Joe Ganger, president of the Colon Community Historical Society, gave a talk on Lamb Knit Goods Company at a meeting of the St. Joseph County Genealogical Society on Saturday (July 13). The meeting was held at Constantine Township Library. Myrtle Tisdel presented Ganger with a gift for the Colon Museum – a Lamb Knit sweater in its original box.
Ganger presented a PowerPoint on Lamb Knit, along with some Colon history.
“Isaac Lamb invented a knitting machine that was hand cranked, for gloves, mittens, and so forth. Lamb was born in 1840 and at 19 he invented a hand cranked knitting machine. It won first prize at the 1867 Paris World’s Fair. Things began with the construction of the Colon Seminary for young women in 1858. The only acceptable vocation for a single young woman was teaching. The seminary really cranked out teachers, and it grew in popularity, so that in 1863 (during the Civil War) a new brick building was built at a cost of $9,000. There were six short chimneys, so that meant there were six stoves to feed and that means someone had to carry wood up and ashes down. The building was later rented out to the public schools until 1889 when it was sold and became the main building of Lamb Knit Goods Company. Later on a cupola was added on top to facilitate the addition of a freight elevator. It’s interesting that later during World War II the Ground Observer Corps used the cupola to track aircraft, and in the 1950’s Operation Skywatch used it,” Ganger said.
Lamb Knit officially closed its doors in 1971.
A former owner, Hal Shoop, took Ganger for a tour several years ago. Schoop bought the building in 1974.
“There are still indications of what was there. There was a carding machine in the basement. They spun yarn on the floor above, wound it on bobbins. There was row upon row of knitting machines, with a power belt on a shaft above. The shaft was turned by an electric motor. With oil soaked wooden floors, and lots of lint, it could be a real tinder box if it caught fire, so there was a watering hose system. They also needed a humidifying system, to eliminate static cling in the wool. There are 150-year-old cast iron treads on the stairs. Since Colon got its first railroad in 1871 these must have been shipped overland,” Ganger said. He added the building is now Woodcrafter’s Furniture and Appliance Store.
“It remains a landmark for Colon, right up there with its magic,” he said.
Source: Story and photos contributed by Angie Birdsall, building photo courtesy of Colon Community Historical Society.