“Traverse as a Resort” by Scott Woodward, 1911

Scott Woodward (1853-1919) was a local author and publisher living in Traverse City at the turn of the last century. His work is firmly in the realm of realism, but it is often difficult to discern if his writings are autobiographical in nature, or if he’s just good at spinning a highly believable yarn.  Woodward’s style is deftly described by George W. Kent, editor of Traverse City Daily Eagle circa 1910: “In his early life this author differed from his fellows in that his imagination was most vivid and he turned his visions, as some called them, into realities and wove them into his paintings of life in various phrases about him, taken from his peculiar viewpoint.”

The following is one entry in Woodward’s Life Pictures in Poetry and Prose, originally published in 1911, and details the warm welcome Traverse City residents would offer to any visitor to the region, long before the day of the derogatory term, “fudgie.”

It is a pleasure for the residents of this beautiful region to welcome you to our shore for a few weeks of rest and recuperation, and to see here the cozy little hotel nestled among the hills as a place of refuge from the cares and ills of the outside world.

We have all lived “out Side,” as we term it, and are better prepared to bid you a hearty welcome.  Having found the door to our retreat, we ask you stay as long as you wish and help to make one among us, for our attractions are many.

As the summer advances and the weather grows intensely hot each incoming train is sure to be loaded with its wearied freight, all looking, as it were, where care, sickness, and the perplexing scenes of business life are left behind, if but for a few weeks.

It is a matter of interest to the idle spectator, as he stands at one of our depots and watches the unloading of a train that has just arrived.  Here we see a strong, healthy man with his week delicate wife leaning upon his arm.  Over there in an invalid chair is a child of uncertain age, he may be ten years old and he may be older, we can not tell.  Tenderly does the fond mother bend over the little sufferer.  The disease of an unhealthy climate, unknown to this country, have left their stamp upon that face so prematurely old.  This is their first visit to a region where malaria and its associates are unknown.  And still they come.  There goes a man whose close application to business for the past ten years has left him but a shadow of what he once was.  Now he is willing to leave it all behind if only he can regain his former health.  He is fairly ashamed to let people see him shiver as he pulls his heavy woolen shawl about his shoulders.  He feels for the first time a breath of our pure, invigorating atmosphere.  Still they come.

See, now the train moves slowly back out of way, and for the first time in their lives they drink in the beautiful scenery.  The beautiful bay which laps their very feet and reaches off to the northward as far as the eye can reach, has captured the attention of all, and, as by magic, a changed expression comes over the tired and care-worn faces.

Then it is all hurry and excitement, each looking after some earthly possessions which have been most jealously guarded during the long journey northward.  They are all looking for temporary homes.  Some have friends at the depot to meet them.  Others find homes in private families for a short time, and still others have taken up quarters in our hotels, where they partake of the good things furnished by the genial hosts. Nearly every house in or about the city has opened its doors to some friend from the outside world.  It is a pleasure to play the healer, where there is no call for quinine or the doctor’s tablets.  Gladly we note the change that comes over their tired and careworn faces.  How pleased we are to see them take on new hope and a new lease of life.  We would say, “Sleep on, for you can sleep here.  Eat on, as you will surely be taken with a coming appetite before you have been here many days.”  Many enjoy taking sail during the afternoon, and they may be seen gliding hither and yon as they move about in their self-propelling craft far out over the sparkling water.  Others enjoy a quiet drive about the city or a spin on the highway which reaches for miles on either side of the bay.

Then at close of day as the sun sinks behind the hills to the west of us, the scene changes, the wind goes down and there is no more use for the white sail, but as evening advances many are the little craft to be seen gliding about the water.  Listen and you catch the sound of song, accompanied by mandolin and guitar as it floats shoreward.  It is inspiring and helps to pass the time all too swiftly by.  But the fun does not stop here.  Many a good housewife has allowed her carpet to be lifted in the dining room.  Tables and chairs disappear and the cottage organ, so well adapted to sacred melody, now rolls forth its music to the dizzy waltzers.  Music, singing and rhetoric all have their respective places, and it is usually a late hour before the guests have discovered that it is time to retire.

But the morning hours on Traverse Bay are the most enchanting.  Lulled to sleep by the repose of night the bay now appears like a sea of glass.  Everything in the distance takes on a different aspect.  The hills and trees appear like huge sentinels guarding the sleeping infant at their feet.  Northport Point and Marion Island stand high up in the heavens as if to bid defiance to the storm king who may at this hour be abroad.

It is wonderful, wonderful and grand.  Oh, what a scene for the brush of a painter.  Man has done much towards making the place attractive, but nature alone has made it an Eden.

Introduction provided by Richard Fidler, GTJ Editor.