By DAVID GREEN
Morenci was a woman back in 1915. A headline in the Observer states that “Morenci is proud of her municipal progress and many business interests.”
A short sketch of her growth and development was presented, with a rather flowery introduction by editor E.T. Armstrong. He admonishes readers to “cut out suspicion, knocks and digs; they come from an ignorance born in pigs.”
I have before me the Aug. 5, 1915, edition of the Observer, a good paper in a good town, on the line of two great states. This is the special Industrial Edition of the Observer, leading up to the Morenci Day celebration.
By this time the city already had water lines and fire hydrants in place and an extension of water service across Bean Creek had just been completed.
The village had electric lights—not all the time—but improvements were on the way. The Morenci-Fayette Light and Power Company furnished the juice, from a power plant at the Lake Shore Railroad depot, but that was soon to be used only for emergencies because a contract had been made with the Toledo Railways & Light Co. to bring 24-hour continuous service and that would make Morenci a truly modern community.
This edition of the Observer provides brief reviews of local businesses, pointing out, for example, that the Siefried and Mitchell Restaurant is the only eatery in town and feeds the hungry a good, appetizing meal for 25 cents.
In August 1915, Morenci had the only motorized ambulance in the county. The ice that was delivered to homes came from Bawbeese Lake, known for its purity and cleanliness.
H.H. Spencer offered the best ice cream sodas in town at his drug and grocery store. Mr. Spencer came to Morenci in 1886, with a long tailed coat, high water pants, one guitar and $2.40 in cash. He used his $5 a week pay to work his way into ownership of the business.
Photos in the paper show several horse-drawn wagons, but things were changing. “The honk wagons or snort carts or whatever you call them have become so numerous and the consequent troubles so many and complicated that a garage man is as busy as a one armed paper hanger with the itch.” That’s where Lou Hill showed his importance to the town at his garage. If Lou couldn’t fix it, then it couldn’t be did.
G.W. Gust was certainly a community-minded individual. He announced plans to install rest rooms in his hardware store for the convenience of women and children. He was a graduate of the Medina Academy and Fayette Normal.
The New York Department Store was located where Janie’s hair salon is now located. There were two floors of goods and the owners, the Sebalds, lived on the third floor.
It’s so amazing and also disheartening to look at Morenci’s business district from a century ago. You didn’t drive to Adrian or Toledo to shop. You didn’t have to, everything was right in town.
There was an ice cream parlor in the hotel, at least five groceries, two drug stores, several clothing stores and hardware stores, two stores selling ladies’ hats, two auto repair shops, two stores selling pianos, a pool room, a feed store, two lumber and building supply stores, three bakeries, a steam laundry, granite works, a cement block plant, a tailor, a brick and tile factory, a grain mill, a trucking company, a book store, auto dealers, a jewelry store and more.
There was also a harness shop, buggy store, a livery, five blacksmiths—businesses that were probably not handed down to the next generation.
There was also a newspaper, of course, one that had chronicled the town’s events for the past 41 years. Mr. Armstrong had been editor for only five months, but he boasted that the Observer had become the best country paper anywhere in these parts. He claimed the paper was “the greatest single asset of the village.” Quite a claim to make.
“Truly a marvelous record occasioned by the sterling manhood of its founder, E.D. Allen.”
Sterling manhood? I don’t know if I’ve ever been described in that manner. I thought I was moving into the latter period of my career, but I now see there’s more to strive toward.