DENNISON, MICHIGAN
Dennison was first developed by the construction of a saw mill, by a man named Hatch, and until the Detroit, Grand Haven & Milwaukee railway was built, was known as Hatcher Mill.

The first railway in Ottawa County was that now known as the Detroit, Grand Haven & Milwaukee, built in 1857-8, and which extends from Detroit to Grand Haven across the Lower Peninsula, connected by a line of first-class steamers of the Goodrich Transportation Company with Milwaukee, thus forming one of the quickest routes to the Northwest. The road is 189 miles in length, is prosperous and under excellent management. It was the beginning of an era of railway progress when the first train entered Grand Rapids on July 10, 1858, and Grand Haven the same year.

This road enters the county from Grand Rapids in a westerly course, crossing Wright [Township], in which is Berlin [now Marne] Station; then across Polkton [Township], in which is Coopersville Station, into Crockery [Township] with Nunica Station; thence through Spring Lake and Ferrysburg to Grand Haven.

History of Ottawa County, 1882


The point at which Cleveland and State Roads intersect would have been the center of this old settlement which was about three miles west of Coopersville. Little remains of Dennison, even the mailing address changed to Coopersville years ago.

Not much information can be found on the first settlers to locate in the area. However, it has been known by four different names. In the beginning the site was called Hatches Mill after a sawmill owner. Then it was known as Roseville. In 1866, the settlement was given its first post office under the name "Polkten," but there was confusion since both Eastmanville and Coopersville had been called "Polkton" several years earlier. After a few months the post office name changed to Dennison after T. D. Dennison who had an interest in the sawmill. The name stayed unofficially with the area for a long time even after the Dennison post office closed in October, 1917.

Logging played an important part in the establishment of Dennison. Some photographs and glass plate negatives survive yet with images of hard working men and massive timbers. By the 1850's Ezekiel Jewett, originally from New York, had come to Roseville (Dennison) and invested in hundreds of acres of timberland for a logging operation. A lumber camp was built in the settlement.

A most interesting look at life in the camp and Roseville comes through the words of William Akins who kept a journal when he started work there in 1854. Akins had come from Berkshire in Tioga County, New York to find a different life in the new territory. Ezekiel Jewett was also from the same place.

In the journal Bill Akins tells of working at the sawmill, skidding logs over snow to the Grand River and measuring stands of trees for their timber. Here are a few references he makes to his work:

"September 18, 1855 - Brandy Creek full of water and the mill will run tomorrow." (Water was needed for operating the sawmill.)
"September 18, 1855 - Been to work cutting logs with Robert M. Hale for the past week by the thousand feet - fifty cents for 1,000. Earned over $8.00 this week besides paying $2.25 for board."
"December 27, 1855 - Very tedious weather for the past week, snowed everyday in it. If more comes it will bring money to me for Damions lumber will be drawn to the river and out pay will come forthwith. Mine will amount to $150.00 at this time and perhaps double of that in the spring..." (After enough snow had accumulated, logs easily could be skidded over the countryside to the river for eventual transport.)

Bill Akins often wrote about the weather conditions in Roseville. Here is one description:
"December 12, 1855 - Rained and the wind blew last night to the tune of Devils Dream which made the trees wave and wail mournfully, their tall trunks bent over the house like engines for mortality and now snows and rains like distress...continues to snow very hard."

Many times Akins speaks of being idle in camp while waiting for weather conditions to break so work could resume. Often there was a wait for enough water to operate the sawmill. Here are some entries about his leisure times:
"November 15, 1855 - Another idle day. Rained all last night and continues to do so some yet. Raining like torrents at present - mud nearly knee deep most all over Roseville. The (mill) engineer has got the engine all tore down and it will take another day to get the thing up again...went down to Jewetts this morning and played the fiddle some."
"November 15, 1855 - In the afternoon yesterday called on neighbor Hanchett - had a great time talking over old affairs - played the accordion & flute some. The borrowed H. Clinton's rifle and went hunting..."
"November 26, 1855 - Had a regular Roseville brindle, fiddled and danced.&"

In cold weather, Bill Akins said that he placed a board high in the house by the stove pipe (probably in the camp sleeping quarters) and sat on it to keep warm and comfortable while doing his writing. He often mentioned going to Eastmanville to check for mail. He was acquainted with the Eastmans and was trying to get a job at the sawmill there. He tells of having glasses of Detroit Ale in Eastmanville. Akins speaks of going to the Roseville Saloon with his friends. At Christmastime he attended a party in Wright.

