History of Bloomingdale

Quite a lot has been written about the Bloomingdale area over the years and is available from several sources and some of what is available has been transcribed onto computer files by Kathy Richardson. The Bloomingdale Depot Museum has many original documents and paper copies of some of the computer files. These can be made available by contacting Mrs. Pat Bly in Bloomingdale. Some of the sources for historical information on Bloomingdale are as follows:

  • A History of the Havens
  • B. J. Root History
  • Blanch Minerva Haven
  • Bloomingdale Township History by H.H. Howard
  • Indians In the Bloomingdale Area
  • Maude Taylor's History of the Bloomingdale Community
  • Memories of Veta Tildes
  • Pioneer Days in Bloomingdale and Vicinity
  • Scott History of Bloomingdale
  • The History of the Bloomingdale Community
  • Veta Van Horn Tildes Biography

History of the Bloomingdale Community

The following is an excerpt from the History of the Bloomingdale Community which is more than  40 pages in its original form, written in 1951:

When Van Buren County was organized in 1838, it was made up of six townships, the northeastern of which was known as the township of Clinch. Subsequent divisions made this original township into four, namely Waverly, Almena, Pine Grove, and Bloomingdale, the latter comprising the territory designated in the United States survey as town one south, range fourteen west.

Bloomingdale Township was organized in 1845. There were twenty-two persons upon the assessment rolls as tax payers that year.

The surface of the township is rolling, and originally was heavily timbered with pine, hemlock, maple, beech, whitewood, ash, and walnut. The soil is a fertile sand and clay loam so that in the quality and extent of its production,

Bloomingdale Township takes a front rank among the northern tier of townships in Van Buren County.

The first settlement in the township was made in the month of December, 1837, by a Myers family, consisting of mother, four sons, and two daughters from Oneida County, N Y. where their father had died in 1826. In the spring of 1836 two of the sons started on foot and walked the entire distance from Genessee County N Y. via Canada to Michigan. One of the sons later that same year returned to New York and brought back the rest of the family. They located at first in White Pigeon, but one year later arrived amid snowy and wintry blasts in Bloomingdale Township with no shelter awaiting them other than that afforded by the mighty monarchs of the forest. The eldest son of the Myers family, Mallory, was twenty-three years old when he settled in this township, and in 1845 he became its first supervisor.

The Village is situated in the midst of productive general and dairy farm lands and orchards, and is surrounded by numerous near-by lakes any of which may be reached in a drive of a few minutes, and which have made Bloomingdale the center of a thriving tourist and resort section.

Among the first settlers on land near what came to be known as the "Center" were Joseph Peck and family from Monroe County, N Y. in 1838 who settled to the northwest. Later his brother Carlos and family came into the same locality, which became known as Pecktown.

Two miles to the west on Bear Lake, another group established a settlement, the main industry of which was lumbering, and this settlement was called "Bear Lake Mills."

To the North about two and one half miles, near Eagle Lake, a third nucleus located. Here were the families of Marcus Lane, Samuel Lane, and Harvey Howard.

Others pioneering in or near what came to be the village were the families of Harrison Cooley and Austin Melvin from Lorraine County, Ohio, in 1852. Edmund Baughman and wife Catherine Baxter Baughman, who with his father and mother, David and Maria Baughman, settled in the Evergreen district in 1853, Augustus Haven and bride Emily McLellan Haven from Shalersville, Ohio who settled in 1854 a mile west of where the village now is, Milton Healy who came in 1858 from Ohio, his wife Maria and her mother Mrs. Azuba Cooley who came in 1865, and the Egbert Cooley family from southern Illinois, who made the long journey in 1857 with covered wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen.

The first to actually settle upon the actual site was Henry Kilfefer from Ohio. About 1854 Davis Haven, Portage County, Ohio, and the father of Augustus Haven, purchased 160 acres in the vicinity of the present village, and soon after that the entire north half of section 17. As an inducement to Mr. Kilhefer to settle here Davis Haven gave him an acre of land now embraced in the depot grounds.

When Samuel Lane and wife Orrit, who had come a short time before from Monroe County, N Y. to settle in Cheshire township, arrived one spring day to make a new home in this settlement, they came into the pioneer region from the north down what has since been known as "Wiggins Hill", Orrit, no doubt in a sentimental and poetic mood, was much moved by the beautiful wild flowers growing abundantly through the woodlands and valleys and also with the hills and dales, exclaimed rapturously "Why, this place should be called Blooming dale!" And Bloomingdale it has been ever since.

