HISTORY INDEX>Cambria Village & Township

Cambria Village & Township

Main Street Cambria  [Click here to view full size picture] Main-Woodbridge corner, Cambria;
at left;
Rounds Store across from B.S. Lige Grocery, before The Masonic Hall and Dr. Hughes` office,
at right;
Houghtby House Hotel is next to the I.O.O.F. Hall.

Bankers Station

The following accounts are excerpts from 'Historical Facts and Stories about Cambria Township, published August 1961 by Mrs. Hugh Dunton.

One hundred eighteen settlers had listed entries of land in Cambria Township prior to 1838.
Warren Smith who emigrated to Cambria Township`s section 30 in 1839, told of seeing bears and wolves roaming in the fields and approaching homes of the settlers. The three dollar bounty for a wolf skin was increased to five dollars. Deer were plentiful ,frequently seen eating with the cattle and becoming family pets. Wild turkeys fed with domestic fowle and hunters refrained from hunting the deer and turkeys.

The first frame house built in the south portion of the township was built by Lorenzo Rice, of Cambria Mills, and the second by Warren Smith, in 1842 . As late as 1839 no roads had been cut, the country being one vast wilderness, and not more than 100 acres having been cleared in the whole township. The settlers lived far apart, and frequently no white inhabitant was to be seen from one weeks end to another.

The first log house built south of the Smith location was built by Samual Orr, who came in 1837. It was the hospitable abode for many early settlers until more permanent simple houses could be constructed. The log houses of that period were very small and inconvenient and frequently two and three families occupied them at the same time.

In 1879 the township had three hamlits; Cambria Mills, Bankers Station and Steamburg.
The name Cambria is the latin word for Wales. The name itself means, 'Land of stranger'
Cambria Mills took its name from the mills built on the St. Joseph of the Maumee by its first settlers, John Mc Dermid, who arrived in the forest thick with underbrush on june 16, 1835, and immediately constructed a saw mill, and his brother Andrew Jackson McDermid, who soon after built a grist mill. The grist mill still stands, passing through a succession of ownerships.
The last mill erected was by Charles L. Northrup (1823-1901) was the mill at Cambria.

The Hillsdale County Directory of 1881 noted that... Cambria Mills contains about 300 inhabitants...A branch of the St. Joseph, upon which it is located, affords water power to one of the best flowering and saw mills in the southern part of the state.
The surrounding country is timberland with a good soil, well settled, and improved, the average value of farms being $60.00 per acre. Leading shipments being grain, poultry, dairy products, pork and dried fruits. There was a daily stage to Hillsdale with mail.
The directory of 1908-9 noted the population remained at 300 but it recorded that mail was a daily institution and cited a telephone connection.
Sometime after 1881 the "Mills" had been dropped from Cambria`s name.

The collapse of the bridge on Monday May,11th. 1914, was one of the most exciting events in the history of Cambria Village, A deluge of rain on Monday until Tuesday noon, produced 3.4 inches of water. During the weekend Cambria, had been under intermittent skies of sun and downpour, followed by a terriffic electrical storm. The Cambria dam was supposed to have been one of the strongest in southern Michigan at the time, supplying a large amount of power for the mills. But about 4:00 oclock Monday afternoon, the water gates gave way and about twelve feet of earth beyond, letting the large iron bridge down. Some daring people were standing on the bridge at the time, but they felt the structure moving and got off, the last two narrowly escaping in time.Because the bridge was out, George Balcom, Cambria rural mail carrier was prevented from making his daily rounds with the mail, however he waded midstream and handed the pieces to a resident who delivered them to Cambria patrons.

Mrs. Ralph (Lillian) Bradshaw once wrote, "The bridge at Cambria collapsed twice--Once about 1890 and again in 1914, I can even remember the exact day of the second calamity because of a little poem a yougster used to chant. One Stormy day on the eleventh of May
The wind blew and the rain fell.......And the bridge at Cambria went to.........Well I`d better not tell!!!!


