History of George Blass presented by his grandchildren
BALDWIN — George Blass, known as Blass the Land Man, was instrumental in development of Lake County. During the Lake County Historical Society last Wednesday evening, his granddaughters Beth Ann Blass-Murphy and Barbara Blass-Frisbey shared about his life to a full crowd.
The presentation included viewing numerous old photographs and newspaper clippings and sharing memories and anecdotes.
Blass was born in 1863 in Libson, Kent County and died on April 20, 1934 from a stroke.
He was influential in Lake County as mayor of Baldwin and head of the Democratic County Committee, according to his obituary in the Lake County Star, where he was referred to as one of the best known figures in the life of Baldwin and Western Michigan.
“Mr. Blass was widely known both through his association as a baseball player over a decade or more and as a manager of several hotels in Western Michigan, but also as a keen businessman who put pep and urge into any community of which he was a part,” his obituary read.
He became connected with Baldwin in 1905, after his Atlantic Hotel burned at White Cloud and he took over the Pacific Hotel in Baldwin. He inscribed his stationary with the line, “All the hotels between the Atlantic and Pacific.”
He rebuilt the Atlantic in 1913 and ran it until his retirement in 1915 to engage in real estate business.
He was instrumental in developing the Chase Pickle Station which employed many laborers and farmers in the Chase area for decades. He also was connected in the development of Idlewild, according to his obituary with Blass Park and Blass Five-Acre lots.
“In Baldwin he backed the Sand Fair when the lamented David Miller passed away, and produced some of the best fairs in Lake County and in the late years,” according to his obituary. “He was an inveterate booster and his genial ways helped put over many things that would have been impossible to others. He bought out the W.C. Giverson store in Baldwin and ‘bought and sold’ everything until it was destroyed by fire.
“An enthusiastic baseball fan, he was a familiar figure at every game. In his youth and early manhood, he was behind the bat for many pitchers of more than local fame. It was one of his favorite tricks to squat on his haunches, apparently return the ball to the pitcher, and without looking in that direction, zip the ball down to first base to catch a runner napping.”
Blass-Murphy shared how her grandfather grew his hair out after a partial stroke in his older age — saying many tales were told about his hair. Being a staunch Democrat, it was said after Woodrow Wilson’s administration, he would not cut his hair until a Democratic president again sat in the White House. After 1933, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt entered office, Blass still did not cut his hair. It was then thought Blass had been told so long as he didn’t cut it, he would not have another stroke.
Blass helped shape Lake County, and a number of his decedents continued to be an influence in the area to this day.