Who Nailed That Fudge? recounts a sweet-toothed theft in the State Bank building the day before Thanksgiving, 1908, and was published in the November 25, 1908 edition of The Evening Record:
WHO NAILED THAT FUDGE?
The strange disappearance of a pan of home made fudge, turned out in the fudge factory in the State bank building about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, created an excitement in that building which has never been equaled at any time, not excepting the time when the screens mysteriously disappeared.
The fudge was brewed by the Misses Lettie Marvin and Florence Rattenbury, its delectable fumes penetrating the air, floating out over the transom and attracting a horde of gentlemen tenants, who flocked around that door in a manner that reminded one of flies around a honey jar in July. They all came to the fudge factory, but it was noticed that two of them, E. Sprague Pratt and C.L. Curtis, the engineer, looked greedily upon the brewing brown mixture while their noses twitched like those of rabbits when they scent the fresh green things in the spring.
Others came also, among them being Jens C. Petersen, G.W. Power, C.J. Helm, E.S. Williams, E.C. Billings and the greyhound Jack, in fact it is claimed by the fudge manufacturers that every man in the building came and looked longingly at the candy, sniffed the air and swallowed hard in anticipation. But having faith in these gentlemen and never for one moment believing that they could do any wrong, the ladies did not place a guard over their product when it was completed, but set it in the window of the fudge factory to cool, then went down the hall to discuss what they were going to be thankful for on Thanksgiving day.
And now they are looking for that pan of fudge. When they went back to get it, there was no fudge there, not even the pan. It was gone as completely and mysteriously as though it had never been. Search was made for it, detectives were placed on the case, the different offices were visited, the tenants begged threatened, wheedled and bluffed, but none confessed.
A notice was place in a conspicuous place stating that if the pan would be returned no questions would be asked, but even this was ignored. The prosecutor left the city hurriedly, and the ladies believed it possible that the fudge went with him, but this is only suspicion. It is thought that the fudge, pan and all was swallowed by someone, and they are wondering which one off the tenants could have performed this feat. The only one in the building who could make way with the pan in that manner is Jack the greyhound, but he can prove an alibi. The mystery deepens.
The ladies declare that if any of these hungry eyed men had asked them for a piece of fudge, they would gladly have given them some, but to think of being robbed like this of all they had, is hard indeed. When the guilty party or parties are apprehended, they will be dealt with severely.
Nothing has been found that indicates that anyone ever confessed to this crime, so it remains a mystery 107 years later. The writing style of the article is suspiciously like that of Jens C Petersen, a local architect. Two weeks after this incident, the editor began publishing letters to Santa Claus, and many local businessmen submitted their own pleas to Santa. The following letter was sent in by Petersen. His obvious love of fudge makes one wonder if he was the one who absconded with the sweet treat the day before Thanksgiving.
Dear Santa Claus: Bring me a bob sled and some fudge and lots of work and some nuts and candy and more fudge. I have been good and will continue to be. Jensy Petersen. –The Evening Record, December 18, 1908
NOTE: I was curious about the use of the word NAILED in this article and found one definition that applies here: “Nailed- past tense of nail- is seize, or take into custody.” I had never heard the word used that way before!
Contributed by local Jens C. Petersen aficionado, Julie Schopieray.
1923 Michigan Bell bought out Citizens Telephone Company
1874 Michigan Bell telephone line comes to T.C. from Charlevoix (Our editors question this date, since Bell’s invention dates from 1877)
But did you know the following?
“In 1877, the American Bell Telephone Company, named after Alexander Graham Bell, opened the first telephone exchange in New Haven, Connecticut. Within a few years local exchange companies were established in every major city in the United States. Use of the Bell System name initially referred to those early telephone franchises and eventually comprised all telephone companies owned by American Telephone & Telegraph, referred to internally as Bell Operating Companies, or ‘BOCs’.” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_System)
The telephone didn’t come to Benzie County until after Archibald Jones lowered Crystal Lake in 1873, according to History of Benzie County Michigan, The Traverse Region (H.R. Page & Co., 1884, p. 288-298).
“…and telephone lines, daily mails and other conveniences are in operation (as of 1884)”.
On Monday last the U.S. steamer Michigan entered this harbour at about 1 o’clock, P.M., and was visited by the inhabitants promiscuously during the afternoon.
