History of GRATIOT CO., Michigan. Historical Biographical, Statistical

By Willard D. Tucker pub. 1913 Press of Seemann & Peters, Saginaw, Michigan




Settlement - Progress — Present Interests.  

Photo of Bannister ca. 1912-13

Bannister owes its existence as a place on the map of Gratiot County, first to the fact that a postoffice was established at that particular spot early in the year 1883; and second, to the fact that a railroad was built through that section early in the year 1884. Thomas A. Hanvey was Bannister’s first postmaster. Before the place was dreamed of likely to be the site of a thriving village, Mr. Hanvey, who was one of the early settlers, had a little country, cross—roads grocery store there, and to accommodate himself and the few neighbors, went to Elsie twice a week and brought the mail.  After this had gone along for a while, they secured the establishment of a postoffice, with Mr. Hanvey as first postmaster, appointed February 23, 1883. It was the intention of its promoters to have it named ‘‘Maple Bend’’, on account of its proximity to the big bend in Maple River, but the department objected to the double—geared name. Mrs. Alonzo Peterson is credited with having suggested the name “Bannister’’ in honor of A. M. Bannister who owned the land constituting the site of the future village.  Mr. Bannister was from Jackson and had owned the land since 1881.

Early in 1884 the Ann Arbor Railroad reached Bannister, and as the postoffice had been established and start made toward the founding of a hamlet, the place naturally was adopted as a suitable location for a railroad station. The fine agricultural country surrounding, no doubt had something to do with the adoption of the place for a depot. The village has had a steady, though moderate growth, keeping up with the development of the agricultural section surrounding it, and is all it claims to be – a good market town and trading point for a large scope of country, and a good little village in which to live and do business.  So it will be assumed, without further elaboration, that there are few manufacturing institutions at the present time to assist in keeping it up.

The village is located upon the “gurgling Maple’’ so called sarcastically in the early days, for the reason that there was not a spot in its entire course in Gratiot County where it had life or speed enough to evolve a single gurgle. So, for power purposes it is a failure. But the village has a good list of business people conducting stores of various kinds, and buying and shipping the varied products of the farm. At one time the village had a cheese factory, but its bigger neighbor—Elsie—five miles away, absorbed it some years ago, leaving vacant the large brick building in which it did business.

Bannister was platted by Asahel M. Bannister, Benjamin S. Brownell, Thos. A. Hanvey and Ralph Sutfin, January 10, 1885; located on sections 27 and 34 of Elba. The survey was made by A. M. Bannister.  September 4, 1888, Ralph Sutfin platted an addition adjoining the original on the south­west, the whole covering about 120 acres.

Yes, there has been some rivalry between the two villages Bannister and Ashley—in the past, over business and politics; but not enough of active and actual hostilities to necessitate calling out the National Guard. A few years ago the township was divided into two election precincts, since which time each town has conducted its own elections; but they have to “whack up” on candidates; and that’s a condition of things that at times has its aggravating features to men of sensitive natures.


George Krom, now a resident of Bannister, but for many years residing on his farm one mile east of that village, on section 26 of Elba Township, is one of the well-known farmers of Gratiot County. He was born in New Vernon. N. Y., January 10, 1848. His father, Andrew Krom, in Ulster County, N. Y., March 13, 1813, of Holland ancestry. His mother, Huldah J. (Skinner) Krom, was of English descent, and was born in Orange County, N. Y., February 8, 1815. They were the parents of four children—William A., James, Anna Augusta and George, all born in the State of New York. James died many years ago at his home in Sullivan County, N. Y. William A. was long a resident of Gratiot County, having settled in Elba Township in 1867, engaging in farming and lumbering. Later he removed to Elsie, Mich., and died there December 27, 1909. Anna Augusta Krom was married to James Clarke, who was for several years one of Gratiot county’s leading attorneys, and prosecuting attorney of the county for the term commencing January 1, 1891. He died June 26, 1906.

George Krom removed with his parents to Galesburg, Mich., April 1849. They lived near Galesburg several years, removing from there to Kalamazoo. Huldah J. Krom, the mother, died November 27, 1852, while the family resided at Galesburg. The father, Andrew Krom, died at his home in Kalamazoo, July 1888.

In 1866 George Krom came to Gratiot County to look after his father’s lumbering interests in Elba and Hamilton Townships. In 1872 he bought the farm of 120 acres, which he still owns and cultivates, located on section 26, Elba. As the result of hard work and good management he now has one of the valuable farms of southern Elba.

