Category Archives: Forgotten Stories

Articles in this feature are reprints from works in the public domain, typically anything published prior to 1924. Reprinting public domain articles both promotes the survival of these works for future generations and brings to light histories that have been forgotten. Articles are chosen that recall the history of the Grand Traverse Region.

Letter from Andrew Carnegie to the People of Traverse City, 1902

119,487.

That is the estimated number of libraries in the United States today. If you are concerned about our national state of affairs, that should be a soothing balm. That is roughly 3.4 libraries per McDonald’s (just another fun fact to take with you to Party Banter Friday).

What do many of these libraries have in common, besides amazing librarians, piles of knowledge, and open and free access? Andrew Carnegie, the steel industrialist and philanthropist, who aided communities across our nation in building public libraries.

Orson W. Peck picture postcard of the new Carnegie Library, ca. 1905. Image courtesy of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, http://imagesearchnew.library.illinois.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/koopman/id/575/rec/3
Orson W. Peck picture postcard of the new Carnegie Library, ca. 1905. Image courtesy of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, http://imagesearchnew.library.illinois.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/koopman/id/575/rec/3

Our first community library in Traverse City was, although an amazing feat, not a free, public library. In 1869, the Ladies Library Association founded the first library in town, and in its earliest beginnings, men were barred from using its resources. A city library was in operation after that, but nothing on the physical scale of a Carnegie library.

Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American industrialist and library lover. "The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled." Image courtesy of Marie Kulibert, TADL librarian/historian.
Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American industrialist and library lover. “The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.” Image courtesy of Marie Kulibert, TADL librarian/historian.

By all accounts, getting a Carnegie Library in your town was a relatively easy exercise. Interested parties would send Mr. Carnegie a letter, and if all looked well, he would reply back with instructions, usually requiring the city to promise an annual amount to the library’s upkeep. Between 1883 and 1929, 1,689 libraries were built across the United States. That is roughly 36 libraries every year, for 46 years. Imagine!

So, what did Traverse City’s letter look like from dear Mr. Carnegie? Fortunately, it was published in the local newspaper, The Morning Record, on April 14, 1902:

“New York, April 8, 1902
Mr. Leon F. Titus,
Traverse City, Mich.

Dear Sir- Responding to your communications:

If Traverse City pledges itself by resolution of councils to support a free public library at cost of not less than two thousand (2,000) dollars a year, and provides a suitable site, Mr. Carnegie will be glad to furnish twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) for the erection of a free public library building

Very respectfully yours,
Jas. Bertram,
Private Secretary”

How would that have compared with the current city library’s operational budget? In the previous year, the bulk of operating costs were appropriated by the city council ($1000), paid out of a city fund designated for the librarian, rent, and other expenses ($816). Also in that year was the sale of the West Side chapel, which $875 was raised to go toward the library. Finally, court fines ($157.55) and book fines ($14.75) brought up the rear, for a total of $2863.80 raised, and $2702.15 spent. The city was already paying over $700 more than Carnegie was asking to pledge.

The “suitable site” raised much more controversy than the money to be pledged, for who wouldn’t want a library in their neighborhood? Sites in the current Boardman neighborhood (which was then the “far east” side of town) were proposed, as well as a site on Cass Street offered by the Oval Wood Dish Company. The newly-elected Mayor, John R. Santo, devoted most of his inaugural message in May 1903 to the “graver problem… commonly known as ‘The Library Site.'”

Perry Hannah, "Father of Traverse City," donated the Sixth Street property on which the City's Carnegie Library was built in 1905. Image courtesy of Marie Kulibert, TADL librarian/historian.
Perry Hannah, “Father of Traverse City,” donated the Sixth Street property on which the City’s Carnegie Library was built in 1905. Image courtesy of Marie Kulibert, TADL librarian/historian.

Santo certainly felt that the controversy was endangering other public works and business interests, largely by the City Council members whom he felt were “indulging in a spiteful controversy over the site for a building which we could well dispense with.” At the end of his speech, he recommended returning the Carnegie money and proposing the city find the funds itself, and if that proposal failed, then to erect the library at the Sixth Street location deeded to the City by Perry Hannah, and erecting a city hall building in the first ward (what we would consider downtown).

Traverse City Public LIbrary, photograph by A. Wildman, 1912. Image courtesy of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, http://imagesearchnew.library.illinois.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/koopman/id/573/rec/1
Traverse City Public Library, photograph by A. Wildman, 1912. Image courtesy of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, http://imagesearchnew.library.illinois.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/koopman/id/573/rec/1

Perry Hannah’s offer of the site on Sixth Street won over the council, eventually. The Evening Record reported the hatchet “buried” by city council members Hamilton and Lardie, who “gracefully yielded at a special council meeting last night and declared that it is time that factional differences should be obliterated and the city be united instead of divided by ill feeling owing to differences of opinion as to the location of the Carnegie Library.” So the “long and bitter fight” came to an end almost a full year later, in March 1904.

Solidly and quickly the library was erected, furnished and stocked withe over 7000 titles. On opening day, February 28, 1905, 350 persons visited and checked out 390 books. In the first month, 3,042 books were given out. Care to guess what was most popular? Fiction dominated at 1,840, and juvenile fiction at 1,501, with history, biography, magazine, nature and travel following in the far distance (between 113 and 15 titles). How does that compare with today’s checkout stats? Find out more at the Traverse Area District Library’s Statistics Dashboard.

