All posts by Amy Barritt

Amy Barritt, MSI, CA, is the Special Collections Librarian at Traverse Area District Library and President of the Women's History Project of Northwest Michigan. Amy has a passion for helping people find information. "Grand Traverse Journal" is her first foray in to library-sponsored self-publishing.

Popular Fiction, Purchased Locally: Library Purchasing Trends in the 1920s

Librarians love to keep records. Sure, we enjoy reading, assisting patrons, and honing our collections to perfection. But our true passion is in organizing, and that starts by keeping good records. From the dawn of the profession, librarians knew one thing: “If I can keep a record of it, it’s worth recording.” And Alice Wait, at the dawn of her personal professional career, swallowed this librarianish platitude hook, line, and sinker.

Alice Wait, 1915. Image courtesy of Traverse Area District Library.

Alice was a librarian’s librarian, to be sure. The records she kept while she was THE librarian of Traverse City Public Library (1906-1950) speaks to her recordkeeping prowess. (We know she wasn’t there for the pay. Local historian Richard Fidler’s research into the City records revealed that Alice was paid less than the building janitor (Glimpses, p. 54)).

Some of you are saying, “Prowess? Really? To keep a list of books?Phhhbt.” I’m not saying it’s a miracle of engineering, creating and maintaining a library collection (what we professionals like to call “Collection Development”), but just think of all the factors involved! Each book is carefully weighed and measured: What are patrons looking to read? Are there other books patrons need to read that I might need to foist on them? What’s the opportunity cost here (or, what can’t I purchase because I’m buying this book)? What’s the drain on my budget and shelf space? Do I already have other, similar titles (or the same title) in the collection? Have I exhausted all of my materials resources and reviews to make sure I’m getting the best of the best?

Join me in looking at the Accessions record for Traverse City Public Library (TCPL), 1919-1925. First, it’s a beautiful volume: tight spine, no leather rust, and I bet this is pre-war paper… no acid yellowing, and the lignin fibers, well, let’s just say they should probably have their own fashion line. Rowr!

That the volume is in excellent condition, and that we still have it, tells us how important these types of records are to a library. But it’s the contents, handwritten in Alice’s tight, neat script, that tells us a story of a community, not just a library in a vacuum.

So what were Traverse City folk reading in the Roaring Twenties? Taking into account the effects of the Great War in general (a dip in the young male population, rise in women in the workforce, the doubling of the nation’s total wealth), people were frankly reading a lot of popular fiction. One of Alice’s most-used wholesalers, A.C. McClurg out of Chicago, also published a lot of escapist and science fiction literature, including Edgar Rice Burroughs (of “Tarzan” and “John Carter of Mars” fame). Yes, Burroughs was definitely on the shelves at TCPL.

This is not a huge revelation, but it does speak to a trend in our local library. In 1905, the TCPL published its circulation figures in the Grand Traverse Herald, revealing that 90% of items checked out by both adults and children were fiction titles. We can’t get those figures from the Accession records, but we do know what was present in the collection, and from a cursory read, fiction and periodicals made up the bulk of purchases.  With today’s technology, Traverse Area District Library (TADL) can provide the public with up-to-the-minute stats using our Statistics Dashboard. Again, we don’t know from these stats what is fiction and nonfiction, but anecdotally, I’ll attest to the fact that Grand Traverse County still likes its fiction.

Alice did a solid job of keeping up with what was popular in the world, considering how removed Traverse City feels. She purchased the drama “All God’s Chillun Got Wings,” by Eugene O’Neill, the week it came out (January 8, 1924), even though Time magazine didn’t publish a review until March of the same year. Same with Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith, which won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1926.

She also purchased works of local interest, such as Traverse City novelist and scriptwriter Harold Titus’ 1922 novel, TimberShe purchased (and often replaced) works that would have been classics in her time, including Frances H. Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886). I do wish she had kept in these records the prices of these volumes, but alas. We do know that she supported the local economy, as a good 60 percent of her purchases were made at the City Book Store (managed by Dean E. Hobart, at 220 E. Front Street).

Entry in 1920 Accessions Record for “Little Lord Fauntleroy.”

