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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

A Jesiek Mystery

Two sternwheel steamers, the Grand and the Rapids, were built in 1905 by the Grand Rapids-Lake Michigan Transportation Co., formed by several prominent local businessmen. The boatyard was located on the west bank of the Grand River just south of the Pere Marquette Railroad Bridge and north of Wealthy St. The Sanborn Insurance maps of 1895 show that amendments were made to that area in 1906, including two small boat houses near the river, labeled “boat ho’s” on the map.  When completed each ship was registered at Grand Haven. The vessel registration of 1905 declares that the Grand was built in Grand Rapids at the Jesiak [Jesiek] Boat Yard, Maurice J. Godrey, [Godfrey] master carpenter (both names are misreadings of the handwritten record). The registration for the Rapids lists only Godrey (sic) as the builder. The machinery to operate the boats had been contracted for with the Clinton Novelty Iron Works of Clinton, Iowa, and all of the machinery and iron work was made in their shops. The Grand Rapids Press of April 12, 1905 noted, "The designer and boat builder of the contracting company is now in the city making ready his force of workmen to build the hulls and woodwork."  That designer/boat builder was Maurice J. Godfrey.

The mystery—why is the Jesiek Boat Yard listed on the registry? The property on the west bank of the Grand River where the steamboats were built was owned by the Grand Rapids Manufacturing Co. Possibly it was leased to the Grand Rapids-Lake Michigan Transportation Co. as Sidney F. Stevens of the boat-building consortium was a brother to Wilder D. Stevens, a vice-president of Grand Rapids Manufacturing.

Or, had the Jesiek brothers leased the land? The Jesiek Boat Co. was located on the east side of the Grand River and we have no record that they ever worked on the west side of the river. Indications are that in 1905 they were still in the livery business. We don’t know how they obtained the boats for the livery—were they leased, purchased, or built by the Jesieks?


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