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Investigating an Urban Legend: The origin of twin brick houses on Seventh Street

By Julie Schopieray

Have you ever noticed the “twin” brick residences on the corner of Division and W. 7th St. and wondered about their history?   It’s obvious that they are constructed of Markham bricks, the same material as the Northern Michigan Asylum (later known as the Traverse City State Hospital). With their proximity to that building, it makes sense that there might be a connection.

Brick house at 704 Seventh Street, on the northwest corner of Division and Seventh Streets. Image courtesy of Amy Barritt, April 2017.

One story told about the origin of these houses goes something like this:  During the earliest years of construction, there was a tramway built to haul the millions of bricks from the Markham brick yard north of Greilickville to the Asylum construction site. The tale continued that the tramway ran down Division, then made a sharp turn to the right down 7th Street, finally reaching the Asylum.  At the point the tram veered, it was said, bricks often fell off the flat cars on the curve, but, since they were not to be used at the Asylum, simply remained there. The “Markham brothers” later built their twin houses on the site using those dumped bricks.

Detail on window of brick house at northwest corner of Division and Seventh Streets. Image courtesy of Amy Barritt, April 2017.

After hearing this tale, some fact-checking was needed.  City directories, census records and newspaper articles were searched, and it was confirmed that there were no Markham “brothers” in Traverse City. James Markham, the owner of the brick-making business, lived near the brickyard west of town. Though very little is written about the tramway, it highly unlikely that it traveled down Division St. as that route would have been out of the way.  Besides, the old Boardman millpond still covered the land where Division St. would later be, that pond existing as late as 1883.  No documentation has been found that describes the actual route of the mule-powered track, but a route following the flat land along the Bay, then turning south down Elmwood St. to the construction site is more direct, and seems more likely than the supposed Division Street pathway.

Detail on window of brick house at 703 Seventh Street, on the southwest corner of Division and Seventh Streets. Image courtesy of Amy Barritt, April 2017.

The 7th Street houses do have a connection to the Asylum. They were constructed by two men who were master brick masons employed at the Asylum as early as 1884, John Bilsky and John Sivek, both Polish/German immigrants. The common denominator in this story seems to be a man named Christian H. Petersen. Petersen was a master brick mason who, in 1880 was living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When the Northern Michigan Asylum was being planned, a call went out in the region for skilled masons and in 1884, he moved his family to Traverse City and went to work.

The 1884 village directory shows C.H. Petersen head of a boarding house for masons and carpenters.  Among the men listed in this residence is mason John Bilsky, who also had resided in Milwaukee.  It can be assumed that John Sivek came from there as well (the pages with the names starting with S are not yet transcribed). His obituary states that he too, lived in Milwaukee prior to coming to Traverse City, where he was employed at the Asylum. These three men likely knew each other in Milwaukee and all took the opportunity for long-term employment.

Brick house at 703 Seventh Street, on the southwest corner of Division and Seventh Streets. Image courtesy of Amy Barritt, April 2017.

Bilsky and Sivek must have been good friends. Each had immigrated in the early 1880s, and their common heritage, language and skills as masons tied them together. They were in the local mason’s union as early as 1900, when, that year, they refused to walk in the muddy street during a Labor Day parade and were fined by the labor union for not participating. Their twin houses were constructed some time between 1889 and1894, the reasoning being that Christian Petersen’s 1889 Elmwood Avenue residence (309 S. Elmwood) was said to be the first brick home in the city: the two homes must have been built after that. The 1894 City Directory shows Bilsky & Sivek at 703 and 704 Seventh St., with subsequent sources such as the 1900–1930 census records and directories showing these men living at those locations. Both had sons who  took possession of their respective family homes after their fathers passed away.  John Sivek died in 1932, his son Thomas, also a brick mason, remaining at 703 W. 7th until his death in 1966.  John Bilsky’s son John Jr., another second generation brick mason, lived in his house at 704 W. 7th until he died in 1956.

The real story of the twin houses isn’t as entertaining as the “Markham brothers” tale but these lovely brick homes still standing after 125 years is testament to the brick-laying skills of these two men.

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.

Aquaculture, Properly Implemented, Improves Public Water Use for All

by S.A. McFerran, B.A. Environmental Studies, Antioch University

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette recently weighed in on aquaculture. His opinion is that aquaculture would subordinate public uses of open waters in favor of private control. 

The open waters of Lake Michigan have been used for commercial purposes in the past and are currently used for commercial purposes. Aquaculture is a commercial use, as are marinas and trap nets already in common usage by commercial fishermen. Trap nets are set in the Spring and often remain on the lake bottom until fall. They are checked regularly and the fish are sorted and the nets returned to the lake bottom. A net pen for aquaculture is similar and like a trap net would not interfere with public use of open waters. With proper siting, scale and monitoring, pollution is minimal. (1)

What tools do the architects of an ecosystem have? Add species, subtract species (as with the sea lamprey), improve habitat and change goals. Fishery departments know a lot about the limnology of the lakes. Using that knowledge, places favorable to aquaculture could be identified. Limited operation could be allowed in those places. 

A worthy goal is the local production of fish by Michigan citizens in Michigan waters. Just as enthusiastic farmers sell vegetables at local markets, small aquaculture operations could offer fresh local fish at market. Large corporate fish operations should not be the goal. The goal is a citizen-led entrepreneurial process that allows aquaculture on a local basis. 

If government is making a determination on how many fish can be raised in the Great Lakes, it would be informative to know what the historic population of fish was. It is clear to anyone reading historic accounts of fishing in the Great Lakes that the population of fish was, in the past, much greater than it is now. In 1872, 39 million pounds of fish was taken. The total fish population was more than twice the present populations. (2) That alone puts to rest the argument against the resiliency of the Lakes. 

Additionally, other technical problems of aquaculture can be solved in Michigan as they are being solved in the rest of the world. (3) The State of Michigan has learned a lot about how to operate aquaculture in places like Platte River. That hatchery was once a big polluter of Platte Lake but they cleaned it up and now raise millions of fish pollution free. 

Another local success story concerns Harrietta Hills Trout Farm LLC, on the AuSable River, which has operated for five years without incident. The Department of Environmental Quality issued a permit for the farm that holds the operators to high standards which “requires weekly monitoring for phosphorus, which cannot, on a seasonal average basis, exceed 15 parts-per-billion in the 8.64 million gallons-per-day”. (4)

Ecosystems are complex. In recent history, marketing the experience of catching fish, and sport fishing in general, has subordinated any other possible use of the Lakes, including aquaculture. Both have a place in the Lakes. The Waters held in “public trust” are held for all the “public,” not just sports fishermen.

