Historical Society of Battle Creek
History Highlights
January 1, 1895 -- The Postum Company, founded by C. W. Post, was officially organized. Post, who came to Battle Creek in 1895 to find a cure for chronic illness at the Sanitarium, made a million dollars in the first five years of running his new company, selling his health food products, Postum coffee substitute drink and Grape Nuts cereal.  Six years later, in 1901, Post opened the six-story Post Tavern at the corner of N. McCamly and West Michigan Avenue.  Post advertised the Tavern as the finest hotel between Detroit and Chicago. The Tavern was the first building in the Post complex of structures which eventually included the Post office building and annex, the theater as well as the tavern.
January 5, 1870 – The University of Michigan trustees approve George Willard’s resolution allowing the first woman to enroll in the school. Willard from Battle Creek was a teacher and an Episcopal minister.  He also helped establish the State Agricultural College at Lansing, now known as Michigan State University.  Willard served as a state Congressman until he purchased the Battle Creek Daily Journal in 1868. 
January 8, 1938 -- James Brown died just before the dedication of his Stone History Tower in Monument Park.  Brown was versatile scientist, journalist, scientific farmer and a romantic historian.  He led auto caravan tours around the country during the 1920s.  He collected rocks on these tours and put many of them in the Stone History Tower, along with stones representing local figures and organizations.  Boy Scouts put their penknives in the center of the tower and local school children collected small stones for tower.  The monument was even featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
January 9, 1907 -- Walter S. Butterfield formed the Bijou Theatrical Enterprises, which became the largest theater chain in Michigan.  He was born in Indiana, raised in Ohio, went to New York and became a touring vaudeville entertainer and road manager.  On one of his vaudeville tours Butterfield passed through Michigan and decided to settle here.  He leased the former Hamblin Opera House in 1909 and began building his theatrical chain, which eventually included 122 movie theaters around the state before his death in 1936.
January 14, 1906 -- Mrs. Walter North has a Caesarian operation at Nichols Hospital, performed by Dr. James Lynds of the University of Michigan.  This was reported to be the first such surgery in Battle Creek and only the 10th in the United States.
January 15, 1943 – The first patients arrived at Percy Jones Army Hospital, as 43 patients from Fort Custer were checked in.  The building had been acquired from the Battle Creek Sanitarium in August 1942 and expanded from a 1000-bed Sanitarium to a 1500-bed military hospital. 
January 16, 1905 – The old #2 fire station was being moved from its original location on North Washington (opposite the Federal Center) to a new location on Champion Street, opposite the high school.   Champion Street was too narrow, so the fire station was moved along West Van Buren Street. Trees were cut down and electric light poles were removed along the route, so the building would fit.  The movers got half way down street, between Tompkins and West streets, when the residents brought an injunction to prevent them from cutting down any more trees.  The building stood in the middle of the street for three weeks before it finally arrived at its destination on February 5, to be used as the new G. A. R. Hall.  Later it was used as the first classrooms for the new Kellogg Community College.
January 18 – Martin Luther King Day is celebrated on the third Monday in January to commemorate King’s birthday on January 15, 1929.  King was the chief spokesman for the non-violent civil rights movement of 1960s until his assassination in 1968. Michigan Congressman John Conyers first proposed the holiday after King’s death.  The holiday was finally signed into law by Ronald Reagan in 1983 and was observed for the first time in 1986.  Dr. Martin Luther King came to Battle Creek for one visit in March 1960 when he spoke at the First United Methodist Church. 
January 18, 1875 – Harry Garr, the “Man Fish,” appeared at the Hamblin Opera House as one of a series of novelty acts, including a contortionist, a trapeze artist, an Irish impersonator and E. G. Salisbury, who played 8 musical instruments at one time. Garr was a champion swimmer who did underwater acts, including eating, drinking and smoking underwater.  Admission for the entire show was 25 cents.
January 21, 1889 – Leading citizen, Quaker and stationmaster of the local Underground Railroad, Erastus Hussey died at age 88.  He and his wife, Sarah, came to Battle Creek in 1838.  In the next few years Hussey was politically active, publishing the abolitionist newspaper, Michigan Liberty Press, and serving as a delegate to the 1854 Jackson meeting “under the oaks” where the Republican party was formed and also to the Republican convention in Chicago that nominated Abraham Lincoln in 1860.  As a state senator, Hussey was instrumental in writing Michigan’s Personal Liberty Bill, to protect the state’s African Americans from the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act (which forced citizens to aid slave catchers in returning escaped slaves to their owners).
