- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

BAD AXE, Mich. (AP) - Ken Murray recently decided to retire and sell his furniture store to Godwin’s after 14 years at its current location, on North Van Dyke.

About a week before that decision was made, a peculiar artifact collecting dust in the warehouse caught the eye of an employee who had been cleaning, according to the Huron Daily Tribune of Bad Axe (https://bit.ly/1qJI8Xj ).

Marla Kopah found a safe, dated March 27, 1877, stowed away in the dark corridors. Rust creeps in the cracks and up the iron sides. Fading reds, golds and greens of hand-painted artwork dull the heavy swinging door. The name “Septimus Irwin” scrolls high on the door, inscribed in all capital letters.

The distinct name rang a bell, but Murray couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

He first saw the safe 14 years ago. It’s been stored in the building, once home to the former Reimann-Snyder Furniture Store, for longer than that, he said.

It wasn’t until three weeks ago that they realized it was an important find.

That’s when Marla Kopah’s husband, Anthony, made a call to the Bad Axe Historical Society after seeing a photo of it. Local historians determined that the safe belonged to Septimus Irwin, the first settler, council member and president of Bad Axe when it was incorporated as a village in 1885.

“I thought it meant good luck,” Murray said when first seeing the founder’s name.

He was right. It was a fortune find for local historians, who estimate the safe’s value to be $7,500. Unfortunately, the safe was empty.

“I just want it to stay in Bad Axe,” Murray said. “He was a mover and shaker in the community.”

His request will be honored by the historical society.

Ken Guza, president of the Bad Axe Historical Society, shuffled through the historical museum on Tuesday, after having the safe hauled and stored inside a shed outside.

“There’s no room in the house,” Guza said.

The safe itself, he said, is too heavy, and its two-way wheels make it difficult to lug into the museum. It took Guza and another to even get the cart rolling, let alone steer and maneuver the iron box.

Guza and others plan to take photos and have them enlarged and put into a package for show. They hope to have it done for museum weekend, Sept. 27 and 28.

“This is monumental because it goes right back to the start of the village,” said David A. McDonald, neighbor to the museum and recording secretary for the Huron County Historical Society.

McDonald said the ornate names, including the italicized “Septimus Irwin,” a curvy inscription of “Lansing, Mich.” and the agent’s name, and antiquated business stamp of “Diebold Safe & Lock Co.” give the safe special value.

“Somebody did that all by hand,” McDonald said. “They really did a great deal with color.”

McDonald said the Irwin hotel was constructed in the lot that now houses Signature Bank sometime around 1877. The building burned in the Great Fire of 1881. He said the safe doesn’t show burn marks, so it was probably made in 1881 or 1882. He’s unsure of what the 1877 patent printed on the safe references. The local historians also remain in question as to how the safe ended up at the former Reimann-Snyder furniture store.

But they are sure of one thing: they will leave the safe untouched, and show it as is. Guza said it might be moved to another location in the future.

The company that made the safe is still in operation. Diebold Bahmann Safe Co. was founded in 1859. The company was renamed Diebold Safe & Lock Co. in 1876, as it appears on the safe, and was shortened later to Diebold.

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Information from: Huron Daily Tribune, https://www.michigansthumb.com

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