S.A. McFerran
B.A. Environmental Studies, Antioch University
Platte River, Michigan

(1) Diana, Jim, quoted from personal correspondence with the author, February 2017. Dr. Jim Diana is Director for Michigan Sea Grant, and is involved in leading the statewide program in its research, education and outreach efforts on critical Great Lakes issues, such as sustainable coastal development and fisheries.  When asked about pollution issues, specifically if Aquaculture pens can be operated without polluting the Lakes, his response was: “Absolutely. There are 11 licensed operations in Lake Huron on the Canadian side, and no damages have been determined from them as of recently. There was a problem in one area, with nutrient addition causing some algal blooms, but they moved to another location and all has been fine since.”

(2) Bogue, M.L. Fishing the Great Lakes – An Environmental History. University of Wisconsin Press, 2000.

(3) “On January 11, NOAA published a final rule implementing our nation’s first regional regulatory program for offshore aquaculture in federal waters. In doing so, NOAA is expanding opportunities for U.S. seafood farming in the open ocean. NOAA and our partners are working to advance and expand U.S. aquaculture.” NOAA Fisheries. “NOAA Expands Opportunities for U.S. Aquaculture.” Accessed March 20, 2016. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2016/01/offshore_aq_rule.html

(4) Ellison, Garret. “In battle over Holy Waters, anglers put Michigan fish farming on trial.” M-Live. Accessed February 04, 2016. http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/02/ausable_fish_farm_grayling_hat.html

Aquaculture in the Great Lakes? Not a Good Idea

by Charlie Weaver

Is aquaculture—growing lots of healthy eating fish inexpensively through fish farming—a great idea?  NO!  The basic problem with raising many animals in a small space is poop.  Large net-pens (fish cages) producing hundreds of thousands of fish will generate untreated fecal waste in huge amounts.  This is essentially the same problem with other CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations)–too many fertilizing agents headed downstream which wind up producing massive toxic algae in larger bodies of water.   The Lake Erie and Toledo, OH water pollution disaster of 2014, is a perfect example.

Some have argued in support of aquaculture that the waters of the Great Lakes are a public trust, but that argument, to me, is precisely why aquaculture should not be permitted to pollute these waters.  According to Jim Olson, attorney with For Love of Water (FLOW), the waters of the Great Lakes are “a shared public commons for the benefit of citizens for navigation, boating, fishing, health, and sustenance.”

And, according to Dr. Howard Tanner, former Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries director, “…one net-pen operation can produce the equivalent of phosphate emissions from a sewer plant for 10,000 people.  This fish sewage will create filamentous algae, which will wash up on nearby beaches and rot and stink.”

Only in self-contained aquaculture facilities can the waste products of the fish be controlled and kept out of the people’s waters downstream.

Another problem with fish farms is the antibiotics used to control disease.  Again, the leftovers get flushed down the river or are mixed in with the lake waters and are then consumed by you and me.

Economics are another part of the big picture.  Lake Michigan sport and commercial fishing is a billion dollar industry.  Aquaculture can’t compare to that in generating jobs or money.

Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette is on the side of protecting the environment.  He has ruled that fish farming does not improve the public trust for the uses listed above, and would necessarily interfere with or impair them.  Thus, it is illegal in his opinion.  He says that fish farming in the Great Lakes does not fall within the definition of “aquaculture facility” under the state aquaculture law, because the definition only allows fish farms in privately controlled waters.  Under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act as well, it is illegal to “occupy” public waters for primarily private purposes such as fish farming.

So my suggestion is to NOT purchase Rainbow Trout in the supermarket or order it in the restaurant.  That is the species usually raised in commercial fish farms.   Instead, go fishing in a nearby lake or stream in which trout swim and grow naturally and where it is legal to keep them.  Try to catch one or two, yourself.  It’s quite enjoyable and they are good for you, too.

About Charlie Weaver

Charlie Weaver is a retired fly fishing river guide on the Au Sable, Manistee, and Pere Marquette rivers.  He serves as a board member on the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, and belongs to the Anglers of the Au Sable (Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited) and to the Clearwater Conservation Committee of the Sierra Club.

PO Box 1308
Kalkaska, MI 49646
ctejedor AT copper.net

A Glimpse of Union Street in the Late Nineteenth Century

By Bob Wilhelm, author and historian of Traverse City

The Grand Traverse Journal already published the first three chapters of the late Bob Wilhelm’s history of the Wilhelm family in the November, 2016 issue.  Now we wish to continue the project with this excerpt describing the Bohemian community along Union Street in the 1880’s and the construction of Wilhelm’s clothing store at the corner of Union and Eighth Street (now the AT&T store).  We plan to offer Bob’s book online in its entirety at an early date.

CHAPTER 9: Entrepreneur on South Union Street

Around 1880 when Anthony Wilhelm took up residence in Traverse city, Union Street was “paved” with sawdust its full length from downtown to Sixteenth street. The wooden South Union Street bridge was low and the slope from Seventh Street to the river provided fine sledding for the young.

In the spring when the pork barrels were low, people could be found on the banks of the river with dip nets and spears catching suckers, bass, pickerel and trout.

Two local Indians, Louis and Jake, who lived in a slab wigwam on Sixth Street near the river sold fish to the neighborhood. The price was always 25 cents regardless of the size or amount of the fish.

When the pigeons returned along the river, rifle fire was common.

There were only a few buildings from Seventh to Tenth streets. On the west side of the street at the corner of Seventh and Union was the Franz [?] Wilhelm’s meat market. Other buildings were the homes of Mrs. Furtsch, the Bartaks, E.P. Wilhelm, Charles Dupres, and Harry Holdsworth.

Union Street ca. 1870, showing Boardman River House, now Brady’s Bar. Image courtesy of Traverse Area District Library, Local History Collection.

On the east side of the street were the Boardman River House, Chaloupka’s Saloon and Prokop Kyselka’s home at Eighth and Union. Further up the 500 block was the Dezorme home, the convent, Mattison Drug Store and the residences of Morris Sabin and the Weidenhamers. South of Tenth Street was a forest of second growth and poplars.

Unlike so many of the lumberjacks,  Anthony Wilhelm managed to save a few hundred dollars from his many years in the lumber camps. He joined his cousin John  Wilhelm buying and selling real estate. On the north side of Eighth Street near Union they purchased several lots. John kept two and built his home.

In 1883 Anthony exchanged the remaining parcels for lots 19 and 20 at Union and Eighth.

