FROM THE ARCHIVES: The flourishing city of Greenville

From the Archives | Sandy Main

The farmers of Ionia, Kent and Montcalm counties gathered for a harvest picnic at Baldwin Lake on Aug. 4, 1881. In spite of temperatures above 100 degrees, the event was a great success, according to the Greenville Independent.

“The Grange picnic at Baldwin Lake Thursday of last week was a great success. Fourteen subordinate granges were represented by delegates.” The event included “good speeches appropriate to the occasion. The choir gave some vocal music and then the people dispersed to share in various amusements, some boating, some dancing, and others visiting in groups. Except for the intense heat of the day, everything was quite agreeable.”

Attending from Grand Rapids was the editor of the “Agricultural World,” who expected to be visiting a place of “pine stumps, stunted oak grubs and unproductive farms.” He was big enough to admit that this “mind picture” was far from the truth.

He included in his article, excerpted in the Greenville Independent, his impressions of the city itself.

“We returned to Greenville (from the picnic grounds) at an early hour, and had a fine opportunity for examining the city. It was incorporated as a city in 1870, and has a population of about 3,200. It is as flourishing a place as one would like to see, and is a manufacturing point of some considerable importance.

“It is pleasantly situated on the banks of Flat river. The streets are patrolled by paid policemen and there is also a paid and finely equipped fire department. Church spires are numerous, and the school buildings might well be envied by cities twice its size, one structure alone costing about $30,000.

“Two daily and two weekly papers are published in the city; and the ladies have a well-selected library of about 2,700 volumes; from which we infer that the people of Greenville are both intelligent and well posted, both as regards literary matters and the news of the city.

“The financial wants of the community are cared for by three thrifty banking institutions, and three flourishing mills supply a market for the products of the broad and fertile wheat fields which peep in at the city from every side. One of those mills has a capacity of 300 barrels of flour per day, its products being sold principally in the European market. The business street is well lined with substantial brick blocks, and an enterprising gas company supplies light after old Sol’s retirement at night.

“The location is excellent. The streets are regularly laid, are made attractive by shade trees, which protect carefully kept sidewalks from the sun, and many of the gutters are neatly paved with stone. It is safe to say that Greenville has more miles of sidewalk and paved gutters than any city of its size in the state.

“The residence portion of the city was doubly attractive after our long and dusty ride. In Greenville there are more neat and cozy cottages, more well-kept front yards and gardens, more carefully tended flower beds and grape arbors, and more fresh, pretty girl faces peeping from vine-covered windows, half hidden by fruit and shade trees, than in any city of its size we ever saw. And we are not putting it on very thick, either. Beautiful, tasty residences — kept with that care which denotes the refined, thrifty occupant — are the rule rather than the exception, and here, as elsewhere in the city, the sanitary condition is perfect.

“In the evening, in company with the ex-chief of the fire department, we visited the engine house, a fine brick structure, and found everything ready for an emergency, the whole establishment being in perfect order.

“Our night stroll about the place revealed a quiet, orderly condition of affairs. It had been a gala day, the city was crowded with people from all parts of the county, and the young people of the place were out in full force, but there was no drunkenness or debauchery of any sort. The offices of the city seem to be filled with men thoroughly competent and thoroughly in earnest in their work. Those in larger cities might do well to copy after them, especially in sanitary matters.

“The business men and residents generally seem proud of their city and the way it is managed, and well they may.”


Leave a Comment