At about 7 o’clock Capt. McBlair sent a messenger (Alexander St. Barnard, the Pilot) to Mr. Strang, requesting him to visit him on board. Mr. Strang immediately accompanied the messenger, and just as they were stepping on the bridge leading to the pier in front of F. Johnson & Co.’s store, two assassins approached in the rear, unobserved by either of them, and fired upon Mr. Strang with pistols. The first shot took effect upon the left side of the head, entering a little back of the top of the ear, and rebounding, passed out near the top of the head.
This shot, fired from a horse pistol, brought him down, and he fell on the left side, so that he saw the assassins as they fired the second and third shots from a revolver, both taking effect upon his person, one just below the temple, on the right side of the face, and lodged in the cheek bone; the other on the left side of the spine, near the tenth rib, followed the rib about two inches and a half and lodged.
Mr. Strang recognized in the persons of the assassins Thomas Bedford and Alexander Wentworth. Wentworth had a revolver, and Bedford a horse pistol, with which he struck him over the head and face, while lying on the ground. The assassins immediately fled on board the U.S. steamer, with pistols in hand, claiming her protection.—Northern Islander, June 20, 1856 (1)
The story of James Jesse Strang’s murder is told here in the style of nineteenth century journalism to describe the brutality of the scene. Captain McBlair of the naval vessel Michigan transported Bedford and Wentworth to Mackinac Island, where, after a few minutes in jail, they were released to the celebration of the crowd gathered there. They were never tried for the murder.
Questions surround this bloody narrative, questions that arise from such powerful feeling that four accounts of the Mormon presence on Beaver Island have been written in the last century and a half, each with a unique perspective. The first question has to do with the motivations of the protagonists: What climate of hatred enabled murderers to receive a hero’s welcome at Mackinac Island?
The answer to that question is simple according to an early telling of the story serialized the Grand Traverse Herald in 1883. (2) D. C. Leach states unequivocally that the Mormons were murders and thieves. He describes plundered shipwrecks, stolen horses, fishing nets destroyed or hauled away, and vile acts of piracy committed all along the shores of Lake Michigan. His view represented that of most residents of Northern Michigan at the time, though his reporting is colored by the sources he chose to include. Since Mormons had all but been driven out by 1883, he had little opportunity (nor interest) in hearing the other side.
Milo Quaife published another account of the settlement of Beaver Island in 1930, The Kingdom of St. James. Examining documents friendly to the Mormons, including the first newspaper of Northern Michigan, The Northern Islander, he concluded that tales of murder and pillage had been much overblown. (3) Nation-wide, powerful prejudice against Mormons prevailed, not just locally against the Strangite, Beaver Island settlement, but against the Brighamite (Utah) Mormons generally. Before and after the assassination of Joseph Smith in 1844, only twelve years before the assassination of Strang, Mormons were accused of murder and “consecration” of non-Mormon property. The press was unfavorable to Mormons, frequently publishing hearsay accounts of Mormon atrocities and ignoring the provocative acts committed against them.
For more than five years The Northern Islander attempted to rebut outrageous tales of Mormons putting out lighthouse lights to cause shipwrecks, outright murder and later desecration of the body during an autopsy, and even the attempted kidnapping of a child on Old Mission Peninsula with a view towards making him the new ‘King of the Mormons.” However much the newspaper tried to present its side in the conflict, it could never overcome the array of newspapers lined up against it: The Buffalo Rough Notes, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Detroit Advertiser, Green Bay Spectator, and numerous others. (4) Depending upon hearsay for news stories, they would continue to defame the Mormon kingdom, inflaming the citizens of the area with accounts of ruthless Mormon evil-doers.
