In order to trace the beginning of the Churches of Morenci we must consider the history of the city. The first white man to settle in this district was Simon D. Wilson. He moved to what is now the John Zachel farm, 2-1/2 miles north of Morenci. In those days neighbors lived a considerable distance apart, the nearest being five miles to the north, fifteen miles to the south, and thirty miles to the west. No other white man lived within the three adjoining townships.
Mention is made of this early settler, Simon D. Wilson, because of his influence on the surrounding districts. When new settlers came, he directed them to Medina if they were Baptists, to Medina Center if they were Congregationalists or Presbyterians, to Gorham Township, Ohio if they professed no church alliance, and to Morenci if they were Methodist. Because of this rather mechanical division, the Methodists dominated from the beginning.
As was the history of many churches, the first Christian work was organized into a Sunday School, and the first Methodist class was born in 1836. Meetings were held in the old log school house in Simon Wilson’s grove, under the leadership of Alah Holt. Wilson was the first superintendent of the school and served for 31 years. The meetings were held every Sunday morning during the summer months and may have been called Union Services, for the people assembled together for the study of God’s word and for worship without church identity. Before regular preaching services were attempted, Alah Holt led in worship and read a printed sermon.
In 1846 the Sunday School was moved to what was known as the Carter school house, 1-1/4 miles north of Morenci. In 1850 the services were moved to the Round school house in Oak Grove on the corner of North and Converse Streets. Mr. Wheeler of Hudson occasionally walked all the way to Morenci to conduct a preaching service for the Union Sunday School. Such was the consecration of those days.
First Methodist Church
Named for the beautiful flowering bean trees along the banks of Bean Creek, the oldest church in Morenci was organized in 1836 with seven members and was known as the Bean Creek Mission.
The first meeting place was a rude school house made of logs, rolled up square and caulked with mud. The seats were plain, rough benches, made of slabs of wood with round sticks inserted in auger holes for legs. A huge fireplace did duty on one side of the room. This school stood two miles north of Morenci in Simon Wilson’s grove.
In 1847 a parsonage was purchased and used for the next ten years. It was located opposite the farm now owned by Russell Sutton. In 1865 the church owned a parsonage where the Congregational Church now stands.
During these years the old log school house had been replaced by a frame one on the same site in which the “meetings” were held until 1846. Then a round or octagon-shaped schoolhouse, 1-1/4 miles north of Morenci, became the preaching place. Later the old round schoolhouse in the village of Morenci, on Canandaigua Street, was used for a meeting place; it stood near the intersection of our North and Congress Streets.
In 1851 a 36’x50’ frame church was built at Main and Summit Streets, upon the ground deeded to the congregation by Franklin Cawley. A room half the size of the church was finished in the basement for Sunday School and was attended by all denominations, as it was the only Sunday School in the village for several years.
A bell was considered a necessity, and Josiah Osgood circulated a subscription in August 1853 to raise the money. He then went to Troy, N.Y., stationed himself a mile from the bell factory, listened to the sounds of the bells by number, and made his selection by the quality of their tone. The bill of sale for the bell, dated September 27, 1853, shows that it weighed 960 lbs. and cost 30 cents per pound. The yoke cost $18, for a total cost of $306. It was warranted not to break for one year, and to suit in tone and finish; if not, the Jones & Hitchcock Foundry agreed to recast it without charge. The bell was floated down the Erie Canal from Troy to Buffalo, New York. From there it went to Toledo on a lake boat, and Mr. Osgood brought it to Morenci with his ox team over the plank road (now U.S. 120). People were so excited upon delivery of the bell that Mr. Osgood guessed they would have rung it all night if he had not managed to get it inside the church and locked up. The bell was rehung in the tower of the present church when it was built in 1914.
The church was expanded toward the north sometime between 1866 and 1868. The “Amen” corners were torn out and a high pulpit replaced by a platform and stand. In February 1881 the church was damaged by fire. The damaged, assessed at $466, was fully covered by insurance and the church was put into good condition throughout.
The Ladies Aid Society, now the Woman’s Society of Christian Service, has been an important factor since 1874 in finances, raising hundreds of dollars for repairs and furnishings on the church property and towards liquidating debt.
About the turn of the century a new parsonage was built on Main Street just east of the church, a fairly large two-story house.
The Rev. H.G. Pearce came to Morenci in 1910, an enthusiastic and earnest worker, and during his pastorate the Methodists realized a long time dream—a new church. In October 1913 the Official Board authorized architects to draw up plans for a new church at a cost of about $17,000. Twelve men offered to build a Tabernacle for worship while the new church was being built. This temporary place of worship was located on Locust Street, about a half block east of North Main Street. The white frame church was razed and a fine brick church erected on the site. The cornerstone of the new church was laid in the summer of 1914 and the dedication services held March 21-28, 1915.
Minor changes and improvements have been made since, but the building remains basically unchanged. In the interest of safety and to preserve the outer walls, the parapet was removed; a fine oak floor was laid in the Sanctuary and the rotunda; and in the spring of 1970 the Summit Street entry was remodeled to enclose the outside steps.
