Articles on the colorful individuals and groups that make up the Grand Traverse Region. This includes people from our past as well as living history-makers. Oral histories and book reviews will also appear in this feature section.
by Peg Siciliano, TAHS Board of Directors, Archivist
The Grand Traverse Area lost a champion of local history with the passing, in California, of Robert Wilson in November 2017.A Traverse City memorial service was held in his honor this past August.
Born in Detroit in 1936, Wilson moved to Traverse City with his family in 1946. He graduated high school here, and would return to his “hometown” in retirement.He then served for many years on the Grand Traverse Pioneer and Historical Society Board, as the Traverse Area Historical Society was then named.Bob, and his wife Joy, both served as Presidents of the GTPHS/TAHS.Wilson also authored the three volume Grand Traverse Legends series, the profits from which all go to the TAHS.
Now part of that history which he so loved, Wilson’s personal story, is fascinating in itself.His father owned the Cities Service gas station on the northeast corner of Front and Park (today the site of the Dingeman & Dancer law offices, and before that The Bean Pot Restaurant).Once Wilson retired back to Traverse City he delighted in regaling listeners with stories of his youth.One involved his mother’s worries about Cities Service’s proximity to what was then a string of not-so respectable (at least in his mother’s opinion) bars.(Today this is the location of the old Chase Bank Building, and the new building housing Sorrellina’s and Slate).
Mrs. Wilson insisted that young Bob walk only on the north side of Front.At that time thesouth side of Front, just west of Park, housed the bars. Patrons of those establishments often hung out on the sidewalk. Apparently his mother didn’t want Bob dealing with these sometimes-inebriated citizens, or maybe she was concerned about the temptations of alcohol.
Perhaps Bob’s mother was concerned because she sensed a streak of wildness in the young boy.Such tendencies did, indeed, appear during his teenage years. As Bob aged and beganattending Traverse City High School in the 1950s, he often tangled with school administrators and city police.Close to heading down “the wrong road,” the course of his life was changed by the wise direction of then Probate Judge Harold Hunsberger. When Wilson graduated from Traverse City High School in 1954, Hunsberger gave him a choice: Join the military or go to jail.
Wilson decided to join the military.According to Joy, “He told me he chosethe Air Force because he likedits blue uniforms.”Whatever his reason for joining, military discipline seems to have brought out the best in him.Wilson’s achievements once he joined the military, and after his service, prove that great success can come from surprising circumstances.
In a Traverse City Record-Eagle article, his sister-in-law, Jeanne Hurst, recalls that Wilson was a man of many talents, saying “Bob had a brilliant mind.He earned two masters degrees, excelled in engineering during his time in the Air Force, had a heart for Christian ministry, and poured himself into promoting local history wherever he lived, especially here in Traverse City.”
While in the Air Force, Wilson earned first his Bachelor’s degree, and then his Masters in Aeronautical Engineering.He retired from the Military as a Majorin 1975.He also married while in the service, wedding Joy Skellett of Buckley, Michigan, in 1956.Together Joy and Bobraised three children:Keven, Renate, and Teresa.They were also blessed with four grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren.The family thrived in many different locations, including Sault St. Marie; Laramie, WY; Tullahoma, TN;Cologne, Germany and Anaheim, CA.Wherever they lived, the Wilsons strove to make that place a true home, delving intoeach new place’s local history.
Wilson credited this love of history to a Traverse City High School teacher named William Gerard.In Wilson’s own words “Gerard had the gift of teaching history in a way that made it come alive.”Gerard also saw the depth of Wilson’s academic abilities, in spite of hisyouthful delinquent activities. He encouraged Wilson to develop his writing and learning skills, something that served him well later in life. Ultimately, Gerard planted a seed of interest in history that grew,and through Wilson, eventually benefitted communities literally spread across the globe.
After retiring from the military, Wilson returned to school at the Anaheim Center for Theological Studies, where he earned a Masters in Divinity.This led him to work in a wide variety of Christian ministries, including directing a live-in drug rehabilitation Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, serving as Director of Admissions at South California College, and ministering to men at the Rescue Mission in Santa Anna, CA.
Then In 1993, after nearly forty years of “traveling the world,”the Wilsons returned to Traverse City.There, both Joy and Bob worked in Christian ministry, particularly with Meals on Wheels.In the late 1990s Wilson served six years as an associate pastor at Resurrection Life Church in Traverse City.
Wilson’s somewhat unexpected successes in life, given his youthful peccadillos, were largely due to his great intellectual abilities.With hard work and dedication he harnessed those abilities to gather tremendous knowledge and then used that knowledge to the betterment of many people. That Alzheimers eventually robbed Wilson of the use of that knowledge is both ironic and tragic.But that, as it does for anyone struggling with memory loss, in no way lessens the gifts of learning and service that Wilson bestowed upon his community during his life.
Traverse Area Historical SocietyBoard member, Sharon Jennings, feels that: “With Bob’s passing,our area historical community lost a great friend and Traverse City lost a voice that could connect it to its past. Bob had a sign he carried with him that said, ‘Local History Spoken Here.’ He was never happier than when he was reminiscing with others about his early years in TC and about the changes he’d seen over time. He was a voice for Traverse City’s past that cannot be replaced.”
by Julie Schopieray, Author, Researcher, and regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal
Long before women’s skirts were worn above the ankle, and even before gaining the right to vote, Traverse City was the home of a woman who, while remaining a “lady” of her time, took on the challenge of an occupation never before held by a woman.As an active, law-abiding outdoors-woman, she became frustrated by the lack of enforcement of hunting and fishing laws. She saw firsthand the need for a local person to monitor hunting and fishing and prosecute the violators of regulations. In the summer of 1897, she applied to the newly appointed State Fish and Game Warden, Chase Osborn, for the position of deputy game warden in Grand Traverse County.He hired her for the job.
Early rules on hunting in Michigan were not strict. “Bag limits” were basically non- existent until 1881 when the Michigan Sportsman’s Association (MSA) lobbied the state to reduce the season to five months out of the year and limited the taking of fawns and banning certain types of hunting. The state’s first paid game warden position was created in 1887, the job mostly consisting of enforcing game and fish regulations. Wardens were not assigned to every county or region until much later. In 1895 the first real management of the state’s deer herd began with a law which limited the hunting season to a few weeks in November.New laws followed to prosecute violators.
Laws on fishing in Michigan’s waters at the time were mostly limited to those of spearing, fishing during spawning season, and the taking of certain size fish. There were many who chose to ignore these regulations and the sportsmen who did obey the laws felt not enough being done to enforce regulations.
One of these people was Hulda (Valleau) Neal. Born in Ohio in 1854, Mrs. Neal had lived in the Traverse City area since her marriage to James Warren Neal, a Civil War veteran, in 1872. They owned a farm in western Long Lake Township near Cedar Run. They had two children, Emma, born in 1874, and Arthur in 1875.
In the summer of 1897, and at the age of forty-two, Hulda Neal accepted the appointment of deputy game warden. Because women’s roles outside the home were mostly limited to teaching or nursing, and due to the fact that she was the first and only woman in this traditionallymale profession of fish and game law enforcement, the news of her appointment spread quickly in newspapers across the country. The July issue of Forest and Stream magazine announced the appointment of Mrs. Neal:
Mrs. Warren Neal of Neal, Mich., has been appointed deputy game warden for Grand Traverse county by State Warden Osborn. Mrs. Neal is forty-two years of age and of medium stature. She says she took her office because she wanted to see the fish and game in Grand Traverse county protected, and that the men do not seem to be able to enforce the laws. These are stirring times.
