The Grand Rapids History and Special Collections Department has recently been the recipient of a fascinating piece of early Grand Rapids history. John Loren Page (1926-1987) possessed a journal kept by his great-grandfather, Loren Marsh Page, one of Grand Rapids earliest settlers. Upon John’s widow’s death the journal came into the hands of John’s children. These second great-grandchildren of Loren Page agreed the journal belonged in Grand Rapids and it was eventually sent to their second cousin, Michael J. Page, a Grand Rapids native and also a second great-grandson of Loren Page, to be donated to the Grand Rapids Public Library and added to the library’s archival collections.
Born in Vermont in 1811, Loren Marsh Page was brought up on a farm until 1827 when he immigrated to Canada and served as an apprentice, learning the trade of painter and glazier. After a short return to Vermont where he alternated between teaching and practicing his new trade, he arrived in the Village of Kent, Michigan, soon to be Grand Rapids, in 1836.
Page resided at a boarding house on the southwest corner of Pearl and Justice St. (now Ottawa), and there he met Miss Jane Soper, who was employed at the boarding house. The following year, 1837, Michigan became the 26th State of the United States of America and Loren Page married Jane Soper. They purchased the lease of the boarding house and ran it themselves. A few years later Page built the first frame house south of Bridge St. on the west side of the river. Loren and Jane had nine children together. Five of their sons would eventually serve in the Civil War.
Loren Page’s journal spans almost four years, October 1847 to March 1851. During that time period Page had a lucrative painting, glazing and paper-hanging business in Grand Rapids. While running his own business, Page served in various positions within the City’s government and the Board of Education.
Page’s daily journal entries are a record of the day’s weather, the height of the Grand River, work and business transactions. He wrote less of family life. An illness might be mentioned (Saturday Pleasant Feranado (Page’s son) was sick), and each Sunday Page recorded whether Sunday services were attended and at which church (Sunday Pleasant Cool I attended Baptist meeting). What is most fascinating about this journal are Page’s first hand accounts of the other notable Grand Rapidians he interacted with in his daily life. At the time Page kept this journal Grand Rapids was very much a small town and his business brought him in contact with many people.
Page’s journal reads like a Who’s Who of early Grand Rapids. Most of those he did business with and mentions in his journal can be found in Albert Baxter’s The History of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Page’s penmanship is somewhat difficult to read. There are few entries that are entirely legible and there is almost no punctuation. However, the following excerpts are unmistakable and they are only a sampling of many.
painted porch for G M Mills; Friday Pleasant Cold in the morning I papered a room for G Coggeshall; Saturday snowed and blowed I painted D Ball’s office; finished J Cordes sign; painted cupboards Willard Sibley; Friday fair Painted 1/2 day for W. L. Waring Whitewashed 1/2 for Scribner; I Painted Public Hall for Baxter & Bemis; set Glafs (glass) for B Nobles, Monday Rained Thundered I whitewashed for Mr S L Withie, painted for Dikeman this afternoon, I painted for I Turner, B Stocking brought me a load of wood, Tuesday fair I gave J. W. Pierce his bill; Wednesday Rained I whitewashed the (illegible) House for Geo Evans with materials $3.50; I Papered 11 rolls for Seymour; Monday Rained River quite high Papered for L Campau 10 rolls; Sunday fair Samuel Ball’s Funeral Sermon was preached by Weller New Church
In The History of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan Albert Baxter writes, “One plain piece of work done by Mr. Page is perhaps worth mentioning here. When, about 1851, Louis Campau built a lookout or observatory on his house on Fulton Street hill, and was about finishing it, he said: ‘I am pretty rich. I shall paper this room with money. Here is the money.’ He brought forth a stack of unsigned bills of the People’s Bank, and with these Mr. Page papered the room.” On January 13, 1851 an entry in Page’s journal reads settled with L. Campau took his note for Nine Dollars & Seventy cents. Might this be in reference to Campau’s new observatory decor?
Loren Page died in May of 1886 and he is buried with his wife, Jane, in Fulton Street Cemetery. In 2011 his descendants erected a Page family monument in Fulton Street Cemetery and held a dedication ceremony. Now, through the generosity of the Page family, Loren Page’s journal has returned home.
The journal has been scanned in it’s entirety and is available to view on The Grand Rapids Public Library’s website: https://grpl.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16055coll13