Club History

Mt. Pleasant, Michigan in 1925 was primarily a small mid-state agricultural town with a small four-year state college at one end of it. The population was 5,000 and there was no oil-gas industry, no airport, no radio station, no community hospital, few paved streets, no automotive parts factory, no super markets, no municipal building and no service club. It was the year before Henry Ford built his last “Model-T”.

A few years later club charter member, Harry Gover looked back to 1925 and described the Mt. Pleasant situation and the need for Rotary as follows: "To understand how badly Rotary was needed here you must recall the community had just had a most severe financial blow. Following WWI, a truck factory was built and financed locally. Throughout the promotion and building the enthusiasm was at a white heat. Local monies from savings accounts, promissory notes, war bonds and old stocks were invested in the common stock with visions of golden returns –alas, the vision was only a dream, a dream which collapsed. The community was in the doldrums in 1925. However, another vision emerged, the vision of Rotary and what it could do through fellowship and understanding.”

Joseph Schnitzler was a local attorney who was a triple amputee, having lost both legs and one arm to osteomyelitis. Joe was prominent in civic affairs, including being Director of the Catholic Church Men’s Choir. This was the only male Catholic choir in the state outside of a seminary. He remained in that role more than 33 years. Joe also became a President of the Michigan Elks Association. He had visited Rotary Clubs in Midland, Saginaw, Bay City, and elsewhere and became convinced that such a club would be ideal for Mt. Pleasant. After talking with other members in the community an application was made for a charter. Rotary International responded by appointing Midland as the sponsoring club. James McCabe of Bay City was of particular assistance in the information of the club and was present at its first meeting. To Joseph Schnitzler must go credit for the existence of the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club.

April 27, 1925 - The first meeting of the MP Rotary Club was held at the Park Hotel with all 24 charter members of the club in attendance. Fifty-eight members from the Midland, and Bay City Clubs were present. Several gave short speeches including, Laurence “Budd” Lee, from the Midland Club, who later in 1947, became a prominent member of the MP Club. Also from Midland were Gil Currie, Ralph Hyde, Herb Dow, Frank Thompson, and Clarence Macomber. From Bay City were Charles Clark, Sam Ball, Jim McCabe, William Tomlinson, John Ross, and William Cressey. Following this organizational meeting the club was officially admitted into Rotary International on May 6, 1925.

The first regular meeting took place on May 4 in which E.C. Warriner, charter member and President of Central Michigan Normal, gave the address entitled, “The Dawn of a New Day in Mt. Pleasant on Account of Rotary.” June 1, 1925- “Charter Night” – The meeting was held in the Masonic Hall. An 18’ X 27” flag hung in a conspicuous location. The speakers table was under an arch of foreign flags. Ninety persons were in attendance; 24 from Mt. Pleasant, 24 from Big Rapids, 14 from Bay City, 19 from Midland, six from Cadillac, and three guests. Joe Schnitzler from Mt. Pleasant and James McCabe from Bay City were responsible for the program. The main speaker was Dr. Otto Ricker from Cadillac, talking on the “Fellowship of Rotary.” Brief remarks were made by five others including United States senator W.N. Ferris form Big Rapids. District Governor Elect Percy Daw from Cadillac was in attendance. Mt. Pleasant’s charter was #2027.

The initial officers of the club were Joseph Schnitzler, President, E.C. Warriner, VP, George Ganiard, Secretary, Protem; C.B. Hawkins, Secretary; and William D. Hood, Treasurer.  The club was the 62nd club in Rotary’s 18th district. At the time Rotary International consisted of 108,000 Rotarians from 2,096 clubs located in 34 countries. Between 1925-1990 the club was to be part of six Rotary districts, #18, #35, #23, #152, #220 and #631. 

The Rotary Club was the first service club organized in Mt. Pleasant and set the pattern for service clubs that would later be following by such affiliations as Kiwanis, Lions, Optimists, Civitans, and the women’s Zonta Club.

The names of the 24 charter members of the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club, were as follows: J. Schnitzler, E. Warriner, C. Hawkins, G. Ganiard, E. McCall, W. Hood, W. McCall, J. Hunt, M. Brondstetter, E. Dittmann, O. Padgett, E. Wolcott, W. Willman, J. Flanenry, G. Foland, R. Kane, C. Barnhart, H. Gover, W. Francis, E. Bonnell, E. Mitchell, F. Johnson, L. Brandell, and C. Baskerville. These gentlemen signed the organizational papers.

Also, all of the charter members were both personal friends and neighbors. The majority lived no more than a 10-15 minute stroll from each other within a residential area bounded by Bellows, Washington, and Michigan Streets and Kinney Avenue. They wire within easy walking distance from their homes to the main downtown intersection of Main St. and Broadway. The men probably had each other's telephone numbers memorized. A review of the Mt. Pleasant Chamber of Commerce in 1925-26 revealed that eight of the Chamber’s eleven Board of Directors members were Rotarians or future Rotarians- E. Warriener, F. Johnson, E. Dittman, M. Wardrop, N. Gover, E. Bixy, L. Brandell, and E. Wolcott.

On May 4, 1925 the Park Hotel was set as the noon meeting place for the Rotary Club. The hotel was the meeting place of the club until 1930 when it moved to the Presbyterian Church located at the time on Main Street. Later, on October 6, 1958 the club moved to the new Presbyterian Church on Watson Rd. 

On August 10, 1925 District Governor Percy Daw paid his official visit. During the first year the club was hosted on one occasion by the High School Home Economics Department. Other programs are listed in Chapter 10 of "The History of the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club” by historian Bill Theunissen.

Pride in the club led to good attendance, the reputedly, the programs were interesting and lively. In the early years, joint meetings were held with the Midland Club on several occasions. These meetings created a wholesome competition which assisted both clubs in maintaining interesting programs and, activities, and projects with resulting increases in memberships.

In 1926, C.B. Hawkins, the Presbyterian Minister, was elected President. Cy, as he was known to the club, was an active progressive leader who liked to sing. The result was that the Mt. Pleasant Club became known as the “singing club”. One question today would be whether the tradition has survived--? Hawkins represented the club at the Rotary International Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Also in attendance were W. McCall, F. Mitchell, and W. Hood. The total expense to the club was $40.

Cy Hawkins had combined with Schnitzler to provide the enthusiasm, interest, and industry which first inculcated the ideals and habits which have become so ital to the continued prosperity of the club. In the many years since Cy and Joe guided its first steps, the club has assumed its responsibilities for carrying out the principles of Rotary and has worked hard to hold an honored and respected reputation as a “GOOD” Rotary Club.

In the same year that the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club received its charter, 1925, Ketchikan, Alaska became Rotary International’s 2,000th club. History also records that 1925 was the first year that Rotary Clubs were started in Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, Hungary, and Portugal.

At earlier meetings Robert Benford performed on the organ, while Mary Louis Maxwell acted as the club pianist in the 1926-1927. Earlier, on December 28, 1925 Rotarian, Charles Barnhard, had presented the club with a piano as a gift.

The first major project of the club was working with crippled children. (See chapter six of the History of Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club.) In the initial year of the club’s existence the Administration Building of Central Michigan Normal School burned to the ground. The Rotary club joined with the Chamber of Commerce to successfully lobby Lansing to keep the state institution in Mt. Pleasant. The institution had been formed in 1892 with the name Central Michigan Normal School and Business Institute. When it was taken over by the state in 1896 it became known as Central Michigan Normal School. Further name changes were in 1928 to Central State Teachers College, 1941 to Central Michigan College of Education, and in 1959 to Central Michigan University.

-excerpts from “A History of the Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, 1925-1990"