PUBLIC SERVANTS: WHO’S WHO
The 2014 Grand Ledge Area Historical Society Museum exhibit at 118 W. Lincoln St. encompasses many areas of public life in Grand Ledge, including city officials and departments, county commissioners and four generations of Fitzgeralds who served in state government. The Museum is open each Sunday 2-4 p.m.and festival days 12-4 p.m.
The focus is on long term public servants, but includes many people who have served through the years to make Grand Ledge the “Grand” place ii is.
Edmund Lamson (Lamson St.) was the first village president. Alvin Kempf (1965-75) and Lew Gentry (1979-1989) were the longest serving mayors, both serving 10 years. Al Kempf cut the ribbon for the opening of the E. Jefferson St. City Hall in 1970. Kalmin Smith (2007 to the present) opened the new municipal building this year in the former Greenwood School at 310 Greenwood St. Lynda Trinklein, first woman mayor (1991-1996) greets you in costume.
Bill Eveleth was the longest serving police chief, from 1950-52 and 1957-77. A manikin wears Steve Starr’s 1973 uniform and carries the key to the jail cell from the 1885 Fire Hall (now Ledge Craft Lane), Ltd.) at 120 S. Bridge St. We show a promotion coin of B.D. Sackett, early constable and chief in 1938-40. On the back it says “Good for 5 cents at Bar”.
You will see pictures of the horse-drawn fire rigs, the major fires and the last volunteer fire chief, Dick Smith, handing over his position to the first full time and longest fire chief, Graydon Briggs (1966-1996). Featured are a mid 1800s leather water bucket and the number 3 leather helmet..
Public Works directors serving at least 30 years in various departments include Harrison Millard (1932-71) Ralph Lawrence who started in 1935, Jim Eimer (1956-96) and Harold Jolley for over thirty years. The longest serving employee is Jack Phinney with over 50 years and he is still working.
Leonard Lewis was cemetery sexton from 1931-63 and John Haueter 1963-1976. Enjoy rhe pictures of Strobel’s early horse drawn hearse and funeral truck. Read the 2005 and 2010 “A Walk through the Past” booklets featuring long time Grand Ledge families. See Salathiel Gilliam’s tombstone.
The post office was established in 1850 with Henry Trench, first settler, as post master. It was housed in various stores and buildings until 1939 when the present post office was built. The mural “waiting for the Mail” was painted by Detroit artist James Calder in 1940. The longest serving employee was Miss Emily Shipman who served 49 years and six months, including three months as acting post mistress. There have been over 50 postmasters. The longest serving was Gordon Briggs, 1951-1973.
The Grand Ledge District Library was started in 1911 by six ladies of the Ladies Library Association. It was housed in the City Water Works on W. River St. from 1912 -1931 until they moved into the new library on E. Jefferson St. In 1961 the addition was built when Emily Shipman donated $85,000.00. Miss Alice McDirmid worked at the library for 50 years. Suzanne Bowles was the longest serving head librarian from 1982-2013.
Meet Miss Saunders, the first teacher in 1851 at the Little Red School on the Greenwood site. Jonas Sawdon (Sawdon School) was superintendent from 1910-1946 and Kenneth Beagle (Beagle School) from 1946-1973.. 39 rural schools were consolidated into the Grand Ledge Public Schools during Mr. Beagle’s tenure. Long term School Board members were T. Carl Holbrook (Holbrook School) 1939-62 and Leon Hayes (Hayes School) 1941-67).
Grand Ledge citizens also served as county commissioners — John Ewing, Valorus Kent (Kent St.), Frank Fitzgerald, Dean Doty, Al Kempf and Harlan MacDowell.
Four generations of Fitzgeralds served in state government. John Wesley was in the House of Representatives 1895-96. His son Gov. Frank Dwight Fitzgerald was a clerk for several state commissions, Secretary of State and governor 1935-36 and 1939. View Governor and Mrs. Frank Fitzgerald’s Inaugural Ball outfits.
Governor Frank’s son John W. was a state senator, on the Court of Appeals and a Supreme Court Justice. You will see John’s Supreme Court robe on display and his wife Lorabeth’s ball gown.
John’s son Frank M. Fitzgerald was an Eaton County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, served in the House of Representatives in 1987-89 and was State Insurance Commissioner in 1999. Memorabelia from all four Fiztgeralds is on display.
The railroad was important to the economic growth of Grand Ledge, transporting products from the chair and tile factories, the farms and passengers to the Seven Islands Resort. View the moving of the passenger depot from near Grand Ledge Chair Company on flat bed car across the river on High Bridge to the north side site on Washington St. Frank Knapp was the station manager of the passenger depot in the 1930s and 40s.
The 119th Field Artillery of the Michigan National Guard was located on Jenne Street where the Football Field is today Several buildings housed the horses and guard training facilities Captain Gordon Briggs was a longtime commander. See Roy Poole’s WW I uniform.
The 46th Aviation Support Facility on Hartel Road and Eaton Hwy. is one of the largest employers of the area housing helicoptors, fixed wing aircraft and training the personnel for the state. Col. Howard Brunette was the longest serving commander (1956-75). SFC Leo Huver served for nearly 40 years at both Guard Facilities.