In terms of the earliest settlers, Frederick Wilhelm Stock was a relative newcomer to Hillsdale as he did not arrive until 1869. Nevertheless, the impact of his industry and that of three generations of his family was enormous.
F.W. Stock was born in Reinsh, Prussia in 1825. Filled with the burning desire to experience the New World, he left Germany to first settle in Ohio and engage in the flour milling business. But believing that the mill in Hillsdale offered a promising business venture, Stock moved to Hillsdale and purchased the original grist mill begun by Ferris and Cook which by the 1850’s was producing 8,000 barrels of flour yearly. The hills and dales of Hillsdale also reminded Stock of his native Germany.
Stock made many improvements in the mill-deepening the mill race and completely replacing the old milling machinery with the newest available. He also acquired a new patent process whereby flour could be milled, “pure white and wholesome.” No longer did cooks have to serve black sour bread or heavy biscuits. This was advertised as “Stock’s Patent Flour.” By 1879 with a rail spur connecting the mill to the Michigan Southern track the mill was shipping freight cars loaded with flour, wheat, and oats and storing 23,000 bushels of wheat.
Even though the family sustained the loss of two young sons and two daughters, the remaining three sons were sent to MN. and VA to expand the company. The mill became the largest family owned plant east of the Mississippi. Harold Stock, grandson of F.W. Stock, finally sold the mill in 1959 after he himself had managed the business for many years. (One additional family note:-- Louise Stock, F.W.’s daughter, married Chauncey Ferris Cook, son of John Potter Cook, thus uniting two of the oldest families in Hillsdale)
F.W. Stock and his wife, Wilhelmina, were active in civic affairs in the community. For some time his power plant furnished electricity for the city; he was head of the Oak Grove Cemetery Association. Wilhelmina established an extensive park in the low land area back of their new home built in 1902 facing Broad St. Hundreds of trees and plants were placed in “Willow Park”-later dubbed “Mrs. Stock’s Park.” With its two artificial ponds stocked with goldfish, it became the pre-eminent garden and park in South Michigan. (the park is now owned and maintained by the city). Mrs. Stock was also head of the Benevolent Society for many years. The family was well known for providing for those in need in the community. Thus F.W. Stock and his descendents have contributed greatly to the financial and civic well being of the city.