The Clark family had an impact on early Lowell. Moving here in 1866, C.A. Clark built and operated the Lowell Woolen Mill by 1867. Clark sold the business the following year, and after being owned by Morris R. Blodgett and W. W. Hatch, C.A. Clark’s sons Henry F. and Charles E., purchased the woolen mill.
The mill was operated by waterpower, and it was sufficient to power all the machinery in the two story plus basement building. According to an 1884 advertisement, you could also take your clothing to the mill to be dyed. The mill wasn’t just to make clothing, the business sold items retail as described in this ad from September of 1889, “Persons in want of all wool goods such as shirting and dress flannels, red flannel, sheeting, double or single width, yarns, ladies fancy mitts, stockings and socks in all sizes, can get them at the Lowell Woolen Mills at rock bottom prices. We also make heavy winter shirts and cut and make pants to order only $4.00 per pair. Call and see these goods.”
Ownership of the mill went back and forth a little between the brothers as Charles E. at one time went into the grocery business and entered into a partnership for a short time, the “Clark & Sample Grocery.” In 1900 the Clark family sold the mill property and water rights.
In 1905 the building west of the old post office was built. Today the old post office is home to Rio Plano Taqueria and the building to the west has been torn down. By 1908 John O. Clark, son of Henry Clark of the Woolen Mill had opened a confectionery store. Clark’s Confectionery offered lunches, bread, milk, comics, birthday cards, holiday cards, and what has become a gift for future generations, penny postcards. These postcards featured local views. Many of the beautiful historic scenes that reveal Lowell Life around 1900 came from these penny post cards. John O Clark’s motto in both the Confectionery and his grocery was “If you get it at Clark’s, it’s clean.” In 1912 the business was for sale “for the best reasons” according to an ad placed in the Grand Rapids Press.
John O. Clark also operated a grocery in the Graham building at 229 E. Main, according to today’s address. The building was rented from L. J. Post, and today hosts the North Country Trail home offices. In 1915, Clark’s grocery was advertised as the largest grocery in West Michigan. In 1916, the building owner L.J. Post painted the storefront and put side windows in it. It is supposed that this is when ‘Clark’ was etched into the cement in front of the store. This cannot be seen today as the sidewalks have been redone. The grocery changed hands several times before being sold to R.D. Hahn in 1923.
Charles A. Clark moved from Lowell and is buried elsewhere. His son Henry lived in Lowell until his death in 1910 and rests in Oakwood Cemetery. Son Charles E. moved from Lowell, but returned and lived out his life here, and now rests in Oakwood Cemetery. John O. left Lowell, but kept in contact with his Lowell friends, including sending updates to the Lowell newspaper He is buried in Corona, California.
The Lowell Woolen Mill, shown on the right, was built by C. A. Clark on the east bank of the Flat River south of the Hooker (Forest) Mill. Wool from sheep raised in the area was brought to the mill to be carded. In 1904, the Lowell Cutter Company purchased the mill and used the building to increase their production lines. The Woolen Mill had a retail space on Main Street and Monroe in the commercial building built by Robert Graham.
Postcards of Lowell sold at Clark's Confectionery.
To see more ABCs of Lowell History articles visit our website www.lowellhistory.orgm