The Official Bulletin of the Sportsmen’s Association gave this description of the new woman game warden:
Mrs. Warren Neal of Grand Traverse County, Michigan is a duly commissioned county game and fish warden. She is a slender, sprightly little woman in the prime of life with brown wavy hair and honest bright blue eyes. Mrs. Neal weighs 108 pounds, but can row and manage a boat with more skill than some muscular men.
Mrs. Neal’s explanation of how she incurred her appointment is as follows: “Why there was a warden, but he could not come up here and stop the spearing and netting of fish and killing game out of season, and I asked Mr. Osborn, State Game Warden, to appoint me, and he did.”
(Reprinted from the Official Bulletin of the Sportsmen’s Association. From the Women in Criminal Justice Hall of Honor, established by Women Police of Michigan, Inc. in 1991 to honor those women who have contributed to the advancement of women in criminal justice. SOURCE: Criminal Justice and Law Center, Lansing Community College. Also printed in the Women’s History Project of NW Michigan newsletter.)
The best description of Mrs. Neal and her role as the first woman game warden was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on 15 August, 1897, complete with somewhat stylized illustrations. The article was reprinted in papers across the nation.
NEW JOB FOR A NEW WOMAN
Once again a new and startling occupation has been found for the new woman. It is that of game warden, and the woman who distinguished herself by making this brand new departure is Mrs. Warren Neal of Neal, Mich. This woman was appointed game warden for Grand Traverse county not long since, and from the appearance of things she will attend to the duties of her office in a businesslike manner.
The duties of game warden are of such a nature that many men would not care to undertake to fill the place, but Mrs. Neal is a plucky little woman, and she has no fear whatever of not being able to overcome all obstacles. A game warden is supposed to travel all over the county and keep a sharp lookout for violators of the game and fish laws. As Grand Traverse county, of which Mrs. Neal has control, is densely wooded and has many lakes, she will be kept very busy seeking out and bringing justice violators of the law.
Mrs. Neal handles a gun like an expert, rows a boat and is a skillful woodsman, and she knows every inch of the territory she has to patrol. In order to make her way through the dense growths in the forest land as easily as possible Mrs. Neal has adopted a costume modeled after the much reviled bloomers.
As to the trousers, Mrs. Neal says that she has no desire to be considered as setting the pace for the new woman. In fact, she told the writer she thought every woman ought to dress according to her own ideas of comfort, though for the life of her she could not see why any woman should want a skirt when hunting or rowing. It really appears as if Mrs. Neal is the sort of new woman that has a mind to advance her sex along sensible and health giving lines.
She usually makes a trip over the entire county once a week. When out after the violators of the game law, she rides over the country on horseback, and when she comes to a lake she secures a boat, and with steady, swift oar she rapidly covers her territory made up of water.
She carries a rifle on all of these trips, and woe to the evildoer caught napping, for this plucky game warden is a relentless pursuer of all lawbreakers, and she has brought many of them to justice.
During May the state game and fish warden’s department prosecuted 109 alleged violators of the law and convicted 96, growing out of 149 complaints. This breaks the record for any previous month in the history of the department. All but three of the convictions were obtained for violation of the fish laws, and the majority of these cases were established by Mrs. Neal.
Her skill with a rifle is something phenomenal, and she drops her quarry with the ease of a professional Nimrod. Mr. Neal, who is an enthusiastic sportsman, long ago taught his wife to be skillful with the revolver. Last July when they were in the upper lake region camping he induced her to try her hand with the rifle. He declared that a woman who could shoot so well with a revolver would with practice become a dead shot with the larger weapon. Now, rifle shooting requires a good eye, a steady hand and wrist and a control of the nervous system that very few women possess. Generally the novice fires at a target. Mrs. Neal’s first target, however, was a glass bottle thrown in the air, and at a third shot she struck the bottle, a surprisingly good attempt. Mrs. Neal kept on practicing, and now is so expert that she can hit the glass bottle nine times out of ten.
In addition to her other duties Mrs. Neal carries the mail three times a week to Traverse City for Uncle Sam.
Several other newspaper articles, though much shorter, give a few more bits of information on Mrs. Neal.The Muskegon Chronicle of 9 June, 1897 reported:
She handlesa gun with the best of them, rows like an Indian, can track a deer when the old woodsmen can’t and is an all-around athlete of the northern woods type.”The Adrian Daily Telegram dated, 28 Dec. 1897, describes her clothing and riding style: “She wears pantaloons just like those of men and can handle the rifle like a veteran marksman. Mrs. Neal jogs over the country once a week on horseback. When she rides through a town she always sits in the feminine style, but when she reaches uninhabited territory, it is said, she assumes the clothespin style of navigation.
Although there weresome who assumed she’d never be able to perform the duty aswell a man, Mrs. Neal became locally well known as someone not to be trifled with and would execute her job as well as any man. An article in the local paper shortly after her appointment made this clear.“…she is an active woodsman, a good shot and can give cards and spades to any man in the manipulation of a fishing rod…Mrs. Neal will wage an aggressive campaign against violators of the law…and offenders in her locality will find that she will stand no fooling.”
The state warden position had a term of four years but there does not seem to have been any specific term length for deputies.Mrs. Neal fulfilled the duty of local warden for two years. State laws gave deputy wardens the same power and authority as the state warden and the same power and rights as a sheriff would have– the power to arrest anyone caught by them violating game and fish laws. They were paid three dollars a day for each day spent doing their duty, plus expenses.During her two years on the job, a few articles describing her experiences were printed in the local papers. One was in the Traverse Bay Eagle on 3 June, 1898:
Last night Mrs. Warren Neal, the fish warden, accompanied by another lady, went out on Long Lake, hoping to capture some violators of the fish law. She was not disappointed in the least for as she went into the little lake she discovered a jack light [Note: a jack light is a fie-pan or cresset usually mounted on a pole for hunting and fishing at night]. As soon as Mrs. Neal was seen by the occupants of the boat the light was dashed into the water and the lawless men not being far from shore, jumped into the water and made their escape into the woods. As yet no arrestshave been made. Mrs. Neal now has their boat, jack and spear in her possession.
Another article from the Saginaw News on 13 June, 1899 described an incident that seemingly did not go well for Mrs. Neal:
Mrs. Warren Neal, deputy game warden, found out yesterday that all is not smooth sailing in her calling. She rowed out into the lake yesterday to arrest some men who were spearing fish against the law. The men took her boat in tow and, towing her to a lonely spot in the lake, left her stranded on the shore and politely took their leave.
A follow-up article in the Traverse City paper the next day told a slightly different story:
The statement that has been made that the two men who were spear fishing towed Mrs. Neal’s boat ashore and then put their own boat on the wagon, said goodbye and left, is not at all correct. Mrs. Neal says that she saw the lights on the lake, took her son, who is constable, with her, and went in pursuit. The men did not want to give up and when told that they were violating the law, made some wordy resistance, but finally, threw away their spear. Mrs. Neal sprang into their boat and told the constable to take and secure her boat and secure the spear, which he did.She then secured the fishing “jack” and the men rowed to shore, the constable remaining in Mrs. Neal’s boat, but this was not in tow of the other boat. Mrs. Neal declares if she had had her handcuffs she would have secured both men. As it was they offered to ransom their “jack” by payingher $25. The offer was indignantly rejected. It was 3:45 a.m. when the boat reached the landing. Mrs. Neal declares she is going to break up the practice of illegal fishing on Long Lake.”
Mrs. Neal’s term as game warden ended after two successful years of service but she continued to work with the State fisheries by stocking wall-eyed pike in Long Lake for several years, at least through 1909.
Only six months after her appointment as warden, Mrs.Neal was no longer the only women holding that kind of position. In January 1898, a twenty-six-year old Annie Metcalf from Denver, Colorado, was appointed the position of game warden in that state. Both women were well qualified for the job, however, Mrs. Neal held her position longer than Miss Metcalf.