March 4, 1882, Mr. Krom was married at the residence of the bride’s parents in Elba Township, to Eva, daughter of Bruce and Miranda (Sutfin) Hunter. She was born in Elba, May 16, 1861, one of a family of six children —William H., Frank, Fred, George, Eva and Florence. Her father, Bruce Hunter, died October 27, 1901. Her mother. Miranda Hunter died Novem­ber 18, 1906.

Mr. and Mrs. George Krom have one daughter, Nellie, born in Elsie, October 12, 1885. She was married March 14, 1907, to Frank H. Moulton, now cashier of the Bannister Bank son of H. J. Moulton. They have a daughter, Hazel Elizabeth, born in Elba, July 2l 1909.

In politics Mr. Krom is an active Democrat. Mrs. Krom is a member of Bannister M. E. Church.


Photo of Bannister School ca. 1912-13

There are many reasons for believing that Bannister has as good schools as any town of its size in the county. An assertion that her people are as enlightened and progressive as can be found in Michigan, and know the value and the de­sirability of having the best in the educational line, would be deemed superfluous. They are al­ways after the best. The school is graded, with the grades running to and including the ninth. There are two departments and two teachers — Emma Howland and Clara Menter. Nine months school are taught, and there are about 100 pupils. The school build­ing, an engraving of which is here given, was erected in the year 1887 at a cost of $2,000.

The board of education is made up of P. H. Moulton, director: Alonzo Peterson, moderator; R. G. Letts, treasurer. The school is supplied with all modern conveniences, and has a good library.

Catholic Church.

Within the past few years a large number of Bohemian families have settled in and around Bannister. They came as beet-workers, but found conditions so much to their liking that they have become permanent settlers. They are adherents of the Roman Catholic faith. In the fall of 1911 they erected a fine cement block church edifice in the eastern suburbs of Ban­nister. “St. Cyrils” is the name, and the society’s spiritual needs are looked after by Father Mulvey, of St. Mary’s Parish, Alma.


Among the most important of Bannister’s flourishing institutions the Bannister Bank takes rank among the foremost. Not only flourishing and important, but a great convenience to the people of the village and a large scope of surrounding country.

The bank was established in the year 1903. In that year Dr. O. B. Campbell, of Ovid, and T. P. Steadman, of Elsie, believing that a banking institution at Bannister would prove a popular and paying investment, formed a co-partnership for the purpose, and the present fine business is the result. It is a private business, but the financial assets of the firm are such that their responsibility in the business is placed at $75,000; seemingly ample considering all conditions.

The first cashier of the bank was Roy D. Letts, son of William D. Letts, old settlers in Elba Township. Mr. Letts remained in the position of cashier until January 1910, when he resigned to go into other business. He was succeeded by Frank H. Moulton, son of H. J. Moulton, also resi­dents of Elba Township. Under Mr. Moulton’s capable and courteous management the bank will doubtless continue its career of prosperity so well inaugurated and maintained under Mr. Letts’ supervision.

The bank does business on Main Street in a block built and owned by the proprietors of the bank, containing also two other flourishing business concerns.


As before stated Thomas A. Hanvey was the first postmaster at Bannister, appointed February 23 1883 Others took their turns as follows: Edson C. Brown, December 29. 1886: Hanvey again May 29, 1889; Brown again May 24 1893; George C. Douglas, September 13, 1895; Edwin Meacham, November 15. 1897; Frank Newsom, August 31, 1905, and he is still “holding the fort.”  A. F. Ryder is his talented assistant. The two rural routes from Bannister are served by C. D. Wooley and L. B. Angle.


Modern Woodmen of America.

Bannister Camp No. 6066, Modern Woodmen of America, started in officially January 23, 1899, with the following as its charter members: Joseph Addison, F. B. Bensinger, Albert Bishop, J. C. Lawson, S. E. Burlingarne. Ben Scott, Sanford Cordray, W. H. Gilman, W. F. Rawson, F. Z. Galehonse, M. D. Shaw, Arthur J. Helmer, W. J. Morrison, F. F. Newsom, L. C. Palmer, R. Page. Julius F. Rouse, P. D. Stewart, John Scott, John D. Willis.

