Growing up Wilhelm: Childhood memories of life on the farm

by Claribel (Wilhelm) Dugal Putnam (1893-1987)

These memoirs were written to Claribel’s granddaughter, Virginia LeClaire, in 1977.  Claribel died May 27, 1987 at the age of 94.  She is buried next to her husband and daughter in Oakwood Catholic Cemetery.

I was born May 15, 1893 on the family farm in Grand Traverse County.  My father, Joseph Emanuel Wilhelm, was several years older than my mother, Rose Zimmerman.  He had made himself very well-to-do in the wholesale lumber business prior to their marriage.  He built the farm house in Garfield township and took my mother there as his bride in 1885.  It was called “Pleasant Valley Farm” and was located on U.S. 37 South near McRae Hill.  (There is a trailer park there today.)

Pictured in the elegant farm home are siblings Claribel (the author) and her brother William Wilhelm.
Pictured in the elegant farm home are siblings Claribel (the author) and her brother William Wilhelm.

The house was rather elegant for the times with a vestibule facing the driveway, parlor, sitting room with a curved alcove of windows facing the flower gardens, large dining room, kitchen, summer kitchen, huge pantry, and five bedrooms.  A rear entrance led to a large wood-covered space.  Across this space was a three part building which housed a room for storing wood for the kitchen stove, the milk room where milk was separated for cream, and the ice house where in February the men cut blocks of ice from nearby Silver Lake and packed them with sawdust for summer use.  A hired man put one block in the ice box each morning and it was one of my duties to see that the pan under the ice box was emptied once each day – otherwise it would run over on the floor.  Occasionally I forgot and suffered the consequences!  There was a large bell outside of the back door, near the windmill, mounted on a large wooden pole.  It was used to call the men from the fields for dinner and supper.

Our basement was full of wood for the hot-air furnace.  The wood was cut from our own woods each fall.  However, there was no plumbing and no electricity.  On a shelf in the kitchen were eight kerosene lamps.  Each day we filled them with oil, trimmed the wicks, and washed the glass globes.  In addition, there was a lamp over the dining room table, one in the sitting room, and a table lamp in the parlor, all of which had to be cared for regularly.  Of course, we had the necessary little house “out back.”  It was there, surrounded by lilac bushes.  There were two grownup seats and one little low one for small folks.  We had the usual accessory: the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

In the kitchen, we had an iron sink with a pump which we used to obtain water for cleaning and washing.  The drinking water had to be brought in from outside where we had the windmill and another pump.  The first windmill was a wooden structure and I remember when it was replaced with a steel frame.  We were so very proud of it.  On one kitchen wall was a bench for the pails of drinking water.  Hired men kept these filled.

Rose (Zimmerman) Wilhelm and daughter Claribel at the family farm, ca. 1915.
Rose (Zimmerman) Wilhelm and daughter Claribel at the family farm, ca. 1915.

Although there was a table in the kitchen, we always ate our meals in the big dining room.  My mother was a fine cook and housekeeper.  She never had a loaf of baker’s bread in the house.  She made bread twice weekly and every day she baked goodies.  She had learned from the Wilhelms how to make their famous kolaches and we were never without pies, cookies, donuts, and cakes all made, of course, from scratch.

Claribel's parents, Joseph Emanuel Wilhelm and Rose Zimmerman.
Claribel’s parents, Joseph Emanuel Wilhelm and Rose Zimmerman, ca. 1885.

My mother was unusually kind and good natured with an over abundance of patience, so we children were never punished severely.  I can’t remember that I ever was spanked or slapped and I wasn’t a model child by any means.  I remember my father only as a sick man in a big chair.  During his final days, we were sent to our Zimmerman grandparents to stay.  One Sunday, Uncle George Fritz decided to take us home for a visit.  As we drove over McRae Hill, we met Dr. Julius Wilhelm with his horse and carriage.  “It’s all over” he said.  Of course, we wanted to know what was over.  Uncle George told us: “Your mother will tell you when you see her.”