Amy Barritt is Special Collections Librarian at Traverse Area District Library, and co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.

The Traverse City Friendship Center: a “From the Archives” Special

Recently acquired by the Local History Collection at the Traverse Area District Library was a very small collection of materials created by Ilse Adler, who was the Director of The Traverse City Friendship Center. The Center’s goal was to provide a social hub for released Traverse City State Hospital patients, and “other socio-emotionally handicapped persons.”

According to the Traverse City city directories, the Center was housed at 106 1/2 E. Front Street, from 1975-1978. The Center’s story, as you will read, tells us the opening of this ambitious undertaking was September 17, 1973. As far as could be determined, the Center likely operated from 1973 to 1978, but none of the materials in the collection indicate why the Center folded. Perhaps its services were duplicated elsewhere in the community and public health sector? If there is anyone in our readership with insight into the final days of the Center, we would love to hear from you.

The Center’s story is told briefly in a special issue of “The Observer,” the periodical of the Traverse City State Hospital in the 1970s. Enjoy this brief history of a well-meaning group of community members, who acted on the belief that Traverse City would be stronger for including all its residents.

“The Traverse City Friendship Center Story

This is the story of a dream, built on a community need, which became a reality with the opening of the doors to the Traverse City Friendship Center on September 17, 1973.

Image from the cover of the special issue of "The Observer," 1973.
Image from the cover of the special issue of “The Observer,” 1973.

Community concern for a drop-in center for social activities for released state hospital patients now living in the community, or for other socio-emotionally handicapped persons, had been discussed openly for some years but awaited someone to provide the knowledge and means of tapping resources and rallying community support. Mrs. Ilse Adler, Director of the Traverse City Friendship Center, with the support of Traverse City State Hospital administration was able to sell the idea to the community leaders and make necessary community contacts and work with state agencies to create and finance a drop-in center.

Because of the enthusiasm of everyone asked to participate in this endeavor, not one person said “no” to request for their help resulting in the formation of a steering Committee. This committee is composed of a group of concerned citizens and representatives of various social organizations, including the Traverse City State Hospital. This committee started to meet monthly to promote the center. These persons formed a sponsoring organization which was incorporated as the Traverse City Friendship Center under the laws of Michigan as a non-profit organization on July 17, 1973. The diverse professional backgrounds of steering committee members has made some sources of monies, professional services and counsel readily accessible to the center.

A local retired businessman donated the use of the second floor of a building located on Front Street, for the center. This has been a dance studio with a large ballroom, two smaller rooms with office space in the front, and was made available, rent free, with heat and water included.

Many community members, individuals and groups, contributed: a ping pong table, shuffleboard table, books, paint, office supplies, carpeting and the labor to lay it, etc. The moving of equipment and furniture was donated by volunteers and a local moving firm.

Furniture was moved in by volunteers, husbands and children of steering committee members and friends. A cleaning bee by members of the committee and their families readied the place and we opened on September 17, 1973. Since then many items and services have been donated by the attending members ranging from a small bookcase, games and music to “goodies” to be shared, as well as skills shared and rides by some who drive.

From "The Observer," 1973. Director Adler is sitting at the head of the table on the right.
From “The Observer,” 1973. Director Adler is sitting at the head of the table on the right.

Currently the center is open Sunday through Wednesday from 1-4 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7-9 p.m. Activities range from informal chatting over coffee, discussing problems with staff, participation in games and group activities, dancing, music, arts and crafts and educational programs geared toward their individual needs and interest. Members have the opportunity to explore new interests, develop their creativity through the use of arts and crafts taught by trained staff or volunteers. If members have specific skills they are encouraged to share them with others. The use of leisure time is stressed and members are shown means of applying new skills that will enable them to participate in meaningful experiences in their daily lives. Some activities pursued were planning Christmas, Valentine Day parties and a picnic, learning to mend clothes, making a wall mural, ceramics, stone polishing, woodworking and decoupage plaques. Educational programs consisting of films on mental health attitudes and a training program in office management, attended by 5 members, were offered during the year. Future programs, geared to interests of members, may include a daily living course, hair care, basic sewing and budgeting money, utilizing professional people in community as instructors.

From "The Observer," 1973. Interior of the Traverse City Friendship Center.
From “The Observer,” 1973. Interior of the Traverse City Friendship Center.

One of the community responses in support of the center is the time contributed by the volunteers. Originally our volunteers were from Traverse City State Hospital volunteer program, but gradually through media of TC and newspapers, and word of mouth, they came directly from the community. Training sessions led by members of hospital staff are provided every new volunteer. Follow-up sessions are held every first and third Monday morning, a time for sharing learning experiences with state hospital staff. Volunteers are encouraged to participate in activities and share their skills, and most important to give of themselves. During the time they are working at the center they may listen to clients discuss problems, participate in games or group activities, teach a specific skill or help with housekeeping chores.

Periodic meeting with the total membership, clients, volunteers and staff, promote participation in planning and decision making about the functioning and needs of the center.

In the year the Center has been open 202 individuals have participated in the program, with an average of 7-25 in attendance at a session. A continuous turnover in membership is noticeable, even though a small number, indicative that the needs of some have been met buy the center and they are able to cope with-out our support.

To date ten volunteers have logged a total of well over 1500 hours of service. More volunteers are joining the program and expressing the satisfaction gained by sharing time and self with others.”

