These photographs show a mystery that is disappearing into the abyss of past time. On Old Mission peninsula along East Bay old records indicate the existence of a Council Oak, a tree used as a gathering place for Native Americans. It was situated just south of Archie township park and north of Wilson Road, perhaps a hundred yards from the water’s edge. Now, a subdivision occupies the area around the site, appropriately named “Council Oak.” The tree is mostly gone with only a rotten stump remaining–and one more thing. A shoot grows from its base, a shoot of black oak, the same species as its grandparent tree. Is it a symbol of the resilience of the Odawa tribe that used to inhabit these lands?
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 Haight 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 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.
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.
by Stewart A. McFerran GTJ Contributor
September 2017: The Aisling (the author’s own boat, whose reintroduction to the water after a long absence was detailed in a previous article) approached the Manistee light from the deep water of Lake Michigan under sail. We encountered the sports fishing fleet trolling the waters for some of the 25,470,199 fish that were raised in DNR fish farms and released into the rivers and open waters around the State. The inner harbor was busy with large boats hauling complex arrays of bait. The Aisling, with a weight of over two tons pushed by the wind, was dogged by fishers with powerful engines, diesel and gas. No expense was spared to transport clients from the Manistee dock to fishing grounds miles out in Lake Michigan.
Once at dock in the Manistee River we learned a fishing tournament was taking place on the big lake. The fishing was not good and the sporting men were grumpy but still purchasing rivers of fuel. Many of the crews were catching nothing. The fish that were caught were small. But the trophies were large. They were chasing the non-native, farm raised creatures released into the open water. I wonder if this scheme is sustainable?
Fish farming is practiced by the State of Michigan in service of the sports fishing industry. The ecological changes in the big lakes have put that industry on shaky ground. If big fish are not displayed and celebrated at tournaments one has to wonder what the future holds for the sports fishing fleet.
Fish farming by the commercial fish farmer is sustainable. I have been in contact with Dan Vogler of Harietta Hills Trout Farm about fishery management and asked his professional opinion on matter fishery practices in Michigan. During our conversation, as you will see, we often came back to the conundrum, ‘What is native, what are we protecting’.
A Conversation with Fish Farmer Dan Vogler:
D.V. That’s an interesting read (referring to a previous article published in Grand Traverse Journal). Fishery management is certainly not something that draws unanimous consent in most proceedings.
S.A.M. The DNR has the funds and is pushing forward with the Fish Pass project on the Boardman River. But just what fish are going to pass? Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and the Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited, feel that the “Fish Pass” is a dubious proposition.
D.V. In my opinion, having open river systems with 100% passage would be great…if we were still dealing with native systems…but we aren’t. We now have fish in the Great Lakes that will exploit passage to the detriment of many species upstream. Sometimes “natural” isn’t as natural as it might first appear.
S.A.M. Yes. Bill Scharf (Professor Emeritus at Northwestern Michigan College; Professor of Biology at Lake Superior State University) shared an article with me that documents how the lake-run trout (steelhead) can contaminate the upper reaches of streams that have been isolated for many years and effect areas managed as separate units. I will send you that link . . . (Notre Dame University; Janetski et al. 2012)
D.V. Imagine also runs of Pacific salmon and Steelhead up the Boardman….some folks would be enthusiastic, but probably not good for our native species.
D.V. Not only that, but much higher predation rates by huge lake run piscivores!
S.A.M. But you have to ask, what native species remain in streams? The Boardman was stocked with 294,000 trout, of which 112,000 were brook and 182,000 were Liberty Brown in 1913. (https://gtjournal.tadl.org/2018/restoring-fish-populations-on-the-boardman-1920-to-the-present/)
D.V. So, not all desirable natives are trout….although I have to admit that these come to mind first….and Brookies are arguably in that category.
S.A.M. Maybe it is cynical, but if you accept that there are no native species of fish left (except for Coregonids) you can say: Why not have commercial aquaculture?
D.V. The reality is that we already have large-scale aquaculture in the Lakes. State hatcheries propagate and stock huge number of non-native fish that are essentially “ranched” on the “open range” of the Lakes, then “rounded up” by a fleet of fish cowboys. Why not have aquaculture that can feed lots of people?
D.V. Imagine a Fish Town in Leland that actually featured locally grown whitefish, and that it could actually support itself as a commercial enterprise again. It is possible.
S.A.M. I know Bill Carlson (commercial fisherman and owner of Carlson Fisheries in Leland) wanted that.