Mother wished to keep the farm for my brother William, so her four brothers found a good man to act as superintendent.  That good man was William Henry Gravell.  He was a bachelor, and eventually he and Rose were married.  I was only six when my natural father had died in 1900, and “Grandpa Gravell” was wonderful to us all.

I remember when Rural Free Delivery came our way.  Our first mailman was a bachelor, Mr. Gilbert, who drove a horse and buggy.  We were always sitting by the mailbox, on a post, waiting for him.  We had mail every day except holidays and Sundays.  Our first telephone was really an event.  It was on a slab of oak and we had to “ring for central.” There were several families on a line – sometimes as many as ten. We never had a radio, that came after I was married, but we did have an Edison phonograph with cylinder disks.  We thought it was wonderful, and it was!  I remember the first automobile I ever saw.  One day I was out in the yard and I saw a car enclosed in glass!  I rushed in to tell mother and she said that it just couldn’t be.  When the weekly newspaper came out, it told of a wealthy Chicago man who had driven through town on his way to his summer home in Petoskey.  It described the car as being enclosed in glass and was called a “sedan.”

Claribel, Olive and William, children of Joseph and Rose Wilhelm.
Claribel, Mabel, and William, children of Joseph and Rose Wilhelm.

We tapped the maple trees in the spring and had maple sugar parties.  The juice had to be boiled on the cook stove for a long time, then we dropped it on a cake of ice and it hardened, making it like candy.  Every Sunday in nice weather we made a five gallon freezer of ice cream.  It was so good – made of real cream, beaten eggs, sugar, and vanilla.  The freezer was packed in layers of ice and salt and the melted water ran out of a hole on the side of the freezer, so it had to be made outdoors.  We took turns rotating the paddles until the ice cream had turned solid.  Once a year, in late fall, we made sauerkraut.  We used wash tubs with large cutters to slice the cabbage, put it in a barrel close to the hot-air furnace, and then left it to “work.”  When it was thoroughly “ripened” mother put it in glass jars.

Washing was always and only done on Monday.  We did the washing on the back platform in summer and in the kitchen in winter.  We had tin tubs, used washboards, and boiled everything except colored clothes.  We also starched many things, including ruffled petticoats, and then hung them on a clothes reel to dry.  Ironing was a big task in those days.  Irons came in groups of three different sizes.  There was a handle that clamped over the tops of the irons.  You used an iron until it got cold and then you went to the wood stove and exchanged it for a hot one.

Gathering eggs and bringing the cows up to the barn to be milked each night was a job for sister Mabel and myself.  We took turns, but when the hens were “setting” in the spring, they were very angry when we reached in for the eggs and would peck at our hands.  It hurt and I cried, so Mabel did the full job in “setting time” and I took the dog and rounded up the cattle.  

Saturday was bath day.  Children had to bathe in the afternoon so the grownups could have the kitchen for their baths at night.  We had a round tub and you stood up unless you were small enough to sit down.  Hot water came from the reservoir on the side of the kitchen stove.  When you used any water from this hot water tank, you must replace it so it would be warm for the next bather.  Daily baths were something of which we had never heard.

Billy the horse; driving is Jane Shilson, riding with Mabel Wilhelm, Olive Lackey, Claribel Wilhelm and unknown woman.
Billy the horse; driving is Jane Shilson, riding with Mabel Wilhelm (left), Olive Lackey, Claribel Wilhelm (center) and unknown woman.

I couldn’t tell you about life on the farm without telling you about our driving horse, Billy.  We raised farm horses, but a driving horse was “something else.”  We had a rubber-tired open carriage which was the latest word in elegance, but we used this only for Sundays and trips to the city to exchange our butter and eggs into groceries.  For every day fun we had a two seated sort of light wagon which held a lot of youngsters.  When we came to McRae Hill, Billy would stop and we would walk up the hill.  When he got to the top, he would stop and wait for us to get back in the wagon.  We loved that horse!  When he got old and sick, Grandpa Gravell decided he should be taken out of his misery.  The only way at that time was to shoot him.  He couldn’t bring himself to do it, so he hired a neighbor.  When the day came, he was so afraid that the man wouldn’t kill Billy instantly, that he did it himself.  We all had a bad day that day.