Radio Program Schedule, January 26, 1952

From the Traverse City Record-Eagle, January 26, 1952

430d3e3ad804d07897d83bcfae3b952_cropThe golden age of radio went from the 1920’s to the 1950’s, at which time television began to erode its popularity.  Scripted stories were read by famous actors, many with reputations from movies and the theater.  Quiz shows, operas, action drama, straight theater, popular music, and comedy could be found on the four main radio networks on Sunday afternoons and evenings.  Audiences looked forward to Jack Benny, Amos ‘n Andy, and Charlie McCarthy on CBS, as solid a line-up as any offered on television today.  Those of us who can remember those days feel a bit of nostalgia in seeing those names from the past.

“Some Traverse Heroes”

By M.E.C. Bates

[This story was taken from Along Traverse Shores, by M.E.C. Bates and Mary K. Buck, Traverse City: the Herald office, 1891]

We were sitting on Prospect Hill [ed. note: Prospect Hill is located near Glen Arbor on the Homestead Resort property] watching the sun go down, –my friend, the school teacher, and I.

I think in all this Grand Traverse region there is perhaps no finer view than that from Prospect Hill.  Before us lay Lake Michigan, its wide blue expanse stretching on and out as far as the eye could see, till it merged into sky at the horizon line, behind which the sun, a glowing ball of molten fire had just dropped, leaving all the west a golden sea.  Ten miles or more out but looking as if within rifle shot, lay the Manitous, like emeralds in a crystal setting.  Hitherward lie the great waterways for all the craft that seek the Straits from the westward, or the Lake Michigan ports and Chicago from the eastward.  Clear and distinct, near at hand, or so far away as to be only ghostly outlines, were the white sails of numerous barks bound up or down.  Two great propellers with black plumes streaming from their smoke stacks, saluted each other with short, hoarse whistles, as they passed between the islands and the mainland.  Far out, dim murky lines lying against the sky told of other boats bearing their loads of gay summer travelers to the great city “at the head” or to the pleasant resorts beyond the northern horizon.

To the southeast Glen Lake, a mighty mirror set in forest crowned hills, and two smaller lakes reflected as faithfully blue of sky and green of wooded slopes.  Thriving farms dotted the shores or hid behind the gaps in the forest walls cut by stalwart arms of the pioneers who here have hewn out for themselves happy homes.

From out Glen Lake issued Crystal River, rightly named, slipping away to the beach of yellow sand on the shores of old Michigan, stopping to coil itself into many shining loops, lingering under arches of fragrant cedar, where in the dim green light, in dark pools of ice cold water, speckled trout hide under ferny banks—out of the shadow into the sun, and then back into the shadows again,–under rustic bridges, past the old red grist mill and so down to the shining sands where the waves lap the shore with musical murmur.

From our lofty perch we looked down on the tops of a ragged fringe of scrub pines and oaks that lay between the sand of the beach and the base of Prospect Hill.

“I do not wonder you love your “home by the silver sea’, so well:” I said.  “The half was not told me.  This must be the true lotos land, –the land of dreams—the land ‘where it is always afternoon.’  I could stay here forever.”

“But it is not always afternoon,” she said, “nor are the days all halcyon summer days.  I could tell you stories of wild storms, of wreck and ruin,–yes of heroic deeds such as you read in books, and that thrill your soul with thoughts of knightly emprise till you sigh for the olden days when men were indeed men, not knowing that there are heroes still whom we meet in our daily walks, only our eyes are dim and we do not know them for the knightly souls they are.”

“So? Perhaps that is true.  Tell me a story of your Traverse knights.  A bit of romance in this dull work-a-day world will indeed be refreshing.”

She clasped her slender hands across her knees, and looked far out on the misty lake, while a thoughtful light came into her pretty eyes.

“I never sit here as we do this evening, and looking out over the great sand dunes of Sleeping Bear, but I think of one wild Autumn day when the schooner Phelps went ashore on the bar below

“It was a night in late November in 1880.  The wind blew in a gale from the southwest, lasing the water into foam, the great rollers coming in with almost two hundred miles of unbroken sweep.  The schooner tried to gain the lee of the Manitous, and at the same time shun the sand reefs of Sleeping Bear, where many a good ship has laid her bones.  Suddenly the wind shifted to the northwest.  The sky was thick with blinding snow and she began to drift at the mercy of the wind.  They dropped their anchor but it fouled; they drew it and tried again.  This time it caught; the ship swung stern shoreward and bow out, trailing anchor, and drifting slowly toward the sand bar.  The great waves pounded against her sides with terrific blows.  The deck broke away.  The rigging fell over the side, forming a network through which the water seethed and foamed, dashing the broken deck high above the prostrate spars only to fall in the black gulf below.  One by one the crew were overcome and perished in the freezing water.  Only three were left, crowded on the bow above the mass of wreckage—the mate, the wheelsman and a sailor, a boy of nineteen.  They clung to the frail support till the boy, impatient at the situation, crossed the awful chasm, and tried to detach a portion of the floating deck.  At first he worked manfully, then slower and slower till he fell freezing on the deck.