First Congregational Church
The Congregational Church of Medina Township was organized in 1837, and its minister, Rev. George Varnum, came to the home of Mrs. Mary Norton March 1, 1858 to help organize a Congregational Church in Morenci. A committee was appointed for this purpose; an Ecclesiastical Council was formed with ministers and delegates from Hudson, Medina, Clinton, Wheatland, and Adams; the First Congregational Church of Morenci was officially organized March 17, 1858 with 24 members.
A year later, in 1859, a separate organization, the Congregational Society, was formed with a full slate of officers to look after “and direct the pecuniary affairs of the Church,” while the original organization, the Congregational Church, was to aid “in the dispensation of the gospel among the people, and to take charge of temporal concerns.”
Worship services were held in various places available to them; however, in July 1868, the Trustees resolved to raise $300 by subscription to make a down payment to the Methodists for their parsonage located at Locust and Summit Streets for a building site. The next month a committee was chosen “to draft and present a subscription paper for the erection of a church.” In 1871 the Congregational Society resolved to build a church 40x60 feet, to be of brick. The church was finished and dedicated in 1872.
A horse shed was built on the west side of the church for the protection of the horses and carriages from the cold in winter and the heat in summer. This was later torn down and the site used for the parsonage.
According to the records of 1877, the minister was receiving a salary of $500 per year plus a donation, the janitor was hired for $20 a year, and the ladies of the church were a committee to keep the lamps trimmed and cleaned.
Early in 1894 the two organizations of the church decided to merge, to have one set of officers, and the be known as The First Congregational Church Society. At this time a new constitution and manual were adopted.
In 1897-1898 an addition to the north was added to the church. The years that followed were lean ones, and members worked hard to meet expenses. In 1905 the bell tower had to be rebuilt at a cost of $220; however, there never was a bell in the tower since it was not constructed properly.
On Easter Sunday of 1906 the memorial window dedicated to Elias B. Rorick was unveiled with proper ceremony. Later in the decade other memorial stained glass windows were added. In 1923 the church underwent a complete remodeling program. The interior of the auditorium was reversed, placing the front of the sanctuary to the south. The balcony was built and an entrance made to the east.
October 10, 1916 the Church body adopted the constitution and manual as recommended at that time for Congregational Churches in Michigan. This constitution was used until January, 1954 when a new one was adopted.
The present parsonage was built in 1913. The first pipe organ was dedicated June 9, 1924 with Hazel Crabbs at the console. In 1955 the pipe organ was replaced with a Hammond electric organ, gift of Dr. and Mrs. James A. Blanchard, and in 1957 Memorial Chimes were presented to the church by Dr. and Mrs. Blanchard.
On January 1, 1954 Charles R. Kellogg retired as Treasurer of the church, an office he had faithfully served for forty years. A new Bible of the Revised Standard Version was presented to the church by Mr. and Mrs. Charles R. Kellogg at that time completing a modernization program of the altar and front part of the church.
The stately structure, originally dedicated in 1872, has undergone numerous additions and changes, inside and out, each time adding to its charm and beauty as a House of Worship.
First Baptist Church
The First Baptist Church was organized October 19, 1853 with fifteen charter members, eight men and seven women. These people continued in fellowship with the Union Sunday School but met separately for worship. One of the charter members, John B. Kemp, was set apart to be the Lord’s servant and to minister to them; he was first licensed to preach in 1854 and was later ordained here in 1857. Brother Kemp was the first resident pastor, the first of any church in Morenci.
There apparently was an arrangement whereby the Baptists held services in the Methodist Meeting House, as minutes of 1860 noted “are still occupying the Methodist Meeting House, but taking measures to build a house of worship.” A site for the church was obtained on the corner of Summit and Locust Streets, the deed signed by Mr. and Mrs. Hagaman for a consideration of $225, and in 1862 the minutes recorded “building a house of worship, which is nearly completed, where we hope to enjoy the presence and blessing of God.” Tradition tells us that in the construction of the church the people gave of such things as they had; stone, gravel, brick, timber, etc., as well as strength and hours and labor.
At first loose chairs were used until old-fashioned straight pews were installed. Short pews were attached to east and west walls with long pews in the center, allowing two aisles leading down to the front. The lights were kerosene lamps with reflectors in back of the light attached to window frames. Two large iron chandeliers were suspended from the ceiling in the center of the room. Later Mrs. Hagaman presented a hanging lamp which was hung over the large heavy pulpit. The platform extended across the entire north end of the auditorium. Behind the pulpit stood an old-fashioned horse-hair sofa. In the south end of the room were two small square entries and between them was built a platform about three feet high intended for a choir loft, but used mostly for primary Sunday School classes. The church was heated by two big coal stoves located in front of the south windows, the pipes running across the room into the chimney at the north end. The windows, three on each side were of many small panes and had dark green blinds on the outside.
The first Missionary Circle of the church was organized in 1874 with Mrs. Miner as its president. The first year $22.26 was given to missions, and the following year $25 to home and $10 to foreign missions.
In 1881 $200 was spent in repairing and beautifying the church. In 1883 Mrs. H.C. Maybin and Mrs. Susan Hagaman purchased the house and lot east of the church and presented it as a parsonage providing the church would either repair it or construct a new house.