D.V. Unfortunately, only fish heretics talk about this type of thing nowadays…..The mythology that has been developed to discount aquaculture has the mainstream and most of the fish community running scared.
S.A.M. I would like to see a study comparing the pollution from a dock with motor boats to a small aquaculture operation.
D.V. So the studies on the aquaculture side have all been done up in Canada in the Georgian Bay and the Experimental Lakes region….Real science…peer-reviewed science. As for studies on marinas…I’m quite certain that they can’t possibly have any negative environmental impacts…otherwise everyone would be up in arms to make sure that they were banned.
Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, in a resolution recently stated: “If a chosen fish is a species currently raised in a hatchery, then passage up the Boardman River is tantamount to aiding and abetting aquaculture.”
There is a long history of aquaculture in all the Great Lakes States. It is not a crime. As we approach the “paradigm shift” that many fisheries biologists refer to we need to consider ending the State-run monopoly on fish farming. Decriminalizing private aquaculture operations is the least that can be done.
(BTW, an epic quest for Moby Dick does not have to be a part of every boat ride on the big lake. A sailboat ride is much more sustainable.)
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.
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.
by Richard Leary, Historian of Lake Ann
April 11th is the anniversary of Lake Ann’s third and final “big fire.” Like many of the logging towns in northern Michigan, fire was a constant threat in Lake Ann. Piles of logs, stacks of lumber, sparks from steam engines and fires associated with saw mills, added to closely spaced homes and businesses of wood frame almost invited disastrous conflagrations.
The village of Lake Ann suffered three major fires in its early history. The first, and most disastrous, struck on July 4th, 1897 and burned nearly the entire city. This fire began in the large saw mill, owned by William Habbeler, on the lake shore.
The mill was rebuilt but much of the city was not. Lake Ann’s population prior to the fire was about a thousand. After the fire it was merely in the hundreds.
The second fire, in 1902, burned the business district which was much smaller than it was in 1897. Businesses occupied an area much like that of today.
The third fire, April 11, 1918, burned the Congregational Church, several nearby homes and William Habbeler’s mill. This mill was smaller than the original mill on the lake shore and apparently made barrel staves and headers, which would explain the designation “the old cooperage” in the account of the fire.
A dramatic account of the 1918 fire was published in the April 12th edition of the Traverse City Record-Eagle. The article began, “Half the village of Lake Ann lies in charred ruins today, the result of a fire yesterday afternoon, that swept its course, leveling ten dwellings, the Congregational Church, three barns and the old cooperage.”
In 1889, following the first big fire, William Habbeler purchased a second mill, located just northwest of the village. Perhaps he reasoned that this mill, located far from town, in a large open field, would not start another disastrous fire.
The third fire started in the Alex Frazer residence, apparently from a defective chimney. A high northeast wind was howling and sparks and flames from the dwelling were carried to the next. Dwellings of the following residents were destroyed: Alex Frazer, Mrs. O. Morton, William Habbeler, Dave Henry, Mrs. George Tyler, L.O. McFann, Charles Warner, and three homes belonging to M. L. Lake. This was the third time the home of William Habbeler was destroyed by fire.
Two endangered other nearby structures were saved by heroic action of the village residents. The Schneider home was in the direct path of the westward spreading fire. Men climbed on the roof and poured buckets of water, passed up to them, on the roof. They were able to keep it wet and safe from blowing sparks and embers.
Likewise, across the main road, Kate Decker Dohm, resident housekeeper for many years, kept the roof of the Dohm Resort wet. Kate was related to Merrill Lake, who built the Lake Hotel about 1892, and served as his housekeeper. She inherited the hotel, married Henry Dohm and continued to work at the new resort.
Because the business district was spared this time, life in the village continued much as before. The Habbeler store, rebuilt after the 1897 fire, is now the Lake Ann Grocery. The Burnett store and the Huelmantle store, rebuilt after the 1902 fire, are today the B & M Party Store (which closed in early 2017) and the Stone Oven restaurant respectively.
The saw mills and grist mill are long gone but today the village of Lake Ann is a vibrant, thriving place. New businesses include a brewery and a coffee shop. As generations pass, memories of the three serious fires are fading but Lake Ann certainly is not.
Revised Map of Buildings Destroyed in the 1918 Fire:
Alec Frazer (where the fire began) – lot 3
William Habbeler – lot 2
Charles Warner – lot 25
David Henry – lot 27
Mrs. George Tyler – lot 29
Congregational church – lot 31
L.D. McFann – lot 52
Mrs. O. Morton – lot 36
M.L. Lake owned many lots in Lake’s Addition (the area where the fire took place) so it is not known where his three houses that burned were located.