The March 26, 1885 issue of the Grand Traverse Herald reported:

Ant. J. Wilhelm is getting the material on the land for a brick building on the corner of 8th and Union Street. The building will be 25 x 60 feet, two stories and basement. It will be built entirely of white brick.

“Wilhelm, Anthony J., Wilhelm Brothers, Dry Goods, Clothing and Carpets.” Image taken from a collection of photographs of Traverse City Businessmen, held at the Traverse Area District Library.

The April 23 issue of the Herald reported:

Work will begin soon on the fine brick store for Ant. Wilhelm corner Union and Eighth. The present building has been bought by Jas. Dunn and is being moved to his lot  corner Eighth and Cass St. He is putting in a cellar and brick foundation. This building was the first dwelling on the  south side of the river. The new building will be 25 x 60 feet. The foundation will be quarry stone. The west and south fronts of the best pressed brick, the first floor front of iron and glass and the front iron. E. Adaley has the contract and J.G. Holliday will have the carpenter work. The building will cost about $3,500.

The existing building formerly occupied by Caloupaka’s Saloon was raised and placed on the crib and moved on rollers. A large log would be dug into the street with a windlass. Ropes would run to the building and teams of horses or oxen would turn the windlass and slowly move the building.

Since all the brick production of the J.W. Markham’s brick yard on West Bay road was being used to build the Northern Michigan Asylum, it was necessary to go out of the area for supplies. White bricks were purchased in Zeeland and moved to the Lake MIchigan coastline to be transported by boat to Traverse City. The limestone foundation was purchased from the owner of a lumber schooner who had used it for ballast. The beams were two by twelve inches. In the front of the store were cast iron girders. The reason for the twenty five foot width was that this was the maximum width that could be constructed without extra support.

The building was constructed as a millinery shop for his sister Christine, but never opened.  While visiting her brother Charles in Milwaukee, she met William Theopolis Bunce at a church party in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. The couple was married April 13, 1889 at the Congregational church in Milwaukee. Bunce  worked for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway from the early 1880s until his retirement in 1942. In May 1946, Bunce was featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not because he “has worn a fresh carnation in his lapel every day for the  past 65 years.”

With a vacant building, the Bohemian community urged Anthony Wilhelm to open a clothing store to serve the needs of the neighborhood. Anthony and his brother Emanuel formed the Wilhelm Brothers partnership in 1885. The business opened in 1886.

Emanuel (“Em”) Wilhelm in fishing gear. Image from the Bob Wilhelm Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

Emanuel Wilhelm had returned to Traverse City after spending three years in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. He was employed in cattle ranching, railroad work and mining. With his wanderlust satisfied, he moved to Milwaukee where he took several business courses and worked seven years before returning to Traverse City to join his brother.

With the establishment of the partnership a second 25 s 100 foot addition was constructed on the north side of the original building.

The Northern Michigan Asylum was nearing completion so bricks could be purchased locally from the J.W. Markham brick yards. The cost was $3.00 per 1,000 bricks.

Advertisement for the Wilhelm Bros. store, from the “Grand Traverse Herald,” March 4, 1886. Full issue of newspaper is available for download from the Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection: http://localhistory.tadl.org/items/show/3752

The first advertisement announcing the opening was carried in the March 4, 1886  Grand Traverse Herald:

            NEW GOODS

A large invoice of Spring Clothing just received. Men’s and Boy’s Suits in all styles and qualities at prices that will surprise you. No shoddy or second hand goods in stock. It will be to your interest to inspect our goods and learn our prices before purchasing. We will have a well selected and complete stock of dry goods about April 1st, 1886. It will be our aim to give our customers honest goods and perfect satisfaction in every respect.  South Side Brick Building Wilhelm Bros.

Oldest Continuously Running Restaurant in Michigan: Sleder’s Tavern

by David Odziana, ThumbPrint News Staff Writer and Field Reporter

This article on Sleder’s Tavern was originally published in the January 2017 issue of the ThumbPrint Newsa wonderful publication filled with history, insight, life-hacks and just plain fun. We are indebted to the editors of ThumbPrint News and author David Odziana. Read and subscribe at their website: http://www.thumbprintnews.com/

Image provided by David Odziana.

For many residents of Michigan, a vacation often consists of driving a few hours north until they reach one of the many popular tourist destinations throughout the state.

Traverse City is one of the more popular vacation spots in the Lower Peninsula, enticing visitors with an array of year-round activities. The area once known as Slabtown and Little Bohemia has an extensive history, which is a big part of the beloved city’s charm.

Interior of Sleder’s, ca. 1885, with the famed spittoons resting on the floor. Image courtesy of the Bensley Collection, Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection.

Sleder’s Tavern is one of the most established buildings in the area with the prestige of being one of the oldest restaurants in the state. A Bohemian wheelwright named Vencel Sleder came to the area in the second half of the 1800s, and soon made the decision to construct a local tavern where residents could visit with friends over a home cooked meal after a long day at work. Since most able hands were busy working in the mills or on their land, only Sundays were available to work on the restaurant. This caused construction to complete the building to drag on for three years. The building was manufactured using rejected wooden slabs from the local sawmill; Sleder’s Tavern was finally finished in 1882.

Vencel conducted his business with the mentality that goodwill is good business, later becoming the company’s slogan that allowed the bar to survive many dark economic times. The second generation of the Sleder family to work at the tavern was Polly Sleder, who was well known for offering her household medical advice with each $1.50 case of beer. It was also said she gave patrons a free beer and a double shot of liquor for each case of beer purchased. Prior to inheriting the tavern, Louie Sleder’s first job at the bar was to clean out the 21 spittoons throughout the restaurant, receiving 25 cents for each one. By 1920, Sleder’s Tavern was faced with a great deal of uncertainty, as everyday life began changing drastically during this time.

Results of a Grand Traverse Prohibition-era raid with officers and sheriff’s deputies. G.T. County Sheriff David R. Campbell at the far left. Image not included in Ordizana’s original article, but Your Editors love this photo, courtesy of the Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection.

When Prohibition was enacted in Michigan, Sleder’s Tavern was already established for nearly 40 years, which gave the company a better chance of surviving the state’s dry period that lasted more than 15 years. Sleder’s secret for thriving during the country’s ban on alcohol was his special root beer, which was well known during the time. The mixture, which was actually a blend of rye and bourbon, was served in tea cups free of charge to all visiting law enforcement – this allowed the family business to flourish when a majority of taverns were forced to close their doors. Throughout the 1920s, local law enforcement mainly focused on out-of-town bootleggers who were bringing alcohol into the area. This continued until the 1930s, when state police decided to enforce the laws local police were ignoring. Sleder’s Tavern was quickly raided, and police discovered two stills, 231 pints of beer, 50 gallons of mash used to brew alcohol and six quarts of moonshine. Due to his clean record, Louie was only charged with possession, which resulted in a $600 fine, instead of the much stiffer punishment that came with a bootlegging charge. This raid was most likely a result of pressure from citizens, who collected 450 signatures to get local police to “exercise a higher regard for the moral protection of the youths of our city and a more thorough enforcement in dealing with violators of city ordinances, federal and state law.” Despite the fact that the petition didn’t mention alcohol or prohibition, it was assumed the paperwork was referring to the lack of enforcement on alcohol in the city.