Meals at camp were important and are often described. An August 5, 1855 journal entry says the Akins had a supper of "boiled venison & pork and how sweet cake, raw onions..." That same evening after a church meeting, he then had "bread & milk and cookies." On March 15, 1857 he "breakfasted on pork and tater, coffee & nutcakes." The other foods he mentioned at various times include blueberries, tomato soup, venison steak, potatoes, stewed vension, flapjacks and blackberries. Medicines he useed were a "bottle of bitters" and epson salts.

Bill Akins attended church services occasionally. He spoke of going to hear Elder Wood preach at the F. D. Marshall home. The house would be on Cleveland by 72nd Avenue.

At times he seemed to suffer from the ague so common in early days. He would have a fever and chills and a headache.

One journal entry gave an account of an excursion he took to Grand Rapids:
"November 15, 1855 - Went to the Rapids 2 or 3 weeks ago. Rode the steamboat Empire and came back on the Olive Branch. Nothing singular about Grand Rapids except that it lies...up on the side of a sandy...hill descending to the west..."

Apparently Bill Akins wasn't very impressed with Grand Rapids. Its population in 1850 had been about 2,500 which was sizeable for those times. He went to Eastmanville to catch the riverboat going to Grand Rapids.

Akins mentions a number of people in his writing. A few of their descendants remain yet in the area. Names found in his journal include: Fred Marshall, Mr. Hatch, Titus Merritt, Ezekiel Jewett, Thomas Davis, Charles Brown, Henry Lawton, Wm. Swatman, Geo. Wolaver, Ira Russel (from Wright), Wm. F & Samuel Mott, Michael Haley, Leeander Brown, Michael McGrath, Mr. McCuin, Mark Richards, Norman Richards, David W. Richards, Mr. Hanchett, Y. C. Haskins, Mr. Twogood, Herb Titus, E. Brooks, Robert M. Hale, H. Parks, John Williams, Tom McCarthy, Samuel Barkins, Henry Clinton, Charles Chadwick, Judge Waters, Geo. Cahoon, A. Bigalow, F. Tubbs, Mary Ann Durphy, John Vanallsburg, Agostina D. Sickles, Charles Wilkinson, Thomas Calahan, Martin Culligan, Charles Hudson, Edward Carpenter, Sidney Lawrence, Joseph Brown and Mrs. Chidwick.

The railroad which was going through Coopersville was coming to Dennison, also. On January 4, 1857 Bill Akins wrote this comment on the situation:
"But they are going to have a railroad running by here by and by and then we think molasses will be cheaper than now. Then bread will be softer."

The countryside's atmosphere is reflected in a wonderful way as Bill Akins writes of a walk down State Road on August 7, 1855:
"After going out and pacing down the State Road thirty rods and back, among logs, lumber, pine stumps, and hearing the dingle of cow bells, the screech of hoot owls, on coming in (I) find that the man servant and the maid servant had just returned from a visit to neighbor Twogoods, had by the man servant brought in a deer, the maid a pail of onions and potatoes."

When the railroad came through Dennison in 1858, logs were shipped on the train. It seemed that logging was such an active industry in Dennison, but by 1882 the logging and sawmill operation ended. Under Dennison news in the May 25, 1882 Observer, it was reported that the sawmill was being moved to Torch Lake (Traverse City) and "Dennison will boom no more..."

Dennison, however, continued for quite some time. Other small logging operations took place in the area and around Coopersville. The Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Muskegon Railway came through Dennison and Coopersville in 1902. This was an electric railroad wich ran every hour many times a day. It offered very convenient passenger travel and some freight was hauled, too. The line operated until 1928.

St. Michael's Church had also been organized. Services were held in homes until the first building was constructed. It was dedicated in 1888. Early members of the parish included the following Dennison area families: the Glyns, McCues, Malones, Goldens, Fitzpatricks, Culligans, McCarthys, McGraths, Haleys, Brinnens, Cavanaughs, Hobans, Higens, Calahans, Sullivans, Harts, Carpenters, Conleys, Stapletons, Zimmers, Balduses, Hehls, McNeurneys and Roaches.

During the 1880's Mr. Spicer T. McLellan is mentioned in the Dennison news section of the Coopersville Observer newspaper. He operated the general store and was Dennison postmaster and railroad ticket agent. An 1882 Observer article tells of the railroad "General Ticket Inspector" coming on a surprise visit to his establishment to check on his handling of affairs. The agent was very pleased with McLellan's manner and accurate work. In 1891 Mr. McLellan passed away from an illness.

