Steamers Stump Readers for January Mystery

Here are two images of the Queen City No. 2 Steamer, separated by more than 200 years. Traverse City’s second Steamer is still preserved at a location near Lansing, Michigan. Where would you go to view the two steamers? Extra credit if you get both!

Sorry, readers! No one gets the accolades this month. So where can you find both of these standing relics, true testaments to the ingenuity of our historic fire fighters! The Traverse City Steamer is located at Fire Station No. 1, on West Front Street.

The Steamer in Lansing  is on display near the Michigan Millers Insurance entrance drive, on Grand River Avenue. Restoration for this steamer was completed by Paul J. Baker, Vice President, an expert in the restoration of antique automobiles. The restored pumper was first placed on display for the public to see in early 1958, according to the Michigan Millers Facebook page.

Sara T. Chase-Willson: An Early Woman Physician with Modern Ideas

by Julie Schopieray, author and avid researcher

Medicine was in her blood. The daughter of a Civil War surgeon, Sara Thomasina Chase was the first-born child of Dr. Milton Chase who settled in Otsego, Allegan County, Michigan, after the war.  Giving his children a good education after finishing her secondary schooling in Otsego, Sara entered the Ypsilanti Normal School. She graduated in 1891, then taking a position at the Traverse City High School teaching English and science. Teaching until 1896, she decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and entered medical school at the University of Michigan. After her graduation in 1900 at the age of 34, she went back to Otsego and practiced with her father. In 1906, she returned to Traverse City, taking over the office of her cousin, Dr. Oscar E. Chase, while he went back to the University of Michigan for more training. She set up office in the State Bank building where she advertised her practice. 

This 1903 article from the Traverse City Evening Record gives us a glimpse of her ambition and dedication to the practice of medicine as a woman in a man’s world.

Dr. Chase entirely disapproves the old idea, which once was quite prevalent, that a professional woman could not be a womanly woman. She is a physician of no mean ability, and has considerable skill with the needle. She is thoroughly accomplished in household science. She is very fond of outdoor exercise, being an especially fine horsewoman. Still they are outside interests to her, after all, as her heart is in her profession, and it is this that receives first and best thought. [TCER 15 May 1903]

Known to be as good a physician as her male counterparts, she was  be able to handle just about any situation. In 1908 she traveled five miles past the village of Cedar in a blizzard to tend to a patient. The Traverse City Record Eagle reported, “Dr. Sarah T. Chase has a hard trip yesterday afternoon, driving five miles beyond Cedar in the blizzard. She went to Cedar on the train and was met there by a driver. Ten miles in such a storm required nerve even in a man.” (7 Feb. 1908)

Always wanting to improve her skills, in the summer of 1909 she took a six-week break from her practice and attended a special summer school course at U. of M.

Active with the Congregational Church, she served as Sunday School teacher. She often gave lectures on children’s and women’s health at events of the Woman’s Club and Central Mother’s Club. Her lectures were about topics important to the women of Traverse City and covered subjects such as the proper feeding of children and babies and “What to do Until the Doctor Comes,” a lecture about first aid.  As chairman for the public health committee for Grand Traverse County, she often gave talks about various health topics relevant to all citizens:  “The Air We Breathe and the Value of Ventilation,” “Children’s Diseases,” “Suppression of Tuberculosis” as well as sensitive women’s health topics, such as  “Sex Hygiene,” and “The Responsibility of Girlhood to Womanhood.”  The notice for the last talk stated: “No men will be admitted to this lecture.”

Not content just to maintain her practice—or to be pigeon-holed into women’s care only—she became involved in local health-related issues that mattered to the entire community. In 1911 she was instrumental in petitioning the state to pass a bill “requiring licenses for the sale of patent and proprietary medicines by itinerant vendors.” In simple terms, the bill would require licenses for traveling elixir salesmen. She served as meat and milk inspector for the city and reported to the city on sanitary inspections of farms and slaughter houses. As part of her county responsibilities, she acted as secretary for the county Tuberculosis Society.  Dr. Chase was one of the first woman members of the Grand Traverse County Medical Society. In 1907 she accepted the position of secretary of the Society when her associate, Dr. Myrtelle M. Canavan, left for Boston after her husband’s death. She was also a member of the Michigan State Medical Society and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.).

Tuberculosis hit Traverse City hard in 1915.  Dr. Chase worked tirelessly as head of the board of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society, a group she helped found.  That organization aimed to improve health conditions by working with others in the medical field and offering free clinics in the city to educate the public about the dreaded disease. She used experimental treatments, publishing her positive results in the American Journal of Clinical Medicine.

