History of GRATIOT CO., Michigan. Historical Biographical, Statistical

By Willard D. Tucker pub. 1913 Press of Seemann & Peters, Saginaw, Michigan

Village of Ashley;  pgs.  1063-1094




It is not intended as a disparagement of the efforts and accomplishments of others to say that Charles E. Chittenden probably did more than any other one man for the upbuilding of Ashley Village and the development of the surrounding country. This was accomplished through the instru­mentality of his manufacturing institutions and by his liberality and activity in promoting such movements and enterprises as were calculated to advance prosperity and build up the town morally, socially and materially. His extensive stave, heading and hoop-manufacturing establishment which did business continuously for 27 years may properly be given a place at the head of the industrial institutions of the place during all that time. It is proper to state also that in her appropriate sphere Mrs. Chittenden was instrumental in equal degree with her husband in promoting the best inter­ests of the community with which she was so long identified as a resident citizen.

Charles E. Chittenden was born in Livingston County, N. Y., in 1851. In 1867 he became a resident of Wyandotte. Mich., and was a student in the high school of that city, and was also a student in Bryant & Stratton’s Business College, Detroit. November 4, 1872, Mr. Chittenden was married, in Wyandotte, to Miss Mary A. Coop, who was born in Berry, Lancashire, England, in 1853, and came with her parents to Wyandotte in 1855, and in due course of time obtained her education in the Wyandotte schools.

Six children were born to the union of Mr. and Mrs. Chittenden as follows: John A., born at Morley, Mich., December 13, 1873, died in Ashley, September 7, 1895; Lois B., born in Windsor, Ontario, November 11, 1877; Milton J., born at Milan, Mich., March 4, 1884; May Sickles, born at Ashley, May 26, 1886, died June 27, 1886; Mary Emma, born at Ashley, June 14, 1892; Dora Elizabeth, born at Ashley, March 10, 1894. John, Lois and Milton graduated from Ashley High School, John being the first graduate of the school. Their portraits appear with those of their parents in the group picture shown in connection with this sketch.

Mr. Chittenden started in business in Ecorse, Mich., in 1880. He manu­factured sash and doors. After about two years he went to Milan, Mich., and, in company with Alexis M. Salliotte, under the firm name of Salliotte & Chittenden, was engaged in the manufacture of staves and heading. In the year 1884 they moved their plant to Ashley, on a site bought from Phinney & Bullock, founders of the village. Here they erected a saw, hoop, stave and heading mill and commenced working up the vast forests of timber of the locality. They continued in the business about 12 years when Mr. Chittenden bought his partner’s interest and then operated the plant under the firm name of C. E. Chittenden & Co. for 15 years, he being the sole owner. During this 27 years the plant was twice destroyed by fire. The third building now stands on the original site. In the meantime Mr. Chittenden established a branch factory at Vickeryville, Montcalm County, which continued in commission up to early in 1913.

In the year 1904 H. S. Barber & Co. of Chicago, offered to operate a cheese factory at Ashley provided a suitable site and building were furnished by the citizens. An attempt to raise funds was a failure, so Mr. Chittenden put up the building and the Chicago parties, operated it for a few months, and then decided to discontinue operations and dismantle the works. Mr. Chittenden, believing that the factory was a valuable aid to the farmers and in the development of the country, bought the machinery and hired a cheese-maker; and the factory is running to this day, has grown into one of the best in the state, and is operated the year around.

There being no suitable building in the village for a blacksmith shop Mr. Chittenden built one near the cheese factory on the north, so as to make it convenient for farmers dealing with the cheese factory to get their blacksmithing done.

The southeast quarter of section one of Washington was purchased by Mr. Chittenden in 1900. After removing the timber and tiling the ground; he has developed the tract into one of the best dairy farms in the county. He breeds thoroughbred Holstein cattle and Duroc hogs. The first silo in this part of the county was built on this farm in 1907. He also built the houses on lots 150 and 154, New Street, in Ashley. He was the father of the Ashley Drain and principal promoter of drain No. 142; drains that have been of vast benefit to the locality. He contributed liberally to the building of the Ashley Table Factory, and also to the flouring mill, which was built by Jacob Wiltse. In fact every enterprise calculated to benefit the town received his active support.

Ansel H. Phinney and C. E. Chittenden took an active part in promot­ing the Toledo, Saginaw & Muskegon Railroad, contributing a large amount of money and securing a much larger amount by subscription. In appreciation of their valuable aid they were granted the honor of driving the first spike in the construction of the railroad.

The M. E. Church building was erected in 1890, and Mr. Chittenden, as one of the building committee, had charge of its construction. Money being scarce, it was decided to get along without a belfry. Mr. Chittenden, however, didn’t think he would like the appearance of a church without a belfry. so lie had the belfry built at his own expense.

In 1892 Mr. Chittenden was converted. He joined the M. E. Church and was elected superintendent of the Sunday school, a position which he held for ten years; and during that time he furnished oil and fuel and did the janitor work. In 1894 when Rev. John Close was pastor, he and a few members, including Mr. Chittenden, purchased a bell for the church, having it made to order, with their names cast in the metal.

Mr. Chittenden held the offices of supervisor and treasurer of his town­ship—Elba——and was president of the village and school treasurer. In 1911, on account of the scarcity of timber the Ashley stave factory went out of business. and Mr. Chittenden removed with his family to Owosso. He still owns property in Ashley, however, and also in Vickeryville, Mont-calm County.

MRS. MARY A. CHITTENDEN, in her appropriate sphere, was also a power for good in the community. In the early days of the village, when there were no roads to speak of, and no resident physician, Mrs. Chittenden was the “friend in need” in case of sickness or distress; philanthropic, benevolent and helpful so far as possible. Especially useful in case of births, very few children were born without her being there to welcome them and help give them a comfortable start. She joined the M. E. class as soon as one was organized in Ashley. She paid the first five dollars at Ashley for the support of the minister, Rev. J. W. McAllister. She was steward for 20 years, and while in that position every preacher received his pay as agreed at the quarterly conference, very often contributing a large part of the amount necessary She taught a class in Sunday school 20 years. She joined the W. C. T. U. w hen there were only seven members, and brought the membership up to seventy, making it the banner union in Gratiot County. Mrs. Chittenden helped to organize the first and only Loyal Temperance Legion (a children’s organization) in Gratiot County. It had 50 active and 20 honorary members. She was its superintendent for ten years. She also organized the School Savings Bank System at Ashley and St. Louis; arid was three years president of the Gratiot County Sunday School Association.


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