Hugh M. Coldren, commissioner of the Antrim county public schools and one of the leading business men of Bellaire, was born near the city of LaGrange, LaGrange county, Indiana, on the 18th day of April, 1864, being one of a family of nineteen children, eleven of whom grew to maturity, seven of the number still living. The Coldren family is of stanch English Quaker stock and was first represented in America by a member of William Penn’s colony who took an active interest in the foundation and subsequent settlement of Philadelphia and who spent the latter part of his life in the City of Brotherly Love. The descendants of this ancestor afterwards located in various parts of Pennsylvania and still later moved westward as far as Ohio, the subject’s grandfather settling in the latter state when the country was new and experiencing all the vicissitudes and hardships incident to pioneer life. The father of H. M. Coldren was reared in Ohio and when a young man moved to LaGrange county, Indiana, of which he was one of the early pioneers. The old farm which he cleared and reduced from the wilderness is still in possession of the family, being owned and cultivated by a brother of the subject who occupies the original homestead, a building in a good state of preservation considering the number of years it has weathered the storms of time.
Of the seven living children of the subject’s parents, one, as above stated, resides in Indiana; one in Negaum, Michigan; another, who is a successful physician and surgeon, practices his profession in Iowa; a fourth brother is a prominent editor and influential politician of Kansas; the fifth being a distinguished minister of the Baptist church and since 1878 a missionary to India where he spent two periods of ten years each, and who is now preparing to return to that distant land for another absence of the same length of time after spending a few years with relatives and friends in the United States. H. M. Coldren, at the age of ten years, lost his mother and when fourteen years old he was deprived by the ruthless hand of death of a father’s care and guidance, thus early being thrown upon his own resources, which fact had much to do in fostering habits of industry and self reliance and indicating his future course of action. He spent his childhood and youth on the family homestead where he early learned to appreciate the dignity of honest toil, and during the three years following his father’s death he devoted himself to farm labor with the object in view of obtaining a more thorough educational training than the district schools, which he had attended the meanwhile, could impart. Actuated by this laudable ambition, Mr. Coldren at the age of seventeen entered Hillsdale College, at Hillsdale, Michigan, and during the ensuing six years pursued his studies in that excellent institution, paying his tuition and defraying his other expenses the meantime by teaching during his vacations in the public schools of his native county. After graduation, in 1888, he accepted a position as superintendent in the schools of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, where he taught successfully for a period of five years, filling the position with credit to himself and to the entire satisfaction of the public until being chosen superintendent of the schools of Polk county, five years later. Mr. Coldren reorganized the educational system under his jurisdiction, infused new life and vitality into the same and by introducing a number of needed reforms and adopting modern methods succeeded in making the schools of the county among the best in the state, which high reputation they still sustain.
Resigning the superintendency at the end of two years, Mr. Coldren went to Minnesota where he was engaged in educational work until 1896, when he left that state to become principal of the public schools of Mancelona, Michigan, which position he filled with great acceptance for a period of four years, resigning in 1900 for the purpose of engaging in the furniture business at Bellaire, purchasing of J. W. Mathewson the large branch house which that gentleman had established some years previously in the latter place. Since embarking in the latter undertaking Mr. Coldren has built up a large and lucrative patronage and, as indicated in a former paragraph, he is now one of the leading business men of the town, his trade taking a wide range and increasing in magnitude and importance with each succeeding year. He is essentially a man of the times, possessing’ sound judgment, wise discretion and progressive ideas, which with his energy and fertility of resource have been devoted to his constantly growing business and to the welfare of the town, in whose future as an important commercial and industrial center he has great confidence.
Coming to Michigan in the capacity of an educator and never losing interest in the work to which so much of his life was devoted, Mr. Coldren proved a valuable man in directing educational affairs of Bellaire and Antrim county and, to show their appreciation of his ability in this line the people, in the spring of 1901, elected him commissioner of schools and re-elected him in 1903 for a term of four years. Since taking charge of this responsible and exacting office he has labored zealously to promote the county’s educational interests and it is a compliment justly and worthily bestowed to say that the schools, under his able and judicious management, have made steady and substantial advancement, while in point of organization and efficiency they now compare favorably with the best in the state. There are seventy-five districts in the county and a force of one hundred and fifteen teachers is employed, all selected with reference to scholarship and professional ability, over one-third of the number being graduates of normal schools or who have enjoyed the advantages of normal training, thus insuring to the people the best service obtainable in the matters of instruction and discipline. Mr. Coldren is a finished scholar, a polished gentleman and possesses in a marked degree the traits of character essential to popularity and success. As a teacher, he was clear, methodical and eminently practical, and as an official he is characterized by executive ability of a high order, to which quality may be attributed in a large measure the continuous advancement the schools have made under his supervision.
