Nello Valentine’s Planting Crew: A brief history of reforesting Leelanau County, ca. 1974

by Stewart A. McFerran, Regular GTJ Contributor

When Nello Valentine left Chicago in his VW Van his destination was not Leelanau County. He passed through Leelanau on his tour of the Nation. After travelling the Nation’s highways and scenic byways the journey was complete with a stroll on Height Ashbury Street in the other Bay Area. He traded the van for a houseboat that was docked near the Jack London Square in Oakland, California. His son was born there before he and his wife Margie decided to move to Leelanau.

They bought a Rambler and arrived at the Candle Light Inn outside of Suttons Bay in December of 1968. “I had long hair, a mustache and no idea there would be such prejudice against hippies.” Nello and Margie bought 100 acres outside of Cedar. Many of the farms of Leelanau County had soil that did not react as expected when deforested and grazed. Erosion cut into the sandy hillsides of cut rate acreage.

Nello decided to plant trees on his property. Ellsworth Esch had been planting trees in the county for many years. He worked with the soil conservation district programs that targeted timber stand improvement, soil erosion and wildlife. “Ellsworth hired Indians to plant the trees”, said Nello.

“Nello Treeplanters,” ca. 1974. Image provided by the author.

Nello hired his own crew and started planting trees in 1974. As an occasional member of the crew I recall that we mostly planted white pine, red pine and Norway spruce. At that time the DNR wildlife experts were recommending that autumn olive be planted for “food plots”. Nello sometimes took his crew to remote two acre oil well sites that had been abandoned. These areas were slated to be covered with autumn olive. Autumn olive is now considered an invasive species by experts.

Nello recalls the giant hemlocks that once covered Leelanau. He rues the days those giants were cut just for bark and left to rot on the sandy soil.  Elms were dying or dead county-wide when Nello first moved to Leelanau. He said they made good fire wood. The ash trees have gone the way of the elm and are now providing firewood.

At this moment in time when so many kinds of trees are threatened by invasive species, disease, and climate change, Nello calls on his degree in comparative religion. Today a walk in the woods can be dangerous due to falling timber, says forester Kama Ross.

At the time Nello began planting there were many large farms in Leelanau. Those farmers could take advantage of the programs though the soil conservation service and work with Nello to have trees planted on their sandy hillsides. We would walk together with canvas bags on our hips and plant trees every eight or ten feet. The federal government dictated the spacing of the trees. It was always important to slot the root of the tree straight into the earth and avoid having a “J Root”. We could carry fifty trees on our hips and plant thousands of trees a day.

Spring was the best time to plant and Nello’s crew often planted 80,000 trees during those cool months. The Fall planting time was shorter but often the crew accomplished the rooting of 50,000 trees. The survival rate of the trees we planted was 80%. Nello has seen that reduced due to hotter weather and longer droughts. He has resorted to watering trees on his farm.

The author with Nello and crew, all with Old Burdickville home brew! Image courtesy of Bob DeKorn, brother of John.

I recently met John DeKorn at the Lake Ann Brewery. John was one of Nello’s best tree planters. His home brewed beer “Old Burdickville” was sometimes provided to the crew at lunch in the field. I recall that on those days the rows of trees became serpentine after lunch.

Many of the farms of Leelanau have been subdivided. The soil conservation district still offers trees. Nello and crew of hippies planted trees from 1974 to 2004.  His conservative estimate is that we planted 2 million trees in Leelanau, Benzie and Grand Traverse counties, an accomplishment that I for one am proud of.

Stewart A. McFerran is a former deck hand with Lang fisheries in Leland MI. Leader of the Antioch College Great Lakes Environmental Field Program and Innisfree Naturalist.

Scrips Kept the Money Moving

For this month’s Mystery Photo, we show you two sides of scrip, a currency Traverse City city leaders issued in 1934, the height of the Great Depression.  This money could be redeemed at many Traverse City businesses in exchange for goods.  At one point teachers were paid in scrip since there was no other money available to them.  The question is—why is the back filled with stamps?  What goal did that accomplish?  Good luck, history buffs!

The stamps were placed on the back on a weekly basis to ensure wide distribution. Every merchant supplied a stamp and after twenty stamps, the scrip could be turned in for a real dollar!

A quote from the Traverse City Record-Eagle at the time indicated there were problems with stamps falling off, but the system worked reasonably well.

Hulda Neal: America’s First Female Game Warden

by Julie Schopieray, Author, Researcher, and regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal

Long before women’s skirts were worn above the ankle, and even before gaining the right to vote, Traverse City was the home of a woman who, while remaining a “lady” of her time, took on the challenge of an occupation never before held by a woman.  As an active, law-abiding outdoors-woman, she became frustrated by the lack of enforcement of hunting and fishing laws. She saw firsthand the need for a local person to monitor hunting and fishing and prosecute the violators of regulations. In the summer of 1897, she applied to the newly appointed State Fish and Game Warden, Chase Osborn, for the position of deputy game warden in Grand Traverse County.  He hired her for the job.

