Arthur Silliman came with his parents, brothers, and sisters from Pennsylvania in 1847, to settle in St. Joseph County. Arthur began his blacksmith trade in 1852 in Centreville, Michigan. In 1876, he had the South Main business and home constructed. In 1903, Arthur deeded the property to his daughter, Sue I. Silliman.
The property then known as “Riversbye” is located near the old Pottawatomie Indian trail that crossed the St. Joseph River at the ford. This is near the location of a 1760 Jesuit Mission that was built on a high bluff overlooking the river, by Father Allouez. Still later , in 1802, this area was witness to a battle between the Shawnee, and Federated Indian Tribes, that included, the Pottawatomie. In 1836 the McEnterfer, and Bowman families met at this location and formally named the community, "Three Rivers", for the three rivers that converge near this location, the Portage and St. Joseph to the East and the Rocky to the West.
Sue Silliman was city librarian from 1902 -1945. She served as State DAR Historian from 1918-1920. She compiled a great deal of historical information and authored "St. Joseph In Homespun", "Michigan Military Records" and "Michigan in the World War".
One month before her death in 1945, Sue Silliman deeded her home to the city of Three Rivers, which in turn sold the home to the American Legion. Many years later the home was sold to the General Telephone Company.
In 1976, General Telephone Company proposed to make a gift of the home to the Abiel Fellows Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, if funds could be raised to restore and maintain the home. In 1980 the goal was met with a donation from the Harold and Grace Upjohn Foundation. This put the fund raising efforts over the top of the goal of $30,000.
With the aid and donations of many, the Louis Conti Building and Restoration Company, of Kalamazoo, began the restoration work in October 1980. Interior painting was done by Al Caniff and wall paper by Paper Dolls. In April 1981, the deed to the house was presented to the Abiel Fellows DAR Chapter.
Brian Robertson directed the restoration of the forge and Blacksmith shop. Arthur Silliman's anvil can be seen in the shop.
As one enters the kitchen from the porch, note the high door frame, the Silliman family were tall! This first floor includes many furnishings that cover the period of time that the Sillimans resided here, 1876-1945. The drop-leaf table and the high chair in the kitchen are among the original pieces belonging to the family. The cradle in Sue Silliman's bedroom is from the Wood family -1830. Other items have been donated or loaned to the home.
Before you enter the dining/study room, note the entry hall, where you will find some of our vast picture collection. The door is an original part of the house. To the right in the dining room is the "Andrews" bookcase, given to the chapter by the Edward Andrews estate. The clock, on the wall by the stairs, is a Silliman artifact. The former Fabius Grange bookcase, memorabilia, and Seed Wreath are on the wall across from the clock. To the right by the only window is the NSDAR Charter for the Abiel Fellows Chapter, and a portrait of Abiel Fellows, a Revolutionary War Soldier.
The living room is furnished in East Lake and Victorian, typical of the late 19th and early 20th century. A portrait of Arthur Silliman from the Masonic Hall, hangs above the walnut pump organ. Other hangings include an Indian watercolor by Sue Silliman and a tinted photograph of Miss Silliman when she graduated from High School.
The second bedroom has been converted to a lady's sewing room and half bath. Children’s clothing is displayed there. Vintage clothes can be seen on manikins though-out the home. The stair case came from a house on Portage Ave, built four years before the Silliman's home. The rail was redesigned by Al Caniff to fit into the building. Originally this area was a dining room.
Note at the top of the stairs the many Indian artifacts placed on loan by the Three Rivers High School. This is the "Poe Collection" gathered from the Harwood/Corey Lake area west of Three Rivers.
The second floor houses many donated and loaned items, and is a museum and research area. Note the floor loom on the west wall, and the early 19th century chairs from a covered wagon. The center of the room has a handmade braided rug and the leather and wood furniture was made in Mendon at the turn of the century. Housed at the south end is the Willa Warner dining room suite and our re-search center. Files, books, pictures, chapter and genealogical records, etc. are all in this area.
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The Bishops, Frenches, Rhodes, Winnes, Van Deraas, Langworthys, Wickmans, Sturgis, Warners, Mortons, Sissons, and Crockers have made donations or loans.
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Restoration and maintenance work continues. Support and donations from "Friends of the Museum", state and local grants, and monies raised by the Abiel Fellows Chapter NSDAR, keep the Historic Silliman Home and Blacksmith Shop open.
The Museum is owned and operated by the Abiel Fellows NSDAR of Three Rivers Michigan.