Interior of Sleder’s Tavern today. Image contributed by Brooks Vanderbush.

During the 1930s, the building underwent a few structural changes. Prior to this time, men and women were not allowed to frequent the same area of the bar. Instead, the men drank in the main bar, while the women had their own section in the back, which they would enter through a separate door. After Louie opened up the two rooms to make one large bar and renovated the second story ballroom into living space, many of the regulars who frequented Sleder’s were not happy about having women in the same area of the bar.

The original, 21-foot mahogany bar of Sleder’s Tavern, as it looks today. Image contributed by Brooks Vanderbush.

Although some things have changed in the building throughout its 134 years of business, many original features still remain. Time-appropriate stamped tin adorns the 12-foot-tall ceilings, original light fixtures still hang on the walls and much of the historic collectibles still decorate the walls, but one feature tends to grab the attention of thirsty patrons more than anything else. The original 21-foot mahogany bar, equipped with an old brass foot rail and embellished with cherry wood on the sides, has remained in the same spot since 1882.

Exterior of Sleder’s Tavern today. Image contributed by Brooks Vanderbush.

Louie Sleder was the last family member to own the tavern before it was sold. After changing hands a few times, Sylvia and Bob Classens purchased the restaurant in 1975. The couple’s main goal was to ensure the historical aspect remained. Renovations they accomplished were uncovering the original hardwood floors, redoing the paneling on the walls and constructing a Victorian style porch on the side of the building. In 1992, Brian and Deb Cairns purchased the restaurant from the Classens, and shortly after, the couple tied the knot on the recently constructed porch. When the Cairns took over, they changed as little as possible – all five of the Classens’ children, as well as many of the previous employees, remained employed at Sleder’s after the tavern got new owners. Today, Michigan’s oldest continuously running restaurant sits in the same spot at 717 Randolph Street in Traverse City. While much has changed throughout the city from the time it was known as Little Bohemia or Slabtown, Sleder’s Tavern stands as proof that some things can truly stand the test of time.

Maud Miller Hoffmaster: A Biography

By Deborah S. Kohn, Life-long friend of Maud’s and historian of Mesick, Michigan

Transcribed and edited by Richard Fidler

Maud Miller Hoffmaster’s epitaph reads, “She toiled for beauty.” Her personal motto was this: “Wherever you go in this world, may that place be more beautiful because you have been there.”  The two statements summarize the life of a remarkable person.

Maud with a snowscape, from the “Chicago Sunday Tribune” article, North Woods Artist, by Norma Lee Browning, February 3, 1952.

In Manistee, Michigan, on December 29th, 1883, Maud was born to William H. and Sarah Adelaide (Helfreick) Miller. The eldest of five children, she took care of her brothers and sisters, her ill grandmother, and, later, her father.  This responsibility had a profound effect on her future.  She first studied music and wanted to be a musician, but, in the end, was forced to express herself in a quieter way, sitting beside her family members, sketching or painting scenes around her home.

Maud attended school on Old Mission Peninsula and in Traverse City.  She was able to attend the Chicago Art School for six weeks after she was able to sell some of her paintings.  Aside from that meager formal training, she was self-taught.

Maud’s father was a “doctor,” and her mother practiced nursing.  In those days, her father may not have been a trained in medicine, but practiced as someone who could help injured or sick people.  Her mother had to maintain the home after her husband became ill and bedridden.  There were five children: Maud A., Harry E., Mabel E.(Palmer), William J. (Bill).  (I am not sure about the fifth child)  Many of Maud’s early experiences influenced her later paintings, especially “The Country Doctor,” a world-famous (and her best-known) painting.  She had been offered a lot of money for it–and did sell it once, but bought it back and never let it go again.

From the 1900 census records, Maud was a laborer in a basket factory before she was married.  The factory, Wells-Higman, was located near where the family lived on East Eighth Street.  It was one of the largest manufacturing establishments in the city at that time, manufacturing “Climax” grape and peach baskets, bushel baskets, berry crates, and veneer.

The brother of Mrs. Henry Ford is said to have bought her first painting for one dollar.  It was a small watercolor of a pine tree along Grand Traverse Bay.

At the age of 18, she married Havillah Clive Hoffmaster on May 25, 1904.  He was a clerk and manager-buyer for the home furnishings department of Hannah and Lay for 25 years. 

Havillah’s parents were Uriah and Mary E. Hoffmaster.  Uriah served in the Grand Army of the Republic as a Union soldier in the Civil War.  He enlisted in Company 1, Eleventh Cavalry on Nov. 9, 1863 at Kalamazoo for three years at the age of 15, then mustered on Nov. 24, 1863.  Uriah then transferred to Company A, Eighth Cavalry on July 20, 1865.  On Sept. 22, 1865 he was mustered out at Nashville, Tennessee.  He returned to Traverse City.

Havillah’s parents are buried in the same lot as Maud and Havillah in Oakwood Cemetery, Traverse City.  A GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) stone is on the lot, indicating a Civil War veteran soldier is buried there.

One of Havillah’s first gifts to Maud was a set of oil paints, a present she put to good use.  Her ability to portray realistic landscapes, trees, snowstorms, and nature was recognized right away.  You could stand in front of any one of her paintings and feel like you were right there as part of the scene.  She was able to tell a story through her creations also.

Maud, Villah, and their dog Muffetti, near their iconic home on Aghosa Trail.

Together, they built a rustic home (cottage, as they called it), a unique building in that the outer surface was made up of stones found in the area.  She designed the house so that she could have her gallery connected to the main living area.  You can’t help but remember the stones they assembled because of their large size. 

In her design for the house she had two fireplaces, also constructed from the stones, one in the living area and the other in the gallery.  For many years this was the only source of heat for the gallery.  The door to the gallery was blue with a latch that she made.  There were note cards of this door with a poem by Estelle C. Koch inside.  “The Country Doctor,” which was painted in 1922, had a very special place in the gallery.  She would recite a description [of it] that Beth Parker told over the radio on her program called the Beth Parker Hour.   