In November 1883 it was voted to dissolve the organization of the First Baptist Church and to incorporate it anew under the act of Legislature of the State of Michigan which had been approved May 29, 1879.
The church was remodeled during 1888 at a cost of over $1,500 which included installation of new pews, a furnace, converting small entries to one front entry, and a gallery across the south end using old pews. A large chandelier with canopy top and ten rows of prisms was installed; years later it fell and was replaced with electric lights. New windows of ground glass were installed.
Rev. and Mrs. Vincent L. Garrett were called to Morenci in 1888. They were greatly loved by all and “deserved the title of father and mother Israel for their tender shepherding.” Their daughter, Lena, organized a flourishing young peoples’ society called Christian Endeavor, later changed to Loyalists, then to BYPU. The first reports of an active young peoples’ organization is found in the minutes of 1892. W.J. Bauman was the president, and there were 13 active members and 30 associates.
The year 1884 was an extremely active one for the church with many accomplishments. A new bell was purchased and installed. This first rang for worship services on December 23, 1894. Church sheds were built on the north of the church lots. A new Baptistery was installed. Pulpit furniture and chairs were purchased by Rev. Garrett and Deacon L.T. Porter.
In 1915 the church was remodeled at an expense of approximately $4,000. This work included the excavation of the basement, the installation of a furnace, and the building of two-stories of classrooms.
In 1919 the change in civilization necessitated the removal of the sheds and the old barn. The horse and buggy days were gone; the automobile had come to stay. The B.Y.P.U., previously disbanded, was reorganized. An orchestra started, and the Junior Department of the Sunday School met for separate worship and bible study periods. During the summer of 1922 improvements of modernization were made in the church and parsonage at a cost of about $1,000. Part of this expense was raised from a legacy given by Tillie Swan. In 1944 the church basement was enlarged to provide classrooms, dining room and kitchen.
A beautiful Hammond organ was presented to the church by Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Porter as a memorial to her parents, Addie and Will Goodyear. An organ dedication service was held Sunday afternoon January 27, 1946, with Professor Eric Franker of Moody Bible as guest organist.
The site for a new parsonage and church was chosen at the west edge of Morenci and the land was purchased in 1960. The present parsonage was built in 1962. Construction for the new church began in the fall of 1969.
History of the Baptist Church proves much has been accomplished through the efforts of faithful members who have found no mention in this history. There is no doubt that from the very beginning the Ladies’ Aid Society by its untiring efforts to promote the interest of the church were the means of making the high ideals of the church a reality.
Church of the Nazarene
In 1925 a group of people started meeting together regularly in a home at 117 West Walnut Street, Morenci, to worship the Lord. Before long this group of believers realized they were in full agreement of the doctrines and standards of the Church of the Nazarene. Rev. U.B. Arnold met with the group and organized the Morenci Church of the Nazarene in 1926 with 29 charter members.
Rev. Harvey Schoonover and Rev. William McKown led the church as co-pastors from 1925 to 1930. Rev. Schoonover attended God’s Bible School in 1931. Rev. Carmen Scott pastored the church during that year, Rev. Schoonover returned as pastor in 1932.
The fine leadership of these pastors led the people to build a church for worship. They purchased a former Free Methodist Church from west of Waldron, tore it down in sections and reassembled it on the corner of Railroad, now Maple Drive, and Chestnut Streets. The building was dedicated in the year 1930. In 1944 a house at 121 East LaGrange Street was purchased for a parsonage.
The prayers, vision, and work of the pastor, Rev. Harvey Schoonover, and the people brought forth growth that led to a need for a larger building. The present sanctuary at Baldwin and North Summit Streets was built to meet this need in 1952 and was dedicated January 4, 1953. Most of the construction was done by members and friends of the church.
Rev. Schoonover concluded his ministry in the fall of 1963 after 37 years as pastor. He continues his ministry in the community.
Rev. Verian Traver became pastor of the church September 22, 1963.
Property adjoining the church property, corner of North Summit and Coomer Streets, was purchased in 1967, the house providing additional Sunday School classrooms.
The vision of the congregation led the church into a new venture—the building of an 8000 sq. ft. educational unit, and the building of a four bedroom parsonage. Ground for the parsonage was purchased in 1969 at 403 East Coomer Street, construction completed in June, 1970. The educational unit was occupied in February, 1971.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
The first Lutheran service in Morenci was held on Sunday, April 28, 1946 in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, 126 Stephenson Street. The services were conducted by numerous ministers on a part-time basis until Theodore Thurow came in 1947 as the first resident pastor.
The second resident pastor was Rev. A.W. Hueschen, installed on Sunday, May 14, 1949. He served the congregation until ill health forced his retirement February 26, 1964. During his pastorate the congregation was organized May 15, 1950, as a mission congregation of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. “Trinity” was chosen as the congregation’s name.
In 1950 Trinity Congregation was granted a Church Extension Fund Loan of $9,500 to purchase a home to be used as a parsonage at 140 Stephenson Street. During the summer of 1965 a new parsonage was built at 805 West Chestnut Street.
On June 12, 1966 a corner-stone service was held as a start for a church building, and on November 27, 1966 the nearly completed chapel was dedicate to the service of God.