The latest two books about Beaver Island Mormons, Assassination of a Michigan King, by Roger Van Noord, (5) and “God Has Made Us A Kingdom,” by Vickie Cleverley Speek (6) add further details to the conflict between Mormons and non-Mormons in the Straits area. Both assert that the doctrine of “consecration,” the teaching that property of individuals could be seized by the Church” was certainly practiced by Mormons upon Beaver Island as apostates left their farms and businesses and probably practiced by Mormons upon non-Mormons (partly for pay-back for deeds done against them), but to a far lesser degree than contemporary newspaper accounts described. There is no convincing evidence that James Strang was ever directly involved in planning raids against non-Mormons. In fact, perhaps due to his training in the legal profession, he consistently attempted to follow to the letter the laws of the United States and Michigan as evidenced by the facts that he gave himself up when charged with federal crimes in 1851 and readily agreed to meet with Captain McBlair that fateful day in 1856 even though he had s misgivings about the presence of the U.S. S. Michigan at the Beaver dock that day. Strang’s views about the sanctity of the law are expressed in this excerpt printed in the Northern Islander in 1851:
Many have looked for the downfall of the nation by the array of the north against the south. That will not be. The nation will perish in the anarchy of laws despised and trampled on by the whole people. There is no wickedness, no act of oppression ever undertaken by a despotic government, which has not been successfully accomplished in this. There is no conceivable act which cannot be done under it, either in accordance with the law or in spite of it. The most influential men in society, are many of them engaged in the constant and shameless violation of penal statutes and criminal enactments, without so much as being less respected. The end of all this can be nothing less than the despising of magistrates, trampling on law, and the crumbling in pieces of the government. (7)
It is difficult to reconcile this statement asserting the importance of obedience to the law with the accusations of lawlessness directed towards Strang by the press.
Strang defended the conduct of Beaver Island Mormons strenuously. Denying that “consecration” had been practiced against non-Mormons, he pointed to the fact that not a single Mormon had been convicted of such crimes, even though Beaver Island was for a long time under the judicial control of Mackinac, the heart of opposition to the Mormon settlement. Furthermore, he insisted, crimes committed on the waters of Lake Michigan could be prosecuted in any county bordering the Lake. Why is it, he asked, that not a single case had been taken up against the Mormons? Of course, the question was rhetorical; there was no evidence of wrongdoing so no trial could be commenced.
Another question concerning Strang’s murder comes from the events directly following the act. What were the consequences of the assassination on the inhabitants of Beaver Island? An armada of boats from Mackinac and nearby islands and towns quickly assembled to drive the Mormons away from Beaver. Well-armed, the fishermen and traders came expecting a fight, but were surprised to find that the inhabitants meekly agreed to leave the Island and all their possessions behind, board passing boats heading for Milwaukie, Green Bay, and Chicago, and make their lives elsewhere.
By the last commands of their fallen king, James Jesse Strang, they were instructed to comply with the demands of the invaders for, despite his terrible, disfiguring wounds, he had initially survived the attack [he died 23 days later in Voree, Wisconsin]. Though paralysed, he was lucid, and directed his followers to “take care of their families.” This instruction, consistent with his lifelong abhorrence of violence, was clearly the wisest course of action; one Mormon later wrote that he believed there were fewer than fifty firearms on the Island altogether.
So it was that vessels came to St. James on July 3, 1856, filled with bands of armed men ready drive the Mormons out. What occurred there was a scene of plunder, arson, and chaos such as had never been seen in Northern Michigan. One description left behind tells of the misery inflicted upon the Mormon inhabitants:
Discovering the people were docile and leaderless, the invaders began their work of “robbery and general destruction” throughout the island. “They came marching through the streets of St. James ordering all Mormons to leave and giving them only 24 hours to do it or be shot,” Elvira Field noted. “Those individuals who tried to oppose the mob and defend themselves were thrust into the street and their houses burned. The Mormon tabernacle on the hill was torched, as were storehouses, businesses, valuable dwellings and the Mormon printshop.”
Pleased with the arson the pillagers had initiated, Thomas Bedford proudly announced that “it would have been cheaper to buy a new printing office than to attempt any work of publication at the one left by Strang.” The prophet’s house and property were especially targeted for plunder and ransacking. His household goods and extensive library were thrown into the street and trampled in the mud. To show their hatred of Strang, the attackers shot at everything on the premises. Strang’s large poultry yard with the rare Plymouth Rock chickens John C. Bennett had sent as a coronation gift was “made a shooting-mark for all.” The mob went looking for Strang’s wives. “My friends advised me to keep out of sight,” Sarah Wright (one of Strang’s wives) recollected. “I was told some rough had said he would like to find Strang’s young wife—but I was not found.” She explained that Mormons were helpless because they did not know if Strang was still alive and had been told not to resist. (8)
Three hundred-fifty Mormons were loaded aboard the steamer Buckeye State, herded like cattle and unable to take their possessions on board. They were taken to communities in Green Bay, Milwaukee, Racine, and Chicago, where they were left to fend for themselves. In Chicago, one kind soul berated the mob assembled to oppose the new arrivals and opened the doors to a warehouse. “ Here, ladies and gentlemen, come in here out of the sun and stay until you can find places” he said, expressing the first kind words the Mormons had heard since leaving the Island.
