IN SEARCH OF FOGO (part IV)
In the last installment in our search for Fogo, our time machine brought us to the Village of Hooper in the year 1913. We were still unable to find out who or what Fogo is, but we got a very important clue from William Hooper the founder of Hooper which was located in Section 36 of the township. We learned that Fogo existed in the 1850’s and the name James Redpath was associated with it. We decided to continue our search in 1855 and set our time machines destination for Martin Corners at that time. As I have said in the previous installments, Fogo is actually a part of our township’s history that was found in a very obscure document while conducting research on our county.
The J.C. Wheeler Public Library in Martin and the Allegan County Historical Society have joined together to answer the question “What or who is Fogo?” Over the past few months, we have been making a journey around the Township of Martin searching for Fogo, and along the way, we have discovered and explored the history of Martin Township since its inception in 1836.
If you already know the answer, PLEASE DO NOT POST IT! Let us not ruin the suspense of this historic journey for the rest of the history travelers. So, let us jump in our time machine and hop through time and across our township to learn about the people, places and interesting facts that make our community such a fantastic place to live today.
As we arrive in Martin Corners in the year 1855, we step out of the time machine to the din of construction. We see wagons with horse teams stirring up dust along the dirt roads (what is now Allegan Street) and the wooden plank road that was known as Road No. 12 (what is now 10th Street.) We are right at the four corners in Martin and the plank road is brand new. This plank road has brought business into this area and it is evident as we look around. On the corner, we see a wooden two story building located where the old Carman Pharmacy building is today. A sign on the front of the building says “Hotel and Boarding, Messrs. Bradley and Pratt Proprietors.” This is the building that will burn down in 1856, be rebuilt and burn down again in 1892. It was rebuilt in 1892 with the block structure that is there today. It was also on the roof of this building that the famous Martin Armistice Day photograph was taken on November 11, 1918.
The hotel has a lot of foot traffic going in and out, so we decide to ask someone for help finding Fogo. Just then a young man walks out of the front door of the hotel. He stops on the wooden sidewalk in front of the hotel and takes off his dirty, brown, ragged hat in order to wipe his face. His shirt is dirty and his soiled pants are tucked into his boots. “Excuse me, sir” I say. “You folks sure do have a lot going on around here. Why so much activity?” “The plank road.” He replies. “Ever since it was finished last year, our little town has grown a lot. This little hotel is always full from the folks on the stage coach and the people coming to town to conduct business.” The man points across the plank road and says “Just across from us here (where the Dollar General is located today), the first dry goods store opened last year. A guy by the name of Phittleplace owns it. People have been coming from all over the area to shop there.” (Writer’s note: That location has had a store on it since 1854. Franklin Pierce was President and the Kansas- Nebraska Act was passed that year.) “Right next to the store is our new post office. They just built a new one here because we have so many people coming here now.”
He turns to his left a little and looks toward the west and says “Right behind the hotel here is the first church that was built in Martin Corners. It was built in 1846. It’s the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. It cost us $800 to build. It can also hold 200 people. We need a big place like that because just about everyone that lives in this area is Presbyterian. There are a few Methodist, but they don’t have a church yet. Our pastor’s name is James Frazier. He is a real nice man. You should join us this Sunday for service. We would love to have you.” “Thanks” I say. “But I don’t think we will still be here. We have travel plans.” “Suit yourself.” He says.
The man wipes his forehead and points toward a wooden building which is located where the bank building is today. “That building over there is the Harness Shop. They also do a little blacksmith work and they will take care of your horse for you too if you are from out of town. You know, we even have a new doctor now. Dr. Bradley’s office is just right over there next to the harness shop (roughly the location of the Little Clipper Day Care). He came here last year from Wayland.”