In 1920 she accepted a job at the Kalamazoo State Hospital as assistant physician, where she worked until 1922, moving to Port Huron and taking the position of “Great Medical Examiner of the Ladies of the Maccabees”, a post she held for the next seven years.  She assisted with Maccabees clinics for children and was on the board of the Anti-TB Association.

While in Port Huron, she was reacquainted with Harlow Willson, whom she likely knew as a young girl in Otsego. He had been living in Boyne City with his wife Maybell and their children, working as a postman. After the two were divorced in 1924, Dr. Chase and Harlow were married in May, 1926.

A progressive woman, she did not give up her maiden name, instead preferring to use a hyphenated name: Dr. Sarah T. Chase-Willson. They were both sixty years old at the time of their marriage– her first and his second.  After their marriage, Harlow and his mother ran Willson’s Garden shop on River Road, while Sara worked for the Ladies of the Maccabees.

During her years in Port Huron, Dr. Chase was actively involved in the Ladies Library Association, fought for child labor laws, and served as an active member of the Ottawawa Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R).  She was a committed member of the Theosophical Society, and, as an expert in that movement, gave speeches on the history of Theosophy. In 1929 she resigned from her position with the Maccabees, but remained active in medical causes.

Around 1941 she and her husband moved to Boyne City where they opened another garden shop and florist business. In 1946 Dr. Chase fell in their home and broke her hip, but fully recovered and continued her volunteer work.  After her husband’s death in 1950, she sold her  Boyne City home and retired to the Maccabee Home in Alma where she died three years later at the age of 87.

___________________________________________________________________

It was unusual for a town the size of Traverse City in the early 1900s to have two female physicians. Sara Chase was not the town’s first woman doctor, but she and Dr. Augusta Rosenthal-Thompson each had tirelessly worked serving the people of Traverse City. Their careers only overlapped by a few years toward the end of Dr. Rosenthal-Thompson’s time in the city, but these two pioneers of medicine– amazing women in their own ways–each had an impact in the community, paving the way by their influence and demonstrating that women could successfully work in a career dominated by men.

You can read more about Dr. Rosenthal-Thompson in the book Who We Were, What We Did,  by Richard Fidler.

Julie Schopieray is a regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal. She is currently working on a biography and architectural history of Jens C. Petersen, once a Traverse City-based architect, who made his mark on many cities in Northern Michigan and California.

Reader Lights Up the Night with a Correct Answer!

The Gamewell system of fire alarm boxes was installed in Traverse City in 1881, one of only 250 cities that had them that early.  Each box could send a message to a central dispatch board which gave the location where the the box was activated.  Currently one box remains–on exhibition–at a place readers might readily guess: Where is it?

Congratulations to Cornelia for correctly answering the Mystery Photo question for December 2016. The last fire alarm box in Traverse City resides at Fire Station No. 1 on West Front Street, beside the main pedestrian entrance. Well done, Cornelia!

We offer kudos to the Traverse City Fire Department which honors its history. Thank you all for your service!

History New and Old in January 2017

“Reliving the Women’s March” by Becky Beauchamp and March Attendees

Women’s History Project’s Souper Sunday is Sunday, February 5th
All are welcome to participate in a non-formal discussion of the Women’s March on Washington, January 2017, at the Women’s History Project’s annual Souper Sunday. Several attendees, including Becky Beauchamp, a local organizer, will be present to answer questions about their experience. Attendance is encouraged for all  those who participated and those who wished they could, and anyone who has ideas about the March, women and our place in history.


The WHP Souper Sunday is an annual event for the public, featuring camaraderie, a casual and delicious soup luncheon, and a thought-provoking program, all for a $5 donation. The event will take place on Sunday, February 5th, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the McGuire Room of the Traverse Area District Library, 610 Woodmere Avenue, and will feature our traditional hearty lunch of soup, bread and desert – catered by Centre Street Café. Reservations are requested by February 1st. Call 231 421-3343 or email sansep19@earthlink.net.

Benzie Area Historical Museum presents program on “The House of David”

Thursday, January 12, 2017, “The House of David”  by Al Bryant. The House of David, a religious commune founded by Benjamin and Mary Purnett in Benton Harbor, MI, in March 1903, had a branch in Aral, MI, a ghost town which is now part of Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore in Benzie County  They were nationally know for their baseball teams, music bands and for the fact that men and women lived separately.

Al Bryant graduated from Olivet College and Western Michigan University, and gives programs for libraries, museums, schools, clubs, churches and libraries.

Cook to address Traverse Area Historical Society on Odawa Anishinabek History

Image courtesy of the Band.