His daughter, Miss Susie McLelland, was the subject of a July, 1900 Observer article. She had been the paper's Dennison correspondent for some time but was moving to Grand Rapids on advice from her doctor so she could recover from ill health. Miss McLellan had the best wishes of hundreds of friends for her complete recovery. She was very well known. The article said that she had run the Dennison country store and had acted as postmistress and railroad ticket agent. The area people hoped that she would return soon.

n the October 8, 1886 Observer (which carried the story on Spicer McLellan visited by the Ticket Inspector), the Haysteads of Dennison are mentioned. John Haystead was visiting his sister in Antrim County. George Haystead "raised his barn Saturday." H. H. McCarty was the builder. The Haystead family had been a part of the area for a long time. Harry Haystead once ran the welding shop. An ad for it was found in a 1931 Observer issue.

Dennison even had its own photographers. Many area people and places were photographed by Peter and his brother Jake Venema along with one of the Culligans in the early 1900's. They sold prints and photo postcards which were popular at the time. Their work also showed scenes of farming and logging.

Jake Venema's son, Al, operated Venema's Used Cars in more recent times. This business was on the corner of Cleveland and 88th Avenue until Al's passing just a few years ago. The car lot seemed to be a fixture of the rural area in modern times.

A storeowner whose story has been told many times is Martin Golden. His home and store were on State Road just north of the welding shop on Cleveland. Only the home remains now. Late in the day around 1907 while closing the store, Mr. Golden was robbed and fatally shot. The guilty person probably fled on the train.

In later years another general store was owned by Ed Bekins. Cliff Veldman operated a "peddle wagon" for it. Mr. Veldman would take this vehicle through the countryside selling groceries and other store items. Mr. Bekins later owned the Coopersville Livestock Auction which was continued for a number of years by his son Don. Harvey Veeneman operated the general store after Ed Bekins.

The Winters Gas Station was another well known place in the Dennison area with the coming of more automobile travel.

Activity slowed in Dennison by the mid-1900's. When the I-96 Expressway came through in the 1960's, it brought more decline. Much traffic had been taken away. Before the expressway, the roadway through Dennison, which was called the old Dixie Highway - US 26 was a main route to Grand Haven, Fruitport and Muskegon. Today many people do not realize that this rural Coopersville area has had such an existence of its own.

Chronicles of Coopersville


A post office and station on the Detroit, Grand Haven and Muskegon Railway, in Polkton Township, Ottawa County, 18 miles east of Grand Haven. The place dates its settlement from 1850, and is the location of a steam saw-mill, a hoop factory and a country store. Hemlock bark, hardwood lumber, staves and some farm products are shipped. Farming lands of varying quality command from $10 to $70 per acre. Population, 70. Mail, daily. S. T. McLellan, postmaster.

Gildersleeve F, cigar maker
Hull George, wagonmaker
Hull William, lumber manufacturer
Lyman & Hull, barrel hoop manufacturers
McLellan S T, General Store
Pool David, blacksmith

Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1881


From the August 26, 2013 edition of the Grand Haven Tribune:

Did judge free a murderer?
It has been more than a century since Martin C. Golden, a popular Dennison general store keeper, was gunned down after closing up shop.

Kevin Collier
Aug 26, 2013

That was on the night of April 23, 1906.

A year later, authorities arrested William Shimmel, a Muskegon factory worker employed with Continental Motors, for the murder. Shimmel went on trial in 1907.

Shimmel was actually tried for the murder twice.

The first trial in June 1907 resulted in a hung jury with no verdict. Shimmel was retried that November.

It was the second trial that determined Shimmel's fate.

In the deciding trial, Judge Philip Padghan rejected a motion from defense attorney Willard Turner Sr. for a direct verdict of not guilty, placing the decision entirely in the hands of the jury. Padghan was convinced that the lack of evidence was so clear that there would be no conviction.

When the jury returned with a verdict of guilty, Padghan was stunned.

Thus, the judge set the verdict aside, and Shimmel was acquitted and set free.

It's always been a mystery whether or not the judge released Golden's killer, or released an innocent man. And, if Shimmel was not guilty, then who was? Someone had gotten away with murder.

Martin C. Golden was born June 16, 1870, close to Dennison, a small town not far from Nunica. He lived most of his life in Polkton Township and was a teacher in Ottawa County schools for several years, which included two years at Coopersville High School. At the time of his death, Golden owned and operated the town's general store, and also served as its postmaster.

