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.
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.
Recently acquired by the Traverse Area District Library is a slim volume, the Forty-Second Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Horticultural Society of Michigan for the year 1912. The volume contains all the addresses and discussions held at the Society meeting on November 12-14, 1912, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Topics centered around fruit growing, and included caring for the young orchard, preventing frost damage, watering techniques, and more.
The following selection was an address delivered by Mrs. Edith Rose, of Elberta, Benzie County, Michigan. According to Edith, she and her husband Paul moved to Benzie County about 1890, and there started an orchard. Edith’s concerns had much less to do with the actual growing of fruit than the operation of the farm. She does an admirable job discussing labor relations, racism, and prejudice against women. As an example of the last, Edith’s first name did not appear in the publication, and I was obliged to discover it through the Federal census, Benzie County.
Please note that the opinions expressed by Edith are her own, and not those of any staff member of Traverse Area District Library, or the editors of Grand Traverse Journal. Enjoy Fruit Growing from a Woman’s Standpoint:
“Mrs. Paul Rose, Elberta
Mr. President, Gentlemen and Ladies: Inasmuch as we are supposed to be it, I will show due respect to the gentlemen by addressing them first. When I read the program and saw that I was the only woman on the program, I wondered who the program committee had a grudge against- whether the audience or myself. You will no doubt find before I am through with what I am going to say that I am not a talker, but Mr. Rose is here, and so I will say no public talker. If I had been giving more time to speaking, you see I would have had less time for fruit growing.
Nearly 20 years ago a man and his wife, living near Benton Harbor, packed their household goods, loaded them into a car and started them up north, to Benzie county.
While they were being loaded a rain which turned into sleet came up and ruined everything, so far as varnish was concerned. A superstitious person would have take it as a sign to give up the job, but they were not superstitious so kept on with their work.
In the car with the household goods were two horses, a cow and a calf, a very fine calf. When the engineer came to get the emigrant car, he seemed to have been out of humor (perhaps his wife had not made him a good cup of coffee that morning for his breakfast). He struck the car so hard, it threw the car door open and the little calf fell out. The man with the car asked the conductor to wait for him to put the calf back into the car, only to be told to get in or get left.
As there was no way to let any one know of the predicament the calf was in, she wandered in the freight yards crying for her mama until the next day, when a good German woman took pity on little black bossy and put her in a barn and fed her.
Later the Railroad Co. was notified they would have to deliver said calf to her destination, which they did, giving her a ride in the express car.
Three years later, Black Bossy was a cow, and probably thinking to save the housewife any extra work, skimming milk and churning cream, she gave skim milk. Six months later all they had left of Black Bossy was a beautiful black Poled Angus robe.
When the household goods arrived up north, his wife and their little three-year-old daughter, their foreman’s wife and little daughter, started for the north woods as their friends thought.
When they reached Thompsonville they were notified there was a strike on the Ann Arbor Railroad and no one knew when there would be a train, so they went to a nearby hotel (this was 10 o’clock at night) only to be told it was full. They went back to the depot and found there would be a train in a few minutes, that would take them within four miles of their home. Thinking it would be better to be four miles than twenty as they were then, they took the train which arrived in the freight yards of So. Frankfort about midnight, where they were told there was no hotel nearer then a mile, no bus, no telephone, everything a glare of ice, and two little girls asleep, baggage, band boxes, bird-cage and such things that go with moving.
While deciding the next move to make two jolly traveling men offered to carry the little girls, which removed the greatest trouble, and they all started for a hotel. It probably was the first real work those men ever did. for they did some puffing before getting those little girls where they could walk, but very gentlemanly, saw the comical side of the affair.
The next day was bright and pretty and the husband, thinking to get some word from his little family drove to town, to find them waiting to be taken out to their first home of 80 acres of stumps, brush, and woodland, which was the nucleus around which has been builded [sic] what is now known as the Rose Orchards. There my life work has been put in helping to make them a success.
