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Homes on ‘The Ridge’

July 7, 2008
By KATELYN WEBER, Marquette County History Museum

The early residents of Marquette's opulent neighborhood on "The Ridge" ranged widely from teachers, doctors, railroad men, civil engineers, laborers and business owners.

A tour and history of "The Ridge" will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The stories of some of Marquette's earliest residents will be presented in the form of a walking tour conducted by Marquette County History Museum Librarian Rosemary Michelin, and Assistant Research Librarian Katelyn Weber. The tour will begin at the museum, 213 N. Front St., and end with a guided tour inside the Jopling-Sabin home at 321 Cedar St., where lemonade will be served. A $3 per person donation is suggested for the walking tour and a $2 donation is suggested to view the inside of the Jopling-Sabin home.

Many residents of "The Ridge" lived in stately homes, employed servants, and participated in the development of Marquette as the "Queen City" of the north. The more modest structures on Ridge Street also housed hardworking citizens with equally extraordinary stories.

Article Photos

The Kennedy sisters enjoy an afternoon on Mrs. Bessie Call’s porch at 450 East Ridge, circa 1890s. Shown, from left, are Emma Forsyth, Bessie Call, Lillie Shiras, Jean Reynolds, Margaretta Kane, and Sara Spear. (Marquette County History Museum photo)

One of these stories took place at 130 W. Ridge on one early September morning in 1907. Commonly, wives of the era would open their homes to boarders for extra income, and at the turn of the century Marquette claimed over a dozen boarding houses. Mrs. Edward Brennan, of 130 W. Ridge, had done just that and was given the shock of her life when a certain boarder showed up unannounced at 4 a.m. The doorbell woke her and upon answering she was face to face with a gray-eyed baby boy bundled up in a basket. Included in The Mining Journal's account of the event was the content of the "tear stained" note pinned to the tiny baby's frock. "My name is Charlie. If you like me and will keep me, I will tell you more about myself. Please be good to me." Mr. and Mrs. Brennan, having no other children, took little Charlie in as their own son. Needless to say, he was their star boarder and was showered with gifts from the bachelor boarders as well as the community of Marquette.

Headed eastward toward the lake, the Murray house at 225 E. Ridge was home to David Murray, owner and operator of David Murray Grocery on Front Street. Devastation struck the family when the fire of 1868 destroyed their business. Fortunately, Mr. Murray was able to partner with Byron Robbins and successfully rebuilt his storefront shortly after. Just down the street from the Murray's was the old Ridge Street School, a two-story brick building built in 1859, now the location of Pine Ridge Apartments. Across the street from the school, a young female teacher boarded at 328 E. Ridge in the mid 1870s. She later became the wife of John M. Longyear and long time friend of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science movement.

The secretary and superintendent of the Lake Superior Powder Company, Josiah Reynolds, lived at 431 E. Ridge with his wife, Jean Kennedy, and their children. Jean Kennedy - second in a line of Kennedy sisters - upon visiting Marquette, found herself a prominent and well-to-do husband. Her older sister, Lillie, married George Shiras Sr., who traveled to the Marquette area for fishing trips. Their grandson, George Shiras III, is famous for his wildlife photography. Jean's little sister, Sara, came to visit Marquette and met her husband, Frank Bennett Spear, on the boat from Sault Ste. Marie. They married and settled at 455 E. Ridge. Frank Spear made his living dealing in coal, hay and building materials. Sara then invited her younger sister Bessie to vacation with her and she became Mrs. Charles H. Call and resided at 450 E. Ridge. Charles Call was president of the First National Bank and Marquette County Savings Bank.

Josiah Reynolds, outside of the powder company, also had interests in banking, serving as director of the First National Bank as well as on its first board of directors. Josiah and Jean's son, Maxwell Kennedy Reynolds, invented the wooden respirator, which saved many lives in the Upper Peninsula during the polio epidemic.

Just around the corner, the Jopling-Sabin home stands at 321 Cedar St. Built for Henry Mather in 1888 by Charles VanIderstine, this home boasts 4,000 square feet of living space, including five bedrooms and baths and several stately fireplaces. The home retains its original woodwork, oak wainscoting and French pocket doors. It also contains a formal dining room, large butler's pantry and an enclosed sun porch with a south facing view of Lake Superior.

The home was later sold to James Jopling, who first came to Marquette in 1881 as a civil engineer. More than 26 mining companies employed Jopling as a mine engineer by 1891. He later accepted a position with Cleveland Cliffs and stayed with the company for 40 years. Jopling and his wife, Bessie Mather, resided in the home at 321 Cedar St. for more than 50 years. Their only child, Richard Mather Jopling, died during World War I while serving in France in an ambulance corps. Dr. Fred Sabin, an ophthalmologist, and his family lived in the home for nearly 50 years.

If the walls of the Ridge Street homes could talk they would express the extraordinary stories of families who may otherwise seem commonplace and forgotten. From boarding house owners to grocers, teachers and doctors, the fate and fortune of early Marquette and its residents is represented by the magnificent structures that still stand on "The Ridge."

 
 

 

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