It was a mile walk to the one-room school house.  Grandpa Gravell took us in wintertime with the horses and sled, but in good weather we walked.  There were eight grades and one teacher.  Often the teacher boarded at our house.  We carried our lunch in a tin pail.  There was a wood burning stove for heat and of course, “rest rooms” were outside.  At recess time we played “Anti-I-Over the Woodshed”and had lots of fun.  A pail of water with a dipper was at the front door.  We had never heard of “germs”!

When we finished eight grades of country school, we were required to take an examination at the court house in Traverse City.  It was a written exam and if I live to 100, I will never forget how frightened I was.  You needed to pass this test in order to progress in your education.  My poor older brother William had gone through all of this.  In fall he drove a horse into the city to start his freshman year of high school.  He came home on Friday night feeling badly and we thought it was because he was so scared of a new school.  However, on Saturday he was feeling worse.  Sunday he went into a diabetic coma and died that night.  He was 14.  William was a good big brother to me.  I remember one time when I picked the raisins out of the middle of my mother’s cookies.  She said I had to eat all of the cookies.  I didn’t like them so I sneaked them out to William and he ate every single one of them for me.

Claribel Zerlina (Wilhelm) Dugal.
Claribel Zerlina (Wilhelm) Dugal.

I want you to know that my experiences on the farm were all pleasant ones.  I had a wonderful time as a child and it has been a pleasure to think of many of those happy days as I have written them down for you.  No wonder I have lived to a ripe old age when I got such a good start on the farm home.

Thank you to Virginia LeClaire, local author and historian, for providing her grandmother’s memories for all of us to share. LeClaire is author of the popular local work, “The Traverse City State Hospital Training School for Nurses,” available at local retailers and She is currently working on a history of the Federated Women’s Clubs of Traverse City.

Remembering the Golden Age of Railroads: The Manistee and North Eastern Railroad and its Grand Traverse connections

by Richard Leary, Lake Ann historian

The Manistee and North Eastern Railroad (M. & N. E.  R. R.) played a large role in the formation of many towns along its route. It served the Grand Traverse region for nearly a half century, hauling logs, lumber, produce and people. For many years, 1892 to 1934, it connected Traverse City to Manistee and numerous towns in between.

The Manistee and North Eastern Railroad was organized in January 1887 at a meeting at the Buckley and Douglas Lumber Company in Manistee, Michigan. William Douglas and Edward Buckley were the principals behind the railroad. The M. and N.E. was to extend 75 miles from Manistee to Traverse City. The primary purpose of the railroad was to bring logs and lumber from northwestern Michigan to the big Buckley and Douglas saw mills in Manistee.

Construction started in spring of 1888 and had reached Onekama when the railroad opened for freight business in October 1888. Track laying continued northward, reaching Kaleva and Lemon Lake by April 1889 and Nesson City by September that year. Tracks were extended to Interlochen by June 1890.

At first there was no passenger service; the railroad, as planned, only hauled logs. The first passenger train on the M. & N.E. ran on January 6, 1889 as far as Bear Creek, a distance of 20 miles. The M & N E added a second engine in 1889, using it on the passenger service.

According to writer Margie Fromm, the train was: …impressive, with its green and red plush interior and newly painted wine exterior. The train consisted of the locomotive, one coach, and combination smoking and baggage car. Additional coaches were soon added.

The tracks reached Lake Ann in October 1890. Passenger service as well as log and freight hauling to Lake Ann started that year.  In many ways, the village of Lake Ann was typical of the interaction of the M & NE Railroad and the towns along its route. In some cases a town was created by the railroad but in all cases the towns grew with the coming of the rails.

The first passenger station was near Ransom Creek. A dispute with the Ransoms over excess timber cutting beside the railroad right of way resulted in the station being moved to Lake Ann.

The first depot in Lake Ann was quite rustic. A new station was soon built, just south of the main street, Maple Avenue, opening in May 1892. The station had a waiting room for passengers at one end, an office for the railroad agent and ticket window in the center, and a baggage and freight room and loading dock at the opposite end.