“In the blinding storm the day broke,–the hours passed on and it was not till afternoon that the wreck was discovered from the shore.  The alarm was given and soon all the inhabitants of the little village of Glen Arbor, a short distance up the beach, were gathered on the shore.  Some one ran for a team of stout farm horses and a huge pound net boat, a great, flat-bottomed affair, cumbersome even in mild weather, was moved from the fish houses down by the village.  It was a perilous venture, and he who went took his life in his hand, but in an instant a crew had volunteered.  Strong hands launched the boat.  Through the tremendous surf, half way to the wreck, and they were swamped, and their boat coast back like a child’s toy.  They were all ice and chilled to the bone, but soon they launched their boat again, four of the first crew going out, and a slender young fellow with nerves of steel and muscles of iron under his fair skin took the stern oar in place of the fifth.

“Again they battled with the waves, rising on the crests only to be hurled into the chasms.  They neared the vessel, reached the bow where the sailors clung, eagerly watching their movements.  The waves dashed against them, the wind roared around them, the snow blinded them, till human endurance could stand no more, and they were driven back, foot by foot.  The poor fellows on the wreck saw their rescuers leave them, and begged for help in the most piteous tones.  Reaching shore the brave men, wet to the skin and stiff with ice went for dry clothes, then once more made an attempt to reach the wreck, as it was certain the sailors could stand it but a few moments more.  This time they moved down the beach and started out obliquely with the tide.  Wilder than before, the blinding snow squalls beat upon them.  When almost at the wreck, fearful breakers, too powerful to pull against, drove them back in spite of their greatest efforts.  The cries of the sailors when they saw them lost ground were heart rending.  They renewed their efforts and soon were alongside.  They moved up to the floating mass of tangled rigging and loose boards, where they clung to a spar, thus steadying their boat, while one of the men, the mate, tried to cross the heaving wreckage.  He reached a long spar, and putting his arms around it, crawled painfully forward, while the waves surged and beat over him constantly.  At last he reached the boat and was helped in.  Next the wheelsman made the attempt.  He crossed a third of the spar then stopped and could come no further,–he clung helplessly with his bare hands and it seemed as if his life must be lost.  In the boat below, an old sailor from many-harbored Maine, rose from his seat, stepped into the jostling mass of rigging and wreck, made his way to the perishing man and brought him back in safety.  A few moments more and the surf was passed—the shore reached at last.

“All these brave men are the possessors of gold medals awarded them by the government at Washington, for their heroism.  Said I not well there are knightly souls who walk among us to-day?”

“I think, my dear,” I said, “that one of these brave Traverse knights was your hero.  Have I not guessed right?”

She glanced at me over her shoulder, half archly, half shyly, while a deeper flush rose to her cheeks.

“We must go home,” she said; “the dew is falling.”

We rose from our seats, and hand in hand, to help each other down the steep descent, took our way to the distant farm house, from one of whose windows a bright light shone out like a star to guide us on our path.

_______________________________________________________________________

We can compare the account described in Some Traverse Heroes to the actual event as reported to the editor of the Grand Traverse Herald, November 27th, 1879 edition (The shipwreck occurred on 20, November of that year).  At the outset we can see that M.E.C. Bates got the date wrong: it was not November of 1880 but a year before.  There are a few other discrepancies—the wreck was discovered early in the morning, not at noon, two persons were saved, not three, and the rescue crew did not appear in an instant (it took a while to get two rescuers to risk their lives).

M.E.C Bates was correct when she said members of the rescue crew received medals for their bravery.   John Blanchfield, William A. Clark, W.C. Ray, Charles A. Rosman, and John Tobin were awarded Gold Lifesaving medals on April 8, 1880 by the combined agencies of the Coast Guard, US Lifesaving Service, the Lighthouse Service, and the Revenue Cutter Service.

Even with occasional errors in the telling, Traverse Heroes is included here for several reasons.  The description of the view from Prospect Hill is charming and reminds us of a panorama we can enjoy to this day.  The language M.E.C. Bates uses in her descriptions recalls the florid prose of the era.  It is refreshing to immerse ourselves in it as a change from our present style of rock-solid nouns and boldly stated verbs.  Finally, she expresses the lofty values of her day as she talks about knightly gallantry, even providing a glimpse of the modesty of young women of the time when they are confronted with the possibilities of love: Upon being found out for having a love interest in one of the rescuers, the teller of the tale displays a flush in her cheek.  The newspaper article itself expresses the editor’s opinion that the event reminds us of the “chivalry and knightly deeds” of old.   The framing of the story as a tale of gallantry in both article and story is probably not a coincidence: M.E.C. Bates was married to Thomas T. Bates, the editor of the Grand Traverse Herald.

shipwreck.top

 

shipwreck.bottom

The story is not yet told.  In 2014 timbers from a shipwreck were uncovered by low Lake Michigan water levels.  Were they remnants of the W.B. Phelps?  We don’t know for sure, but the location fits perfectly.

Richard Fidler is co-editor of the Grand Traverse Journal.

Timbers, possibly from the W.B. Phelps shipwreck. Image courtesy of Dr. Mark Holley, Northwestern Michigan College, 2014.
Timbers, possibly from the W.B. Phelps shipwreck. Image courtesy of Dr. Mark Holley, Northwestern Michigan College, 2014.

Community Planting Festivals

Just in time for the coming of spring we reprint this section of a speech delivered by Mrs. Hulst in 1915.  There she discusses the possibility of making schoolyards into gardens, advocating that  woodlots close to school should be left wild to be used as nature study  areas.  The essay reminds us of efforts in the Detroit public schools to reclaim lots once filled with residential homes, since fallen to decay, and convert them to vegetable gardens.

