Who Was Oran Cochrane?

By Ruth Ann Cochrane


Oran was the third child born to Henry and Estella Jane (Herron) Cochrane. He was born at the family home in Wilson Township, Alpena County, Michigan on October 30, 1906. He grew up on the farm and became accustomed to farm labor. He attended the King School and was well-liked by his classmates. (My mother, Alice Standen (Dege), was in his class!) When Oran was twelve years old, his parents left their farm on Witt Road and bought and moved into his mother’s childhood home on King Settlement Road. Grandma Herron/Clark was still living there, but she was ailing and needed help. She continued to live on the farm with the young, growing Cochrane family until her death on April 17, 1919.

On August 2, 1929, Oran married Muriel Edis Rabiteau, at St. Mary’s Church in Alma, Michigan. They were married by Pastor W. J. McCann. The witnesses were Joseph Sawkins and Winifred Smillie of Alma. At the time of their marriage, they were both living in Alma. Oran was working in a garage as a mechanic. Muriel was a bookkeeper at Lobdell-Emery, a wheel factory. Muriel was born in Onaway, Michigan to Nelson and Caroline (Carrie) (Perrieau) Rabiteau on October 25, 1904. She attended school in Onaway and became a teacher. Around 1926-1927, she and her parents moved from Onaway to Alma, Michigan. The Lobdell-Emery wheel factory in which her father worked had burned down and relocated in Alma. Nelson and his family and a number of others who had worked at the factory followed it to Alma.

In the 1930 census, Oran and Muriel are shown married and living with her parents in Alma. Later, they moved to St. Louis, Michigan.

Oran and Muriel el had one child, Gloria. Gloria was born in St. Louis, Michigan on May 27, 1932. She attended school in St. Louis and graduated from high school there. Later, she married Donald Faught, and they had two children, Marianne and David. For more information on her and her family, see her story that follows. [Refers to the succeeding

Oran became a businessman and owned and operated a car dealership in St. Louis. A picture of his place of business accompanies this article. Note the cars! Oran and Muriel were active members of the St. Joseph Catholic Church in St. Louis, Michigan.

Muriel passed away January 17, 1985 at the Gratiot Community Hospital in Alma. Her funeral was held t St. Joseph Catholic Church in St. Louis. She was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in St. Louis Oran passed away July 7, 1990 at the Gratiot Community Hospital in Alma where his wife had died five years before. His funeral was held at St. Joseph Catholic Church in St. Louis. He was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery next to his wife of over fifty-five years.

Compiled by Ruth Ann Cochrane.

I sent my letter of introduction and questions to about five addresses in Michigan, after I found ‘Gloria Cochrane’ in the public records. And she answered by calling me, and then writing the following. Myra.


Dear Myra,

I’d planned to get this out to you much sooner. Physical therapy seems to be taking up much of my time. I’ve just finished with my “in-home” help and am going to a rehab center for the remainder of the torture. It is nice, though, to be able to get out more. It’s too lonesome here without my dog. I’m thinking seriously of getting another when I’m fully healed. They’re so much company.

I’ so happy that you and Carol got in touch with me. It’s nice to have family.

I hope you can read what I’m sending you. Feel free to edit or do with it as you wish.

Please keep in touch.


I have a horrible memory for dates, and, probably because of several moves, I’m no longer in possession of family documents. I can, however, relate stories my father told me about his youth. Also, I can tell you about me and my family.

My father, Oran Alvin Cochrane, was born in Wilson Township in the farmhouse of his parents, Henry and Estella Jane Cochrane. He had four siblings, Lee, Robert, Lorraine, and Donald.

Dad told of watching his father in the blacksmith shop and told what a perfectionist his father was. Nothing short of perfection was acceptable. (A trait my dad inherited.) Grandpa Cochrane was a man of few words and spoke only on subjects of great importance. Grandma made up for him in the verbal department and moved like the proverbial “streak of lightning”. The chicken was caught, its neck was wrung, and it was in the oven as soon as a car pulled into the driveway.

The family attended the Methodist Church which was within walking distance of the farm – providing you liked to walk.

In addition to Grandma’s many other charms she ran a store on her front porch. If I remember correctly, she sold kitchen staples, farm produce and maybe penny candy.