Her home was in large part a gallery of her art.  Most of her paintings were done at an easel that was located so she could look out over the Grand Traverse Bay.  Many who knew her recognize this view in her paintings.  It is said she did over 400 large canvases and countless smaller ones.

There was also an outside fireplace built of stones where there were many picnics and neighborhood gatherings.  This was on the southeast side of their property.  This is where the “litterbug crew” of young boys had their pancake suppers.  It was a beautiful natural setting to be out among the tall pine trees and wildflowers.

Picture postcard from the 1940s of the Ahgosa Golf Course, operated by Havillah.

Havillah left working for Hannah and Lay after 25 years, eventually opening a golf course across the street from where they lived off Munson Avenue and near Airport Access in 1931.  He owned it until he sold the land and retired in 1952.  Many people from this area have memories of golfing at Ahgosa, the name he gave to the course.  After the land was sold, the Osteopathic Hospital was built upon the fairways, having moved out of what is now the Elks Club on Grand View Parkway.  No longer the Osteopathic Hospital, the building is now known as the Munson Community Health Center.

Georges Bal, an art critic for the New York Herald described Maud’s exhibit in Paris, France, presented at the Bernheim Jeune Galleries in his article dated November 7, 1928.  Bal placed her among the greatest landscape painters of the day, emphasizing her poetic touch, calling her works “picture-poems” of Michigan.  Even the French art critics were impressed with her ability to capture the landscape with such color and perfect drawing.  So important that show was to her, she traveled to Paris for the opening.  The next year, another prominent exhibition of her paintings took place in New York City at the Helen Hackett Gallery from February 22, 1929, to March 2, 1929.

Maud was active in the American League of Professional Artists; several garden clubs including the Board of the State Federation of Garden Clubs and the Friendly Garden Club in Traverse City; the Traverse City Women’s Club (past president and life member); and was Chairman of Fine Arts, a position that led to her work with Joseph Maddy at Interlochen.  She helped him raise money for his music camp, then organized the Fine Arts department at the National Music Camp. 

She was supervisor for 14 years in that department—most of the time serving in an unpaid position.  Maud helped design and build the Fine Arts building as a memorial to the Federation Golden Jubilee, and even collected some of the large stones that were used in the building.  She was not merely interested in supervising or delegating, but was involved in the actual construction.  She even carried stones to help the builders. 

Picture postcard of Maud’s oil painting, “May Morning,” from the Traverse Area District Library image collection.

Artists from all over the world traveled to her Traverse City, Michigan home for instructions on how to paint landscapes, trees, and especially blizzard snowstorms/scenes.  People would see her paintings or hear about her, and want to meet her.  Maud also traveled all over the United States for one-man or juried shows to places like New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Pasadena, Laguna Beach, Carmel, Pebble Beach, Sacramento, Crocker Memorial Museum, Flint, and most major art centers.  People who had seen her work in Paris, France, came.  She did all of her exhibitions by invitations only.  In her presentations across the United States she correlated her painting with music, an art very important to her.  It helped her many times to get in the “mood” to paint, especially if she had an interruption while she was painting.

Getting the paintings ready for a show was a joint effort for Maud and Havillah.  Sometimes pictures needed frames, bought or made by Havillah.  Invariably, they had to be finished so that they would accent the picture in the right way.  The size, color, and design had to be just right for each picture to make it emphasize what it was saying to viewers coming to the show.  Pictures then had to be packed and gotten ready for the show, or to be sent to the new owner.

Maud specialized in landscapes and oil, but did almost every kind of art such as block prints, pastels, and etchings.  She reproduced many of her artworks on postcards, stationery, bridge tallies, prints, and other useful articles.  Reprints of “The Country Doctor” hung in many doctors’ and medical offices across the United States and may still be there.

During one of the many trips to Monterey, California, Maud got some editorial help with her “litterbug” idea by suggesting that gas stations hand out litterbags as a way to advertise.  It captured the public’s imagination when the Grand Rapids Press and the Record-Eagle’s Jay Smith wrote about it in Michigan.  The State and National Federations of Garden Clubs responded, and the fight against “litterbugs” was well on its way. 

Picture postcard of Maud and the litterbug crew. Maud coined the term “litterbug,” which has since come in to national use.

Maud even worked with a group of local neighborhood boys who became her anti-litterbug crew.  They had a picture taken which was printed on a postcard, selling them or giving them away to remind people not to litter.  These boys were Kim Tinker, David Stradinger, Randy Oliver, Tom Keith, Bruce Hume, Paul Wardwell, Earl Hamilton, and Dick Cobb.  All of these boys lived within a two-and-one-half block area near her home on Ahgosa.  They picked up along the beach and everywhere they could, then would go back to the Hoffmaster home where she would fix pancakes for supper.  Some of these “boys” still live in the Traverse City area.  This experience had a life-long effect on them.

On May 25, 1954, Maud and Havillah celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with an open house at their home.

Many people, local as well as from distant places, took art lessons from her.  She loved giving art lessons to youth, but people of all ages learned under her keen eye and tutelage.  She was always willing to share her talents and develop those of others.

In 1952, Maud wrote The Path of Gold, a novel dedicated to the membership of Beta Sigma Phi, of which she was a charter member.  This is the story of the struggle for decency and honesty against evil.  Jane Hamilton is the main character, a woman who just happens to be a painter.  It is a story of love, emotions, and intrigue about the Michigan area.

Nee-Na, The Wild Flowers Good Fairy is a children’s book, but appealed to a wider audience than just children as many adults loved it.  The stories and illustrations teach nature lore that was very dear to Maud like respecting the birds and wildflowers of the woods and understanding their enemies.  She used the pen and brush to create the illustrations in the story.

Mrs. Godfrey Lundberg was a very good friend of Mrs. Hoffmaster.  She was an art critic for the Chicago Tribune from1917 to 1957.  Mrs. Lundberg’s pen name was Eleanor Jewett.  During the 1930’s Maud illustrated Eleanor’s poems for the Chicago Tribune.  They then decided to put some of Eleanor’s poems in a book with Maud doing the illustrations for each one of them.  The book was titled Make Believe.  The subjects of these poems range from the seasons in the Midwest to personal events in the life of a child.  Most of these poems were inspired by her own children over the years.

“Jewels from the Garden,” one example of a notecard created from one of Maud’s print blocks.

Maud was also a business woman in that she created notecards from her block prints, had postcards of many of her pictures, and sold paintings and her books as long as they were available. 