Community Planting Festivals

by Mrs. Henry Hulst

….Would it not be an act to merit public gratitude if some one should introduce these rare and lovely things [wild plants] into our landscape?

The first thing that we should do is to educate the children and the community to work for beauty.  It should be the happy work of the children, aided by the Community, on two joyous Festival Days of the Spring and Fall, to devote time and effort to some public planting of their grounds and roadsides.   The planting of their small school yard will be a good beginning, but it is to be hoped that not many years hence the boundaries of the yard will extend until the lot is large—five acres—ten acres—forty.  In the Government Bulletins I read of schools in New Jersey and Colorado that are starting with seven acres, and our own new Township School at Houghton has forty.  Our National Commissioner of Education is urging the large yard and the farm school.

Is this too much?  I own that when I first heard Professor Roth, the enthusiastic Forester of our University, maintain that school lots should be not less than ten acres, I thought him extreme, but when I hear all that a ten acre lot can do for education of the school and the community, it seems moderate, and most wise, and only strange that it has taken so long to arrive at that wisdom.  The world seems to have waited until the 20th century for it to be held up as an ideal—perhaps it will not wait another century before the ideal is being widely realized, for progress is rapid in these days.  A ten acre lot, equipped with all of the trees, flower and shrubs of the locality, including stock to be used in teaching fruit culture, would make a first class laboratory for the study of the ways of Nature, and would “pay for its keep” many times over in a few years by the higher efficiency of the people of the neighborhood as farmers.  I am told that it would pay well as a wood lot, covering fuel expenses and even giving some revenue, while a forty acre wood lot would pretty nearly endow the school and set the community free from school taxes, aside from its value for teaching purposes.  What valuation should be put upon it as a things of beauty in the neighborhood, a park where people could gather for picnics, and public gatherings that can be held out of doors?  Should cities have all of the parks?  Some cities now have more of natural beauty than the open country.

It is enough to say that the ideal school of the future will be a building that will not “just do” but a dignified public edifice, an index to ideals of neatness, beauty and efficiency, as wsell as the learning from books, and where the community will meet to consider social betterment and to enjoy social privileges.   It will be surrounded by flowers, which the children love, and tend as part of their work; it will be surrounded by the park of the district.  In the city each school will have its garden, and every district will have its playground and park space.

Found in Keeler, Fred Lockwood, Special Day Programs for Michigan, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lansing: 1915, pp.15,16

The entire essay can be read in the Nelson room of the Woodmere branch of the Traverse Area District Library.  Pages may be photocopied for those wanting to read it carefully at home.

Header image courtesy of the United State Forest Service Region 5, https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfsregion5/3598029211.

Hunting the Last Passenger Pigeons, Benzie County, 1880

by Stewart A. McFerran, Benzie resident, outdoor enthusiast, and regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal

What does it mean to be “sustainable” in industry or practice? The passenger pigeon industry came to an end as a consequence of UNsustainable practices. The Petoskey area is often cited as the last mass roost in 1878, but there was a mass roosting of passenger pigeons on and around the Platte River in Benzie County in 1880.

Passenger pigeons made a big impression as they flew in huge numbers across North America. This plain pigeon was a unique species because of sheer numbers and gregarious nesting habits. From all reports,  the flocks could blot out the sun, their nesting grounds spreading out for miles.

Lewis Cross, Passenger Pigeons in Flight, 1937, Collection of the Lakeshore Museum Center, Photo by Fred Reinicke.
Lewis Cross, Passenger Pigeons in Flight, 1937, Collection of the Lakeshore Museum Center, Photo by Fred Reinicke.

Simon Pokagon, a Potawatomi tribal leader, author and Native advocate, had observed (and is frequently quoted on) the migrations of passenger pigeons in the Manistee area since 1850: “I have stood by the grandest waterfall of America and regarded the descending torrents in wonder and astonishment, yet never have my astonishment, wonder, and admiration been so stirred as when I have witnessed these birds drop from their course like meteors from heaven.”

According to reports published in the Grand Traverse Herald, April 1880, a network of spotters located a salt spring in Benzie County that would attract large flocks of the birds. Mineral rich water bubbled out and over a mound and down a slope. Millions of pigeons congregated in this area. The owners allowed pigeon netters to catch passenger pigeons there for a fee:

Article on pigeon nesting grounds, April 1880, Grand Traverse Herald.
Article on pigeon nesting grounds, April 1880, Grand Traverse Herald.

“Last week several small flights were observed on the Platte River. They came in clouds millions upon millions. It seemed as if by common consent the entire world of pigeons were concentrated at this point. The air was full of them and the sun was shut out of sight, and still they came millions upon millions more. The nesting is now more than fifteen miles in length and six to eight miles wide, and the birds are still coming in countless numbers. Old hunters say it will probably be the most extensive nesting ever known in the State.”

The large groups of hunters that flocked to Northern Michigan to shoot the remaining passenger pigeons arrived by train. They were well practiced in the dispatching, collecting, preserving and shipping of passenger pigeons. The market for the birds was well established in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.

What market, you might ask? Passenger pigeons were on the menus of American colonists from the start. At one time, the birds were considered a godsend and kept starvation at bay. Other times passenger pigeons were a delicacy. Pigeon pies were popular and Delmonico’s in New York served passenger pigeon. Pigeons were salted, smoked and pickled. (Greenberg, 2014).

gtherald-pigeons-april1880
Article on pigeon nesting grounds, April 1880, Grand Traverse Herald.