The Schneider home (lot 43) did not burn.
Article on 1918 Fire from Traverse City Record-Eagle:
TRAVERSE CITY RECORD-EAGLE
TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN Friday April 12, 1918 Price – two cents
Conflagration Destroys Half of Lake Ann Village
BENZIE COUNTY VILLAGE
SUFFERS THIRD DISAS-
TER IN ITS HISTORY
Ten Dwellings, a Church
Three Barns and a Coop-
erage Laid Low
Half the village of Lake Ann lies In charred ruins today, the result of a fire yesterday afternoon, that swept its course, leveling ten dwellings, the Congregational Church, three barns and the old cooperage. Nor did the flames stop their ravaging work until
every particle of inflammable material in their path had been consumed.
The fire started in the A. Frazer residence, apparently from a defective chimney. Flames were not discovered until the fire was too well under-way that the roof was ready to fall in.
A high northeast wind was howling and sparks and flames from the dwelling were carried to the next, and from that, on westward through the town.
Bucket brigades were formed, and farmers, who drove in from miles
around, lent their assistance in battling the fire, but to no avail. The fire did not stop until it had exhausted the material, and the balance of the city was spared only because the wild wind did not change.
Loss, as a result of yesterday’s fire, Is estimated at $10,000. Dwellings of the following were destroyed: A. Frazer, Mrs. O. Forton, William Habbler, Dave Hempey, Mrs. George Tyler, L. O. McFann, Charles Warner, and three homes belonging to F. L. Lake.
The Congregational Church was completely destroyed, along with the old cooperage and three barns. Portions of furniture and household goods were saved from some of the dwellings,
being removed when it became apparent that the houses were doomed. The C. L. Foster store was saved.
Whether or not Lake Ann will be rebuilt is unknown. This is the third time the town has been virtually destroyed by fire, one about 20 years ago, once in 1907 (sic – 1902). Each time the place has come up out of the ruins, smaller than before being ravaged by fire.
William Habbler, one of Lake Ann’s substantial citizens, whose home was lost, is in Ohio on business and nothing will be known as to his plans for the future until his return.
Richard Leary is an active volunteer at the Almira Historical Museum in Lake Ann. Leary is passionate about exploring and documenting the history of Almira Township, and finds inspiration equally in studying written records and in traversing the fields.
The two letters that follow come from the Arnell Engstrom collection of papers held in the archives of the Traverse Area District Library. The first was written by Henry C. Hull, son of Winton C. Hull, the President of the Oval Wood Dish Company, a firm that had only recently moved to Tupper Lake, New York, from Traverse City. He writes to Frederick H. Smith, a former associate of Oval Wood Dish, and now co-president of Hull and Smith, a corporation that specialized in logging and in land transactions related to logging. Henry C. Hull’s letter and Smith’s reply illuminate not only the nature of logging at the time, but also the character of both men.
April 14, 13
My Dear Mr Smith:-
I am taking a subject called Sociology at Olivet and we each have to write a Seminar upon a given subject and–strange as it may seem –have been given “The Lumberjack”–that is from a social standpoint. I have considerable data and collateral upon the subject, but I need a few points upon the subject yet–that is, a few to compare and a few for a foundation.
I am going to ask you to drop me a few answers to my questions which I feel sure that you can give me without any inconvenience of time to yourself.
What is the average wage of a man in your logging camps?
Are about 1/3—1/2 or ¾ of them married?
Are the majority of them good clean men (that is are they square and not sneaks)?
Of course they are more or less rough, crude but have the majority of them about an eighth grade education?
Do you pay by cash or checks?
Could you say that they are a good type of citizen as a whole or are they illiterates? Would you rather see them at the polls voting or a foreigner?
Can you hold them to a contract, by that I mean that if you want a man to come out to your camps, and he says he will, do you expect him or have another to take his place if he don’t show up on the day you expect him?
Do any of these men carry insurance to your knowledge?
About what are your foreman paid or the foreman of the ones to which you lease your cut
Now these questions you can answer briefly and I am sure that I can get a good idea of what I am in doubt of from these answers. Understand I don’t want to inconvenience you but in doing this you will help me a great deal and I sure will appreciate it very much.
Hoping to hear from you at your convenience I am,
Henry C. Hull
Kindly excuse this type writing as I am only learning over again. HCH
April 16, 1913
Henry C. Hull,
I have your letter of the 14th and will try and answer your questions to the best of my knowledge.