January 25, 1859 – The bill incorporating Battle Creek as a city was signed by Moses Wisner, to be effective on Feb 15, 1859.  At that time, there were only 11 cities in Michigan.  Five other cities were incorporated in 1859, including Marshall and Lansing.  The new city’s charter stayed in effect until a new charter system was adopted in 1913.
January 25, 1894 – The Haskell Home for Orphans was dedicated.  Financed by Mrs. Carolyn Haskell of Chicago in memory of her husband, Frederick, the home was operated by the Battle Creek Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Both Dr. John Harvey and his wife Ella Eaton Kellogg were active in the administration of the home. Located near the present site of the Battle Creek Academy, the Haskell Home was destroyed by fire in 1909.
January 26, 1837 – The territory of Michigan was admitted to the union by Congress as the 37th state.
January 27, 1967 – Battle Creek was incapacitated for several days by the “big snow” -- 21 inches fell in 24 hours, total of 28 inches blanketed the city in 48 hours.
January 31, 1897 -- Charles Willard died at the home of his nephew, George B Willard.  Charles Willard came to the Battle Creek area in 1836 and settled south of town along the shores of Goguac Lake.  In the week before his death he willed Willard Beach to the city to use as a public recreation area.  Willard’s other bequests included in his will were gifts to Willard Library, money for the YMCA as well as substantial donations to First Baptist Church and Kalamazoo College.
February 3, 1923 -- The Charles Roat Music Company was shipping about 2,000 copies a day of the song, “Faded Love Letters” around the country. The music was by Luella Lockwood Moore and the words were by Richard Pascoe.  The song became a national best-seller and was produced on records and piano rolls by 14 different firms.  Roat founded his music publishing house in 1902, after working at Nichols and Shepard threshing machine works for 11 years.  Roat, who always loved music, played the flute and piano.  He wrote and published over 100 songs during his 34-year career as a music publisher.  Roat also ran a music store, selling pianos, band and orchestra instruments, phonographs, records and radios.  After Roat’s death in 1936, the firm continued until 1942 when it merged with the V. C. Squire Music Company.
February 5, 1912 – Dr. John Harvey Kellogg bought the former Phelps sanitarium from C. W. Post.  Originally built in 1900 by the Phelps brothers as a hospital to compete with the Kellogg sanitarium, the building later housed the Trades and Workers Association, a labor union sponsored by C. W. Post.  The large fieldstone building served as an annex and then as the main Sanitarium building until it was purchased by a group of Seventh-day Adventist doctors in 1957.  The modern addition (which now remains) was built in 1970.  Reputed to be largest fieldstone building in United States, it was demolished in 1985.
February 8, 1923 – The development of Leila Arboretum gets underway as surveyors established theboundaries of the 72-acre tract.  The land was the gift to the city of Leila Post Montgomery, widow of cereal magnate C. W Post.  The park was being developed by landscape architect T. Clifton Shepard, who was also doing Irving Park at the same time.  The plan for the arboretum was to plant “one of every type of tree that can thrive in Michigan.”  The majority of the original planting was completed by 1930.
February 12, 1838 – The Bank of Battle Creek files articles of incorporation, with town founder Sands McCamly as president.  The bank was incorporated under the state’s liberal “wildcat” banking laws which allowed banks to print their own money.  There were few regulations about the amount of hard cash had to be available to back up this currency.  McCamly’s bank failed a year later in February 1839.
February 13, 1926 – The first 12 “traffic controllers,” or overhead traffic lights, are installed in downtown Battle Creek.  There was only one accident reported, when the smokestack of an interurban train hit one of the new signals.  Before this, traffic control at major downtown intersections was done by an innovative system of semaphore flags, developed in 1920 by Police Chief LaVerne Fonda. Policemen stood in sidewalk booths and regulated traffic flow by raising and lowering flags by remote control. 
February 15, 1894 – The brothers Shelly and Ernest Hutchinson, formerly of Ypsilanti, opened a shoe store downtown.  They launched an incentive program, giving customers tickets which were punched after each purchase. The filled tickets entitled the holder to free photographic enlargements.  The brothers later left Battle Creek and joined with T. D. Sperry of New York, developing this bonus idea into S & H green stamps.
