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A History Mystery

Bingham Bee Smoker

I snuck back to the hives on July 30th to move some frames in the long blue hive so the bees would fill empty frames between then and our next field day on August 11th. While I was there, my friend, Dave VanAntwerp, the owner of the property appeared, doing a little brush hogging so his wife could get to the harvest of wild black berries by the beehives. We caught up on personal news since we hadn't seen each other in quite awhile, then the topic turned to this antique bee smoker and its story. I found this smoker at a local antique store. I was very excited to find it, because I knew it was manufactured by the Woodham Co. from Grand Rapids, MI, but was a "Bingham" smoker. Mr. Bingham developed this design, manufactured smokers and other beekeeping equipment and shipped them from Abronia, MI. Abronia is a ghost town, located...right where my beehives are sitting currently. Bingham eventually sold his patent to Dadant, and the modern smoker we all use today is based on this design. I have uncovered a few clues over time which have led me to wonder if possibly Bingham made and shipped his smokers from the very piece of land where my beehives now sit. Dave, who is also interested in history, did tell me that there were remains of foundations of several buildings on the site where the beehives sit. We also know from several accounts that there was a railroad depot right there, which according to history book printed by the Allegan Co. Historical Society, was know for shipping "cattle and bee smokers". The railroad grade and the bridge over the nearby creek are still there. Another interesting fact supplied by Dave, was that the Abronia post office was located on that property. Bingham shipped from that post office. According to historical accounts I have read, people could open a post office if they shipped or received a lot of packages, so basically anyone could open one. The Abronia post office was the first in Allegan Co. So, I want to know - Was Bingham's "factory" on that site? Did he start the Abronia post office? Are my bees sitting right where the modern bee smoker was developed? I have an email inquiry in to Larry Massie, a local Michigan history expert, asking for help in finding these answers. I have had contact with a descendant of one of Bingham's partners, who is also looking for an uncapping knife they developed and sold. Stay tuned, I am interested to see where this leads. When I get some answers I will write it all up. Stay tuned...

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