X Marks The Spot: Where The Rivers Meet
X marks the spot of a piece of land in Lowell that witnessed the early events in Lowell as they happened. The irony is that today this spot is a scenic overlook and even has a bench for rest. Instead of the hustle and bustle of the growth of a community, today this spot is a getaway from the busy world around.
This spot ‘where the rivers meet’ is the west side of the Flat River where it joins the Grand River. In studying history, sometimes we study events or people. For perspective, this article looks at how this spot witnessed those events and people.
The early inhabitants of this spot were the Odawa. According to Historian Kevin Finney, there were Odawa villages just west of this spot ‘where the rivers meet’ on each side of the Grand River in 1830. After living in the Odawa village of Wobwindgo for two years, French fur trader Daniel Marsac opened a trading post on the south side of the Grand River just east of this spot in 1831.(1-2)
Michigan became a state, and the settlers came and began farming. The north side of the Grand River was fertile planting ground. Lewis Robinson and Philander Tracy planted crops and operated a trading post here in 1836. Anna Christler North, oldest daughter of James and Amelia Christler came with her family to Lowell in the spring of 1836. Anna called herself ‘Chief Ferry Girl.’ There was no bridge across the Flat or Grand River at the time so Anna ferried people in a canoe. She remembered only one person offering to pay her for her service. He offered her a sixpence, but she declined with a thank you.
The heyday of riverboats traveling on the Grand River was from 1837 to 1858. The Lowell landing was upriver from this spot, on the east side of Lowell east of S. Division. All the river traffic between Lowell and Grand Rapids passed by here. In 1838, this spot witnessed the sinking of the John Almy. It sank on the maiden voyage from Grand Rapids to Lowell. The museum collection includes a picture of the J.F. Porter Riverboat, which operated along the Grand River in the 1850s. (3)
In 1856, John and Mary Kopf bought 12 acres of land on the south side of the Grand River, just east of this spot. They built a house in 1857. John built his furniture factory on the land and started production in 1867. The business grew to include fourteen buildings. The museum collection includes a chair and dresser from the Kopf Furniture Factory.(4)
This spot also saw the train come through the settlement of Segwun, on the south side of the Grand River, in 1858. The Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad was later called the Grand Trunk Railroad. A two-story depot was built just west of this spot.
Logging in Michigan flourished between 1870 and 1890. The annual log-drive down the Flat River and into the Grand River was watched carefully by the newspapers and townspeople. The first sawmill in Lowell was built by Seth Cogswell in 1856 just east of this spot on a creek on the south side of the Grand River, on land formerly owned by Daniel Marsac.(5)
Just north of this spot, on the west side of the Flat River, where today’s Recreation Park and old fairgrounds are, was Train’s Track. This was a half mile horse racing track with horse barns. Train’s track was known to be there by 1878. Horse racing was popular in Lowell from the 1870’s through the 1920’s.(6)
In 1891 a railroad bridge over the Grand River just east of this spot was built for the Pere Marquette. The Malta tower was built at the intersection of the Grand Trunk & Pere Marquette, for the signalman to control the rail traffic.(7)
This spot witnessed the years of Odawa life and the early years of Lowell settlers. Today there is no rush, save for the fishermen finding just the right spot.
Map of Lowell "where the rivers meet" by Kevin Finney
Bench where the Flat and Grand Rivers Meet
The Flat and Grand Rivers
Grand Trunk Depot
The J. F. Porter Riverboat
Anna Christler North
Dresser made by John Kopf
The Grand Trunk station
The last log drive down the Flat River
To view more on these topics visit our website. Click on “Collections and Research” then “ABCs of Lowell” to read more about the topics referenced in the article.
1-www.lowellmuseum.org ABC’s of Lowell History, X Marks the Spot, Round 1
2-www.lowellmuseum.org ABC’s of Lowell History, K is for Ke Way Coosh Cum
3-www.lowellmuseum.org ABC’s of Lowell History, R is for Riverboat
4-www.lowellmuseum.org ABC’s of Lowell History, K is for Kopf, John
5-www.lowellmuseum.org ABC’s of Lowell History, L is for Logging
6-www.lowellmuseum.org ABC’s of Lowell History, J is for Jarvis Train
7-www.lowellmuseum.org ABC’s of Lowell History, M is for Malta