After leaving Beaver, the Strangite Mormons suffered greatly; most had lost all their possessions; many had to depend upon the kindness of relatives for survival; some had to conceal their religion from the community in order to avoid banishment. They were outcasts in their own land with some, by necessity, forced to pick blueberries and cranberries for their survival. Without a leader, they drifted back to scattered settlements throughout the Midwest, blending in with surrounding populations. Though a few hundred Strangites survive today, the movement has largely disappeared from the scene, much as the Shakers had disappeared earlier.
Finally, the question concerning the role of the United States Navy must be answered: Did Captain McBlair of the U.S.S. Michigan collude with the murderers and actively participate in the plot? Circumstantial evidence is there in abundance:
That Commander McBlair or other officers of the Michigan were in on the assassination conspiracy is still in question. The following factors, however, would not have been overlooked had the case gone to court. Commander McBlair was at best thoroughly unsympathetic with Strang’s cause; this gave him a motive. McBlair met with the chief conspirators just days before the assassination and was officially very sympathetic to their public cause of escaping the island [after the assassination]; this allowed him to participate in the plot. In addition, if the commander was as eager to protect the dissidents as he professed in his June 6 report to the governor of Michigan, why did he dally for ten days, even visiting Milwaukee before going to Saint James? This delay clearly gave the assassins time to arrive at Beaver and even to practice with the murder weapons before the vessel’s arrival. (9)
Furthermore, the failure of the Michigan to protect the Mormon residents of Beaver after the assassination of Strang points to Captain McBlair’s sympathy with partisans who desired to expel the Mormons. At the time the mob was pillaging the Island, the warship was cruising Lake Superior, unable to respond to possible orders requiring him to defend the Mormons who were being dispossessed of their property. With the authority of the United States Navy, McBlair and his crew could have stopped the ravaging of Beaver. Someone—McBlair, most likely, or even a superior—made a decision to sail away from the chaos that exploded on July 3, 1856. We will probably never know with certainty the whole story, though we can ask one more important question: Was the United States government involved in any way with the plot to kill James Jesse Strang?
There is no smoking gun that points to such involvement, though certain lines of evidence indicate possible foreknowledge and, perhaps, approval of the actions of McBlair in leading to the assassination. We know that in 1853 the fishermen of Mackinac did formally petition the Governor of the State of Michigan and the President of the United States to respond to the alleged depredations of the Mormons in the Mackinac region. (10) We know that newspapers maintained a hostile climate towards the Strangite Mormons from the colony’s inception. We know that in 1856 Brighamite Mormons in Utah were charged by the Attorney General of the United States with six abuses carried on by Brigham Young’s governance, among them the accusation that lives and property are at risk from any who oppose the authority of the Church. (11) The federal government might wield the same brush of condemnation against Beaver Island as it did against the Brighamites in Salt Lake City, thereby provoking the Federal government to sanction Strang’s murder. Finally, the inquiry made in Washington was a most perfunctory affair with the important questions never asked. (12) A people dispossessed of their land and property were quickly disposed of and forgotten by the United States government and by the nation generally. The expulsion of the Beaver Island Mormons on July 3, 1856 does not remind us of the ideals this nation was founded upon nearly 80 years earlier.
Whatever opinion the reader holds concerning the unjust treatment meted out to the Mormons of Beaver Island, one fact stands out as incontrovertible: In the 1850’s Northern Michigan was a lawless place. There was theft and plunder; there was occasional murder; there were courts that acted unlawfully whether through ignorance of court officials or through malice; there were Indians, not yet socialized to the ways of white culture, who were fair prey for vicious traders; and there was persecution enacted by both federal and state elected officials who exceeded their authority in the actions they perpetrated. The Sheriff of Mackinac County would arrest Strang over and over, each time the case being thrown out because he was unable to show cause for the arrests. Posses of thugs and hooligans were assembled to hunt down “felons” who had committed no crime but the enforcing of temperance laws. Captain McBlair, without the judicial authority, collected depositions from the co-conspirators that murdered Strang while ignoring evidence of his innocence. Later, in the 1870’s the governor of Michigan, Kinsley S. Bingham flatly denied the State had any role in indemnifying Mormons who had lost their possessions in the ravages of 1856. (13) Lawlessness was the rule at every level: local, state, and federal. In telling this tragic story, we must resolve never to allow it to happen again.