Here’s something wild that might be unique to Alice’s recordkeeping. She may not have thought anything of it at the time, but for every author that was a married woman, Alice would give her the title “Mrs.” So, Burnett’s entry looks like “Burnett, Mrs. Frances H.” But, she excluded all other titles. Dr. Mabel Elliott’s Beginning Again at Ararat, she’s just plain old “Elliott, Mabel,” to Alice. I have no explanation for this, it’s just curious. Perhaps Alice did not have an ingrained bias for feminism.

Some of the periodicals Alice subscribed to in 1921 are still in print today (CenturyAtlantic MonthlyForumGood HousekeepingHarper’s Magazine), while others are long gone (Everybody’s Magazine, Little Folks). I can tell you with all certainty that every issue Alice purchased is long gone, as the last column for each accession indicates when the item was deaccessioned from the collection. There must’ve been a huge weed in 1944, as Alice discarded whole pages of accessions that year in periodicals. What a joy for Alice, to “close the book” on all those records at once! (Librarians like librarian puns almost as much as recordkeeping.)

Alice at her retirement, 1949-1950… still working. Image courtesy of the Al Barnes Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

Alice was probably the first and last person to write in this volume. When she retired in 1950, this volume likely went into retirement with her. How did they keep records after Alice is a mystery, as those records did not survive to the present. Unfortunately, librarians one hundred years from now will likely lament the same concerning our generation of recordkeeping. Thanks to Alice, though, that small slice of time she covered reveals a whole lot about Traverse City and its readers in the 1920s.

Correct Answer Paves Way for Brick Streets

Just look at this beautiful brick street paver, a product of Metropolitan Block from well over 100 years ago! Like the Nelsonville Pavers, which we featured in a mystery photo way back in August 2015, this paver was, until recently, part of the roadway of Traverse City.

Here’s your question for July 2017: What two streets in TC are paved with brick?

Thanks to readers Cathy and Larry, we’ve got our answer! “Brick pavers are still visible on Sixth Street (Division to Union) and Eighth Street (Division to Union).”

Those streets may not be paved with gold, but they are paved with a whole lot of character!

Take a Walk on the History Side

Overview of the north Union Street bridge over the Boardman River taken from the tower of the Traverse City State bank. Steamer ”Puritan” on the bay, ca. 1910-20. Image courtesy of Traverse Area District Library, Local History Collection.

Walking Tours Ongoing from the Traverse Area Historical Society

You still have several opportunities to take in Traverse Area Historical Society’s now-famous tours! All tours are $10 per person, and all funds raised go to support local non-profit historical activities.

Downtown Walking Tours start at 10:30 am each Saturday through October 14th, with the exception of and July 29th (Film Festival). Participants should meet outside Horizon Books 15 minutes before the start time. Tours last approximately 1-1/2 hours. For additional information, call (231) 995-0313. Reservations not necessary, but please call for groups of over 5 people.

Walking tours of Oakwood Cemetery will be available at 6:00 PM every Sunday thru October 15. These tours focus on the unique history of the area and the early pioneers who founded the community we know today. Geared towards an adult audience, the tours will last about 1 ½ hours. Participants are encouraged to wear shoes suitable for hiking over uneven terrain. They should meet on the sidewalk outside the cemetery near the Eighth Street entrance, approximately 15 minutes prior to start time. For additional information, call (231) 941-8440. Reservations not necessary, but please call for groups of over 5 people.

Also, continue to enjoy the “virtual walking tour”of Downtown Traverse City by our own Richard Fidler, courtesy of the Society.

“Scene where Julia Curtis Was Killed, April 29th, 1895.” Image courtesy of the S.E. Wait Glass Plate Negative Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

Old Mission Gazette features story on Julia Curtis

Stephen Lewis, author of Murder on Old Mission and Murder Undone was recently featured in a wonderful digital magazine, the Old Mission Gazette, the brain-child of lifelong OM resident Jane Johnson Boursaw.  

Your editors enjoy the history found at Old Mission Gazette, and always look forward to the next edition. Boursaw has published a number of interviews with longtime residents, histories researched by herself and others, and she often reports on current events of a historic nature.