Fruit Growing from a Woman’s Standpoint
To talk on this subject, I will have to refer to our work, as it is all I know. What we have done, all things equal, others can do. A person said to me the other day, “Every woman can’t do what you have done.” Perhaps not, but they might improve on my work. It wouldn’t be best for every woman to engage in fruit work, as there are other lines of work for us to engage in. Just now we can vote and perhaps some day, hold office [editor’s note: Perhaps Edith means within the Horticultural Society, as general election voting was not passed in Michigan in the 1912 election. The measure lost by 760 votes]. I heard Prof. French of Lansing, say, “Men do not do their work haphazard now days.” In speaking of the fruit work, he said, “They spray, prune, pick, pack and market their fruit with brains.” I believe we have brains and certainly the gentlemen think so or they wouldn’t have given us the right of elective franchise, and thereby removing from us the stigma of mental weakness and taking us from the ranks of idiots, imbeciles, Indians [sic] and criminals.
Fruit growing is very interesting, in fact it is fascinating. You plant the little tree, watch the buds start, then the blossoms and later the ripened fruit. How well I remember our first crop of cherries. Mr. Rose said to me one day, “Get a little pail and we will pick our crop of cherries.” There were less than four quarts of them, but we were as proud of that crop as we ever were of thousands of crates in later years. To a woman who wished to take up this work or to one who by circumstances seem compelled to do something of this kind, by being left with a little family and perhaps a few acres of land or a life insurance with which to buy a little farm, I would say by all means, plant a few trees, not too close together and between the rows of trees, plant some variety of berries that will come into bearing early and help pay the expenses of growing the trees and of the family.
It may be a little hard at times, but wouldn’t it be harder to live in town in a stuffy tenant house and take in washing or sewing and live up the insurance, besides depriving the children of the fresh air and the pleasure they would get from helping mama, until they will become a part of your work and will lend a hand to help put one of them through agricultural college and then come home fully equipped to take the care from Mother’s shoulders?
A woman can plant a row of trees just as straight as a man. There are trees in our orchard that I helped to plant 19 years ago, and they seem to grow and bear just as well as those planted by the men. A woman can spray if necessary. My experience has been that there is no part of the fruit work that a woman can not do if she will study and use good sound sense, unless it is to plow, but I think she can hire that done all right.
A wife should familiarize herself with her husband’s work so that she can direct it, at any time, during his absence, and then if she is left alone she won’t be handicapped by having her help say, “She don’t know anything about it, she won’t know whether it is done right or not.” I have never had a man or woman refuse to do the work as I told them to. Mr. Rose has been gone a great deal of the time during the growing of our orchard. At first he would dictate and I would jot down a routine of work to be followed during his absence but that has become unnecessary years ago, as we have had the same fore man for a number of years and he understands his part of the work as well as I do mine.
I have had help in the house most of the time, which has left me quite free to follow our chosen profession, Horticulture. Of late years most of my work has been in overseeing the pickers or packers. I have handled white labor in Indiana in raspberry work. I have assisted Mr. Rose in Alabama with his negro laborers, in the straw berry fields, and of course nothing but white labor on our farm up north. Some women may say, I can’t handle the laborers; perhaps a few suggestions here in regard to this part of the work might help some of the wives of these young students, to have more confidence in their ability to help their husbands in their life work. I keep my help in the house from one to three years. When I hire my house keeper I tell her just what I want her to do and what I will pay for the work and there is never any trouble over the work or wages. Always direct the work in the house or packing house.
If your help knows there is some one around to direct them, even if they understand what they are to do, they will go at their work with more interest. You can keep your help better satisfied and keep them longer, by having your work well systematized, and let them think they are expected to carry out their portion. A worker likes to know they are appreciated and a kind word is a little thing but will work wonders sometimes in accomplishing better and more satisfactory results.
We have had as many as 85 packers in the cherry work. We have never missed but one morning of being there when the seven o’clock bell rung. Don’t ever leave your help alone, they will not work as well. Mr. Rose has often said to me when I did not feel able to go to the packing house: “Can’t you bring your rocking chair and sit where they know you are and where you can dictate the work?” Be very firm and decided with the workers but don’t nag them.
