Flat River Historical Society shares Greenville’s history

GREENVILLE, Michigan— *Tune in to FOX 17 Unfiltered at 7 p.m. for the full story!*

A small town with a lot of history.

Greenville has seen several changes over the years, with many milestones along the way.

Before being officially settled by a man named John Green, the area was populated by several Native American tribes, including the Odawa and Ojibwe.

Then Green arrived in 1844, building a sawmill along the Flat River which attracted more settlers.

“Within a year, so many people followed him here that they had to start a school for 26 children,” said Keith Hudson, president of the Flat River Historical Society.

What really drew everyone in were the nearby white pine forests.

“Logging was the main motivation for coming here,” Hudson said. “We were a rough, tumbling lumber town.”

For context, from 1866 to 1890, Hudson said he floated 1.8 billion feet of logs down the Flat River.

Around the same time, the city earned a few nicknames – “Potato Capital of the World” and “Refrigerator Capital of the World”.

“They called them refrigerators back then even though they were wooden coolers,” Hudson said.

Greenville is also Meijer’s birthplace.

When Hendrik Meijer immigrated from the Netherlands to the United States, he came to Greenville. He started out as a barber before building his supermarket empire.

“When the Depression hit, people didn’t need to have their hair cut,” Hudson said. “They needed food. So they decided, ‘To keep food on our table, we’ll go grocery shopping. “”

There was a ton of competition in the industry, but Meijer stores did something others didn’t at the time: accept credit cards.

The Flat River Historical Society is located about 100 feet from where Green built his sawmill. They just won two major awards from the Michigan Historical Society. One of them was the local company of the year. The other went to Robin Walter, the museum’s school liaison, who was named Outstanding Educator of the Year.

Then on Monday, Walter told FOX 17 that the museum’s garden had just won the President’s Award from the Keep Michigan Beautiful Foundation.

The historical society is also celebrating its 50th anniversary. He will host an event at the museum at 213 N Franklin Street in Greenville on October 10 at 6:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome.

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