The need for additional space for Sunday School and Vacation Bible School in the early seventies led to the building of the Christian Education wing. Curtis Keefer, a local building contractor, provided much help and direction of the volunteer congregational workers in the project. This new addition was dedicated Aug. 15, 1973.
Seventh Day Adventist Church
Founded on the bible doctrine of the seventh day Sabbath and the second coming of Christ, the Seventh Day Adventists, as a result of a Tent Meeting, organized in Morenci in 1932.
The lot for the building site was donated by Arthur E. Foote. Under the leadership of Leonard Lee, the pastor, the church was built with nearly all volunteer labor. Herman Snyder brought his team of horses to excavate the basement. Mr. Lee’s father-in-law, Mr. Rickenbaugh, was the bricklayer, working for $2 per day.
In 1946 the church facilities were rented to the Lutherans for their services and meetings and used by them until their own church was built in 1966.
As the membership moved to other areas and attendance diminished, the church was closed in the early sixties. On July 17, 1970 the property was sold to Virgil Valentine and was soon converted into an attractive apartment house.
Where our city now stands was, in 1830, a wilderness. Prior to the first town meeting held at Jacob Baker’s in May, 1836 the question arose, “Where and how shall we educate the young Morenciites?” This question was answered by building the first schoolhouse in the village in the Spring of 1835 on the West Main Street site now occupied by Meyer’s Warehouse. It was of logs, about 18 feet by 24 feet, with eaves 10 feet from the ground. An ample fireplace provided heat, and the furniture was of wood slabs.
Morenci continued to prosper. The log school was considered unfit for use and was abandoned for a new eight-square or octagon shaped schoolhouse. This frame building, usually called the “round” school, was erected about 1846 on the southwest corner of North and West Congress Streets. It is said that the seats in the school were built around the sides and the teacher’s desk was in the center of the room.
The “round” schoolhouse was succeeded in 1856 by the two-story brick schoolhouse later called the “old brick.” The building was erected by Ezra Gillis on the site of the former Union Street Elementary school. The first floor was used for the lower grades and the second floor for advanced pupils. On the same lot to the west of the old brick stood a frame building known as the “little white schoolhouse.” This was erected sometime in the late 1860’s.
Morenci became an incorporated village in 1871. The question again arose concerning the education of Morenci youth. The old brick was deemed unsafe and a new building was planned. In 1872 the “old” high school was built on the Commons on North Summit Street. It was erected by James H. Turner assisted by his two sons, Isaac and Calvin, and his neighbor Albert Deyo. It was a three story brick building, 66 feet high, surmounted by a cupola copied from one on a Sylvania schoolhouse. The cost was approximately $12,000. The heating system consisted of stoves.
In 1882 the third story of this old high school was rented to a Professor Tate for use as a boarding school. The classes were held at the school and the students roomed in the old Boarding House on Mill Street. Most of these students were from out of town.
The wreckage of the old brick on Union street was removed n 1900 and in 1902 a new one-room brick elementary school was erected on the site., An addition to the building was made in 1929, The Page Street Elementary school building was opened in 1957.
In 1907 the old high school building of 1872 was torn down and the current high school building was erected on the same site. Edwyn A. Bowd was the architect and George A. Crawford was the contractor. There have been many changes and additions to this building: in 1929 the United Brethren Church was moved and used for grade classrooms until the Congress St. rooms were built in 1951; Stair Gymnasium was opened in 1942; classrooms to the north side were opened in 1957. Thus we come to the present.
Morenci area school history closely follows the clearing of land, erecting of shelter and construction of mills or other business housing. Since most of our settlers emigrated from the east many of them were aware of the advantage of being able to read, write and cipher. Agricultural work came first and required boys and men for nine months of the year. The other three months could be spared for learning. In fact, the government set aside Section 16 in every township for school location. Records state that in the 1830’s wilderness schools were already in Seneca and Medina Township, Mich. and in Royalton and Chesterfield Township, Ohio.
These crude log structures were heated by a fireplace at one end, into which older boys rolled logs. Desks were split logs, flat side up, pegged into outside walls, the seats of like construction and backless. The center of the room was the realm of the teacher, who reigned like a monarch with his beech rod. The curriculum consisted of the three Rs.
The first school in Seneca Township was built in 1835 in a grove just north of the Charles B. Wilson home (now John Zachel’s on M-156). By 1907-08 there were 290 pupils enrolled in nine districts, excluding the graded district of Morenci, an average of 32.2 pupils per room. During that year $3,218.25 was paid to nine teachers, and average of $357.63 per district. District two had the largest enrollment at 44 and district four had the smallest at 12. Aggregate value of district school property, exclusive of Morenci, was estimated at $7,000.
Sugartown School on Yankee Road, district 9, where Mrs. Arthur Brewer once taught, still stands. Rorick School on Packard Road was demolished in July, 1975.
Chesterfield Township’s first school was built in 1838 on section 16, northeast corner, a short distance south of Hawley Cemetery on Road 16. Another early school was near the present East Chesterfield Church. Today the Chesterfield Schools bear the name Evergreen. This system combines Metamora, Fulton, Lyons and Chesterfield schools and is located on Road 6 off Route 20.