In Alabama I have started to the field with 125 negroes following and joking about their little Boss, “She don’t carry a gun or club.” When Mr. Bose started his berry work in the South, the Southerner said, “You will have to carry a gun or club, for the nigger will have to be knocked down a couple of times before he will work good.” We never had any trouble, kept our help, picked our berries in better shape than some of the fields where they worked their help at the point of the gun. We loaned our negroes one day to an adjoining berry grower. During the day Mr. Rose and I went over to see how they were getting along. When we came near where they were picking berries they expressed a delight at seeing us and when asked how they were getting along, said : “We don’t like this boss. He carries a gun. We like you-alls better.” We assured them that the boss would not hurt them if they worked all right, and then we started back. We had only gone a half-mile when we looked back and there came every one of our negroes. We stopped and when they came up we persuaded them to go back and finish the day, but they said : “No, sah ; we will work for you-alls but we don’t work over there no more.” We saw how they felt about it so told them, “All right go back to their cabins and work for us in the morning.” Kindness, even with the negro, got our work done better than a club.
We never hire our day help for any one piece of work. Then they can not complain if they are changed from one job to another, if I need more packers, I call them from the pickers and if the foreman needs more pickers I send the packers out to help him. We have had girls work 8 and 10 years in the fruit work. They enjoy it and will plan from one year to another, what they are going to do, and have their money spent, in their minds, a year ahead. Always be interested in each worker, study them to know what part of your work they are best adapted to. You may have a person that seems a failure at one thing and may make a splendid hand at something else. Our foreman brought a man from the orchard to me at the packing house and said: “Can you use him here, I can’t use him in the orchard. I set him to nailing packages, and he did fine work the rest of the season.
Just a word to the woman that has some money to invest and contemplates launching out in fruit-work. Be careful in selecting a location, if possible get near enough some town or shipping point where you can easily market your fruit and where you can get help to pick it, and don’t plant too extensively until you are sure you can handle the business, and don’t expect to have time to read stories, papers, call on your neighbors or embroider during the summer months. I heard a joke on a man who bought some land in Florida, unsight and unseen. After the bargain was all made and the price paid he thought he would go and see his new farm. The land shark took him out in a boat and after paddling around awhile said : “Your farm is under here ; when you get it drained it will be all right.” Don’t buy land unsight and unseen. Let the men do that. We women may be easy but there are others.”
The entirety of this work is available online for download: https://books.google.com/books?id=1dpJAAAAYAAJ
Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.
Meet Cecil H. Dill (27 October 1900-3 November 1989), “The Farmer Who Makes Music with His Hands.” Dill was an aspiring radio performer, who had an interesting talent… the ability to squeeze his hands together and play melodies, mostly of popular tunes of the day.
His parents, Jennie McEwan (d. 22 January 1960) and William H. Dill (d. 22 July 1966), were married in Grand Traverse County in 1899, and spent most of their married life alongside their children Cecil, Dorothy (d. 22 December 1972) and Joan, in Traverse City. According to census records, William briefly operated a farm in Blair Township, probably about 1930 to 1938 or so.
In 1939, William purchased Novotny’s Saloon on Union Street in Old Town, Traverse City, and renamed the establishment “Dill’s Olde Towne Saloon,” which became a favorite watering hole for locals and visitors alike. William had a long career in bartending, with only his brief farming career as the exception.
Like his father, Cecil usually made his living with his hands. During the holidays, he often sold balsam and cedar wreaths, and began taking orders in the end of October, showing the popularity of his work. Over the years, he offered junk removal and other light draying services to the community as well, sometimes partnering with Goldie Wagner (d. 16 April 1986).
But, before his father opened Dill’s Saloon, Cecil was still working the family farm when he discovered his unique musical abilities (I’ll let Cecil tell you in his own words in the embedded video exactly how he developed his talent). Cecil was able to sell his talent to various performers, most notably Ted Weems, the bandleader who would provide Perry Como his first national exposure. Cecil played with the Ted Weems Orchestra in Chicago, and was thoroughly applauded by all those present. According to a Chicago Tribune article of the event, Cecil stole the show.