After the birth of Dad’s youngest brother, Donald, grandma became very ill with what was then called “childbed fever”, probably today known as a simple infection easily cured with antibiotics. My father was elected to care for his mother, the baby, and assume all his mother’s chores. Although the work was hard for a young boy, he took it as a learning experience and was always a good dcook. This, however, ended his formal education, a fact he always regretted. In later years, he did attend General Motors Institute in Flint.

He told a very grisly story of having his appendix removed when he was only 15. The local country doctor administered ether, which didn’t “take" but the surgery was performed anyway. Due to lack of antiseptic conditions he developed an infection and was very ill.

I believe there was a Lee Hardware in Alpena where Dad worked and then was transferred to the Lee Hardware in Onaway where he met my mother, Muriel Rabiteau.

Onaway, at that time, was a fairly prosperous town due to the Lobdell-Emery plant which made some of the first automobile parts. The plant employed many of the local men, including my grandfather, Nelson Rabiteau. My grandma Carrie was a homemaker and my mother a country school house teacher. I’m not sure of the facts, but it seems my father pursued my mother for some time.

Unfortunately, the Lobdell-Emery factory burned down and threw many men out of work. Very soon the plant was rebuilt in Alma and many families followed it there – including my mother’s.

It seems it was about this time my father was working for General Motors in Flint along with his brother, Lee. It was always Dad’s belief that the horrible factory conditions were, at least indirectly, the cause of Lee’s death.

Still in pursuit of my mother, Dad moved to Alma and went to work for the Ford garage in St. Louis. Finally, he won his lady’s hand and my parents were wed in St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Alma. My parents and grandparents moved to Delaware Street in St. Louis and it was here I was born on May 27, 1932. When I was five we moved across the street to 209 North Delaware where I spent all my childhood years.

Dad bought a Studebaker dealership in downtown St. Louis and as business prospered, he built a large garage just outside town.

I graduated from St. Louis High School in June, 1950, and went to Central Michigan University that fall. But after going only one semester, I decided it seemed more important to marry so on March 3, 1951, I married Donald Faught. On March 14, 1952, our first child, Marianne, was born, followed four years later with David’s birth on July 3, 1956.

When David was in school all day I returned to college and earned my bachelor’s degree. I took a position teaching high school English in Montague and four years later I obtained my M.A. from W.M.U. It was then I became a psychologist

My parents lived to see me get my education which delighted them, especially my father. They also got immense pleasure from their grandchildren.

I neglected to mention that we had a cottage on Black Lake by my mother’s old home town, Onaway. We spent many enjoyable summers there. Like their mother before them, my children learned to swim there.

Mother died some years before my father. When he was alone, he spent much of his time doing church work, playing cribbage with his buddies and visiting back and forth with me.

My son, David, married Carolyn Cigan and they have two sons, Sam, 16, and Will, 7. They live in Sutton’s Bay where David has a business as a CPA.

Marianne lived in Gwinn in the U.P. and works for Northern Michigan University.

So, folks, now you know everything we know! Gloria is now getting our newsletter, and has been in touch with her old childhood buddy, Carole Mains Finley. She has now met, via the telephone, another ‘cousin’, me. And God willing, she may meet the rest of us some day! Myra.

The following article is about Lobdell-Emery in Onaway. I copied it from the internet. It gives the history of the plant in Onaway, and the fire that destroyed it

Onaway Historical Museum, Onaway. Located in the majestic, historical Onaway Courthouse, the museum hosts artifacts related to the Lobdell-Emery Plant that burned on 1926. At that time "Onaway Steers the World" was the slogan for the plant which was the manufacturing site of wooden steering wheels for the American automobile industry. The courthouse has gone through a community sponsored restoration.

Onaway was settled in the 1880's as a logging community and experienced rapid growth in its early years. Onaway was incorporated as a village in 1889 and became a city in 1920. Until the Lobdell-Emery Plant burned in 1926, Onaway "Steered the World" as the manufacturing site for steering wheels for the American automobile industry.

A photo of Oran Cochrane's Steadybreaker shop in St. Louis, about fifteen miles south of Mt. Pleasant where I eventually lived for almost ten years. When it was owned by Oran the shop was far removed from my sphere of knowledge at the time as the linits of my my knowledge, even at the end high school in 1967 extended no further south than Flynn Valley south of Beaver Lake.

A photo of Don (left) and Oran Cochrane. I would guess the picture dates from the end of Cochrane motors. Studebaker folded its tent about 1965.

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