K. 0. T. M. M.

Day Tent No 893 Knight of the Modern Maccabees, was organized August 31, 1894, starting off with officers as follows:Past Com. - L. A. Harvey; Com.— J. N. Day; Lt. Com.— M. S. Horton: R. K.—F. C. Wooley; F.K.- W.H. House; Pre.—Lewis Boyd; Phy.— Dr. T.N. Day; Ser. - Wesley Smith; M.of A.— W.H. Hunter; 1st M. of G.— Otto Heinze; 2nd M. of G.- B. C. Brewer; Sent.—A. A. Ruby; Pick.— L.     M. Marriott  The present membership is about 20.


Bannister Hive No. 470, Ladies of the Modern Maccabees was insti­tuted May 19, 1894, with this list of charter members: Magdalena Scott, Mary S. Harvey, Zystia Steadman, Belle Smith, Ernes­tena M. Menter, Tillie Buness, Flora F. Day, Emily Fitzgerald, Maria F. Bishop, Ruth Anna Parker, Jennie Menter, Mary A. Letts, Eva S. Gallup, Elizabeth J. House, Annie Landi, Kate Peterson. 

The first officers selected to conduct its affairs are in the records as follows: Past Com.—Magdalena Scott; Com.— Flora F. Day: Lt. Com.— Belle Smith: R.K.— Zystia Steadman; F.K.—Mary Letts; Chap. — Ruth Anna Parker; Med. Ex.— John N. Day; Sec.— Eva J. Gallup; M. at A. — Mary S. Harvey; Sent. — Jennie Meuter; Pick. — Emily Fitzgerald. The hive has a present membership of about 30.

I. O. O. F.

Bannister Lodge No. 130, I. O. O. F. was instituted May 4, 1893 with the following named as charter members: A.H. Steadman, Wm.H. Morrison, Jacob Weidner, R.R. Smith, Edward Bensinger, Geo. C. Douglas, Edwin Meacham, John Riley, John W. Smith. JacobBishop.
First officers: N.G.— John Smith; V. G.— R.R. Smith; R. Sec.—A. H. Steadman — F. Sec.— Jacob Weidman; Treas.— Ed. Meacham; N.G. appointments: R. S. — Wm. Morrison; L. S. — David McCafe; W. — Ed. Bensinger; Con.— Geo. Douglas; R.S.S. — Bert Bensinger; L.S.S. — John Letts: O.G.— Geo. Thomas; I.G. — John Hiley.

V.G. appointments: R. S. — Wm. Coon; L.S. — D.B. Wooley; Chap. — Jas. Moore.

Noble Grands of Bannister Lodge No. 130, from organization to date:John Smith, Andrew Steadman, Edward Bensinger, David McCafe, S. L. Peterson, S. S. Menter, John Menter. John Riley, Ed. Meacham, John Yonngs, Wesley Smith, Hugh Murray, Geo. Betzer, Chas. Bristol, John Scott, Henry Houston, Adam Stineblower, Albert Swett, Burt Jurmond, Truman Pierce, David Bates, C. D. Wooley, Wilber Stratton, John Strong, John Letts, Alonzo Peterson, L. B. Crego, Chas. Simpson, C. F. Kohier. Earl Peter­son, Jas. Hoover, Ira Sutfin, Calvin Thomas, Ira Hoover, E. W. Troop.

The present membership is about 105. The lodge owns its own hall, is free from debt and has money in the bank. 


Advance Rebecca Lodge, No. 336 was instituted June 14, 1899, with the following named persons as charter members: Lena Scott, Belle Smith, Jennie Menter, Maria Bishop, Matilda Riley, Mary Bensinger, Alice Stratton, J. W. Smith, J. Bishop, Edward Bensinger.

Modern Americans.

This Benefit Association was founded at Bannister, and the lodge organ­ized December 17, 1909, Benjamin Scott being the prime mover in the work. Charter members were the following: Benj. Scott, Ernest J. Heinze, Leroy  D. Letts, Albert F. Ryder, E. A. DeCamp. C. A. Letts, F. W. Praay, G. F. Heinze, Edward B. Bensinger, Fred A. Kelsey, Ainsley I. Willitts, Judd Cox, Israel Hier, Stephen F. Burlingame, Chas. Hammond, Edward H. Weston.