1 The Northern Islander was the first newspaper of Northern Lower Michigan. It began publishing in 1850 and ended publication with this note concerning the assassination.
2 Leach, M.L. A History of the Grand Traverse Region, Traverse City, MI: Grand Traverse Herald, 1883.
3 Quaife, Milo M., The Kingdom of St. James: A Narrative of the Mormons, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1930
4 The power attributed to the press by the American people is described in Dicken-Garvin, Hazel, Journalistic Standards in Nineteenth Century America, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press,1989, 48.
5 Van Noord, Roger, Assassination of a Michigan King, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1988
6 Speek, Vickie Cleverley, “God Has Made Us A Kingdom”: James Strang and the Midwest Mormons, Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 2006
9 This passage as well as the point made in the following paragraph comes from Rodgers, Bradley A., Guardian of the Great Lakes: The U.S. Paddle Frigate Michigan, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996,
10 The petition is presented in the Detroit Daily Free Press, May 24, 1853.
11 The six charges against the Utah Mormons are given in Albanes, Richard, One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church, New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002.
For the staff at A. Papano’s Pizza of Kingsley, history is more than just a rehashing of the past; It is all about building community, according to Jeff Yacks, owner.
“The community of Kingsley has meant so much to us, and it’s so underserved. They deserve more–to be served a great product–and they deserve great service. That should be an expectation.”
So when A. Papano’s crew leader Jeff Pearson began researching the history of the building occupied by the business at the corner of Brownson and Blair, he saw an opportunity to engage with the community on a more meaningful level.
“Initially, I didn’t think this project would come to mean what it has. When Jeff asked to research the building we’re in, I thought it was for a grade, a score, a plaque, but it turned into a lot more than that. I would say it was a humbling experience. We spoke with a lot of community members, the research we did, just hours of it. It turned into this huge, amazing, overwhelming thing.”
The research project culminated in the unveiling of a display, now available for public viewing in the seating area of the restaurant at the Kingsley location. The display features the history of the building, tracing the previous owners and functions, as well as pointing out some of the unique parts of the building, left over from years of remodeling.
Downtown Kingsley is largely comprised of brick structures dating from the early 1900s, and over the years, doors were closed off, windows bricked up, and more. The staff are especially proud of uncovering the last bit of original tin ceiling in their building, which miraculously survived an early 1990s demolition project.
“Through the Kingsley Branch Library staff, I found out that the ceiling of Tony Beyer’s grocery had been ripped out in the early 90s, and they supposed that all of it was gone. I then went and talked to our landlord, and he thought there might be some left. We (A.Papano’s staff) searched and searched all 2000 square feet of the building, and found a 4 by 6 foot section. There was plumbing and insulation in the way, we had to get a ladder… and Jeff got metal shavings in his eye, so I sent him to get a tetanus shot… three hours later, we ended up with a piece of the tin ceiling!” The ceiling tile is now on display at the Kingsley Branch Library.
For their tireless efforts, the research team was awarded the Floyd Milton Webster Prize for History in June 2015. When asked about what made this research project worthwhile, Yacks pointed to the June 22nd award ceremony.
“When we got there, I was overwhelmed. All these community members, people I looked up to as local heroes, were sitting there, and I remember thinking we were out of our league and should just walk out. But then they called us up, and I was shocked; Mr. Webster was there, all 96 years of him, and at that moment not only did I feel like this project was so beyond what I expected, but that I was accepted into this legacy, and I knew I had to continue. That was the a-ha moment, where all this time spent, all this research, was all worthwhile. When someone like Mr. Webster shakes your hand… he looked at us as the future; There was almost a sense of blessing, a passing of the torch.”
So what was the most difficult part of the project? “Early on, we were trying to find the initial land plotting, and I was going through all the libers at the governmental center, tracing all that history. We were trying to prove or disprove if Doctor Brownson (who operated Brownson Sanitarium in Kingsley at the turn of the 20th century) ever owned the land, but we never did find that link. That was a lot of Friday afternoons spent,” explained Yacks.
The governmental center wasn’t the only place the research team turned to for help. Yacks praises staff at both the Kingsley and Woodmere Branches at Traverse Area District Library for their assistance, even though he was leery to use those services at first.
