Category Archives: Celebrate the People

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.

“You need a wise crack now and then”: the World War II Service of Floyd Webster

From an original interview by Brenda Kay Wolfgram Moore in Kingsley, Michigan, undated. Webster added memories in an interview with Peter Newell, November 12, 2014.

This month’s “Celebrate the People” honors Floyd Webster, historian of the village of Kingsley since 1952, whose countless hours of work in that volunteer role has developed in to the local history collections held at the Kingsley Branch Library. Webster’s reminiscences focus on his years of service in World War II. Few of those who served remain to tell their stories; 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of that conflict.

While Grand Traverse Journal typically features stories concerning our local region, we recognize the importance of recording and publishing the stories of our residents, both for future generations and for the catharsis it gives those who have served.

Melvina and me at our wedding and San Antonio where we honeymooned.  Venice could not have been more beautiful than my bride in San Antonio.  Pictures are from my album.
Melvina and me at our wedding and San Antonio where we honeymooned. Venice could not have been more beautiful than my bride in San Antonio. Pictures are from my album.

In August 1942, I enlisted in the Army in Traverse City, Michigan.  Before my next birthday, unimaginable life changing events happened.  Not only would I get married and travel with the Army throughout the eastern United States,  but also see terrible devastation throughout most of northwestern Europe. A few days later, I went to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, and soon boarded a train to Chicago.  I had rarely ventured far from Kingsley, Michigan and now I was receiving Army training in Chicago, Illinois, where, one day, I happened to be eating at a Wimpie’s restaurant.  At a table by myself and being only one of several customers dressed in uniform,  I was conspicuous. Finally, a young man, about my age, introduced himself and we began to talk.  Gerald Putnam and I formed a friendship and later he introduced me to his sister, Melvina Putnam, whom I would soon be courting.

After Chicago, I continued by train to Little Rock, Arkansas for further training.  I weighed 117 pounds, my back pack 109 pounds, so if I had to shoot a bazooka, it would knock me on my butt.  Appearing too lightweight for the infantry,  I began my training in the renamed Chemical Corps that was attached to the Army Air Corps.  Because “Chemical Warfare Service” seemed a bit too harsh after the WWI experience, it was renamed Chemical Corps.    

I was being trained to decontaminate troops after being exposed to poisonous gases like cyanide and mustard.  The enemy could drop or spray it anywhere to quietly settle over the troops so it was on them before they even  noticed it was there.  If it soaked into their clothes they might as well forget it.  Any kind of gas, mustard, hydrogen, cyanide—there were lots of choices, that could be used for different situations.  Though my mask was easy to use, it was bulky and tiresome to always carry over my shoulder.

San Antonio, February 19, 1943. Pictures are from my album.
San Antonio, February 19, 1943. Pictures are from my album.

Later that year, I left Little Rock heading for the Putnam home in Chicago to be with Melvina before my transfer to Duncan Field in San Antonio, Texas.  After corresponding with me a few months Melvina completed her beautician training and came to San Antonio looking for a position in a beauty shop so we could be closer together.  Melvina and I were married February 19, 1943 close to Fort Alamo  Riverside Baptist Church.  A few weeks after our wedding,  Melvina went home to Chicago to live with her sister Pearl.

At the same time, a train transported me and my company to Hampton Roads, Virginia, which was a main hub during both world wars for movement of millions of troops over seas. From there, our ship joined the main convoy off Newfoundland and left for Europe.  Over twenty thousand men on nine Liberty Ships left at night.  For the next twelve days all we saw was water.  I was never a sailor and was really sick at the rail.  Still, after days on board the ship, I could not stay below without throwing up.  One of the officers noticed and took me above deck to the gunner’s nest and told me to sit in the swivel chair and watch for anything strange in the water.  When we reached Gibraltar, we waited for the rest of the convoy to catch up. Our huge convoy entered the most dangerous waters off the coast of Europe.  One night, while on watch duty between Gibraltar and England, I saw one of our tankers blown to pieces by a torpedo that must have been launched by a German submarine.

When we reached the English Channel, it was mined and only the British knew the safe passage to the harbor and in order to not be blown up,  all the ships in the convoy waited to be piloted through the mine field.  While in England, I and my company were assigned to live in the South Hampton area of Stanstead,  Essex, England, where we received more training in chemicals like lewisite and hydrogen sulfide. We, in turn, would be teaching it to other allied companies.