In the fall of 1857 Henry Kihefer (afterwards spelled Killifer), who, as stated earlier in this account, had been given an acre of land here, came on from Putnam County, Ohio and erected a small building on what is now the Haven Park, establishing his family in the second story, while he opened a store with a small stock of boots, shoes, and groceries on the first floor.

He soon built a second store building, and later a third. Shortly afterward he was appointed postmaster and held the office until 1862.

In 1860 Messrs. Merwin and Brown opened a store on the hill about two blocks east of the present business section, and, prior to 1869, Messrs. Barber and Lane established a mercantile business. Here also were two hotels, a drug store, and a dress-making shop. A fire in 1868 destroyed a number of these buildings, and in 1870, when the railroad came through, the town was moved to the west so as to be near the depot.

One of the first industries was that of lumbering. From an article in the Kalamazoo Gazette of March 12, 1939 we quote. "There were two steam sawmills operating night and day." (The first was a portable one set up in 1870 and the second in 1871.)" Oxen bowed under heavy neckyokes and later teams of sweating horses laboriously drew over primitive roads, furrowed with deep ruts, what seemed an endless supply of sawlogs. These loads of timber, scaling 100,000 feet daily, were filling contracts for 3,000,000 feet of ash, whitewood, and cherry lumber."

Another industry was that of cheese making. Augustus Haven, who was interested in dairying, began in 1860 with a herd of twenty cows the manufacture of cheese, the first to be made in the state.

In 1870 he began using the milk from neighbor's cows and in 1872 he sold 26,000 pounds of cheese. In 1873, cheese was made from 200 cows. The first recorded sale of cheese was at ten cents a pound. Butter brought the same price. In 1871 the village contained three stores, thirty-six dwellings, one hotel, and the Christian church which had cost $3,714.11.

When the railroad was first discussed in 1869, Bloomingdale township residents subscribed $16,700. Augustus Haven who had, in the meantime, purchased for $800 the one acre that his father had given Henry Kilhefer as an inducement to settle here, gave that acre of land for the depot grounds, and bought the headlight for the first engine which was named the Bloomingdale. He was a member of the railroad's first board of directors. In 1912, with the removal of several unsightly buildings, the depot grounds were made into a park now called the Haven Park. The first passenger train arrived in town July 4, 1870.

Fires Bloomingdale has suffered several disastrous fires. The first was Aug.23, 1868 when several of the buildings erected on the first location of the business district were destroyed.

In the spring of 1897, fire swept the entire west side of the main business block, and destroyed a few adjacent buildings also.

On January 31, 1908, buildings along the south side of Kalamazoo street across from the present printing office and Vic's Cities Service station were destroyed by flames. This section was not rebuilt and is now a park.

December 4, 1936 another disastrous fire reduced the main part of the business block to ruins and has since required the total rebuilding of many structures.

Sources: Copies of The Bloomingdale Leader, 1912 edition.

History of Bloomingdale

Bloomingdale had known excitement back in 1870 when the first train came through, and it again knew excitement in August of 1938 when, after several days of drilling on the Wiggins farm which borders the village on the north, the Fisher McCall Oil Company brought in a producer. The town overnight became a whirr of activity. Land owners were besieged by representatives of oil companies to sign leases, drillers, tool dressers, and others sought board and lodging

in private families, there was a scramble to rent land on which to park house cars or pitch tents; some dwellings were converted into apartments.

The town population which was normally about 500, was soon swelling to more than 1,000. Many of those working in the oil fields brought their families, and by mid-September the school building was crowded to its utmost capacity by the additional enrollment of the "Oil children."

On Sundays visitors thronged the town from early morning until dark with cars, inching their way up one street and down another, loaded with people who had driven in from miles around to glimpse the pumps, observe the drillers operations, and to catch the germ of excitement, if only for a brief time.

Chartered buses from Detroit and other places, arrived each Sunday filled with persons ready to invest or who had already invested their hard earned money in shares in an oil well, many of which had oversubscribed stock and could never be "brought in."

Eating places and oil supply concerns opened for business in vacant buildings, and villagers dreamed of all the things they would do when they too had "black gold."

Soon several wells in the village were producing oil, others were ready to be brought in, and more than a score were in various stages of development.

The sound of drilling kept up night and day, but the natives did not mind having their sleep disturbed. Who knew but what they would be the next ones to own shares in an oil well. Storage tanks extended for some distance around the village, and the oil fever in its most intense form was running its course.

