Do you live on Pond Street?

Students outside Maple Street School a few years after trees were planted along the street in 1871.

By Maggie Snyder for the Vicksburg Historical Society

Maybe you do but didn’t know it.

When the Village of Vicksburg was platted in the 1840s, names had to be assigned to the streets. They were Water Street, Main Street, Pond Street and Townline Road running north and south; and Prairie Street, Washington Street, Brady Street, Park Street and Section Line Road running east and west.

Brady Street was probably named for General Hugh Brady – see last month’s article – but it was re-named Maple Street in 1902 at resident’s request. Why?

Maple Street school, Vicksburg’s second school, was located on the southeast corner of present-day Maple St. and Michigan Ave. A letter written by a pioneer family member and dated 1876 states, “…Last Saturday (a) week ago the School Board procured Maple and Elm Trees for all the Schollars and each one that was disposed set out a Centennial Tree on the School Ground upwards to 150 trees was set making our School Grounds when the trees get to growing one of the Finest in the Co.” No doubt those trees DID “get to growing”, so that by 1902 they were a fine sight and provided appreciated shade for those living on the street.

Pond Street was the original name of present-day Kalamazoo Avenue because it ran along the western edge of a body of water named Lake Vicksburg.

This lake, or pond, was located to the north and east of the present-day school Administration Building. Once the pond dried up into a swamp, its name hardly made sense, and it was renamed Kalamazoo Avenue – a choice requiring no particular thought or imagination.

Water Street was the original name for present-day South Michigan Avenue because its northern terminus was the mill pond occupied by John Vickers’ grist mill. However, after the mill burned down around 1900, the residents of the street petitioned the Village to change the name to Michigan Avenue. Why? Like Kalamazoo Avenue, it was an easily accepted alternative.

Townline Road, running along the line dividing Schoolcraft and Brady Townships, became Richardson Street in honor of one of the earliest pioneers in the area.

Gould Richardson came to Kalamazoo County in 1838 and by 1842 had accumulated enough money to build a frame house on Townline in Vicksburg.

According to a Vicksburg Commercial article, Richardson often worked on the interior of his house at night by candlelight. One evening he accidentally overturned a candle, setting his new house on fire. Despite his best efforts, the house was a total loss. And, to top it all off, he fell while carrying water to fight the fire and broke several ribs. Hearing of his troubles, merchants in Kalamazoo raised money to help him rebuild.

Richardson, his brother Solomon, his son John, and grandson Jerry were all involved in business in early Vicksburg and lived at one time or another on Townline Road. They planted and cared for the maple trees that still line the street today. In October of 1920, the close association of the Richardson family with that street led to the suggestion it be re-named to honor its part in Vicksburg’s history.

Did houses in the Village always have house numbers? No. House numbers weren’t needed until house-to-house mail delivery began in 1917. Previously, getting your mail meant a walk to the post office. Finally, residents got tired of the trek and asked the Village to petition the federal government for home delivery. The Village adopted the popular Philadelphia System that assigned a specific group of numbers to each consecutive residential block, starting from a central point. Street names were formalized, signs were ordered by the council and erected, house numbers were put up by homeowners, and house-to-house mail delivery began in the Village in May of 1917.

So what’s in a name – or number? Like everything else around us, the names of our streets and roads and the numbers on our houses all reflect our collective history, changing and growing over time.

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