Posing as conductor of the Kellogg Train Depot, Allegan County Historical Society president Scott Kuykendall might also be seen as the attendant at Cook Oil Service Station during fair week. (Photo provided)Cook Oil Service Station was Allegan’s first full-service gas station, moved from where Village Xpress now stands. Antique cars such as this Model T are usually parked there during fair week. (Photo provided)The first Jewett Schoolhouse was built in 1873 but burned down and the new schoolhouse was built in 1888. It was used until 1965. During fair week, fourth grade students are given a lesson in the classroom. Usually a spelling bee is held there, but due to a transition of leadership, the bee won’t take place this year. (Photo by Virginia Ransbottom)Allegan Township Hall is not only the historical society’s headquarters, it is chock full of political history, including this desk which belonged to Congressman Ed Hutchinson of Fennville. (Photo by Virginia Ransbottom)

Historic village is a fairground gem

Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

A stroll back in time is an extra bonus at no extra cost for those visiting the John C. Pahl Historical Village while attending the Allegan County Fair.

Sept. 8-16 will offer a rare peek inside the village’s  historic buildings since it’s only open to the public two times a year—for the fair and during August's Fiber Festival.

The village is named after Allegan historian John Pahl who founded the historical  society in 1953 and organized the Old Jail Museum in 1963. Pahl was a walking, talking history book who lived most of Allegan County’s history and told of it with humor, wit and charm.

While a big part of history was lost when Pahl passed away at the age of 96 on Dec. 31, 2016, the historical society continues Pahl’s legacy of preserving historic heritage for future generations by bringing the village to life during the fair.

Doors are open and tours are free from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the fair, except Sunday when it’s open from 12-9 p.m.

Fairgoers will find village docents in period garb and sharing each building’s history through tours and demonstrations. 

It’s also a treat for fourth-grade students from area elementary schools who attend class in the one-room Jewett School house and are taught by the Michigan Retired Teachers Association. 

Most of the buildings have significant historic ties to the county. Some of them include:

Allegan Township Hall: Built in the beginning of the 1900s, visitors may want to start their tour here as it serves as historical society headquarters. The hall was located near where the current township hall is but closer to the corner at 30th Street on 118th Avenue. It was donated in 1976.

Historical society members have a gift store in the hall and a voting bucket is now used as a donation pot.

Among other artifacts are retired voting booths, important newspaper headlines, a replica of the courthouse torn down in 1961, a marble fireplace from the Buskirk home in Otsego, the Burnips Post Office window and the desk of ex-congressman Ed Hutchinson from Fennville who served from 1963-1977. He was the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment process against Richard Nixon, wielding the gavel in the first article of impeachment on July 27, 1974.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., women in Victorian dress will stage a women’s suffrage protest carrying signs for women’s right to vote. It’ll be a real history lesson, complete with hecklers against the movement and a narrator telling of Allegan County’s own suffragist Tamar Moore, a friend and ally of Susan B. Anthony.

Cook Oil Service Station: Allegan’s first full-service gas station was opened by Grover Cook in 1922 where Village Xpress now stands at the corner of Water and Monroe streets in Allegan. A uniformed gas attendant will be on hand along with antique vehicles at the pump. There’s a reason one pump says “Dixie” gas and the other says “Mobilegas,” said historical society president Scott Kuykendall who is often the attendant. When the station was opened by Cook, he sold Dixie Johnson gasoline. When Cook’s son-in-law Sox Snow took over the station in the 1940s, it became a Mobile station. The station closed in 1967. The maintenance garage in back once belonged to Monterey Township’s sexton.

Jewett School: This one room schoolhouse is completely furnished with many original desks and even has a 1904 chalkboard with original handwriting of names of students and teachers who knew the board was being replaced and preserved it for history.

Visitors can also view the rules for women teachers in the school year 1908-09, which included no marriage during the term of the contract, no keeping company with men, staying home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., no loitering downtown in ice cream stores, two petticoats worn at all times and dresses no shorter than two inches above the ankles. 

The first Jewett School was built in 1873 but burned down and the new schoolhouse was built in 1888. The school once stood at the corner on Dumont Road near 122nd Avenue and served students until 1965. It was the first building moved to the historic village in 1972. A 1965 time capsule was found during the move, which is on display.

The Kellogg Train Depot: While Kellogg is now a ghost town in Watson Township near 14th Street, it was one of the stops for the East-West interurban electric train. A conductor will be on hand to show visitors train station artifacts, the Western Union telegraph and maps of the rail lines dating back to 1903. A Chesapeake & Ohio caboose from 1924 is parked at the depot. It still has the conductor’s beds, sink and other railroad artifacts.

For the full story, pick up a copy of the Sept. 7 issue of The Allegan County News or subscribe to the e-edition.

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