Chester Township History & Genealogy
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1864 Plat Map
1876 Plat Map
1897 Plat Map
1912 Plat Map
1955 Plat Map
1965-66 Plat Map
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The GR&I

Construction of the GR&I Railroad - August 1, 1886

The Grand Rapids and Indiana (GR & I) railroad began construction of a route from Grand Rapids to Muskegon June 18, 1886.  The route passed through the southwest corner of Chester Township.  The right-of-way through the township was purchased for $74.80 an acre.  The West Chester Station was constructed in what would become the village of Conklin.  The land for the station was purchased from O. F. Conklin.  The name of the station was changed in 1887 to the Conklin Station.


The first train arrived at the station on December 1, 1886.  On the day the first train was due to arrive, Omar Devenport and his father walked south along the tracks and flagged down the train.  The engineer stopped and let Omar and his father board the train.  Thus, Omar Devenport became the first child from Chester to ride the train.


The trains brought and picked up mail, passengers and freight.  The station also had a livestock pen.  Area farmers used the train to transport fruit, vegetables and livestock to market.  Many students who attended Ravenna High School rode the train to school each day.


The line was later taken over by the Pennsylvania Railroad.  A small diesel-powered car, affectionately known as the “Doodlebug” carried mail, parcels and passengers.  The car made two trips daily.  The line was later operated by the Penn Central Railroad and then the Grand Trunk.


In October 1958, the Pennsylvania Railroad notified the agent in Conklin that, as of Friday, October 17, 1958, “the status of our freight station at Conklin, Michigan will be changed from that of an Agency Freight Station to that of a Non-Agency Carload Only Freight Station, under the jurisdiction of the Agent at Muskegon, Michigan.”  Mrs. A. S. Carpenter of Grand Rapids was the last Agent for the Conklin Station.

GR&I Depot in Conklin


In this picture, Station Agent, Tom Thrall, waits as a train pulls into the Conklin Depot.  Several members of the community are waiting to board the train for a trip to Grand Rapids.  Some of those heading for the big city included Mr. and Mrs. Solon Daggett and Mr. Smith.  Youngsters from the village rarely missed a chance to be on hand for each arrival and departure.  Pictured here are the Asmun boys, Athol Smith, Carl Bean, Wendall Benton, and Clare Crazier.

Last trip of the "Doodle Bug" - July 1950

The TS&M

TS&M Depot in Gooding

Incorperated January 22, 1886, the Toledo, Saginaw and Muskegon Railway Company (TS&M) laid track through Chester Township in 1888.  The line ran from Ashley, in Gratiot County, to Muskegon, with local stops in Sparta and Slocum.  In Chester Township the line established stops at Gooding and Harrisburg.  The trains on this line often carried logs to saw mills in Muskegon.


The loaded trains moved so slowly through the area that people referred to the TS&M as “To Slow to Mention”.  The tracks passed through Harrisburg at an angle.  The angle meant crossing the tracks twice when traveling to or from Ravenna, once on 32nd Avenue and again on Truman Street.  To avoid this double crossing, a road running parallel to the west of the tracks was constructed from 32nd Avenue to Truman Street.  This “bypass” is still in use today.  It marks the route of the TS&M tracks through Harrisburg and vicinity.


The route was abandoned about 1940 and the tracks removed.





Ottawa County Historical Atlas and Gazetter, Pavillion Press, Douglas, Michigan, 1999






TS&M Depot in Harrisburg

(Harrisburg Depot photo provided by Jack Simmons)

Click here for a township map showing railroad routes.

Chester Township
Ottawa County
Michigan, USA