Person:Edward Warren (1)

Edward Kirk Warren
m. 4 Mar 1833
  1. Charles Henry Warren1836 - 1859
  2. Frederick Parsons Warren1839 - 1875
  3. Albert Larue Warren1842 -
  4. Edward Kirk Warren1847 - 1919
m. 3 Nov 1867
  1. Charles Kirk Warren1870 - 1932
  2. Edna Maud Warren1875 - 1962
m. 17 Feb 1880
  1. Paul Chamberlain Warren1883 - 1948
  2. Lydia Warren1885 -
  3. Frederick Parsons Warren1887 - 1952
Facts and Events
Name[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] Edward Kirk Warren
Gender Male
Birth[8][9][10][11] 7 Apr 1847 Ludlow Township, Windsor County, Vermont
Marriage 3 Nov 1867 Three Oaks, Berrien County, Michiganto Sarah E. Stevens
Marriage 17 Feb 1880 Three Oaks, Berrien County, Michiganto Mary Louise Chamberlain
Death[12][13] 16 Jan 1919 Evanston, Cook County, Illinois

Edward K. Warren, founder of the Warren Featherbone Company, was born in Ludlow, Vermont, April 7, 1847. He was one of four sons of Rev. Waters and Caroline (Powers) Warren. In 1858, the family moved west to Three Oaks, Michigan, where Waters Warren was to become a pioneer in missionary work and pastor of the Congregational Church there. During his schools days in Michigan, Edward worked at various odd jobs to help make ends meet. When he completed his formal eduction at age sixteen, he found his first steady employment as a clerk in a dry-goods store owned by Henry Chamberlain. Here he worked 12 to 14 hours a day, slept on the counter at night and for his efforts received 50 cents a day. Several years later, Warren became a partner in the store and eventually purchased the business. It was as a storekeeper that Mr. Warren first recognized that a need existed in the Women's dress industry for a cheaper and more pliable stay material to replace whalebone, which was very expensive and which usually became brittle and cracked easily. He also observed that turkey quills, which were regularly discarded by poultry processors, would, if stitched and bound with thread, provide a superior, low-cost substitute for whalebone. With considerable toil, improvising, and experimentation, Mr. Warren coined the term and introduced "Featherbone" to the market in 1883. Mr. Warren, in addition to managing a growing company, gave generously of his time and fortune to the welfare of the people of Michigan and the nation. Among his gifts were vast tracts of land along the shores of Lake Michigan which now comprise Warren Dunes State Park. Today, this is the most frequently visited park in Michigan. In addition, Mr. Warren gave to the public one of the last remaining stands of virgin forest in Southern Michigan. Known as Warren's Woods and consisting of 200 acres, the area contains mammouth beech and maple trees, some of which are 125 feet tall. Today, the woodland is protected as a state park by the State of Michigan. Mr. Warren was considered one of the great churchmen of his day and devoted years of his life in supporting the World Sunday School movement. In 1904, he carried through the immense project of holding the 4th International Sunday School Convention in Jerusalem and he personally chartered an ocean liner so that over 700 U.S. delegates could attend the gathering. After a brief illness, Mr. Warren died at his home in Evanston, Illinois on January 17, 1919 . Through the term of his will, the bulk of his estate was passed to the Warren Foundation which continued Mr. Warren's philanthropic efforts. In the 1880 Census of Berrien Co, Michigan for Edward K Warren there was a boarder living with them. Her name was Melissa Bartels, 22, who was born in New York; her father was born in Prussia and her mother was born in New York. Melissa's occupation was listed as a Dressmaker.

1870 Census of Three Oaks, Berrien County, Michigan, p. 447A Warren, Edward K. 22 Ret. dry goods merchant $300 0 VT

         Sarah     21   House keeper                    CT
       Frederick P.     31   Watch repairer      $1500  $500   CT

1880 Census of Three Oaks, Berrien County, Michigan, ED #20, p. 385 Warren, Edward K. 33 Dry Goods Merchant VT CT CT

           Mary L. 22  wife  Keeping House      MI   NH   OH
          Charles K.     8    son               MI   VT    CT
          Edna M.        6    dau               MI   VT    CT

1900 Census of Three Oaks, Berrien County, Michigan, ED #80, p. 247B Warren, Edward K. head April 1847 53 md 2? VT VT NH president of Featherbone Company

    Mary L.     wife     May 1856    42  md 20   3 - 3     MI   NH  OH
    Paul C.     son     Jan  1883    17          MI   VT   MI    At school
             Lydia   dau     July 1885    14          MI   VT   MI    At School
        Frederick          son    May 1887     13          MI   VT   MI    At school

Son Charles K. lives next door.