The 1879 History of Hillsdale County, Michigan, made mention that on the east side of Cambria Township was a small settlement which took its name from a steam saw and planing mill located there, owned by Chauncey W. Ferris. It also had a blacksmith shop of which the proprietor was John Wharam Lamb, a shchool house, a few private homes, but no post-office. However Steamburg was a stop on the stagecoach route on its way to Waldron from Hillsdale.

The Steamburg Social Club spanned three generations. Steamburg neighbors met weekly at first on Friday nights, Changing later to Saturday nights, as soon as The Hillsdale County Fair was over until spring plowing began. It was a friendly, closely knit group who devised the rules in which they played the ten games of pedro for the evenings prizes. Members were chosen to two teams and the winning games were tallied weekly. At the end of the season, the losers hosted the winners to a banquet at an unknown destination to which the losers transported the winners by team and wagon. by Model T flatbed truck, or by auto caravan following the leader.
Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and holidays were occaisions for surprise parties for an evening of cards and carry in refreshments. Many times birds were singing and the sun was breaking when horses were led from the barn to be hitched to the buggies for the rides home.
In time cars replaced buggies and sleighs. Changing times heralded the discontinuence of the clubs in the 1950`s.

Late in the era when cheese factories were being founded at convenient corners, Mortimer Martin Moore, a cheesemaker at Onondaga, came to Steamburg where he built a cheese factory. It was in operation when Orison Cleveland began to manage the Steamburg sawmill about 1904. It had ceased operation before Elmer Cheney purchased the location from Christopher Black about 1818.
Delmer Devenport remembers hauling milk for his father to the Steamburg factory about 1911.
Eventually, Elmer Cheney converted the cheese factory building into a chicken coop and the whey cistern into a soft water cistern for household use.

Bankers Station


Horace and George Banker located in the northwestern corner of Cambria Township in 1838 and founded the little hamlit of Bankers Station. After 1873 it derived some importance from its railroad connections. By 1878 it had a hotel, kept by John Burgess, a blacksmith shop, a store, a post office with W. A. Carpenter being postmaster, a sawmill, a restaurant connected with the depot, and a repair shop connected to the railways. William A.Carpenter contributed much to the Bankers story. Born in Renselaer County, New York, January 30, 1832, he learned the trades of carpenter, joiner and machinest. He became a self taught mechanical engineer. Following 1855 he worked four years for a company that manufactured farm implements. Travel followed in the oil regions of Pennsyvania. By 1862 he was operating a sawmill in Port Huron. By 1864 he was working in the Detroit Locomotive Works, After which he was a traveling engineer of the Michigan Central Railroad until he left to aid in the building of the Eel River Railroad.
In 1871 he was sent to Bankers as the master mechanic of the D.H.& S.W. Rairoad until the consolidation with the Fort Wayne Road then he became the master mechanic and superintendent of the consolidated roads, remaining with the company until he started his mercantile industry in 1874 in Bankers. He built a large and profitable trade. his was the first general store in that section. He also was Bankers postmaster for seven years. He was said to have built the first residence "of consequence" in Bankers.
But it was his aptitude for freehand drawing and his expertise as a draftsman that were especially valuable to him. His talent in that line was employed for twenty years or longer by the railroads around him and by other lines of mechanical utility. He made the drawings for much of the best machinery manufactured in Chicago and other large cities and drew the plans for the first sawmill in Ludington, which had the daily capacity of 300,000 board feet of lumber.
The 1905-6 Hillsdale County Directory noted that Bankers with a population of 100 was a station was a station on the Lakeshore and Michigan Southern Railway from which were shipped grain, hay and livestock. It boasted a telephone connection and a post mistress.
By 1908-9 the directory indicated still a population of 100 persons, but only five businesses; C.W. Folger-general store, W.H. Sobee-blacksmith, the same DuBoise cider and sawmill, Kidman meats and railroad, express and telegraph agent C.W.Murphy.
By 1910 the directory showed a drop in population to 80. The area recived its mail via RFD 5 from Hillsdale and numerous business changes had occurred.
As rail service had dwindled and improved roads sped automobiles to shopping centers, the economic life of Bankers changed. The DuBoise coalyard closed in the early 1960`s, however an occaisional train still travels the rails through Bankers and the Hillsdale County Railroad gives promise that the tracks will continue to be used.
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