Many honors and recognitions were given her.  She is listed in Who’s Who in American Art, and Who’s Who in the Midwest, her name appearing in the editions encompassing her life as a painter.  The Mark Twain Society gave her an honorary membership in 1952.  The Michigan Indians adopted her and named her “Princess Ahgo-sah.”  The Michigan Federation of Sheriffs Association recognized her.  In fact, a wife of a Clare County (Harrison) sheriff started a drive to get the funds to buy her pine tree painting and place it in the state capitol.  The Michigan Sheriffs had a convention here in Traverse City in 1963.  One of the tours was of the Hoffmaster Gallery.  This had been one of Maud’s dreams but she did not want to just give the painting so felt she had to ask a modest sum (though its value was about ten thousand dollars).  The painting was taken on a state tour to try to raise the funds after the Michigan legislature failed to come up with the modest funds.  It remained in the Hoffmaster studio after this tour.

Maud’s paintings can be found all over the United States–and even the world since she sold several when her paintings were in Paris, France.  Her shows helped sell paintings and this, in turn, would bring people from all over to her gallery and home.  Her gallery was always open to the public.  Many groups would arrange a tour of her studio whenever they met in Traverse City, still another way she met people.

She would give lectures across the United States.  With her husband, she traveled to California several times to visit family but also to do shows.  She did several paintings of the Carmel, California area, as they wintered here until they were not able to do as much traveling because of their age and health.  Her brother and sister as well as nieces and nephews lived in California, so she would visit them there.

Few of us think that no one person can accomplish the impossible things that will make the world a better place for everyone, but Maud Miller Hoffmaster was always working at doing this.  When she saw a need, she was there doing whatever was needed—whether it was constructing a building or an art program, cleaning up a community, fundraising, selecting a cherry queen, teaching about the environment and preserving the beauty of nature, entertaining hundreds of groups at her home and studio, or starting the expression “litterbug” that became a national slogan.

Her talents were not just in painting.  If not standing at her easel, she could be found writing; reading about politics, current events, world and national events; tatting, knitting, crocheting; writing letters to voice her opinion on any topic; or writing about her family history.  She never was idle in thought or deed until she fell and was hospitalized months before she passed away.

Havillah Hoffmaster was fatally hurt when a car hit him on Munson Avenue near his home.  He was chipping ice from the gutter on the road and the driver did not see him.  He died a short time later at Munson Hospital of injuries on January 8, 1964.  His funeral was held at the Reynolds Funeral Home on Sixth Street on Saturday, January 11, 1964.  Dr. Kenneth Hance of East Lansing and Dr. Howard Towne officiated.  Burial was in the family lot at Oakwood Cemetery in Traverse City.

A committee of local friends was formed to try to plan a lasting gallery of her home and paintings as a landmark to Traverse City.  Dr. Glenn Loomis, Lt. Governor William Milliken, Representative Arnell Engstrom, along with some of her extended family members hoped to accomplish this.  After her death, however, the fundraising effort failed, so her estate eventually went to a nephew, Julian Hoffmaster, her brother William, and her sister Mabel.

Maud passed away October 2, 1969, at the Grand Traverse Medical Care Facility.  She had fallen in her home in March and had been in failing health ever since the fall.  Her funeral was held on Sunday, October 5, 1969, at the Reynolds Funeral Home on Sixth Street with Dr. Kenneth Hance of East Lansing officiating.  Dr. Hance was a close friend of the Hoffmasters.  Marjorie Exo was the organist and Melvin Larimer was the soloist for the service.  The burial was in the family lot at Oakwood Cemetery in Traverse City.

You can still find a part of her here in Traverse City as many of her paintings hang in homes and businesses.  Anyone who knew her has memories of her and her tireless efforts to improve and maintain the natural beauty of the Grand Traverse area.

Sources

BOOKS

Who’s Who of American Women, third edition (1964-65); Chicago, IL, A. N. Marquis Publications Co; p. 476

Artists in Michigan, 1900-1976, A Biographical Dictionary, Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1989, p. 137

Browning, Norma Lee, Joe Maddy of Interlochen, Chicago, IL, Henry Regnery Co, 1963, p.273

Hoffmaster, Maud Miller, Nee-Nah, The Wild Flower’s Good Fairy, New York, The William-Frederick Press, 1949

Hoffmaster, Maud Miller, The Path of Gold, New York: Exposition Press, 1952

Jewett, Eleanor, Make Believe “Milkweed Babies and other Poems,” with illustrations by Maud Miller Hoffmaster, Traverse City, MI: Myers Printing Service, 1962

Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War, 1861-65; published by authority of the Senate and House of Representatives of the Michigan Legislature, p. 50

Who’s Who in American Art

Who’s Who in the Midwest

OTHER

Exhibition of Paintings by Maud Miller Hoffmaster, New York City, Helen Hackett Gallery, Feb. 22, 1929 to Mar. 2, 1929

Exposition Maud Miller Hoffmaster, Paysages du Michigan, Galeries Bernheim-Jeune, 83 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, Paris, Du5 au16 Novembree, 1928

Funeral Program by Kenneth Hance on Oct. 5, 1969

Grand Traverse County Probate Records

Oakwood Cemetery Records

1900 Census of Grand Traverse County

1900 City Directory for Traverse City

Traverse Area District Library

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES

Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 17, 1948, p. 7
Dec. 6, 1949, p. 1
Jul. 18, 1952
Sept. 10, 1959, p. 5
July 8, 1961
June 8, 1962
Jan. 9, 1964, p. 1
Jul. 2, 1964, p. 4
Feb. 20, 1965, p. 7
May 5, 2966, p. 8
Oct. 3, 1969, p. 8
Oct. 4, 1969, p. 11
Oct. 10, 1969, p. 4
Dec. 12, 1974
April 22, 1991