The first school in Royalton Township was located south of Lyons (Morey’s Corners in the 1830’s) about one mile. On the same spot (or nearby) a frame school, the “Little Red Schoolhouse” was built, which most children attended until 1850. When this was abandoned, a school was built east of Seward. A man of reputation, James F. Burroughs, taught for 59 winter terms in Fulton and Lucas Counties. He farmed nine months of the year, teaching during the other three.
The first school in Medina Township was in Canandaigua. Mrs. Increase Hamilton taught the first term in 1836.
In 1845 a school was opened in the center of the township in the home of Rev. and Mrs. J.M. Barrows, who later founded an academy in Medina. Rev. Barrows was later professor of science at Olivet College and of his four children (all became prominent men), John H. became president of Oberlin College. The simple log home of Rev. and Mrs. Barrows provided a corner, a little more than 12x15 feet, where fifteen students were taught grammar, geography, arithmetic, and algebra. Rev. Barrows also lectured in chemistry, using improvised apparatus.
The fee for each student was $3 for the 12-week term. Two of the young boy students made $50 the next winter from teaching in Ohio.
As a result of the success of the Barrows school, some of the students originated a plan which resulted in the Medina Union Seminary. A 30x50 foot building, financed by issuing shares for $5 each, was finally constructed and opened in June, 1853. The school gradually attained prominence in the area counties of both Michigan and Ohio, Boarding privileges were provided by Medina residents. One of those homes is that o Charles Schaffner today. A small boarding house was built.
The curriculum included Greek, Latin, advanced English, history, philosophy, botany, chemistry, and physiology. Also called Medina Oak Grove Academy, the school, no longer needed, became the home of the Medina Grange. Today it is being converted into a private residence, but the old grove still provides memories.
One more school of importance in the late 19th century was located in Fayette, Ohio in Gorham Township. This was the Fayette Normal, Music and Business College, which was established in 1881. The imposing brick building was situated on an ample campus on W. Main Street. It housed departments of mathematics and pedagogics; English literature, rhetoric and history; natural sciences; German, French and ancient languages; commercial subjects; penmanship; anatomy; physiology; voice culture, harmony, composition, solo, organ and piano.
A fine faculty and the broad curriculum attracted young men and women from a large area. Room and board were supplied by Fayette residents and some students secured cooking privileges to save money. However popular the school, in 1888 the management transferred their interest to Wauseon. The Eclectic Institute established there did not survive.
Fayette succeeded in securing another school, the Fayette Normal University, which opened in 1888 in a new building on the north side of town. The former Normal building was demolished and the area where it once stood was taken over by the Toledo and Western Railroad.
The emergence of free high schools led to the closing of Fayette Normal in 1905 and the building served as Fayette High School for several years.
Centralization and consolidation of district schools in the 1950’s led to the closing of one-room school buildings and the end of an era in educational history. Still to be seen along country roads are a few of the brick or frame relics which provided eight years of generally adequate preparation for high school. Some stand mute in their deterioration, others have been converted for other uses.
Usually situated on a large plot these schools had outdoor gymnasiums, outdoor lavatories and usually a wood house in earlier years. If no well was provided, older boys carried water from a nearby farm in a pail from which students shared a common cup or dipper. At completion of the eighth grade, those wishing to attend high school were required to pass a qualifying examination in Morenci or another town with a high school. Many anecdotes of one-room schools are related by students and teachers from this era.
Invention of the automobile eventually brought bus transportation to replace the trudge to and fro; school lunch programs replaced the tin lunch box and the bell rope has been replaced by electronic communication systems.
The first tavern owner in Morenci was William Sutton, who came to this area in 1835 with his wife Rebecca and their three children. In 1836 Sutton erected a double log house in Morenci where Stair Auditorium once stood. The tavern sign was made of half a barrel head nailed to a post.
In 1843 Mr. G. Rozin Joy came to this area from Connecticut and built the first hotel, known as Morenci House.
Mr. Orville Woodworth came to this part of the country in 1834 and was given a government grant of 160 acres of land. This grant was signed by Andrew Jackson. In 1848 he erected the Eagle House, which was a combination tavern and inn. A large medallion of an eagle was painted on the upright section of the building.
To the rear of the Eagle House building was a large Indian burial mound and a promise was made to the friendly Indians that this would not be disturbed. The location of Eagle House was three miles west of Morenci on the north side of the road. This property is now owned by Steve Struhar.
The road passing by the Eagle House from east to west was first an Indian trail from Lake Michigan to Maumee, Ohio. It was also known as Vistula Highway or Territorial Road and has been under the flags of three nations.
The road from north to south was the route from Bryan, Ohio to Adrian, Mich.—Adrian being the rail center where all supplies arrived. The journey from Bryan to Adrian took four days. The Eagle House, sometimes known as the Halfway House, was the lodging place on the trip for overnight travelers.
The Eagle House became a popular social center for a large surrounding area. Political meetings, Independence Day celebrations, turkey shoots, sleighing parties and dances were all held there. The dancing usually lasted until the early morning hours. The ballroom was then divided into cubicles by curtains on wires and beds were set up for the guests.