Mark Craw began his career as a deputy game warden in Grand Traverse County in 1899 which put a second person out enforcing the fish and game laws during the end of Mrs. Neal’s tenure. Mr. Craw remained both warden and conservation officer until his retirement in 1945.
Hulda and her husband bought a house on Washington St. in Traverse City around 1904. He worked as a drayman for several years but Hulda did not hold any further occupations over the last thirty years of her life. She passed away on Feb. 9, 1931 at the age of seventy-six. There is no mention of her time as a game warden in her obituary.Mrs. Neal is listed in the Traverse for Women website as one of the Notable Women of NW Michigan andlisted in the Women in Criminal Justice Hall of Honor, established by Women Police of Michigan, Inc. in 1991 to honor those women who have contributed to the advancement of women in criminal justice. SOURCE: Criminal Justice and Law Center, Lansing Community College. http://traverseforwomen.com/Herstory/index.htm
The Michigan DNR has applied to have Mrs. Neal entered into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018.
Julie Schopieray is a regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal, a researcher to be admired, and author of the fantastic new biography, Jens C. Petersen: From Bricklayer to Architect. Copies of the book can be obtained from Horizon Books, Amazon, or directly from the author.
Communities often forget energetic, bold, and vibrantly creative people in their time, directing their attention to new figures that seem to shine as bright as those who came before. So it has been with the Traverse City’s Jens Petersen, an architect whose designs, innovative ideas, and general approach to architecture live on in the buildings he helped to create.
Historian and writer Julie Schopieray has uncovered the achievements of Petersen in her most recent book, Jens C. Petersen: From bricklayer to architect: the life and works of a visionary Michigan architect. Meticulously researched and documented, the work is much more than a biography: it is a treasure trove of diary entries, newspaper articles and advertisements, advertising circulars, and treasured photographs of Petersen’s family, the man himself, and the vestiges of his architectural work that remain. It is a gorgeous work of scholarship.
Son of a stone mason and trained in that trade, Jens Petersen was born in 1873. The family moved to the Traverse area when the boy was eleven years old, his father having been employed in the construction of the Northern Michigan Asylum. As a young man, Jens worked on other cottages of the Asylum as well as other well-known buildings around town. However, his ambitions exceeded that of being a first-rate bricklayer. He wanted to become an architect.
Through correspondence school courses taken in Traverse City, night school classes taken in Chicago, and apprentice work received in a well-known Chicago firm, he passed the Illinois examination for a license in architecture in 1903. He was one of the first licensed architects to practice in Northern Michigan.
The buildings Petersen was responsible for are well-known to those interested in local history: the Union Street school, the Empire school, the old stone school in Sutton’s Bay, the C.S.P.S. Hall on Front Street in Traverse City, the Bellaire Courthouse, and many residences throughout the area. There is much evidence that Jens Petersen designed Holy Rosary Church near Cedar, Michigan. While some buildings have been demolished, many still stand.
Petersen was known for two innovations, one having to do with his use of concrete in construction, both for interior and exterior design, and the other with marketing architectural designs to the general public. He frequently published articles in a journal aimed at builders and architects called Concrete, ever advocating for the application of that substance in all kinds of construction. In the Little Tavern, a restaurant in downtown Traverse City, he even had counters made of concrete, as well as spreading a reddish layer of it on the floor (something Julie found in a chipped-away spot at the entry to the present business at that location!)
Petersen’s mail-order business for architectural residence designs was very successful. Such plans could always be obtained from builders and lumber suppliers, but few firms would answer correspondence regarding construction problems and considerations in the manner Jens Petersen did. In addition to many local sales, it is said that Petersen-designed houses stand in other states and even in South America and Europe.
Jens was an esteemed member of the Traverse City community, his name appearing in newspaper articles that told about his exploits in bowling, card playing, singing, roller skating, and more. He was such an exciting person to be around, it was a surprise when he announced he was moving to Sacramento, California.
From 1919 to his death in 1939, Petersen designed many buildings in California, some of which remain at this date. Julie Schopieray offers thirty-three pages of his notable buildings, many entries with pictures, from both his Michigan and his California years. The California buildings frequently reflect Art Deco and Modern designs, consistent with architectural styles during the 20’s and 30’s.
Petersen’s life was not without controversy. In California, because he was apparently not familiar with California building codes emphasizing earthquake protection, he temporarily lost his license to practice architecture in that state. Responding to demands to improve his qualifications, he regained licensure within a short period of time, and continued to design buildings until the end of his life.
Thank you to Julie Schopieray who has restored the life and work of a great architect to us all. Jens Petersen lives again!
Jens Petersen: A Biography can be obtained from Horizon Books, Amazon, or directly from the author.
Ms. Josephine Hasse, a reader of Grand Traverse Journal, was kind enough to write in with a few reminiscences that we are glad to publish. Thank you for sharing your past, Josephine! She turned 96 years-young this past October.
“My father lived in Traverse City since he was a small child, and I learned much from him. He worked where the Maritime building is now and it was Cherry Growers. He was an engineer and kept the ice machines running.
Since there weren’t ice machines that made ice in people’s homes, people would bring meat that they bought from farmers and had it butchered into family-sized packages. Then they were put into ‘cold storage’ in bins and when families wanted meat he would let them in to get what they wanted.
Down the street where the Holiday Inn is there was a huge barn and it was full of sawdust. Men would cut ice from the Bay in large pieces and they would haul it there by horse and sleigh. They would stack it up with sawdust between the layers.
Then with horse and wagon they would go down the streets and sell the ice to people who had Ice Boxes. Homeowners had signs that said 25 lbs. or 50 lbs. and you put it in the front window so the people selling ice would bring in the amount you wanted and filled the Ice Box. It was fun watching for them to come.”
After a dozen years researching the history of Lake Ann, Michigan, it has quite evident that people’s memories are not always accurate. People can be very certain of a date or name or event and be quite wrong.
The first instance of this in my research on the village of Lake Ann were the dates of the three major fires that burned significant portions of the village. The first and by far the greatest was on the fourth of July, 1897. That date is well known to village residents.
The second fire, that burned the business district, is known far and wide to have occurred in 1914. That date was established in a newspaper story many years ago and the date 1914 has been repeated ever since. Unfortunately, a check of old newspapers proves that the fire was in 1902.
The third fire, known widely as the 1917 fire was in April 1918 and we mark its anniversary next year.
Another erroneous fact is the identification of the grist mill in Lake Ann as the Thompson grist mill. People have said for many decades the Harvey Thompson built and ran the grist mill.
However, a search of tax records and deeds shows that no Thompson ever owned or ran the grist mill. Harvey Thompson and a partner, Mr. Elton, started a saw mill about a hundred yards from the grist mill about the same time (1896 and 1893 respectively). After just a few years, the mill was sold to William Habbeler who built, owned and ran the first and biggest saw mill in Lake Ann.
It would appear the proximity of the mills, the passage of time and the vagaries of memory combined to mix the mills.
Now I am on anther quest, trying to unravel memories, written account and sketchy facts. Once again I rely on tax records, land records, village minutes and newspaper mentions to find the truth.
The story begins with more “well known” information. About 1900, two houses were moved from along Ransom Creek, site of the first settlement in the Lake Ann area.At the time it seemed houses and even large buildings were moved from place to place, usually on sleds over frozen ground or ice covered lakes.
Elijah Ransom owned the saw mill operating beside the creek and later a grist mill. There was a cluster of shanties, a couple of houses and a large store close by.