“Fully three hundred (hunters) are now at the grounds. This meeting will be a source of considerable revenue to the farmers in the neighborhood and to the whole country hereabouts.”

Conservation efforts to preserve and prevent the ill-treatment of the birds proved ineffective, a matter of too little, too late. The 1870s saw an increase in public awareness on the brutality of these hunts, leading to protests against trap-shooting. Various states enacted laws to curtail the slaughter over the next twenty years. In 1897, a bill was introduced in the Michigan legislature asking for a 10-year closed season on passenger pigeons. Similar legal measures were passed and then disregarded in Pennsylvania and New York. By the mid-1890s, the passenger pigeon had almost completely disappeared, and was probably extinct as a breeding bird in the wild. (For more information on conservation efforts, see W.B. Mershon’s The Passenger Pigeon, published in 1907, and available freely online.)

Martha, thought to be the last passenger pigeon, died on September 1, 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo.

James St. John, Stuffed male passenger pigeon. From the Field Museum of Natural History collection.
James St. John, Stuffed male passenger pigeon. From the Field Museum of Natural History collection.

Benzie hunters had the distinction of hunting some of the last passenger pigeons. They had help from gun toters and netters from afar. But we can learn a lesson from Martha: No one will ever hunt a passenger pigeon again. The passenger pigeon will never be counted during a Benzie Christmas Bird count because our ancestors did not have the foresight to use sustainable practices.

Sources:
Grand Traverse Herald, April 1880.
Greenberg, Joel. A Feathered River Across the Sky. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014.
Mershon, W.B. The Passenger Pigeon. New York: The Outing Publishing Company, 1907.
Wikipedia.

An A- for “Early History of Kingsley and its People,” by Henschell and Snyder

Newly acquired by the Kingsley Branch Library is an unpublished paper, “Early History of Kingsley and its People,” written for Creative Writing 203 (Instructor Dr. John Hepler) by Mable Henschell and Lena M. Snyder. This neat piece of scholarship earned its authors an A-, but we readers are awarded much more than that.

The authors interviewed second generation Kingsley residents, all children of the pioneer generation that settled in the valley that modern Kingsley now lies: Mable C. Snyder, Howard Dunn, George Fewless, Dr. J.J. Brownson, to name a few. From the ages given of those interviewed, and by doing a bit of genealogy detective work, the paper was likely written in 1947, about 80 years after the first lone men settled in what is now Paradise Township.

Lena Snyder, Kingsley teacher, 1947. Image courtesy of Floyd Webster Historical Photograph Collection, Kingsley Branch Library.
Lena Snyder, Kingsley teacher, 1948. Image courtesy of Floyd Webster Historical Photograph Collection, Kingsley Branch Library.

When reading this, think about several factors that color the description of the settlement of Kingsley. First, the authors were perhaps taking their interviewees at face value, despite the fact they were a generation removed from events. Second, the authors interviewed only those that stayed; One wonders if the families who abandoned their homesteads here would speak as passionately on the beauty of the valley. Third, the authors are both women attending college during the war years (As a complete aside, but nonetheless thought-provoking, Lena was about 40 years old, and was already employed as a teacher at Kingsley Schools, which raises a myriad of questions about her experience and motivations). One would imagine the wartime fervor for all things America found its way into this description as well, evidenced by the blatant admiration for the pioneers and their undoubtedly intrepid spirits.

In this excerpt, Judson Kingsley (the man for whom the Village is named after), has packed his family up, presumably from somewhere in Illinois, and took a boat to Traverse City, following the Lake Michigan shoreline:

“Most of the families  stopped in Traverse City for a few weeks (after disembarking at the harbor in Traverse City) before starting out to find their new homes, but Judson Kingsley decided to start out with his family and find a place he could call his own. He bought some food and hired a man to take him over the old state road to Grawn and then to Monroe Center. They saw some men working on the road as they rode along. Judson Kingsley asked the driver about the road, and he told them that in 1857, the legislature had passed an act authorizing the construction of the state road. It was to be called the Muskegon, Grand Rapids and Northport Road. Later it was changed to Newaygo and Northport State Road (editor’s note: The highway is now M-37). There was not much done on this road before 1860, just three years before the Kingsleys came over it. People had to travel on foot all the way to Grand Rapids, before this time, as there were only Indian trails. There were hardly any houses in this vast wilderness, which was known as ‘the big woods’. These woods were full of wolves, and some had followed Mr. Hannah when he walked on snow shoes from Traverse City to Grand Rapids. As the driver finished his story, they drove into Monroe Center. From here it was necessary to travel on foot over the old trails, for there were no roads east or west of the old state road…

The children were getting tired as the sun began sinking behind the horizon in the west, and the little family stopped for the night. A crude shelter was made of pine boughs. The tired travelers, weary from their hard journey, were soon fast asleep in this vast wilderness in a new country. The moon rose high into the sky, lighting the land until it lay bathed in silver light, with only the sounds of the nightbirds and insects to disturb the quietness of the night.

Kingsley valley, from the south, ca. 1910. Image courtesy of Sally Norman Photograph Collection, Kingsley Branch Library.
Kingsley valley, long settled. Image taken from the southern end of the valley, ca. 1910. Image courtesy of Sally Norman Photograph Collection, Kingsley Branch Library.

