Biography of Erwin Hemstreet of Bellaire, Michigan

For a score of years has the subject of this review been identified with the business and civic affairs of the thriving little city of Bellaire, the judicial center of Antrim county, and no citizen is held in higher regard in business and social circles than is this pioneer merchant, who is recognized as one of the leading business men of the county, where he has varied and important interests. He is a man of sterling character and the intrinsic strength and individuality of his nature have made him a valuable factor. He has stated that he has always had to work and expects always to work, and this denotes his appreciation of the true values of life, ostentation and undue assumption being absolutely foreign to him. A plain, honorable, straight-forward man is he, and one who deserves the confidence and esteem so uniformly reposed in him by the people of the community in which he has lived and labored for so many years.

Mr. Hemstreet is a representative of one of the pioneer families of the Wolverine state, of which he is himself a native, having been born in Atlas, Genesee county, Michigan, on the 28th of December, 1851. and being a son of Alonzo and Agnes (Herring) Hemstreet, both of whom were born and reared in the state of New York, whence they came to Michigan in 1834. The father here devoted his attention to mechanical pursuits until his death, his wife also being deceased. The subject passed his boyhood days in his native county, and his early educational training was secured in a modest little frame school house, while the expense of his tuition here was paid by his father from money which he realized from cutting cordwood. He left school when but thirteen years of age and went to Bay City, where he secured employment, and a little later he went to Flint, where he worked for a year in a bakery and confectionery store, where he learned the baker’s trade, to which he thereafter devoted his attention until he had attained the age of thirty-four years. From Flint he returned to Bay City, where he was employed for the ensuing six years in one bakery, and within the following six years he was similarly employed in other towns in the state, including Lansing, Stanton, Portland and Leslie. While working at Leslie he married Miss Carrie Estella Marble, of Portland, their nuptials having been solemnized on the 17th of June, 1876, and he thereafter continued to be employed at Stanton until coming to Antrim county, in 1884. A local newspaper has recently published an appreciative sketch of Mr. Hemstreet’s career in Bellaire, and from said article we make the following quotations, with but slight metaphrase :

Mr. Hemstreet built the building now occupied by E. G. Averill’s billiard room and bowling-alley, and work on it bad progressed so far that the household goods had been moved in, when it was blown down by high wind. This was a serious setback for Mr. Hemstreet, but a bee was organized and the building rebuilt in time to prevent any great loss. With the late John Rodgers Mr. Hemstreet ran a meat market for a year or more in this building, but as the business was hardly adequate for the support of two families at that time, he sold out his interest to Mr. Rodgers. For a year or two Mr. Hemstreet worked at different things afforded by a new town in the midst of a lumbering country and then, with his brother, Harvey M. Hemstreet, started in the grocery business. Times were not of the best then, and Mr. Hemstreet did much work outside of the store. He took the contract and laid the corduroy north toward the William Derenzy neighborhood and helped also in the digging of the ditch from the corner of section 17, Kearney township, to Intermediate lake. In fact, Mr. Hemstreet, sitting comfortably before the fire in his large brick store, is proud to state that whenever necessity demanded it, he did whatever came to hand, and in those first few years did about every kind of work to be found excepting the cutting of cordwood. About ten years ago H. A. Snyder took an interest in the business, the firm being known as Hem-street Brothers & Company. About a year later Mr. Snyder sold out and Dr. C. V. Hinman came into the firm, with the name changed to Hemstreet Brothers & Hinman. Five years ago this coming April (1904) H. M. Hemstreet retired from the firm to become one of our progressive farmers, and the firm name then became Hemstreet & Hinman, under which title the enterprise has since been successfully continued. For a dozen years the Hemstreet grocery firm have carried on more or less extensive operations in timber and lumber, and much of this business Mr. Hemstreet has personally looked after, keeping himself vigorous and rugged through the trips taken in estimating or scaling. About two years ago Hemstreet & Hinman became identified with E. D. Muckey in the manufacture of brick in this place, under the title of the Bellaire Brick Company, and last season their product became so well known that the call for brick is coming from far and near.

In 1896 the old store building with which Mr. Hemstreet had so much difficulty at the time of its erection, twenty years ago, was abandoned by his firm, having long since become too small for the demands of the business, and a brick block was built and the stock of groceries moved to the same. The second floor, it may be remarked in passing, was built especially for the use of the local organizations of the Masonic fraternity, and at the time of its erection this block was the only one in the town that figured as the headquarters of a firm dealing in groceries and provisions.

The foregoing excerpt indicates the success which Mr. Hemstreet has gained since casting in his lot with the people of Bellaire, and also gives evidence of the prestige which is his as a loyal and progressive citizen and representative business man of the town. He realized the value of success, for he has worked for it, and no man has a greater respect for honest toil and endeavor than does he. He took up his residence in Bellaire on the 1st of March, 1884, and no citizen has been more worthy of popular confidence and regard than has this able merchant and pioneer. He is the owner of a considerable amount of real estate in the county, including his attractive modern residence and a one-third interest in the store building. In politics he accords a stanch allegiance to the Republican party, and while ever manifesting a helpful interest in local affairs of a public nature, he has never sought or held office. He is one of the representative members of the Masonic fraternity in his home town, being affiliated with the lodge, chapter and council, and also with the chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star.

On the 17th of June, 1876, in the village of Portland, Ionia county, this state, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Hemstreet to Miss Carrie Estella Marble, who was born in New York, being a daughter of William G. and Mary (Amsden) Marble, who came to this state from that of New York. Mr. and Mrs. Hemstreet have one child, Leola L., who is the wife of Dr. C. D. Hinman, who is associated with the subject in business, as junior member of the firm of Hemstreet & Hinman, while he is also an able member of the medical profession and is actively engaged in practice.

Source: Biographical history of northern Michigan containing biographies of prominent citizens; Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen & Company, 1905.

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