JoAnne Cook will speak about the History of the Odawa Anishinabek people from the Grand Traverse Region in the McGuire Room at Traverse Area District Library, 610 Woodmere, on Sunday, January 15th, from 1-2:30pm.

JoAnne Cook is from Peshawbestown, Michigan. In 2012 she was elected to the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa/Chippewa Tribal Council. JoAnne’s professional experience has been with Tribal Courts. She was involved in the organization of Peacemaking and Healing to Wellness Court (Drug Court) – alternative courts utilizing tradition and culture to promote healing and restorative balance for those involved. She believes tradition and culture is vital to the Anishinabe way of life and has continued with her learning of the 3 Fires people. She presents to various communities on the way of life and culture of the Odawa. In addition, she has taught a course titled Native Law and Culture.

Miss Edna Wilhelm, Carnival Queen of 1900

A mystery photograph was discovered in the depths of the local history collection at Traverse Area District Library. The image was of a young woman, finely arrayed in a crown and cape, the picture of regal. Our only clues: the photographer’s studio (E.N. Moblo of Traverse City,) and a name written in white (Edna Regina).

Who is she, and why the get-up? Researcher Julie Schopieray had to know. Fortunately, the digitized newspapers collection revealed further clues. In the November 4, 1900 edition of The Morning Record (a predecessor newspaper to the Traverse City Record-Eagle), a brief article announced to the public that “Photographer Moblo has completed an elegant photograph, 11×14, of Miss Edna Wilhelm, arrayed in the beautiful costume she wore as queen of the Carnival on the night of the third of July.”

This revelation blew the case open. Traverse City did indeed host a three-day carnival on July 3-5, 1900. It must have been a well-anticipated event, as both the steam ships and the trains ran special routes for the occasion. The Silver Brothers’ New Tent Novelty Show and Great Trained Animal Exhibition traveled north to provide entertainment to the masses. All manner of street and Caledonian games were played throughout the city, and at least two parades and “the most brilliant display of Fireworks ever seen in Northern Michigan” were sure signs that the City was out to have a good time.


Edna was crowned Queen of the Carnival at a grand reception in the City Opera House, featuring a 14-piece orchestra. From there, she and her suite rode in the “illuminated parade” through town. The parade organizers promised “some surprises… never before seen in this part of the state.” The evening culminated in a reception and ball at the City Opera House. On the 5th, Queen Edna reigned over the Traverse City Driving Park’s horse racing events from her “position of state in the grand stand.” The newspaper announced that her reign “was short but brilliant and triumphant.”

Perhaps even more thrilling than the Carnival itself was the race for the Queenship, an elected position. Such was the furor of the election, that votes were announced every half an hour, starting in the early evening and not finishing until 10 o’clock that night. Edna won by a large margin, receiving 3,423 votes. After her came Miss Minnie Rattenbury, with only 1,216 votes to her cause. Each dollar donated to offset the cost of the Carnival equaled one vote. One “anonymous” gentleman (although the newspaper identified him, based on the thickness of his voting envelope) placed $253 in Edna’s tally box, no small sum in 1900!

How was the news received? According to The Morning Record, “As soon as the result was announced there was a cheer and immediately there was a rush for the door. The band began a march and a line was formed in the street. In a few moments the crowd started for the residence of Miss Wilhelm where that lady was cordially congratulated upon the result of the contest and a serenade was given.” We can only imagine the glow on Edna’s cheeks upon seeing the throngs serenading her on her own doorstep!

The Carnival Committee was bound to prepare a fine celebration, paying attention to all the details, not the least of which was Queen Edna’s apparel. The “regal robes and crown” were acquired at once, and the Committee was quoted on the matter, stating “it is a foregone conclusion that the magnificence of her apparel will excel anything ever seen in this city.” By the photograph that remains, we agree with the Committee: fine attire for a fine lady.

Edna was a woman with moxie, it seems. In addition to performing her duties as queen admirably, she was the chief operator for Citizens Telephone, and she once saved the books of that business from going up in flames in a 1901 fire. She was the daughter of Frank and Anna Wilhelm, and sister to Gilbert and Blanche Violet.

 

When Toboggans Were King: A Short History of the Sport in Traverse City

The whole town was excited–on New Years Day the toboggan slide would open.  For weeks townspeople had watched the gigantic structure emerge above the tree line near the intersection of Franklin and Webster streets.  The Toboggan Club of Traverse City had created the tower and supervised its operations.  Two smaller runs—for the young or the faint of heart—extended from a hill nearby, probably located where two residences now stand at the corner of Webster and Railroad streets.

