The Underwood Home
The large home at 42 N. Manning Street belonged to George W. Underwood, another of the early movers and shakers of Hillsdale County. George had his finger in many pies. His drug store, stocked with surgical instruments and drugs that conferred on him the honorary title of "Doctor," also sold paint and groceries. George was a farmer and also filled in as a doctor when necessary.
Dr. Underwood was a powerful leader in early Hillsdale. He was one of the men who secretly visited Michigan Central College in Spring Arbor when the city was seeking a college of its own. Although he had a later dispute with the college, his influence was instrumental in luring the excellent professors from Michigan Central College to Hillsdale to establish the new college. He was the first mayor of the city of Hillsdale after the City Charter was passed in 1869. He also organized the establishment of Oak Grove Cemetery and hosted the meeting that led to the creation of the Hillsdale County Fair. The latter was held in the Underwood Building, located on the corner of North Broad and North streets, across from the Keefer Hotel. Various entertainments took place in the Underwood Building until the devastating fire of 1881 destroyed it.
Underwood also built the ornate brick building on Howell Street in the late 1860s which housed the Underwood Opera House (see OPERA HOUSES).
Five generations of Underwoods lived in the Manning Street house, with three of them possibly having been born in the same room.
A contact to the Hillsdale County Historical Society by Gary Barlett of Adrian, who was researching his family genealogy, turned up an unexpected connection to the original Underwoods. His wife's ancestors David and Almira Annis appeared in the Federal Census of 1850, along with their family. By 1860 only their daughter Emeline was still listed as living in Hillsdale. She was employed as a domestic in the household of Dr. George Underwood, whose occupation was given as "druggist." Gary Bartlett added that in the 1860 Census "The Underwoods had 3 domestics, a clerk (who presumably worked in the Underwood store), and another person – probably a hired man, living in the household – sort of the Hillsdale version of Downton Abby."
By the 1870 Census Emeline is listed as Emma (Annis) Smith, married to Charles Smith and living on a farm in Fairfield Twp. in Lenawee Co. Oh, the interesting connections our family researchers find!
JoAnne P. Miller