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Nashville Dam and Mill Pond



“One of the oldest landmarks in the village and its vicinity is the Old Grist Mill, now known as the Citizens Elevator, located on the southeast bank of the Thornapple River.  The original land on both sides of the river was surveyed by John R. Pettibone, who received a land grant from the government of February 15, 1836, for the W1/2 of NW1/4 of U.S. Patent not recorded. A partition deed was given to A. Voorhees, S. Pettibone and Lyman Pettibone in 1846, but they were not recorded until 1880.  Several other members of the Pettibone family were given Warranty deeds to various pieces of the land.  These deeds seem to have been passed back and forth among members of the family until 1851, apparently to clear up title and settle legal questions and descriptions to the unrecorded sections.  In June, 1855, Hiram Hanchett and wife, who previously purchased the land on the west side of the river and erected a prosperous sawmill, bought the south part of the W1/2 of NW1/4 south of the river and deeded it to Charles Hanchett in July of 1885.  During all these years there was a brush and sand dam across the river, furnishing power to the sawmill.  Many of the boards sawed during those early years furnished lumber for the first buildings in Nashville.  The first road into town from the north crossed the river over the old wooden bridge located just above this dam.”


“As near as can be determined from the original abstract, the present mill on the east side of the river was built about 1865 by Peter Holler, who operated it for a few years and then sold it to Henry Feighner.  In the next few years, ownership passed through a succession of Feighners, Bairs, Johnsons and Barbers.  In April of 1907, it was purchased by Fredric Louis Kyser and his wife, Marcia, for the sum of $2,500, and became known as the Nashville Roller Mills.  Mr. and Mrs. Kaiser [sic] were the parents of the late Edwin L. Kane.  It was probably about this time that the present cement dam was constructed.”


The first settlers in Nashville lived north of the Thornapple River in what is now Putnam Park.  Charles Hanchett and his brother Hiram were already operating a crude sawmill when Henry Feighners arrived there in 1854.”



“October 21, 1966 Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall and U. S. Representative Paul H. Todd with Udall at the bow and Todd in the stern of a canoe led five huffing canoeloads of newsmen on a rustic tour of the Thornapple River here.  They paddled about a mile to view the Thornapple, an old Indian highway which residents hope to improve for recreational use.  Udall’s reception on the banks of the Thornapple River included some 80 persons including village, city and federal officials. . .


Mr. Udall said that he was heartened and glad to see the concern of the people of this community for the river.  He added that the Thornapple River could have a great future for people who plan ahead.  He said that the river was much cleaner than the Kalamazoo and people here should not fail to take full advantage of its recreational facilities.”



There is an article in the Hastings Home Journal of Sept. 25th, purporting to have been written from Nashville, one paragraph of which aims at instructing the reader of the Journal as to the sanitary condition of our village, -- deserves special notice.  If the writer had taken a little more pains to inform himself before penning this paragraph, he might have offered the Journal readers more reliable information on the subject than he did.


He says: “Our town has the name, and justly too, of being in an unhealthy location.  With the mill pond on the north, and Quaker Brook flats to the west, there is no reason why it should not be unhealthy.”


Now, the facts are that the mill pond lies almost directly east, from which direction the winds seldom blow, and hence could not affect the health, and the flats of Quaker brook, so far as they have any worthy of mention, lie directly south east, and could not affect the health of the place from the direction of their locality and distance from town.


NOTE: The Nashville Dam was removed in 2009 and replaced with a weir system with grants from the Fish & Wildlife, Inland Fisheries, and donations from Barry Conservation District. The Mill pond was drained and the river returned to its natural state.