The years of 1933-1934 saw the height of Cecil’s popularity. He played with Ted Weems, as well as bandleader Hal Kemp. He made appearances at other venues in Chicago and in Hollywood nightclubs. His performances were written up in Chicago and Detroit newspapers, as well as Vanity. He palmed his fame all the way to the National Farm and Home radio hour, and a Universal Pictures newsreel (below), both of which provided Cecil with national exposure.
Although his fame was short-lived, Cecil would continue to play throughout his life, showing up various variety events in Traverse City. Cecil’s Universal Pictures newsreel is the earliest known recording of Manualism, that is, the art of playing music by squeezing air through the hands. By all accounts, that makes Cecil the first “Manualist,” although I suspect this musical style has a long and varied history, as least as old as clapping.
The last of Cecil’s life was plagued with health problems. The Traverse City Record-Eagle reported of his ill-health several times. On Tuesday, October 10, 1961, Cecil, living at 229 Wellington, was admitted to Munson. He had been dining at Bill Thomas’ Restaurant at 130 Park Street, when he fell ill. A “resuscitator unit” from the fire department was called to his aid, and the newspaper report stated he “suffered from an apparent heart attack.” He suffered additional bouts of illness that required hospitalization in 1970 and 1973, but ultimately lived to the ripe age of 89.
Enjoy Cecil’s rendition of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and the story of his talent, made available by the Internet Archive. This video is in the Public Domain, meaning there are no copyright restrictions, so please share out.
Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.
Betty Beeby, interviewed by the Women’s History Project of Northwest Michigan, on May 7, 2003, at her home in Eastport. Learn more about the Women’s History Project at their website, https://whpnm.wordpress.com/
I was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1923 when they didn’t have images of the baby-to-come. When they told my father that he had twins, he was so overjoyed that he did cartwheels down the entire corridor of Henry Ford Hospital.
We came Up North to Torch Lake every summer. My great-grandfather got the first land that was ever deeded in Torch Lake.
My father was a Captain in WWI when he saw a program my mother put on in one of the high schools. He was so impressed because she was the manager, and she sat down in the audience during the whole program. He said, “Anybody that isn’t backstage during the performance sure knows how to delegate.” He was pretty impressed with that, and she nabbed him.
I went to Cass Technical High School in downtown Detroit. I was not the best student because I was always drawing pictures instead of paying attention. I had to take a streetcar to school, which took about an hour. I’d practice drawing people as they were riding the streetcar.
At Cass, I had the fnest teacher that anyone could have. She was an older woman dedicated to her students and her job. She had aisles of art books she’d bought herself. You could borrow any of her wonderful books.
Miss Davis took me to meet the Booths. They were newspaper people with a gorgeous, palatial mansion in Grosse Pointe, with original paintings by Lautrec, Degas, and so on. They talked to me about what I wanted in art, and were influenced enough to give me a scholarship to Pratt Institute, one of the finest art schools in the United States.
I lost my pocket money in New York, somewhere between Brooklyn and Grand Central Station. I was so upset ‘cause my folks didn’t have a lot to spare. But I had a nice roommate who was also poor; so we subsisted on bacon drippings on toast and things like that.
I was in a movie theater on December 7, 1941. Suddenly, in the middle of the movie, all of the lights came on and they said, “All armed servicemen report to their stations.” It was quite a shock. We went back to the school and found out that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.
The school authorities asked students to help with the inventories of the neighborhoods. We interviewed people about how many people were in each home, what were the ages, whether there were any cripples, what kind of heat they were using, and so forth because if we were bombed, if there was a fire, if anything was hit, the government needed that information. At the time we didn’t realize that German submarines were just off the Manhattan coast.
My first job was actually freelance, designing a cover for the Architectural Forum. After which they asked me to stay on with the staff and move over to Rockefeller Center. In any art department I worked in, I was usually the only woman. It was good pay, exciting work. I don’t know why more women aren’t going into it.
At night, I would volunteer at the United Nations Air Force Club where soldiers were coming in from all over the world. I was asked to paint a mural in the basement recreation room. I painted the Spanish dance for them.
