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Tag Archive | "book"

New book to tell history of Cedar Springs


The Cedar Springs Historical Society is working on a new book to tell the history of Cedar Springs in both word and photos, some never seen before. Sharon Jett, Director at the Museum, has shared some of the pages with us, which we will share with you over the next couple of weeks. Sharon said she hopes the book will be released in the next few months.

The Smith’s cabin was like the one pictured here.

Today the flowing well has been restored.

John & Lydia Smith Stage Coach Stop 

Solon Township

John and Lydia (Proper) Smith are believed to be the first settlers in the village of Cedar Springs, Kent Co. Michigan.

Research has shown that Mr. and Mrs. Smith came to Cedar Springs in 1851 where they opened a sawmill for a time and kept the post office in the sawmill in Nelson Twp. In 1852 they bought 700 acres in Solon Twp. Section 24.

The History of Grand Rapids and Kent Co, 1918 states that “they experienced all the privations of the pioneer life.” Years later their son Coridon Smith stated that they “settled at the limits of the village of Cedar Springs and prepared to hew out a home from the wilderness. His first operations were necessarily in the lumber business for the nature of the country at that time made it impossible engaging in farming.” (Huge pine forests and cedar swamps covered the area.)

In 1852 the nearest settlement was Laphamville (now known as Rockford) about seven miles to the south. The road to Cedar Springs was an old Native American trail that had barely become a path wide enough for wagons to travel over.

The Smiths settled on the Cedar Creek at the north end of what is now the town of Cedar Springs. The area was covered with beautiful old cedar trees and the flowing spring was a great convenience next to their home. The Smiths listed themselves as farmers in the 1860 census but they also were Inn keepers. The History of Grand Rapids and Kent Co. 1918 says “Their home was a log cabin in the forest and for a long time was the pioneer’s hotel, and liberally patronized. One year, dating from February 12 to May 1, Mrs. Smith cooked 1,000 pounds of pork.” A stagecoach passed through the area as well as many pioneer families seeking their own new homesteads.

The Smiths also sold a few provisions to travelers.

It is believed the name for our town, Cedar Springs, came from travelers describing the Smiths location as being by the cedar trees and fresh flowing spring, “Cedar Springs.”

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Kids who wrote “April’s Baby” book get surprise


These Beach Elementary students wrote the book “April’s Baby” in Vicki Burke’s art class last spring. Courtesy photo

By Judy Reed

Earlier this year, second and third grade students at Beach Elementary School in Cedar Springs celebrated March is Reading Month by illustrating and publishing a book about the internet sensation, April the Giraffe. They will now get something in return.

Thirty-one students, affectionately dubbed “Team April,” volunteered their drawing talents for a short story titled “April’s Baby,” which Vicki Burke, Beach Elementary art teacher,  penned and graphically designed. The book has received rave reviews on Amazon, and Burke has received positive feedback from people she meets in person as well.

“What started as a simple art project exploded into so much more,” remarked Vicki Burke, at the Cedar Springs Board of Education meeting Monday evening, Sept. 11. She said that the book taught the children about art, literacy, giraffe conservation, and more. When it was finished, it went on Amazon.

This summer, Burke went to New York to see the giraffes. But it was bittersweet, because she felt like she wanted the kids to see the giraffes, too. So, while they cannot take a field trip to see April and her baby, a couple people and businesses worked together to make something happen closer to home.

Transportation supervisor Jerry Gavin, who now works with Dean Transportation, said they are willing to donate one school bus and one school bus driver free of charge to take the kids to Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Alto, to see the giraffes. And Ryanne Donahue, with the new State Farm office on Main Street here in Cedar Springs, said she will donate admission for the students and chaperones and also enough for them to feed the giraffes as well. The announcement was made at the school board meeting.

The children who were there were all smiles, and seemed excited by the news.

There is no word yet on when the trip might happen.

To purchase the book, go to www.amazon.com and search for “April’s Baby.”

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Murdered girl’s tale told in book


book coverBook signing at Schuler Books on 28th Street Feb. 8 at 7 p.m.

By Judy Reed

A young mother. A missing child. A cold-blooded killer. They sound like characters in the latest crime thriller. They are—the difference is that they are real live people, and the victims are from Cedar Springs.
The Color of Night, by L.C. (Tim) Timmerman, and his brother John, tells the shocking story of Tim’s 19-year-old daughter, Rachel, and her baby, Shannon VerHage. Rachel and her 11-month-old daughter Shannon disappeared on June 3, 1997, when an unidentified man picked them up at her father’s home in Cedar Springs. She told him she would be home in a couple of hours, but was not seen again until her body was found weighted down by cinder blocks at the bottom of Oxford Lake, in Newaygo County, on July 5, 1997. The baby was never found.
back coverRachel had disappeared two days before she was scheduled to testify in a rape trial against Marvin Gabrion, a man who had assaulted her the previous summer, and threatened to kill her if she told police. He was eventually convicted of Rachel’s murder, and now sits on death row in a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, awaiting execution. Although Michigan does not have the death penalty, Gabrion was sentenced to death by lethal injection, because Rachel’s body was found on federal land, in the Manistee National Forest.
The highly publicized trial tested the death penalty, and painted a gruesome picture of a killer bent on revenge. It appears Gabrion would do anything to cover up his crimes—including making witnesses “disappear.”
Tim told the Post that he thought it was necessary to tell Rachel and Shannon’s story. “A lot of the emotions resurfaced that I thought I’d buried, but it was worth it. Was it pleasant? No. It was a lot of hard work,” he remarked.
When Rachel disappeared and did not turn up by Father’s Day, Tim knew for sure something was wrong, even though he had received a letter in her handwriting previously telling him she was fine. “I knew because she had been so faithful about Father’s Day over the years,” he said.
Even after Rachel’s body was found, Tim still held out hope that they would find Shannon alive. “We had a lot of hope until about her 5th birthday that she’d get enrolled in kindergarten somewhere, but that hasn’t happened. I feel Rachel and Shannon are together in heaven,” he explained. She would be 14 now.
Tim, who is an electrician, wrote the book with his brother, John, a professor of Creative Writing and Literature at Calvin Collge. Tim and John plan to hold a book signing at Schuler Books on 28th Street on February 8, at 7 p.m. Tim said he will also give a short talk during that time.
Reviews of the book have been good. The December issue of the Library Journal said it was a “…harrowing story…true crime and law aficionados will take great interest in her case.” Tim also said that most people have told him that they loved it and couldn’t put it down. “I hope people here like my book,” said Tim. “I put a lot of hours into it.”
Residents in Cedar Springs were riveted by this case, and if they want the inside scoop, with all the gritty details, they will want to read the book.
A word of warning: because of the subject matter, the book is explicit in its detail of certain events, and includes language and sexual slang some may find offensive. It’s definitely not for children.
The book can be bought at Schulers, or ordered from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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