Page 20 - Scene Magazine 42-07 July 2017
P. 20

Scene In Time
The Five Lives of Battle Creek Fire Station #2
BY ELIZABETH NEUMEYER
In the summer of 1972, BCCHS senior to be, Kurt Thornton, wrote an article for the Battle Creek Enquirer aptly titled “An Old Friend Will Pass Away.” That old
friend was Battle Creek Fire Station # 2 and it was demolished. It gave many years of service to Battle Creek in five different lives.
The first life of Fire Station #2 was on North Washington from 1899 to 1902. After the Sanitarium burned to the ground in 1902, a bigger station was built for larger fire engines. Now “Old Battle Creek Fire Station #2” faced a new future.
Its second life began when the city council gave it to the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) organization in Battle Creek, October 3, 1904. These Civil War veterans paid for the removal and replacement of the brick veneer and the move to a new location at Champion, Calhoun and College Streets. The small triangular lot was leased to the G.A.R. by the Battle Creek Public Schools. The move was controversial as many shade trees were cut down. Irate property owners on the route got an injunction to stop the cutting. The station sat in the middle of Van Buren between Tompkins and College for several days. It was resolved when the city agreed to cut as little as possible.
The Battle Creek G.A.R. was Farragut Post 32 organized by Dr. Simeon French, a surgeon for the 6th and 20th Michigan Infantries. The post name was suggested by its first commander, Capt. J.C. Hall, who served under Admiral Farragut. For their official recognition in 1884, the post hosted a major event which included the visit of national G.A.R. Commander-in-Chief, Civil War General John Logan and wife Mary. They were advocates of a Decoration or Memorial Day at the end of May. Logan was not the first to have the idea but he was the first to make it a national holiday via a G.A.R. proclamation to pay tribute to veterans.
The Battle Creek G.A.R. met in
various places over the years but on May 18, 1905 they held their first meeting in their new home, Old Fire Station # 2. On July 26, 1905, the hall was dedicated.
The G.A.R was a fellowship
group, a “band of brothers.” They held encampments or reunions where veterans gathered to share stories and remember veterans who passed on. Later it became an advocacy group for veterans. The Farragut Post held many encampments. The biggest was in June of 1917 when the 39th Encampment of all Michigan G.A.R. posts was held in Battle Creek. The official headquarters were at Post Tavern to accommodate 1000 veterans. Michigan Commander L. H. Ives said “with the weight of nearly fourscore years resting on most of us, we are able to come together today in the beautiful and historical city of Battle Creek.” As Commander Ives observed, the membership of the G.A.R. nationally and locally was declining.
With so many Civil War veterans dying, the Farragut Women’s Relief Corps # 4 established a memorial in May of 1925. With reverence and gratitude to the veterans, they placed a boulder with a plaque at the back of the hall. The 12 ton boulder* was donated by the Post Land Company. The Memorial Tablet featured a verse from a Will Carleton poem, “To the Unknown Dead.”
FOREVER IN THE REALMS OF GLORY, SHALL SHINE YOUR STARRY FAME. ANGELS HAVE HEARD YOUR STORY. GOD KNOWS YOU ALL BY NAME.
The Farragut Women’s Relief Corps 4, organized in June of 1884, was a G.A.R. women’s auxiliary and they were responsible for many of the Civil War monuments you see in our cities and cemeteries. The memorial was also supported by two other groups representing sons and daughters of Civil War Veterans. Byington Camp 55, representing sons of veterans, was named after Captain Cornelius Byington, Company C, 2nd Michigan Infantry, a company of men from the Battle Creek area. The other group was Abbie R. Flagg Tent 21 representing daughters of Union veterans. William Flagg served in the same Company C, 2nd Michigan Infantry.
With few members left, Farragut post disbanded. In February of 1933 the Woman’s Relief Corps assumed
The text from the lower plaque reads...
The above plaque was dedicated in the year 1925 as a memorial to the Grand Army of the Republic, veterans of the Civil War. It was located near the G.A.R. Hall which formerly stood on this site.
The two-story brick structure was built in 1899 as No. 2 Fire Station on the southwest corner of Manchester and Washington Streets.
After the Sanitarium fire in 1902, it was determined to be inadequate for Fire Department use. And was given to the Public Schools, the building was leased to the G.A.R. and moved to this site in 1905.
From September 1956 until September 1960 it was the home of Battle Creek Community College, the forerunner of Kellogg Community College.
It then became the Battle Creek Central Music Building until 1973, when the structure was razed as part of this construction project.
The plaque is mounted here in recognition of its historical significance.
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