Community history a precious possession

To the editor:
The recent tragic loss of yet another historic home in the Village of Constantine could give us an opportunity to turn this negative into a positive. The John S. Barry Society has done well to portray its namesake and the general history of the Village, but other notables have somehow gotten lost in time since Constantine celebrated its Centennial in 1928. A Souvenir Program and History, published by the Constantine Advertiser Record, Editor Bastian Smits, contains an astounding amount of even more astounding historical information worthy of re-publication. This small contribution cannot begin to give the proper credit to just those who contributed to the centennial’s program, or to those from Constantine who contributed to the State of Michigan, M.A.C. (now M.S.U.), our nation, and our present.
At this point I will just throw out some names in hopes others will probe further. The historic home lost to fire was that of Franklin Wells. Another building with a connection to Wells is Wells Hall at the now Michigan State University. The first Wells Hall there was destroyed by fire also. The 1928 Centennial Program introduces him as “Constantine’s Later and Greatest Contribution.” Appointed to the State Board of Agriculture, a position he held for 30 years, by Gov. John J. Bagley (also from Constantine), Wells managed the financial success of the new agricultural college at East Lansing and farmed extensively at Constantine. Here I must insert the name of Joseph R. Williams. Yes, there is a Williams Hall at M.S.U. Williams, from Constantine, chose to become the first and organizing President of M.A.C. over the nomination for the third governor of Michigan from Constantine. Williams resigned after two years to become the President of the Senate.
Barry, Bagley, Bandholtz, Baldwin, Wells, Williams, Keightley, Knowlen, Hull, Frank Lincoln, H. H. Riley, Clare Hoffman, Harvey, Smits, Comstock, Heywood of furniture fame, and many more appear in Constantine’s history. Dr. Edward Evans, Soldier of the Revolution, is buried in Constantine’s cemetery.  Let’s back up to Franklin Wells again for a connection to the present day. When residents of the village flip that light switch they should give a thumb’s up to Wells, a member of the Board, which built the dam and the power plant. He married the niece of John Barry and had seven daughters and two sons. Are there any Wells descendants still in this area?
In the Foreword by M.M. Quaife, Secretary-Editor Burton Historical Collection, Detroit, his closing thought for the people of Constantine (and everywhere) “History is to the community what memory is to the individual. Lacking memory, all progress would be impossible, and humankind would descend to the level of the brute creation.  The community memory — its history — is a precious possession. The citizens of Constantine do well in cherishing it.”

Rebecca Shank

Three Rivers Commercial-News

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