    Early rules on hunting in Michigan were not strict. “Bag limits” were basically non- existent until 1881 when the Michigan Sportsman’s Association (MSA) lobbied the state to reduce the season to five months out of the year and limited the taking of fawns and banning certain types of hunting. The state’s first paid game warden position was created in 1887, the job mostly consisting of enforcing game and fish regulations. Wardens were not assigned to every county or region until much later. In 1895 the first real management of the state’s deer herd began with a law which limited the hunting season to a few weeks in November.  New laws followed to prosecute violators.

Laws on fishing in Michigan’s waters at the time were mostly limited to those of spearing, fishing during spawning season, and the taking of certain size fish. There were many who chose to ignore these regulations and the sportsmen who did obey the laws felt not enough being done to enforce regulations.

One of these people was Hulda (Valleau) Neal. Born in Ohio in 1854, Mrs. Neal had lived in the Traverse City area since her marriage to James Warren Neal, a Civil War veteran, in 1872. They owned a farm in western Long Lake Township near Cedar Run. They had two children, Emma, born in 1874, and Arthur in 1875. 

In the summer of 1897, and at the age of forty-two, Hulda Neal accepted the appointment of deputy game warden. Because women’s roles outside the home were mostly limited to teaching or nursing, and due to the fact that she was the first and only woman in this traditionally male profession of fish and game law enforcement, the news of her appointment spread quickly in newspapers across the country. The July issue of Forest and Stream magazine announced the appointment of Mrs. Neal:

Mrs. Warren Neal of Neal, Mich., has been appointed deputy game warden for Grand Traverse county by State Warden Osborn. Mrs. Neal is forty-two years of age and of medium stature. She says she took her office because she wanted to see the fish and game in Grand Traverse county protected, and that the men do not seem to be able to enforce the laws. These are stirring times.

The Official Bulletin of the Sportsmen’s Association gave this description of the new woman game warden:

Mrs. Warren Neal of Grand Traverse County, Michigan is a duly commissioned county game and fish warden. She is a slender, sprightly little woman in the prime of life with brown wavy hair and honest bright blue eyes. Mrs. Neal weighs 108 pounds, but can row and manage a boat with more skill than some muscular men.

Mrs. Neal’s explanation of how she incurred her appointment is as follows: “Why there was a warden, but he could not come up here and stop the spearing and netting of fish and killing game out of season, and I asked Mr. Osborn, State Game Warden, to appoint me, and he did.”

(Reprinted from the Official Bulletin of the Sportsmen’s Association. From the Women in Criminal Justice Hall of Honor, established by Women Police of Michigan, Inc. in 1991 to honor those women who have contributed to the advancement of women in criminal justice. SOURCE: Criminal Justice and Law Center, Lansing Community College. Also printed in the Women’s History Project of NW Michigan newsletter.)

The best description of Mrs. Neal and her role as the first woman game warden was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on 15 August, 1897, complete with somewhat stylized illustrations. The article was reprinted in papers across the nation.

NEW JOB FOR A NEW WOMAN

Once again a new and startling occupation has been found for the new woman. It is that of game warden, and the woman who distinguished herself by making this brand new departure is Mrs. Warren Neal of Neal, Mich. This woman was appointed game warden for Grand Traverse county not long since, and from the appearance of things she will attend to the duties of her office in a businesslike manner.

The duties of game warden are of such a nature that many men would not care to undertake to fill the place, but Mrs. Neal is a plucky little woman, and she has no fear whatever of not being able to overcome all obstacles. A game warden is supposed to travel all over the county and keep a sharp lookout for violators of the game and fish laws. As Grand Traverse county, of which Mrs. Neal has control, is densely wooded and has many lakes, she will be kept very busy seeking out and bringing justice violators of the law.

Mrs. Neal handles a gun like an expert, rows a boat and is a skillful woodsman, and she knows every inch of the territory she has to patrol. In order to make her way through the dense growths in the forest land as easily as possible Mrs. Neal has adopted a costume modeled after the much reviled bloomers.

As to the trousers, Mrs. Neal says that she has no desire to be considered as setting the pace for the new woman. In fact, she told the writer she thought every woman ought to dress according to her own ideas of comfort, though for the life of her she could not see why any woman should want a skirt when hunting or rowing. It really appears as if Mrs. Neal is the sort of new woman that has a mind to advance her sex along sensible and health giving lines.

She usually makes a trip over the entire county once a week. When out after the violators of the game law, she rides over the country on horseback, and when she comes to a lake she secures a boat, and with steady, swift oar she rapidly covers her territory made up of water.

She carries a rifle on all of these trips, and woe to the evildoer caught napping, for this plucky game warden is a relentless pursuer of all lawbreakers, and she has brought many of them to justice.

During May the state game and fish warden’s department prosecuted 109 alleged violators of the law and convicted 96, growing out of 149 complaints. This breaks the record for any previous month in the history of the department. All but three of the convictions were obtained for violation of the fish laws, and the majority of these cases were established by Mrs. Neal.