In regards to Julia Curtis (whom we’ve covered before, thanks to Lewis), hers is a harrowing true story that makes a compelling novel at Lewis’ deft pen. His works are for sale both at Amazon.com and Horizon Books locally.

The Rev. Charles E. Stebbins (pictured with his wife, Helen Stebbins, a Red Cross nurse) , was one of those men who put on a uniform to fight the Germans. He became Field Director of the American Red Cross, who was in charge of Camp Grant in Rockford, IL.

Benzie Area Historical Society & Museum continues World War I Exhibit, Events

The United States, after much debate,  entered WW1 in April 1917. The Benzie Area Historical Society has created a 2017 summer  exhibit at the museum, “Gone to the Colors,”  to mark the centennial of this event.   The exhibit focuses primarily on how Benzie County was affected,  on a number of the “local boys” who enlisted,  and  at “propaganda” in a variety of forms– popular music, posters, letters, etc. The exhibit runs through October 19; the Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday  1-5PM

In addition, BAHS is also sponsoring a number of WW1 commemorative  events honoring those who served in WW1:

  • (Tuesday, July 18) Crystal Lake East Cemetery, Frankfort
  • (Tuesday, July 25) Champion Hill Cemetery, Honor
  • (Thursday, August 10)  Lecture “It’s Not Our War”

Cigar for the Winner of our June Mystery!

Where is this building, stamped, “Traverse City Cigar Box Company 1920?”

We expect all our readers will get this one, so here’s some extra credit: What do you know about the cigar industry in Traverse City? When did it flourish? How many companies and employees were there? What kinds of people worked for the industry?

You might not win a cigar for your answer, but you’ll certainly go down as a legend amongst Grand Traverse Journal readers!

Congratulations to reader Margaret, who gets a virtual stogie for her answer!:

“When the lumber industry collapsed during 1920 and the Oval Dish Company closed down, they had been the largest employer but moved out of state. This is when the Cigar Factory flourished. Employees were unskilled workers, especially women who lived in the area and provided steady employment. Every man smoked cigars!! There were 10 companies in TC during that time. Yuck. Where did I find this info? The Historical Archives from TADL.”

For those who weren’t able to identify the building, it is now called “The Box,” and sits at the northeast corner of Boardman and Eighth Streets.

Michigan’s Lumber Pikes

Editor’s Note: This text comes to us courtesy of the July 1953 issue of Railroad Magazine,  and republished with permission from Mr. EuDaly of White River Productions. A copy was recently donated to the Local History Collection by Mr. Allan Pratt. This particular article will be of interest to railroad historians of Northern Michigan, but also to those who hike or camp in the area, as many of former lumber pikes have, over time, become part of our trails. This article also answers a number of questions brought in by the curious.

by Fred C. Olds

The racing crests of Michigan’s big rivers, with picturesque river hogs riding spring log drives, captured most of the glamour in Michigan’s lumbering history. All but forgotten, less colorful but just as vital to the timber industry, was the role played by the logging railroad. Pushing out into isolated forest cuttings, these little iron pikes early in the 20th Century criss-crossed the northern and central interior of lower Michigan in a web-like pattern of rail.

Their existence dependent upon the product they transported, most were doomed from the start for but a brief span of operation. Mileage grew at a furious pace as rails opened new timber areas for the lumberjack harvest, but these little pikes withered almost as quickly on their iron vines when the logs were cut off. Their demise was often sudden and without ceremony. Abandonment of a forest road simply meant piling its equipment, including locomotives, on flatcars to be carried out over its own creaky rails for service in another sector or for another owner.

How and where did the logging railroad get its start in Michigan?

Records show that by 1875 loggers had been busily chewing into the state’s extensive forests for over 40 years. Over this period commercial lumbering interests had steadily whittled their way northward, skirting the shores of Lake Huron and Michigan, penetrating inland along the larger rivers — the Grand, Tittabawasee, Saginaw, Au Sable, Muskegon, Manistee, Chippewa, Pere Marquette and their tributary streams – to strip out the lush stands of cork pine. In those first years water played the major role as a log hauler. Timber (pine, that is) had to be readily accessible to a suitable stream for flotage or it was practically valueless. It was this lack of water transportation, according to a claim set forth in an old issue of The Northwestern Lumberman  that caused the nation’s first logging railroad to be built in Michigan’s Clare County in 1876. Its builder was Winfield Scott Gerrish, who owned extensive pine holdings in Clare in the center of Michigan’s lower peninsula about halfway between the Straits of Mackinac and the Ohio line.