My training in detection was mainly defensive and never included how to offensively use poison gas, but I had to know how it was dispersed.  The first part of detection training was simple: learn how to crawl through a field strung with wire to the suspected poisoned area, crawl underneath it for 30 or 40 feet on hands and knees, mostly on hands, and prepare to holler, “All is clear.” And hope like hell I was right.   If I was wrong, I would probably die as soon as I loosened my mask.  Of course, training was a little more complicated than that, because I would have had testing equipment and been with a squad of men to analyze the air content before giving the “All is clear.”  After each exercise that was really a test of endurance, I would go back to camp, take a bath, and sit around with 50 or 60 troops joking and laughing, where many off color taunts were tossed about.  The ancient taunt,  “Do you know what your wife is doing back home?” still caused trouble in 1944.   I heard it many times and it was sure to cause a fight between young men who missed their wives and family.  Usually their friends would break it up before any great harm was done.

floyd-redcrossstampsMy American Red Cross coupon, good for chow anywhere in Belgium, Luxembourg, France, or Germany was one of the most important documents in my possession and gave credence to “The army travels on its stomach.”  Used mostly for meals while traveling, it could even be used to figure exchange rates between those countries.  My buddies and I often went on trips near London for lunch, where I, more than once, joined the Brits in bomb shelters during German air raids.  On a  trip outside London, I saw a girl dressed in army clothing.  This was strange to me as I had not seen a girl dressed like that before.  I asked her what her uniform meant and she said that she was part of the British Land Army.  She and other women did the farm work while the men were at the front.  We visited Piccadilly Square, and once even went to Buckingham Palace and stood at the front gate where we saw Princess Margaret when she was about seven years old. She waved at us from one of the upper windows, and we all waved back back just before Princess Elizabeth appeared and took Margaret away from the window.  It is nice to remember that moment.

We left England for the Cherbourg (Cotentin) Peninsula on D-Day. Our forces landed at Omaha Beach about three miles west of St. Lo, France on June 6, 1944.  British, Canadians, and Australians each had their own landing sites in order to engage German forces from as many directions as possible.  When my ship arrived at Omaha Beach, we were looking at countless ships, landing crafts, barges, and many downed planes.  Army landing crafts were making countless trips ferrying personnel across rough surf stirred up by all the wind and activity.  On D-day plus 2, my company of the Chemical Corps, was among the last of the invasion force to hit shore.  Unless poison gas was suspected, ferrying infantry into the landing zone and the wounded back out to the hospital ships in front of us was highest priority.  From on board ships we watched while men were fighting above a high embankment with mortar flying around them while German shelling continued on top of the hill.  Germans used some wooden bullets that splintered when they hit and did a lot of damage.  I brought some of these bullets home with me.

When I waded ashore, there was some enemy fire, so I thanked God it was fairly dark.  The sky was still light enough to reveal a dead civilian entangled in some wire about 20 feet above the ground.  I am still haunted by that sight, wondering how in hell he wound up in that mess.  Did he jump off the cliff to avoid enemy fire, or what?  I never found out, but it sticks in my mind.  A few minutes later, someone from a completely different unit spoke to me.  He recognized me and said, “Fancy meeting you here.” It was one of the Schumckal boys from Hannah, which is only five miles from Kingsley.  I was so surprised to see him, I only said,  “The bastards are up there.  See Ya,–or not.”  That is all we said to each other and I never saw him again.

There was still a lot of firing above us and Sargent Jerry Lord said, “I hope they are shooting at each other and not us.”  We had nothing but our detection equipment to fight with, but I wouldn’t have minded throwing my gas mask at them.  My company marched to St. Lo after it was secured.  Fighting had been furious even before my company landed at Normandy.

We were at St. Lo until well into July, 1944.  While there, my training continued with officers and a few other enlisted men.  The officers, looking like they were sixteen, were supposed to know everything.  While looking for someone to lead the group in training, my buddies recommended me to conduct classes.  In most sessions, an officer would say, “Could we have Private First Class Webster step forward?

I often said to my friend, “They must be in love with me.”