“In my line of work, I am use to schedules, everything is fast-paced, minute-by-minute. Our employees have expectations on efficiency. When I started, I didn’t really know how to work with the library employees. I felt like I was sucking up all their time. What I learned is that for librarians, time isn’t measured in minutes, but in outcomes, and solutions. It was hard to ask for help, then take up an hour of time, and thinking that person should be doing something else. For me, the whole experience really embedded the library in the community.”
Despite the significant amount of time spent on the project, Yacks stresses the value of engaging in a history research project like this, and what it has done for his business.
“Engaging in this project benefits both the business and my employees, which are really like family, and for the community. Our business was already aligning with the community in many ways, and it was perfect timing, for the business, staff and community to have a common tie.”
“This project fits with my philosophy, that when we can establish relationships with our customers, it creates top-mind awareness. When customers see us at community events, look at our display, it leads them to thinking of us over our competitors. Because of something like this, we’re establishing the emotional connections that build loyalty. Talking with community residents to accomplish this meant a lot of relationship building. It changed the course of our business in our community. We’re embedded in our community now, more than any amount of marketing could do.”
Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.
When you look out at Power Island, South Manitou, or Mackinac Island, you see a tiered wedding cake apparition rising from the water.Often we take that appearance at face value, never asking the important question, “How did it come to be that way?”Indeed, there is an explanation and it is not hard to understand.
Most residents of the Traverse area know that the Lakes were carved out by glaciers—and not so long ago in geologic time.The last major advance was 14,000 years ago, with secondary advances occurring as late as 12,000 years ago.This continental glacier was a mile thick in places, certainly big enough to carry boulders to unlikely places, make north-south gouges in underlying bedrock, and form moraines both at the endpoints of its advances and at points where the glaciers simply melted, letting down its cargo of rocks, gravel, and sand.The steep, winding path of M-72 going up from West Bay climbs the end moraine of the last glacial advance.
What does the glacier have to do with the wedding cake appearance of islands in the upper Great Lakes?The terraces far above the present lake levels are beaches created during our glacial past when the water took different pathways to drain the melted ice water.
As the ice retreated, that water left the Upper Great Lakes by way of the Chicago River to the west and Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River to the east.This was a high water level, the surface of future Lakes Michigan and Lake Huron standing at 605 feet above sea level.Since the present level of those lakes is 535 feet, an ancient beach can observed high above the water on Mackinac Island—the uppermost tier.The combined waters of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan formed a single expanse called Lake Algonquin.
Later, retreating ice opened a drainage pattern through Georgian Bay and out through Ontario by way of the Ottawa River.This event marked a low water stage for the Upper Lakes, a state that was not preserved very long.
As the weight of the glacier left the land, it sprang back up much like a trampoline relieved of a hurtling athlete.The effect was to cut off the drainage directly through Canada and bring back the familiar pattern through the Chicago River and the Detroit River.Another high water level stage resulted, this time resulting in a combined lake comprising Lakes Michigan and Huron called Lake Nipissing.Lake Nipissing beaches are lower than Lake Algonquin’s, but they can be seen readily on Power Island and the Manitous.
The Great Lakes are constantly changing: the land is still springing back as a consequence of the disappearance of the glacier and changes in precipitation and evaporation (as well as human use) cause year-to-year, decade-to-decade changes.Climate change might cause rapid changes, low water stages resulting from increased evaporation or high water stages coming from increased precipitation.As yet, a clear pattern has not emerged.
The story of the Great Lakes is charmingly told in a Canadian Film Board movie, The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes, which we reference here:
My great-great-grandfather James Gray Brady served in the Michigan Militia supporting Union forces in the Civil War. I have a picture of him and his rifle. I do not possess the firearm in the picture, but I think I know where it is.
After he returned from the Civil War, laws regarding firearms were passed by many different units of government. (There is a twenty page list of gun laws in the book Guns Across America, published in early 2015). The laws concerned many different aspects of the use and ownership of guns.
Laws in Michigan prohibited the firing of guns in towns. One such law was passed in 1887. Concealed-carry gun laws were passed in Michigan in 1887, 1891, and 1895. There were additional state laws passed regarding the sale and carry of firearms in 1901 and 1925. In 1931 a Michigan law prohibited the brandishingof firearms.