Image of W.S. Gerrish from “Portraits and Biographical Album of Osceola County Michigan,” Chapman Brothers, 1884. Made available online by the Bentley Historical Library.

A brief biography of Gerrish, carried in A History of Northern Michigan, shows that he gave early promise as a timber operator. Born in Maine, where his father Nathaniel was a lumberman, young Gerrish spent his boyhood and early manhood in Croton, Michigan; started driving logs at the age of 18, and when 25 made his first large logging contract. It called for the timber to be beanked on Doc & Tom Creek in the southwest part of Clare County in 1874 for flotage to mills in Muskegon via the Muskegon River. Misfortune struck without warning, however. The Doc & Tom shrank to a mere rivulet as the result  of a spring drought, and Gerrish’s winter cut of logs was left high and dry on the banks.

Gerrish managed to float his cargo to mill by dint of hard work, but he conceded that small streams proved an unsure means of transporting his timber. He obtained an interest in 12,000 acres of pine on the west side of Clare County between the headwaters of the Muskegon River and Lake George, but because of its remoteness (6 to 10 miles) from a good floating stream, not a tree had been cut in this tract Gerrish was not one to be easily discouraged. The Northwestern Lumberman report noted that he considered pole roads and tramways to transport logs but tried neither method, believing both were impractical. Instead, he found his solution in a most unlikely spot — hundred of miles away, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. While on a visit there he saw a small Baldwin-built locomotive displayed in a machinery exhibit. It gave him an idea.

If he couldn’t gloat his logs to the Muskegon River, why not haul them on the first leg of their journey by rail? Figuring that it was worth a try, he hurried home and hastily built the Lake George and Muskegon River Railroad, as he called it, which was splashing its valuable timber merchandise into the mighty Muskegon early in 1876. The Northwestern Lumberman account calls this 6-mile pike, running from Lake George northwesterly to the river near the present village of Temple, the nation’s and perhaps the world’s first logging railroad. Other railroads had penetrated timber areas before that time but conducted a general greight and passenger business. The LG&MR was strictly a log hauler, and as such is claimed to have been the first of its kind.

Gerrish, Edmund Hazelton and four associates of Hersey, Michigan, were listed as the road’s incorporators in a Special Report of the Michigan Railroad COmmission. on November 28th, 1881 the railroad was acquired by John L. Woods and on February 18th, 1882 by C.H. Hackley & Co., the last named a large Muskegon firm which operated it as a forest road until its sale in the Toledo, Ann Arbor & Cadillac Railway (now part of the Ann Arbor Railroad) between August 25th and December 20th, 1886. Approximately four miles of the old LG&MR grade now carry Ann Arbor rails between Lake George and Temple.

It’s very lonesome country up there, particularly in the winter months. Acres of stumps scar its ridges and valleys, a fading legacy from that long-lost pine kingdom. Paralleling Highway 10 west from Clare for a few miles, the Ann Arbor rails turn northwest to skirt Lake George along its east rim, cutting a thin swath through the brushy second-growth timber and yopung sprice as it heads toward Temple, Casillac and its Lake Michigan terminus at Elberta. Lake George is a bustling resort community in the summer, but the old gray depot has been closed for many years.

Gerrish, after completing his logging short line, espanded his lumbering operations until his biographer described himas being at one time probably the world’s largest indicidual logger. It is estimated that his highest individual contribution to the Muskegon River was 130,000,000 feet of timber in 1879. Most of this was carried over his Lake George & Muskegon River Railroad — not a bad tonnage record for a little two-bit logging pike founded only three years before.