After the supervisor, a major or some other rank, assigned me to teach,  I usually started by saying something like,  “Good afternoon officers, gentlemen, Colonel Bradford.”  There were a lot of things that I wanted to say like “Sure glad you’re overweight,” even though they were guys like you and me.  But I got up there and said, ”Colonel,” there was a swath of officers, “I probably can’t tell you any more about chemical warfare than you already know, because your training has been much the same as mine.”   It’s here where I say, “ Chemical Corps started because—Karl (a pseudonym for Hitler and all the German people), being the bright man that he is, he might, one day, want to fight in a different way.  So I am going to take you through this and if you have questions to ask, ask them and if I know the answer, I’ll tell you.  If I don’t know the answer, then neither of us will know. “

You need a little wise crack in now and then.  It makes it better.  I had to tread lightly.  Those guys were Lieutenants, Majors, Colonels, and here I was a private first class trying not to make them feel that I thought I was smarter than they were.

Image of St. Lo after conflict. Image made publicly available by the German Federal Archive, Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1994-035-17 / Vennemann / CC-BY-SA [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (], via Wikimedia Commons.
Image of St. Lo after conflict. Image made publicly available by the German Federal Archive, Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1994-035-17 / Vennemann / CC-BY-SA [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (], via Wikimedia Commons.
The infantry kept the Germans from breaking through our lines and forcing us back into the water, but our location seemed to be the focal point of the fighting for the British, French, and Canadians were all converging there to force the Germans out of the hedgerows and back to Paris.  My specialized training held me in reserve, while others in my company had similar assignments in England, Belgium, and Germany, just in case the Germans used liquid blistering agents like lewisite or other gases.  We waited for the order which never came to “Come forward and test.”  In that event we knew that the worst had happened.   A terrible agent may have wiped out a whole regiment of troops and thousands of civilians.  Thank God, the army was not attacked with chemicals and never ordered to use them but they had many ready for deployment as did the Italians, Germans, and Japanese.  I found out years later that the only place we were close to using chemical weapons was at The Battle of Tarawa in late November 1943.  If that had happened, the enemy would have done the same and the death toll would have much worse when, nine months later, our troops stormed ashore at Omaha Beach and a month after that at the Battle of the Bulge (our command called it “The Ardennes Counteroffensive”).

Some of my company left for Liege, Belgium on the Red Ball Line Highway when the Battle of the Bulge began. Word finally came that I, and what was left of my company, were to leave St. Lo after a short stay at Le Havre, and then on to Camp Chesterfield  in Aachen, Germany after it had been taken in the Battle of Aachen  on October 21, 1944.  While there, in November, I  had numerous colds, but no one knows what brought it on besides the cold and windy weather.  I became weaker and weaker until even standing guard duty became difficult.  I must have let the winter weather and constant cold get the best of me.  I do not remember quite how I came to be discovered half under a parked vehicle, but I was soon recognized and someone acknowledged that I wasn’t a drunk.  An officer soon took me to see a doctor who diagnosed me with double pneumonia.  The doctor also found severe irritations in my nasal and pharyngeal passages.  It seemed strange that my symptoms mimicked the effects of benzyl bromide, one of the many poisons that I was sent to detect.  Headquarters sent me to recuperate at the 114th Hospital in Echternach, Luxembourg, just south of the German boarder.  My recovery was slow, so when most of my company left to support other groups in the Pacific Theater to fight the Japanese, I was left behind.

While at the 114th, enlisted men such as myself, often ate with officers at the chow hall.  One day, I met a colonel whose name was Neil Brownson.  We were really surprised to see each other as Neil was the son of Doctor Jay and Effie Brownson.  Neil had also grown up in Kingsley in the big white house just north of the present day bank building and after the war went on to practice medicine at Munson Hospital.

For a short time, while still recovering from pneumonia, I was sent back near St. Lo to stay at Shad Coterie Chateau.  Not far from St. Lo and near Caen, France, I was able to do some sight-seeing.  There was a small cemetery nearby that had a recent burial site, oddly separated from the rest of the sites by four low walls of stones.  The only information available was that an enlisted man was purposely buried apart from any other servicemen.  He had decided that he wanted out of the service and refused any alternative assignments—even a rear-echelon position.  When he and his squad were sent on a forward reconnaissance, he attempted to surrender to advancing Germans.  His squad was quickly overrun and most of the men were killed.  His burial was kept separate due to his dishonor.

