Our Community Tour Gladstone: A look back at how it came to be

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GLADSTONE, Mich (WJMN) – The city of Gladstone is rich with history and its ties to the people who put the town on the map. In order to get the full history tour, Local 3’s Haley Schoengart hopped in the car with Ann Miller, a Gladstone history expert who pulled out all of the stops for the tour.

To start off the tour, we started on the side of US-241 next to the iconic historic locomotive that greets everyone as they enter the town. To better understand the significance this locomotive serves in Gladstone’s history, Ann’s tour began at the water front of Lake Michigan.

“Here at the beautiful waterfront where the Yacht Harbor was,” Miller said. “It’s long gone now, but this beautiful park was donated by Frank Van Cleve who was a businessman and a financier from Escanaba. Richard Mason, who is known as the father of Gladstone and Frank Van Cleve, bought up all the land along the waterfront here because they had heard that there were some entrepreneurs in Minnesota who were very frustrated with the railroads being so dominant in Chicago. The Chicago railroad markets would negotiate the price of grain and leave the flour millers, like Pillsbury, at the mercy of the railroad in Chicago, so they decided to build their own railroad to a safe harbor in Lake Michigan because their market for flour at that time was Buffalo, New York. They put together entrepreneurs and stockholders and started laying track towards Lake Michigan. Well, they almost made it. They ran out of money. They couldn’t go to Vanderbilt’s or the government because they were the dominant factor in Chicago, which was their direct competition. So, they went to Montreal, Canada where they negotiated in Canadian dollars while Canada was under British rule. So, they negotiated British dollars to finish building that railroad to this location, but the Montreal negotiation said ‘no you’ll bring that railroad all the way to Sault Sainte Marie, Canada’. So this railroad, The Minneapolis St. Paul and Sault Sainte Marie railroad, was built with British dollars. In five months, that tiny little community where the railroad came in 1887 had 1800 people in five months. The US senator from Minnesota, William Washburn, came back to that community and encouraged them to name their new city to appease the Prime Minister of Great Britain. So the Soo Line Railroad built the city of Gladstone.”

After finding out the origins of the city of Gladstone, a cruise downtown showcased some buildings with rich history.

“Today it’s the home of Water’s Edge Chiropractors with some beautiful apartments upstairs, Miller said. “That was built in 1932 by the Northwest Cooperage. William Bushong, the owner of the Northwest Cooperage, built that building as a clubhouse for his employees and it’s still being in use today. So much of Gladstone in the 1960s burned in a horrible fire. Some of the buildings have been reestablished but then a lot of them are still functional buildings.”

Gladstone history would not be complete without mentioning Marble Arms and Bay De Not Lure Company, both whose products and impact on the outdoors have reached far beyond Gladstone and the Upper Peninsula.

“The Gladstone Exchange Bank was actually the first bank established in Gladstone,” Miller said. “Webster Marble was an early descendant of Gladstone and was the president of that bank. Webster Marble came to this area from Vassar, Michigan and established a company called Marble Arms and Marble Manufacturing. He invented 64 different outdoor sportsman’s items that have been used all over the world. It was an amazing company, and it still operates today. Today, they make the original gunsights that Webster Marble invented. Carl Nyberg was a blacksmith here in Gladstone at the turn of the century in the 1900’s and established a lure that is called the Swedish Pimple. It was made after a replica there, and it’s one of the most popular lures today.”

Another key player in Gladstone history is James T. Jones, whose legacy still lives on in the city through education.

“James T. Jones came to Gladstone in 1905 as the marketing director for Webster Marble and Marble Manufacturing,” Miller said. “He built a beautiful home and worked for the Marble company for over 60 years. He also served on the school board for 32 years. So, the elementary school is named after him in the James T. Jones elementary school.”

One hundred years looks great on the town as many businesses have hit that milestone and are still open to this day.

“We can really boast that accomplishment because right here in Delta County,” Miller said. “St. Francis Hospital, the Daily Press and the Paper Mill still exists today. The Chamber of Commerce is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. So there are so many centennial opportunities in Delta County, and across the U.P. because once they’re established here, they’re here to stay.”

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