In addition to his business and official interests, Mr. Coldren is identified with various other enterprises of a public character, being a stockholder in the Bank of Mancelona and an active participant in all measures having for their object the general welfare of his town and county. While a Republican in his political affiliation and well grounded in the principles of his party, he is not a partisan in the sense the term is usually understood nor has he ever asked public favors at the hands of his fellow citizens or aspired to leadership. Mr. Coldren was elected as mayor of the city of Bellaire in the spring of 1904, for the term of one year, and is now filling that office. He has been secretary of the board of education for two years and has one year to serve. As a citizen he is enterprising, public spirited and progressive in his tendencies, in the private walks of life he is highly esteemed as a kind and obliging neighbor, a steadfast and loyal friend and all who enjoy the favor of his acquaintance speak in complimentary terms of his sterling qualities of mind and heart. Mr. Coldren’s wife, formerly Miss Kittie Mills, daughter of Judge Mills, of Hillsdale, was his classmate in college and for some time before her marriage taught in the schools of Duluth, Minnesota. Mr. and Mrs. Coldren have a beautiful and pleasant home, which is brightened by the presence of two children, a daughter by the name of Alice M. and a son, Harrold Mills Coldren.
HUGH M. COLDREN DIES AT BELLAIRE
Returns Friday from Detroit and an Hour Later Is Stricken.
From Bellaire Correspondence:
The people of Bellaire were shocked last Saturday morning to learn that at 2:30 A. M. the Grim Reaper had called in their midst and taken from among them a highly respected citizen, Hugh M. Coldren.
Mr. Coldren had just returned Friday, from a trip to the southern part of the state, where he attended the Federal Farm Loan Convention at Grand Rapids and afterwards visited his daughter in Detroit. Within an hour after arriving at home he was taken ill and complained of a pain in his head. He went to bed and soon became unconscious and remained in this condition until the time of his death.
Hugh M. Coldren was bom at Topeka, Indiana, April 18, 1864. The family consisted of ten children, three of whom survive him. They are: Dr. Cassius Coldren of Milford, Iowa; Ora M. Coldren with Cleveland Cliff Iron Compnay, Negaunee, Michigan; and Mrs. Fletcher Fought of Topeka, Indiana.
Mr. Coldren was a student at the University of Michigap in 1886 and a graduate of Hillsdale College in 1888. He was married to Kittie Mills in 1889. To this union were born three Children, one of which died in infancy, Alice, Mrs-. Archie Myers, of Detroit, and Harold Coldren who still lives at home.
Mr. Coldren was superintendent of schools at Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, 1889-92; and county school commissioner at Taylor’s Falls, Minnesota, 1892-6. He was superintendent of the schools at Mancelona from 1896 to 1900 and afterward county school commissioner of Antrim county until 1912. He bought the furniture business of J. W. Mathewson at Bellaire in 1900, which business he had conducted to the time of his death.
Mr. Coldren always took an active part in religious and social work and was always ready to help in the time of need. His clean manly life, his straight forward integrity and his kindly attitude towards his fellow men won hiim the respect and love of all with whom he came in contact.
The funeral was conducted from the home Wednesday afternoon.
OBITUARY HUGH M. COLDREN
Hugh M. Coldren was born near the city of LaGrange, LaGrange Co., Indiana, April 18, 1864, and died at his home in Bellaire, Michigan, March 29, 1924 aged o9 years 11 months and 11 days.
Mr. Coldren’s parents died while he was quite young. He remained at the old home until 17 years old when he entered Hillsdale College from which institution he graduated in the spring of 1888. 1 he next fall he began to superintend the schools of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, where he taught /or five years. In 1893 he was chosen superintendent of schools of Poke Co.. Wisconsin, which office he held for two years, and for nearly two yeais he was superintendent of a school in Minn. In 1896 he became the superintendent of the Mancelona high school where he taught until 1900, when he came to Bellaire and bought the furniture and hardware business which he continued until his death. In the spring of 1901 he was elected to office of County Commissioner of schools of Antrim Co., which he held for ten years.
On August 8, 1889, he was united in marriage to Miss Kitty Mills. To this union were born three children, one who died in infancy and the other two still living, Mrs. Alice Meyers of Detroit and Harold of Bellaire.
Mr. Coldren leaves to mourn his departure a wife, two children, two grandchildren, one sister and two brothers.
Mr. Coldren was a member of the Masonic lodge. In early life he was converted in the old school house on his father’s faun and joined the Baptist church, since he has been in Bellaire he has been an active worker in the Methodist Episcopal church.
Mineral services were held in the M. E. church Wednesday at 10:30 o’clock, Rev. D. A. Rood, assisted by Rev. Slee, piesiding elder and Rev. Gibbs conducting the services. His remains were placed temporarily in the vault at Lakeview cemetery and as soon as weather conditions permit will be laid away in the cemetery at Mancelona.
Source: Biographical history of northern Michigan containing biographies of prominent citizens; Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen & Company, 1905.