Ira and Hattie (Rogers) Hutchins
A Sketch created in 19th Century History
.....IRA HUTCHINS was born, February 15, 1862, the seventh child of pioneer Ganges settler Harrison and Laura (Hudson) Hutchins.  He was married, June 30, 1897 at South Haven to Hattie I. Rogers.

.....Ira's first business venture was as a partner in the furniture store and repair shop in Fennville in company with his cousin William Waterman Hutchins.  Ira later sold out as he signed a 15 year contract to provide electric power to the town.  A power house was erected to house 30 horse power engine and boiler and a dynamo sufficiently large for at least 300 incandescent lights. On Wednesday, December 16, 1896 the first lights in Fennville were turned on. It took a while to complete the wiring of the town for all to use;  the wiring included four arc lights hung over Main Street.   The strong white light made the kerosene lamps look very sickly. The electric plant was purchased from the Charles E. Gregory co. of Chicago and Matt Kennedy of Chicago started the system with out a hitch. This type system was then far ahead of what they had in Holland and Allegan.  Ira found that running an electric plant was an enterprise of limited profit and sold the system to George L. Dutcher and J. E. Hutchinson in the fall of 1901 and removed to Chicago. The system was moved to the Fennville Roller Mill and worked only in the evening from dusk until 11:00 p.m.  Soon the town became very dependent on the power, wanting to run their flat irons and vacuum sweepers during the day and with changes  and operations troubles through the years, a contract was made and a power transmission line (later the property of Consumers Power Co.) was constructed to bring electricity from a power plant in Berrien Springs. Lights then could be used 24 hours a day.

.....On January 1, 1904, Ira was superintendent and engineer for the City Gas and Lighting Company, one of the largest of its kind in the country.  He was a mechanic of rare ability and his native genius placed him above the average in his line.  He held the position of forman in the machine shops of the Howe Ice Machine Company in Chicago for a number of years.  Later he operated his own garage and repair shop on his own lot at 3526 Pierce Avenue in the city.  He died March 11, 1941 at Chicago, Illinois.

....Mrs. Hutchins was a pianist and a successful instructor of music.  By a former marriage she had a daughter, Elaine Marie Wagner (b Sept. 3, 1890 at Allegan and d. Nov. 11, 1928 in Chicago).  She married Walter E. Webb, Dec. 21, 1909 and they had three children: Steward, b. Jan 3, 1911, in Chicago; and twins Roger and Rosemary, b. Feb. 25, 1925 in Chicago.  All three later moved to Allegan County.  Ira and Hattie had no children.

.....From: The Hutchins Family of Allegan County.  By Evert O. Hutchins


The device pictured left could very well have been like that installed in Fennville by Ira Hutchins.  It is a Willans central-valve twin tandum-compound high-speed steam engine no.662, made by Willans and Robinson, with 9.6 kw Siemens dynamo, both mounted on cast-iron bedplate.

A dynamo machine consists of a stationary structure, which provides a constant magnetic field, and a set of rotating windings which turn within that field.  On small machines the constant magnetic field may be provided by one or more permanent magnets.


The Fennville Herald
Friday, March 21, 1941
Late Ira Hutchins Built First Electric Plant in Fennville

(The same top two paragraphs above started the article)
.....Mr. Hutchins  was an early motorcycle enthusiast and built motorcycles and automobiles for himself and friends.  He was a sportsman and hunter and built many boats, from row boats to gasoline launches from his own designs, also building many engines used in them.  There was no mechanical problem too great for him to solve, and few if any were left unsolved when he had once made up his mind to do so.

.....Surviving are his widow, Harriet, and sister, Emily Williams of Pullman.  Mrs. Hutchins was formerly Harriet Roger, the daughter of Mortimer Rogers, a pioneer of the county.  the couple had no children of their own except the daughter of Mrs. Hutchins.  Funeral services were held Friday, March 14, with burial in Oak Ridge cemetery, Cook County, Illinois.

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Vern can remember Roger and Rosemary Webb living in Fennville. Roger was the Boy Scout leader when he was a scout in about 1948.  They lived in a little house where the Su Casa Restaurant is now located.


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