New Historic Markers Are Up In Marshall
Marshall is a city overflowing with history, and community leaders have always worked to preserve its beautiful buildings and celebrate that history. The city boasts 41 Michigan State Historic Markers. Wait a minute. Make that 45. Four new markers have arrived and are being added, according to the Marshall Historical Society.
The new markers highlight Marshall’s identity as Patent Medicine Town along with two of the prominent businessmen in that field; the Wolverine Rangers, a group of local men who left here for the California gold rush, and the Eagle Opera House, once the city’s main entertainment venue.
Marshall, a Patent Medicine Town
Two of the new historical markers are on the Stuart Building, 121-123 W. Michigan Ave., and relate to Marshall’s fame in the patent medicine business. One marker is titled Patent Medicine Town and states that Marshall had more than 50 companies producing medicines or medical equipment. Before the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, some companies made exaggerated claims for their products.
Many of these companies were short-lived, but two continued for decades. The second marker is titled Two Medical Business Leaders and recognizes Frank A. Stuart and Harold C. Brooks. Stuart’s business began in the 1890s and operated in that building until 1956. Its most popular product was Stuart’s Dyspepsia Tablets for indigestion, pictured here on eBay.
The Brooks Rupture Appliance Co. was founded in 1880 by Charles E. Brooks after he created an appliance to soothe his hernia. His son Harold greatly expanded the company that operated until 2003 at 312 E. Michigan Ave. Harold Brooks used sales and advertising methods learned during his employment at a local patent medicine business. Both Brooks and Stuart were generous community benefactors.
Mark Stuart, the owner of the Stuart Building and a great-nephew of Frank A. Stuart, commented, “These historical plaques represent a significant recognition of the very major contribution to the growth of Marshall made by the Stuart and Brooks families. These men were pioneers in the health industry.”
The Wolverine Rangers
At the corner of Michigan Avenue and Grand Street is the marker honoring the Wolverine Rangers. In the spring of 1849, 65 men mostly from Marshall or Calhoun County traveled first to Independence, MO. After getting supplies, they left in mid-May for California.
Unfortunately, they took an unproven trail that added extra distance to their journey. They had to abandon their wagons as winter approached in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They struggled on foot for several weeks in rain and snow before reaching the goldfields. Only a few had success in gold mining, and many returned to Michigan.
The story of the Wolverine Rangers was documented by James Pratt. The 30-year-old had resigned his position as editor of the Marshall Statesman to help organize the expedition. On the trail west, he wrote letters back to the newspaper to keep Marshall residents informed of the group’s adventures.
The Eagle Street Opera House
The marker noting the significance of the Eagle Opera House is on the Eagle Street side of the Eagle Block at 155 W. Michigan Ave. which was built in 1867. The third floor was opened as the opera house in 1870.
The auditorium seated more than 500 people and was the center of community entertainment and activities. It hosted more than 400 theatrical and musical shows along with high school graduations and other events. However, it was ordered closed by the Marshall Common Council in January 1904. Two weeks earlier fire at a Chicago theater had killed more than 600 people. Both buildings had only single entrances above the ground floor. After the Chicago fire, insurance companies stopped covering theaters that were not at the ground level.