When we received this image from the Traverse Area Historical Society, the following description accompanied it, “Tee-boilered flute-dome, 2-truck shay dumping logs.” Puzzling for non-railroaders! Now we know, the engine was a Shay, with a tee boiler as opposed to a vertical or some other construction. This method of rolling the logs down to the stream is a prime example of “Cut and get out.” Image from the Local History Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

His new transportation idea gained quick favor among the state’s lumber kings. It ushered in a new era, opening up hitherto unprofitable but heavily timbered pine and hardwood country. It brought an unprecedented boom in Michigan railroad building. Both broad and narrow-gauge lines were pushed deeper into backwoods districts to take out timber. For a few years a weird assortment of motive power echoed their whistle tones across the long plains and forested hills. Saddle-tank dinkeys and Shay-geared sidewinders chuffed and clanked over hastily-built rails which meandered around hills and across swamps, their tenders and log cars bearing now all but forgotten titles.

Built for a special purpose , log hauling, these railroads accomplished their chore efficiently and without delays. A venture as utilitarian as the lumbermen’s favorite axiom, “Cut and get out,” no money was wasted on frills, deluxe equipment, or polished roadbed. Swampers would first slash a rough path cross-country from an owner’s timber tract to the nearest river if his logs were to be floated part of their journey by stream, or directly to his own mill, or to a rail junction where they could be transferred to an already established carrier to complete their trip.

Rails followed a path of least resistance, guided by the hastily scraped-up roadbed’s serpentine twisting and turning to take advantage of the land’s natural contours. Hills and extensive swamps were skirted when possible, to avoid expensive fills and steep grades. To cross a swamp, low log trestles were built to provide the track with a solid bottom instead of using earth fill, timber being cheaper than the cost of moving dirt. Many of Michigan’s vacationland hunting and fishing trails still in use today were built over all or part of some timber rail line.

Motive power, based upon modern standards, would be considered mediocre. Locomotives during the early period wore bonnet stacks, burned slab wood for fuel, moved after dark to the feeble rays cast by oil headlamps, and hauled primitive four-wheel flatcars whose link-and-pin couplers exposed trainmen to an extra hazard. Lightweight rail, sometimes strap iron screwed to a wood base and set insecurely upon the rough roadbed, made the journey into the woods comparable to a sea voyage.

Back in the forests the trees were chopped down, trimmed of their branches and their trunks cut into suitable lengths. A log then was skidded through the brush by a team of horses or oxen to an opening where a set of big wheels could be driven over it. The log (two or three logs if they were small) would then be lifted and carried to a rail-side decking ground where a jamming crew loaded the log lengths on railroad cars. In winter the big wheels were supplanted by sleighs which carried the big piles of logs to the decking ground.

Image and caption from “Michigan’s Lumber Pikes,” in “Railroad Magazine,” July 1953, page 67.

Loading cars of logs was described by Ferris E. Lewis in the December 1948 issue of Michigan History: “Short wooden pins were first driven into iron brackets on the side of the flatcars to keep the logs from falling off. Hooks like ice tongs, each one at the end of a steel cable, were placed in the ends of a log. A little team of horses with muscles as hard as knots, at the command of a teamster who drove them without reins, would raise the log and swing it over the flatcar where it would be lowered gently into place. One by one the logs were loaded onto a car. A pyramid pile, placed lengthwise of the car, was thus built at each end. When a car was loaded, it would be moved away and a new one would take its place.

In later years steam jammers replaced horse power, particularly among the larger operators. These were the conditions and equipment used along one of the nation’s last frontiers to attack the final great stand of pine and hardwood timber remaining in Michigan as the 19th Century came to a close.

Besides increasing production, these railroads revolutionized the industry by making logging a year-round business. Owners found they no longer were dependent upon proper river levels for their log transportation, and cutting could continue around the calendar instead of just during the winter months. Some figures proving this accomplishment are cited in the book, Lumber and Forestry Industry of the Northwest, for just three railroads — the Grand Rapids & Indiana, Flint & Pere Marquette, and Manistee & Grand Rapids. Each of the these [sic] conducted a general freight and passenger business, although primarily engaged in timber hauling during the years cited.

