A Short History
This project cannot be fully appreciated without a short history of the community and how it came into existence. One should also understand a brief history of the Bangor Reflector and the Bangor Advance. They are really one newspaper, each of which existed at a different period in time. These two journalistic institutions published a great deal about life in and around our town. Say what you will about these little hometown papers, but they left us a very clear and informative legacy of our past.
It would be nice to look back to try to get a grasp of the strength of mind, soul and body that drove the early pioneers to succeed in a desolate Michigan wilderness. Michigan was considered by many to be a valueless and uninhabitable land. There were many rumors about bears, wolves and Indians. The spirit of those seeking a new life in the wilderness was seldom broken by those rumors. Although bears, wolves, and Indians did exist in good quantities, they were seldom of any threat. During the 1830's and 40's settlers began to stream into the state. They were simply looking for a new start despite an unpredictable land. Many came from New York State to the Bangor area and became the backbone of the community.
It was thought at the time that this state was too swampy to sustain any quality of agriculture. In fact, it was swampy, but the great quantity of giant hardwoods with diameters in excess of six feet, provided good building materials and a future source of commerce. Those giant hardwoods played a major role in developing an economic base for the community. When the hardwoods were depleted to a point at which they were no longer a lucrative commodity, hundreds of acres of tillable farmland remained. Bangor became a profitable farming community, specializing in that little red jewel, the apple.
Many of us know Charles U. Cross was the first person to settle in what is now the city of Bangor. Mr. Cross came from New York with J.R. Monroe in 1834. Charles's adopted uncle, Samuel Payne, sent them to survey the unseen land in Michigan he had acquired from the government. In 1835 these two men were hired to cut a road from South Haven to Paw Paw. They constructed it directly through the property owned by Samuel Payne. Mr. Cross would build his future home on that road which is now downtown Bangor. That thoroughfare is currently our main street and was given the name of Monroe St. to honor J.R. Monroe. Mr. Monroe went on to settle South Haven.
After returning briefly to New York, Charles married Mary S. West in September of 1836. He brought his bride back to Michigan and built a cabin that was completed in the spring of 1837. Not long afterwards, their son Samuel P. was born, being the first white child born in the township. When Samuel Payne died without a will, all his land in Michigan was left to Charles. He became the first white person to own the land he inhabited in what is now the township and city of Bangor.
In October of 1853 the Van Buren County Board of Supervisors organized a new township by separating a large section of land from South Haven Township. It was given the name of Marion. The name however, was not acceptable to some people. Three days later it was changed to Bangor at the suggestion of a man who was originally from Maine.
The first newspaper in town was the Bangor Journal, created in February of 1873 by Charles W. Gillett. After a short run with little success the newspaper folded in the fall of that year. In December of 1873, W.W. Secord started the Bangor Reflector. Also having limited success, Mr. Secord sold the paper to Charles C. Phillips in April of 1875. Under the management of Mr. Phillips, the Reflector did a brisk and flourishing business. G.F. Burkett created the West Michigan Advance in 1881. One year later he sold his interest in that paper to L.S. Russell. In 1888, Charles Phillips leased the Reflector to Mr. Russell, who consolidated the two papers into the Advance & Reflector. That paper was then turned over to M.F. Russell, the son of L.S. Russell, in January of 1891. The new owner dropped the name Reflector, thus creating the Bangor Advance.
Bangor has a very rich history after going through many transitions. Our pictures will reflect some of those transitions and shine some light on our community. Hopefully the reader will agree, our photos are interesting and enjoyable.
Enjoy the web sight.