Article on the Toboggan Club of Traverse City, from the "Grand Traverse Herald," December 23, 1886.
Article on the Toboggan Club of Traverse City, from the “Grand Traverse Herald,” December 23, 1886.

With a board of directors of distinguished citizens—long-time resident S.E. Wait, storeowner James W. Milliken, Julius Hannah, son of the town founder, among them—the Club laid out simple rules to be followed by all participants.  Each person would receive a badge for the season at a cost of ten cents.  Participants would have to be thirteen years old to ride the steep slide and ten to ride the lesser one.  Those that created nuisance would be removed from the site.  The tone of the advertisements published in the Grand Traverse Herald as well as the price of a badge suggest the project was a civic undertaking not intended to generate a profit.

The slide was truly magnificent.  Estimated to stand sixty feet high, the chute would send riders all the way to frozen Boardman Lake, crossing a dirt road soon to become Eighth Street along the way.  A visitor to town in 1887 remarked in his diary how the toboggan tower stood above the city, serving as an observation deck in warm months from which one could see the Bay, the Boardman Lake, downtown, and the newly built Northern Michigan Asylum.  The Herald spoke with pride about it, “The toboggan slide is all ready for business.  It is probably the best slide in the state.  Should provide lots of winter fun for our young people.”

The “best slide in the state” offered a thrilling ride.  The chute was packed with snow and then watered down to make ice, a surface that shot riders down the steepest part of the slide in seconds.  Screams accompanied the descent and continued for the quarter mile the toboggan coasted.  It was not a ride for the faint of heart.

The boast about the slide being the best in the state suggests toboggan slides were popular in Michigan at this time.  Indeed they were popular, not only in our state, but across the nation.  N-Gram Viewer, a website that examines word usage from 1800 to the present, shows the rapid rise in the use of the word “toboggan” beginning in 1880.  It reached a peak in the later nineteen century, only to rise again in the 1920’s, since dropping off.  Toboggans were a fad that rose rapidly, only to subside after a few years, and then to revive after a thirty-year hiatus.

In the 1880’s the “toboggan suit” became a necessity for young active women to wear on the toboggan runs.  It was described in the Ladies Home Journal as a garment with a removable hood, very warm, loose-fitting so that it can be worn over a wool dress.  It allowed the arms to move freely, containing “nothing to hurt,” even if the wearer does get “left” in a snow bank.  Presumably men’s clothing stores carried toboggan suits, too.

Sadly, the toboggan run lasted only one winter season, 1887.  The May 5th, 1887 edition of the Herald tells the story:

Toboggan Slide Blown Down.  This is unfortunate as it would have provided a fine outlook for the town during the summer months…The girls in town are all mourning over the destruction of the toboggan slide.  One by one they bring out their jaunty suits and, looking sadly upon them, wonder what in the world they can use them for now.  It is too bad a pretty girl—and our girls are all pretty—in a toboggan suit is as fair an object the world of handsome women can show.  But, sic transit gloria mundi—and it was a blue Monday too for the dear creatures.  The Herald sympathizes with them from its inmost soul.

It wasn’t just Traverse City that saw an abrupt end to its toboggan slide.  The fad evaporated all over the country at about the same time.  In 1886 the Chicago Tribune quoted a New York newspaper that remarked upon the rage of tobogganing, but only three years later, reports from many locations indicate the toboggan chutes had disappeared.  Some attributed their demise to a fatal accident of a celebrity in Vermont in the winter of 1887.  It is not hard to imagine injury and death resulting from plunges from a sixty-foot tower.

One unexpected injury occurred in Traverse City’s slide.  W.D. C. Germaine, a colorful personality and future mayor of Traverse City, decided to impress the ladies with a daredevil exploit: he would ride the chute on a coal shovel.  And that he did, forgetting that friction between the shovel and the slide generates a great deal of heat.  At the end of the run, it is said he had two great blisters on his behind.

Picture of the toboggan run at the Traverse City Golf and Country Club was taken in the 1920s near the 16th green of the golf course. From the Bensley Collection, Traverse Area District Library.
Picture of the toboggan run at the Traverse City Golf and Country Club was taken in the 1920s near the 16th green of the golf course. From the Bensley Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

Though the toboggan towers disappeared in many towns before the end of the 1880’s, tobogganing as a sport continued for decades afterwards.  In 1924 plans were made for a toboggan trail that would run down Boughey Hill (the hill where the Country Club is located), joining Pine Street until it reached 14th.  Facing opposition from that neighborhood, the Kiwanis Club constructed a another run on the Country Club golf course that descended south from the tallest hill, crossing a seldom-used Cass Street, and ending up at Boot Lake, a pond between that road and Boardman Lake.  It was said to give “a thrilling ride for 400 yards.”  Apparently, the threat of traffic on the road was not enough to discourage those wanting the speed and excitement of toboggan fun.