We know from contemporary newspaper accounts that Addison Wheelock, first settler in the Lake Ann area, had a home in that settlement. His home was large enough that the planning session for creating Almira Township and the first meeting of the elected township officials took place in his home.
I assume that Elijah Ransom, being the most prosperous person around, had a decent home there as well. Because this all took place in the early 1860s, tax and land records are rather limited. People didn’t always own the land they were occupying.
Having prowled the woods along Ransom Creek, I know of three depressions where the village must have stood. The largest is surely the site of the store. The two smaller are, I believe, the sites of the two real houses in the early settlement.
Believing that the accounts of two houses being moved from near Ransom Creek to the southeast corner of the village, it made a good story that these house belonged to Elijah Ransom and Addison Wheelock.
The “well known” story was that these two houses were later occupied by the Dr. Shilliday family (now the Shilliday House B&B) and the Burnett house just to the south, also on South Lake Ann Road. The latter once occupied by S. S. (Sam) Burnett, local businessman and family and later by the Bryan family.
It was such a great story. I had located a house once lived in by Addison Wheelock, my wife’s great-great-grandfather. I thought I was finally through my Lake Ann research.
Ah, but questions arose. Not everyone was certain the Burnett house had been moved. Or perhaps not in 1902 as the village minutes had led me to believe. The village minutes did say the Ransom store and A dwelling were moved from along Ransom Creek in 1902. Back to the Benzie County Court House.
The tax records indicate several owners of lot 4, block 29, site of the Burnett house, in the years between 1895 and 1903. For all but 1895, the value of the property suggests a house was on the lot. But, of course, there is no information about the house, certainly not its history.
Mr. Degan, an early owner of the lot on which the Burnett house stands (1899-1903), served on the village board and was active in moving mill machinery, water works pumps and water pipes off the Ransom Creek site. Degan and Huelmantel bought “the entire water works machinery and wheel and the mill machinery in the old mill” for the sum of $250 in 1900. Could Mr. Degan have moved a small house without a mention in the minutes? Oh yes, in 1901 a “wagon shed or house” on the creek was sold to someone for $4.00.
Ah, but there is more.
In 1900, the village approved the rental of “the old Ransom house” to a Mr. Thatcher for $2.00 per month. Of course, they don’t say where that house is located. Still by the creek?Surely not the Burnett house. Mr. Thatcher paid taxes on a lot on Lynwood, three blocks from South Lake Ann Road and the Burnett house. Was he living in the “old Ransom house,” now located on Lynwood Street?
Granted, knowing which house was where 117 years ago is not crucial to Michigan history. Even I don’t lie awake nights wondering. But for the sake of accuracy, and personal curiosity, I would like to know.
So, while I know with certainty that memories, and even some newspapers stories, can be inaccurate, I do not know which house is which. It is like trying to keep track for which nut shell hides the bean as they are shuffled rapidly before your eyes.
Personal “histories” or reminiscences can be very useful. even indispensable but they must be supported by facts such as deeds of tax records.
When I was young, there was a popular radio program about the FBI and crime. The lead character was Sergeant Friday and his iconic statement was, “I just want the facts, m’am, just the facts.”
At least I think his name was Sergeant Friday and I think that is what he said.
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.
This story was passed on to Lloyd “Allie” Westcott by his grandmother, Mrs. Charles (or John) Fisher. The recorder was Roy H. Steffens, a local historian operating largely in the 1960s and 1970s, known especially for his interest in Civil War and Spanish American War soldiers and grave sites. A manuscript copy of this story was found among Steffens’ papers in the Local History Collection at Traverse Area District Library. Steffens and Westcott restored the cross and fence described later in this story, in 1968.
The lake was fairly calm that day and a couple men from the settlement of Glen Arbor were down by the lake when they noticed this small rowboat with a white sheet for a makeshift sail not far out from the shore. Word got back to the settlement of this boat with two people aboard. In a short time most of the people from the settlement gathered at the beach to welcome some strangers or newcomers to their settlement.
It was discovered that there was two people aboard the small boat, a man and a woman. There seemed to be some reluctance on the part of the couple aboard the boat to communicate with the people on shore or land their boat, not knowing where they were or if the people were friendly. It was known by the couple in the boat that there was animosity among the people on mainland and those that were from King Strang’s cult.
However in due time thru conversation the barrier of fear soon was overcome and the boat landed. The couple made themselves known as Mr. and Mrs. Fields and they had come from Beaver Island. They had explained they escaped from the island in the darkness of night as they wanted to get away from the tyranny that King Strand held over his people. They asked that they may stay a short while to rest up from their tedious trip as they wanted to get passage on steamer (propeller) that plied the Lakes to Chicago or some other port.
The men helped to unload their meager belongings from the boat and all proceeded to the settlement. The Fields knew of the consequences they might suffer from the hands of King Strang’s ruthless men should they be found. It was decided to push the empty boat out in the lake to drift so if found it might be presumed that those in it had drowned or met with some other misfortune.
After unloading the boat all the people along with Mr. and Mrs. Fields proceeded up to the settlement. The local people realizing their plight vowed they would not reveal their names, their whereabouts or that they had been there. A John Dorsey that had a sailboat he used to bring in supplies from Frankfort agreed that when the Fields were ready he would take them to South Manitou Island where they might get passage on a steamer that would stop there. South Manitou was a port of call for the steamers to load up with cord wood which was used for fuel.
It was imminent that Mrs. Fields was about to give birth to a child and her time would be shortcoming. The women of the settlement prevailed up on them that they should stay with them until after the child was born. In a short time her time came and she gave birth to twins. Sadly enough though she should die from childbirth as well as the two babies.
Mr. Fields secured some lumber and constructed a coffin in which was placed his wife with a child in each arm. A grave was dug on the small hill in which the coffin was placed. The people of the settlement all gathered for this sad event and she was given a Christian burial.
Mr. Fields constructed a large wooden cross out of cedar which he placed on the hill. The large cross thru time had weathered badly and became broken. He also made a picket fence to surround the grave which weathered away due to time. A not of interest is that the picket fence was put together with iron cut nails. Also he placed at the head of the grave a smaller beautifully carved cross.
After completing his work Mr. Fields sought passage on a steamer to leave and never returned as far as anyone knows.
The grave marker and picket fence described in this tale are found in Fisher Cemetery, Glen Arbor, Michigan. As James Strang ruled on Beaver Island from late 1850 until his murder in 1856, for this story to have any veracity, it must have taken place during these years, dating the graves of Mrs. Fields and her children to about the same time. This very dramatic story is widely known and repeated, but little corroborating evidence has ever come to light. Richard Fidler, editor of Grand Traverse Journal, published this piece way back in November 2015, concerning the Strang murder.
Editor’s Note: The author submitted this story as part of “Lifestory Center,” a memoir project spearheaded by Northwestern Michigan College’s Extended Education Services, funded by a grant from the Michigan Council for the Humanities, and archived by Traverse Area District Library. Grand Traverse Journal will be occasionally reprinting submissions to this collection, in an effort to call attention to this valuable resource. If our readers know any of the authors, we would love to contact them, so please let us know!
The following is a fun story about the Carmien Family and their unique nuclear living situation, submitted by Carolyn Thayer. Carolyn was the daughter of Willard and Irene Carmien:
The cars pulled to the side of the road in front of the group of houses, and the crowd was assembling. Someone asked, “What are they doing? Is it some kind of massive Spring-cleaning?” Someone else said, “It looks like they’re moving. But, all of them?” as they surveyed the furniture huddled in the yards of the three houses.
A few months earlier at a typical Carmien get-together, my mother, and dad, and several of Dad’s brothers and sisters were sitting around sipping beer and swapping jokes and stories. Some time during the reminiscing someone brought up the problem of housing.
