came with his parents, brothers, and sisters from Pennsylvania in
1847, to settle in St. Joseph County. Arthur began his blacksmith
trade in 1852 in Centreville, Michigan. In 1876, he had the South
Main business and home constructed. In 1903, Arthur deeded the
property to his daughter, Sue I. Silliman.
The property then
known as “Riversbye” is located near the old Pottawatomie Indian
trail that crossed the St. Joseph River at the ford. This is near
the location of a 1760 Jesuit Mission that was built on a high bluff
overlooking the river, by Father Allouez. Still later , in 1802,
this area was witness to a battle between the Shawnee, and Federated
Indian Tribes, that included, the Pottawatomie. In 1836 the
McEnterfer, and Bowman families met at this location and formally
named the community, "Three Rivers", for the three rivers that
converge near this location, the Portage and St. Joseph to the East
and the Rocky to the West.
Sue Silliman was
city librarian from 1902 -1945. She served as State DAR Historian
from 1918-1920. She compiled a great deal of historical information
and authored "St. Joseph In Homespun", "Michigan Military Records"
and "Michigan in the World War".
One month before
her death in 1945, Sue Silliman deeded her home to the city of Three
Rivers, which in turn sold the home to the American Legion. Many
years later the home was sold to the General Telephone Company.
In 1976, General
Telephone Company proposed to make a gift of the home to the Abiel
Fellows Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, if
funds could be raised to restore and maintain the home. In 1980 the
goal was met with a donation from the
Harold and Grace Upjohn Foundation. This
put the fund raising efforts over the top of the goal of $30,000.
With the aid and
donations of many, the Louis Conti Building and Restoration Company,
of Kalamazoo, began the restoration work in October 1980. Interior
painting was done by Al Caniff and wall paper by
Paper Dolls. In April 1981, the deed to the house was presented to
the Abiel Fellows DAR Chapter.
directed the restoration of the forge and Blacksmith shop. Arthur
Silliman's anvil can be seen in the shop.
one enters the kitchen from the porch, note the high door frame, the
Silliman family were tall! This first floor includes many
furnishings that cover the period of time that the
Sillimans resided here, 1876-1945. The drop-leaf table and the high
chair in the kitchen are among the original pieces belonging to the
family. The cradle in Sue Silliman's bedroom is from the Wood
family -1830. Other items have been donated or loaned to the
you enter the dining/study room, note the
entry hall, where you will find some of our vast picture
collection. The door is an original part of the
house. To the right in the dining room is
the "Andrews" bookcase, given to the chapter by
the Edward Andrews estate. The clock, on the wall
by the stairs, is a Silliman artifact. The
former Fabius Grange
bookcase, memorabilia, and Seed
Wreath are on the wall across from the clock. To
the right by the only window is the NSDAR Charter for the Abiel
Fellows Chapter, and a portrait of Abiel Fellows, a Revolutionary
living room is furnished in East Lake and Victorian, typical of the
late 19th and early 20th century. A portrait of Arthur Silliman
from the Masonic Hall, hangs above the
walnut pump organ. Other
hangings include an Indian watercolor by Sue Silliman and a
of Miss Silliman when she
graduated from High School.
second bedroom has been converted to a
lady's sewing room and half bath. Children’s clothing is
displayed there. Vintage clothes can be seen on manikins though-out
the home. The stair case came from a house on
Portage Ave, built four years before the Silliman's home.
The rail was redesigned by Al
Caniff to fit into the building. Originally this area was a
Note at the top of
the stairs the many Indian
artifacts placed on loan by the Three Rivers High School. This is the "Poe
gathered from the Harwood/Corey Lake area west of Three
The second floor
houses many donated and loaned
items, and is a museum and research area. Note the floor
loom on the west wall, and the
early 19th century chairs from a covered wagon. The center of
the room has a handmade braided
rug and the leather and wood
furniture was made in Mendon at the turn of the century.
Housed at the south end is the Willa Warner dining room suite and
our re-search center. Files,
books, pictures, chapter and genealogical records, etc. are
all in this area.
* * *
The Bishops, Frenches, Rhodes, Winnes, Van Deraas, Langworthys,
Wickmans, Sturgis, Warners, Mortons, Sissons, and Crockers have made
donations or loans.
* * *
Restoration and maintenance work continues. Support and donations
from "Friends of the Museum", state and local grants, and monies
raised by the Abiel Fellows Chapter NSDAR, keep the Historic
Silliman Home and Blacksmith Shop open.
The Museum is owned and operated by the Abiel Fellows NSDAR of Three