Overall, Buckley and Douglas built a first class railroad. At that time, most logging railroads were narrow gauge but Buckley and Douglas began with standard gauge tracks. In addition to quality passenger cars and depots, they used some of the heaviest rail then in use.

The Manistee Daily, in May 1899, described the railroad as follows: The Manistee & North Eastern is something unique in its way, as it is believed to be the only one of anything like its size, standard gauge, thoroughly built and equipped and operated after the manner of the larger lines with freight and passenger trains, express, mail, train dispatchers, own telegraph lines, etc.

To that Edward Buckley added, One [coach] is a first-class, 60-foot car that is equal to the best of the Chicago and West Michigan.

The large volume of timber available in the Lake Ann area delayed the expansion of the railroad. The tracks were not extended to Traverse City until June 1892.

Because the railroad terminated in Lake Ann for about two years, a turntable was built at the end of the line on the north side of the village. This allowed the engine to be turned around before making the return trip south. It was completed in December 1891.

Benzie Banner, Dec. 10, 1891:  The turn table is now in working order at the lake, and the awkwardness of running the trains backward is no longer a necessity.

The turntable was small, just long enough for the small locomotives. It was no doubt turned by human power; one man could do this by pushing a bar that extended beyond the end of the turntable.

It may have been removed when the M&NE tracks reached Traverse City in 1892 as it would no longer have been needed to turn locomotives.

Initially a siding was built in Lake Ann to serve the Habbler saw mill located on the lake shore. Later, as logging declined, agriculture became important. Potatoes, in particular, grew well in the sandy soil and became a major crop. Potatoes were brought by wagon to Lake Ann where they were sorted and loaded into boxcars.

Lake Ann, ca. mid-1890s. Railroad operations depended on the close proximity of storage units for goods and equipment.
Lake Ann business district between 1902 and 1910. Railroad operations depended on the close proximity of storage units for goods and equipment.

Several sheds were located beside the M&NE tracks on the north side of the village. A large potato shed was most important. Photographs of the village, taken from the school hill, show boxcars beside the sheds.

According to the Twenty-first Annual Report of the Railroad Commission (1893), the M&NE rolling stock included nine locomotives, five passenger cars, two express and baggage cars, four box cars, 225 platform (logging) cars, four conductors’ cars and one other car.

In 1910 the Manistee and North Eastern Railroad was at its peak. It owned 355 miles of track, 15 steam locomotives, 2 snow plows and numerous other pieces of equipment.

Over the years, a number of branches were laid from the main line. A major line was extended north from Hatch’s Crossing to Northport and another from Solon to Provemont (now Lake Leelanau). A branch extended west from Platte River Junction (just south of Lake Ann) to Empire Junction. The last and longest, in 1910, ran from Kaleva to Grayling. It extended the life of the railroad by opening a large new area of prime timber.

For several years, two passenger trains were operated daily in each direction, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon. By 1921, only one train was run in each direction.

At its peak in 1915, the M & NE carried 190,000 passengers. The coming of the automobile reduced the need for passenger service between towns. Ridership declined along with freight traffic, leading to the inevitable end of the Manistee and North Eastern Railroad.

As logging declined in the region, the volume of freight declined and the M & N E, like many railroads during World War I, fell on hard times.  In 1931, the Pere Marquette Railroad took control of the renamed Manistee and Northeastern Railway.

Gradually, segments of tracks were abandoned and service discontinued. By July 1934 the last freight train departed Lake Ann. The tracks between Kaleva and Solon were abandoned in 1934. The station in Traverse City was closed later that year and the railroad’s offices moved to those of the Pere Marquette Railroad.

The M & NE tracks were removed by October 1934. The Lake Ann depot was torn down about 1935 to make room for the new town hall.

New Lake Ann depot, ca. 1892.
New Lake Ann depot, ca. 1892.

Even though one could hop in an automobile and drive from town to town on a developing system of roads, the railroad was not far from people’s minds.  I suspect many people missed the excursion trains to Traverse City or Manistee, the shopping jaunts by the ladies, the business trips into the city by groups of men, or the fall hunting trains. The railroad was more than hauling lumber or produce: it could be a social occasion in its own right. In many ways the Manistee and North Eastern was missed by the people along its former route.

