The Grand River Times, July, 1851
Grand Haven and the Railroad
GRAND HAVEN, JULY 24, 1851.
Mr. ANGEL:— Before leaving your busy little village where I have sojourned awhile very pleasantly, invigorated in health by the lake breeze, I would jot down a few thoughts which you may publish or not, as you may deem most expedient.
The stranger visiting Grand Haven for the first time finds much to excite his wonder, and lead him to ask, "Why is this place possessing so many natural advantages, where so large a business is done, so little known and appreciated abroad?" Harbor always accessible—the river navigable—its valley unrivalled in richness of soil and valuable timber—its climate pure and equable—its limited capital all profitably employed—its citizens active, intelligent and moral, and its improvements indicating prosperity, with no appearance of poverty so often apparent in places remote from the great thoroughfares of travel and trade, in more central districts ; I will endeavor to point out several causes which operate to retard the growth of Grand Haven, whose commercial position and early settlement should have made it ere this one of the cities of the Lakes. Its capital, derived wholly from the enterprise of its few merchants and mill owners, who reap the the profit of the laboring classes, and the resources of the soil, timber and carrying trade, is all so well invested in timber, merchandise, mills and shipping, that none of it can be obtained for public improvements, such as Plank and Rail roads to connect this with the main arteries through which, flow the tide of travel and emigration so rapidly filling up the great West. The monopoly of Boston and New York capital constantly accumulating on the Central and Southern roads, controlling the direction of the Canada Railroad to Detroit, and building up that city and Chicago, at the expense of Port Huron and other points in the Northern part of Michigan, and all ports in Wisconsin, driving all competition from their routes by land and lake by a combination of boats, and an unequal tariff of freights operating against shipments around the lakes. They have thus destroyed St. Joseph and New Buffalo, and Michigan city will soon share her fate. This overshadowing monopoly is rapidly operating to destroy the shipping interest, as being a powerful competitor with the Railroad interests in transporting the vast products of the west. What care they for rivers and harbors in the North-West, while their Herculean Iron horses can draw miles of freighted cars over the level track, from lake to lake, while a sail vessel is waiting for a fair wind, or stuck fast on a sand-bar. The intelligent mind of the North, both in Michigan and Wisconsin is awaking at last to the perception of the cause, producing effects so injurious. "Wealth is power," and they feel that ere long this power will control National and State legislation, and if necessary to secure its entire monopoly will prevent harbor appropriations and deny charters to any routes not contributing to their benefit, by controlling individual votes. Detroit is urging its citizens to take stock to secure Windsor as the terminus of the Canada road, knowing that if Port Sarnia gets it, the line will continue West by Lansing to the mouth of the Grand River, and connect by steam with Milwaukie and her Railroad to the Mississippi.—We have a charter for a Northern Railroad, and capital can be raised to build it, if those whose interests are at stake will act promptly, and in earnest. The subject should be discussed in in every Western press North of Detroit and Chicago to the head waters of the Mississippi.—Minnesota and the Lake Superior region is deeply interested. Already a Railroad is in progress from the Iron Mountains of Superior, 40 miles, to the waters of Green Bay. This will cut off the Detroit monopoly of the mineral trade and give part of it to to the ports of Lake Michigan, and a road from Grand Haven to intersect the Canada road, would realize a vast amount in freight and travel, from that rapidly developing source of wealth. Such an investment as the Ottawa Railroad, will not only pay large dividends, but will open to market a region enriched by soil and eliminate incomparably beyond any wheat growing country South of it.
But I must leave this profile theme for another time, hoping that the few random thoughts I have hastily expressed, may lead others here and else-where, to keep the ball in motion for the Northern Railroad.
Before closing I will add one word for the Washington House, my temporary home. The way "Mine Host" serves up his Lake trout (of 30 pounds) is a caution "to be made note of" at other crack houses in the West. When I speak of good dinners hereafter, I shall date back to PENNOYER’S table, which, none name but to praise.
Yours truly, X. Y. Z.