Marion’s oldest residence revisited- Chadwick House

August 2, 2018

By Julie Traynor

No matter what we may call it, 7th of August Homecoming, Old Fashioned Days or Marion Days, Marionites have been celebrating this place and coming home at this time of year for more than one hundred years. We still celebrate even though we can no longer close Main Street for its entire length, erect a Ferris wheel at the intersection, have balloon ascensions by the bank or parade from school to school. Those events belong to homecomings of the past. And although times have changed, and it may seem that there isn’t much left from our founding days, the truth is, the Village is full of buildings and things from our beginnings and they all have a story to tell.

We all know of the Clarks, Christopher and Mary Ann, who were the first permanent settlers at this site on the banks of the Middle Branch. It was Clark who recognized the spot as a good place to dam the river and set up a mill. In the 1870’s and 1880’s lumber was king and this area was the realm.

In 1887, John Chadwick brought his mill, his wife Mary, two daughters, and son Walter, from Evart to the forests along the Middle Branch where he had taken a sizable tract. The Chadwick family found only the Clarks in residence. The family rented a shanty from them for a time and in doing so became the second family to take up residence.

John Chadwick, with the help of his son Walt, and his crew cleared the land which the stock yards and
barns now occupy and set up the mill. Just to the east, where large maples had been cut, the Chadwicks built their home, using lumber cut from the site. It was the second frame home built at Clark’s Mill which would soon to be known as the Village of Marion.

In 1888, Mary Chadwick spearheaded the move for a church in the young community and with the aid of others in the area petitioned the Methodist Episcopal Church in Big Rapids to establish a church in the new settlement. By September 1888, a minister was in residence and a site for the building, on West Main, had been donated by Christopher Clark. The women organized a Ladies Aid Society and fundraising began immediately.

The mills of Chadwick and Clark donated lumber and all residents, Methodist or not, helped in the construction. The church was dedicated in December of that year. Mary Chadwick taught Sunday school and served as the church treasurer until the time of her death in 1911.

The white clapboard church building served the M.E. congregation for 23 years until it was sold to the Free Methodists and moved to East Main Street. This building, built from local materials, still stands today and has served as a church for 125 years. Currently vacant, it has been recently sold.

The Chadwick family grew and prospered along with the town. They operated the mill until 1897 when it was sold. John, looking for an easier occupation in his later years, opened a general store, Chadwick and Chadwick. Walt was the local barber and ran his business from a small building located just east of the railroad tracks on the south side of Main Street. Walt died in 1947 and the building was torn down in 1950.

The Chadwick house sits at the west end of Fifth Street at the corner of Chadwick, now nestled amid maple trees. The Chadwick Mill was located just across the railroad tracks and the highway on the Mill Pond where the livestock barns now sit.

The Chadwick house sits at the west end of Fifth Street at the corner of Chadwick, now nestled amid maple trees. The Chadwick Mill was located just across the railroad tracks and the highway on the Mill Pond where the livestock barns now sit.

In 1894 Walter Chadwick married Bertha Hill at his parents’ home on Fifth Street. They built a home nearby and raised three daughters, Marie (Gibbs), Irene (Lynde) and Norma (Turner). All three girls would become teachers. Before the girls were grown, the elder Chadwicks traded homes with the younger, and the girls grew up in the comfortable clapboard house with the shaded front porch.

The house that John Chadwick built remains the oldest surviving residence in town. It sits at the corner of Fifth Street and the aptly named Chadwick Street.

These days the house, it is largely hidden by a sprawling stand of lilac bushes and an enormous maple tree, once a sapling spared from the lumberman’s axe in 1887. Some of its windows are shuttered, others return a vacant stare. The roof has been kept in repair and the relatively newly repaired porch does not sag. It has been unoccupied since Bertha Chadwick died at age 95 in 1971.

Fast forward 131 years.

What truly impressed after more than 130 years is the sturdiness of the house. The maple hardwood floors, visible around the edges of warn carpets, still have a shine in the right light and those floors do not sag, nor do the ceilings. After all this time, the plaster has few cracks, although, like an old horse whose ribs begin to show, the ridges from the lath are visible under paint and paper.

The Chadwick home was owned by one of Walt’s granddaughters, Vivian Lynde Chatwith, when this was first written. The property was looked after by her cousin, Gib Turner and his family. Both have now passed away and the fate of the Chadwick house is left to another generation.

We took a tour of the old homestead with David Turner, the great-great grandson of John Chadwick, in 2012 and spoke with him again last week about its fate.

Rather sadly, the house is not a time capsule, looking as it did when the Chadwicks were still living. When we visited we found very little furniture left in its six rooms. Magazines and pillow contents had been scattered about the floor by vandals. Ancient linens were strewn about in the upstairs bedrooms. Vandals of the four-legged variety have done damage as well. The lean-to bathroom and shed at the rear of the house is well beyond repair.

The Chadwick descendants have fond memories of their ancestral home. Holidays, birthdays and various family events were always celebrated there. Reunions were held under the ancient maple. If you are of a certain age you may recall Irene Chadwick Lynde who came to Marion from the city for many summers to be ‘at home’ with her mother and her sister Norma Turner. She was the last Chadwick daughter to live in the home.

The fate of the ghostly gray house is sealed and the family has begun the emptying process. The old house will come down. Two enemies of any building are disuse and time and the Chadwick house, in its old age, has seen plenty of both. David Turner tells me that the property will remain as a memorial to his pioneer family and as a place for them to gather.

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