A History of the James B. Brainerd Post #111 Building
The original property owner for this land parcel was Amos Spicer who received the patent on the property in 1835. It changed hands numerous times over the years, and in November of 1890 the property was sold to the Eaton Rapids Building Company for $600.00. The Eaton Rapids Grange, an agricultural advocacy group formed after the Civil War, purchased the building in March, 1918, and held onto it until 1947. The property went into an estate until 1967, when it was purchased by Robert and Marceil Warren for a dance studio. In 2004 Harold and Lisa Hovey purchased the building. In 2013 Don Limpert purchased the building, and deeded it over to the GAR Museum Board of Directors, the current owners.
The G.A.R. occupied the site through 1922, and the Post was disbanded in 1929. The building sat unoccupied for a number of years, and then from 1944 through 1947 the Hansen Packaging Co., a dairy, was utilizing the site. Munger Hardware used both 224 and 226 S. Main Street in 1951. By 1954, the Grange Hall was occupying the site, and stayed there through 1972. In 1973, two dancing schools were at this address, with the Brenda Hampton Dancing School on the ground level, and the Marceil School of Dancing on the second floor. The Marceil School of Dancing became the only inhabitant of the site after 1976, which later became Island City Dance Centre. In 2013 it became the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Michigan, James B. Brainerd Post 111, Memorial Hall & Museum, Inc.
The building measures 99 feet long and 22 feet wide. The building has two floors, the upstairs which was used for GAR and the Woman’s Relief Corps (WRC) meetings, and the lower level which was rented out to merchants, including the G.A.R. Drug Store and Boice’s Bazaar. At one time there was a bowling alley downstairs. The 60’ x 20’ “auditorium and the door directly at the top of the stairs were used by the men for their meetings, with the smaller ladies parlor or ante-room towards the front of the building and the door to the right were reserved for the ladies of the WRC.
The building originally had a balcony across the front for parade and street viewing. Some of the metal fasteners for the balcony still remain attached to the building. There is a recessed area in the bricks on the upper front of the building where the painted letters “G A R” can still very faintly be seen. There is no inside entrance to the upstairs Memorial Hall; it is accessed only through the doorway outside, to the left of the downstairs entrance, more than likely due to the commercial businesses being downstairs.
Grand Army of the Republic Usage:
The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) was a fraternal veterans group formed after the Civil War, similar to the VFW or AMVETS today. Membership at that time was limited to “honorable discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or the Revenue Cutter Services who had served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865. An active group, they had meetings, officers, and annual encampments, both local and national. There was also a women’s auxiliary, the W.R.C. (Woman’s Relief Corps).
The post was organized March 14th, 1883, and named in the memory of Lieut. James B. Brainerd, 6th Michigan Heavy Artillery. James was one of three Brainerd sons who enlisted, and the only one who didn’t return home. In 1864, Brainerd died of typhoid pneumonia in New Orleans. He was only 23, unmarried and had no children.
In 1908, the G.A.R. requested of the City that the Island be used for the annual encampment of the Eaton County Battalion of the G.A.R. Before this the encampments would have been rotated around Eaton County. This request was granted and the battalion erected a tent city on the Island for one week every August until 1929 when their advancing ages forced them to discontinue the encampments. These veterans were the ones responsible for bringing the two Civil War cannons, known as Parrott rifles, to the Island.
Commanders of the Post: John H. Hamlin William Bierbower Samuel M. Wilkins Joseph Rolph John J. Holmes William D. Brainerd H. J. Milbourn George W. Norton William Spicer James Umbarger Henry B. Olmstead Gorham B. Blair Charles B. Fowler Luman A. Fowler Eli Cook Frank M. Brainerd Denois M. Beman Roswell West Alonzo Cheney George B. Noble Nathan J. DeBar William D. Fuller John C. Thompson Lucian W. Ramsay Loren D. Chapman John M. Putnam
It also served as the headquarters of the Eaton County Battalion, which was composed of the following posts:
James B. Brainerd Post #111 Eaton Rapids Alpheus S. Williams Post #40 Charlotte Tim Lewis Post #107 Dimondale Earl Halbert Post #108 Grand Ledge John Cryderman Post #112 Mulliken Austin Blair Post #163 Vermontville James B. Mason Post #213 Bellevue Lewis Clark Post #275 Olivet Samuel M. Grinnell Post #283 Sunfield Orlando B. Jackson Post #326 Potterville George A. Walker Post #256 Partello (Calhoun Co)
The 55 Charter Members of the James Brainerd Post #111: H. J. Milborn J. H. Hamlin Liberty Bell Hicks Frank M. Brainerd W. M. Toles G.L. Wilcox James Williams John Rank A.H. Wheat L.A. Bentley Elijah Dunbar A. Markham William Summermix William Decker S. L. Bentley George W. Norton H. F. Hoyt William Spicer M.H. Sprinkle Uriah Miller William M. Gleason G.W. Dewey T.J. Milborn A. M. Nelson J. V. Stowell V. Smith N. A. Merritt P. M. Hale H. C. Norton Phineas Disbro H. A. Swift G. E. Griffen Edwin P. Knight A. K. Stone Wm. Gilman George B. Meseroll Henry Shattuck George Jessup S. Porter C. H. Preston Alva Snyder George Hazelton Parker Orr C. S. Dunbar C. M. Loree Josiah Milborn B. E. Shaw I. W. Bottomley Lee Henderson Lacey Disbrow Hiram Grant James McAlllister William D. Brainerd Samuel D. Webber M. Cronan
There were 416 members of the Brainerd Post, and the building was used for social gatherings, musical events, and dances until about 1922. As the number of the members decreased over the years, they started meeting at the local VFW and American Legion Halls, until the post was disbanded in 1929. The last surviving member of the post was John Henderson; Henderson passed away in 1936.