February 15, 1922 – Dr. James Peebles, a notorious self-promoting spiritualist, died in Los Angeles, California, only 40 days before his 100th birthday.  Peebles first came to Battle Creek in the 1850s as spiritualist minister.  He then traveled around the world as a speaker, “earned” several dubious medical degrees and was appointed United States Consul to Trebizond in Turkey. He returned to Battle Creek in 1896 to open the Medical Institute, a mail order patent medicine business.  He was prosecuted for violations of the Food and Drug laws and moved to California.  A few days after his death the local newspaper carried a reprint of the “first interview with Dr. Peebles from beyond the grave.”
February 15, 1943 – The first large group of casualties, 175 wounded soldiers from the South Pacific, arrived at Percy Jones Hospital by hospital train.
February 16, 1899 – John Martin’s orchestra class of 37 members gave a concert in the Congregational Church.  Since the ensemble of students and residents played a full symphony for the first time, this concert is considered the first official program of the Battle Creek Symphony.
February 16, 1906 – W. K. Kellogg had articles of association drawn for the new Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. The name of the company was later changed to the Kellogg Company.
February 17, 1891 – C. W. Post arrived from Ft. Worth, Texas to take treatments at the San for his chronic stomach problems.  A year later he left and purchased the Beardsley farm on the city’s east side.  There he founded LaVita Inn and started experimenting with own version of the health foods he had tasted at the San.
February 18, 1902 – An alarm turned in at 4:03 a.m. reported a fire at the Battle Creek Sanitarium.  Despite fact that entire building was destroyed in the blaze, there was only one fatality -- a man who ran back into fire to rescue his possessions.  Dr. Kellogg, who was out of town at the time of the blaze, returned the next day. More than 3500 people met at the Seventh-day Adventist Tabernacle to plan the rebuilding.  The new, larger San was dedicated on May 31, 1903.
February 21, 1943 – The Percy Jones Hospital is formally dedicated. The former Sanitarium was converted to 1500 bed hospital for World War II soldiers.  Percy Jones was a major part of Battle Creek’s military-medical complex, which eventually included a medical unit at Fort Custer and R & R station at W. K. Kellogg’s Gull Lake manor house. Soldiers from all over the country were sent here to recover, including many long-term hospitalizations for orthopedic injuries or burns.
February 22, 1879 -- Dr. J. H. Kellogg and Ella Eaton are married in a simple ceremony in the parlor of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Ella Eaton, from Alfred, New York, had been attending a school of hygiene at the San and was on the staff of Good Health magazine.  They were married for 40 years, until her death in 1920.  The Kellogg’s raised more than 40 foster and adopted children while both were working full time at the San.  Ella Eaton Kellogg was the director of the experimental kitchen, as well as being a leader of the national temperance movement and writing several books on dietetics and scientific cooking.
February 24, 1931 – The Old Merchants National Bank, now known as the Heritage Tower, formally opened their new tower building at 25 West Michigan. On the first day 2,714 people rode the escalators, reputedly the first moving stair installed in a United States bank building. The tower, which features one of the great Art Deco interiors in the state, cost $1.7 million to build.
February 24, 1964 – The United Arts Council is organized with four original members: The Civic Art Center, Battle Creek Symphony, Civic Theater and the Community Chorus.  The UAC was the first such organization in the state and only the 11th arts council in the country.  Over the years other local arts organizations joined, including the Community Concert Association, Youth Orchestra, Battle Creek Boy Choir and Heritage Battle Creek.  It is now known as the Arts and Industry Council.
March 4, 1897 -- “Pump” Arnold died at age 77.  Arnold was awaiting the results of his appeal from his conviction for killing his son George, who was found floating in the Battle Creek River.  Arnold had come to Battle Creek in 1857 and opened wooden pump factory, hence his nickname.  Later he opened a saloon where he ran afoul of the Sunday closing laws and had his famous encounter with Mayor Gage. In an ironic twist, Arnold left his entire estate to the WCTU, the temperance organization in which his wife was a prominent member.
March 5, 1849 – The first party of 12 Battle Creek men, led by Abram Minges, left for the California gold fields.  The Minges party took six months and ten days to trek across the country to their destination.  After he arrived, Minges made his money running a hotel and livery for miners, not in panning for gold.  In 1851 he returned to Michigan, bought a farm south of Battle Creek and founded the prominent local family.
