Brighton at the Turn of the Century

Residents of Brighton were excitingly waiting the turn of the 19th century into the 20th. Disagreements broke out in the town about when that would actually happen. People on one side argued that the turn would come in 1900; others insisted that it would come in 1901 (McMacken, 65). This miniscule argument marked a time of tribulation in the town, as the population boom from the railroad was long gone. The census conducted in 1900 revealed that the population of Brighton had declined since before the turn of the century (McMacken, 66).

Majority of the residents in Brighton were rural, and the industrial boom that occurred after the civil war had many effects on the Brightonians. While on one hand the improvement of technology brought a better quality of life, people fled for jobs in urban areas because of industrialization. In order to combat the migration out of the city, the citizens and government banded together to make strides in making the city more attractive for prospective travelers.


Brighton, Main Street circa 1910. (Pratt, pp. 14)
Brighton, Main Street circa 1910. (Pratt, pp. 14)


The first matter of attention was bringing electricity to Brighton. In 1902, C.C Conrad constructed the first electric lighting plant, bringing lighting to Brighton (McMacken, 67). Thirteen years later, Brighton was in the process of establishing an all night lighting service. In 1915, Brighton had over 60 lights distributed throughout the village that would remain lit 24/7 (McMacken, 67). While the efforts to attract more citizens was in motion, the 1910 census showed that Brighton had recorded a loss of 14 people from the previous census.


Brighton Road Construction- 1924
Brighton Road Construction- 1924


Another effort to make Brighton more attractive was in 1912. As much as the Railroad helped bring prosperity in Brighton, so did the prospects of roads. In March of 1912, 62 taxpayers in Brighton signed a petition to bring paved roads into the town (McMacken, 67). Major highways systems began to develop across the state, including a highway connecting Detroit to Grand haven. An editor for the Brighton Argus stated, “road construction meant as much to Brighton as the coming of the railroad did 45 years before.” The strong economy of Brighton, with the improvement of infrastructure put Brighton back on the road to growth.


Brighton- Main Street. Late 1920s
Brighton- Main Street. Late 1920s


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