Her skill with a rifle is something phenomenal, and she drops her quarry with the ease of a professional Nimrod. Mr. Neal, who is an enthusiastic sportsman, long ago taught his wife to be skillful with the revolver. Last July when they were in the upper lake region camping he induced her to try her hand with the rifle. He declared that a woman who could shoot so well with a revolver would with practice become a dead shot with the larger weapon. Now, rifle shooting requires a good eye, a steady hand and wrist and a control of the nervous system that very few women possess. Generally the novice fires at a target. Mrs. Neal’s first target, however, was a glass bottle thrown in the air, and at a third shot she struck the bottle, a surprisingly good attempt. Mrs. Neal kept on practicing, and now is so expert that she can hit the glass bottle nine times out of ten.

In addition to her other duties Mrs. Neal carries the mail three times a week to Traverse City for Uncle Sam. 

Several other newspaper articles, though much shorter, give a few more bits of information on Mrs. Neal.  The Muskegon Chronicle of 9 June, 1897 reported:

She handles  a gun with the best of them, rows like an Indian, can track a deer when the old woodsmen can’t and is an all-around athlete of the northern woods type.”  The Adrian Daily Telegram dated, 28 Dec. 1897, describes her clothing and riding style: “She wears pantaloons just like those of men and can handle the rifle like a veteran marksman. Mrs. Neal jogs over the country once a week on horseback. When she rides through a town she always sits in the feminine style, but when she reaches uninhabited territory, it is said, she assumes the clothespin style of navigation.

Although there were  some who assumed she’d never be able to perform the duty as  well a man, Mrs. Neal became locally well known as someone not to be trifled with and would execute her job as well as any man. An article in the local paper shortly after her appointment made this clear.  “…she is an active woodsman, a good shot and can give cards and spades to any man in the manipulation of a fishing rod…Mrs. Neal will wage an aggressive campaign against violators of the law…and offenders in her locality will find that she will stand no fooling.”

The state warden position had a term of four years but there does not seem to have been any specific term length for deputies. Mrs. Neal fulfilled the duty of local warden for two years. State laws gave deputy wardens the same power and authority as the state warden and the same power and rights as a sheriff would have– the power to arrest anyone caught by them violating game and fish laws. They were paid three dollars a day for each day spent doing their duty, plus expenses.  During her two years on the job, a few articles describing her experiences were printed in the local papers. One was in the Traverse Bay Eagle on 3 June, 1898:

Last night Mrs. Warren Neal, the fish warden, accompanied by another lady, went out on Long Lake, hoping to capture some violators of the fish law. She was not disappointed in the least for as she went into the little lake she discovered a jack light [Note: a jack light is a fie-pan or cresset usually mounted on a pole for hunting and fishing at night]. As soon as Mrs. Neal was seen by the occupants of the boat the light was dashed into the water and the lawless men not being far from shore, jumped into the water and made their escape into the woods. As yet no arrests have been made. Mrs. Neal now has their boat, jack and spear in her possession.

Another article from the Saginaw News on 13 June, 1899 described an incident that seemingly did not go well for Mrs. Neal:

Mrs. Warren Neal, deputy game warden, found out yesterday that all is not smooth sailing in her calling. She rowed out into the lake yesterday to arrest some men who were spearing fish against the law. The men took her boat in tow and, towing her to a lonely spot in the lake, left her stranded on the shore and politely took their leave.

A follow-up article in the Traverse City paper the next day told a slightly different story:

The statement that has been made that the two men who were spear fishing towed Mrs. Neal’s boat ashore and then put their own boat on the wagon, said goodbye and left, is not at all correct. Mrs. Neal says that she saw the lights on the lake, took her son, who is constable, with her, and went in pursuit. The men did not want to give up and when told that they were violating the law, made some wordy resistance, but finally, threw away their spear. Mrs. Neal sprang into their boat and told the constable to take and secure her boat and secure the spear, which he did.  She then secured the fishing “jack” and the men rowed to shore, the constable remaining in Mrs. Neal’s boat, but this was not in tow of the other boat. Mrs. Neal declares if she had had her handcuffs she would have secured both men. As it was they offered to ransom their “jack” by paying  her $25. The offer was indignantly rejected. It was 3:45 a.m. when the boat reached the landing. Mrs. Neal declares she is going to break up the practice of illegal fishing on Long Lake.”

Hulda Neal, undated. Image from Traverse Area District Library’s Local History Collection.

Mrs. Neal’s term as game warden ended after two successful years of service but she continued to work with the State fisheries by stocking wall-eyed pike in Long Lake for several years, at least through 1909.

Only six months after her appointment as warden, Mrs.Neal was no longer the only women holding that kind of position. In January 1898, a twenty-six-year old Annie Metcalf from Denver, Colorado, was appointed the position of game warden in that state. Both women were well qualified for the job, however, Mrs. Neal held her position longer than Miss Metcalf.

Mark Craw began his career as a deputy game warden in Grand Traverse County in 1899 which put a second person out enforcing the fish and game laws during the end of Mrs. Neal’s tenure. Mr. Craw remained both warden and conservation officer until his retirement in 1945.

Hulda and her husband bought a house on Washington St. in Traverse City around 1904. He worked as a drayman for several years but Hulda did not hold any further occupations over the last thirty years of her life. She passed away on Feb. 9, 1931 at the age of seventy-six. There is no mention of her time as a game warden in her obituary.  Mrs. Neal is listed in the Traverse for Women website as one of the Notable Women of NW Michigan and  listed in the Women in Criminal Justice Hall of Honor, established by Women Police of Michigan, Inc. in 1991 to honor those women who have contributed to the advancement of women in criminal justice. SOURCE: Criminal Justice and Law Center, Lansing Community College. http://traverseforwomen.com/Herstory/index.htm

The Michigan DNR has applied to have Mrs. Neal entered into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018.

Julie Schopieray is a regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal, a researcher to be admired, and author of the fantastic new biography, Jens C. Petersen: From Bricklayer to Architect. Copies of the book can be obtained from Horizon BooksAmazon, or directly from the author.

New Book on Natural Phenomenon, Organisms in Northern Michigan on sale now

Of Things Ignored and Unloved: A Naturalist Walks Northern Michigan contains over thirty essays by the esteemed Dr. Richard Fidler. (Before you ask, no, he is not standing near me engaging in threatening gestures as I write this review. It is a totally unsolicited piece, however, the quality of this collection should be commended on the highest mountaintops and lowest freshwater sponge-riddle waterways. For real.)

Image from Fidler’s essay as it was originally published in “Grand Traverse Journal.” Turst me, Fidler’s drawings are much more appealing and less repulsive. Image of sea lampry mouth parts. Photo courtesy of I, Drow male, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1999560

Long time readers of Grand Traverse Journal will recognize parts of some of the essays, as many of Fidlers’ first iterations of these essays were published in this very magazine, a very distinguished honor to be sure! He covers nearly everything we regular, un-inquisitive folk visually pass right over, from ant nuptials to Trailing Arbutus. He includes the misunderstood milk snake, the repulsive sea lamprey, and the confusing clubmoss, giving each organism he sets his sights on the respect they are due. What are these things, and what, if anything, do they do? You will find these answers and more in this collection.

This is a truly unique collection, one I have not seen the like of before. Often, descriptions of the flora and fauna that are not well-loved (seal pups and baby orangutans, for example) are limited to brief, uninteresting, and ultimately uninformative encyclopedic clap-trap. Take, for example, this description of freshwater sponges from Britannica:  

“Freshwater sponge, any of about 20 species of the genus Spongilla (class Demospongiae, siliceous sponges), a common, widely occurring group. Spongilla species are found in clean lake waters and slow streams. Freshwater sponges are delicate in structure, growing as encrusting or branching masses. They usually appear greenish because of the algae that live on them.”

Boooooorrrrringgggg. Also, nothing about what really interests me, which is primarily, what would this thing be like to squish between my fingers, and where can I see one in northern Michigan? Fidler answers both questions in his essay Godzilla vs. Spongilla: A Contrast in Lifestyles.

Perhaps you are interested in all things unique to our region? Fidler covers local phenomenon including ventifact fields and lag gravel, seiches specifically in Grand Traverse Bay, how the windstorm of 2015 affected local forests a year later, and other similar curiosities.

See what I mean? Adorable lil water bears, and they look even cuture in Fidler’s drawings. Image provided by Willow Gabriel, Goldstein Lab – https://www.flickr.com/photos/waterbears/1614095719/ Template:Uploader Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2261992

Truly, one of my favorite additions to these essays is Fidler’s hand drawn illustrations. Unlike in Grand Traverse Journal, which I typically illustrate on his behalf by using just okay, public domain images, you will get to see these organisms through the artistic pen of a man who cares. My favorite? The image of the water bear, which you can see in the essay At Play With Water Bears. I’ve never thought of Tardigrades as adorable before, but I certainly do now!

“But Amy, I’m not excited by nature, what does this collection have for me?” If you are one of these people (and I’m not accusing you if you are), I dare say you have not looked at the world around you with Richard Fidler. His writing is informative, engaging, quick, and light. If you believe you have no interest in its content, I challenge you to pick up a copy, flip to any random page, and not be fascinated by some tidbit you had never considered before. This would be a fun book to read with a younger person who is just getting interested in the creepy-crawlies whom we share the world with. Impress your friends, astound your enemies, and open your eyes to the natural world of Northern Michigan with Fidler as your guide!

Of Things Ignored and Unloved: A Naturalist Walks Northern Michigan is on sale at Horizon Books, 243 E. Front Street, Traverse City; and online at Amazon.com.

Factory On Boardman Lake identified!

To date, January 2018s mystery photo has created the longest debate in the history of our publication! Thank you for being engaged and keeping your editors on their toes!

This image is easily one of your editors’ favorites! Taken about 1910, here is Boardman Lake, taken from the northern end and looking south. In the photograph, we see a number of fun-loving Traverse City residents ice skating, playing hockey, and in general enjoying a perfect frozen lake with no piles of snow to contend with. Solve the mystery of this image: What is that large factory shown on the background on the left? Bonus question: What building now sits where that factory was?

Congratulations to reader Biff Martin, who successfully identified the factory on the far left (with the three tallest stacks) as the Oval Wood Dish Company!

The bonus question raised some debate, but Mark Roberts answered successfully: the Boardman Lake Apartments is the former site of the Oval Wood Dish Factory.

Between the Factory and it’s famous family owner-operators, the Hull family, there’s a real story to be told! Maybe you would be interested in researching and writing that history? Let us know!

Boardman Lake, ca. 1910. Image 718.000001.327, Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection.

Depression-Era Scrip Stamps? It’s a mystery!

For this month’s Mystery Photo, we show you two sides of scrip, a currency Traverse City city leaders issued in 1934, the height of the Great Depression.  This money could be redeemed at many Traverse City businesses in exchange for goods.  At one point teachers were paid in scrip since there was no other money available to them.  The question is—why is the back filled with stamps?  What goal did that accomplish?  Good luck, history buffs!

 

 

50 Years Ago: News from January 1968 (Part II)

More bits of news from the Traverse City Record-Eagle, January 1968

Traverse City Police Officers Howard Munsen, Howard V. Ritter, Harold Culman, August 1946. Image #720.091707.202-4, Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection.

Police Chief Howard V. Ritter dies at 54.  Chief Ritter was born July 19, 1913 at Rapid City, and moved to Indiana with his parents where he attended school. He then moved to Traverse City in 1930 where he graduated  from Senior High School.  After graduating from County Normal School in 1933, he taught school for a number of years in Kingsley.  In  1942 he joined the Traverse City police department as a patrolman, and was appointed chief in 1966.  Mr. Ritter was and active member of First Nazarene Church, serving as chairman of the board of trustees, as treasurer, and as a member of the building committee.  He was also a member of the local chapter of Youth For Christ, was a past president, secretary, and treasurer of the Fraternal Order of Police, served on the local Boy Scout board of review, and was a Boy Scout leader.  Capt. John McCloskey is expected to be certified as the new chief of police.

Romney visits India.  Republican presidential hopeful George Romney discussed food production and birth control with Indian governmental officials.  He was told that although India was sympathetic with America’s cause in Vietnam, they were unable to lend active support as a matter of survival.

Home for the Holidays.  Misses Brenda and Joann Duff, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Keith Duff of Buckley, are visiting their family for the holidays.  Brenda (Biederman) has just returned from a trip to South America, and will work in San Francisco, California after the holidays.  Joann will return to New York City where she is employed by the United Nations.

With U.S. 7th Fleet.  Airman Larry D. HIll, USN, son of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert R. Hill of Acme, is serving aboard the U.S. Seventh Fleet attack carries USS Kitty Hawk off the coast of North Vietnam.

At the Eastfield Thriftway Market: Pork Roast, 49¢ lb;  Chuck Roast, 59¢ lb; Morrell”s Pride Purt Shortening, 39¢ for 3lb., Bacon 33¢ lb, 2-lb Pkg. of Nestle’s Quik, 65¢.

Miss Hildah Cummings, 69, of 422 Washington Street, Traverse City, was pronounced dead on arrival at Munson Medical Center Saturday after an apparent heart attack at her home.  Miss Cummings was born September 30, 1898, at Lake Ann, the daughter of Henry and Ada Cummings, a pioneer family in the Grand Traverse region.  Miss Cummings later lived in New York and Detroit, retiring from the YWCA organization in 1965 and moving to Traverse City to make her home.  She will be interred in Grand Traverse Memorial Gardens.

At WTCM Station:  Traverse City Chapter of Sweet Adelines will hold its practice Wednesday night at the WTCM Radio Station instead of the regular Monday night rehearsal.  Members are invited to attend a social hour from 8 to 9 p.m. to become acquainted with the new members.  

Movie poster courtesy of Wikipedia (source unknown).

In the movie theater on this day:  “More Than a Miracle” starring Sophia Loren and Omar Sharif.

Dare-All Squares Square Dancing Club will dancxe Friday evening at 8 p.m. at the Garfield towhall.  Darrell Figg will be the caller.  All western style square dancers are invited and memers are reminded to bring sandwiches.                 

Quints born in Australia.  Australia’s Braham quintuplets weighed i a more than three pounds each today, and doctors say the three girls and two boys are doing well.  They were Australia’s first surviving quints.

Half of the world’s present population has been born since World War II as of this date.

Newspaper comics of the day:  Mary Worth, Buzz Sawyer, Rip Kirby, Blondie, Snuffy Smith, Dr. Kildaire, Donald Duck, L’il Abner, Henry, Muggs and Skeeter, Beetle Bailey.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

New Biography of Jens Petersen reveals life of bold, innovative architect of Traverse City past

Portrait of Jens Petersen.

Communities often forget energetic, bold, and vibrantly creative people in their time, directing their attention to new figures that seem to shine as bright as those who came before.  So it has been with the Traverse City’s Jens Petersen, an architect whose designs, innovative ideas, and general approach to architecture live on in the buildings he helped to create.

Historian and writer Julie Schopieray has uncovered the achievements of Petersen in her most recent book, Jens C. Petersen: From bricklayer to architect: the life and works of a visionary Michigan architect.  Meticulously researched and documented, the work is much more than a biography: it is a treasure trove of diary entries, newspaper articles and advertisements, advertising circulars, and treasured photographs of Petersen’s family, the man himself, and the vestiges of his architectural work that remain.  It is a gorgeous work of scholarship.

Son of a stone mason and trained in that trade, Jens Petersen was born in 1873.  The family moved to the Traverse area when the boy was eleven years old, his father having been employed in the construction of the Northern Michigan Asylum.  As a young man, Jens worked on other cottages of the Asylum as well as other well-known buildings around town.  However, his ambitions exceeded that of being a first-rate bricklayer.  He wanted to become an architect.

Through correspondence school courses taken in Traverse City, night school classes taken in Chicago, and apprentice work received in a well-known Chicago firm, he passed the Illinois examination for a license in architecture  in 1903.  He was one of the first licensed architects to practice in Northern Michigan.

Union Street School, Traverse City, designed by architect Jen Petersen.

The buildings Petersen was responsible for are well-known to those interested in local history: the Union Street school, the Empire school, the old stone school in Sutton’s Bay, the C.S.P.S. Hall on Front Street in Traverse City, the Bellaire Courthouse, and many residences throughout the area.  There is much evidence that Jens Petersen designed Holy Rosary Church near Cedar, Michigan.  While some buildings have been demolished, many still stand.

Petersen was known for two innovations, one having to do with his use of concrete in construction, both for interior and exterior design, and the other with marketing architectural designs to the general public.  He frequently published articles in a journal aimed at builders and architects called Concrete, ever advocating for the application of that substance in all kinds of construction.  In the Little Tavern, a restaurant in downtown Traverse City, he even had counters made of concrete, as well as spreading a reddish layer of it on the floor (something Julie found in a chipped-away spot at the entry to the present business at that location!)

Petersen’s mail-order business for architectural residence designs was very successful.  Such plans could always be obtained from builders and lumber suppliers, but few firms would answer correspondence regarding construction problems and considerations in the manner Jens Petersen did.   In addition to many local sales, it is said that Petersen-designed houses stand in other states and even in South America and Europe.

Jens was an esteemed member of the Traverse City community, his name appearing in newspaper articles that told about his exploits in bowling, card playing, singing, roller skating, and more.  He was such an exciting person to be around, it was a surprise when he announced he was moving to Sacramento, California.

From 1919 to his death in 1939, Petersen designed many buildings in California, some of which remain at this date.  Julie Schopieray offers thirty-three pages of his notable buildings, many entries with pictures, from both his Michigan and his California years.   The California buildings frequently reflect Art Deco and Modern designs, consistent with architectural styles during the 20’s and 30’s.

Jens and his Boston Terrier, Spike.

Petersen’s life was not without controversy.  In California, because he was apparently not familiar with California building codes emphasizing earthquake protection, he temporarily lost his license to practice architecture in that state.  Responding to demands to improve his qualifications, he regained licensure within a short period of time, and continued to design buildings until the end of his life.

Thank you to Julie Schopieray who has restored the life and work of a great architect to us all.  Jens Petersen lives again!

Jens Petersen: A Biography can be obtained from Horizon Books, Amazon, or directly from the author.

Stay in touch with author Julie Schopieray and Jens on their Facebook page.

Nestled next to a brook, “The Brook” had entertainment for all

This stairway is all that remains of a formerly well-known nightclub in Traverse City that operated from the 1930’s up to 1970.  It is located where Maple Street crosses over Kid’s Creek.  What was the name of that nightclub? (Hint–the Kid’s Creek name might suggest the answer!)

Thanks to reader Mark (with a little help from fellow readers Larry and Mozelle), we have our answer! “The Brook” was a happenin’ nightclub, a real jazzy joint, the old timers might say.

Bumps- We All Get Them: A humorous story from the pen of architect Jens Petersen

This article was discovered, copied, and notated by Julie Schopieray, regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal and author of the fantastic new biography, Jens C. Petersen: From Bricklayer to Architect. Copies of the book can be obtained from Horizon Books, Amazon, or directly from the author.

To every man who fights, grins and wins, this little story is respectfully dedicated.

Jens C. Petersen
Architect
State Bank Building
Traverse City, Mich.

The Boss is Reminiscent

Twenty-five years ago a cross-eyed woman by the name of Borden, taught our school in a little village, and not-withstanding the fact that the years have changed my focus on most things, when I close my eyes to-day, I can still see “Granny Borden,” as we young devils disrespectfully called her, and I realize now, as I could not then, that back of those crooked eyes there was a lot of straight thinking going on, and beneath that old fashioned, cheap, but scrupulously clean plaid waist there beat a warm and honest heart.

Tonight as the whistle blows and the boys and girls, singly, in pairs and in groups, trudged on their homeward way past our office window, there was one in the lot, possibly because her eyes were so hung that she could look around a corner and still see what was going on around her, who brought vividly and instantaneously to mind the old school house, the high platform, the long pine table, and back of it, book in one hand and ruler in the other, the school mistress, Miss Henrietta Borden, (that is the older and more respectful people called her “Miss”), but to the younger generation it was“Granny,” (especially when we had to stay after school).

I had my hands on the desk ready to close it for the night, but those cross-eyes, as they looked up at our office window, and at the same time up and down the street and over in the next block, brought forth memories which stay the hand and force me to sit down in the twilight, close my eyes and for a half an hour, and until Carrie telephoned that the soup was getting cold, I could hear the hum of bees outside the schoolhouse window. I could see “Fatty Matt” diving into his dinner pail for bread crusts, which he viciously threw at Almeda– a way Fatty had of conveying to the said Almeda that she had all the other girls in the room backed off the boards– and I also instinctively placed my hand under my coat as I felt the jab of the pin in the end of a stick, guided by the warty but unerring hand of “Tart.”

And what a delicious half hour that was, sketches and plans for houses, churches, government buildings, and even dinner could go to the dogs, at least they would have to wait for attention from me until my dream was finished.

In the hurry and rush of life, in the trying to keep what we have, and get more, did you ever sit down after banking hours, when you could not be notified of the note that was coming due tomorrow, in a place where no one could reach you from the outside, then from a cubbyhole in your memory bring forth a package, yellow with age, soiled with finger marks of youth, but containing a chapter of life’s history, around which each succeeding year ties a fresh bloom of “Lilies of the Valley and  For-get-me-nots?”

It was Friday afternoon, our freshly dug worms were even now safely hid away in an old tomato can under the back porch, and, as tomorrow was a holiday, Percy and Tart would whistle under my window about four o’clock in the morning, and I would jump into my clothes, grab the piece of bread and butter mother had laid out for me the night before, shoulder my pole and hike across the fields and- – – but time flies. I must have another look at that Friday afternoon picture before I receive another hurry up call from home and am obliged to hide it away to be brought out, well, perhaps never, because I find less and less time for everything, except trying to keep from being run over.

Charles has just been called to the platform to speak his piece. By way of inspiration, he rubs a dirty leg with a stone bruised heel and still dirtier foot, and then by fits and starts he laboriously, and to the onlooker, it would seem by main strength, relieves himself or the old-time masterpiece, “The Curfew Shall not Ring tonight.” When he is through the boys snicker as loudly as they dare. “Granny raps vigorously for order, then at a nod from her, Amy our star soprano, sings four verses of “Pull for the Shore,” the whole school joining with her in the chorus.

When school is dismissed for the week, the boys yell, hoot, holler, turn somersaults, engage in an imitation fight or two, by way of showing off to the girls, old “Granny” turns the key in the door, and another one of life’s chapters has been unthinkingly, but nevertheless irrevocably written. Percy and Tart are daring me to go swimming, but out of the corner of my eye I am watching a little Miss with yellow braids, who has carelessly dropped away from her companions, just as I am trying to do from the boys. The other girls notice it and quietly smile and whisper to each other, but not in an obtrusive way to embarrass her. Percy and Tart also see what I am up to, but a smile or a nudge is not expressive enough for them, no, indeed. They all become particularly chummy, throwing their arms over each other’s shoulders and pointing their fingers at me, sing out at the top of their lungs, ‘Jens has got a girl, Jens is going home to cut out paper dolls with his girl,” and more of like effect, but I never faltered, those two yellow braids pulling me harder in the direction of the girl than the taunts and jeers of Percy and Tart could overcome, and I pictured to myself two boys who would, each in their turn, receive a nice licking before school opened Monday morning, and I marched over to little Miss Yellow Hair, and the shy but appreciative look I received not only blotted out Percy and Tart and their stinging words, but so blinded my eyes that my world narrowed itself down to a few trees, a path just wide enough for two, a slip of a girl and an awkward country boy. I wonder where she is now, it cannot be that she is married and has sons and daughters of her own, but why not? We were the same age, and look at my boy and girl, not quite so heavy around the waist but both of them growing to be as tall as their mother.

The years have come and the years have gone, as years have a way of doing, bring me their mixture of joys and sorrows, of successes and failures, but they have left their memories with me.

There are so many roads leading in so many different directions from that little school house that I have lost track of most of my boyhood friends. Some of them I can still place. Fatty Matt, who was, as I remember it, one of our brightest boys, and one for whom a brilliant future was predicted by the entire district, is tending bar I believe in Chicago. Joe, big hearted, warm hearted Joe, I believe died a few years ago in a little town out west. Willie, who was the prize pumpkin in the row, when it came to speaking pieces and showing off on the last day of school, was once Mayor of the little city, is in line for Governor and United States Senator, and will soon be a member of Congress and be helping to make our financial laws.

And what of me, well I am in the architectural business, yes, and successful too, at least from a worldly view point. I have one of the finest offices in the state of Michigan, have a nice force of draftsmen and designers and turn out the best work in our line in the country, but really it makes my heart ache when I think of the hills I had to climb and the many hard bumps I received before I reached a point where I dared speak of an assured success. When I left school at fifteen, of course I must work, so father secured me a job to work with him, learning the art of laying brick, and I put on a pair of overalls and went at it. I served my apprenticeship under a mighty good man. He was not the largest contractor in the country— he didn’t claim to be, but he did turn out honest work, and while the old gentleman is away out in sunny California, over sixty years old and still at it, and probably does not know that I am eulogizing him, I want to say that when he closes his eyes for the last time the world has lost at least one honest, competent and operative mason.

Finally, in one way and another, and I trust without crowding my neighbors into the ditch, I accumulated enough money to take a course of study in designing, then secured a nice job for a few years with one of the biggest architectural firms in the United States, in an office in the city of Chicago, attended night school and the University of Illinois, finally passing the examinations and accumulated enough to make a humble start in an office for myself. The proudest moment of my life was when I had my first sign placed on my office window. That was some time ago, and the office, while large enough to be noticed quite some locally, was small as compared with our present one. Of course at that time I did not have anything like the facilities that I have today for turning out quality and quantity, but it was mine— the thing I had been striving for had come to pass, and for a little while at least I was peacefully happy.

Perhaps I have not received more bumps than come to all of us. In the light of years I have come to believe that I needed them for my development, at any rate I got them, as you get yours. If we use them to our advantage, as I believe we may, well and good, otherwise they may lame us, keep us to the rear, and we go through life nursing our bruises. Just now there isn’t a sore spot on your Uncle J.C., not a single one, because taking everything  into consideration, we have the best equipped office for the furnishing of plans for homes by mail in the United States, I realize that this is talking pretty loud, but it is a fact nevertheless.

I believe we can turn out more work of the right quality and at a lower cost than any other institution of its kind in existence.  When you visit Traverse City, come up and see us. I will refrain from talking business unless you want to, but I will show you the prettiest little city your eyes ever feasted on. We have miles of paved streets and shady drives, thousands of well kept, happy homes, the finest trout streams and the prettiest little bay in the country, and last, but not least, it would give me pleasure to act as your host, and incidentally take you on a tour of inspection through the cases and files and equipment of what I know to be the most thoroughly up-to-date architect’s office anywhere.

I issue a large and expensive catalog, showing a few of the hundreds of different styles of houses we plan, and if you cannot possibly make a personal visit, write and I will mail you the catalog, also quote some prices for plans for your home which will be just as attractive to you as the plans represented.

I say again, “come if you can, but if you can’t come, write to me about plans for your new home.”

You can remember the place and I trust you will be able to remember the name.

Yours very truly,

JENS C. PETERSEN, Architect,
418 State Bank Building  Traverse City, Mich.

NOTE– My book, the Cream of 1000 Plans, is an expensive catalog and cannot be sent free. If you will enclose 50 cents, coin of stamps, in your letter, I will credit you with this amount when you order your plans.

J.C.P.


 

Portrait of Jens Petersen.

Jens  C. Petersen came to Traverse City in 1884, at the age of eleven. Research shows that his parents lived in and were running a boarding house for construction workers, near the site of the Northern Michigan Asylum. The nearest school would have been the Union School between 7th & 8th Streets, where Central grade School is currently located. Petersen talks about his teacher, Miss Henrietta Borden but it’s unclear whether that was his teacher’s real name or if he changed it for the story. I haven’t yet found that there was a teacher in Traverse City by that name between 1884-1889 when Jens would have been in school, however there was a Harriet Borden who taught in Kalkaska for many years between 1880- 1915. It is possible she spent a term in Traverse City as Jens Petersen’s teacher.

He talks about “Willie” who was the prize pumpkin in the row, who goes on to be mayor and further into politics. It’s likely he’s speaking of William D. C. Germaine, locally known  in later years, as “Wild Bill”. Germaine was three years older than Petersen, but would have been at the same school. He became mayor of Traverse City between 1908-1910 and again in 1912-1913. Unfortunately, Mr. Germaine did not become the successful man Petersen had envisioned in his 1911 writing– in 1912, Germaine was attempting to make a bid for Congress, but by 1913 was removed from office by the governor for extorting money from a local saloon keeper. Germaine was known locally to have trouble with “the bottle.” In 1916 he  was arrested for attempted arson, after trying to burn down his his wife’s house after she filed for divorce. In 1923 he was arrested for bootlegging and arrested again in 1926 for prohibition violations.  He died in 1943.

“Percy” would be Percy Holdsworth. He was a year younger than Jens but while Jens only completed the 8th grade, Holdsworth finished high school, graduating in 1892. He then attended the University of Michigan, attaining a degree in mechanical engineering in 1898.  Holdsworth died in Chicago in 1925.

You can read more about  the life and work of Jens Petersen in Jens C. Petersen: From Bricklayer to Architect. Copies of the book can be obtained from Horizon Books, Amazon, or directly from the author.

Stay in touch with author Julie Schopieray and Jens on their Facebook page.


I wanted to see if the phrase “off the board” was a commonly used in 1911. The jury is still out, I did find it defined here. In the publishing world, it doesn’t look like it was a common phrase until in mid-1920s, atleast within the monographs scanned in the Google Books Project Ngram Viewer.