First officers: V.C. - Benj. Scott; V.W. - A. I. Willitts; Sec. - E.W. Praay; F. Sec. - C. A. Letts; Treas. - A. F. Ryder; Con. - G. Smith; Chap. - C. Willis; Escort - F. Bennett ;  O. G. - R. Menter; I. G. - L. Bensinger; Board of Directors - Benj. Scott, E. J. Heinze, R. D. Letts.


There is a little steam sawmill in the south part of town, with a planing mill attachment, owned and operated by Riley Letts, which is a great con­venience in its particular line of usefulness.

An elevator owned and operated by the Ithaca Roller Mills Co. and at present managed by Frank Kennett buys and sells grain, hay, seeds, lumber, wool, coal, cement, and other various and sundry products.

The Alart & McGuire Co. has a cucumber salting station here which does a large business in its particular line. There are about 10 vats 16 feet in diameter and eight feet deep, besides other smaller ones. The larger ones hold 1,600 bushels each. About 150 acres of cucumbers are required yearly to furnish the raw material for this enterprise.

Mrs. Cora Donielson conducts the hotel to the satisfaction of patrons, at $2 per day rates. She and her sister, Mrs. Grubaugh, own the property, and have been in the business 13 years. Located on the northwest corner of Main and First Streets.

A livery is conducted by Roy Whitman as proprietor.

A blacksmith shop, with Alfred Sutfin as proprietor, does business on the north side of Main Street, west. Has been in the business seven years.

Another blacksmith—Wm. Marble—is located in the northeast part of town, on Harvey Street. He is successor to John Menter, and owns his building.

D. Campbell & Son, (Donald and Malcom) are proprietors of a general store—dry goods, groceries, shoes, etc.—at the northeast corner of Main and First Streets. They own their block and have been in the business 18 years.

F.C. Peck, north side of Main Street, conducts a grocery. confectionery and bazaar goods store ; successor to Ed. Meacham estate. Eight years in the business and owns his two-story business building.

B.H. Steere is the proprietor of a ladies’ and gent s’ clothing and furnish­ing goods store in the Bank block, south side of Main Street. About three yea rs so engaged, successor to the Edgar Clark estate.

L.E. Weeks is Bannister’s drug, wall paper and fancy crockery dealer. In the Bank block ; succeeded the Economy Drug Co. about four years ago.

Jacob Weidner, south side of Main Street, west, conducts a general hardware business with the usual accompaniments, all in his own ample building. In the business off and on. interchangeably with farming for 21 years.

Mrs. J. A. Gardham, north side of Main Street, west, buys cream, poultry and eggs for Swift & Co., Alma. She formerly operated the Bannister Cheese factory when that institution was a live industry.

David McCabe does duty as the muscular and accommodating village drayman.

Frank Newsom, north side of Main Street, east, is proprietor of a gen­eral store in his own block. Odd Fellows ball in second story. Successor to Ed. C. Brown, and in business 16 years. Has been postmaster since 1905, with office in the front of his store.

A. R. Oliver is Bannister’s skilled jeweler and engraver. Does busi­ness south side of Main Street, in the D. Campbell building.

That dry goods, grocery, crockery and glassware store on north side of Main Street has P. C. Beemer as its proprietor. Successor to John Letts. In business seven years, and owns his two-story business block.

Judd Cox is proprietor of the harness and horse furnishing emporium, south side of Main Street . Also deals in implements, vehicles, etc., includ­ing automobiles. In his own fine, two-story cement block.

A. E. Willitts, north side of Main Street, in building owned by Mrs. A.W. Dickerson. buys cream for the Durand creamery, and eggs for the Saginaw Beef Co.

Bannister’s meat trade is looked after by Ed. Letts in his fine new market, north side of Main Street Also conducts a market in Elsie.

Fred Tomlinson is Bannister’s accomplished barber, in his two-chair shop, north side Main Street; nine years here, successor to Ed. Gallop.

L. Caplan is conducting a dry goods. clothing and shoe store in the Dickinson building ; Harry Caplan, manager.

Frank Downey conducts a three-table billiard and poolroom in the Grand Rapids Brewing Co.’s building north side of Main Street, east.

Earlier in this brief reference should have been mentioned the skilled and successful physician and surgeon, Dr. Ethan Allen De Camp: a graduate of the Detroit College of Medicine, class of 1900. A popular practitioner who has built up a fine practice.

The Alma, St. Louis and Owosso sugar factories have their weighing stations here, and in the hauling season the town is the proper and con­venient market for thousands of tons of sugar beets.

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