Students from Murray Lake Elementary visited the historic 1850s Fallasburg village for a tour starting at the one-room schoolhouse where they took seats in the old original desks in front of the black chalkboard.
The 1867 schoolhouse came alive as the yellow Lowell Area school bus dropped the kids off and the bell rang to their laughter and chatter.
The one-room schoolhouse is the signature museum of the Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) and it remained a functioning school until 1961.
So let the class begin. The teacher and tour guide was Mr. Ken Tamke. Tamke FHS president emeritus and Murray Lake teacher Denise Washburn have established this field trip tradition so long ago that no one can remember.
“This ties into first-grade lesson plans,” Tamke said. “They read Little House on the Prairie.”
Mr. Tamke took the kids by groups on a whirlwind tour through the village where he pointed out the flowering Black Locust tree in front of the newly renovated Tower Farm.
“It is said to be the oldest tree in Michigan,” he said.
At the Misner House, which stores the Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) artifacts, the tour took on a funny spin as Mr. Tamke talked about the predecessors of the modern washing machine ( paddle laundry) and microwave.
The 1850 Misner House is the most complete museum in Fallasburg Village with recently installed climate control to preserve the artifacts.
The kids also toured the Fallas House built by founder John Wesley Fallas and his brothers, Silas and Arad in 1842. They loved the wooden “abacus” which was actually used as a wooden playpen to entertain toddlers.
The photo displays on easels attracted the kids’ attention as the closest objects to current times. The tour down the Covered Bridge Rd. included buildings that are part of the village, but not owned by the FHS.
“People live in there?” a child was fascinated in front of the old yellow Stagecoach House aka Fallasburg Inn built in 1859.
And finally, the kids ran across the Covered Bridge only to get fined for crossing at a speed faster than walking.
“I have a dollar,” a child said.
Watch for a story with pictures in the Lowell Ledger.
More action coming from the village as seven-year-old lepidopterist Liam Lopez-Wagner will be planting milkweed as part of his Amigos for Monarchs project on June 11 at 10 am in the historic village.
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The cookbook is an assortment of recipes contributed by members of the community in and around Fallasburg that reflect what Ellura McPherson describes as “used many, many years ago by our ancestors” in her dedication of the book. You’ll find recipes from the likes of Tower, Richmond, Rogers, Fallas, and Ford, just to name a few. The cookbook has generated many a chuckle when leafing through the pages.
Mrs. C.A. Bradshaw, Stella, holds the distinction of the prize-winning recipe of 1970, “Vinegar Pie,” a favorite of lumbermen for many years so she claimed.
Herein is not a host of recipes designed to outshine any others. Quite the contrary. This is only a meagre collection of thoughts and ideas from the local people of the Fallasburg area-used many, many years ago by our ancestors.
Ellura Frost McPherson
Vinegar Pie feature recipe
1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup vinegar–bring to boil. Add 1/4 cup butter, dash of nutmeg, 3 tbsps flour blended with little water.
Pour into unbaked pie shell. Top with vented crust. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.
This is a prize-winning receipt of the 1970 West Michigan Historical Society Contest.
Fallasburg Covered Bridge Centennial Coin
This is a new minting of the “Fallasburg Covered Bridge Centennial” coin from 1971. The original has been updated and now features not only a rendering of the bridge on both sides of the coin, but has an automobile emerging from the portal on one of the sides, a Buick, in keeping with our manufacturing heritage here in Michigan. The first coin was introduced in conjunction with the placement of a bronze marker from the State of Michigan Historic Preservation Program indicating the bridge’s inclusion in the State and National Register of Historic Places.
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Commemmorative sesquicentennial coins and cookbook available at the pavillion
About the feature photo: The Covered Bridge Centennial Celebration with marker placement ceremony in 1972. Pictured from left to right: Elma Roth, Fred Roth, Leonora Tower, Marian Yates, Ed Mueller.
The Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) will be joined by the Kent County Road Commission (KCRC) at the Fallasburg Fall Festival of the Arts on Saturday & Sunday, September 18 & 19, 10AM-5PM, on the South Porch of the Fallasburg Park Pavilion. We’ll be celebrating the 150TH Anniversary of the Fallasburg Covered Bridge, 1871 – 2021.
To commemorate this sesquicentennial milestone, both organizations, FHS, and KCRC have collaborated to create activities and memorabilia as well as share pictures and artifacts that pay tribute to this iconic structure, arguably one of the most visited and photographed landmarks in Kent County.
KCRC, on Fridays in September, will feature on their social media websites “Fun Facts” about the Fallasburg Covered Bridge, a “Trivial Pursuit” of everything you ever wanted to know from behind the scenes about the bridge. On Fallasburg Fall Festival of the Arts weekend, KCRC will be announcing their “Fall Color Tour.” The color tour is a collection of different routes one can choose that guide color tour enthusiasts on a variety of roads in Kent County to soak it all in at their own pace. This year, one of the routes will include a visit to the Fallasburg Covered Bridge and Historic Fallasburg Village. Don’t forget to sing Happy Birthday when you go! Additionally, KCRC staff will be on hand at the Festival with pictures and information about the monumental bridge rebuilding in the 1990s, and the nuts and bolts (literally) that are necessary to keep the bridge open to automobile traffic to this day.
The Fallasburg Historical Society will be making their 53RD appearance at the 53RD Fallasburg Fall Festival of the Arts and have reprinted and newly minted a couple of nuggets that date back to the Fallasburg Covered Bridge Centennial Celebration in 1971 that will be for sale. The reprinting is of the “Fallasburg Centennial Cookbook”. The cookbook is an assortment of recipes contributed by members of the community in and around Fallasburg that reflect what Ellura Frost McPherson describes as “used many, many years ago by our ancestors” in her dedication of the book. You’ll find recipes from the likes of Tower, Richmond, Rogers, Fallas, and Ford, just to name a few. The cookbook has generated many a chuckle when leafing through the pages.
My late Grandmother, Mrs. C. A. Bradshaw, Stella, holds the distinction of the prize-winning recipe of 1970, “Vinegar Pie”, a favorite of Lumbermen for many years so she claimed. “Ghastly, is what it looks like me to me.” “I can’t imagine eating such a thing”. “There’s no accounting for taste, I guess.” Food, is not the only topic of the cookbook. There are recipes for “Grandpa’s Salve”, “Hand Lotion”, and even a remedy for “Inflammatory Rheumatism”.
The new minting is of a “Fallasburg Covered Bridge Centennial” coin from 1971. The original has been updated a now features not only a rendering of the bridge on both sides of the coin but has an automobile emerging from the portal on one of the sides, a Buick in keeping with our car manufacturing heritage here in Michigan. The first coin was introduced in conjunction with the placement of a bronze marker from the State of Michigan Historic Preservation Program indicating the bridge’s inclusion in the State and National Register of Historic Places.
Covered Bridge aficionados, Fallasburg Villagers past and present, and local history buffs will all appreciate this collectible trinket
Please make plans to visit the Fallasburg Historical Society and the Kent County Road Commission at the Fallasburg Fall Festival of the Arts on the South Porch of the Fallasburg Park Pavilion and help us start the party for our beloved Fallasburg Covered Bridge. Browse our respective collections of pictures and memorabilia and shop our commemorative merchandise. Then, take a step back in time and venture just across the Historic Covered Bridge from Fallasburg Park and visit the Fallasburg Schoolhouse, with free admission both weekend days.
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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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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