Day broke over the topmost trees, and the silver mist of the early morning surrounded them on every side, as Judson Kingsley’s little band moved farther and farther away from civilization. The smoke from an open fire indicated some settler had come in before they did. Later they saw Mr. Deyoe, and Mr. G.G. Nickerson, who said they had come from Illinois in December 1862. This was a year before the Kingsleys came over the trail. They had come to homestead the land, and as far as they knew, they were the only settlers in this vast wilderness. Judson Kingsley decided to move still farther into the big  timber. They walked on watching for a suitable spot for their new home. At last they reached the top of a  high hill and looked down into the most beautiful valley they had ever seen. A stream like a silver ribbon, angled in and out among the vast expanse of green. The sight was grand because of distance, color and outline, yet peaceful and undisturbed by the white man. Judson Kingsley decided this beautiful valley, which seemed like a paradise to him, would be their new home.

The Kingsleys were the first to homestead in the valley. Their claim was located where the present village of Kingsley now stands. They worked from early morning until late at night, and the woods resounded with the sturdy stroke of the woodsman’s ax, as they chopped the logs for their new home.”

There is so much here to research and verify, but for now, we will let Henschell and Snyder’s work stand alone, as a history captured in its time, through resources no longer available to our generation.  Our thanks to them, as well as the donor, who had the foresight to offer this fine paper for preservation. You are welcome to review the work in its entirety at the Kingsley Branch Library.

Timber!: An excerpt from a novel by Harold Titus, published in 1922

Harold Titus was a noted writer and conservationist, born in 1888, died in 1967.  He wrote more than a dozen novels, among them “Timber,’ a work that expressed his lifelong interest in conservation.  Titus was a founding member of the Izaak Walton League, established in the same year as the book appeared.  He is buried in Oakwood cemetery in Traverse City.

In the following excerpt Helen Foraker, a character who speaks out for scientific management of forests, expresses her view (and Titus’s) of the importance of woodlands and the tragedy of their destruction.

“Less than fifty years ago this land was stripped of its pine; today it is maturing another crop.  The same could have been done with any other piece that grew good trees: Just keep the fire out and nature would have done much in time.  Fire, fire, fire, without end!  Every summer it eats across the plains country; every summer it does its damage on cutover lands in all the timber States.   It not only destroys trees, but it takes the seed bearers and the seeds that lie ready to sprout and the life of the soil itself.

timbertitlepage001“To exist as a nation, we must have forests; to have forests all we need to do for a beginning is to give this worthless land a chance.  We can speed up its work by helping—by keeping out fire, by planting trees by good forest practice.  Can’t you see all these Michigan plains growing pine again?  And in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Pennsylvania and New England, the South, and everywhere where hills and valleys have become blackened eyesores?  Don’t you see what it would mean to people, not only in cheaper homes and steel and railroads, but something else?  Fish and game and a chance to play as men were intended to play!  It is so simple to do; to show people that it is simple is such a task!”p. 125,6

“In the woods when a saw gang has cut into a tree until it commences to sag and snap they stand back and cry ‘Timber!’  It is the warning cry of the woods; it means that trees are coming down, that men within range should stand clear.  My father used to say that the cry of ‘Timber!’ was ringing in the country’s ears, that the loggers had given the warning, that the last of our trees were commencing to fall—but we haven’t heard!  Our ears are shut to the cry, our backs are turned and unless we look sharp we’ll be caught!” p.128

Excerpts taken from the 2nd printing of Timber. Copies of Timber are available for circulation through Traverse Area District Library. The book is also available free online through Hathi Digital Trust.

Who Nailed That Fudge?: A 1908 Mystery

Who Nailed That Fudge? recounts a sweet-toothed theft in the State Bank building the day before Thanksgiving, 1908, and was published in the November 25, 1908 edition of The Evening Record:

WHO NAILED THAT FUDGE?

The strange disappearance of a pan of home made fudge, turned out in the fudge factory in the State bank building about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, created an excitement in that building which has never been equaled at any time, not excepting the time when the screens mysteriously disappeared.

The fudge was brewed by the Misses Lettie Marvin and Florence Rattenbury, its delectable fumes penetrating the air, floating out over the transom and attracting a horde of gentlemen tenants, who flocked around that door in a manner that reminded one of flies around a honey jar in July. They all came to the fudge factory, but it was noticed that two of them, E. Sprague Pratt and C.L. Curtis, the engineer, looked greedily upon the brewing brown mixture while their noses twitched like those of rabbits when they scent the fresh green things in the spring.

Jens Petersen taken on October 24, 1901 as he was starting his training under prominent Chicago architect, James Gamble Rogers. Image courtesy of Julie Schopieray.
Jens C. “Jensy” Petersen, taken on October 24, 1901 as he was starting his training under prominent Chicago architect, James Gamble Rogers. Image courtesy of Julie Schopieray.

Others came also, among them being Jens C. Petersen, G.W. Power, C.J. Helm, E.S. Williams, E.C. Billings and the greyhound Jack, in fact it is claimed by the fudge manufacturers that every man in the building came and looked longingly at the candy, sniffed the air and swallowed hard in anticipation. But having faith in these gentlemen and never for one moment believing that they could do any wrong, the ladies did not place a guard over their product when it was completed, but set it in the window of the fudge factory to cool, then went down the hall to discuss what they were going to be thankful for on Thanksgiving day.