Even now, segments of the right of way can be followed by those willing to explore the fields and woods of the Grand Traverse region. There, one can reflect and imagine the sounds and smells of the steam locomotives of long ago.

For more detailed information – and some anecdotes – see the following references:

Only Memories Remain of the M & N E RR,  Margie Fromm. Originally printed in the Preview Community Weekly. Vol. 9, no. 36, Jan. 14, 1985.  Reprinted in various Railroad Guide and Depot Tours published by the Benzie County Museum.

The History of the Manistee & Northeastern Railroad Company, Peter Schettek, Sr. of Cedar, Michigan. Undated typescript at Traverse Area District Library, Woodmere branch.

Lake Ann and the Manistee and North Eastern Railroad, Helen White and Art Thompson., Benzie Heritage, vol. 1 no. 4, fall 1982,  Benzie County Historical Museum.

The Manistee & North Eastern Railroad,  Manistee Daily, May 1899. Available on the Internet.

The Manistee & Northeastern Railroad: The Life and Death of a Railroad, Donald Stroup, Historical Society of Michigan, 1964

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.

Tied to a desk in the near past

Not all history is ancient. In the early adoption of the world wide web by the masses, internet cafes and cyberstations, like the one pictured here, were popular places to flock for a quick coffee and email check. Now that we’re no longer tied to desks and hardwired internet connections, these locations are now relics of the past, even though “the past” was only 15 years ago.

Do you recall where this “cyberstation” is? Please feel free to share a fond memory as well!



Where Wind Polishes and Erodes: Lag Gravels and Ventifact Fields Along the Great Lakes

Some years ago I took a summer geology course from Central Michigan University at its Beaver Island Biological Station.  The professor, an enthusiastic geologist named Richard Dietrich, introduced me to such wonders as vugs, banded gneiss, rhyolite porphyry, and ventifacts.  While much of the knowledge gained about these topics has inexplicably evaporated into thin air, I do recall ventifacts in some detail, perhaps because I have identified several ventifact fields locally.

Students of Latin may know the meaning of “ventifact” from the word itself.  It is derived from the word ventus, wind, from which we get “vent” and “ventilation”. A ventifact is an object, often a stone, which has been shaped by the wind.  A ventifact field, sometimes called a “lag gravel”, is a place where such things are found–often in dry sandy places like a desert or the surface of the planet Mars.

Beach area with all the qualities required to create a ventifact field.

Lag gravels are associated with sandy beaches liberally mixed with stones, but not every such beach is a lag gravel.  The beach must be exposed to long fetch of prevailing winds, not protected by nearby bluffs or foredunes.   It also should be protected from invasions of humans piloting vehicles at the shore or bearing beach paraphernalia: Frisbees, beach balls, volleyball nets, and all other such sources of amusement.  Ventifacts are only found where human traffic is at a minimum.

How is a ventifact field different from an ordinary beach?  The simplest way to tell is by looking at the stones in relation to the sand: Are they embedded or perched?  Perched stones stand up on the surface, the surrounding sand having been blown away.  The stones themselves, upon careful observation with a magnifier, display the characteristics of wind-driven abrasion: a high polish on exposed surfaces of those made of hard minerals like granite and a pitted, eroded surface on those composed of softer rock.

Lag gravel lying undisturbed, at a ventifact field in the Grand Traverse Region.
Lag gravel lying undisturbed, at a ventifact field in the Grand Traverse Region.

Polished stones shine in the sunlight on surfaces exposed to the wind, the surface resting on the ground showing no such luster even if washed and dried.  Fossils stand out in relief as the softer stone around them wore down: Petoskey stones are especially striking, not requiring the usual hand polishing required to bring out their design.  Best of all (for me) are the sedimentary rocks like siltstone or shale which, under ten power magnification, look like miniature scenes from eroded places out west like the Badlands of North Dakota or rocky areas of New Mexico.  Mixed in with the rocks are occasional pieces of weathered glass or slag from old iron smelting operations.  They frequently find a place upon windowsills or within boxes people keep to remember their experiences.  Artifacts like these connect us with those who lived here long ago.