For that work I was invited to the Tea Dance at Delmonico’s, which was high society. They brought this handsome man over to our table. They said he was also from Michigan, so we got to know each other. He wined and dined me, took me to places like the Russian Bear. I took him home to meet my parents. Jim said to my mother, “I want to marry your daughter.” And she said, “Oh, good! Let’s do it now!” She loved to party. It was an instant thing.
I quit Time-Life because Jim was stationed at Newport, Rhode Island. We were billeted at the Agassiz Mansion with other officers and their wives. I was pregnant while Jim was overseas, so I went home to Detroit.
In those days you stayed in the hospital ten days after having a baby. A woman down the hall from me was hysterical because her soldier husband in Texas wasn’t allowed to come back. The hospital asked if they could move me into her room to quiet her down. As soon as she found out my husband was in the South Pacific, she got along fine.
I moved back to my parent’s house with the baby. The cable my parents sent to Jim about the baby took two months to reach him. Jim came back when our baby was six months old, and saw him for the frst time. I still get pretty choked up to see young sailors seeing their babies for the frst time.
After Jim’s service time was over, we both wanted to live on a big body of water. Lake Superior was the biggest one we could find. Because Jim was originally a pharmacist, he was given a job with the Squib Pharmaceutical Company, traveling to hospitals back and forth across the Upper Peninsula
The winters up there were not easy. I was out in this little log cabin with a new baby, not far from the Marquette prison. I had no telephone. Every night I had to go outside, go down into the basement, and shovel coal into the furnace. Jim would come back on the weekends. Then Jim got a job in the pharmacy in Marquette. We used to sail with some people on a wonderful boat. They asked if we would like to be caretakers of the Longear Estate. The Longears owned most of the copper mines, thousands of acres in the Upper Peninsula. We put the kids in school. I had to drive them eight miles out to the gate to meet the bus. The bus driver carried a shotgun. In bird season, she’d stop the bus, shoot some birds, throw them at the kids’ feet, and then drive on. Our kids thought that was common practice.
We bought a drugstore in Kalamazoo in the fifties, and I painted again. I started as an artist, but when you have children you put that aside for a bit.
We bought a house on Lover’s Lane. A woman gave my children two beautiful big, white, rabbits. She said, ‘You won’t have to worry about separate cages, they are both males.’ We had eighteen rabbits within two months. Friends asked us to take care of their three cats while they traveled. Two weeks before they returned, each cat had a litter; and I was pregnant too. Living on Lover’s Lane I thought, “Do I have to move off of this street?”
I did the Captain Kangaroo artwork for CBS television; that was a wonderful experience. I got a big job illustrating the Child’s Story Bible. It was all in color, which was such a treat after doing mostly less expensive black-and-white art. I particularly loved illustrating book covers, jackets of famous authors. Eardmans paid me to skim through books to find the visual images for Steinbeck, T.S. Elliot, Hemingway, Updike, and Faulkner. They wrote with such skill that I really became interested in the words that portrayed people, that made you say to yourself, “I never thought of that.” I know it’s a good book when it’s a discovery.
That’s why I like painting and drawing; I go out and am amazed at the things that I see. I start to draw, and realize, “Oh…I never thought of that.” It’s entirely different than if you are just looking. You start to really see that drawing puts a value on everything, and a price on nothing. Everything is exciting. It’s a discovery, which is really important in drawing. Once you start, you discover more and more of what you are seeing.
We moved Up North because Jim retired, and I was asked to paint the mural at Fort Michilimackinac. I came up with nine ideas for this 50- foot wall, and they chose one idea. They asked me to create my proposed mural on a 10-foot width. If they liked it, they would have me paint it on the wall.
Jim always believed in me. He built this 10-foot stretched canvas on a frame that was always on display while I was painting the mural. I was up on the scaffolding for the whole summer. I didn’t have handholds or anything. I found myself wanting to step back to see how things were looking. I said, ‘I’ve got to have more boards up there.’ I was starting to have nightmares. Jim helped me strike a grid of vertical and horizontal chalk lines. That grid worked really well. I was up there for sometimes eight, ten hours getting things sort of mapped out.
The mural room was under the bridge (Mackinac). You could almost feel the vibrations in this room. It was a beautiful place just to rest and be serene. At night they had the mural lit. You could drive by the glass doors and see it.