Other men disappeared like a young fellow that my buddy and I were in charge of after he shot his Sergeant.  We were ordered to settle him in a cold tent with little warmth, but we later supplied him with blankets. Before he was scheduled to ship home to be tried for murder, we let him loose to be free to go to chow and walk around camp.  He asked for us before he was taken away.  My officer said, “Don’t forget. This is war.  A lot of things happen in war.  Records will probably show, ‘He died in war’”.

When I had recovered enough to be able to work inside, my main assignment was to The Postal Service,  for the rest of the war.  The Chemical Corps still claimed me for short durations as a student or as a trainer.

It is hard for me to retrace my experiences and various locations in Europe after 69 years.  My rear-echelon work in Europe had no fixed locations or duty assignments even during battles because: 1.The services peculiar to the Chemical Corps were not in demand.  2. Our company personnel were loaned out to other units helping in any way we could.  3. In addition to varied duties, we attended chemical decontamination classes, and each one of us shuttled at least once between England and mainland Europe. 4. Unless hospitalized, people, like myself in physical recovery, trailed a few days behind each allied advancement through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, and Austria.

Late in 1945, prisoners were treated with less suspicion as they were glad to be out of battle, had food to eat and a dry place to sleep.  While stationed at Kassel, which is about half-way through Germany, we were in charge of German prisoners. Whatever the officers wanted, prisoners would run and fetch it as they were happy to be out of the midst of the battle. In early May 1945, I followed the advance into Austria while still filling in as part of The Postal Service.  One morning, just outside our camp I saw what looked like a whole army.  There were thousands of men and I thought, “I hope they are not surrendering.  If they are, how in hell are we going to feed that many?”  Tanks and other armored vehicles came with them.  They wore the strangest looking uniforms that I have ever seen.  Some had big fancy tall decorations on their helmets and short skirts.  We wondered, “How do they expected to stay warm dressed like that?” They did not understand us and one spoke in Italian, while others pantomimed that they needed more food.

A fence soon separated them from us and we were warned to keep our distance from them, but we asked if they wanted some of our rations of stew and bread.  They held their hands out like they didn’t know what it was we were asking.  We hollered back, “Stew”.  We must have looked imposing, while they must have mistook “Stew” for a command unknown to us, because a huge avenue quickly formed through their ranks.  They were most grateful when we tossed stew soaked bread over the fence instead of opening fire on them.  One of our officers asked for an Italian interpreter and a man came forward and was told that they hadn’t eaten in three days.  Word went out to the nearby village that more food supplies were needed which were soon brought for them.  Lousy, starving, and not clothed for the weather, they were in horrible shape.  After they had eaten, we watched as their clothes were burned, they were hosed down, deloused and re-clothed with army fatigues that had “POW” printed on the backs.  I have often wondered how the supposedly Italians traveled from their battle front with all those strange uniforms.  Were they really Italians forced to fight for the Nazi’s or were they Germans that changed their clothing for any uniform they could find hoping to hide their true identity?  Why did they respond so strangely to our shouted word, “Stew”?  Our command never gave us any information about who they were.

On May 7, 1945, I was reading a letter from Mrs. Dorothy Wood, the mother of a school chum, Bill Wood, whom often wrote me most welcome messages of news from home.  An army buddy burst in with the news, “Well the war is over here, now we are soon off to Japan.”  Three days later, I was called into the camp office and as I was walking to the door, I thought, “Well here we go to Japan.”

Seated was a major who said, “How are you , soldier?”

“Okay.  A little weak, but okay.” I said.

Jerry Lord is the big guy on the right.  The photo was damaged somehow in the last 69 years—he really had a nose.
Jerry Lord is the big guy on the right. The photo was damaged somehow in the last 69 years—he really had a nose.