How does the wind polish and erode ventifacts?  At first it was thought that blowing sand did the job, but on closer inspection, it turned out that wind-driven dust (derived from sand) played the most important role.  It takes a mighty wind to lift sand, but less to blow dust.  Stones can be polished even on days of lighter winds.

I won’t tell you exactly where ventifact fields are because I do not want to increase human traffic in these precious places, but I will tell you this: Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore has them.  So does one isolated beach along Grand Traverse Bay.  If you go out looking for one, remember to look for a broad beach with perched stones—and the stones do not have to be large—they can be only pebble-sized.  Be sure to bring your magnifier, at least ten power.  To see the fossils in relief, the shiny surfaces, and eroded landscapes you will need at least that magnification.  If you find a ventifact field, be guarded as to whom you tell.  There are places endangered for their geology as well as for their biology.  We need to protect them, too.

Richard Fidler is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal. He enjoys a long hike to undisturbed beaches, and leaves them the same way.

Exploring History, by Street and by Hashtag

The preservation of history once meant rediscovering things lost (documents, photographs, buildings, etc.) and trying to ensure their physical survival. However, new tools and an eye to the future allow all of us, from professional historians and lay persons, to make a concerted effort to capture our lives and culture now, negating that dangerous period of rediscovery. Cathy and Stella Lancaster are two amateur historians that are doing their part to seek out and secure the culture of their neighborhood for future generations, one front porch at a time.

When asked, Cathy and Stella both are drawn to front porches with decorations. This lovely example has an inviting fall theme.
When asked, Cathy and Stella both are drawn to front porches with decorations. This lovely example has an inviting fall theme.

Like all best friends, Cathy and Stella share a number of interests. These roommates enjoy long walks, playing with children, and making local history of the Grand Traverse Region more accessible. As recent transplants from downstate, the two found their new regular walk on the State and Washington blocks in Traverse City to be rife with interesting architecture, front porches especially.

“Big front porches in Flint were an oddity,” Cathy explains. “Since Traverse City has more alleys, there’s a greater opportunity to have more space out front and a larger porch.”

Cathy’s interest in domestic architecture was refined while working on her undergraduate senior thesis at Kalamazoo College, a history of an island located on one of the 1,000 Islands in the St. Lawrence River, and home to her family’s summer cottage. Architecture classes she had taken in high school informed her thesis, shaping earlier chapters which described how the architecture of the island homes create spaces for friends, family, and neighbors to meet and interact, especially in public spaces like the front porch.

After moving to Traverse City, Cathy was inspired anew by home entrances both simple and elaborate. During Stella’s daily walks, Cathy says she “enjoys taking pictures of all the porches; they’re all unique. Some have spindles on their rails that are really intricate, others are small, some are a bit neglected. They make me wonder about the people who live (or lived) there.”

Originally home to the Bates family, founders of the first newspaper in Traverse City in 1858.
Considered the oldest standing structure in Traverse City, this dwelling was originally home to the Bates family, founders of the first newspaper in Traverse City in 1858. Photo courtesy of the Lancasters, #tcfrontporches on Instagram.

Sometimes, Cathy and Stella’s curiosity is satisfied. “I met the current owner of the Bates house on Washington Street on one of our walks. He told me about the Bates family, who owned the Traverse City newspaper, and that the house was the oldest standing in the City.” (The Bates home was built in 1858; other structures in the city limits have parts older than this, but I believe this is the oldest standing structure.)

Last May, Cathy began posting their discoveries on Instagram, an online site that allows users to share photographs and videos with their friends on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and the project quickly blossomed. In order to collect and easily share her photographs, Cathy created the hashtag #tcfrontporches, and is encouraging others to use it as well.

“What I hope is that others will begin using the hashtag so I can see other people’s neighborhoods, not just my own.”

