Saturday, April 9, 2011

New on the Shelf : 1877 Van Buren County Business Directory

Ah, the wonders of Ebay...There has been no better source in the last decade for unusual and rare local history items.  The latest find is the 1877 Business Directory of Paw Paw, Decatur, Lawrence, Bangor, Lawton and Mattawan.  Although only 32 pages, it is truly a treasure of 19th century Van Buren County history.

Many of the pages are filled with advertisements, ranging in size from 1/5 to a whole page, for local businesses.  Examples include:

  • R. O. Beebe, Insurance Agent - Paw Paw
  • John Struble Harness Shop - Decatur
  • Tillou & Olin, Lawrence Mills - Lawrence
  • H. E. Jennings, Dentist - Bangor
  • W. F. Dailey, Blacksmithing - Mattawan
  • Kinney, Adams & Co., Merchants - Lawton
There is also a business directory for each of the five communities, divided by categories such as:
  • Attorneys at Law
  • Barbers
  • Boots & Shoes
  • Carriages, Wagons & Sleighs
  • Cigar Manufacturers
  • Insurance
  • Millinery
  • Photographers
  • Undertakers
  • Tin Ware
  • Justices of the Peace
For Paw Paw, there is a list of officers for the village, the county, and some lodges.  There is also a list of churches.

Directories for the late 1800's are rare, the only other individual directory known to exist for Van Buren County prior to 1900 is the Van Buren County Gazetteer and Business Directory published in 1869.  Although, there are some business listings in the county's 1860, 1873 & 1895 plat books.  South Haven is the only town in the county known to have had it's own city directories, and to date the only known early one is the W. A. Norton directory of South Haven, Casco, and Covert, 1898-1900.

This 1877 directory is extremely rare and may be the only one left in existence.  This, and all of the others listed in this post, may be viewed in the Local History Collection of the Van Buren District Library.