A River Ran Through It – But it Made No Noise. Bannister, Michigan 1881-1930
Bannister is a small town that sits in Gratiot County's Elba Township. After a suggestion by Mrs. Alonzo Peterson, it was named after Asahel Bannister, who settled here in 1881 after leaving Jackson. A man by the name of Mr. Hanvey was one of the first people here, who owned and operated a little country grocery store and would travel to Elsie to pick up the mail. Having enough of this frequent journey to Elsie, it was decided they needed a post office of their own. When a post office opened in 1883 and the Ann Arbor Railroad opened a depot in 1884, that was it...Bannister was starting to happen.
Thanks to its location at an ample bend in the Maple River, some of the early settlers suggested the name “Maple Bend” but the post office nixed it, not wanting a town name that contained two words. I still don't understand that one.
The Maple River had an unflattering nickname at the time, the sarcastic “Gurgling Maple” - sarcastic because the river did not gurgle; nor did it ripple, slosh, splish, splash, babble, bubble, or burp. Nowhere on the river – in the entire scope of Gratiot County - did it have enough speed to make any kind of noise. Because of this, the town's energy could not be supplied through water power.
No matter, for Bannister found a way to survive without the help of water power. Soon there were stores and establishments of many varieties including a cheese factory....but the factory didn't last long, as nearby Elsie took over the business, leaving the factory in Bannister abandoned and empty.
Bannister remains a small town – a bit smaller than most small towns – with a population that varies between 860-880.
This is just a brief, nutshell version. If you'd like to read more in-depth background on Bannister, check out the Michigan Family History Network.
Vintage Photos of Bannister, Gratiot County
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