1910 Census of Evanston 6th Ward, Cook County, Illinois, ED #108, p. 255A Warren, Edward K. head 63 md 2 30 yrs VT VT CT Manufacturer, Featherbone

             Mary C.        wife    52   md 1 20 yrs   MI   NH  OH
            Frederick P.   son    22             MI   VT   MI   Bank Clerk, Bank

In 1883, Edward K. Warren patented a corset ribbed with cut up splints of turkey feathers bound in thread. He named his brainstorm featherbone and with it, was on his way to success. Started first as the Featherbone Corset Company in Three Oaks, Michigan, his rapidly expanding business moved to Kalamazoo in 1893. By 1895, the company offered 20 different styles and by 1914 grew to become the largest corset factory in the world employing over 800 workers.

Imagine this: the President of the United States makes his way to a tiny Michigan village to dedicate a war memorial. He’s greeted by a fellow who has turned turkey feathers into a world-wide industry and declared "Three oaks Against the World." Well, Edward Warren shook the hand of President McKinley in 1899 at the Three Oaks train station and heard President McKinley eloquently dedicate the Dewey Cannon Monument to the good people of Three Oaks and their contribution to the Spanish-American War. The campaign Warren waged against every other city and village in the nation, to raise the most per capita contribution for the war effort and its veterans, was yet another victory for a most incredible businessman and benefactor. But we get ahead of history.

  Three Oaks was linked to the rest of our current Harbor Country communities by the timber and bricks which were shipped to Chicago and other Great Lakes cities. And, of course, there was the railroad. The crews aboard The Central Michigan Railroad passing through the village recognized there were three oak trees which appeared to be one because of their mass and proximity. everyone on board recognized the Three Oaks, as did local residents. Want to name a town?

But, back to this Warren fellow. He had a store in town in the late 1880’s which was doing fine but not outrageously flourishing. One day he noticed a clerk fix a broken whale bone corset stay with a turkey feather quill. An industry was born at that moment. Turkey feather quills were becoming garment stays and buggy whips, as well. The Three Oaks economy was booming. the Warren Featherbone factory still stands in Three Oaks. But, we all recognize that corset stays and buggy whips had the potential of recent dot.coms.

In 1903, Edward K. Warren and his son Charles, owners of the Warren Featherbone Company (a manufacturer of women's corsets in Three Oaks, Michigan), bought the 40,000 acre YL Ranch from J. L. Clark of Tennessee (formerly part of the XIT Ranch) and more XIT acreage from the brothers W. D. and F. W. Johnson in 1907 and by 1910, the Warrens had expanded their famous Muleshoe Ranch to over 150,000 acres covering portions of Bailey, Lamb, Castro, and Parmer counties.

The headquarters for the Muleshoe Ranch was established west of the future townsite of Muleshoe. The origin of the Muleshoe name came from an old rusty muleshoe that the Warren's had found in the dirt.

The Three Oaks Township Public Library has been placed on the National Registry of Historic Places by the United States Department of Historic Places.

This building was erected in 1905 by Edward K. Warren on the site where he began his business life as a clerk for Henry Chamberlain on January 24, 1864.

Warren, a prosperous businessman who made his fortune by designing a new corset with stays made of turkey quills, loved the building that he named after himself so much that when he died in the early 1920s, he chose to be waked in the building (in the so-called Chairman's Office where his coffin was positioned in front of the large window that still looks out onto Elm Street today).

NOTE: Mr. Warren was founder and President of the Featherbone Company whose factory and offices were located in this building. Mr. Chamberlain, his father-in-law, was the founder of the Village of Three Oaks and owned and operated several merchantile businesses from this location and adjacent sites.

Edward K. Warren, of Three Oaks, was a pioneering conservationist. Long before he acquired his enormous wealth, Warren bought 300 acres of woodland in an effort to preserve a forest primeval. Wildlife abounds around the trails which meander through Warren Woods which remains undisturbed and a natural treasure. Not surprisingly, Warren Woods can be found Warren Woods Road between Three Oaks and Lakeside. Warren Dunes State Park is a 1500 acre preserve located on Red Arrow Highway between Sawyer and Bridgman. Warren bought this land at the turn of the century again with conservation as his goal. Although most in the area saw the land as worthless, Warren wanted to preserve the majestic dunes that soar to more than 240 feet. The Park has a pristine two-mile beach as well as wildflowers and mature forests. Over a million people visit Warren Dunes annually [the state’s most popular park].