Hashtags are Friends, not Foes

Social media is pervasive in our lives, and is changing the way we think about historic preservation. When I was training to become an archivist, we learned about the traditional development of archives, where documents and images were retained systematically by an institution to keep a record of operations. Frankly, being responsible for capturing all aspects of our culture with this method is unfeasible, and local historical societies and archives need the people to help us retain what is important.

Although small, Cathy says the lovely garden out front is as inviting as any deep porch. Photo courtesy of the Lancasters, #tcfrontporches on Instagram.
Although small, Cathy says the lovely garden out front is as inviting as any deep porch. Photo courtesy of the Lancasters, #tcfrontporches on Instagram.

Hashtags are a simple and effective way for all of us to post and share photographs, making the topics therein more accessible to current and future researchers. Although the hashtag has gotten some flack for being irritating, unwanted commentary (#fail comes to mind), it is truly a powerful means of assigning metadata (data used to describe an associated object) to photographs and information that help us organize our culture in meaningful ways.

Let’s look at a concrete example of how hashtags can organize a dynamic, active online community. Take a gander at the very popular local Facebook page, “You know you are from Traverse City, Michigan when…”. It is not uncommon to visit the site and see a historic photo with over 20 comments describing the event pictured, who was there, and other fond memories of times past. But the hashtag is seldom seen. What if you wanted to organize all the posts on street views of Traverse City? Now, you would need to manually scroll through all the old posts. Even if you did commit to doing that, you would probably miss some. Creating a hashtag (#tcstreets, perhaps?) to organize, recall, and discover that content is significantly easier. Sharing images, identification information and stories is quick and easy on social media platforms, and can happen whenever a person is free to view, post, hashtag, and share. (Archiving social media is a topic for another article!)

Cathy found this block curious; the dwellings are staggered, with no uniformity of space between the street and the house front. Intentional? Or perhaps the street was moved? Lack of city ordinances when they were built? Perhaps a reader knows! Photo courtesy of the Lancasters, #tcfrontporches on Instagram.
Cathy found this block curious; the dwellings are staggered, with no uniformity of space between the street and the house front. Intentional? Or perhaps the street was moved? Lack of city ordinances when they were built? Perhaps a reader knows! Photo courtesy of the Lancasters, #tcfrontporches on Instagram.

Cathy says that having a way to capture and share pictures of front porches immediately is a must for her. “I probably wouldn’t have started on this project, if it weren’t for having a great camera on my iPhone and ease of sharing with the Instagram app, and I always have it on me.”

Want to know more about hashtags and how to use them for exploring and organizing local history in social media? I started by reading Mashable’s article, “The Beginner’s Guide to Hashtags,” Happy tagging!

UntitledCathy and Stella Lancaster are not only roommates and best friends; they also work together at the Traverse Area District Library. Cathy is the Youth Services Coordinator, while Stella works part-time as a therapy read-aloud dog. You can meet both (and other furry friends) at Afterschool Adventures: Tell-a-Tail events in the Youth Services department, which take place on the first Monday of every month during the school year, and about 4 visits during summer reading club. The next is Monday, November 3rd at 4:00pm, and look for more at

Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal, and relishes the popularity of mass image organization in social networking platforms.

Poetry of Mary K. Buck, from the turn of the 19th Century


by Mary K. Buck (1849-1901), poet of renown from Traverse City

Was ever bay so lovely as our own Grand Traverse Bay,
With the sunlight on its ripples in bright and changeful play;
With snowy clouds above it, and pine-clad hills around;
With crystal depths, and shadowy coves where finny tribes abound.

Let others sing of Naples and the blue Vesuvian Bay,
None other can be lovelier than greets my eyes today.
Its changefulness enchants us, we love each varying mood—
If lashed to foamy billows, or by soft zephyrs wooed.

Each time it meets our vision more beautiful it seems;
It murmurs in our mem’ry, it flashes through our dreams.
The mood wherein we see it seems ever best of all,
Be it in morning’s brightness, or when the shadows fall;

When lulled to glassy smoothness, by south winds soft and low,
Or when above its white-capped waves the cold north breezes blow;
When rippling in the moonlight, or dyed with sunset’s glow,
Or in the morn when white-winged boats glide gladly to and fro.

