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Attracted by the rapids of the Shiawassee River that promised a source of waterpower, Daniel Ball had completed by 1837 a dam and millrace that supplied power to the town's infant timber- and crop-processing industries. The first modest wooden Greek Revival houses and commercial buildings were built. In the late 1850s and 1860s the Detroit and Milwaukee, the Ram's Horn, and the Jackson, Lansing and Saginaw railroads reached Owosso, and the town developed as a regional marketing center. The rail lines attracted an unusual number of fine furniture manufacturers. The craftsmen, artisans, and designers in the city displayed their prosperity and good taste through the construction of residences and commercial, public, and religious buildings in a full range of popular styles. During the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the first years of the twentieth, Owosso witnessed the establishment of additional industries based on steel, such as the 1891 Owosso Manufacturing Company that grew into the General Motors–affiliated Mitchell-Bentley Corporation; iron, such as the 1908 Independent Stove Company, maker of the “Renown Stove”; and agricultural products, such as the 1903 Owosso Sugar Company. Overall, the economic picture remained bright for Owosso until the beginning of the Great Depression. After the 1930s, the community was revitalized as a railroad shipping center for its still agricultural county, as a business and shopping center, as an area of light industrial and furniture manufacturing, and as a bedroom community for Flint, Lansing, and Saginaw.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert

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