In 1902, E. K. Warren of Michigan purchased 85,000 acres from the XIT Ranch and established a ranching operation in Bailey County, Texas, near the present town of Muleshoe. Warren, a successful manufacturer of corset stays and buggy whips, also owned ranches in New Mexico, Colorado, and Chihuahua, Mexico. His U Bar cattle brand used the outline of a muleshoe from which the town of Muleshoe got its name.

The following collections are housed at the Southwest collections at Texas Tech University: Warren, E. K. Photograph collection, 1913-1930 291 copy prints SWCPC 107 (A)-(B)

Consists of photographs of the Y. L. Ranch in Bailey County, Texas (1913-1930). The collection also includes a photograph of prairie sod being broken for row crops (1913). In 1902, E. K. Warren of Michigan purchased 85,000 acres from the XIT Ranch and established a ranching operation in Bailey County, Texas, near the present town of Muleshoe. Warren, a successful manufacturer of corset stays and buggy whips, also owned ranches in New Mexico, Colorado, and Chihuahua, Mexico. His U Bar cattle brand used the outline of a muleshoe from which the town of Muleshoe got its name.

Warren, Edward K. and C. Hoffman Photograph Collection, 1913 63 b/w photo prints SWCPC 460

Contains images of irrigated cropland including Kaffir corn, oats, wheat, windmills, irrigation ditches, wagon train, man with mules and plow, irrigation well, hogs, grapes, cantaloupe, tomatoes, house, row of trees. Edward K. Warren and his sons operated cattle ranches in Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico from their home base in Three Oaks, Michigan. Warren was the manufacturer of corset stays and buggy whips in Michigan.

Warren, E. K. & Charles Hoffman Photograph Collection, undated 1 b x w print SWCPC 460 E6

Image of a man with a set of fish on a line standing in front of a building. E. K. Warren founded E. K. Warren and Son, Inc. which manufactured buggy whips and corset stays. He also invested in Southwestern Land and Cattle through the influence of his son Charles K. Warren.

Warren, E.K. and Son Photograph Collection, 1913 3 b & w negatives SWCPC 749 E1

   This collection consists of an unidentified man standing in a field near a bushel of oats. The record, accumulated in the three Oaks, Michigan, office of E.K. Warren and Son, primarily pertain to the company’s ranching interests in Mexico, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. Warren, manufacturer of corset stays and buggy whips, invested in Southwestern land and cattle through the influence of his son, Charles K. Warren. Some personal correspondence of the Warren family is also included.   

The most famous Muleshoe Ranch, however, was the one that gave its name to the town of Muleshoe in Bailey County. Originally part of the vast XIT Ranch,qv the Muleshoe Ranch was begun in 1903, when Edward K. Warren and his son Charles, owners of the Warren Featherbone Company (a manufacturer of women's corsets in Three Oaks, Michigan), bought the YL Ranch, consisting of 40,000 acres, from J. L. Clark of Tennessee for $100,000. It became part of the Muleshoe Ranch, to which the Warrens added even more former XIT acreage from the brothers W. D. and F. W. Johnson in 1907, thus doubling their holdings. Within the next two years the Warrens had nearly $500,000 invested in Texas land and cattle. By 1910 subsequent purchases and leases had enlarged their empire to 150,000 acres along Blackwater Draw, covering portions of Bailey, Lamb, Castro, and Parmer counties. The headquarters for this operation was established west of the future townsite. One building, dating from the 1890s, was moved from Bovina to the headquarters and made into a combination bunkhouse and mess hall. The origin of the Muleshoe name for this enterprise is obscure; it was said that Charles Warren, as he was pondering a name, came across an old rusty muleshoe. Even so, the Warrens for the first five years referred to the ranch as the YL; the muleshoe brand was allegedly used first by the Johnson brothers on their Borden County ranch, and after buying land from them, Warren perhaps used the muleshoe brand briefly. However, after acquiring the 200,000-acre Ojitos Ranch in northern Mexico from Lord Beresford of England in 1910, he began applying that operation's U Bar brand to all of his herds; Beresford reportedly had designed that brand in 1889 as a warning to cow thieves (see CATTLE RUSTLING), meaning "You are barred." Nevertheless, the resemblance between the U Bar and muleshoe brands was close enough to perpetuate the latter name for the Warrens' Texas ranch—and ultimately for the new Bailey County seat.