There’s magic in its beauty—it holds us with a spell.
Could we but understand it, a strange, weird tale ‘twould tell:
Of red men of the forest, of dusky lovers’ vows.
Of warriors bold, and council fires where now the farmer plows.

But placidly it smileth ‘neath fleecy summer skies,
While o’er it sparkling waters no more the arrow flies.
Where once the red man hunted, now peaceful hamlets lie,–
But, like an echo of the past, still rings the loon’s wild cry.

Bright jewel of the northland, within thy green hills set,
Though other lands may claim me, thy charms I’ll ne’er forget.
Though ‘mid the storied splendors of distant shores I stray,
My longing thoughts like birds will fly back to Grand Traverse Bay.


Over the bay, over the bay,
Glide little boat for the billows are gay;
Bright in the sunlight the wavelets are dancing,
Down in the depths shining fishes are glancing,
Happy and free, happy and free,
Song birds are singing in glee.

Over the bay, Over the bay,
Lightly we row for our hearts are gay;
Blue are the skies that are bending above us,
Near are the friends that so tenderly love us,
Happy and gay, happy and gay,
Over the sparkling bay.

From Michigan in Literature, Andrews, Clarence, 1992:

An unusual entry is Mary K. Buck’s Songs of the Northland (1902), published posthumously.  Mrs. Buck (1849-1901) was born Marjanka Knizek in Bohemia and came to Traverse City, Michigan, at the end of the Civil War.  She attended college, became a schoolteacher and a contributor to several nationally circulated magazines.  She also collaborated with Mrs. M. E. C. Bates (see the October “Forgotten Stories” feature for information on Mrs. Bates) on a volume of northern Michigan stories, Along Traverse Shores.

Image courtesy of Traverse Area District Library, Local History Collection, Tom Olds Historical Postcard Collection. And if you guessed it was an Orson W. Peck postcard, you were right!

November, a Time for Warm Memories

November is a windy month, some of its worst demonstrations giving rise to howling gales that sink ships and drive sensible people indoors to a warm fire.  The wind also has a more benevolent side such as when it polishes and erodes pebbles on an isolated beach.   Richard Fidler engages that topic in the Nature category in his article about lag gravels and ventifact fields.

A lovely old poem about Grand Traverse Bay written by Mary K. Buck (1849-1901) tells about that body of water in any kind of weather.  With its regular meter and rhyme, it strikes us as quaint, perhaps, but it displays a love for this place that resonates in our hearts still.

Gini LeClaire faithfully recorded her grandmother’s memories about growing up near Silver Lake more than 110 years ago.   Growing Up Wilhelm: Childhood Memories of Life on the Farm reminds us of the simple pleasures of rural living at a time when horses provided transportation and local crops the bulk of our food.

While history can be recorded with pen and ink, nowadays it can also be told with digital techniques to preserve images and words.  Amy Barritt shows how a tool called hashtag can be used to archive images for study and enjoyment.  Find her article in Exploring History by Street and by Hashtags.

Railroads cut into our awareness only occasionally when we hear an occasional whistle on the solitary line that extends to Traverse City.  Not so a hundred years ago when the sounds of steam locomotives filled the air from Traverse City through Lake Ann to Manistee.  Richard Leary paints a picture of the Manistee and North Eastern Railroad when it provided the main means of transportation for logs, crops, and human passengers.  His article, Remembering the Golden Age of Railroads: The Manistee and North Eastern and its Traverse City Connections, can be found in the History category.

This month’s mystery picture reminds us that history does not have to be “old” to reflect an earlier time.  See if you can recognize the neon sign in the lower floor of a local business.  Search as you will, nowadays you won’t find what it advertises.

And if the sculpture pictured in last month’s Journal puzzled you, find out where it is below.

Answer to October’s mystery sculpture location

Thanks to Richard Jarvis and Tom Lhamon, online readers of the Journal, we have our answer! This sculpture sits outside the Grand Traverse County Courthouse.

The editors would like to call your attention to a fundraiser to restore the Courthouse clock, a historic landmark for Traverse City residents. The funds raised will go toward restoring the chimes, then the mechanisms and facing: