Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) offers tours by appointment
Fallasburg, MI – Book your tour today for a walk through the 1850s historic village of Fallasburg located just six miles north of Lowell on the banks of the Flat River. You will be delighted by the quaint atmosphere of the hamlet far from the maddening crowds of big cities as you step back in time. The village, which started as a saw-and-grist milling operation, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1999.
The tour will take you from the one-room schoolhouse with the belfry and the original desks down the Covered Bridge Road past the historic buildings: the Misner House, the recently renovated Tower Farm and the J.W. Fallass House.
The Misner House is home to the village artifacts; these include treasures such as the Fallasburg Footprints, WWI Women’s Registration Cards among many others.
Pictured above are the grave stones of those who served our country because “Freedom is not free.”
Volunteers from the @Fallasburg Historical Society cleaned up the Fallasburg Cemetery on the north side of the Fallasburg Historic District of the village.
Visit the the 1850s historic village this summer for a walking or a biking tour. The one-room schoolhouse museum will be open on Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m.
Stay tuned for an upcoming story about the completion of the historic district with the last missing piece- the bronze marker for the historic “Tower Farm.” The main remodel of the dilapidated structure took place during the pandemic when everything was cancelled.
“The Quest for the Bronze Marker” will showcase the colorful history of the old farmhouse from its origins to its classy renaissance.
The bronze marker will look like the ones placed in front of the schoolhouse amd the Fallass House.
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Walking through the immaculate white rooms still smelling of fresh paint at the Tower Farm with pristine views of the Fallasburg village and the woods in the back, it would take the wildest imagination to transport you back in time before the remodel. The 1850s dilapidated farmhouse was falling apart, when the Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) embarked on the ambitious remodel in May of 2020. It was the last missing piece in the total reconstruction of the historic village due to the limited funding and since it was the last building to be occupied, it provided income to the FHS.
However, the roof was replaced in 2011 and the windows were replaced in 2014 to save the structure from extreme decay. In the years past, the FHS peeled off the asphalt/fireboard siding put on in 1954. Within the past year, the FHS was able to secure individual donations to begin a proper renovation.
The Orlin Douglass/Tower Farm was built by Douglass in 1850. It was later acquired by the Towers. In 1896, the right half of the farmhouse was moved from a nearby location so that sister-in-law’s, Tower and Steketee, could live together with their families.
The outside had greyish brown color and a layer of green fiberboard had been put on circa 1954 and peeled off during window installation, according to Craig Fonger, a volunteer and webmaster. All the mechanicals were replaced and proper fire blocking was installed to prevent fire from migrating to the second floor.
“COVID presented us with an opportunity we otherwise wouldn’t have had,” said Fonger. “This completes our village restoration and allows us to present a finished product to the world. Additionally the rental income will help benefit FHS.”
“I’m ecstatic about the Tower House rehabilitation,” said FHS president Ken Tamke.
It has been a very long haul on this project, 30+ years, and the result is stunning. Were it not for a couple of grants, the Lowell Area Community Fund administered by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation that awarded FHS a grant for a new roof in 2011, and the Lowell Cable Television Endowment Fund which awarded FHS a grant for new windows in 2014, the Tower House just might not have survived.
“The job our remarkable volunteers and contractors did that helped get the home to the finish line cannot be underestimated, many thanks to them,” Tamke said. “They deserve a lion’s share of the credit.”
Fonger said that nothing in the structure was neither square or plumb.
“At almost every turn we were forced to improvise in some way, in some caseseschewing the assistannce of builders squares and levels and just making things fit,” he said.
But, there was also gratification in the fact that the Tower House was the last property in almost 30 lumberring years of rehabilitation- each succession building on the legacy of preceding FHS boards.
Fallasburg Village has undergone an amazing renewal and is finally to a point beyond damage control, but there will always be something, paint here, repair there, TLC all around. The life of the preservationist is never boring or without tasks. FHS is up to the challenge!
Over the last decade, the village has continued to improve buildings, according to the treasurer Alan Rumbaugh. First, the stagecoach was redone, then Blackmer, next the Fallas house, and then Betsy Fallas. The Post Office and and Beckwith Tavern have been nicely maintained. The Tower and Fallas barns have both had major repairs with the Tower Barn getting the Barn of the Year 2014.
The School House had a new front porch/deck put on last year and the entire building was repainted. The old shack beside the Stagecoach House has been torn down adn the double wide across the street has been removed and a new farm type house will be built on that property.
Now that the Tower House has been brought to reflect its past, we have a village street that we can start to promote to the public and build a much bigger following for the FHS.