The oil was being taken out by truck and by tank cars on the railroad, as many as 80 tanks cars went out in a day. The excitement for wealth ran on unabated.

By 1941 the boom was over and the end of the oil business came in 1963. The end of the railroad was in sight when South Haven began receiving coal by boat instead of rail. Kalamazoo to South Haven rail road service ended in March of 1971 and the rails were removed in 1977.

In 1988 the Village received a $100,000 grant to renovate the Depot. The dedication of the Depot and Museum, registered as a Michigan Historical Site, was September 19, 1987 with the Honorable Meyer Warshawsky, 36th District Judge, giving the address. At the same time the Kal-Haven Trail Club worked hard to establish the biker, walker and snowmobile trail on the old railroad bed and was successful in getting the State to buy the road bed which is now the first linear State Park in Michigan. Tens of thousands of bikers, walkers and snowmobilers now use the Trail each year.

Today many small and medium sized businesses can be found. Commercial services such as bank, full service grocery store, restaurant, convenience stores, funeral home, realty and insurances services, gasoline stations plus the Bloomingdale Telephone Company and Bloomingdale Communications serve the area. The largest growth in business seems to be small business running out of private homes.

The first township meeting was held in the home of L. Jackson Lacey north of town.

There were seventeen votes cast at the first general election held November 14, 1845.

The first name of Berlamont was Bear Lake Mills.

Kerosene street lamps made their appearance here during the year of 1901. They were replaced by electricity in 1922.

In 1901, the Haven Cheese Factory, located west of town, bought 1,500,000 pounds of milk, paying $13,500 for the same.

Bloomingdale was incorporated in the year 1881. The date is found in Local Acts of 1881, page 112.

"The first car ever to strike Bloomingdale was June 15, 1901. Owner not known." Among the first residents of the Village to own automobiles were Dr. T. H. Ransom, who owned a Brush; E J. Merrifield, a used White, made in Flint; and Davis Haven.

An Item in the Leader reads: "On and after January 6, 1936, the price of milk will be Nine cents per quart, Five cents per pint

C. M. Pease H. D. Landrigan" Under Doings of the council, "Leader" of April 8, 1898 among Bills allowed:

John Tully 6 months work as marshal and lighting street lamps $ 12.50 H. H. Shaw, work on election board $2.

In 1872 Augustus Haven had sold 26,000 pounds of cheese which had been made in his own home.

The entire amount of taxes spread on the first tax roll of Bloomingdale township was $571.75, being $245.08 for township purposes; $168.52 for schools; $91.91 for highways, and $66.24 for county and state tax.

In 1866 John Hudson built the first gristmill which was burned about three years after completion.

"Hospitality to the stranger" was ever a marked characteristic of the pioneers of the community. Harvey Howard with his brothers, Zenos C. and Joseph P. built the railroad station and presented it to the railroad company.

In 1853 Daniel G. Robinson built a sawmill on the outlet of Mack's Lake and erected a frame house near it.

There were thirty-five non-resident pupils in the Bloomingdale schools in 1910. In 1910 a Detroit firm operating the Bloomingdale canning factory, put up 52,793 gallons of fruit, plums cherries, and small fruits; and made 1,083 cases of grape and currant jellies; converted 33,185 bushels of apples into cider; shipped eleven carloads of apples in bulk; made 420 weir jars of apple preserves; salted 16,000 bushels of cucumbers, paying upwards of $7,000 for help and $28,000 for stock.

A History of Van Buren County published in 1912, under the heading of Bloomingdale states: "Over $100,000 has been paid during the last year for cattle, sheep and hogs shipped to outside markets. $6,000 has been paid for apples, and the farmers have received about $8,400 for their potato crop."

Professional ball players born in Bloomingdale were Wade Killifer and Bill Killifer. Legislators from Bloomingdale were Harvey H. Howard and Milan D. Wiggins. Edson V. Root, Sr. Paw Paw, who for several years did outstanding work as representative in Michigan Legislature, was born in Bloomingdale.

The first blacksmith in the village was A. Prentice; first physician a Dr. Moore; first mail carrier, John Caughey (spelling later changed to Coy.); first shoe maker, Alex Miller, first newspaper published here, "The Bloomingdale Tidings"; first flouring mill was owned by John Hodgson; second one by Merchant Bro's; first orchard set out by C. H. Miller.