the businesses and houses after his arrive in 1846. Furniture for the town's people was made by the local cabinet maker, Mr. James Shields. Residents could have their shoes repaired or have new ones made by the shoemaker, James Lobban. There were many other settlers who contributed to the prosperity of Atlas.

With the increase of families coming to the area, a school was started in 1837. One can just imagine this small mid-19th century town, how it looked in the early days. Probably very similar to what Crossroads Village looks like today.

Gristmills flourished in America by meeting an important local need in agricultural communities by grinding the farmer's grain into flour. It is operated by water-driven turbine beneath the water surface so the mill can operate in winter if the surface of the water is frozen. The water power turns the large stone wheels used for grinding.

Each granite stone, which were made around 1835 in North Carolina, weighs 1800 pounds.

The Atlas gristmill, during the early days of the settlement, was used for other purposes besides grinding grain. The lean-to of the mill was used as the first school in Davison/Atlas, and the first post office was also located in the mill. On April 4, 1836, the first township meeting was held there.
It remained in operation until 1943, when, due (in part) to WWII, replacement parts for repairs were no longer available.
The mill was dismantled and moved to Crossroads Village in 1975 where it was renovated and then moved, in 1977, to its current location inside the Village.
The sights and sounds of the spinning, grinding wheels give the public a first-hand glimpse of an earlier age. The turning wheels could grind one barrel of flour (whole wheat or buckwheat) or corn meal an hour.
An early portrayal of living history.
It now produces stone-ground flour sold in Crossroads Village.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

George H. Durand Home and Law Office

I'm sure the long railed entryway is not original!
Note the wood-plank walk way in front. Simply wonderful!

This is a side and back view of the house.

This 1850's home office, originally located at 4224 Davison Rd. in Burton Twp., is named after the first president of the Genesee Bar Association, George Harman Durand, who was born in 1838 and died in 1903. Durand moved from New York to Oxford, Michigan in 1856 where he studied law. After he was admitted to the bar, he practiced law in Flint, Michigan, where he was also a member of the Board of Education in the 1860's.

Near the front door

He became mayor of Flint in 1873 and 1874.
In 1874, he was elected to Congress as a Democrat,serving from 1875 to 1877.
Afterward, Durand resumed his law practice and was appointed Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court in 1892. It was typical for lawyers to work out of a small office in their home in small towns.

Durand died in Flint and is interred in Glenwood Cemetery there.

This house was last lived in 1963.


Friday, September 12, 2008

J.E. Barbour M.D.

This is an exact replica of the 1880's doctor's office where Dr. Julius Barbour practiced his medicine in Bristol, Indiana.
Originally from the Flint, Michigan area, Barbour enlisted in the Civil War at age 14 and studied medicine during his tenure in the army. Afterward, he attended schools to learn both general medicine and homeopathy (herbal cures) as well. The Flint Academy of Medicine banned homeopaths from practicing in the area, which was why Dr. Barbour, in 1879, moved to Indiana, where he lived until 1908.

Off to visit the doctor.
An office visit was usually fifty cents to a dollar. But, most doctors would also accept a chicken, ham, or other food instead.

The waiting room.
The doctor's desk in the waiting room.

This next photo is of the actual examining room.
In Crossroads, the doctor's office is located just around the corner from the Attica Hotel.

(Please click HERE for more information about 19th century doctors)


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Scenes Along Main Street

Here are various pictures of Main Street I have taken while participating at a re-enactment.
As you can see, with properly attired people, the past can truly come to life and give the viewer a very accurate portrayal of the 19th century. The only things missing are horses and dogs!

Folks doing their Saturday business in town.

The Attica Hotel and the Printing Shop are shown here, side by side.

A bit of both sides of the road is shown here.

Every so often I like to portray my photos in sepia to give it that authentic feel

The little girl is my daughter at age five.
A scene right out of the past!
Now, on to the rest of the Village!


Mason Tavern

The photo below shows the tavern with lively 1860's townsfolk enjoying a summer celebration.

Daniel Mason, a native of New Hartford, New York, before immigrating to Michigan, built this structure as a stagecoach inn and tavern around 1850. It soon became a popular stagecoach stop along the route of the Flint and Fentonville Plank Road Company, which was established in 1849.
From 1853 to 1871, Mundy Township's first post office was also housed here. The tavern and post office continued to operate until shortly after the Flint and Pere Marquette Railway came to the area. In 1879, Mason sold the property and moved to Flint, where he died in 1880.
Crossroads Village recently re-opened this building - actually, I believe 2010 was the first time the Mason Inn/Tavern has been open to the public since its relocation here. And it truly is a beautiful building to see.

Here is the guest dining area of the tavern. It would have also been used as the local post office. From what I understand, the mason Tavern was used partly as the post office.

The parlor - family only!

Here is the dining area - although I don't know for sure, I believe this was set up for the owner of the tavern and his family.

I have not had the opportunity to see the 2nd floor at the time of this writing. Maybe one day...


Manwaring Building / Print Shop

This building was built about 1885 by the founder of the town of Dryden, Lapeer County, Michigan for use as a dry goods store. It was later used as a bakery and ice cream parlor and had an upstairs apartment.

In Crossroads Village it is used as a print shop, and visitors - especially children - can make ink prints on paper just as they did over a century ago.


Attica Hotel

The Attica Hotel is the building on the left.