We hope to have the Tower House disdplay farm artifacts in the FHS part of the house, reflecting the history of the “Tower Farm” and water melon crops. The other half of the house will have tenants that will not only give us some income to promote the village, but hope for them to be an active member, living in the village.
The Misner House will be repainted this summer and some other minor work done on it. The displays in that house would be more in line with domestic items, washing machines, spinning wheels, etc.
The Fallas House would be set up as it would have been in the 1800s. The School House will reflect the life in a one-room school, which was in use into 1950s. The other houses on the street are private residents and have noted on the yard signs.
The original plan was to restore the Tower House creating a museum that represented 20TH century life. FHS has communicated regularly with the Tower Family and has obtained family mementoes, furnishings, pictures, and artifacts that will be displayed. We hope to hold occasional meetings, gatherings and outdoor functions supported by our new kitchen with this landmark farmhouse and grounds as the backdrop.
According to treasurer Al Rumbaugh, farming artifacts and memorabilia will be stored at Tower the House. The Tower House will also be used as office to work on program planning and archival projects.
Fonger credited much of the work to Rumbaugh and David Cadwallader who spent many hours on the project.
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Watch for the next installment in the Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) brand new series “Tales From the Burg.”
We will delve deep into the past of the Fallassburg Cubs, the predecessors of the Falassburg Flats. The story will explore the possible connection of baseball player Raymond Miller, who lived in Fallasburg village, with the Fallassburg Cubs.
Another “Tale” will follow-up to the first installment. It’s a letter written in 1857 by a Fallasburgh resident about taking a Ferry boat from Grand Haven to Grand Rapids on the Grand River.
“This is very cool history not only from Fallasburg, but from West Michigan,” said FHS president Ken Tamke.
The debut installment of “Tales From the Burg” was about Mr. Goodsell’s letter reminiscing the construction of the first Covered Bridge.
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I first met Dottie Blain in 2005 when I joined the Fallasburg Historical Society Board of Directors. She was a strong, resilient, country woman cut from the same cloth as my grandmother. They knew each other, as did most residents of the close-knit communities of Vergennes and Lowell. She was also a Dorothy like my mom, shortened to Dot or Dottie with those who were close. Dottie and I hit it off immediately.
As I plunged in at FHS to assist with the Covered Bridge Bike Tour, and Christmas in Fallasburg, I quickly realized Dottie was a main organizational force behind our signature events. “Chief cook and bottle washer” was a humorous way to characterize her participation, yet her involvement went much further.
Anyone who ever attended our Christmas In Fallasburg “Pot Luck” in the Fallasburg Schoolhouse, sampling the various culinary offerings set out around the room owed their sigh of satisfaction to Dottie’s cooking. Her Swedish Meatballs were legendary! Cooking aside, her coordination of other contributors; cookie bakers and salad makers, table setters and supply go-getters, kept everything running smoothly. If we were lucky, there’d be leftovers to take home after the party.
The Covered Bridge Bike Tour presented many, many challenges, but that didn’t faze Dottie. We never really knew how many riders we would attract each year. Anywhere from 100 – 250. While they’d all set out at roughly the same time, they returned to Fallasburg Village piecemeal and want to be fed. Dottie’s Country Style Italian feast, meatless or vegetarian with grilled garlic bread would be waiting, piping hot, whether 11:00AM or 2:00PM. And, then of course, there was dessert-Strawberry Shortcake. Never mind the various rest stops along the different cycling routes. Dottie had them stocked with home baked cookies, fresh fruit, and Gatorade. A logistical nightmare to be sure, but Dottie always had the situation well in hand. FHS owes the longevity of the Covered Bridge Bike Tour, 25 years, in no small part to Dottie.
Dottie took great pride in preservation of Fallasburg Village by virtue of her Lowell roots and longtime friends. She attended Lowell High School where she met Larry Martin, a fellow FHS Board Member, and architect of the Covered Bridge Bike Tour from the cycling side. Larry was the great-grandson of Edwin Fallas, great-grandson of John Wesley Fallas-founder of Fallasburg Village. Dottie and Larry shared similar temperaments, senses of humor, and their appreciation for the remarkable historic district of which they were stewards.
One of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do was inform Dottie on the morning of the 17TH Annual Covered Bridge Bike Tour, Larry Martin had been hit and killed on a bike ride the afternoon before as fate would have it. While grief-stricken that a kindred spirit had passed, her strength of character somehow got her through the day where many would have broken down.
The Fallasburg Historical Society mourns the passing of our colleague, but moreover our dear friend. Dottie Blain, Rest in Peace.
Ken Tamke, Fallasburg Historical Society
Blain, Dorothy 12/12/1940 – 1/5/2021 Lowell Blain – Dorothy A. Blain nee Pearson, age 80, passed away on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. She was preceded in death by her parents, John Pearson in 1964 and Joanne Bittle in 1990. Dorothy is survived by her children, Sheila (Tim) Aalsburg and Kenneth Blain; granddaughters, Chloe and Maya; youngest sister, Frances “Fran” (Rick) Rowell of Louisiana; childhood friend, Addie (Orison) Abel. Dorothy will be remembered for her generosity and hosting large family gatherings. She grew up in southern Michigan and graduated from Lowell High School in 1959. She married and raised two children. Through the years, Dorothy worked as an upholsterer, a realtor, school bus driver, and a greeter at Meijer. Per Dorothy’s request, cremation has taken place. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Fallasburg Historical Society. To share a photo, memory and to sign the online guestbook please visit www.stegengafuneralchapel.com
Featured photo: FHS volunteers at the Lowell Expo in 2017: Dottie Blain, Mike Organek, Addie Abel.
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Welcome to our series “Tales From the Burg” designed to connect the readers with the Fallasburg Historical Society’s (FHS) prescious treasure of artifacts known as Collective Access. You can find individual artifacts by clicking the link below:
The series will have the logo of Mr. Goodsell’s letter.We encourage your input and feedbackby commenting below or on social media. Enjoy the first installment about Mr. Goodsell’s memories of the construction of the Fallasburg Covered Bridge.
Tales From the Burg
Flat River Days, Building a Bridge
In 1821, John Orton Goodsell, originally from Oneida, New York and ninth son of Goodsell Family patriarch John Sr., purchased 190 acres in Vergennes Township at the end of what is now known as Beckwith Drive. The property, framed by the Flat River on three sides, looked down upon the river, and what would become the location of the Fallasburg Covered Bridge, gateway to Fallasburg Village founded in 1839 by John Wesley Fallass.
Clark W. Goodsell (C.W.), John Orton Goodsell’s son, was born in 1859, one of two children from his father’s second marriage. The following reflections come in the form of a letter dated August 7, 1932 from C. W., who grew up just a stone’s throw from Fallasburg to Villager Hermann Jones. Here are links to the original letter and land abstract from the Fallasburg Historical Society Collection.
Dear Sir, I received your letter O.K. but have been busy of late fishing for company.
Well, I guess I know more about Fallassburg than anyone left now. I was born up on the hill west of the
Burg in 1859, so I can remember a lot. On a 2 X 4 on the northwest side of the old bridge is my name dated June 18TH, 1880, the day I first left home.
That bridge was built by a Frenchman by the name of Jerard Buzee. He built 9 such bridges after Flat River. That bridge was built 1867 as near as I can make out. I was about 8 years old when Buzee and his crew boarded at our house while they framed the bridge.
I rode rafts of lumber down the Flat before they ran any logs, many times. Ed Lewis, Charlie Richmond, and I have rode over the shoot on logs when we were boys. I could ride anything that would hold me up or wore hair. I rode a horse for John Fallass in the first fair at Lowell. I weighed 48 pounds, so small they had to strap me on. I rode runners until I was 26. John Wright can tell you about my riding. Give Billie Rex my regards.
Four other bridges (not covered) preceded the Fallasburg Covered Bridge, the very first being built in 1839. By 1849 the first two had failed. The third bridge, a sturdier affair, lasted until 1860. Enter bridge builder Jared N. Brasee & Co. For $249.50, Brasee reconstructed the third bridge, now the fourth to span the Flat River. In the spring and into summer of 1871, for $1,500, Brasee & Co. built the fifth-the Fallasburg Covered Bridge. Villager, F.A. Geill adorned the portals of the bridge in 1872 with the signs, “$5 Fine for Driving on This Bridge Faster Than A Walk”, which are still in place today.
2021 will mark the 150TH Anniversary of the Fallasburg Covered Bridge
It is hard to ignore that Villager, Hermann Jones, recipient of C.W. Goodsell’s letter in 1932 was not related somehow to Frank Jones. Jones ran a General Store and a Tavern in Fallasburg Village in the mid-to-late 1800’s, was an avid hunter, fisherman, and trapper, living in a variety of dwellings within the Village, one of which was a small summer cottage on River St. sitting just above the covered bridge. Here’s a picture of Frank Jones with his Flat River bounty, a Pike as tall as he is:
Descendants of the Goodsell Family are today, still present in West Michigan and beyond. The farmhouse John Orton Goodsell built in the early 1820’s stood until 1950 when the property was purchased by Clarence and Stella Bradshaw. Unable to save the original, the Bradshaw’s had to tear it down and start again. Here is the 125-year-old Goodsell Farmhouse in 1950 before, and the Bradshaw home in 1951 after.
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