The Uniform Firearms Act, model legislation for states to adopt that established new, restrictive rules on carrying firearms in public, was passed in Michigan and other states in the 1920s. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws recommended that states require licenses for concealed weapons in public.The Commission also recommended that licenses be issued only to a “suitable person” with a “proper reason for carrying a firearm.” Gun sellers were to be licensed and not allowed to sell guns to persons convicted of violent crimes, drug addicts, drunkards, and minors.
After the Civil War, many guns used by solders like Grandfather Brady became obsolete and uncared for. In an effort to remove these dangerous weapons from homes, legislation was passed that required individuals to register their guns. Gun owners not wanting to pay to register their guns could turn them in to local authorities.
Traverse City Police Chief Blacken had lots of firearms turned in to his office in 1926. There were many Civil War rifles that “would fire when you least expected,” as reported in the Traverse CityRecord-Eagle on November 6, 1926. Chief Blacken dumped the guns in Grand Traverse Bay, ensuring the public’s safety from dangerous misfires .
Many of the rifles and handguns Chief Blacken dumped in the Bay and the Boardman River were turned in by those who did not care to register their firearms; Most dated from the Civil War. My great-great grandfather James Gray Brady’s rifle may be among the ancient firearms at the bottom of the Bay.
My great grandfather James Samuel Brady hunted lands in Northern Michigan from his camp “Pokey Huddle”. In a treasured photograph he is pictured with his father-in-law, William Wallace Smith, and Uncle Willy. They are all holding rifles and ready to hunt, no different from Northern Michigan hunters of today .
Laws have changed what, where, and how hunters hunt. Attempting to keep up with new technology, in 1913 the Michigan Legislature passed a law requiring registration of all firearms; in 1927, machine guns with more than sixteen bullets were banned; in 1929, machine guns with silencers were banned; in 1931, gun traps were banned in Michigan.
In 1925The American Bar Association Journal published Legislatures and the Pistol Problem, an article that emphasized that the public was against the possession of guns that could be concealed.The police agreed with this opinion at the time. No doubt, Chief Blacken of Traverse City felt that public safety was enhanced by sending large numbers of pistols to the bottom of the Bay. For the same reason, the person–or persons–who dumped the firearm into a hole at the Dougherty home on Old Mission most likely did so to ensure that the firearm would not hurt anyone.
The most recent efforts to address gun rights in Michigan are Senate Bills 442 and 561 (October 2015). These bills, if passed, would allow individuals to hide pistols as they walk into Michigan schools, dormitories, and sports stadiums.
In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Heller, striking down a District of Columbia prohibition on the possession of usable firearms in the home because the law banned “the quintessential self-defense weapon” in the home. However, the Court also added, “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.”
One of the founders of the National Rifle Association, Karl T. Frederick, “the best shot in America” who won three Olympic gold shooting medals in 1920 at Antwerp, : “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under license”. We should all consider the wisdom of the Olympian Frederick as new gun regulations are put in place.
James Gray Brady would be shocked to know that guns have become an issue of national debate.But, now–as during the Civil War he fought–the firearm death toll is high. The rights sought by one side are non-negotiable: a way of life threatened. While governments seek the power to mediate a settlement between citizens with anything other than a heavy hand, we all look on while tens of thousands suffer gunshot wounds, even to the point of maiming worthy government servants like Gabby Giffords of Arizona.
Next time you take a boat ride on Grand Traverse Bay, look down into the water. Who knows?–you might see a cache of ancient firearms somewhere on the bottom where Chief Blacken dumped them. You might even find my great-great grandfather’s rifle.
Among all the solutions to the gun problem listed above, I endorse Chief Blacken’s solution as the best.
Stewart Allison McFerran is a regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal.
Guns Across America, Oxford 2015 Robert J Spitzer
Gun Fight, Norton 2011, Adam Winkler
Grand Traverse Journal, August 2015
Grand Traverse Herald, November 1926
MLive, October 13, 2015 LANSING, MI — A Michigan Senate panel on Tuesday approved gun bills that would allow concealed carry instead of open carry in schools, moving ahead despite concerns from education officials who fear the proposal will do little to shield students from possible violence.
Dear readers, this marker is placed near the railroad tracks, close to the Woodmere Branch of Traverse Area District Library. What does that mysterious “W” stand for? And who should pay attention to it?
Here’s your clue: Your editors believe this to be rather antiquated, and feel that the “W” might be better replaced with a “H” for modern times.
Locally-produced digital magazine featuring nature and local history from the Grand Traverse Region.