The Grand Haven Tribune reported, .The murder of Golden was one of the most dastardly in the criminal annals of this, or any other county..

Golden, just shy of 36 years old at the time, had just locked up his general store, concluding a day of business, and headed down the boardwalk to his home. An unknown assailant approached him, shooting him twice. The gunman stole about $100 in currency, some checks, a wristwatch and a bag of coins from the victim, and fled.

Ed McCarthy and his cousin, Tom, were standing outdoors in front of their home, no more than 200 yards away, when the shots rang out. As they approached in the direction of the sound, a shadowy man ran past them, gun in hand.

Spotting Golden laying on the boardwalk, the two did not pursue the gunman, and rushed to his aid. Golden died from his wounds the following day: April 24, 1906.

Weeks after the crime, a cap, pocketbook and gun were discovered hidden behind a log on the property of Emerson Averill, also of Dennison.

After the trial, the Grand Haven Tribune published an editorial on Nov. 15, 1907, defending the judge's decision to set Shimmel free. It read: "Judge Padghan's stand in the Shimmel case ... meets with the approval of 99 out of 100 people in Ottawa County, and his firm position is to be commended."

William Shimmel, who was in his late 40s when he became the focal point of the infamous murder, lived to a ripe old age. His obituary, carried by The Associated Press, was published in several Michigan newspapers on Nov. 24, 1936. It read: "William Shimmel, 77 years old, 157 Ottawa St., whose funeral is to be conducted here tomorrow at 2 p.m. from the Sytsema Funeral Home with burial at Ravenna, once figured prominently in the headlines for the part he played in the celebrated Martin Golden murder case in Ottawa County."

The article also noted evidence was circumstantial and the judge had set Shimmel free.

What the obituary failed to mention was that William Shimmel was sent to the Traverse City State Hospital in 1936, after going to jail for assaulting his wife with an ax. He died at the State Hospital that same year.

James Fitzpatrick thinks that Shimmel was likely the killer of his great uncle Martin C. Golden, but commented that the circumstantial evidence was not enough to convict the man.

Golden's home still stands in Dennison and has changed hands many times over the past 100 years.

What hasn't changed is the historical question: Was a killer set free?


The population of Dennison in 1884 was 20.
The Postmaster at Dennison Post Office in 1892 was Susan McLellan.

These are the names of each permanent male resident in Dennsion circa 1892. Occupation for each of them is "farmer" unless noted in square brackets.

Amos, Jacob
Beers, W.J.
Bush, John
Brennan, John
Brown, John
Cooney, John
Chase, Levi
Culligan, Martin
Creager, Jacob
Dimmock, C.W.
De Smith, A.A.
De Smith, A.D.
Fletcher, Peter
Fitzpatrick, James
Gates, Lewis
Golden, Dennis
Glinn, James
Golden, Patrick Sr.
Golden, Patrick Jr.
Golden, Thomas
Geddis, Thomas
Glinn, Patrick
Glinn, Michael
Gremaquet, Henry
Golden, Martin
Hoystead, George
Hillard, Benjamin
Harvey, Albert
Hofmyer, Geert
Lawrence, Ed
Lake, A.B.
Lillie, George A.
Malone, Thomas E Jr. [saloon keeper]
McLellan, S.C.
McLellan, S.F.
McLellan, S.W.
Malone, Thomas
McGrath, M.
Michael, Dennis
Malone, Patrick
McCue, Michael
Munger, Wilson
Malone, Michael
Maloney, James
McLellan, Susan A. [postmistress, general store]
Nipe, Jacob
Newman, Charles
Parkins, Wm.
Pierce, C.L.
Richards, C.W.
Seymour, Virgil
Stapleton, Michael
Swafink, Arie
Scutcheon, Henry
Shafer, C.F.
Sheers, C.L.
Taylor, George H. [carpenter]
Turner, Philip
Taylor, George
Timmerman, Daniel
Timmerman, H.C.
Taylor, Hoyt
Titus, Jasper
Twogood, George
Twogood, Thomas
Twogood, Hiram
Vashall, Cornelius
Vashall, Joseph
Woodman, Henry
Wilton, W.J.
Wilton, Bristol
White, H.L.
White, Fred
Yerden, Frank

Historical and Business Compendium of Ottawa County, Michigan, 1892


In 1918-1919, Michigan Trunk Line M-16 went through Coopersville via Randall Street, then northwesterly on State Road to Cleveland Street. From this intersection, M-16 continued on Cleveland Street westerly through Nunica to Spring Lake and Ferrysburg.