Mills along the Grand Rapids & Indiana (now part of the Pennsylvania Railroad) manufactured 367,000,000 feet of lumber and 404,000,000 shingles in 1886, while the total output along this road, from construction of the first mill in 1865, to 1898, is estimated at 6,000,000,000 feet of lumber. Timber production on the old Flint & Pere Marquette (now part of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway) totaled 5,000,000,000 feet between 1876 and 1896. The Manistee & Grand Rapids (later named the Michigan East & West and eventually abandoned) placed 500,000,000 feet of pine and 1,000,000,000 feet of hardwood timber into Manistee sawmills for cutting in 1891. In the Cadillac region up near Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan, it was not uncommon for a pine tree to yield three logs, each of which would reach across car sills set 30 to 33 feet apart.

Is this road near Beulah, Michigan, a remnant of a narrow gauge railroad? We deem it likely, given the name, and the winding nature of the road itself.

Another distinction claimed by the Cadillac region in logging transportation was the invention there of the narrow-gage [sic} Shay logging locomotive in 1873 and 1874 by Ephraim Shay. Slow but powerful, the Shay-engine had vertical pistons to operate the driving cranks, working a shaft geered [sic] to the motive wheels.

An account carried in The Cadillac Evening News said that Shay developed his locomotive to pull log cars from northwest of Cadillac to his sawmill at Haring. First made in Cadillac, its patents were later sold to the Lima Machine Works in Ohio, which manufactured it for use all over the world.

There is not a logging railroad, operating as such, remaining in the lower peninsula. In fact, their names even escape the memory of all but old timers. Mention the Lake Count Railroad and among railroaders you would likely draw only blank looks. Or the Cadillac & Northeastern, Louis Sands’ Road, Nesson Lumber Company, Cody & Moore, Bear Lake & Eastern, or the Canfield Road — recalling only a few.

The logging railroad gave rise to few legends. It could not match the glamour attached to sawmill towns which grew and flourished beside its tracks, nor could it furnish the rough color provided by the swift rivers with their tension-packed spring drives. Its mark upon the timber country, once painted briefly in bold outline, today has virtually disappeared. Traces, of course, can still be found in the old crumbling grades winding unevenly across grassy plains and ridges, pointing toward some distant banking ground. The old names, with some searching, can be found buried in official reports listing rail mergers and abandonments. But that about ends it. That and some faded photos, dim with age, gathering dust in old picture albums.

Editor’s Note: A more recent article on the subject, authored by Carl Jay Bajema, was published in the April 1991 issue of Forest & Conservation History, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Apr., 1991), pp. 76-83. “The First Logging Railroads in the Great Lakes Region” is available online, made available by Grand Valley State University: http://www.gvsu.edu/anthropology/adc/files/document/1DB0E4E0-DCDC-7956-473CC7989F113C65.pdf

Bridge Built for a Pair of “Tender Feet,” 1941

Recently, a new patron asked me: What kinds of questions do you get at the Traverse Area District Library reference desk?

Sure, we get the usual readers advisory questions, and lots of questions on how to access our digital resources, and occasionally we get asked for advice on where to get dinner. But what really brings in the questions? When construction is happening. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking new construction, rehabilitation, or road repairs. There is nothing that piques our patrons’ curiosity than watching something get built.

So, what’s happening in Traverse City that the people are curious about? The revamp of the Murchie Bridge over the Boardman River on West Grand Traverse Bay has brought in the most interest, so let’s dive into a few of the most common questions!

Who is Murchie?

Robert Burns Murchie was a Traverse City native, born on October 25, 1894. He was the son of Mary Krouse (d. 1909) and James Murchie (d. 1936). He was a graduate of Traverse City High School, class of 1912, and he earned his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1917.  He served during World War I, and spent nine months in France, and upon his return, married Lulu A. Cole of Detroit. After practicing law from 1919 to 1934 in Detroit, Murchie moved back to Traverse City, where he was a senior member of the law firm of Murchie, Calcutt and Son- dee.

Why does he get his own bridge? Did he pay for it?

Although Murchie probably ponied up a few of his own dollars, he earned that bridge through his civic engagement. Among his many endeavors, he served as chairman of the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce Shorefront Committee, responsible for the location and construction of Grandview Parkway.