And now they are looking for that pan of fudge. When they went back to get it, there was no fudge there, not even the pan. It was gone as completely and mysteriously as though it had never been. Search was made for it, detectives were placed on the case, the different offices were visited, the tenants begged threatened, wheedled and bluffed, but none confessed.

A notice was place in a conspicuous place stating that if the pan would be returned no questions would be asked, but even this was ignored. The prosecutor left the city hurriedly, and the ladies believed it possible that the fudge went with him, but this is only suspicion. It is thought that the fudge, pan and all was swallowed by someone, and they are wondering which one off the tenants could have performed this feat. The only one in the building who could make way with the pan in that manner is Jack the greyhound, but he can prove an alibi. The mystery deepens.

The ladies declare that if any of these hungry eyed men had asked them for a piece of fudge, they would gladly have given them some, but to think of being robbed like this of all they had, is hard indeed. When the guilty party or parties are apprehended, they will be dealt with severely.

Fudge recipe from McCall's Great American Recipe Card Collection,  ca. 1980s.
Fudge recipe from McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection, ca. 1980s.

Nothing has been found that indicates that anyone ever confessed to this crime, so it remains a mystery 107 years later. The writing style of the article is suspiciously like that of Jens C Petersen, a local architect. Two weeks after this incident, the editor began publishing letters to Santa Claus, and many local businessmen submitted their own pleas to Santa. The following letter was sent in by Petersen. His obvious love of fudge makes one wonder if he was the one who absconded with the sweet treat the day before Thanksgiving.

Dear Santa Claus: Bring me a bob sled and some fudge and lots of work and some nuts and candy and more fudge. I have been good and will continue to be. Jensy Petersen. –The Evening Record, December 18, 1908

NOTE: I was curious about the use of the word NAILED in this article and found one definition that applies here: “Nailed- past tense of nail- is seize, or take into custody.” I had never heard the word used that way before!

Contributed by local Jens C. Petersen aficionado, Julie Schopieray.

Dougherty’s Primer for the Ojibwa Language: A Missionary’s Efforts at Printing the Spoken Word, 1847

Recently, I attended a meeting of the Grand Traverse Area Genealogical Society, and had the good fortune to hear a talk on the Reverend Peter Dougherty, delivered by Mr. Bill Cole, President of the Peter Dougherty Society. The life of early settlers, especially missionaries, is an intriguing topic, and I found myself back in the Nelson Room at Traverse Area District Library looking for more on Dougherty and his work in the field. I discovered a slim volume, a facsimile of an original, titled Short Reading Lessons in the Ojibwa Language, by Rev. Peter Dougherty.

Portrait of Rev. Peter Dougherty. Image courtesy of the History Center of Traverse City.
Portrait of Rev. Peter Dougherty. Image courtesy of the History Center of Traverse City.

When Dougherty began in 1839 to serve as a missionary from the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mission to the native population living in and around the Grand Traverse Bay region, what were his primary concerns? Certainly the logistics of any trip arise: how to get there, where to stay, what to pack. Compensating for his isolation would have played an important part in all his decisions, and I think not the least would be the worry to make himself understood!

Translating was a matter of necessity for 17th century fur traders and early Catholic missionaries, and some translation keys were published, but more as a curiosity than a work of instruction. Later, the pioneering work of Henry Schoolcraft and his mixed-race wife Jane Johnston (a native speaker of the Ojibwa language, author, poet, and resident of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan) prompted an interest in translating between the languages as a means of retaining native culture and practices. However, it appears there was no drive for creating primers that were instructive and reusable until Dougherty’s era of missionary work began. Dougherty seems to have mastered the language well enough to write Short Reading Lessons, printed for the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in 1847, and we presume it was used as a guide for other missionaries serving in areas where the Algonquin language family was prominently spoken. Dougherty also provided a translation for the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer in The First Initiatory Catechism, 1847.

Short Reading Lessons is a dual-language primer containing 20 lessons. The following format is provided for each lesson: an image is shown, then the image is described in English, followed by the Ojibwa translation. As the lessons progress, Dougherty’s subjects moved from the secular (boys picking apples, a hunting party), to religious themes (Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, David and Goliath). One wonders if this was intentional.

Here’s the language key provided in the front matter:

A has the uniform sound of in the word mason.
E the uniform long sound a in the word e-den.
I long when it constitutes a syllable, and short in all other cases; e.g., as in pine, and in into.
O long, as in note.
O short, as in moderate.
U like in ugly, when it follows e; like u uncorn [sic].
G the hard sound like k.
J the soft sound.
The rest of the alphabet like the English.

Ready to give lesson one a shot?:

dougherty-lesson1

An apple tree.
Leaves.
A willow basket.
Stone Wall.
Branches.
A ladder.
Five boys.
Apples.
These boys are gathering apples.

Mes-he-nim-ah-tig.
Uh-ne-be-shun.
Wuh-tuh-be muh-kuk.
Ah-sen-e mich-e-kuk-nah-ko-be-je-gun.
Wuh-de-quh-nun.
Quon-duh-wah-gun.
Nah-nun que-we-zan-sug.
Me-she-me-nug.
O-go que-we-zen-sug o-mah-mo-zhuh-ge-nah-won me-she-me-nun.

If your interest is piqued, Short Reading Lessons is available in its entirety online through the Hathi Trust Digital Library: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100585421; or, feel free to visit us at Traverse Area District Library to take a look at the print copy. Sorry, we do not promise any level of proficiency if you finish the primer!

Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.