Situated directly across the road from the Horton-Colwell building, this 1870's Georgian-Colonial style structure was originally known as the Williams House, and later the Schirmer House, after the family's that owned it.
At one time it also included a post office.
William and Betsy Williams, with their 14 children, were the original owners. They settled in Attica, Michigan in 1851, William being in the lumber business. He had built a sawmill on Williams Lake (now Grass Lake).
Being the savvy businessman, he and a neighbor financially enticed the Port Huron & Lake Michigan Railroad to construct their line by their mills by contributing $17,000 to the railroad.

The above photo was taken during the Civil War Days weekend,
which Crossroads, unfortunately, no longer has.
(more on that in a future blog)

It's now used as a souvenir shop.

~Walking to the Ball~
(The side of the Hotel)


Clayton Township Hall

Originally built in 1878 in Clayton Township on Corunna Road, the Township Hall was a gift from the people of Clayton Township and was moved to Crossroads Village in 1976.
Clayton Township was originally called Miller's Settlement, after the first settler, Adam Miller, who arrived from New York.
When Michigan was forming towns and townships, local residents submitted possible names. Since no name was sent in for this area, someone in the state post office chose the name Clayton, and it stuck.
Township halls, such as this one, were used for elections, dances, and for meetings of government and social groups.
Here in Crossroads Village it is used as a children's wooden toy store.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fowler Barbershop

This building, built around 1880, began as the U.S. Post Office in the Clinton County community of Fowlerville.
As a barbershop, no women, boys, or girls were allowed inside, for men did not only get their hair and beards trimmed, and bathe, but they even could have their teeth pulled. It was a gathering place for the men as well.



T. N. North & Son Bank and Locy's Dental Rooms

Next door to the Horton-Calwell building is the T.N. North and Son Bank.
The bank, built in 1878, retains it's original walk-in vault and ornate teller's cage. The re-created Locy's Dental Rooms, located on the second floor, depict 1800's dentistry.
Unfortunately, I was not able to visit the second floor to take photographs, although I have some decent shots of the first floor bank itself.

And, if you can't have any fun at these museums, why go?

Horten-Colwell Building

Our first building in this series, the Horton-Colwell Building, was built in 1869 by Dexter Horton and David Colwell in Fenton, Michigan. It's original location was on the corner of LeRoy and Caroline Streets.
It housed many businesses over the years, including a post office on the first floor from 1869 until 1883.
The building includes a second floor.
Churches, schools, and fraternal organizations used the 2nd floor Opera House. The "FLT" in the brickwork is a symbol for the Oddfellows International fraternal organization.
General Tom Thumb, famous through Barnum, once appeared there in 1879, as did Lily Langtree, the famous opera singer. Prices for the entertainment was twenty five cents for adults and fifteen cents for children.

Besides the opera house and post office, there is a country/souvenir/"Dry Goods" store and a cafe tucked inside.
So, here it is for your viewing pleasure. If I find anything else on it, I will be sure to print it here.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Welcome to Crossroads Village in Flint, Michigan!

Welcome to
~Crossroads Village~
Please watch your step.
Walks, streets, and floors
those of the 1800's
and are uneven.
(from the brochure of Crossroads Village)

The entrance to Crossroads Village

Tiny plumes of smoke rise from the boiler at the Master Cider Mill and drift silently over the wooden walks and dewy grass. Down the street, a woman walks among her gardens gathering flowers in her apron and waves to the gentlemen at the sawmill, who are turning huge logs into planks. There’s a game of checkers just starting at the barbershop, and musicians backstage at the opera house are tuning up their voices for the first show of the day.

The century-old grinding stones at the Atlas Mill are turning wheat into flour for the day’s bread, while a little girl learns to crochet and her mother admires a hand-made quilt. Eager passengers slide onto their seats in the wooden coaches of the Huckleberry Railroad as the conductor calls out, “All aboard!”

Most of the 35 buildings here were moved – brick, board and stone – to this magical place at the edge of Mott Lake. Many came from just a few miles away. In this peaceful setting, they have been preserved, furnished and put back into use, so you can experience first-hand what life was like in a small village in Michigan in the late 1800's

(this was taken from the official Crossroads Village web site)

Thus begins our journey to and through that little village that few are aware of, Crossroads Village.
Crossroads Village was founded in the year 1973 as part of the upcoming United States bicentennial celebration. It had only three buildings at that time but grew to 13 buildings by its grand opening day of July 4, 1976.
It now has over 30 structures.
What makes Crossroads Village so unique is its authenticity - it has dirt roads, wood-plank sidewalks, an actual period train and train cars, and just has the look and feel of stepping into the past, moreso, dare I say, than the modernized Greenfield Village.
Does Crossroads have its problems? Certainly, and I plan to address those problems throughout this blog when I feel it is necessary.
I will address one complaint here: for the twenty + years that I have been visiting Crossroads Village, I have never seen a guidebook with info and photos, only a brochure with a few lines written about each structure. I feel this needs to be rectified, for this Village deserves more than a simple brochure.

When all is said and done, we here in southeast Michigan are truly blessed with having two open-air historical museums within two hours of each other.
For those out-of-towners who cannot make it to either one, I hope my blogs help you to enjoy them vicariously through the information and photos posted.
By the way, all photos were taken by me. If you would like to use them, feel free, but please give me and this blog the credit. Thank you.
(Here is the address to my Greenfield Village blog -
So, come along on this Journey to the Past...