In 1941, Murchie told the story of how he decided that Traverse City needed the Parkway, in an article published in the Traverse City Record-Eagle. As a child, Lil’ Bobby wished to get to the beach on Grand Traverse Bay (newly reclaimed from industrial waste, thanks to the efforts of Con Foster and the community), but to do so, he had to pick his way across the Pennsylvania Railroad track. The track was littered with sharp little cinders, left behind by the trains.

His poor little feet! One day, a particular cinder lodged itself between his toes, and Lil’ Bobby exploded, “By golly, when I grow up I’m going to get this old railroad out of here and make a park for kids!”

When Murchie returned to Traverse City in 1934, he was struck anew by the beauty of the bay. Recalling his tender young feet so abused, he vowed that the railroad track would no longer plague beachgoers. After several years of work, plans were drawn for the Grandview Parkway, to the tune of $250,000.

So that’s it? He served on ONE committee? Big deal.

I didn’t know Murchie myself, so I will need to rely on his obituary to answer this one. Murchie was much more involved in Traverse City than just the Shorefront Committee. He served as president of the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce in 1938, Traverse City Rotary Club in 1939-40, and Grand Traverse – Leelanau – Antrim Bar Association in 1961.

Hospital Drive at Traverse City Country Club, August 6, 1946. Men seated compromise the campaign Executive Committee. L to R: Ralph Thompson, H.W. Heidbreder, Matthew MacIntosh, Robert B. Murchie. Image courtesy of Traverse Area District Library.

He was co-chairman of a three-man committee responsible for the success of the original campaign for funds with which Munson Medical Center was organized and constructed independently of Traverse City State Hospital; and was chairman of the committees organized to promote the establishment of an Air Force jet base in this area.

He was a member of the board of directors of Traverse City State Bank for 22 years prior to retirement in 1964; a member of the American Legion: Veterans of Foreign Wars and a former judge advocate of the state department; a member of the American Bar Association, Grand Traverse – Leelanau- Antrim Bar Association; a life member of Traverse City Lodge 222, FAM; A member of Scottish Rite of Free Masonry Moslem Temple, Detroit; Traverse City Shrine Club; Traverse City Golf and Country Club; Traverse City Elks Club; and a charter member of the Knife and Fork Club. Murchie was the recipient of Traverse City’s Distinguished Service Award in 194B.

Hm, pretty busy guy! I guess he can have a bridge named after him.

Not that we were looking to change the name, but we appreciate your support. So, here’s to Robert Burns Murchie, and his tender feet. May we all travel a little safer (and with better scenery), thanks to his work!

Care to learn more about the beautification of the Grand Traverse Bay waterfront? Check out Richard Fidler’s books, Glimpses of Grand Traverse Past: Reflections on a Local History, and Traverse City, Michigan, 1850-2013. Both of these titles are available for checkout at Traverse Area District Library.

Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.

Summer Tour(ist) Season is Near!

A couple of our area historical societies are offering tours this summer, and here’s the inside scoop!

The annual Adams Fly Festival at Kingsley Branch Library promises to be a hoot, as usual! Two tours to Mayfield Pond Park are highlights of this annual event. Come learn about the history of the Adams Fly, its creator Len Halladay, and about Mayfield, a “little piece of paradise” in southern Grand Traverse County. See you out there on June 3rd!

From the Traverse Area Historical Society, they will be bringing back their now-famous Oakwood Cemetery Tours, as well as tours of Downtown Traverse City, and (with perhaps a little help from our readers), possibly a tour of the Sixth Street Historic District. Stay tuned for dates, and in the meantime, enjoy a “virtual walking tour” of Downtown Traverse City by our own Richard Fidler, courtesy of the Society.

 

The Benzie Area Historical Museum has been marching toward the summer, with special displays going up about World War I. They have also reminded us that it is National Doughnut Day on June 2nd… what a yummy way to honor our veterans! In regards to tours,  the Museum is offering two, both in cooperation with Benzie Bus:

“Consider getting away from the beach and experience  an historical bus tour of Benzie County with knowledgeable local guides.  The tours last approximately 2 hours and are  available every Thursday and Friday from June 2 through September 1.  Plan to visit the Benzie Area Historical Museum too– either before or after your tour!

