A Spoon, a Search and a Journey Home

The Hillsdale County Courthouse was completed in 1898-99. To commemorate the event, silver spoons were manufactured. One was purchased by a member of the MacIntosh family and became a family heirloom. The family of Sam and Mary (Minnie) MacIntosh also established a generational connection to Hillsdale College.

Sam (born in 1855) and Minnie (born in 1859) worked at Hillsdale College and sent their daughter, Kate Adela (Della, born in 1885), there to complete her education. Della graduated in 1907, one of a class of ten students to earn a degree in Home Economics. Della was an early member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and managed to finagle two extra dorm rooms for sorority meetings. For this accomplishment she was given a bouquet of flowers tied with a ribbon. no less! Following her graduation, she taught home economics at Hillsdale College for about two years before resigning to raise her children. From 1936-1945 Della returned to Hillsdale College to become Dean of Women.

Della lived in Camden after marrying Ralph W. Rowe (born in 1886), who graduated from Hillsdale College in 1909. His sister, Else, also went to Hillsdale College. Ralph W. went on to become the President of the Camden bank. Sam and Minnie sent a second daughter to Hillsdale College. Della’s sister, Merle, graduated in 1910 and eventually married Mr. Holliday, who was also a successful banker. He passed away shortly after the Stock Market Crash that heralded the Depression. Della’s brother, Ray, was a teacher of math at Hillsdale College. It’s not clear if he was a student prior to that, but the college records show that he was a member of the varsity basketball team for two years. (He was a very tall man, according to Debbie Palmer Girard). Ray may have been on the team because he was a student or because sports at that time were of the “club” type, where any students or employees of the college could be involved.

Della’s daughters Mary Lou and Barbara Rowe also attended Hillsdale College. Mary Lou married Paul Palmer from Mosherville during the two years she attended classes there before transferring to Stetson University.  Mary Lou never graduated, and the reason for this is not known. She may have chosen to withdraw from college ... or the college may have had a policy that married women could not attend at that time. Barbara graduated in 1935 as the Salutatorian and became the Registrar at Stetson University. Like their mother, both girls were members of Kappa Kappa Gamma.

The Hillsdale County Courthouse commemorative spoon was passed down through the generations, eventually reaching Stephen J. Palmer, the son of David H. Palmer and Barbara A. Bennett Palmer Blair and the grandson of Mary Lou Palmer. He now lives in Delaware. In the winter of 2014. Stephen J. and his brother, Michael E., wanted to bring the spoon back to Hillsdale County—at least for awhile—so that the residents could enjoy this special piece of our history. This turned out to be a challenge. First Stephen posted a question on the Hillsdale County Historical Society Facebook page ... and received no answer because the administrator of the site concentrated on the website rather than the Facebook page. Stephen tried again. With a post on the Facebook page of Vanished Hillsdale, he finally intersected with the Historical Society website administrator. With this success, Stephen went into high gear. He contacted the extended family, the family matriarch, Debbie Palmer Girard, and the Hillsdale College Archives department. David H. Palmer and Mary Phau Palmer, Stephen’s father and stepmother, and Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Girard, Stephen’s aunt and uncle, were instrumental in helping to gather the family history.

In the middle of February 2014, the Hillsdale County Courthouse commemorative spoon arrived in Hillsdale County, loaned by Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Palmer to be displayed at the Will Carleton Poorhouse on N. Wolcott Street in Hillsdale. Keep an eye on the UPCOMING EVENTS tab of the Hillsdale County Historical Society website for Poorhouse events, when you can see it in person. It’s in the china cabinet located in the front hall ... and it’s beautiful.

Seated: Sam, Mary (Minnie), ?; Standing: Merle, Ray & Della MacIntosh

Seated: Sam, Mary (Minnie), ?; Standing: Merle, Ray & Della MacIntosh