March 6, 1923 -- Construction began on the new Veteran’s Administration hospital at Camp Custer.  Battle Creek was chosen as the site for the new medical facility for two reasons:  the city’s reputation as the “health city” and the extensive facilities at Camp Custer which were available after the demobilization of the troops at the end of World War I. The hospital formally opened in October 1924 with a medical staff of 68. 
March 7, 1850 – The incorporated village of Battle Creek held its first election. William Brooks, a hardware dealer, was elected president.  Battle Creek was organized as a “village” from 1850 to 1859, when it was chartered as an incorporated “city” by the state of Michigan.
March 7, 1859 – Newly incorporated as a city, Battle Creek held its first municipal elections. Elijah Pendill was elected as mayor.  Pendill and wife, Mary, were both very active temperance workers.  She was one of the organizers of the “Ladies Visiting Committee,” a pioneering group of women who did “pray-ins” at local saloons in 1850s, decades before Carrie Nation made saloon visits infamous.
March 10, 1938 -- In the first criminal case in the county defended by a woman, Charles Eckert was acquitted on a charge of taking $100 from the Montgomery Garage. The attorney was Miss Eleanor Kimball who lived at 196 Capital Avenue (the present Kimball House Museum).   Kimball went on to become one of the area’s most distinguished business women.  During the war she enlisted in WAVES and taught naval law at the Naval Reserve School in Washington, D.C.  She returned to local law practice in 1946 and was on the national staff of AAUW before her untimely death in 1950.
March 14, 1825 -- The infamous “battle” which gave Battle Creek its name occurred at a creek near Bellevue.  It was a minor altercation between the crew of John Mullet’s surveying party and two Native Americans.  The Indians were disturbed by the activities of the surveying crews on their land.  They came to the camp and asked for food.  The camp cook refused, and the resulting tussle ended up with the Indians being tied up until Mullet returned to camp. Because of the disturbance, Mullet decided to stop the survey and return to Detroit.
March 17, 1922 – The Postum Cereal Company announced plans to build a $20,000 baseball park on a 6-acre tract between Marshall and Cliff streets, east of James Street.  The park was the home for the company’s semi-pro ball team which was part of local industrial league which included teams from Kellogg’s and Clark’s. The heyday of Post park was in the 1930s and 1940s, when major league teams also occasionally came through on barnstorming tours.  The ballpark closed and is now a neighborhood park.
March 20, 1903 – C. W. Post offered 10 prizes of $25 each for the most attractive lawns in the Post and Cliff Additions.  The prizes were given for several years to encourage homeowners to improve and beautify their homes with well-kept lawns and flower beds. The Post Addition had just opened, providing hundreds of comfortable homes for workers at the Postum and Nichols & Shepard factories.  Post built these affordable homes because he believed that a worker who owned his own home was a more contented worker, a worker who would not leave his job and would not be tempted to join a union.  
March 24, 1854 – The Battle Creek & Hastings Plank Road Company announced the tolls for traveling on the road between Battle Creek and Grand Rapids.  Plank roads were built by private companies who charged tolls to cover the costs of construction and maintenance.
    Vehicle drawn by 2 animals:  2 cents a mile
    Sled or sleigh, 2 animals:  1 cent a mile
    All vehicles drawn by 1 animal:  1 cent a mile
    Each score of sheep or swine:  ½ cent a mile
    Each score of meat cattle:  2 cents a mile
    Horse and rider:  1 cent a mile
March 25, 1896 – The first kindergarten in Battle Creek was organized by “ladies interested in educational work.” The 75 original members paid 50 cents each to maintain a free private kindergarten to teach “good morals, good manners and good habits” to 3 to 6-year olds.  The first classes were held in the Congregational church with 4 teachers and 52 children enrolled.  The experiment proved popular and three more sites were added the next year.  The private kindergarten program continued to operate until 1912 when it was absorbed into the public-school system.