​There are two tours, each departing  from the Benzie Area Historical Museum.  One tour travels to Beulah, Legacy Art Park,  Thompsonville, Benzonia Cemetery  and the other explores the  Elberta and Frankfort areas.  Tickets are $15 per person; children eight and younger are free.  For more information about tour content, contact the BAHS museum 231 882-5538  or info@benziemuseum.org.

​For tour reservations contact Benzie Bus at 231 325-3000. “

Researchers “Fired Up” about Sanborn Maps

Collection available at the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, online.

Sanborn Maps, if you are a researcher in the fields of architecture, genealogy, or local history, are invaluable tools. Until recently, Traverse Area District Library only held a copy of the 1929 Traverse City Sanborn, a very small slice of the pie. As of May 25th, the Library of Congress has announced the digitization of their collection of maps, some 25,000, all originally published prior to 1900. Maps will be added monthly until 2020, making for a total of 500,000 Sanborns available in their digital collection. As of this publication, the Traverse City maps for 1884, 1890, 1893, and 1899 are all available.

A Sanborn Map was originally used to provide insurance assessment information to insurance underwriters. Lets say that you owned a wooden warehouse near the pier in Traverse City in 1890. In it is your whole life’s savings, amounting to $100,000 worth of product to ship out… and that product is quite flammable. You would want to insure it, right? But, there are no local insurance companies, and no insurance agent is traveling to so far a place as Traverse City for several months.

So, how can a company assess your property correctly and insure it for the amount you need? The company would rely on information found in the Sanborn Maps. The Sanborn would reveal where your property was within the city, what type of building it was, its composition, and size. They could also look at your neighbors as well. While the Sanborn might not say what is in each building, knowing who your neighbors were (a gas works, other warehouses, residences), would help the insurance agent make a quality guess on what to appraise your property at… and how risky you’re living!

How is this information useful for researchers today? Once you know how to read a Sanborn, the world of the past comes alive. Color coding and other indicators found on these maps tells the story of a town. When you boil down all the information, the Sanborn tells you one thing, which can be used for a myriad of uses: How did a city grow, both physically and financially?

How does a map answer that type of question? Look to our previous example of 1890s Traverse City. From the Sanborn, we can tell that the city had a significant collection of warehouse buildings near the waterfront, indicating that it was a port city that relied on trade. The large swaths of the city colored in red indicates the predominance of brick-built structures, indicating a lot of sustained growth in the area.  How fun would it be to compare the same area, year after year, through the Sanborns? Get the whole family together for that kind of fun!

In addition to these sweeping generalizations, you can also use them to find the businesses owned by your ancestors. As you can guess, there are a number of businesses owned by persons with Bohemian (or Czechoslovakian) names near Randolph and Second Streets. So, even if your family did not own a business, this could be a clue that you should be looking in the general vicinity for your family, if they are of Bohemian descent.

Another hidden gem in a Sanborn are the names and widths of streets. For any researcher who has had to rely on census records or city directories to try and figure out where a relative lived, especially if street have been renamed or moved since then, this information is no small treat!

Before now, these maps were only available by traveling great distances to larger libraries, or by paying for very pricy access online through private companies. Every day, your library (whether here in Traverse City or the Library of Congress), is hard at work getting the information you need, in a way that you prefer. We live in amazing times!

Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.

Accident rings a “Bell” with former Mayfield Resident

These images of an automobile accident in Mayfield were taken by newspaperman Al Barnes. Recently, a reader of Grand Traverse Journal stumbled across these images while looking at our digital images collection (which you can look at here), and remembered something interesting, linking Michigan Bell Telephone to the scene.

What is the connection?

Here’s a hint: this accident took place in 1964!

So, what’s the connection? Reader cancunblu01 recalls the day clearly: ‘I was living in Mayfield then and I remember this, Michigan Bell was on strike, Traverse City was long distance so we couldn’t call for an ambulance. Claude Smith of Smith Funeral Home in Kingsley drove victims to Traverse City in his hearse!”

Does anyone else remember the Michigan Bell Strike of 1964?