At this time sleds and jumpers were as common as toboggans.  “Flexible Flyers” made it possible for riders to steer the sled with feet or hands when descending a slope.  Used in limited places in the country–the Traverse area among them–jumpers were often made from a single wooden ski.  A wooden seat was mounted on it from which the rider would (attempt) to guide the vehicle with his/her feet.  The contraption was not stable and often pitched its rider into the snow: Riding a jumper was not a sport for those afraid of injury.

In more recent times, Boughey Hill was the place for sledding, the course proceeding through the woods, challenging sledders to avoid colliding with trees.  As newly constructed homes interfered with that route, an open area had to be found, but there was scant space within the city proper.  As always, the wide expanse of the Country Club golf course was the place young children gathered for winter fun but no thrilling toboggan runs were set up.  The hills and valleys close to the clubhouse provided enough thrills for families.

Times change and toboggans give way to skis and ski boards—at least for teens.  That is what happened in Traverse City in the second half of the twentieth century.  Hickory Hills to the west and Holiday to the east presented marvelous slopes with lifts, warming houses, instruction, and a panache that made those places fine hang-outs for the young.  High schools offered skiing as a recognized sport, heightening interest still further.  The thrills of a sixty-foot toboggan run of the 1880’s were duplicated by a fast run down a ski slope in the 2000’s.  Then as now, the young will find a way to enjoy the winters of Northern Michigan.

Richard Fidler is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.

Two Books Cast Light on an Unexplained Murder on Old Mission Peninsula

 

“Scene where Julia Curtis Was Killed, April 29th, 1895.” Image courtesy of the S.E. Wait Glass Plate Negative Collection, Traverse Area District Library. This image was taken by an unknown photographer, and we are unsure of its relation to the murder case.

In 1895, Woodruff Parmelee, the son of a prominent Old Mission Peninsula fruit farmer, was convicted of murdering Julia Curtis, his pregnant mistress. His son supported his alibi that he was clearing a new road toward West Bay while Julia’s body was found in the hemlock swamp across from East Bay. Yet Parmelee was still convicted and sentenced to life in prison at Jackson State Penitentiary.  Parmelee was in his 40s, twice Julia’s age, already twice married and recently divorced from his second wife. His checkered history no doubt influenced the jury that convicted him. That story forms the basis of Murder on Old Mission by Stephen Lewis, an Old Mission resident who is re-issuing the novel in January through Mission Point Press. (Originally covered in the December 2015 issue of Grand Traverse Journal).

Lewis is simultaneously publishing a follow-up novel, Murder Undone, in which he reveals this startling fact: In spite of the sensational nature of the crime, Parmelee was released from prison in 1915 after the direct intervention of then Governor Woodbridge Ferris (after whom the state university is named).   Although no new evidence had emerged to determine exactly how Julia died, this sequel provides a fictional answer to the puzzling intervention of the governor 20 years after Parmelee’s conviction. Murder Undone tells this story largely from the perspective of the same son who testified at the trial. Lewis also writes a dramatic parallel plot line of the copper mining strike culminating in the Italian Hall Tragedy in 1913, when 70 people, mostly children, were trampled to death in the panic caused by a false cry of fire at a Christmas party for the striking miners.  The governor was involved in both the strike and Parmelee’s pardon, his oversight tying the two plot actions together.

Both books, a reissue of Murder On Old Mission and the publication of Murder Undone, are coming out in January through Mission Point Press. The books are available locally and online at Amazon.com.

Born and raised in Brooklyn and Professor of English Emeritus at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island, New York, Stephen Lewis now lives on Old Mission Peninsula not far from a local, private cemetery where the Parmelees, except for Woodruff, are buried.  He is married to award-winning short story writer Carolyn Johnson Lewis, whose father, local historian Walter Johnson, first introduced him to the Parmelee/Curtis case.  Lewis’s previous novels were historical mysteries, so this case was a natural fit for him.   He can be reached at 231-631-4727 or stevelew@charter.net.

Traverse City’s “Queen City No. 2 Steamer”: Then and Now

Here are two images of the Queen City No. 2 Steamer, separated by more than 200 years. Traverse City’s second Steamer is still preserved at a location near Lansing, Michigan. Where would you go to view the two steamers? Extra credit if you get both!

Image from the “Grand Traverse Herald,” 1895.
Image courtesy of the author… this is somewhere in Traverse City.