In 1939 or 1940, when I was less than two years old, my father and mother had purchased a Chicken-Hatchery in Benzonia, Michigan. It was located just South of Benzonia off of U.S. 31 on River Street, a quiet little street with a wooded area on one side and my dad’s property on the other. There was a one-story house, with brown asphalt siding, (always referred to as The Brown House), that we moved into. Also on the property were several buildings that were part of the chicken hatchery. Over the next several years, my dad and his brothers converted the largest one, a two-story building, into a house for my Grandmother Carmien and my dad’s youngest brother, Keith. (This house was always referred to as The Big House). When Keith married, once again the family rallied round and the smaller building (formerly known as The Wash House, but that’s another story), was converted into a small, one-bedroom house for Keith and his bride, Jean.
The year was now 1949 and, as the party progressed, I heard my Uncle Keith say, “It is really getting tight for us in our little house since Barbara has been born. We really need more room.” And then my dad said, “We could use more room, too. I don’t know where we are going to put Nancy when she can’t be in our room anymore.” Sine we had moved into The Brown House my brother Jim, two years younger than me, and my sister, Nancy, ten years younger than me, had been born. Our house had one regular size bedroom, where our parents slept, with a crib for my baby sister, Nancy, and a tiny room, much like a walk-in closet, where my brother and I slept. This room was just large enough for a small closet and a six-year crib. My brother slept in the six-year crib, though he was eight years old, and I, at the age of ten slept on a bunk my dad had built on top of the crib. I usually slept curled up as my feet stuck out the end of the bed if I straightened out.
My Aunt and Uncle, living in the small house, were likewise, feeling cramped. Grandma was now living alone in the Big House which had one bedroom downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs.
I was ten years old at the time and I never knew who came up with the idea. They merely said, “Why don’t we swap houses?” Now you would have to know our family to appreciate how this idea was received. The suggestion was hailed with much laughter, after which everyone interjected a few of their own ideas into the discussion. “We’ll all leave our curtains,” from the women, and “I know where I can get a handtruck” from the men. Each suggestion was greeted with more laughter. As if anyone would ever do such a preposterous act!
In the days that followed, however, the idea began to sound more sensible. My Dad owned all three houses so there was no problem there. Grandma was willing to move into the small house, as she didn’t need all the room she had in the big house. There was much fun made over the possibilities. As the subject was explored, the excitement grew. It was finally decided; in the Spring we would move. All of us. All at once. The same day.
As I remember, it was a weekend in April or May of 1949. By now there had been more get-togethers (a favorite pastime of our close-knit family) and strategy had been mapped out as to how to accomplish this undertaking. The troops were marshalled and all available hands were ready and eager to begin. The houses were close enough together, forming a circle with a common driveway, that taking furniture by truck was not feasible. what was so neat, though, was that everyone was moving clockwise into the next house. The smaller two houses were on a small knoll, so the fewer steps carrying heavy furniture the better. So they started at the Big House, carrying one piece of furniture up the hill to the small house where it was set on the lawn. Next, they carried a piece of furniture from there to the lawn of the Brown House, then a piece from the Brown House to the Big House. Thus it went all one day and into the next. We kids scurried from place to place carrying small items and boxes of precious possessions. I remember carrying my own treasures, (my toys and clothing), and table lamps, bedding, and kitchen items. It was fun for me, too, to help grandma move all of her small items into her new home. In the process some furniture and possessions were exchanged making it unnecessary to move everything.
It was a beautiful weekend, and the word spread quickly in our small town. Soon cars began to stop along our road and the main highway and a crowd began to gather to watch the residents of “Carmienville” and their latest scheme. Finally, the last piece of furniture was moved and the items sitting out on the lawn were in each house. All that was left was the settling in.
For me, it was a wonderful move! As much as I loved the Brown House, I was so ready to exchange my top bunk on the six-year crib, where my feet stuck out the end, for that big twin bed my Uncle Bruce gave me, and the little closet-sized room, I had had for the past nine years, for the huge bedroom I was to share with my two sisters (another sister was born four years later). My brother had the small bedroom on the landing upstairs, and my folks had a bedroom on the main floor which was more private for them. I remember climbing into bed the first night after the move and stretching out on that “Hollywood” mattress on that “big” twin-size bed with it’s own headboard and looking around at my huge bedroom with the sloping ceiling and thinking how fortunate I was.
Grandma settled in quickly into her cozy little home, and my Aunt and Uncle could spread their wings for awhile. They later built another house in the circle of “Carmienville” and welcomed three more daughters into their family. Sometime later, my dad’s sister, Mabel, and her husband, Dale, moved into the next house down the road and “Carmienville” expanded to five houses.
Through the years, when the family congregated, sooner or later someone would say, “Remember the time we all moved at once?” and it was named “The Fruitbasket Turnover.”
As a child of ten, I was blessed to be a part of a family who were so close and loved to be together, who were always conscious of each other’s needs and always there for each other through thick and thin. We laughed together, cried together, worked together, and played together. I felt secure in my family and extended family.
Now, fifty years later, I marvel at the speed and alacrity with which each family was willing to move for the general good. Though no one left the immediate vicinity, my mother left her gardens, she had so lovingly attended, to her sister-in-law and brother-in-law for them to enjoy. As time went on, the Hollyhocks and Mock Orange bloomed anew around our new home.
Though I had ten years of memories invested in the Brown House, I also came to have many years of memories of the Big House and , years later, as a young bride I was to live again, for a year, in the Brown House.
Through the years, I’ve never forgotten the Spring of 1949 and the “Fruitbasket Turnover!”
by Stewart A. McFerran, reporting from the deck of the Aisling
I found the old boat at a boatyard in Northport. The cradle had broken and the boat had fallen on its side. The hole in the hull had been patched but the rudder was still bent. I bought the C&C 29’ named Aisling for a song.
Aisling is a Scottish word meaning dream or vision. Ace Welding was able to straighten the bent rudder shaft and we launched the Aisling in Northport. Andy Rockwood and Mark Graham were onboard for the inaugural trip from Northport to the South end of the West Grand Traverse Bay.
The pirate mooring I had near the Grand Traverse Yacht Club (GTYC) was ready. The anchors I place on the Bay bottom were attached to a float that could be picked up and tied to Aisling’s bow. All the boats in the mooring field would swing about to face the wind with Aisling. Only a few of those boats were tied to moorings that were surveyed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
With the Aisling at mooring we were ready to do battle with the fleet each Wednesday night. The GTYC has Wednesday night sailboat races. Boats are handicapped with a Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) rating. Large boats can race against small boats. GTYC sets up the buoys at the corners of the Bay and sets a starting line. The start and first leg of the race is always upwind. I had a small sailboat as a youth but had never raced, it was a dream come true. (Ed. Note: For more on sailing in Northwest Michigan, read McFerran’s article on the Pabst Cup.)
Ned Lockwood helped me tune the Aisling’s sail rig and told me lots of stories. He had sailed in Connecticut as a youth. One day he was sailing with his brother and they came upon a guy in the water with his dog. His sailboat had tipped over due to the large sail he had. They righted his boat and taught him how to reef his sail. That was Albert Einstein with his dog. (True, as confirmed by Ned’s ex-wife).
With the help of Mike McDuffy, Ned and many others we sailed around the triangle course on West Bay and won some plaques in those races sponsored by the GTYC. I still have them.
I made the decision not to launch the Aisling and the boat sat under a tree for ten years, until this Spring. The tiller was delaminated and there was lichen growing in the cockpit. I used epoxy on the tiller, ammonia in the cabin and bleach on the deck.
