January 15, 2011

The Bechstein House Part III: 1876-1896 -- The Renters of 195 13½ Street

In the twenty-year period that the Bechstein house was rented, fourteen different heads of the household were listed at the address. These individuals give us an excellent cross-section of the working-class residents of Corktown in the late 19th century.  They include native-born Americans as well as immigrants from Canada, Ireland, England and Germany. Below are the names, approximate ages, and occupations of the men, women and children who lived in the Bechstein house during this period. The information has been collected from city directories, the U.S. Federal Censuses, and other genealogical records.


Head:Cornelius Jesse Wain, 27, marine engineer, son of English immigrants
Wife:Ellen Louise McGuire Wain, 23, Canadian immigrant
Son:George Jesse Wain, 2
Son:Henry Samuel Wain, born June 11, 1876

Henry Wain is one of three children born to different renters in the year which their parents are listed at this address. It's possible they were born in the Bechstein house, but this hasn't been confirmed.


Head:Henry Jones, hoopmaker (presumably for the manufacture of barrels)

Nothing else about this man is known.


No information is known--the home was possibly vacant.


Head:Henry Ernst Bartz, 32, baker, German immigrant
Wife:Elizabeth Maria Dambeek Bartz, 34, German immigrant
Daughter:Ida Amalie Bartz, 5
Son:Willie Bartz, 3
Daughter:Hedwig Bartz, born May 11, 1879

Henry Bartz was employed by Frank Wittelsberger’s bakery, located at 317 Michigan Avenue, on the south side of the road between 5th and 6th Streets. The building, pictured below, was erected in 1876.

Bakery of Frank Wittelsberger, employer of Henry Bartz (Source)


Head:Thomas J. Wilson, 26, cooper (barrel maker)
Wife:Mary E. Wilson, 26, Canadian immigrant
Son:Harry D. Wilson, 2

The records of the Wilsons’ child are inconsistent. The 1880 Census lists a son, Harry D. Wilson, age 2 (born approximately 1878). But there is also a birth record of a girl, Ada Wilson, born November 7, 1878 to Thomas and Mary Wilson. This second birth record indicates that the father was a blacksmith (as this Thomas Wilson was before) and that the mother was born in Canada (as this Mary Wilson was). The apparent contradiction has not yet been reconciled.

Detail from the 1880 Census shows the Bechsteins living at 197 13½
Street and the Wilsons living at 195. Members of the Calnon family,
at 191, would rent the Bechstein house for two years in the 1890s.

Thomas Wilson worked at J. F. Hasty & Sons, a barrel manufacturer located near 21st Street and the Michigan Central Rail Road tracks.

Advertisement for J. F. Hasty & Son from the 1887 Detroit City Directory


Head:James D. Gritman, 30, clerk
Wife:Mary E. Gleason Gritman, 29
Daughter:Leila Gritman, 8
Daughter:Alice Gritman, 6
Daughter:Mamie Gritman, 4

At the time, James Gritman worked at H. P. Baldwin 2d & Co., a boot and shoe factory and wholesale store. It was located at 41-43 Woodward Avenue, within what is now Hart Plaza.

H. P. Baldwin & Co., employer of George Gritman
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library


Head:Julian A. Phelps, 35, driver for the Detroit City Railway
Wife:Lenora Huntington Phelps, 21
Son:Jesse M. Phelps, 3

Julian and Lenora Phelps were both from Vermont, where they married in 1881. They moved to Minnesota after living in Detroit for a few years.

The vicinity of the Bechstein house as shown in an 1885 atlas of the city (Source)


Head:Lyman W. Huntington, 55
Wife:Mary Ann Hathorn Huntington, 58
Son:George L. Huntington, 24, laborer
Son:Henry Edward Huntington, 18, laborer
Daughter:Laura Malinda Huntington, 12

Lyman and Mary Ann Huntington were the parents of Lenora Phelps, the woman who rented the home with her husband in 1885. Although the city directory does not list an occupation for Lyman Huntington, the 1880 census indicated that he was an upholsterer.


Head:Isaac Johnson, 42, laborer, Canadian immigrant
Wife:Mary Johnson, 43, Canadian immigrant


The city directory lists two men at this address: John Reetz and Peter N. Myrand, a carpenter. No further details about these men are known.


The directory indicates that the home was vacant.


Head:John Gasco, 25, switchman
Wife:Susan Higins Gasco, 24, Canadian immigrant
Son:John Gasco Jr., born July 11, 1891


Head:George F. Duff, 30, shipping clerk, Canadian immigrant
Wife:Nellie E. Sidebottom Duff, 29, nurse, English immigrant
Son:George F. Duff Jr., 6
Daughter:Gracey D. Duff, 5
Son:Richard Duff, 4

The 1900 Census indicated that Nellie was a nurse, and her 1914 death certificate indicated that she was a clerk in a department store. George F. Duff Sr. was employed by James Walker & Son, a manufacturer of plumbing supplies.

James Walker & Son, employer or George F. Duff (Source)


Head:Joseph Samuel Greer, 37, bricklayer
Wife:Mary Jane Haney Greer, 33
Son:Stanley Collis Greer, 9
Son:Earl M. Greer, 6
Daughter:Luella Greer, 5
Daughter:Elvia Greer, 2

The entire Greer family had emigrated from Canada earlier that same year.

CORRECTION: I had the wrong family for this year, as explained in this entry.


Head:Bridget A. O'Day Calnon, 50, Irish immigrant
Son:Joseph A. Calnon, 21, plumber
Son:Daniel L. Calnon, 18, plumber

Bridget's husband Giles passed away in 1887. The Calnon family lived next door to the Bechstein house at 191 (1729) Wabash for 24 years, from 1868 to 1892. After that, they moved frequently but always stayed within the neighborhood.


Head:Rose Hall Parkins, 39
Daughter:Maud Parkins, 18
Daughter:Stella Parkins, 3
Brother:George W. Hall, 43, painter

Rose Parkins’ husband George died sometime around 1894. Her brothers--George, James and Frank--comprised Hall Brothers, a painting and interior decorating company located on Beech Street.

Next week:
The Bechstein House Part IV: 1897-1934--Lena Eiden

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