The average wages of men in our logging camps are 30.00 per month.
About one-fourth of them are married. The majority of them are good, clean men.
I do not think they have an 8th grade education.
We pay mostly in checks.
They are a good type of citizens and I would rather see them at the polls than foreigners, as I figure they would be more enlightened to the situation.
You cannot hold them to a contract, but if you can get them to promise that they will come, in most cases they will, and after going to camp, if the food does not sit them or the foreman is rather hard on them, they may not stay long.
The men have been very unsteady this last year or two, and go from one camp to another all through the country.
The most of these men in the woods carry more or less insurance.
The foreman’s wages range from 60.00 to 80.00 per month.
There is considerable difference in camp life as present from that of a few years ago. The camps are built better, the food and beds are better, and in fact, everything has to be kept in pretty good shape in order to keep a crew of men now, where 8 or 10 years ago, almost anything went with them.
The older lumber jacks have most of them drifted away—some settled on farms. It is a younger class of men who are at present what we call lumber jacks. A great many of them are from farms and work in the woods in the winter and go back to the farms in the spring. As a rule, they are pretty fair sort of men. There are some tough ones as you would find in any lot of men you would get together.
I hope I have answered your questions to your satisfaction. If you have any others, write me and I will try to answer them.
Thirty dollars a month was an extremely low wage for the time. A male wage earner typically received about 600 dollars per year, that amount barely sufficient to pay bills.
As mentioned in the article, farmers would cut timber during the winter months when farm work was not as demanding.
In 1913 “foreigner” (immigrants) could vote in most states of the United States. By 1928 voting was forbidden in all of them.
The Oval Wood Dish Company, with which Frederick Smith was associated, bought hardwood logs for use in making oval wood dishes for serving meat, butter, and the like, and for manufacturing other products such as clothespins and hardwood flooring. The logging camps it maintained differed from earlier camps that were responsible for the cutting of the pines used in ordinary home construction. As mentioned in the article, times had changed in logging camps with a new breed of loggers and somewhat improved working conditions.
–Notes by Richard Fidler, 2018
Starting Native Seeds, April 12th
On Thursday, April 12 at 6:30 PM – 8 PM, join us to learn the ins and outs of staring your native plants from seed! Different plants have different needs, so prepare to learn a lot AND get some great resources (so you don’t have to remember it all).
SPECIAL BONUS: Bring a small container (like a clean yogurt cup) to start some native seeds of your own (seeds & soil provided).
Event will take place at the Grand Traverse Conservation District, 1450 Cass Rd., Traverse City, MI 49685.
Local Author to speak on life of TC Architect Jens C. Petersen
Join us on Sunday, April 15th, 1-2 p.m., for our next History Series event. “Jens C. Petersen: From Bricklayer to Architect: The Life and Works of a Visionary Michigan Architect,” based on Schopieray’s newly-published book.
Historian and published biographer Julie Schopieray once again brings an unknown figure to life. Those familiar with Traverse City, Michigan, will wonder why they had not heard of Jens C. Petersen before—and will appreciate learning about this remarkable man who lived in Northern Michigan for nearly thirty-five years.
Most likely the first licensed architect to ever work in Michigan, Jens Petersen opened his first office in the State Bank building in 1904. He gained a reputation throughout the United States and across the globe before moving to Sacramento, California, where he died. During his lifetime, he designed thousands of homes and buildings; many that still stand today. Although “architect” is the title that followed his name, Jens C. Petersen was also an innovator and successful marketer. He designed affordable homes for the average working person by utilizing concrete instead of lumber and advertised his services worldwide—which few if any others did in the early twentieth century. This book is complete with a riveting tale of a man who was focused, dedicated to quality, and never let “bumps” slow him down.
Our monthly History Series meetings take place in the McGuire Room at Traverse Area District Library, 610 Woodmere Ave., Traverse City. These events are free and open to the public.
As a reminder, Our Intrepid Board of Directors meets on the first Tuesday of every month, from 6-7:30pm at 627 Eastwood Ave, Traverse City, MI 49686. We would love to see you there!
The April Meeting of the Grand Traverse Area Genealogical Society will be held Thursday April 19th from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm at the McGuire Room, Traverse Area District Library – Main. 610 Woodmere Ave, Traverse City.
The guest speaker will be Vicki Wilson. Wilson has been researching Native American genealogy for forty years, and will share her hints on researching your (potential) Native American past.
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.
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.”
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 Books, Amazon, or directly from the author.
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.)
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.
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.