He said, “Well we have here a statement from Supreme Headquarters Allied Forces Europe , that you are married, have a child, have been awarded four service medals each for the four battles in which you have been involved: Normandy Invasion, St. Lo, Aachen, and The Ardennes Counteroffensive.  You have earned enough points with three years served—we are sending you home instead of the Pacific.  You and most of your company will ‘Step Aside’.” Those words were never more welcome.  I said my goodbyes to my buddies and especially my good friend, Jerry Lord, before I left.  We shook hands for the last time.  Months later, I went looking for him and found out that after the war, he was transferred to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, but his plane went missing somewhere over our home state.  It seemed a hell of a way to die after going through the whole war.  To this day, losing my buddy,  is still my most painful memory of the war.

I put my duffel bag over my shoulder, got on the truck, and left for Camp Chesterfield, Holland.  Traveling through Germany in 1945 by train with more than 140 box cars day and night, all you could see was devastation of that country.  We finally arrived in La Harve on the coast of France and left for the USA.  We did not stop in England, just the same journey in reverse of my trip over there—eleven days of water, water, and more water, but what a great sight was the Statue of Liberty all lit up in the New York Harbor.  The band was playing while I stood on the deck with my mouth hanging open.

A few days later, I left by train for Chicago to meet my wife and son, Dennis.  I had learned of his birth when on leave in France.  My brother-in-law and sister, Ed and Norma Clous, came to Chicago and helped me and my family move home to Kingsley.  When we walked through the door, greeting me all across the back wall of the kitchen, was was a big sign written, “Welcome home, Daddy.”  When I left the U. S., I was newly married, childless, and going to Europe to fight for an undetermined amount of time.  Thousands of people in terrible conditions were still fresh in my mind along with good and bad deeds done by most everyone involved.  Now, I had to wipe that slate clean and learn to be a husband, father, and provider.

After coming home, I played piano in a band called Satler’s Night Hawks, helped my brother Carl paint houses, and then was employed at Parts Manufacturing in Traverse City where my father worked.  We both became union Stewards in jobs that lasted many years.  I was the last man out before the doors were closed for good.  Out of work,  I went job hunting in Chicago.  I had a couple of good offers, but before I accepted anything, Melvina called to tell me that the personnel office at the State Hospital in Traverse City had called about a job opening.  So, I said goodbye to Chicago, drove five hours home to Kingsley, and the next morning went to the hospital and applied for that position.  I was hired and worked there for twenty five years.

Brenda Wolfgram Moore was a resident of Kingsley, a local historian and genealogist, who passed away in 2014. Peter Newell is a  good friend of Floyd Webster’s, and a published author. Newell is currently working on another oral history of a Kingsley resident who served in World War II.

Reminiscing on Nursing at Munson Hospital: What Nursing Means to Me

In honor of Frances (Fran) Virginia Fall Beattie, R.N., who recently passed on February 16, 2015, your editors are pleased to publish Fran’s short piece, both a moving tribute to the profession of nursing and her time spent at the medical hospital here in Traverse City. Fran was born in March 1921, and graduated from Traverse City High School in 1940. She attended the Traverse City State Hospital School for nurses, earning her registered nurse designation in 1943. She was promptly hired in General Duty Nursing at James Decker Munson Hospital, where she remained for 30 years. While raising her two young daughters she worked part-time occasionally, but never quit the field.

Frances Virginia Fall Beattie, R.N.
Traverse City, MI

Licensed in the State of Michigan, Registration number 31774, Employed at James Decker Munson Hospital, General Duty Nursing.

“You are a pretty nurse and you are a good nurse!”

The voice came from a little brown wrinkled Indian lady.

“Thank you, my dear!”

Inside I felt good–also, very humble and somehow the day’s work seemed lighter. We cherish things like this and store them away in our memory, hoping that we too will give encouragement and praise to those we are caring for.

Frances V. Fall, graduated from State Hospital School of Nursing, August 19, 1943.

I was trying to recall just when I decided I wanted to become a nurse and why. It was in my first or second year of high school. It was just a gradual feeling deep inside of wanting to help others. There was no dramatic inclination and I had no glamorous ideas about the nursing profession like some girls have. At the time I decided definitely, I had been a visitor to the hospital just once.

I remember as a senior student nurse, I was holding a child about eighteen months’ old, while an emergency tracheotomy was being performed. Before the operation was completed, the child died. As soon as I could leave, I fled to the utility room with tears streaming down my cheeks. Yes, there are heartaches to be sure, but the joy of seeing patients improve and get well, more than makes up for the heartaches.

