The ABCs of Lowell History: X Marks the Spot…Or Does It?

The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff is telling us about Lowell residents’ habit of moving buildings around town. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.


It would be easy to see a building and say Ah Ha! And put a big X on the map. X marks the spot! Here is where the Odawa Cobmoosa had a house built.

But is it?

At one time Lowell was called the “moving-est place around!” As early as 1846 we read of houses and buildings being moved. How was a house moved in 1846? With oxen teams of course.

The Odawa had built a building near their village on the northern side of today’s city limits, in what is now Oakwood cemetery. John S. Hooker recorded that on December 7, 1846, the building was moved with eight pair of oxen teams to what would become the easternmost building of the wooden row. Daniel Marsac used the building as a store, then John Hooker operated his store from it. After that it was used for various purposes including a saloon, shooting gallery, and it was even home to the Lowell Ledger. Unfortunately, on July 18, 1907, it burned with most of wooden row. Today Big Boiler Brewery and MI Hometown Furnishings are located on that block.

Also moved was a second building constructed by the Odawa. When Christiansen Super Market was expanding, the Cobmoosa house on Avery Street was moved in order to make room for a parking lot. William Cobmoosa acquired the Avery St property from Abel Avery on April 23, 1857; his wife is listed as Sophia. We are not sure if this Cobmoosa was the famous headman and orator of the Flat River Odawa or a relative but the house has historically been called the “Chief Cobmoosa House.”

There were numerous examples of houses being moved, from 1846 through the present day. One situation helps show the expansion of town. In 1956 the Kroger store left their downtown location over the river in the center of the bridge and built a new building and parking lot at the intersection of West Main Street and Vergennes, now Lincoln Lake. The building was used as a grocery store for years. Today it has houses multiple businesses including Little Caesars. The three houses that were there, instead of being torn down, were moved. One went further up Vergennes, and two went to the end of Hudson Street, now the 900 block of North Hudson.

One comical tale of a house being moved is found in a 1931 newspaper account that “the George Speaker house…while the Village Council was asleep, was sneaked up Washington Avenue, nearly falling to pieces enroute, then jerked across lots where it was set up as natural as life, opposite Seven Oaks, ‘a thing of beauty and a joy forever’.”

So you see, one cannot use the current location of a house or building, like Cobmoosa’s house in this example, and say ‘Here it is, 803 N. Washington, X marks the spot where Cobmoosa had a house built for his wife.’ Research shows that ‘X’ was really on Avery Street!

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