At the Irish Boat Shop in Charlevoix the Atomic 4 engine turned over and Peter Johnson, an Englishman with vast mechanical experience, agreed to crew. A crane lifted the mast in place and we loaded our gear on board and were off at 4:00 p.m, on a late weekend in June 2017. The Atomic overheated and we stopped before leaving Charlevoix.
I started the engine at 5:30 a.m. the next day and Pete popped his head out of the cabin and indicated his concerns about the engine. I explained that the Aisling was a sailboat and we only needed the Atomic to get under the draw bridge. He agreed to indulge my vision.
We winched up the mainsail and motored out the channel and turned off the engine. A fine breeze took us all the way to Leelanau. We passed the Cathead point and the Whaleback. There was a lull in the wind near Pyramid Point as the Crib Lighthouse appeared. We made a tack straight West toward South Manitou Island.
It was nice to be back in the Manitou Passage. I had spent a year there in the company of Ross Lang on the Joy fishing for whitefish as well as chubs. As I turned my head toward Port Oneida I had a vision of Lanie Burfeind passing with her skiff full of Coregonus nigrapinus.
We passed the South Manitou Lighthouse as the Aisling headed West straight for Point Betsie. With Platte Bay on our left the wind died at sunset. Pete tinkered with the Atomic. It was dark when we passed the Point Betsie Lighthouse and 1:00 a.m. when we were near the Frankfort harbor.
Like Albert Einstein I had too much sail up when the squall hit, but I had no dog. The Aisling was knocked down and skidded across the water with Pete and I hanging on. Aisling spun about a few times after righting herself. We got the sails down and the Atomic would not start. With the sails back up the wind shifted 180 degrees and was now coming from the East. Aisling tacked through the channel and we lowered the sails and drifted into the dock at 2:30 a.m.
I plan to live on the Aisling this Summer. No telling when the dream will be complete.
By Deborah S. Kohn, Life-long friend of Maud’s and historian of Mesick, Michigan
Transcribed and edited by Richard Fidler
Maud Miller Hoffmaster’s epitaph reads, “She toiled for beauty.” Her personal motto was this: “Wherever you go in this world, may that place be more beautiful because you have been there.”The two statements summarize the life of a remarkable person.
In Manistee, Michigan, on December 29th, 1883, Maud was born to William H. and Sarah Adelaide (Helfreick) Miller. The eldest of five children, she took care of her brothers and sisters, her ill grandmother, and, later, her father.This responsibility had a profound effect on her future.She first studied music and wanted to be a musician, but, in the end, was forced to express herself in a quieter way, sitting beside her family members, sketching or painting scenes around her home.
Maud attended school on Old Mission Peninsula and in Traverse City.She was able to attend the Chicago Art School for six weeks after she was able to sell some of her paintings.Aside from that meager formal training, she was self-taught.
Maud’s father was a “doctor,” and her mother practiced nursing.In those days, her father may not have been a trained in medicine, but practiced as someone who could help injured or sick people.Her mother had to maintain the home after her husband became ill and bedridden.There were five children: Maud A., Harry E., Mabel E.(Palmer), William J. (Bill).(I am not sure about the fifth child)Many of Maud’s early experiences influenced her later paintings, especially “The Country Doctor,” a world-famous (and her best-known) painting.She had been offered a lot of money for it–and did sell it once, but bought it back and never let it go again.
From the 1900 census records, Maud was a laborer in a basket factory before she was married.The factory, Wells-Higman, was located near where the family lived on East Eighth Street.It was one of the largest manufacturing establishments in the city at that time, manufacturing “Climax” grape and peach baskets, bushel baskets, berry crates, and veneer.
The brother of Mrs. Henry Ford is said to have bought her first painting for one dollar.It was a small watercolor of a pine tree along Grand Traverse Bay.
At the age of 18, she married Havillah Clive Hoffmaster on May 25, 1904.He was a clerk and manager-buyer for the home furnishings department of Hannah and Lay for 25 years.
Havillah’s parents were Uriah and Mary E. Hoffmaster.Uriah served in the Grand Army of the Republic as a Union soldier in the Civil War.He enlisted in Company 1, Eleventh Cavalry on Nov. 9, 1863 at Kalamazoo for three years at the age of 15, then mustered on Nov. 24, 1863.Uriah then transferred to Company A, Eighth Cavalry on July 20, 1865.On Sept. 22, 1865 he was mustered out at Nashville, Tennessee.He returned to Traverse City.
Havillah’s parents are buried in the same lot as Maud and Havillah in Oakwood Cemetery, Traverse City.A GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) stone is on the lot, indicating a Civil War veteran soldier is buried there.
One of Havillah’s first gifts to Maud was a set of oil paints, a present she put to good use.Her ability to portray realistic landscapes, trees, snowstorms, and nature was recognized right away.You could stand in front of any one of her paintings and feel like you were right there as part of the scene.She was able to tell a story through her creations also.
Together, they built a rustic home (cottage, as they called it), a unique building in that the outer surface was made up of stones found in the area.She designed the house so that she could have her gallery connected to the main living area.You can’t help but remember the stones they assembled because of their large size.
In her design for the house she had two fireplaces, also constructed from the stones, one in the living area and the other in the gallery.For many years this was the only source of heat for the gallery.The door to the gallery was blue with a latch that she made.There were note cards of this door with a poem by Estelle C. Koch inside.“The Country Doctor,” which was painted in 1922, had a very special place in the gallery.She would recite a description [of it] that Beth Parker told over the radio on her program called the Beth Parker Hour.
Her home was in large part a gallery of her art.Most of her paintings were done at an easel that was located so she could look out over the Grand Traverse Bay.Many who knew her recognize this view in her paintings.It is said she did over 400 large canvases and countless smaller ones.
There was also an outside fireplace built of stones where there were many picnics and neighborhood gatherings.This was on the southeast side of their property.This is where the “litterbug crew” of young boys had their pancake suppers.It was a beautiful natural setting to be out among the tall pine trees and wildflowers.
Havillah left working for Hannah and Lay after 25 years, eventually opening a golf course across the street from where they lived off Munson Avenue and near Airport Access in 1931.He owned it until he sold the land and retired in 1952.Many people from this area have memories of golfing at Ahgosa, the name he gave to the course.After the land was sold, the Osteopathic Hospital was built upon the fairways, having moved out of what is now the Elks Club on Grand View Parkway.No longer the Osteopathic Hospital, the building is now known as the Munson Community Health Center.
Georges Bal, an art critic for the New York Herald described Maud’s exhibit in Paris, France, presented at the Bernheim Jeune Galleries in his article dated November 7, 1928.Bal placed her among the greatest landscape painters of the day, emphasizing her poetic touch, calling her works “picture-poems” of Michigan.Even the French art critics were impressed with her ability to capture the landscape with such color and perfect drawing.So important that show was to her, she traveled to Paris for the opening.The next year, another prominent exhibition of her paintings took place in New York City at the Helen Hackett Gallery from February 22, 1929, to March 2, 1929.
Maud was active in the American League of Professional Artists; several garden clubs including the Board of the State Federation of Garden Clubs and the Friendly Garden Club in Traverse City; the Traverse City Women’s Club (past president and life member); and was Chairman of Fine Arts, a position that led to her work with Joseph Maddy at Interlochen.She helped him raise money for his music camp, then organized the Fine Arts department at the National Music Camp.
She was supervisor for 14 years in that department—most of the time serving in an unpaid position.Maud helped design and build the Fine Arts building as a memorial to the Federation Golden Jubilee, and even collected some of the large stones that were used in the building.She was not merely interested in supervising or delegating, but was involved in the actual construction.She even carried stones to help the builders.
