Why Do So Many Things in Battle Creek Have the Name “Minges”?
There’s Minges Road, Minges Place, Minges Hills, Minges Hills Church, Minges Creek, Minges Brook Mall, Minges Elementary School, and Minges Creek Village. There are Minges apartments, Minges health clubs, and Minges chiropractic offices. Most new radio announcers that come to Battle Creek pronounce it “MIN-juzz”. We educate them as soon as possible.
To tell the story of Battle Creek’s “Minges” connection, we have to go back to January 24, 1848. That’s when a guy named James Wilson Marshall found flakes of gold at Sutter’s Mill near Coloma, California. Word got around.
Fast forward a year to Battle Creek. Ok, word got around, but not as fast as it would with e-mail or Twitter. A 30-year-old Battle Creek millwright named Abram Minges heard about the gold discovery, and on March 5, 1849, he and 11 others from town “rushed” out to California to make their fortune. Ok, they didn’t exactly rush. It took six months and ten days by covered wagon. According to the Battle Creek Daily Moon, the “49ers” left with five wagons and supplies.
The story goes that Minges settled in Sacramento, where his vision of getting rich on the gold rush didn’t “pan out”. But he did do pretty well-making coffins, harvesting redwood timber, and then built a hotel. Minges returned to Battle Creek after a short time in California, by way of the Isthmus of Panama. He took the $1800 he’d made and bought a 200-acre farm south of Battle Creek in 1851. Minges then sold the hotel in California, and built a house on the farm, at what is now 156 Minges Road. He built three farm homes on the property and built the Minges Brook Mill. The original has been restored and is believed to be the longest continually occupied home in Battle Creek.
Minges had little formal education, but read and studied and became a respected leader in the Battle Creek community. He hosted dances and parties on the farm. He helped build the county’s road system.
Minges died at the age of 89 in 1908 in Battle Creek and was buried at Dubois Cemetery.