March 25, 1932 -- Construction begins on the W. K. Kellogg Auditorium.  This combination junior high school and public auditorium was a gift to the city from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, intended to keep local workers employed during the Depression.  The building was designed by Albert Kahn, the Detroit architect famous for his Ford automobile plants. Kahn designed two other Battle Creek buildings – the Hall of Justice (now Commerce Pointe) and the Ann J. Kellogg
March 28, 1929 – The new Seventh Day Baptist Church at North Washington and Emmett streets was dedicated to the memory of Ella Eaton Kellogg, the wife of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and director of the Experimental Kitchen at the Battle Creek Sanitarium.  She was a life-long member of the Seventh Day Baptist Church.  Before the church was built the congregation worshipped in Sanitarium buildings. The new church building and the memorial window was designed by the firm of Benjamin and Benjamin, Grand Rapids architects who also designed the Youth Building.
April 1, 1896 – The Battle Creek Bicycle Club was organized at the Athelstan Club.  Most of the 133 original members were employees from the Nichols & Shepard, Advance Thresher and Union Steam Pump factories. The bicycle craze swept the country during the 1890s, when men, women and children rode the “wheels” for sport and recreation.  Special “costumes” were developed for women, so they could ride comfortably in split skirts and still appear ladylike. Battle Creek hosted several national bicycle races in the 1890s, including one contest between a bicycle and a horse.  The horse won.
April 1, 1978 – Five-digit telephone dialing ended in town when the company required all seven digits had to be used when making local calls.  Touch-tone phones were also available in town for the first time.
April 2, 1917 – Dr. James Case of the Sanitarium announced plans to organize a Red Cross Ambulance Corps here for service in Europe.  This was the city’s first contribution to the war effort.  Case needed to raise $10,000 to equip the company.  In June 120 men from Battle Creek, Detroit and Chicago left for Allentown, Pennsylvania, where they were trained before embarking for France. Dr. Case was sent ahead to Europe to join the American Expeditionary Force.  He was promoted to Lt. Colonel and became one of the Consulting Surgeons of AEF, in charge of all x-ray treatments in Europe.  After he returned at the end of the war, he continued to do pioneering work in x-ray technology at the Sanitarium.
April 6, 1909 – “Pat” Patterson was hired as the first full time paid African American police officer in Battle Creek.  He served for more than 30 years and was best known for directing traffic at bank corners from 1908 to 1940.  Patterson originally came to town to play baseball for the Malta Vita factory team.  He also coached the Battle Creek Central High School baseball team before he was hired by the police force.
April 7, 1860 – W. K. Kellogg was born in Battle Creek, the 7th son in a family of 11 children.  His birth name was Willie Keith, which he legally changed to Will Keith later in life.  He worked for his older brother, Dr. J H Kellogg, at the Battle Creek Sanitarium until 1906, when he founded his own cereal company, the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company.  Kellogg died in 1951 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery. 
April 10, 1917 – The Calhoun County Chapter of the Red Cross was incorporated and affiliated with the national organization. Dr. Arthur S. Kimball was one of the leaders of the new organization.  One of the first units created by the local chapter was the Motor Corps to aid soldiers at Camp Custer.  In order for women to qualify, they had to be able to crank start their own cars and know how to change tires.  During the 1918 flu epidemic the Motor Corps provided around-the-clock service, picking up supplies for the sick and driving men and families to and from the Camp, hospital, and train station.  Others sewed or knitted items for the soldiers. After the war, Red Cross work centered on the needs of veterans and offering community education classes (swimming, first aid, etc).  The blood bank program was started during World War II.
April 13, 1897 -- Dr John Kellogg was granted a patent for making “nut butter,” described as a “pasty adhesive substance” made from peanuts or other nuts.  The product was originally meant to be a spread like butter or used like a shortening, not used a sandwich spread.
April 17, 1947 -- Plans for a $40,000 synagogue to be built on Capital Avenue NE are announced by Temple Beth El.  The first Jewish service in Battle Creek was held in Battle Creek in 1840 in a private home. Religious observances were scattered and irregular until 1936 when the first formal congregation was formed.  The group had several temporary homes until they commissioned architect Lewis J. Sarvis to design the new temple.  The first services were held in the new synagogue, built of Indiana limestone, in 1950.
April 17, 1956 – Resident college facilities are restored to Battle Creek for the first time in 18 years when the Board of Education approved opening a community college.  Classes are scheduled to begin in the fall in the former GAR Hall on College Street.  The city had not had a college since 1938 when the Battle Creek College, associated with the Sanitarium, closed.