Author Post: The Hidden History of St. Joseph County Michigan

The Lamb Knit Mill (Photo Credit: Kelly Pucci)
The Lamb Knit Mill (Photo Credit: Kelly Pucci)

By: Kelly Pucci, author of The Hidden History of St. Joseph County, Michigan

You know that thing, when you hear about something for the first time, or you haven’t heard about something for a long time, then out of nowhere you hear about it again and again and again?

I can never remember the name of the phenomenon, so I googled it. It’s called frequency illusion or The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon keeps recurring here in St. Joseph County, Michigan regarding an old factory. Granted the old Lamb Knit Mill is visible to anyone driving down Michigan Highway 86; but most folks don’t think about it much.

Yet I keep running into information about The Lamb Knit Mill in the oddest places. I searched for “David Letterman” without the quotes and up popped images of vintage Lamb Knit Mill lettermen sweaters. I drooled over a freshly baked pumpkin pie and the home cook remembered that I wrote about pumpkin flour that used to be processed in a factory near The Lamb Knit Mill. I admired the tiny stiches in a vintage granny quilt and the owner told me her grandmother learned her craft as a young woman sewing gloves at The Lamb Knit Mill.

A google search for Lamb Knit will result in over 3,000 hits. So, if you don’t have time to slog through the various lawsuits and statistics compiled by government agencies, here are a few interesting tidbits about The Lamb Knit Mill.

Look at a photo of The Lamb Knit Mill on page 28 of “The Hidden History of St. Joseph County; you’ll notice an addition adjacent to the original building. The taller structure wasn’t built for the factory, but as a school of higher education. In 1858, a group of Colon’s leading citizens, whose descendants still live in Colon, established the Colon Seminary, a sort of “farm team” for Michigan’s teachers. By 1865 the school included “a commodious music room,”, according to the annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Michigan.

The addition is where seamstresses sewed woolen gloves, hats, mittens and bathing suits – yes, wool bathing suits– and of course, letterman sweaters for the upper crust.

Although Colon farmers sheared local lambs for wool consumed by The Lamb Knit Mill, the word “lamb” in the company name doesn’t refer to those animal, but to Isaac W. Lamb, inventor of a knitting machine that bears his name. Of course, executives of other companies churning out woolen goods thought they had the right to use the word “lamb”, but federal courts ruled in favor of Colon. Joe Ganger, an historian devoted to the history of Colon, Michigan; has written widely about the lawsuit.

During the cold war, 750,000 volunteers joined President Harry Truman in what would later be known as “Operation Skywatch.” These dedicated Americans took shifts at lookout stations around the country scanning the sky for the enemy.

The Lamb Knit Mill executive encouraged workers to observe the skies from the factory water tower. Whether or not the night shift slept, or conducted illicit affairs, while on duty is still in dispute. But many folks found time to carve their initials on the walls.

A few years ago the Southern Michigan Paranormals found evidence of a ghost named Chris. When asked if he wanted the group to stay in the Lamb Knit Mill, Chris replied, “NO!”

The story of The Lamb Knit Mill continues as local historians try to save the building from demolition.