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Sparta Township Historical Commission
Sparta Sentinel-Leader - WINNER!

Special Features or Unique Aspects of this Paper:

Sparta's earliest newspaper, Sparta Sentinel-Leader, began under the title The Sentinel in 1876. At that time, Sparta Township had three general stores, one boot shop and hardware store, two smith shops, a wagon and harness shop, a school, two churches, and one sawmill. By 1880, it had a population of over 2,100. Due to its close location to Grand Rapids and Newaygo Railroads, Sparta was a thriving community for its time. The Sentinel operated under that title until 1900 when it merged with another Sparta paper, The Leader, as Sparta Sentinel and Leader. The Sparta Sentinel-Leader title was published on January 18, 1901.

Including Sparta Township and surrounding Kent County areas, Sparta Sentinel-Leader published local, state, and national level articles. A large farming area, many of the families that came stayed in the region for generations. Many use the Sparta Sentinel-Leader for reference information on their families as well as events. The period selected in proposal is especially historically significant due to its World War I content. Many went off to war and outside labor sources were needed to harvest crops. In 1917, the Carnation Milk Company built a plant in Sparta and milk was hauled daily. Sparta Sentinel-Leader expressed war news, impact, and attitudes and told the stories of the people during that time.

On June 12, 1931, the Sparta Sentinel-Leader, Kent City Press, and Casnovia Herald combined to become The Sentinel-Leader. The hyphen was dropped in the early 1960s. The Sentinel Leader ran independently until purchased by The Sparta Reminder in 1972 and became The Sparta Reminder Sentinel-Leader, which in January of 1974 was renamed the North Kent Leader. The paper expanded to include Sparta, Kent City, Casnovia, Bailey, Belmont, Grand Rapids RR2, Conklin, Comstock Park, Ravenna, Cedar Springs, and Rockford and boasted the title of North Kent County's largest weekly paper.

Reason why you believe this paper should be made available online:

A complete, digital Sparta Sentinel-Leader would preserve and promote access to Kent County and Michigan history. Certain years and issues are available in digital format, which greatly reduces the time needed to search for topics and the handling of the fragile newspapers. However, the existing digital newspapers were created from microfilm done over thirty years ago that was not comprehensive. Some issues were of such poor quality that they are not readable. This selection of newspapers proposed has years that have neither been microfilmed nor digitized and what has been done in this year range is not usable. To better serve the community and the area, these gaps need to be addressed.

This selection needs to be preserved before it deteriorates beyond use. It is not on microfilm or digitized and is fragile. It is difficult to access. Researchers who want to access these newspapers must view them in their physical format, which is detrimental to the newspapers and time-consuming for researchers. The period selected would be a valuable digital resource for not only the Kent County area, but for anyone interested in World War I sentiment in Michigan before, during, and after the war.

Grandville Historical Commission

Grandville News
Grandville Star
Grandville Alliance
Grandville Almanac

Special Features or Unique Aspects of these Papers:

Although these papers have been microfilmed, copies are not readily available. These film rolls, as far as can be determined are only available at the Grand Rapids Public Library. Although the Historical Commission has copies of the films there is no reader or printer available, and Grandville KDL branch did not want them. The time requested covers settlement of the Grand River Valley. The years Recorded history of Grandville from before it became a village, incorporated as a City in 1937, through World War I. and the Great Depression.

 Reason why you believe this paper should be made available online:

Grandville was first settled in 1837 as Prairieville. It was home to several gypsum mines and Mills. Alabaster from the mines was shipped worldwide, and several buildings in Chicago were noted for alabaster from the Grandville mines used in that used in their construction. Plaster from the Alabastine Mine, located on the border of Wyoming and Grandville, was used in home construction from through the early 1950's. "The Star" served as the hometown newspaper throughout its publication period. It covered school news, social news and activities, weddings, funerals, out of town visitors, and resident travels to relatives and friends. Since genealogy is a popular hobby now, The Star is a great source of family history it included births and deaths for the time. During WWI it served as a way for families and friends to keep up with members serving in the war effort.
This time period also includes the laying out of the city streets by the Grandville Home Improvement Company, and its incorporation as a city. Although many families were raised and remain in the area, others have travelled here and there. Many of those who have moved from the area keep close ties and have expressed wishes to be able to read "The Star" online.

This grant is made possible by the Robert and Susan Clarke Endowment.