Horse racing was a popular pastime with the men who patronized the tavern. The race course was a half mile stretch of road in front of the tavern and the betting was lively.
In the tap room corn whiskey sold for two cents a drink and was the usual order, although hard cider was always available. Twenty-five cents furnished drinks for the house.
In the summer a man would be sent to Toledo, Ohio by horse and wagon for barrels of whiskey and a barrel of salt. It was said the barrels of salt usually outlasted the barrels of whiskey.
In later years the Eagle House became known as the Buckhorn Tavern since the walls of the building inside and out had been decorated with deer antlers.
The Eagle House also became a popular “Marrying Place,” as Michigan required no marriage license at that time. A bridal chamber was maintained for the newly married couples.
In 1847 Franklin Cawley, one of the early settlers of Morenci, built the Morenci Exchange Hotel. He moved the portion built by Mr. Joy to the rear of the hotel. In 1859 Mr. and Mrs. Abe Mace purchased the Exchange. Mr. Mace was a much respected gentleman and was popularly called Uncle Abe Mace. The other two owners of the hotel were Mr. and Mrs. Spencer Snow and Mr. and Mrs. Jabez Snow. The latter couple owned the hotel when it burned to the ground along with almost a block of Morenci’s business district.
Mr. and Mrs. Jabez Snow then moved to the brick building across the road and continued taking in roomers in what is now the Eagle Lodge.
The Hotel Temperance, or the Quiet Cottage Home as it was sometimes called, was built in 1850 by Thomas Baker. It stood where the Rexall Drug Store and Gillen Hardware are now. In 1862 part of this building was moved to South Summit Street and the other part to East Locust Street. The section moved to Locust Street continued to be used as a rooming house for a number of years.
Asa Kennedy built the Nurnett House, also called the Upper House, in 1851 on East Main Street. In November 1887 this structure caught fire and the story was told that the firemen, in their excitement to put out the fire, threw the crockery out the windows and carried the feather mattresses down the stairs. Joel Acker was the last owner of this hotel.
In 1889 Mr. and Mrs. C.S. Saulsbury erected a large brick hotel on the corner of Main and North Streets. On November 7, 1889, the first meal was served in the new hotel’s dining room.
The ownership of this hotel changed hands many times through the years. Perhaps the most familiar of the proprietors was Frank and Lottie Blair, who operated the hotel for nearly 40 years. The Sunday chicken dinners in the hotel dining room were very popular with patrons near and far. With the passing of the years and the changes that were taking place, the hotel soon found the rooms were empty most of the time. The once prosperous and elegant hotel was demolished in the summer of 1970.
An Ordinance—May 10, 1915
An ordinance to regulate billiard, pool and ball alley rooms within the Village of Morenci and to prescribe the hours for the opening and closing of the same read:
The Village of Morenci Ordains
Section 1. All billiard rooms, pool rooms, ball alleys and all places where billiards, pool or ball (bowling) are played for hire, gain or reward, within the Village of Morenci, shall be closed on the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, and on each week day night from and after the hour of ten o’clock, until half past five o’clock of the morning of the succeeding day, except on Saturday night when such places shall be closed from and after eleven o’clock. It shall be the duty of the Marshall, and all other police officers of the said Village of Morenci to close all places that shall be found open in violation of the provisions of this section, and to forthwith make complaint against the person or persons who violated any of the provisions of this section. The word “closed” in this section shall be construed to apply to the back door or other entrance, as well as to the front door, and in prosecutions under this section it shall not be necessary to prove that any such games were played, but if such place is not closed, or if any person or persons excepting the proprietor or proprietors are within the same during the time such place is to be closed, it shall be deemed a violation of this section.
Section 2. During all times, all curtains, screens, partitions and other things that obstruct the view from the sidewalk, street, alley or road in front of or at the side of the building containing such place where any of such games are played shall be removed so that the interior of any room where such games are played is plainly visible without extra effort on the part of the passersby. It shall be deemed a violation of the section if such games are played in a back room not visible from the street at any time. It shall be the duty of the Marshall and other public police officers of the Village of Morenci to make complaint against any person or persons who shall violate any of the provisions of this section.
Section 3. Any person or persons offending against this ordinance upon conviction thereof, shall be punished for such offense by a fine of not less than ten dollars or more than fifty dollars, and costs of prosecution; or by imprisonment in the lock-up of said village, or the common jail of the County of Lenawee for not less than ten days, or more than thirty days, or both such fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the court.
Section 4. All ordinances, or parts thereof, inconsistent herewith are hereby repealed.
Section 5. This ordinance shall take effect on and after its passage and due publication.
Passed, Ordained and Ordered Published this 10th day of May, A.D. 1915.
J.G. Meister, President
Attest: Leo E. Baker,
Morenci’s first newspaper, “The Morenci Herald,” was started in 1855 and published by Silas Scofield. Mr. Scofield sold the paper to John Crabbs. This was followed by “The Morenci Journal,” published by S.B. Smith. In 1859 E.H. Thorp published “The Morenci Star.”
