Col. Edwin J. March
The issue with writing about our Hillsdale ancestors is usually that of finding enough printed information to accurately tell the story of that man or woman. Colonel Edwin J. March proved the exception!
The obituary for Col. March was a full page and a half long in the August 30, 1907 edition of the Hillsdale Leader! March was born September 15, 1836, in Bridgeton, Maine, one of thirteen children. His lifetime regret was not having college training, although he “read law” under Judge Daniel Pratt, eventually passing the bar exam and becoming his law partner.
March had been in Michigan a couple of years when in 1863 he entered the army and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant by Governor Blair, to raise Company K for the 27th Michigan Infantry. He recruited the regiment and by January 5, 1864, the company was mustered into service in Hillsdale. By April of that year, he was mustered in as Lt. Colonel at Cold Harbor, Virginia.
After the War, March returned to Hillsdale and married Sarah M. Bradish of Adrian. He and Sarah had two children, Gertrude, who married John Robert Sutton in 1890 and was accomplished in her own right, and George, a local attorney and developer.
The 1879 “History of Hillsdale County” reported: “March has been prosecuting attorney of the county and is now in active practice in Hillsdale.” He was also Vice President of the First National Bank during this period. He was living on the west side of Manning, between Railroad (Carleton Road) and North Streets, with his office on Howell, over the Second National Bank.
From 1880 to 1885, March moved to North Adams, where he was engaged in the banking and mercantile businesses. During this period, March purchased an interest in the Hillsdale Leader, a local Republican newspaper. By mid-1884, after March acquired a controlling interest, the firm name had been changed to E. J. March & Co. During the next year the Leader building was built on North Broad Street. This building, which remains to this day, went on to house the Hillsdale Daily News, until its current McCollum Street home was built in 1928.
In 1893, daughter Gertrude March Sutton purchased thebalance of the outside interest from printer William H. Bowman, and along with her brother George and husband John Robert, became actively involved with running the paper. The Sutton family has a fascinating local history, some of which will later be shared here.
As if running a newspaper wasn’t enough, Col. March was twice elected Hillsdale Postmaster. He diligently worked to improve the local postal service, and was responsible for developing rural free delivery in Hillsdale County. How proud he would have been with the construction of the new “Federal Building,” begun in 1911 and still remaining as our post office today! But that was not to be and after just a few weeks of illness, spent at his beloved cottage at Baw Beese Lake, “the Colonel” passed on August 24, 1907.
Carol A. Lackey