A pillow turned or staightened, a bedside table moved where more convenient for the patient, a glass of juice; yes, a smile and a cheery word or two, these little things mean so much to the person confined to bed.

Frances V. Fall (Beattie) and classmate Fern Rinehart (Collins)
Frances V. Fall (Beattie) and classmate Fern Rinehart (Collins)

This is a challenging profession! Take the critical patient or the one with a long convalescence–sometimes we spend weeks and months in caring for these patients. The patient becomes discouraged, we get weary. But we keep a cheerful smile. Time goes on and very little improvement. Then comes a gradual improvement until the patient goes home. We wonder how they will get along. A few weeks later, we look up to see a smiling face at our side, looking the picture of health. Yes, you say to yourself, this makes it all worthwhile. This is why I like nursing.

“Mr. Thomas, what did you do to your bed?”

“Wal, I don’t know. I’s crawled back into bed and I can hardly get under them sheets. Then I feel somethin’ like paper that I’m on and oh, is so tight. I thought, what’s wrong, never been tight like dis before, so I pulled it all loose.”

By then, everyone in the room was laughing and when we told him he had tried to get under the draw sheet, he laughed and laughed, his big white teeth looking so very white in his shiny black face.

After twenty years of nursing, I can truthfully say to you young people, I would do it again and I encourage you to enter the nursing profession. Life is not easy come-easy go, the things worthwhile, we strive for and acquire.

Frances, Standing at entry to Munson dorm (now a State office building).
Frances, Standing at entry to Munson dorm (now a State office building).

There will be times while in training that you will become discouraged, you will wonder if it is worth the effort, but it is, Don’t give up! Once you have become a registered nurse, you have something which you can make use of the rest of your life. If you marry and raise a family, you will be better equipped to face the future having had the training.

There is a variety of fields in which to practice and you will find the one you like best. There will always be a demand for nurses and you will always have work if you want it. There is sadness, gladness, weariness and fun, a great variety, but it all adds up to a wonderful life. Won’t you join us?

Dorothy (Dottie) M. Lanham, 1924-2014

We mark the passing of community elder Dorothy (Dottie) M. Lanham, who died on December 30, 2014, five days after her 90th birthday.
15-year-old Dottie Lanham, her companion Jerry, and the view from their Burdickville home: Glen Lake and Alligator Hill (now part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore) 1939
15-year-old Dottie Lanham, her companion Jerry, and the view from their Burdickville home: Glen Lake and Alligator Hill (now part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore), 1939.

Dottie was born on Christmas Day, 1924—a fourth-generation citizen of Burdickville, the small village along the southeast shore of Glen Lake. She grew up in Burdickville, married a man from Burdickville, and lived the rest of her life in and around Burdickville. She raised two children there, helped run a business there, and continued til the end to help care for and preserve Burdickville’s historic Old Settlers Picnic Ground. Plainly, Dottie knew and loved Burdickville and the surrounding area.

In 1997 Dottie was named Leelanau County Woman of the Year, based on her years of community service. During recent times she spent many hours preserving the history of Burdickville and surrounding areas. She made her large collection of family photographs available for digital preservation, and spent many hours providing related information.
A book based largely on Dottie’s photos and oral history interviews (but also including pages about others from the surrounding community) can be viewed HERE. Excerpts from her oral history interviews and those of others are available HERE.
Thanks to Tom Van Zoeren for this month’s “Celebrate the People,” honoring a true crusader for local history and nature conservation. Van Zoeren is a retired Sleeping Bear Dunes Park Ranger, who now works to preserve Port Oneida history. All of the oral history interviews, their transcripts, and related photos that have been collected have been donated to the public domain and are available in digital form at the Glen Lake Library (Empire) or from Tom. He welcomes your questions, comments, and further Port Oneida information (via email

Remembering People and Businesses Past, Kingsley in mid-20th Century

In this month’s “Celebrate the People,” we celebrate the long memory of Kathleen “Katy” (Adams) Hedden née Webster, a life-long Kingsley resident. Born in Kingsley in 1936, she lived on Fenton Street during her formative years until after her own children had grown. Her uncle, Floyd Webster, has been the Kingsley historian since the 1950s, and her attention to detail in this interview reflects a family love for Kingsley history. She continues to tell stories about Kingsley people and businesses, although she has joined the ranks of the ‘snowbirds’. See you in the summer, Katy!