December Events for History Lovers

Benzie Audubon Club Leads Waterfowl Search, Christmas Bird Count

Join our friends at the Benzie Audubon Club and get outside! On Saturday, December 10, at 9:30 a.m., Carl Freeman will be leading the group in search of  waterfowl on Lower Herring Lake. Meet at the Lower Herring Lake public access. Contact Carl Freeman (231-352-4739) with questions.

Red-necked Grebe with chicks. By Lukasz Lukasik (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons. [Editor's note: Grebes are not found in Michigan. We just loved this photo.]
Red-necked Grebe with chicks.
By Lukasz Lukasik (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons. [Editor’s note: Grebes are not found in Michigan. We just loved this photo.]
Then on Sunday, December 18 at 8:00 a.m., the annual Christmas Bird Count is on! Readers will recall that one of our regular contributors covered this event last year. For Benzie County Residents: Contact Carl Freeman (231-352-4739) to sign up with a group to count birds in a defined territory or John Ester (231-325-2445) to count birds at your feeder (and yard) at home. At the end of the birding day come together for a potluck supper at the Benzonia Township Hall to share birding stories and tally our results.

For Antrim County Christmas Bird Count on December 14, contact Coordinator John Kreag (231) 264-8969 or cell (231) 360-0943

For Grand Traverse County Christmas Bird Count on December 17, contact Coordinator Ed Moehle (231) 947-8821

Traverse Area Historical Society Recalls Christmases of Traverse City’s Past

401“Christmas from the Archives: Vignettes of Christmas from Traverse City’s Past,” presented by past Historical Society Archivist, Peg Siciliano.

Images of Northern Michigan winter holidays will accompany stories of Christmas happenings from Traverse City’s past. Christmas items from the historical archives will be displayed.

Join us for the program on Sunday, December 18th at 2pm., in the McGuire Room of the Traverse Area District Library on Woodmere Ave.

Old Fashioned Potluck Christmas Party & Caroling

130110141377-4
Unknown family at Christmas. From the Al Barnes Photograph Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

Old Mission Historical Society will host an “Old Fashioned Potluck Christmas Party & Caroling” at the American Legion Post, 4007 Swaney Rd., Old Mission. Doors, 5:30pm; dinner, 6pm. 231-223-7746.

“Fruit Growing from a Woman’s Standpoint”: an address to the State Horticultural Society by an Elberta Woman, 1912

Recently acquired by the Traverse Area District Library is a slim volume, the Forty-Second Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Horticultural Society of Michigan for the year 1912. The volume contains all the addresses and discussions held at the Society meeting on November 12-14, 1912, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Topics centered around fruit growing, and included caring for the young orchard, preventing frost damage, watering techniques, and more.

The following selection was an address delivered by Mrs. Edith Rose, of Elberta, Benzie County, Michigan. According to Edith, she and her husband Paul moved to Benzie County about 1890, and there started an orchard. Edith’s concerns had much less to do with the actual growing of fruit than the operation of the farm.  She does an admirable job discussing labor relations, racism, and prejudice against women. As an example of the last, Edith’s first name did not appear in the publication, and I was obliged to discover it through the Federal census, Benzie County.

Please note that the opinions expressed by Edith are her own, and not those of any staff member of Traverse Area District Library, or the editors of Grand Traverse Journal. Enjoy Fruit Growing from a Woman’s Standpoint:

“Mrs. Paul Rose, Elberta

Mr. President, Gentlemen and Ladies: Inasmuch as we are supposed to be it, I will show due respect to the gentlemen by addressing them first. When I read the program and saw that I was the only woman on the program, I wondered who the program committee had a grudge against- whether the audience or myself. You will no doubt find before I am through with what I am going to say that I am not a talker, but Mr. Rose is here, and so I will say no public talker. If I had been giving more time to speaking, you see I would have had less time for fruit growing.

Nearly 20 years ago a man and his wife, living near Benton Harbor, packed their household goods, loaded them into a car and started them up north, to Benzie county.

While they were being loaded a rain which turned into sleet came up and ruined everything, so far as varnish was concerned. A superstitious person would have take it as a sign to give up the job, but they were not superstitious so kept on with their work.

Cherry Orchard of Guy Tompkins, Grand Traverse Peninsula. From "Forty-Second Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Horticultural Society of Michigan for the Year 1912."
Cherry Orchard of Guy Tompkins, Grand Traverse Peninsula. From “Forty-Second Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Horticultural Society of Michigan for the Year 1912.”