Artists from all over the world traveled to her Traverse City, Michigan home for instructions on how to paint landscapes, trees, and especially blizzard snowstorms/scenes.People would see her paintings or hear about her, and want to meet her.Maud also traveled all over the United States for one-man or juried shows to places like New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Pasadena, Laguna Beach, Carmel, Pebble Beach, Sacramento, Crocker Memorial Museum, Flint, and most major art centers.People who had seen her work in Paris, France, came.She did all of her exhibitions by invitations only.In her presentations across the United States she correlated her painting with music, an art very important to her.It helped her many times to get in the “mood” to paint, especially if she had an interruption while she was painting.
Getting the paintings ready for a show was a joint effort for Maud and Havillah.Sometimes pictures needed frames, bought or made by Havillah.Invariably, they had to be finished so that they would accent the picture in the right way.The size, color, and design had to be just right for each picture to make it emphasize what it was saying to viewers coming to the show.Pictures then had to be packed and gotten ready for the show, or to be sent to the new owner.
Maud specialized in landscapes and oil, but did almost every kind of art such as block prints, pastels, and etchings.She reproduced many of her artworks on postcards, stationery, bridge tallies, prints, and other useful articles.Reprints of “The Country Doctor” hung in many doctors’ and medical offices across the United States and may still be there.
During one of the many trips to Monterey, California, Maud got some editorial help with her “litterbug” idea by suggesting that gas stations hand out litterbags as a way to advertise.It captured the public’s imagination when the Grand Rapids Press and the Record-Eagle’s Jay Smith wrote about it in Michigan.The State and National Federations of Garden Clubs responded, and the fight against “litterbugs” was well on its way.
Maud even worked with a group of local neighborhood boys who became her anti-litterbug crew.They had a picture taken which was printed on a postcard, selling them or giving them away to remind people not to litter.These boys were Kim Tinker, David Stradinger, Randy Oliver, Tom Keith, Bruce Hume, Paul Wardwell, Earl Hamilton, and Dick Cobb.All of these boys lived within a two-and-one-half block area near her home on Ahgosa.They picked up along the beach and everywhere they could, then would go back to the Hoffmaster home where she would fix pancakes for supper.Some of these “boys” still live in the Traverse City area.This experience had a life-long effect on them.
On May 25, 1954, Maud and Havillah celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with an open house at their home.
Many people, local as well as from distant places, took art lessons from her.She loved giving art lessons to youth, but people of all ages learned under her keen eye and tutelage.She was always willing to share her talents and develop those of others.
In 1952, Maud wrote The Path of Gold, a novel dedicated to the membership of Beta Sigma Phi, of which she was a charter member.This is the story of the struggle for decency and honesty against evil.Jane Hamilton is the main character, a woman who just happens to be a painter.It is a story of love, emotions, and intrigue about the Michigan area.
Nee-Na, The Wild Flowers Good Fairy is a children’s book, but appealed to a wider audience than just children as many adults loved it.The stories and illustrations teach nature lore that was very dear to Maud like respecting the birds and wildflowers of the woods and understanding their enemies.She used the pen and brush to create the illustrations in the story.
Mrs. Godfrey Lundberg was a very good friend of Mrs. Hoffmaster.She was an art critic for the Chicago Tribune from1917 to 1957.Mrs. Lundberg’s pen name was Eleanor Jewett.During the 1930’s Maud illustrated Eleanor’s poems for the Chicago Tribune.They then decided to put some of Eleanor’s poems in a book with Maud doing the illustrations for each one of them.The book was titled Make Believe.The subjects of these poems range from the seasons in the Midwest to personal events in the life of a child.Most of these poems were inspired by her own children over the years.
Maud was also a business woman in that she created notecards from her block prints, had postcards of many of her pictures, and sold paintings and her books as long as they were available.
Many honors and recognitions were given her.She is listed in Who’s Who in American Art, and Who’s Who in the Midwest, her name appearing in the editions encompassing her life as a painter.The Mark Twain Society gave her an honorary membership in 1952.The Michigan Indians adopted her and named her “Princess Ahgo-sah.”The Michigan Federation of Sheriffs Association recognized her.In fact, a wife of a Clare County (Harrison) sheriff started a drive to get the funds to buy her pine tree painting and place it in the state capitol.The Michigan Sheriffs had a convention here in Traverse City in 1963.One of the tours was of the Hoffmaster Gallery.This had been one of Maud’s dreams but she did not want to just give the painting so felt she had to ask a modest sum (though its value was about ten thousand dollars).The painting was taken on a state tour to try to raise the funds after the Michigan legislature failed to come up with the modest funds.It remained in the Hoffmaster studio after this tour.
Maud’s paintings can be found all over the United States–and even the world since she sold several when her paintings were in Paris, France.Her shows helped sell paintings and this, in turn, would bring people from all over to her gallery and home.Her gallery was always open to the public.Many groups would arrange a tour of her studio whenever they met in Traverse City, still another way she met people.
She would give lectures across the United States.With her husband, she traveled to California several times to visit family but also to do shows.She did several paintings of the Carmel, California area, as they wintered here until they were not able to do as much traveling because of their age and health.Her brother and sister as well as nieces and nephews lived in California, so she would visit them there.
Few of us think that no one person can accomplish the impossible things that will make the world a better place for everyone, but Maud Miller Hoffmaster was always working at doing this.When she saw a need, she was there doing whatever was needed—whether it was constructing a building or an art program, cleaning up a community, fundraising, selecting a cherry queen, teaching about the environment and preserving the beauty of nature, entertaining hundreds of groups at her home and studio, or starting the expression “litterbug” that became a national slogan.
Her talents were not just in painting.If not standing at her easel, she could be found writing; reading about politics, current events, world and national events; tatting, knitting, crocheting; writing letters to voice her opinion on any topic; or writing about her family history.She never was idle in thought or deed until she fell and was hospitalized months before she passed away.
Havillah Hoffmaster was fatally hurt when a car hit him on Munson Avenue near his home.He was chipping ice from the gutter on the road and the driver did not see him.He died a short time later at Munson Hospital of injuries on January 8, 1964.His funeral was held at the Reynolds Funeral Home on Sixth Street on Saturday, January 11, 1964.Dr. Kenneth Hance of East Lansing and Dr. Howard Towne officiated.Burial was in the family lot at Oakwood Cemetery in Traverse City.
A committee of local friends was formed to try to plan a lasting gallery of her home and paintings as a landmark to Traverse City.Dr. Glenn Loomis, Lt. Governor William Milliken, Representative Arnell Engstrom, along with some of her extended family members hoped to accomplish this.After her death, however, the fundraising effort failed, so her estate eventually went to a nephew, Julian Hoffmaster, her brother William, and her sister Mabel.
Maud passed away October 2, 1969, at the Grand Traverse Medical Care Facility.She had fallen in her home in March and had been in failing health ever since the fall.Her funeral was held on Sunday, October 5, 1969, at the Reynolds Funeral Home on Sixth Street with Dr. Kenneth Hance of East Lansing officiating.Dr. Hance was a close friend of the Hoffmasters.Marjorie Exo was the organist and Melvin Larimer was the soloist for the service.The burial was in the family lot at Oakwood Cemetery in Traverse City.
You can still find a part of her here in Traverse City as many of her paintings hang in homes and businesses.Anyone who knew her has memories of her and her tireless efforts to improve and maintain the natural beauty of the Grand Traverse area.