The Muleshoe Ranch prospered when the Santa Fe's Clovis cutoff line was built through its property, increasing area land values and launching the town of Muleshoe at the site of the ranch's loading pens in 1913. Charles Warren thus began selling tillable real estate to incoming farmers. After the death of his father in 1919, Charles and other family members incorporated their holdings as E. K. Warren and Son, with Charles as president and chief stockholder. By then he also owned the Alamo Hueco Ranch in southwestern New Mexico, as well as the Ojitos, which was subject for a few years to frequent depredations by insurgents under such revolutionaries as Ynez Salazar and Francisco (Pancho) Villa.qv Whatever losses Warren sustained in Mexico were made up in part from the profits of the Muleshoe, which sold cattle for as much as $9.08 an animal in 1915. At one time some 10,000 head of cattle grazed the Muleshoe range. Tom Clayton managed operations there for several years, and William H. Kramer was elevated from office boy to the ranch's secretary-treasurer and unofficial manager. By 1924 the Warren corporation had reached its zenith.

After Charles Warren's death in 1932, his ranching interests were maintained and expanded by other stockholders, largely under the direction of his brother-in-law and longtime associate, George Lackey. Charles Warren's son, E. K. Warren, assumed the company's presidency in 1940, while William Kramer served as its secretary-treasurer and acting manager. In 1944 and 1945 two more ranches—in New Mexico and Colorado—were obtained. The Ojitos properties, however, were lost, as the corporation was compelled to sell out its Mexican interests in 1947 at a third of the 1910 purchase price. By 1954 the older Warren family members no longer retained a controlling interest in the company. The Muleshoe, along with the other remaining ranches, was sold, thus bringing to an end the once-vast Warren cattle empire. In the late 1980s the old Muleshoe Ranch cookhouse and bunkhouse stood near Farm Road 1760 west of Muleshoe. Surrounded by farmland, the building had been designated a historic landmark and had received a Texas Historical Commissionqv marker. Records of the Muleshoe Ranch and other Warren company interests are housed in the Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University, Lubbock.

Following taken from the Portrait and biographical record of Berrien and Cass counties,Michigan Portrait and Biographical Record, Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago, 1893

   Edward K. WARREN, President of the Warren Featherbone Company, is a native of Vermont, having been born in the village of Ludlow, Windsor County, April 7, 1847. His paternal grandfather, John WARREN, was born in Goffstown, N. H., and removed thence to Ludlow, Vt., where Water WARREN, the father of our subject, was born in 1800. The latter was married in Massachusetts to Miss Caroline, daugher of Frederick PARSONS, a farmer of Sandisfield, Mas. He was a minister in the Congregational Church, holding pastorates principally in Vermont, New York and other Eastern States.
   In the parental family there were four children, two of whom are now living, Albert L. and Edward K. The two that died were Charles H., an artist, and Frederick P., who engaged in the jewelry business and was a young man of exceptional abilities. A natural inventor, he invented a calculating engine, which is a wonderful piece of mechanism.
   The subject of this sketch was reared in Vermont, whence he accompanied his parents to Michigan in 1858, his father becoming a home missionary in this State. His education is that which is gained by experience, his schooling having been limited. In 1864 he secured a position as clerk in the employ of Henry Chamberlain in the general merchantile business, and after remaining with that gentleman for five years, he formed a partnership with J. L. McKie in the dry-goods business. Nine years were thus spent, after which Mr. WARREN again engaged in merchandising, and soon aferward bought out the stock of Henry Chamberlain and continued thus engaged for five years. He then embarked in the manufacturing business, becoming the head of the Featherbone Manufacturing Company.
   As a retail dry-goods merchant, Mr. WARREN naturally handled large quantities of whalebone, and realizing that the supply of this commodity was constantly decreasing, he often wondered what would be used when the whalebone could no longer be obtained. Noticing in the manufacture of feather dusters that a great many quills were thrown away, he conceived the idea that from this could be made a substitute for whalebone. He began experimenting in 1882, with what results the world knows. The business has increased so rapidly that it now gives steady work to a force of two hundred and twenty-five employes. The European headquarters are at Paris, France. From this brief description of the business some idea may be gained of the position now occupied by Mr. WARREN.
   The rapid development of the industry since its inception has not exceeded, indeed cannot keep pace with, the steadily increasing demand for featherbone for use in dress stays and corsets, and there is no doubt that it will eventually be employed in scores of widely diverse articles requiring a reliable, elastic material.
   Politically a Republican, Mr. WARREN has served as Supervisor of his township, but in the main has preferred to devote his attenton exclusively to the details of his business. A member of the Congregational Church, he has been especially interested in Sunday school work.

