Bancroft News

The grand history of our mercantile stores


Brad Magness was the speaker at our church on Sunday.

It is so beautiful to see all the bountiful crop that has been harvested already. The large bin is full, as well as the smaller ones, and there’s no place to put it except on the ground. The bright yellow of the corn piles and the lighter colored bean piles are really something to see. The trucks, as they are coming to or going from the loading/unloading, seem to be a constant stream. This is a bounty that hasn’t been seen for a few years.

I was privileged to accompany a Michigan pheasant hunter on Wednesday of last week as we drove around the area, pointing out some things, giving a little bit of history, and listening to him exclaim over the piles of corn and beans in town, as well as all of the fields yet to be harvested. He has been coming to this area for about 60 years, so he has seen a lot of changes— good years, bad years, farms disappearing and all the other things we kind of take for granted.

Again, we send out expressions of sympathy to a family who has lost a loved one. Norma Lee (Halverson) Rabenberg passed away on Oct. 16. Her husband Clarence passed away a few years ago, and her sister-in-law, Grace Halverson, Grace’s daughter Joyce, and a great nephew Justin Montagne all have passed away just recently. Norma Lee leaves to mourn her passing two sons, Jerry and Glen, and a daughter Lanette, grandchildren and great nieces and nephews.

more history

Two of the people of Bancroft, bachelor brothers of considerable prestige, and whom I have mentioned before, were Will and Frank Agnew. They did a lot more than just buy and sell cattle and land. Will Agnew owned the wooden building that housed a grocery store, grandly referred to in one account as a “Mercantile Store.” Mr. Agnew also seems to have bailed out the town on several occasions, coming to the rescue of the bank and rebuilding a goodly portion of the burned-out section of town. His office was on the west side of the street, north of a gas station.

About 1903, Mr. Agnew tore down this building and put up a two-story brick building. This “grand edifice” housed a grocery store, a drug store, post office and office space on the east end where Will and Frank Agnew had their living quarters. The thing that made it “grand” was the opera house on the top floor. There was space for traveling shows, dances, a doctor’s office, print shop, at least one apartment and also the telephone exchange.

This building, containing such a lot of the life of the town, burned down in 1911. Mr. Agnew built the present (1989) one story building on the same lot immediately after the fire. This building housed a grocery store, run by Fred Rusche, a drug store and a post office. Of course, there were living quarters and office space on the east end.

Charles Dill had a drug store and grocery store, and Tom Tyrrell owned a general store. In 1916, this store became a co-op and was called the “Bancroft Mercantile Store.”


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