In 1926, all of M-16 is redesignated US-16.

In 1957, about 8.5 miles of U new US-16 freeway are completed from the west side of Coopersville (present-day Exit 16) to just east of Marne (present-day Exit 24), just to the south of Coopersville. From the west end of the new freeway segment west of Coopersville to 40th Avenue just east of Coopersville, the former route along Randall Street and Ironwood Drive is turned back to local control.

In 1962, about 16 miles of new US-16 freeway, also designated as I-196, are opened to traffic from US-31 southeast of Muskegon to the western end of the existing freeway segment on the west side of Coopersville. The former route of US-16 along Cleveland Street and State Road is turned back to local control.

In 1963, the designations for I-196 and I-96 are flipped: the freeway segment from Grand Rapids to Muskegon became I-96 and the freeway segment from Grand Rapids towards Holland became I-196.


A postoffice and station on the station on the Detroit and Muskegon Railway, 13 miles east of Grand Haven and 18 west of Grand Rapids. It is in Polkton township, Ottawa county. Surrounding country agricultural. Oak lumber, staves and tanbark, with grain, hay and butter, are shipped. Settled, 1850. Population, 60. Mail, daily. S. T. McLellan, postmaster.

Johnson & Graham, saw mill
McCarty H H, carpenter
McCarty John A, wagonmaker
McLellan S T, General Store and Station Agent
Treyloir John, blacksmith

Michigan state gazetteer, 1877


Dating as a settlement from 1850, is in Polkton township, Ottawa county, and a station on the Detroit, Grand Haven and Muskegon Railway, 13 miles east of Grand Haven and 18 west of Grand Rapids. Oak lumber, staves and tanbark, with grain, hay and butter, are shipped. Population, 60. Mail, daily. S. T. McLellan, postmaster.

Kelley & McCarty, saw mill
McLellan S T, General Store and Station Agent
McCarty H H, carpenter
McCarty John A, wagonmaker

Michigan state gazetteer, 1879


A postoffice and station on the Detroit, Grand Haven and Muskegon Railway, in Polkton township, Ottawa county, 13 miles east of Grand Haven. Bank at Coopersville. Population, 70. Mail, daily. S. T. McLellan, postmaster.

Dark Frank, laborer
Green David, musician
McLellan Spicer T, General Store and Railroad Agent
Richards Mark, justice of the peace
Twogood Parlez, blacksmith

Michigan state gazetteer, 1887


A postoffice and station on the Detroit, Grand Haven and Muskegon Railway, in Polkton township, Ottawa county, 13 miles east of Grand Haven, the seat of justice and 3 from Coopersville, the nearest banking point. Has a Catholic church. Population, 50. Mail, daily. Express and Am. S. T. McLellan, postmaster.

Coon Lewis, shoemaker
Cooney John, justice of the peace
McLellan Spicer T, General Store and Railroad Agent
Plews Jesse, blacksmith

Michigan state gazetteer, 1891


Population, 50. On the Detroit, Grand Haven and Muskegon Railway, in Polkton township, Ottawa county, 13 miles east of Grand Haven, the county seat and 3 from Coopersville, the nearest bank location. Express and Am. Miss S. A. McLellan, postmaster.

Cooney John, justice of the peace
McLellan Miss Susie A, General Store and Railroad Agent

Michigan state gazetteer, 1897


Population, 50. On the Grand Trunk Railway System, in Polkton township, Ottawa county, 13 miles east of Grand Haven, the county seat and 3 from Coopersville, the nearest bank location. Express and National Telephone connection. F. D. Nichols, postmaster.

Cooney John, justice of the peace
Nicholas F D, General Store, Music Teacher, Railroad and Express Agent

Michigan state gazetteer, 1903-1904


Population, 50. On the Grand Trunk Railway System, in Polkton township, Ottawa county, 13 miles east of Grand Haven, the county seat and 3 from Coopersville, the nearest bank location. Express and National Telephone connection. L. W. Moore, postmaster.

Lawrence Ed, justice of the peace
Michigan Dairy Farms Co-Operative Creamery
Moore L W, General Store

Michigan state gazetteer, 1907-1908


Population, 60. On the Grand Trunk Railway System and Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Muskegon Interurban, in Polkton township, Ottawa county, 13 miles east of Grand Haven the judicial seat and 3 from Coopersville the nearest bank location from whence is rural delivery. Express and telephone connection.

Bekins Ed, general store
Peck Louis H, coal, feed and tile
Welton George A, general store

Michigan state gazetteer, 1921-1922



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