Who’s Who of American Women, third edition (1964-65); Chicago, IL, A. N. Marquis Publications Co; p. 476
Artists in Michigan, 1900-1976, A Biographical Dictionary, Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1989, p. 137
Browning, Norma Lee, Joe Maddy of Interlochen, Chicago, IL, Henry Regnery Co, 1963, p.273
Hoffmaster, Maud Miller, Nee-Nah, The Wild Flower’s Good Fairy, New York, The William-Frederick Press, 1949
Hoffmaster, Maud Miller, The Path of Gold, New York: Exposition Press, 1952
Jewett, Eleanor, Make Believe “Milkweed Babies and other Poems,” with illustrations by Maud Miller Hoffmaster, Traverse City, MI: Myers Printing Service, 1962
Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War, 1861-65; published by authority of the Senate and House of Representatives of the Michigan Legislature, p. 50
Who’s Who in American Art
Who’s Who in the Midwest
Exhibition of Paintings by Maud Miller Hoffmaster, New York City, Helen Hackett Gallery, Feb. 22, 1929 to Mar. 2, 1929
Exposition Maud Miller Hoffmaster, Paysages du Michigan, Galeries Bernheim-Jeune, 83 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, Paris, Du5 au16 Novembree, 1928
Funeral Program by Kenneth Hance on Oct. 5, 1969
Grand Traverse County Probate Records
Oakwood Cemetery Records
1900 Census of Grand Traverse County
1900 City Directory for Traverse City
Traverse Area District Library
Traverse City Record-Eagle
July 17, 1948, p. 7 Dec. 6, 1949, p. 1 Jul. 18, 1952 Sept. 10, 1959, p. 5 July 8, 1961 June 8, 1962 Jan. 9, 1964, p. 1 Jul. 2, 1964, p. 4 Feb. 20, 1965, p. 7 May 5, 2966, p. 8 Oct. 3, 1969, p. 8 Oct. 4, 1969, p. 11 Oct. 10, 1969, p. 4 Dec. 12, 1974 April 22, 1991
Grand Traverse Herald
Feb. 25, 1897 Mar. 4, 1897, p. 6
The Flint Journal
Oct. 29, 1939
Grand Rapids Press
April 21, 1953 May 27, 1962 March 21, 1965 Oct. 6, 1969
Medicine was in her blood. The daughter of a Civil War surgeon, Sara Thomasina Chase was the first-born child of Dr. Milton Chase who settled in Otsego, Allegan County, Michigan, after the war.Giving his children a good education after finishing her secondary schooling in Otsego, Sara entered the Ypsilanti Normal School. She graduated in 1891, then taking a position at the Traverse City High School teaching English and science. Teaching until 1896, she decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and entered medical school at the University of Michigan. After her graduation in 1900 at the age of 34, she went back to Otsego and practiced with her father. In 1906, she returned to Traverse City, taking over the office of her cousin, Dr. Oscar E. Chase, while he went back to the University of Michigan for more training. She set up office in the State Bank building where she advertised her practice.
This 1903 article from the Traverse City Evening Record gives us a glimpse of her ambition and dedication to the practice of medicine as a woman in a man’s world.
Dr. Chase entirely disapproves the old idea, which once was quite prevalent, that a professional woman could not be a womanly woman. She is a physician of no mean ability, and has considerable skill with the needle. She is thoroughly accomplished in household science. She is very fond of outdoor exercise, being an especially fine horsewoman. Still they are outside interests to her, after all, as her heart is in her profession, and it is this that receives first and best thought. [TCER 15 May 1903]
Known to be as good a physician as her male counterparts, she wasbe able to handle just about any situation. In 1908 she traveled five miles past the village of Cedar in a blizzard to tend to a patient. The Traverse City Record Eagle reported, “Dr. Sarah T. Chase has a hard trip yesterday afternoon, driving five miles beyond Cedar in the blizzard. She went to Cedar on the train and was met there by a driver. Ten miles in such a storm required nerve even in a man.” (7 Feb. 1908)
Always wanting to improve her skills, in the summer of 1909 she took a six-week break from her practice and attended a special summer school course at U. of M.
Active with the Congregational Church, she served as Sunday School teacher. She often gave lectures on children’s and women’s health at events of the Woman’s Club and Central Mother’s Club. Her lectures were about topics important to the women of Traverse City and covered subjects such as the proper feeding of children and babies and “What to do Until the Doctor Comes,” a lecture about first aid.As chairman for the public health committee for Grand Traverse County, she often gave talks about various health topics relevant to all citizens:“The Air We Breathe and the Value of Ventilation,” “Children’s Diseases,” “Suppression of Tuberculosis” as well as sensitive women’s health topics, such as“Sex Hygiene,” and “The Responsibility of Girlhood to Womanhood.”The notice for the last talk stated: “No men will be admitted to this lecture.”
Not content just to maintain her practice—or to be pigeon-holed into women’s care only—she became involved in local health-related issues that mattered to the entire community. In 1911 she was instrumental in petitioning the state to pass a bill “requiring licenses for the sale of patent and proprietary medicines by itinerant vendors.” In simple terms, the bill would require licenses for traveling elixir salesmen. She served as meat and milk inspector for the city and reported to the city on sanitary inspections of farms and slaughter houses. As part of her county responsibilities, she acted as secretary for the county Tuberculosis Society.Dr. Chase was one of the first woman members of the Grand Traverse County Medical Society. In 1907 she accepted the position of secretary of the Society when her associate, Dr. Myrtelle M. Canavan, left for Boston after her husband’s death. She was also a member of the Michigan State Medical Society and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.).
Tuberculosis hit Traverse City hard in 1915.Dr. Chase worked tirelessly as head of the board of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society, a group she helped found.That organization aimed to improve health conditions by working with others in the medical field and offering free clinics in the city to educate the public about the dreaded disease. She used experimental treatments, publishing her positive results in the American Journal of Clinical Medicine.
In 1920 she accepted a job at the Kalamazoo State Hospital as assistant physician, where she worked until 1922, moving to Port Huron and taking the position of “Great Medical Examiner of the Ladies of the Maccabees”, a post she held for the next seven years.She assisted with Maccabees clinics for children and was on the board of the Anti-TB Association.
While in Port Huron, she was reacquainted with Harlow Willson, whom she likely knew as a young girl in Otsego. He had been living in Boyne City with his wife Maybell and their children, working as a postman. After the two were divorced in 1924, Dr. Chase and Harlow were married in May, 1926.
A progressive woman, she did not give up her maiden name, instead preferring to use a hyphenated name: Dr. Sara T. Chase-Willson. They were both sixty years old at the time of their marriage– her first and his second.After their marriage, Harlow and his mother ran Willson’s Garden shop on River Road, while Sara worked for the Ladies of the Maccabees.
During her years in Port Huron, Dr. Chase was actively involved in the Ladies Library Association, fought for child labor laws, and served as an active member of the Ottawawa Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R).She was a committed member of the Theosophical Society, and, as an expert in that movement, gave speeches on the history of Theosophy. In 1929 she resigned from her position with the Maccabees, but remained active in medical causes.
Around 1941 she and her husband moved to Boyne City where they opened another garden shop and florist business. In 1946 Dr. Chase fell in their home and broke her hip, but fully recovered and continued her volunteer work.After her husband’s death in 1950, she sold herBoyne City home and retired to the Maccabee Home in Alma where she died three years later at the age of 87.
It was unusual for a town the size of Traverse City in the early 1900s to have two female physicians. Sara Chase was not the town’s first woman doctor, but she and Dr. Augusta Rosenthal-Thompson each had tirelessly worked serving the people of Traverse City. Their careers only overlapped by a few years toward the end of Dr. Rosenthal-Thompson’s time in the city, but these two pioneers of medicine– amazing women in their own ways–each had an impact in the community, paving the way by their influence and demonstrating that women could successfully work in a career dominated by men.
Julie Schopieray is a regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal. She is currently working on a biography and architectural history of Jens C. Petersen, once a Traverse City-based architect, who made his mark on many cities in Northern Michigan and California.
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