About five years ago they covered the mural with a wall that goes all the way to the ceiling, and they built a store there. You don’t have to sell every place, you know.
By Morgan Bankston, Winner of the 2016 Bruce Catton Awards
The leaves beneath my feet are the only sound I hear besides the howling of the wind. The trees are shedding their coats, getting ready for a brisk winter. Colors of orange and yellow float around me. The wind is whipping around me, breaking me out of my thought. I hike farther up on the bluff. Rays of red and pink sunshine envelope me in a ray of heat. The cold weather nips at my cheeks, turning them a pinkish color. The farther I hike, the colder it gets; my wind breaker is slowly losing its effect of keeping me warm.
“Come on, Mom,” I say. “We need to hurry if we are going to make it to the top by the time the sun sets. “
I climb faster than the rest of my family. I look behind me and see they’re still staggering on the trail, trying to catch their breath from climbing the enormous hill.
In front of me, I see a huge tree, about the size of an elephant; its leaves lay scattered on the ground beneath it. The trunk reminds me of a spider’s legs, strong, and curvy. The branches seem like they’re never ending, going up into the sky and cascading outward.
I run over to the tree and start to climb its long branches, climbing from branch to branch to get higher off the ground. Looking up, I see three abandoned bird nests at the very top of the tree. I decide to climb as close to the nests as I can before mom tells me go get down. Up I go, closer, closer to the nest before I hear a loud scream.
“Get down here right now, young lady!” my mother screams.
I pretend I don’t hear her. I climb higher, but the branches are getting thinner and thinner. I can’t go much higher or a branch will snap.
Giving up, I adjust my feet and climb down each branch, one by one.
I make it down to the ground safely and start running down the path. All of the trees are losing their leaves, turning an eerie gray for winter. It’s quiet and peaceful. No birds are chirping or singing, just the howl of the wind in the trees.
I press on along the trail making sure to stay on the path. I turn my head and see something that resembles a large cave on the other side of the trail. I turn around to make sure my mom isn’t looking; then I hurry and run over to the cave. Up close, I see that it is, in fact, what I suspected: a bear den. I walk around it; thank goodness there was no bear living it the cave at this moment. I continue to run around the cave to check it out. It’smade of sticks and rocks which cover the whole thing. Large sticks are poking out of the den. I look down and see four little bear paw prints all over the ground smushed in the dirt.
Bored, I run back to my family quietly without anyone knowing I was ever gone. I run up behind my sister and poke her in her sides. She turns aroundand swats my hands away while sticking out her tongue. I turn and run in front of everybody, making my way to the top of the hill.
The path turns left and opens up into a huge “sugar bowl.” Sand is all around us, leading to the very bottom, in the shape of a bowl.
I stand at the tip-top, take off my coat, boots, and hat; then I begin my run down the hill. As soon as I take the first step, all of the sand comes down with me and falls at my side. Slipping and sliding, I make it to the bottom and get on my hands and knees to climb up the hill again. After five times, all worn out, I climb up the hill, but want one more slippery ride down.
When I reach the top, I stand up and look out into the distance. I can see everything from here. Millions of trees, orange, red, and gray surrounding me. I turn around and see all of Lake Michigan. The dark blue covering what feels like half of the Earth around me. The lighthouse is in the distance.The sun is setting just beside it; a serene pink and yellow colors.
I think to myself —this is my home.
The Tenth Annual Bruce Catton Historical Award Reception was held at Mills Community House, Benzie County, in April 2016. Families of the freshman authors and community residents came to honor the young authors and their teachers, Ms. Rebecca Hubbard, English teacher, and Mr. Dave Jackson, history teacher who inspired the authors. The students were assigned to write about a special event in their life, trying to create a memorable experience that would delight an audience. The readings given adult performers proved the students had succeeded. Similar to author Bruce Catton’s memoirs that included many of his life experiences as he grew up in Benzie County during the early years of the 20th century, the students included many descriptive details in essays that reminded their audience of similar experiences in their own lives.
Locally-produced digital magazine featuring nature and local history from the Grand Traverse Region.