Grand Traverse Herald

Feb. 25, 1897
Mar. 4, 1897, p. 6

The Flint Journal

Oct. 29, 1939

Grand Rapids Press

April 21, 1953
May 27, 1962
March 21, 1965
Oct. 6, 1969

New York Herald

Nov. 7, 1928

The Carmel, Pine Cone, CA

March 18, 1938

PAINTINGS

Names of paintings I have been able to locate

1.Country Doctor

2. Even the Mightiest of These

3. Snowy Glow

4. January Moonlight

5. The Path to the Spring

6. My Gray Friend

7. Abandoned to Vetch

8. Dawn

9. The Road Out

10. Moonlight Over Grand Traverse Bay

11. Smiling Hills

12. Overhanging Boughs

13. Solitude

14. Top ‘O the Hill

15. A Messenger of Spring

16. Somebody Loved It

17. Star Thistles

18. Ancient Cypress

19. Majesty

20. The Jeweled Path

21. Winter Wind

22. Vetch and Daisies

23. Spring Is Near

24. Beside Still Waters

25. Deer Trail

26. Ladies of the Forest

27. Trilliums

28. A Fisherman’s Paradise

29. The Pioneer Mailman

30. Silent Night

31. Interlochen

32. White Pine

33. Hartwick Pines

34. May Morning

35. Snow Shoe Trail

36. October When the Needles Fall

37. Flaming Sumach Warms the Day

38. The Forest Road

39. Michigan Pines

40. Blessing of the Blossoms

41. Summer in Michigan

42. Whispering Peace

43. Moon Madness

44. Fuzzel, Our White Dog

45. The River’s Song of Autumn

46. Four Day Blizzard

47. Portrait of Mother

48. East Bay, 1912

49. Ahgosa Trail

50. Blocking the Road

51. Sand Dunes

52. Country Doctor’s Wife

53. Carmel Valley

54. Romance Moonlight

55. Big Wave on Pacific Ocean

56. Appolo’s Scarf

57. An Ocean Picture

58. Autumn

59. Rendezvous

60. Backwater

61. Michigan

62. Lingering

Innisfree: Fondly Remembered Outdoor Camp, 1970-1988

by S. A. McFerran

Many school groups from Traverse City and Leelanau traveled to Innisfree, a camp for environmental education, on Pyramid Point within the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.  The program operated year-round within sight of the Manitou Passage, and the fifth- and sixth-grade student visitors would stay for four nights at the Camp.  Students were led on beach and wood hikes by a crack team of naturalists. In the winter, there were snow shoe hikes and ski trips. Canoe trips on the Crystal River was a staple activity as were “get lost” hikes.

Gus Leinbach and group, on a hill at Innisfree Camp, ca. 1970. Image provided by the author.

Gus Leinbach bought the camp in 1970 and started the Innisfree Project which was named after a William Butler Yeats poem by that name. Gus was an educator from Ann Arbor who set up the camp with the concept of self-direction for the campers and counselors. If you had an idea, a skill, and interest then you could form your idea, pitch it to a mentor or guide to help, propose it to the rest of the campers and get a group together to do what you wanted. There was a bike shed with tons of parts to work on building bicycles, an old car to learn how to fix engines, a frozen zoo of found animals that were preserved, and an old orchard with apples to pick. The kitchen always seemed to be open for campers to come in and help. It was a true community experience that offered endless possibilities to explore, create, invent, and express.

Gus and his wife Paula operated Crystalaire on Crystal Lake before establishing Innisfree. Camp Lookout “spun off” from Crystalaire and still carries on the tradition of self-directed camp life, where campers and counselors create their own inventive activities. Gus died in 1988, and Innisfree was sold and is still operated as “Camp Kohana.”

During the summers at Innisfree, trips were offered and campers traveled on bikes along the roads of Leelanau and to faraway places such as New England and Isle Royale. I have recently been in touch with Carolyn, my co-leader of a small group of campers to Isle Royale. We both still agree that it was the best trip ever.

Campers at Innisfree. Photograph provided by the author.

In the summer of 1984, we loaded the van with campers and equipment, and we were on our way to meet the ferry boat at Copper Harbor. The trip to the ferry gave us the opportunity to get a sense of the cast of characters within the group. Our first stop was on the Keweenaw Peninsula where I parked the van and made everyone hike up a giant hill to an old fire tower. I insisted that the view was worth it. Everyone was stiff from the long trip across the Upper Peninsula and needed to stretch their legs.

We ate delicious thimble berries along the trail, as I regaled the group with stories of the awesome view from the old fire tower. We got to the top and all we saw was a big block of cement with some metal pieces sticking out. The Forest Service had removed the tower. From that low point, on a high place, it was all downhill to Isle Royale.   

The ferry boat at Copper Harbor was surprisingly small. We loaded our backpacks and were off. Lake Superior was very rough that day and many in the group were sick. The water calmed as we approached Isle Royale, and were greeted by a blast of warm air. Camper Emily said: “It smells like pine air freshener!”

We were warned about foxes that would steal food by the Rangers as we unloaded our gear. Willy, a short boy from the Philippines, and Steven, a lanky Inuit, were captivated by the idea of seeing a fox. They rigged up an apparatus for tricking the fox as we set up camp at Rock Harbor.

1978 Isle Royale camping expedition by Innisfree campers. Photograph courtesy of Beth Leinbach.

After being splashed by the water of Lake Superior, it was surprisingly hot at the campground. Emily emerged from her tent and informed Carolyn and I that she had changed her mind about the trip. She demanded a helicopter. She wanted to go home. After some tears and anguish Emily was ready to listen. We explained there would be no helicopter and she was with us for the duration of the trip.

Somehow we had ended up with a large cache of frozen hot dogs. Everyone had eaten their fill so Steve and Willy decided that a hot dog would be perfect fox bait. While foxes stole food we informed Steve that he was not allowed to feed them due to park regulations. Not to be thwarted in his quest to see a fox Steve rigged up hot dog on a bungee cord on a string that he could pull just before the fox grabbed it. He was up all night swatting mosquitos and outfoxing the fox.

The water of Lake Superior is known for being frigid, but late summer sun beats down for long days on the inlets and coves of Isle Royale. The water there becomes delightfully swimmable. Large slabs of granite warmed by the sun made fine places for our group to rest after a plunge. The balance of our trip was spent hiking and swimming in Royale coves and inlets.

One afternoon, when we made it to camp on the early side, we decided to build a sweat lodge out of our tent poles and fly tarps. We were near the end of our week on Isle Royale, so by this time all the campers were pretty good friends and didn’t mind trying something new. We built a fire and found some upland cobbles to heat up.  We all got on our bathing suits and crawled into the makeshift lodge.  The hot rocks were placed in the center and we all sat and sweated until we couldn’t stand it anymore.  With lots of hollering, we all ran through the busy campsite and past the families quietly camping. As a group we all jumped off the dock into the deep Lake Superior water.  It was then I knew that we had changed the campers’ lives.

Gus and Big Pig, at Innisfree, undated. Image provided by the author.

After dropping off all of Steve, Willy, Emily and all the rest, Carolyn and I returned to Innisfree where the late summer band camp was underway.  The Big Reds were blasting fight songs out into the Manitou Passage and Big Pig was watching the band maneuvers from his sty near the football field.

The site where the Camp was on Pyramid Point is amazingly beautiful.  The high bluff above Lake Michigan was lined with trees to sit in and among and gaze at the sunset. And the beach below with the rustic waterfront was a wonderful place to play. But the real beauty of Innisfree was in the people.

