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The Coles Family Part 2

Capt. William G. Coles’ tombstone is pictured. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette Regional History Center)

Last week I told you about how the Coles family traveled from England and eventually settled on what we know as Coles Hill near the corner of McClellan Avenue and Washington Street in the mid-1800s.

You also learned that Jeffrey Coles helped supply food to the abolitionists in what was called the Bleeding Kansas War. The Coles family contribution to Marquette is equally compelling. While Jeffrey Coles continued to operate the first butcher shop in Marquette and raise his cattle, he also began a construction company along with his sons William and George.

One of our first major buildings in Marquette was the Cozzens Hotel, which was built where the Harlow Block now stands. George and William signed a contract with Amos Harlow for $8,550, beginning construction in the fall of 1870 and finishing in 1871. They ran the hotel as a first class hotel which catered to the richest clientele visiting Marquette in the 1800s.

The name of the hotel was changed to the Clifton Hostelry and the Coles Lakeview Hotel and was eventually bought by Mr. H.W. Volk who renamed it the Clifton. Like so many historic buildings, the Clifton burned to the ground on Christmas morning in 1886. Mr. Volk rebuilt the Clifton at the corner of Bluff and Front streets and Amos Harlow built the Harlow Block, which served local businesses, on the original site of the hotel. Local historian and author Tyler R Tichlelaar has chronicled the history of the Cozzens Hotel in his books on Marquette.

Near the hotel, on the corner of Third and Bluff, the two brothers also built the Coles Building. . This would be one of the temporary homes of Marquette’s earliest libraries.

At that time, it was common for women to have reading clubs. They would get together for social interaction and discussion. Books were frequently provided by Peter White from his extensive private collection. The Coles Building became one of the homes for Marquette’s Literary Society before the Peter White Library was constructed.

The Coles family also played an active part in the political life of Marquette, Jeffrey served five terms as supervisor and one, in 1882, as mayor of the city. Not bad for a butcher from England. Jeffrey lived until 1897 and is buried at Park Cemetery. His wife Susannah, who died in 1887, is buried there as well. One of Jeffrey’s grandsons also has a remarkable monument in Park Cemetery; Captain William G. Coles’ tombstone has a detailed picture of the Frank E. Taplin ore carrier, which he captained for many years.

So now you know about the Coles family connection to the abolitionist movement, the Bleeding Kansas War, the Harlow Block and Marquette’s earliest library. There are many stories about our area and the people that formed what we call home. Next time you travel by Coles Drive, look up that hill and try to imagine what it was like when the Coles family arrived.

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