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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Anna Jesiek Baker Remembers the Early Days

by Anna Jesiek Baker

Joseph Jesiek and Mary Imhan were married in Elberfeld, Germany. Gus and Otto were born in Germany. The family came to the U.S. when Otto was ten or eleven months old. They came in at New York City.

Joe was born in Coldwater, Rudy in Cross Village, I was born and baptized in Naubinway, which was Indian Territory in the Upper Peninsula, by a traveling missionary.

The family went to the Upper Peninsula because of a brother of Joseph’s. They were lumbering. When I was six months to one year old the family left Naubinway. They traveled with a horse and wagon. Mother said if she ever got back to a city she would never move out. They were in Grand Rapids by 1903.

By the time I was about four years old we were in Grand Rapids. We lived first on 2nd St., then on Wealthy, then on Water St. The children went to St. Mary’s School on the West Side (Otto, Joe, Rudy, and Anna). Rudy completed the 8th grade there. I went to St. Mary’s until third grade. I walked across the Wealthy St. RR bridge. There was a sidewalk. My mother thought it was too far for me to walk so I went to St. Andrews through the 8th grade.

When we lived by the river I helped the boys by selling gasoline in their boat yard. It was 75 cents for five gallons. Their first place was near the old Wealthy St. Bridge. Otto was bridge tender; he had to swing the bridge when the boats came up the river.

The boys built their first boat in the basement of the house in Grand Rapids. Joe was the first to go to Jenison Park. He had so many calls to go there for to repair boats that they decided to set up business there. First they leased land from the interurban company at the end of the line. When the interurban went out of business they had to bid on the land and purchased it. The boys started in the rowboat business there. The first boat house was at Jenison Park but it burned down.

Contributed by Phil Baker, Anna's grandson

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