In 1864, George Munro sold his house to his neighbor for $2,500, then bought it back for $500. Mitchell Research Center | Courtesy

When a house changes hands twice in one day, some­thing may be amiss.

That’s exactly what hap­pened when George Munro sold his Jonesville, Michigan house to his across-the-street neighbor Ebenezer Grosvenor for $2,500 on Oct. 1, 1864. Only hours later, Grosvenor sold the house back to Munro for $500.

Neither Grosvenor nor Munro’s descen­dants know enough about their ancestors’ history to explain the trans­action, but Lori Ven­turini — one of the current owners of the Munro House, which is now a bed and breakfast — has her own theory.

“He didn’t get tired of the house,” she said. “You don’t make that kind of sale unless it’s for some­thing under­handed.”

According to Ven­turini, Munro made the deal with Grosvenor for political reasons. Because of the Civil War, 1864 was a con­tentious election year, and as a Repub­lican, Grosvenor was deeply invested in the war effort. Part of the 4th Michigan Reg­iment was even nick­named “The Grosvenor Guard” in his honor. In addition, Grosvenor was running for Michigan Lieu­tenant Gov­ernor on the Henry H. Crapo ticket.

Grosvenor won the election, and Lori Ven­turini said she thinks the fact that the sale took place in October — near the election date — indi­cates political foul play between Munro and his neighbor.

“Munro sold Grosvenor the election,” she said.

Although the con­tro­versy is unprovable, Grosvenor and Munro led inter­twined lives. In addition to residing in man­sions facing each other on Maumee Street, the two were both prominent busi­nessmen in Hillsdale County, and some of the richest men in Michigan at the time.

According to records at the Mitchell Research Center, Munro opened an indus­trial mill in Litch­field, Michigan, in 1837 that became one of the most prominent pro­ducers of snow plows, or “the Michigan plow,” as it was called then.

Grosvenor opened a mill in Hillsdale and a prominent bank through which he orga­nized the rest of his business trans­ac­tions. Like Munro, he pros­pered. The Jonesville Inde­pendent records show that on May 6, 1864 — even as the Civil War deprived so many others of their goods — Grosvenor brought in “the biggest shipment ever of dry goods into Jonesville.”

While enjoying good financial fortune, both men took to pol­itics. Munro suc­cess­fully became the first village pres­ident of Jonesville in 1855, but fol­lowing an unsuc­cessful run as the Demo­c­ratic can­didate for Lieu­tenant Gov­ernor in 1858, never broke into national pol­itics in the same way as Grosvenor.

Both men, however, became high-order Freemasons. Munro rose to become Grand Master of the State and Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of the State. Grosvenor became a Master Mason.

Today, the Munro house has a copy of a photo of Munro as a Mason high priest. Co-owner of the Munro house Mike Ven­turini said he thinks both Munro’s and Grosvenor’s con­nection to the Masons increases the like­lihood that the two would be involved in shady pol­itics.

“If you wanted to get any­where in pol­itics or business back then, you had to be a Mason,” he said.

When she heard this, Lori Ven­turini smiled.

“The Masons got George further in business than pol­itics,” she said.

Although the top com­petitors in their era, little remains now of the Grosvenor and Munro rivalry except their man­sions.