S. A. McFerran is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School and has led six, 24 day wilderness courses in addition to an Antioch College Environmental Field Program. He has led outdoor programs for Northwestern Michigan College, Appalachian School of Experience, Group and Individual Growth and Traverse Area Public Schools. He worked as a naturalist and trip leader at Innisfree.

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. Sara 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.

End of an Era: The Old Immaculate Conception School and Church to be Demolished

by Julie Schopieray

For those of us who appreciate the historic architecture of Traverse City, a sad fact is that many of our early buildings no longer exist. For most buildings, it has been either a result of fire or progress. When it comes to our historic schools, it is a combination of both reasons. There is only one remaining pre-1914 school in our town. It too, however, will soon be demolished and replaced. In the upcoming year, plans to raze and replace the Immaculate Conception school have been put in place. 

As early as January 1900, it became apparent that a second Catholic church was needed. The Catholic population of the city had grown dramatically and the St. Francis parish was becoming overcrowded. Many poorer, working class parishioners on the west side of town also felt it was inconvenient to travel so far. By late 1901, there was more talk about a possible new church and school for the west side. This side of town was home to many Bohemian, Polish, French, and German immigrant families who did not all speak English. They voiced their desire to be able to attend services closer to their homes, and  in their own languages. St. Francis only conducted mass in English.

In May 1902, it was decided by a church committee to establish a new parish. It would be called the West Side Catholic Church and school. The Bishop at Grand Rapids appointed Rev. L. Krakowski, who had been associated with the St. Francis church as well as other parishes in the region, to establish a west side congregation and start the process of raising money for a combination church and school building. Fundraising was enthusiastically begun. Oyster suppers were held, plays and performances put on at the City Opera House, ice cream socials, raffles and many Pedro card parties were held, all to raise funds for the new structure. It didn’t happen quickly, however.

After much discussion between committee members, a location was chosen near the corner of Second and Division streets.  In January 1903, Rev. Krakowski went to Grand Rapids to get the official approval of the Bishop for the new church.

Immaculate Conception School on Division Street, photographic postcard, undated. Image courtesy of Traverse Area District Library, image 4817.

For two long years the parish worked to raise money for the proposed $15,000 structure to be designed by local architect, Fred E. Moore. Construction began in the spring of 1905. Contractor Bert Wilhelm supervised the building of architect Moore’s plans. The building plans included plumbing even though there were no water lines or sewers on that part of the west side at the time. It was decided by the City Engineer that temporary water and sewer lines would be extended down Division St. to accommodate the new structure, but, since plans to install city sewers there were not yet in place, “the easiest and cheapest [sewage] outlet would be to build from Second Street to the Asylum Creek at a cost of $150.” [TCRE 8 Aug., 1905]  The building was completed and ready to accommodate students by the beginning of the school year. 

Rev. John J. Sheehan

The Immaculate Conception Church  was officially dedicated on February 22, 1906.  Rt. Rev. Bishop Henry Joseph Richter of Grand Rapids, assisted by seventeen priests of the diocese conducted a four hour service attended by over 700 people.  So many people came that they filled the hall to standing room only. Many who came were not even able to  get in. The new church would have Rev. John J. Sheehan as priest in charge, with the school staffed by the Sisters of Mercy of Big Rapids.  The small parish worked through difficult circumstances, but eventually paid off the mortgage in thirty years and became debt free.

The church and school were operated in this building until it too, became overcrowded. It was always intended to be a temporary situation- having the school and church in one building. By 1951 it was time for more room. “In the last few years the parish has grown…overflow crowds demanded an assistant priest, but even with four masses each Sunday, the church remained overcrowded and the school had to limit its enrollment for lack of necessary classrooms. The only solution was a commodious new church to accommodate the ever increasing throngs and to enable Catholic visitors to attend mass in the summer and  to allow expansion of school facilities.” [TCRE 28 May, 1953]  A campaign began to raise money for a new church. In 1951, Architect Harford Field was hired to design the modern structure. Ground was broken on May 23, 1952, “the cornerstone was laid and the bell blessed on August 10, 1952 in a colorful ceremony presided over by Monsignor R. H. Baker, vicar general of the Grand Rapids diocese. The church was completed and opened for services on Easter Sunday, April 5, with Rev. Passeno saying the first mass.” [TCRE 28 May 1953]  The church was officially dedicated on May 30, 1953.

Seven years later, it was clear that a larger school was critical. The parish officials once again turned to architect Harford Field to design an addition to the school. The new school building would cost over $400,000 and include “eight classrooms, art room, library, music rooms, visual-aid room, general administration offices, cafeteria, kitchen, adult social room and gymnasium-auditorium…” [TCRE 20 May 1961]  At the time, there were over 400 students enrolled in first through eighth grades which were staffed by the Sisters of Mercy as well as lay teachers.

So, fast forward to the present. Once again the Immaculate Conception school has out-grown its facility. In September, 2016, plans were announced that replacement of the 1906 and 1961 buildings was being discussed and brought to the planning commission for review. At that date, $9 million had already been raised for the new  $12 million structure.

Yes, it is sad that another historic building will be demolished, but that is the way of progress. The cost of renovating old buildings to today’s standards  is not  always the best solution, especially when so much more space is needed. This has been the consistent history for the majority of our old schools. Most were demolished during the 1950s because they had become out-grown, out-dated and just not in line with modern school needs and standards. So, the last of the city’s pre-1914 schools will soon be a memory, but the new building will be an attractive asset to the community and will meet the needs of the school and parish.

Traverse City “Record-Eagle” September 23, 2016

Though not the very first school buildings in the city, these were the first brick structures:

Elmwood School–1892- 1956 (razed)
Oak Park School, Rose & Webster streets–1895-1955 (razed)
Boardman School- 1890-1913- burned, but replaced in 1914- (still standing- Ida M. Tompkins administration building)   In May, 2016 was also being considered for demolition.
Union Street School–1904-1959-(razed)
Central School 1877-  additions in  1885 and 1924,  burned in 1934 and rebuilt in 1936. (Currently Central Elementary)
West Side Catholic- Immaculate Conception- 1906- 2018?

Oak Park School, image courtesy of the Traverse Area District Library.
Elmwood Avenue School, Traverse City, photographic postcard. Image courtesy of Traverse Area District Library.
Boardman School, ca. 1915, image courtesy of Traverse Area District Library.
Union Street School, undated, image courtesy of the Traverse Area District Library.
Central Grade School, ca. 1890s. Image courtesy of Traverse Area District Library.

Julie Schopieray is a regular contributor to 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.