All of these early papers were short-lived. From the beginning of the Civil War until 1868 there was no newspaper in Morenci. In 1868 G.W. Fenton started “The Morenci Gazette,” which lasted only six months.
The railroad came to Morenci in 1871 to start a new era of prosperity and the forerunner of the present “Observer” was started in 1872 and appropriately called “The New Era.” This paper was published by Erasmus D. Allen, a former school teacher here. When Mr. Allen went to Detroit in 1875 to become publisher of the “Michigan Christian Advocate,” the paper was published as the “Morenci News” for about nine months.
Still in 1875, Augustus Allen, son of E.D. Allen, took over the paper and renamed it “State Line Observer.” Later the name was changed to the present “Morenci Observer” and was still operated by Augustus Allen and his younger brother, Vernon.
Vernon Allen, along with E.D. Stair, published “Our Boys and Girls’ Paper” when they were about 14 years old and the Stair brothers published “The Morenci Review” for a short time in 1878.
Other early publishers included Edwin E. Brown (1907), Alfred Schmidt (1923), E.E. Bishop (1923).
The Allens sold the “Observer” to Emil Ahrens, who in turn sold it to E.T. Armstrong. Then came Bacon and Harris, who sold to Dwight J. Robbins. Mr. Robbins sold the “Observer” to Walter J. Pinkstone in 1929. He was joined by F. Russell Green in a partnership in the Morenci, Swanton and Metamora papers in Ohio.
Upon the death of Mr. Green in 1939, the partnership was dissolved and his widow, Mrs. Minnie Green, became publisher. In 1943 she leased the paper to Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Mack. Her son Robert G. Green, became publisher in February 1949 and remained publisher until 1985 when his son, David G. Green, took over.
In 1961 the paper changed its method of printing from “hot type” to “cold type,” using the offset method.
In 1973 the Observer went a step further by purchasing their own computer for computer set type. The change from the Linotype, the “hot type” method, to the computer was as great as the change from handset type to the Linotype.
The greatest difference between the two methods as far as the reader is concerned is probably the use of pictures. A picture seldom appeared in the early papers and until the offset method was employed, only one or two photographs would be used in the same edition. The change to offset made the use of pictures much cheaper by eliminating the engraving cost and at the same time producing much clearer and better reproductions.
It was shortly after the change to offset printing that the Observer went to a controlled circulation process of distribution with the paper being delivered free to everyone in the Morenci shopping area. Under this new policy, the circulation has changed from a little over 1,000 to nearly 4,200.
With the change to offset printing, the Observer is actually printed in a central printing plant in Wauseon, Ohio on a huge web-fed offset press, a far cry from the Country Campbell letterpress still sitting in the basement of the Observer office.
Camera-ready pages are “made up” at the Observer office, taken to Wauseon for printing and then delivered to the Morenci post office for distribution by mail.
The Morenci Observer is one of the oldest business establishments in the city, marking 100 years of continuous operation in 1972.
Along with the newspaper, the Observer has operated a printing department for about the same length of time, doing both offset and letterpress commercial printing.
Morenci’s transportation story is a fascinating one.
In the beginning the land seekers came to the Morenci area by the earliest mode of transportation known to mankind—by foot. They followed old Indian trails leading to the vicinity, followed a path by compass, or followed a creek or river. Occasionally a few came by horseback through the heavy forest.
In 1834 Benjamin Hornbeck, having purchased land, contracted with the United States Government to clear approximately a mile of the Territorial Road (sometimes known as the Vistula Road) from Toledo, Ohio to Indiana, the mile being our Main Street from (approximately) East Street to the Medina Township line (present day Sims Highway), building the first bridge across Bean Creek with the assistance of Jacob Baker.
Other settlers in this locality came with yokes of oxen, sometimes a horse or team of horses, hacking out a path through the wilderness for the wagons. By 1853 a plank road had been constructed from the Ohio Sate Line east of town to Toledo, which was a great boon to the small settlement. Produce could then be taken by wagon with a team of horses from Morenci to Toledo and the return trip brought all manner of goods for sale in the stores.
In 1855 the Southern Michigan Railroad had reached Clayton, thereby providing a new mode of transportation. Clayton was reached by stagecoach. Most stages were owned and operated by livery stable proprietors. Later, stages also ran to Hudson through Canandaigua and Medina carrying both passengers and mail. It is said that the Clayton stage at one time was drawn by a team of four horses and could accommodate as many as twenty-four passengers. Arrival of the stagecoach was announced by a blast on a bugle.
The Wabash Railroad reached North Morenci about 1881 and by the early 1900s the hack, or stage, drawn by a team of horses made regular trips to meet the trains there. Later the trip was made by an automobile jitney or taxi.
In 1871 due to the tremendous competition among railroad promoters the president of the Chicago & Canada Southern Railway decided to build the United States branch of his road from Grosse Isle to Chicago. Roadbed was constructed and track laid, crossing the Erie and Kalamazoo at Grosvenor and reaching Morenci that year.
The construction workers were gangs of men, both local and immigrant. One Morenci boy, LaForest Snow, desirous of earning money took the job of water boy, carrying the water pail and dipper wherever called. The men nicknamed him Tom and the nickname stayed with him the remainder of his life.