How turkey feathers changed Three Oaks' destiny

H-P Correspondent Randy Miller researched the impact of "featherbone" on the South Berrien County community of Three Oaks using "The Region of Three Oaks," published in 1939 by the E.K. Warren Foundation, and newspapers of that era including Three Oaks' former newspaper, The Acorn.

Article from the August 20, 1999 issue of The Herald-Palladium By RANDY MILLER / H-P Correspondent THREE OAKS --The year 1883 marked a turning point in the future of the community of Three Oaks.

By then it had established itself as a rural farming community and agricultural trading center.

Gone were the years of devastating malaria and influenza epidemics, which took the lives of many of its residents.

Not having any important industries, plans for expansion within the Three Oaks region were stymied.

However, an event occurred at this time which would have a profound effect on the area and change forever the future of its inhabitants.

Turkey feathers -- the bane of every farmstead cook -- would be the one thing that would change Three Oaks' destiny forever.

In June 1883, Edward K. Warren obtained patents on a new substance called "featherbone." Made from the heavy quill feathers of the turkey, featherbone would revolutionize the women's garment industry and transform Three Oaks into the center of a worldwide manufacturing conglomerate.

Whalebone, which had been used as a stiffener in dresses, had many inherent shortcomings. It became hard, brittle and had to first be encased in cloth before being sewn into the garment.

Featherbone, on the other hand, was furnished in rolls of 12 yards, in widths of one-quarter inch and up. It could be cut with a scissors to any length and sewn directly into the garment by machine or by hand.

The process for making featherbone was published in magazines and newspapers across the country in 1883 and was described as follows:

"The first thing is to strip the feathers of their plumage. Rollers, with knives attached, split the quills in half. Sandpaper rollers revolving rapidly removed the pith. Then, a series of interlocking knives reduced the quills to fiber. In this state, the material is fed into a machine that forms it into a strong fine cord; at the same time it is being wound with thread. In another machine, four of these tightly wound cords are wound together with thread, in such a manner as to form a flat tape."

George Holden of Michigan City, Ind., an associate of Warren, was a machinist by trade. Holden designed all of the special machines required to manufacture featherbone. He also served as the mechanical manager of the factory.

Almost immediately, the demand for featherbone surpassed even the expectations of Warren himself. His company, which had started with a foreman, two boys and six girls, had grown to a two-shift operation employing 75 full-time workers within a nine-month period.

Sales had grown from $47,000 the first year to $80,000 the second and to a staggering $800,000 by June 1886.

Branch factories were started in Middleville, Mich., Porter, Ind., and St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. Branch offices were opened in major cities throughout the country as well as many foreign cities, making the Warren Featherbone Company a worldwide operation.

The population of Three Oaks quickly doubled after a call went out for laborers for the factory. Many skilled tradesmen brought their families from the East to settle in the village.

There was such a shortage of housing because of the rapid growth of the factory that each home in the village was filled to capacity with people.

It looked as though Three Oaks was well on its way to becoming another major industrial center, after Detroit and Chicago, until fate stepped in -- or rather the clothing tastes of women changed.

Shortly after the turn of the century, the demand for featherbone dropped off dramatically. The newer fashions did not use stiffeners and required no featherbone.

Warren saw this change coming so his plant started manufacturing other millinery items, such as ribbon, braid and elastic.

As late as 1938, the Featherbone factory employed between 300 and 400 workers. However, as demand for Warren's products decreased, so did the workforce.

Ultimately, the plant closed down.

Most of the factory buildings are gone now but a few remain as solemn reminders of those glory days.

  1. 1870 Census of Three Oaks, Berrien County, Michigan
    p. 447A.
  2. 1880 Census of Three Oaks, Berrien County, Michigan, ED number 20
    p. 385.
  3. 1900 Census of Three Oaks, Berrien County, Michigan, ED number 80
    p. 247B.
  4. 1910 Census of Evanston 6th Ward, Cook County, Illinois, ED number 108
    p. 255A.
  5. Portrait and biographical record of Berrien and Cass counties,Michigan.
  6. Warren Genealogy manuscript.
  7. Illinois Statewide Death Index, 1916-1950.
  8. 1880 Census of Three Oaks, Berrien County, Michigan, ED number 20
    p. 385.
  9. 1900 Census of Three Oaks, Berrien County, Michigan, ED number 80
    p. 247B.
  10. Portrait and biographical record of Berrien and Cass counties,Michigan.
  11. Warren Genealogy manuscript.
  12. Warren Genealogy manuscript.
  13. Illinois Statewide Death Index, 1916-1950.