Ypsilanti Citizen Opinions Sidetrack

Thank you Ypsilanti
By Dan DuChene & Christine Laughren
Jun. 23, 2010   ·   5:07 p.m.

Christine Laughren and Dan DuChene, co-owners of the Ypsilanti Citizen, pose in front of their company's banner at Frenchie's during the Citizen's one-year anniversary party.

The Ypsilanti Citizen was launched in November 2008 to inform the Ypsilanti community about the news and events that were happening in their area.

Since our launch,...read more

Crossroads Summer Festival; rockin’ ladies night
By Dave Heikkinen and Frank Wright
Jun. 23, 2010   ·   4:37 p.m.

Barbara Payton and the Big Boss Trio rock Washington Street.

A special Ladies Night was held Friday at the 2010 Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival in conjunction with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Just...read more

Crossroads to hold Ladies Night for Relay for Life
By Dave Heikkinen and Frank Wright
Jun. 16, 2010   ·   9:13 a.m.

On June 11, the 2010 Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival featured a rousing opening set from roots and blue grass band Dragon Wagon.

Dragon Wagon was joined on...read more

Electric rail pollution leads to dirty laundry
By Laura Bien
Jun. 15, 2010   ·   11:42 a.m.

From the approximate vantage point of the present-day Materials Unlimited, the interurban car barn and powerhouse on Michigan Avenue loomed large.

Maggie Smith was not looking forward to a forenoon of sewing pleats.

She put down her newest customer’s summer dress. Downstairs, she offered to get potatoes...read more

EMU students in wartime
By Laura Bien
Jun. 1, 2010   ·   10:32 a.m.

The 1942 Aurora yearbook, the 50th
anniversary edition, included images that contrasted modern and
old-time students.

Leroy Grindle was an Ypsilantian soldier who lost his life in WWII. He was a member of the Michigan Normal (EMU) class of ’41, and is memorialized with a black...read more

Three Ypsilanti chicken men

The Boston Poultry House stood at the northwest part of the present-day Water Street property in 1903. Photo by Ypsilanti City Archives

The Boston Poultry House stood at the northwest part of the present-day Water Street property in 1903.
Ypsilanti Farmers Market

To the Archives

By Laura Bien
Nov. 10, 2009    ·    1:38 a.m.


The history of chickens in Ypsilanti is as old as the city itself, dating back to the roast chickens served at the first Fourth of July feast celebrated in Woodruff’s Grove in 1824.

In subsequent generations, many Ypsilantians raised chickens. But, for out-county farmers one problem was getting eggs to town. Many farmers sold eggs to city grocers, some of whom accepted farm produce to sell. But how would one move, or have an egg-dealer move, an extremely fragile and perishable product over washboard dirt roads in a wagon to make a sale big enough to be worth the while?

In 1872, 39-year-old Ypsilanti resident William O. Strong solved this problem by inventing an egg-carrier. He wasn’t alone: 11 other tinkerers patented egg-carriers that year.

Strong’s egg-carrier consisted of two square flat pieces of wood. The top piece had holes drilled in a grid pattern. Two petal-shaped prongs of wire extend up through each hole, with their feet under the top board and touching the bottom board. When eggs are placed in the prongs, and the top board is pressed down, the wire feet are flattened, clamping the prongs around the egg and holding it upright for shipping. Strong had invented a forerunner of the egg carton.

Strong was so taken with his egg-carrier invention that he immediately founded a company to mass-produce it. The Excelsior Manufacturing Company stood on the south side of Congress Street(Michigan Avenue), between Huron and Washington streets. In 1874, the firm had four employees: Proprietor Edward W. Grant, Superintendent William Strong, and William’s two sons as clerks, 17-year-old James and 16-year-old Edward. James and Edward lived with William at Congress and Normal, just a few blocks west of their little factory.

Strong’s was the only egg carrier manufacturer in Ypsilanti. But, by 1878 the tiny firm had vanished from the city, as had all three Strong gentlemen. Apparently, their dream had proved as fragile as an eggshell.

An undated photo from the Ypsilanti City Archives shows the Boston Poultry House, whose façade bears the address 24 Water Street and the phrase “Good Live Poultry of All Kinds Wanted.” It stood near the southeast corner of the river and Michigan Avenue.

In the photo, the Boston Poultry House appears to be a thriving business, with 23 presumable employees lined up in front of its large wood-frame building. One would not be surprised to learn it was in business for many years. However, the photo conceals a sadder story.

The Boston Poultry House was run by George H. Morse, a poultry dealer in town since 1897. A bachelor then, he owned a home at 210 River Street. By 1901, he was a boarder in the same home. Perhaps he’d sold it to raise money for his desired poultry house. In 1901, he was also married to one Lizzie, who lived with him. Conceivably Lizzie had admired Morse’s ambition to establish his own business.

In 1903, Morse realized his ambition. The Poultry House was open! Proud of his venture, Morse splurged on a telephone, becoming one of the few businesses in town to have one. His telephone number was 467. The photo may have been taken to commemorate the BPH’s opening. Likely one of the men at the extreme left is George Morse.

However, things began falling apart. Though his ambition was realized, Morse apparently lost his wife, who vanished in 1903 from 210 River, where he continued to board. Shortly afterwards, the entire Boston Poultry House business was lost as well. The building stood empty, and was later demolished. At last, Morse himself vanished from Ypsilanti.

In contrast to Strong and Morse’s apparent failures, Eber Owen was successful with chickens. Eber was the son of Ypsilanti’s would-be mineral water baron, Tubal Cain Owen.

Owen, who had drilled a well in 1884 and discovered foul salt water, immediately marketed the murky liquid as a cure for 32 diseases that included diabetes, hemorrhoids, hay fever, cuts, bee stings, sexual diseases and cancer. He also founded a “Sanitarium,” where patrons could seek a cure. Around 1903, the popularity of Tubal’s sanitarium was declining. His “San” was admitting greater numbers of alcoholics experiencing alcohol withdrawal and delirium tremens. Their yells and screams were annoying neighbors and attracting public comment. When the Pure Foods Act, requiring precise labeling of ingredients, passed in 1906, Tubal toned down the flashy marketing of his miracle mineral water and continued to sell it as mere mineral water. Tubal died in 1913, and around 1916, his wells were capped forever.

Around 1903, Tubal gave Eber part of the land on which the Atlantis water factory stood at 714 Forest, now occupied by the old Roosevelt High School on the Eastern Michigan University campus. Eber began breeding poultry in the shadow, as it were, of his father’s enormous wooden water pump derrick.

Eber successfully bred and sold poultry into his 50s, long after his father’s “Atlantis” well had closed. He brought his birds to local poultry shows, where they won awards and got his name mentioned in the paper. For most of his career, Eber was one of the most prominent poultry men in the county. Here’s a salute to all three gentlemen whose dreams, hopes, ambitions and fates were intertwined with the humble chicken.

Laura Bien is the author of "Stud Bunnies and the Underwear Club: Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives," to be published this winter. She also writes the historical blog "Dusty Diary" and may be contacted at ypsidixit@gmail.com.



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