On July 27, 1871 a huge celebration was held to commemorate the breaking ground for the roadbed near North Street. The Honorable J.P. Cawley was guest speaker at the celebration.
On June 20, 1872 the steam cars reached Morenci for the first time and passenger service was given until 1938. The depot was built in 1872 and, although in dilapidated condition, still stands.
In 1879 the Chicago & Canada Southern became part of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway, which in 1914 consolidated with the new York Central. Stages, hacks and drays were a commonplace in that day. The heavy drays with stout teams of horses did a tremendous business in transporting freight to and from the railways.
Bicycles also had their day. They were especially popular in the 1890s when clubs were organized, and touring the countryside and visiting neighboring towns was popular. One man did a thriving business with a bicycle repair shop.
The electric interurban railway was also popular and Morenci was able to secure the services of one through the tremendous efforts of Mr. Albert Deyo. The Toledo and Western Railway was built from Toledo through Morenci. It reached the junction of the Angling (or Weston) Road and East Main Street Jan. 21, 1902 and come to the newly built depot on West Main Street April 17, 1902. This depot still stands.
The line carried both freight and passengers and reached as far west as Pioneer, Ohio, with a connecting line to Adrian. The T&W line was eventually partially abandoned and from it the Ohio & Morenci Railroad was formed, running to Denson, Ohio where it made connections wit the D.T.&T. The O&M was abandoned in 1951.
The invention of the automobile brought a different mode of transportation, the first ones coming to Morenci early in the 1900s. This brought on a tremendous improvement in highways.
Today the major portion of freight moves in and out by truck, and passenger traffic moves entirely by automobile. For a while during the late 1930s and early 1940s there was bus service from downtown Morenci to Adrian and Toledo. This was a short-lived project.
The first airplane came to Morenci in October 1913, landing in Mr. Roty Blanchard’s pasture (where the elementary school now stands). Although there is no major movement by plane directly from Morenci there are private planes as well as an occasional helicopter flying in and out.
The history of the Morenci Fire Department is as old as the town. The first fire fighting group was a bucket brigade, which dated back to 1833.
The first organized volunteer fire department was formed in 1871 and was named Hook & Ladder company #1. In 1885 the first floor of the new city hall was designed to house “Sitting Bull,” the man-powered fire engine, along with the ladder truck and hose cart. At this time the department had about 75 members.
The first motored fire engine came in 1914 with a model T Ford. Their second vehicle was purchased in 1924, which was a Dodge. In 1934 another Dodge was purchased, which the department is still very proud to have in their possession.
A new Buffalo Fire Truck was purchased in 1947 and was eventually replaced by a 1966 Ford. Arrangements are being concluded toward the purchase of a new fire engine , and upon its delivery the 1966 Ford will be retained as a useful back-up unit.
The department’s efficiency has greatly increased with the addition of two smaller grass pumpers, used for combating grass fires. The department recently updated its tanker unit to a 1975 Ford with a 1500 gallon capacity for principal use beyond the city’s hydrant system.
Steady advancement is being made in other service equipment including radio communication systems and the building which houses the entire physical properties.
In 1963 a big change for the department was when they became involved in rescue. The rescue squad is a totally volunteer organization and many hours of schooling and training is necessary to prepare members. The organization if fully supported by only the donations which they receive from the individual citizens of Morenci and its immediate rural area.
A few years ago the wives of department members organized into a group known as the “Fire Sirens.” Much credit is due this organization of volunteer workers for invaluable services rendered to our proficient department.
Communication in the early days was slow and often haphazard. Postriders were the principal means of communication between settlements. Riders were commissioned by the government and the way was slow, often requiring a change of horses.
After the establishment of post offices, it was still a slow process delivering the mail from town to town. The Rural Free Delivery service was started in November of 1900. Little by little progress was made and much of our mail now travels by plane.
When the railroads came to cities and towns so did the telegraph system. This type of communication was used by railroads, for their use, and also used for emergency messages. All election returns were sent and received by telegraph.
The first switchboard in Morenci was installed in the Saulsbury Hotel. Miss Nellie Saulsbury (Mrs. A.A. Thompson) was the first operator. In order to reach the operator or “Central” as she was called, one turn of the crank on the telephone was required and she would connect the parties.
The operator also had a hand crank at the switchboard and each phone had its own special series of rings. One had to listen carefully—sometimes it would be a long and a short ring or two short rings and a long one and so on.
Central not only took care of the switchboard calls but kept track of the doctors so she knew where to reach them in an emergency. She also called the firemen, kept a list of people who were away from home and acted as a general secretary to all. She was on duty 24 hours a day.
Newspapers have always played an important part in our communication system. In the early days in Morenci, the people would gather in front of the Exchange Hotel and the newspapers were read from the upper porch to those gathered below. Newspapers have been a great influence in the lives of people in a community.
With the advent of radio, news of the world traveled much quicker and the radio became a focal point in the home for not only the news but also for entertainment. For the first time it brought voices of people into the home and the world came closer to us all.
Television has not only brought the entire world into our homes, but outer space as well. This type of communication has broadened our outlook, and with sight and sound combined we are no longer the isolated community of the wilderness.