Sunday, October 23, 2011


Janet Hicks Ronk has seen a lot of changes in East Lansing since she grew up on South Harrison  Road.  It's hard to imagine the now-bustling thoroughfare as a one-track gravel road.

Her grandfather, Stephen Henry Hicks, and his family, originally from St. Johns, bought 160 acres of farmland on Harrison Road in 1911. They proceeded to move from their large home, 30 miles away, to East Lansing, described as "only a collection of little houses right around the corner of Harrison Road and Michigan Avenue."

The Hicks family slowly developed the land, creating the "Flower Pot" area out of their newly named Lilac Lawn Farm.

Ronk, an MSU alumna and a retired faculty emeritus, has written "A History of the Red Cedar Neighborhood in East Lansing, MI," now available in a second printing of a limited edition.

The attractively designed 72-page booklet is filled with fascinating insights and numerous family photos, including images of many early houses that were built as the development grew.

She provides detailed recollections of family members that vividly describe the challenges faced by moving by horse-drawn sleigh into rural East Lansing in the middle of winter.

At the time, Ronks' grandfather noted: "There was a little aggie school not far away with about 700 students, but no one thought much about it."

That school, then known as Michigan Agricultural College, later became Michigan State University.
The family grew and prospered, getting involved in the dairy business and creating apple cider. The Hicks family named the neighborhood streets after flowers; they were actively involved in constructing more than 60 homes in the subdivision.

The insights into the growth of the area include obscure historical tidbits, such as the fact that MSU's Brody dormitory complex originally was the location of the East Lansing dump.

You can get the book for $12.95 postpaid by writing to Books, Box 6400, East Lansing, MI 48824.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed Michigan books regularly since 1987.

This review originally appeared in the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, October 23, 2011.

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