At the Crossroads
The above photo, shot in the late 1800’s, shows the home where Dennison native Lyle Hanchett grew up. The home was built in 1879. The young boy standing at the foot of the porch is Lyle’s father. Homer Hanchett. Although Lyle still resides on the property, the home no longer exists. But two of the original barns still stand – and are in good shape, Lyle adds
Unsolved murder of storekeeper just one part of Dennison’s past.
By Becky Burkert
Not much remains of the northern Ottawa County town of Dennison, but, even during its heyday in the early 1900s, there wasn’t much to it, says native Lyle Hanchett.
Dennison, located just west of Coopersville, at the intersection of 80th Avenue and Cleveland and State streets, in Polkton Township, was once situated along the tracks of the former Grand Trunk railroad line and later along the Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, Muskegon Interurban Line – hence its existence.
If you look close, while driving along State and Cleveland streets, you can still see the areas where the interurban and railroad tracks lay. But other than that, visible signs of what used to be Dennison are hard to find. It takes town natives, such as Hanchett and his wife, Helen, to point out the sites of the former landmarks.
“The first store bumped up right against the railroad tracks,” said Hanchett. It was probably built in the 1870s and was located along the north side of State Street. The other store, owned by Ed Bekins and built in the 1920s, was situated at the crossroads, he said.
“There also was a welding shop (built in the 1930s, Hanchett estimated) and when the car became popular, we had a gas station” he said.
That’s all there was to “downtown” Dennison. But other landmarks existed on the outer fringes of the small town. In “West Dennison,” St. Michael’s Catholic Church, located at 17151 88th Ave., flourished as early as the late 1800s; and Hanchett School, at the intersection of 88th Avenue and Cleveland Street, served local youngsters, including Lyle Hanchett. “I used to stoke the stove and sweep the floor for 25 cents a day,” he said.
In “East Dennison,” folks could hop aboard the Interurban, which stopped on a regular basis just east of the downtown crossroads.
Hanchett’s maternal grandfather, John Cooney, resided almost smack in the middle of town, along both the Interurban tracks and the railroad tracks, on State Street near Dennison’s crossroads. Hanchett’s family lived on 88th Avenue, about a quarter-mile north of Cleveland Street.
“I guess you could say we lived in the suburbs,” joked Hanchett, who still resides on the family homestead, first purchased by a relative from the state of Michigan in 1854.
Although he is one of the town’s oldest living natives, Hanchett is not exactly sure when Dennison was first established, but he said it most likely was in the mid-1850s, when the Grand Trunk railroad tracks were laid through Polkton Township.
Ezekiel Jewett, relative of the Hanchett family, was one of the first local residents. In 1854, he settled on the property now owned by Hanchett. “Jewett had a sawmill (on Brandy Creek) I’m told,” said Hanchett. “The town also had a creamery in the late 1800s.”
Irish Catholics were among Dennison’s earliest inhabitants – hence the start of St. Michael’s Catholic Church, he said. The Hanchett School – earning its name from the Hanchett family, which donated land for its construction – was started in the 1870s. Hanchett’s wife, Helen, a former schoolteacher, taught there for one year.
Despite its small size, Dennison achieved big-city status when a murder took place there in the early 1900s.
“The owner of the store (along the railroad tracks) was named Mark Golden, and was a good friend of my dad’s,” said Hanchett. “One night he was taking money from the store to his house, which was right next to the store. He never made it home. Between the store and the house, someone shot him and stole the money. They never found out who did it. That was in 1905.”
Dennison has remained fairly quiet since then, and now could be said to be resting in peace.
“There isn’t much left,” said Hanchett. “Just some brush,” added Helen.
We found some errors in the above article.
Hanchett’s family lived on 88th avenue, about a quarter-mile south (not north) of Cleveland Street.
The owner of the store was named Mart (not Mark) Golden.
That was in 1906 (not 1905).