Community – A Brief History and Vision


Imagine Eaton Rapids’ past… with the streets of the town in the mid-1800s, filled with farmers coming into town with their horse-drawn wagons, bringing wool to the mills or taking their grist to be ground. This wool would often be turned into warm blankets shipped all over the world, or was turned into wool yarn for major league baseball across the United States.

Picture in your mind… horse-drawn carriages, surreys and hacks loaded with trunks and luggage and “health-seekers,” as they came and went from the train depot to the hotels, seeking cures for their ailments in the magnetic mineral waters discovered in Eaton Rapids back in 1852.

Hold this vision… housewives with baskets filled with eggs and homemade butter, doing their trading with shopkeepers. Store merchants wrapped purchases in brown paper and tied it with string, protecting it from harm during the long trip back home.

“Building a future from its historical past, Eaton Rapids continues
to draw people who choose to make their home here because
of the vast number of opportunities laid before them.”

It has always been that way… When pioneers first settled here in 1835, they came at first for the timber and the water power along a small stream. They also found good soil for farming.

Early settlers erected a sawmill in their first year, soon followed by more sawmills, milling companies, woolen mills and more. Samuel Horner, a professional spinner from Yorkshire, England, expanded his mill operations and developed a business known the world over, making wool blankets.

Later, John B. Davidson, Sr. came to Eaton Rapids from Philadelphia. His mill built in 1921 was the only mill in Michigan spinning its own yarn. The Davidson Mill supplied 95% of the wool yarn for major league baseball, as well as high grade yarns for other applications. But by far, the largest draw to Eaton Rapids in its earlier years was the “healing powers” of its magnetic mineral springs, which was discovered in 1852.

Found to be high in magnesia, iron, soda, potassium, sodium, silica acid and lime, these waters were thought to have a healing power that eventually brought six passenger trains daily into Eaton Rapids, filled with wealthy people from all over the country who were looking for cures from a variety of ailments.

Soon, luxury hotels were built, including the stately Vaughn House (across from Quality Dairy at the former Bay Station) and the Anderson House (present site of National City Bank). Called “The Saratoga of the West,” Eaton Rapids was advertised all over the country, inviting people to come. And they did come, even though time and trends eventually changed peoples’ lifestyles and patterns.

Today, Eaton Rapids still retains its beauty, charm and historical significance. Its sense of historical preservation is carefully tended by members of the Eaton Rapids Historical Society, whose goal is to preserve, educate and display to the public this area’s historical heritage.

The invitation to bring your family to Eaton Rapids today still remains strong and heartfelt. This community with “Small Town Charm” offers a family-friendly ambiance, yet its mid-Michigan location provides close proximity to numerous shopping centers and entertainment venues.

“Come see for yourself what generations of residents have known all along…
that Eaton Rapids is the finest city on earth!”