In the car with the household goods were two horses, a cow and a calf, a very fine calf. When the engineer came to get the emigrant car, he seemed to have been out of humor (perhaps his wife had not made him a  good cup of coffee that morning for his breakfast). He struck the car so hard, it threw the car door open and the little calf fell out. The man with the car asked the conductor to wait for him to put the calf back into the car, only to be told to get in or get left.

As there was no way to let any one know of the predicament the calf was in, she wandered in the freight yards crying for her mama until the next day, when a good German woman took pity on little black bossy and put her in a barn and fed her.

Later the Railroad Co. was notified they would have to deliver said calf to her destination, which they did, giving her a ride in the express car.

Three years later, Black Bossy was a cow, and probably thinking to save the housewife any extra work, skimming milk and churning cream, she gave skim milk. Six months later all they had left of Black Bossy was a beautiful black Poled Angus robe.

When the household goods arrived up north, his wife and their little three-year-old daughter, their foreman’s wife and little daughter, started for the north woods as their friends thought.

When they reached Thompsonville they were notified there was a strike on the Ann Arbor Railroad and no one knew when there would be a train, so they went to a nearby hotel (this was 10 o’clock at night) only to be told it was full. They went back to the depot and found there would be a train in a few minutes, that would take them within four miles of their home. Thinking it would be better to be four miles than twenty as they were then, they took the train which arrived in the freight yards of So. Frankfort about midnight, where they were told there was no hotel nearer then a  mile, no bus, no telephone, everything a glare of ice, and two little girls asleep, baggage, band boxes, bird-cage and such things that go with moving.

While deciding the next move to make two jolly traveling men offered to carry the little girls, which removed the greatest trouble, and they all started for a hotel. It probably was the first real work those men ever did. for they did some puffing before getting those little girls where they could walk, but very gentlemanly, saw the comical side of the affair.

The next day was bright and pretty and the husband, thinking to get some word from his little family drove to town, to find them waiting to be taken out to their first home of 80 acres of stumps, brush, and woodland, which was the nucleus around which has been builded [sic] what is now known as the Rose Orchards. There my life work has been put in helping to make them a success.

Fruit Growing from a Woman’s Standpoint

To talk on this subject, I will have to refer to our work, as it is all I know. What we have done, all things equal, others can do. A person said to me the other day, “Every woman can’t do what you have done.” Perhaps not, but they might improve on my work. It wouldn’t be best for every woman to engage in fruit work, as there are other lines of work for us to engage in. Just now we can vote and perhaps some day, hold office [editor’s note: Perhaps Edith means within the Horticultural Society, as general election voting was not passed in Michigan in the 1912 election. The measure lost by 760 votes]. I heard Prof. French of Lansing, say, “Men do not do their work haphazard now days.” In speaking of the fruit work, he said, “They spray, prune, pick, pack and market their fruit with brains.” I believe we have brains and certainly the gentlemen think so or they wouldn’t have given us the right of elective franchise, and thereby removing from us the stigma of mental weakness and taking us from the ranks of idiots, imbeciles, Indians [sic] and criminals.

"Royal Ann cherry tree on farm of W.B. Gray on Grand Traverse Peninsula. This tree has borne 18 cases that brought in $27 in one year." From "Forty-Second Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Horticultural Society of Michigan for the Year 1912."
“Royal Ann cherry tree on farm of W.B. Gray on Grand Traverse Peninsula. This tree has borne 18 cases that brought in $27 in one year.” From “Forty-Second Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Horticultural Society of Michigan for the Year 1912.”

Fruit growing is very interesting, in fact it is fascinating. You plant the little tree, watch the buds start, then the blossoms and later the ripened fruit. How well I remember our first crop of cherries. Mr. Rose said to me one day, “Get a little pail and we will pick our crop of cherries.” There were less than four quarts of them, but we were as proud of that crop as we ever were of thousands of crates in later years. To a woman who wished to take up this work or to one who by circumstances seem compelled to do something of this kind, by being left with a little family and perhaps a few acres of land or a life insurance with which to buy a little farm, I would say by all means, plant a few trees, not too close together and between the rows of trees, plant some variety of berries that will come into bearing early and help pay the expenses of growing the trees and of the family.

It may be a little hard at times, but wouldn’t it be harder to live in town in a stuffy tenant house and take in washing or sewing and live up the insurance, besides depriving the children of the fresh air and the pleasure they would get from helping mama, until they will become a part of your work and will lend a hand to help put one of them through agricultural college and then come home fully equipped to take the care from Mother’s shoulders?

