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Five Faves - Local Couples

Historian highlights couples and their community contributions
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Deborah and Enoch Harris Images courtesy of WMU Archives and Regional History Collections.

One of the biggest challenges in writing about five favorites of anything is that there always seem to be more than five on a list. Bringing it down to that magic number is hard, as it was for this month’s issue in choosing five couples from the past who have made significant contributions to the community (a category chosen to coincide with Valentine’s Day). There have been, and continue to be, many couples whose contributions have enriched and enhanced where we live. In the historical records there is often a wealth of information about the male member of a duo, but at times finding the same level of information about the female member presents more of a challenge and requires perseverance. After a great deal of deliberation, here are my five choices.

The Harrises

Enoch Harris (1785-1870)
Deborah Harris (1793-1881)

Before Western Michigan University’s Parkview Campus was built on Parkview Avenue, there was a series of farms there, including one owned by Enoch and Deborah Harris, Kalamazoo County’s first African American residents. Enoch originally came to Oshtemo Township from Ohio in early 1829, planting corn and returning with his wife and growing family by the fall of the next year. Credited with planting the first apple orchard in the area, Enoch also raised wheat, corn and oats on their farm on Genesee Prairie, as the farm grew to more than 200 acres. Historical accounts credit Enoch for his hospitality, but Deborah also played a role in that, preparing whatever food was necessary to feed guests while also raising her children and working on the farm, as most farm wives did with their husbands in that era.

The Upjohns

Dr. Uriah Upjohn (1808-1896)
Maria Mills Upjohn (1821-1882)

Before it was a pharmaceutical company, Upjohn was the surname of a family with roots in Kalamazoo County. Uriah came to the United States from England in 1828 with his brother, William, and both became doctors. Moving to Michigan by 1835, they joined many families in Richland, including the Mills family with their daughter Maria. After Uriah and Maria married in 1837, they raised 12 children while Uriah traveled on horseback for 20 years across five counties to treat patients. Education was important to both Uriah and Maria, and by 1869 eight of their sons and daughters had moved to Ann Arbor to attend school, several at the University of Michigan medical school. This couple certainly laid the foundation for their children’s successes and accomplishments. Their son William Erastus Upjohn was a medical doctor who founded the Upjohn Co. in 1886.

The VanDeusens

Dr. Edwin H. VanDeusen (1828-1909)
Cynthia Wendover VanDeusen (1835-1914)

If Edwin and Cynthia saw the portraits of themselves that hang in the Kalamazoo Public Library adjacent to the auditorium that bears their name, they would be disappointed — they never wanted any recognition for their contributions. The VanDeusens came to Kalamazoo from New York in 1858, when Dr. VanDeusen became the first medical superintendent of the Michigan Asylum for the Insane (now Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital). After retiring, they lived quietly until 1890, when they made the largest donation at that time to build and furnish a new Kalamazoo Public Library, which had previously been in several different locations. They made sure the library would be open seven days a week for those who worked the other six. It was their wish to give without any fanfare.

The Stones

James A.B. Stone (1810-1888)
Lucinda Hinsdale Stone (1814-1900)

When the Stones came to Kalamazoo in 1843, little did they know the impact they would have on this community. He came here to become the pastor of First Baptist Church and president of the Kalamazoo Literary Institute (now Kalamazoo College), and she to head the institute’s Female Department. For 20 years, the Stones provided quality progressive education, embraced coeducation and exposed students to the issues of the day with help from famous visitors such as Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. After leaving the college in 1863, Lucinda continued her passion for education by operating her own school, leading foreign-study tours and organizing women’s clubs. James served as the editor of the Kalamazoo Telegraph newspaper and as postmaster.

The Kleinstucks

Carl G. Kleinstuck (1853-1916)
Caroline Hubbard Kleinstuck (1855-1932)

Caroline was born in Kalamazoo and graduated from the University of Michigan, where she then became the first woman to receive a master’s degree. While traveling in Europe, she met Carl in Germany, marrying him in 1883. After briefly living in Chicago, the Kleinstucks moved to Kalamazoo, where Carl operated a dairy and poultry farm on Oakland Drive south of Howard Street and mined peat as a fuel source. In addition to raising her children, Caroline involved herself in a wide variety of organizations and causes, including women’s suffrage, kindergartens, vocational education and playgrounds. In 1922, she gave 48 acres of the family farm to the State Board of Education for a nature preserve in honor of her husband. Kleinstuck Preserve is located east of Oakland Drive between Cherry Street and Edgemoor Avenue. Ownership of the preserve was transferred to Western Michigan University in 1963, and the conservation group the Stewards of Kleinstuck recently purchased an adjacent 12 acres to add to the preserve.

About the Author

Lynn Houghton

Lynn Houghton is the regional history curator at the Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections. She leads the Gazelle Sports Historic Walks, a series of free architectural and historic walks held at various locations in Kalamazoo County during the summer and fall, and is the co-author of Kalamazoo Lost and Found. She also participated in the PBS series 10 that Shaped America. She has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in history from WMU and a master’s in library and information science from Wayne State University.

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