CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Cedar Springs Museum is a “good place for research as well as seeing the days gone by,” Sharon Jett, director of the Cedar Springs Museum, said.
In 1975, the Cedar Springs Historical Society was given the one-room Payne School in Morley Park. For about 25 years, the museum was operated out of the building.
With the help of donations and fundraising efforts, the historical society built a bigger building next door to house the museum.
“Every week, people come with treasures to donate to the museum. We’re just flabbergasted at the wonderful family heirlooms that are brought to us,” Jett said.
In about seven years, the museum outgrew the space and started raising money.
“…We doubled the size of the newer building in Morley Park, and we’re full again,” she said.
When visitors stop by the museum, they get an overview of the history of Red Flannel Town.
“We have railroad history, we have a lumbering history corner, we have the old newspaper that was published, the Cedar Springs Clipper (which started) in 1869…” Jett said.
Inside the front door is an exhibit on the military history in the area.
“We have a big glass case that was donated to us by the Gerald R. Ford (Presidential) Museum (in Grand Rapids). The background in that case is a picture of the deck of the aircraft carrier that Ford served on. And we have our military uniforms in there from World War II,” Jett said.
The museum’s main room honors the farming community and public servants in Cedar Springs.
“We have one of those, it’s a great big wheeled tank that firemen back in the 1800s would literally grab on to it and pull it to wherever the fire was and try to pump water on the fire from that tank,” Jett said. “(It wasn’t) very effective if it was a big fire.”
In the second room, visitors can see a wigwam and learn about local Native American history.
“Children can actually go into (the wigwam) and sit down,” Jett said.
For several years, Cedar Springs was the last stop north on the Grand Rapids and Indiana (Pennsylvania) Railroad and was the crossing point for the east-west Toledo, Saginaw, and Muskegon (Grand Trunk) Railroad, the museum’s website said. The museum has honored this history with an exhibit.
“When our mail was delivered, the towns by the railroad, we have a system (where) the men in the mail cars would throw the bag of mail out as they passed through the town and somebody was waiting there to get it. But they also had a catcher arm where the town would hang the mailbag on that and the train would grab that bag as it went by at about 40 miles an hour and we have that setup…” Jett said.
In addition to artifacts, the museum displays a number of photographs that show the railroad industry and the lumbering industry in Cedar Springs.
The museum also has a general store, old photos, a ladies’ shop and a technology display.
“We have, we just were given this this year, but it’s an adding machine. It’s probably about 14 inches tall. It has glass sides on it so you can see all the mechanisms in it working,” Jett said.
The adding machine is from around 1900 and was used in one of Cedar Springs’ first banks.
“The fact that you can see the insides working is pretty amazing,” Jett said.
After moving to the newer building, the historical society didn’t forget about its first home, Payne School, which currently operates as a teaching classroom.
“Our school is a restored turn-of-the-century one-room schoolhouse that we encourage classrooms to come and visit,” Jett said. “…They can spend a couple of hours or a day or whatever in there.”
She said there is material for teachers to use to help develop “a fun day for their class.”
In addition to the museum, the historical society has a genealogy library.
“It’s the Betty L. Heiss Genealogical Library, and we have histories from Cedar Springs and its surrounding area. Lots of county history, lots of family genealogy. We have a surname file. We do lots of research for people we even get requests from Europe…” Jett said.
The museum is open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jett said the museum does open for additional hours during special events. Private tours and hours are also an option. For more information, visit the museum’s website.