A woman can plant a row of trees just as straight as a man. There are trees in our orchard that I helped to plant 19 years ago, and they seem to grow and bear just as well as those planted by the men. A woman can spray if necessary. My experience has been that there is no part of the fruit work that a woman can not do if she will study and use good sound sense, unless it is to plow, but I think she can hire that done all right.

A wife should familiarize herself with her husband’s work so that she can direct it, at any time, during his absence, and then if she is left alone she won’t be handicapped by having her help say, “She don’t know anything about it, she won’t know whether it is done right or not.” I have never had a man or woman refuse to do the work as I told them to. Mr. Rose has been gone a great deal of the time during the growing of our orchard. At first he would dictate and I would jot down a routine of work to be followed during his absence but that has become unnecessary years ago, as we have had the same fore man for a number of years and he understands his part of the work as well as I do mine.

I have had help in the house most of the time, which has left me quite free to follow our chosen profession, Horticulture. Of late years most of my work has been in overseeing the pickers or packers. I have handled white labor in Indiana in raspberry work. I have assisted Mr. Rose in Alabama with his negro laborers, in the straw berry fields, and of course nothing but white labor on our farm up north. Some women may say, I can’t handle the laborers; perhaps a few suggestions here in regard to this part of the work might help some of the wives of these young students, to have more confidence in their ability to help their husbands in their life work. I keep my help in the house from one to three years. When I hire my house keeper I tell her just what I want her to do and what I will pay for the work and there is never any trouble over the work or wages. Always direct the work in the house or packing house.

If your help knows there is some one around to direct them, even if they understand what they are to do, they will go at their work with more interest. You can keep your help better satisfied and keep them longer, by having your work well systematized, and let them think they are expected to carry out their portion. A worker likes to know they are appreciated and a kind word is a little thing but will work wonders sometimes in accomplishing better and more satisfactory results.

We have had as many as 85 packers in the cherry work. We have never missed but one morning of being there when the seven o’clock bell rung. Don’t ever leave your help alone, they will not work as well. Mr. Rose has often said to me when I did not feel able to go to the packing house: “Can’t you bring your rocking chair and sit where they know you are and where you can dictate the work?” Be very firm and decided with the workers but don’t nag them.

In Alabama I have started to the field with 125 negroes following and joking about their little Boss, “She don’t carry a gun or club.” When Mr. Bose started his berry work in the South, the Southerner said, “You will have to carry a gun or club, for the nigger will have to be knocked down a couple of times before he will work good.” We never had any trouble, kept our help, picked our berries in better shape than some of the fields where they worked their help at the point of the gun. We loaned our negroes one day to an adjoining berry grower. During the day Mr. Rose and I went over to see how they were getting along. When we came near where they were picking berries they expressed a delight at seeing us and when asked how they were getting along, said : “We don’t like this boss. He carries a gun. We like you-alls better.” We assured them that the boss would not hurt them if they worked all right, and then we started back. We had only gone a half-mile when we looked back and there came every one of our negroes. We stopped and when they came up we persuaded them to go back and finish the day, but they said : “No, sah ; we will work for you-alls but we don’t work over there no more.” We saw how they felt about it so told them, “All right go back to their cabins and work for us in the morning.” Kindness, even with the negro, got our work done better than a club.

We never hire our day help for any one piece of work. Then they can not complain if they are changed from one job to another, if I need more packers, I call them from the pickers and if the foreman needs more pickers I send the packers out to help him. We have had girls work 8 and 10 years in the fruit work. They enjoy it and will plan from one year to another, what they are going to do, and have their money spent, in their minds, a year ahead. Always be interested in each worker, study them to know what part of your work they are best adapted to. You may have a person that seems a failure at one thing and may make a splendid hand at something else. Our foreman brought a man from the orchard to me at the packing house and said: “Can you use him here, I can’t use him in the orchard. I set him to nailing packages, and he did fine work the rest of the season.

Just a word to the woman that has some money to invest and contemplates launching out in fruit-work. Be careful in selecting a location, if possible get near enough some town or shipping point where you can easily market your fruit and where you can get help to pick it, and don’t plant too extensively until you are sure you can handle the business, and don’t expect to have time to read stories, papers, call on your neighbors or embroider during the summer months. I heard a joke on a man who bought some land in Florida, unsight and unseen. After the bargain was all made and the price paid he thought he would go and see his new farm. The land shark took him out in a boat and after paddling around awhile said : “Your farm is under here ; when you get it drained it will be all right.” Don’t buy land unsight and unseen. Let the men do that. We women may be easy but there are others.”

The entirety of this work is available online for download: https://books.google.com/books?id=1dpJAAAAYAAJ

Amy Barritt is  co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.