From Slaughterhouse to the Village Glen – The Ghosts of First Street

January 27, 2020

by Julie Traynor

 The Marion, Michigan of 1920 was a very different place than it is in 2020.  As much as we like to think there has not been much change to our comfortable little town, there has indeed been a good deal.

At the beginning of the 1920’s, Marion was a comfortable and growing agriculturally centered town. Businesses welcomed and accommodated farmers, especially those in the grocery and dry goods business. Farmers and cattlemen were essentially, paid once a year at harvest. A fact also understood by Marion’s grain elevator, feed stores and implement dealers.

The stockyard auction, a source of income for many, was located, much as it is today next to the railroad tracks. Many animals sold here loaded on railcars and shipped to far off feedlots and eventual consumption.

Marion was also home to a slaughterhouse owned by John Game, of Game Bros. Meat Market fame, and local animal’s also went here. The Game Brothers, John and Tom, were long time proprietors of fresh meats in Marion. During their years in business here, their markets were burned-out in various legendary fires, first in the Great Fire of 1904.

This necessary and unsavory business, hidden away on acreage John Game owned on the south side of east First Street, slaughtered animals, cattle, pigs and sheep, for local customers and businesses, including his own.

In his 2006 Marion reminiscences as told to Mildred Mitchell for the Marion Press, the late Erwin “Stub” Robinson vividly recalled the slaughter business where his father, Charlie Robinson, worked. According to Stub, John Game owned five or ten acres on the south side of First Street where he built and operated the slaughterhouse, “about where the Village Glen Apartments are now.”

Game’s Slaughterhouse and later Village Glen is located on the eastern edge of the large, wetland that sprawls parallel to First Street and south of the Village Limits. With several impediments it makes its way toward the river. The slaughterhouse conducted its business using the small creek entering the swamp to carry away any unusable offal. We have long heard stories that on slaughter days the creek ran red.  Bones and hooves went to the proverbial glue factory, fat went for soap and hides were salted and sold, eventually becoming shoes, boots and all manner of leather goods. The rest went in the creek.

The Game Slaughterhouse did not advertise in the Press. Those who needed the services knew where to find it. We do not know when it ceased to operate and likely most evidence of its existence was destroyed when the apartments were built in 1980-81. During the in between years, the property returned to ‘nature’ with the help of planted red pines and undergrowth. The only marker remaining is the small and likely unnoticed bridge on First Street where water emerges from its underground Main Street crossing to enter the swamp.

The Village Glen Apartments were open for business late in 1981, offering 32 apartments with 1-2-3 bedrooms and two apartments designed especially for disabled residents. Marion’s Teresa Sana, wheelchair bound from a stroke, was the first resident of a special unit. She could not say enough about the amenities and freedom her new home afforded her.

Teresa also echoed the perpetual call for more suitable housing in our town. Almost from our very beginning, Marion cried for more housing. It appears that when folks moved to town they bought a lot, built a house and lived in it. There was none to spare. Not many built houses to rent. For the past almost 40 years, the Village Glen has helped to fill the housing need. It has been home to countless individuals, and we’re willing to bet that these days no one has any idea of what kind of Ghosts might haunt First Street.

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