I look at the young man and think that he can’t be any older than 20. I think to myself that he must have lived here his whole life, but at this time, Martin is only about 20 years old. I say to the man “By the way, what’s your name?” He replies “Oh, sorry friend, my name is Samuel Eldred. I was the first white settler born here in Martin Township. My parents were the first settlers here. My mother was the person who named the township.” “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” I say. “Maybe you could help us out with one more thing. We are looking for someone or something named Fogo.” He chuckles. “You are looking for a ‘thing’ my friend.” “Will you tell us where it is?” I say. “Sure. Head west on this dirt road (West Allegan Street) and go about a mile to the township line with Watson. Once you get to George Redpath’s land on the township line, you can’t miss it.” “ Thank you very much, Samuel!”
So we start heading west on what is now West Allegan Street. We pass by the church Samuel told us about on the left. There are nothing but trees and farm land on both sides of us. It is going to be another 40 years before we start seeing houses along this section of Allegan Street. The land we are passing on the left is owned by Samuel Eldred and the land on the right is owned by John Matthews and Thomas Hall. We eventually get down to where we can see a house on the right (It was in the area that Martin Tire is today). That must be George Redpath’s house and all of this land on the right must be his. Now, we know we are getting close. Now that we know this is George Redpath’s land, we start walking through the trees and the farm field and we see a small building in the distance right on the Watson/Martin Township line (this is the area of the 131 corridor). As we get closer to the building we can see a small sign on the front of the building. When we get close enough to read the sign it says “Fogo Post Office. James Redpath Postmaster” “FOGO WAS A VILLAGE!” I yell. A man comes out of the post office after hearing the loud yelling and in a thick Scottish accent he says “What are you yelling about?” “Are you James Redpath?” I ask. “Yes, I am the postmaster here.” I ask him “Where is the rest of the village.” “There isn’t one. Fogo was only established so a post office could be here to serve the workers who were building the plank road. Now that the road is done, they are closing the post office. We were only open for two years.” ” So you were open only from 1853 to 1855?” I ask. “Aye, Just long enough to build the plank road in this area.” He replies. “So what are you going to do when they close the post office?” I ask. “I guess I will go back and work on my brother George’s farm helping him since his son James just left to work in journalism. You know, young James was named after me. That boy sure does love to read and write stories. Who knows, maybe he will do something like that for a living.”
We thank Mr. Redpath for his time and we travel back to our time machine and set the date for May 2017, Village of Martin into our computer. As we arrive at that time and place, we look around the village and think of all the history this village and township have seen. One hundred and eighty years ago men and women traveled here from the New England states, New York and as far away as Scotland and Sweden to start their new life. They thought it was a great place to live and raise a family back then and we think it is still a great place today.
I hope you enjoyed this little history snapshot of our township and learned a little something along the way. If you have any history questions about Martin Township, please contact us at the Allegan County Historical Society’s Old Jail Museum and we may be able to answer them for you.
History of the young James Redpath; the son of George Redpath; nephew of James Redpath the postmaster:
In 1848 or 1849, Redpath and his family emigrated from Scotland to a farm in Martin, Michigan. He worked as a printer in Kalamazoo and Detroit, where he wrote antislavery articles under the pseudonym “Berwick.” Then he worked as a reporter for Horace Greeley’s New-York Tribune. An early assignment at the Tribune involved compiling “Facts of Slavery,” a regular series of articles gathered from Southern newspaper exchanges. He was a war correspondent during the Civil War and after the war he was appointed the first superintendent of public schools in the Charleston, South Carolina region. He soon had more than 100 instructors at work teaching 3,500 African-American and white students. He also founded an orphan asylum. In May 1865 in Charleston, Redpath organized the first-ever Decoration day which became Memorial Day to honor buried Union Army dead there.
Thank you to Scott Kuykendall for sending us these fascinating installments of our Martin History.
To catch up and read the other installments of Finding Fogo, click the links below…
Scott did the fastest hour of Martin history for us this fall (you can listen to it HERE on youtube ) and he plans to come back in November and do another talk with us for Veteran’s Day. It’s a talk you don’t want to miss!
Scott is a treasure to us here in Martin and we are so grateful for the time he has put into this Fogo segment as well as his time in general teaching us about Martin and Allegan county history.