Profuse thanks goes out to interviewer Connie Newell and editor Pete Newell. Without their dogged persistence, we likely would not have this interview to enjoy today! As always, Grand Traverse Journal is keen on publishing the stories of people that make up our communities, so please, take the time this New Year to get your stories down on paper for future generations, and submit them to the Journal!

by Connie Newell
edited by Pete Newell and Kathleen Hedden
29 October 2014

C: What were your parents names?

K: My mother’s name was Claribel Wales, the oldest of 6 children born to George and Ina Wales, in 1916.  They lived on Old Mission Peninsula. My dad was born in Alma, Michigan in 1908, his parents were Walter and Martha Webster . His name was Carl, he had 2 sisters and a brother.

C: Were there doctors in town?

K: The only village doctor when I was a child was J. J. Brownson.  My grandmother Martha Webster, a mid-wife worked with him. He was a horse and buggy doctor.

C: How did they come to live in Kingsley?

K: My dad and his parents moved here when he was a child, as did my mother and her family. My Webster grandparents lived on Blair Street in the house where Diane and Dan Walton  live. My mother’s parents lived on a farm two miles east of Kingsley where Mom spent most of her childhood. She and her 5 siblings walked to the old  Sparling School  which was located  on Wood Road, it was a K through 8 school. I don’t know anything about my grandparent’s education. When my mother advanced to the ninth grade, she had to transfer to the high  School in Kingsley  . Of course there was no bus service,  she walked 2 ½ miles to and from Kingsley every day. As the roads were not plowed in the winter , she boarded with a family in Kingsley for the winter months. My mother was 19 years old, had one year of college, and worked as a bookkeeper at Kingsley Co-op when she and  my Dad were married.  The old Sparling School now sits on Fenton Street in Kingsley on the back of the Earl Haycraft property.

K: During the logging days, the lumbering companies hauled logs to the top of the high roll-away, located near Buckley on the Manistee River. There, logs would be rolled into the river and floated  down to the mill. My mother-in-law and father-in-law were Sam and Joy Adams. One summer Sam Adams, and Frank Kolarovic, (his son, Jim, lives across from the post office) were part of a crew  hired to work  the river finding dead heads, (sunken logs that had hit snags), freeing them and floating them down river to the mill. My mother-in-law, Joy, was hired to cook for the crew in a little shack built on the raft for shelter. It was too dangerous for my future husband, Larry, (her two year old son), to be allowed to run free and get in the crew’s way or venture too close to the edge of the raft that had no railing, so he was tethered with a rope and they spent most of that summer on the Manistee.

C: Where did they get married?

K:   I think my parents were married  in Traverse City by a Justice of The Peace. An interesting fact involved the old Kingsley telephone office. All were party line phones and had to be manually connected to anyone not within a close geographical area, so the telephone operator heard everything on the phone lines to and from the 500 or so people living in the Kingsley area. My dad went to Traverse City to get the marriage license, but he couldn’t remember my grandma’s maiden name and it had to be on the license. He called through the Kingsley Telephone Office to talk with my mother and asked, “What is your mother’s maiden name?” Before he got back to Kingsley everyone knew that Carl and Claribel were getting married and he had gotten a marriage license that day.

C: What did your father do?

Downtown Kingsley in the 1930s. The building furthest away, north of M113, was Hooper's tavern, where Katy's folks first lived when they moved to Kingsley. The Cleland Tavern, where movies were shown on the painted screen on the building's side, is now where the auto supply store sits. Image courtesy of the Floyd Webster Historical Photograph Collection,
Downtown Kingsley in the 1930s. The building furthest away, north of M113, was Hooper’s tavern, where Katy’s folks first lived when they moved to Kingsley. The Cleland Tavern, where movies were shown on the painted screen on the building’s side, is now the home of Kingsley (Thirlby) Automotive. Image courtesy of the Floyd Webster Historical Photograph Collection,

K: Most of his life, he painted and did wallpapering. My mom  didn’t work outside the home until I was old enough to baby sit myself. She took a job as cashier at the Kingsley IGA store which is now the pizza place  kitty corner from the Post Office. After my parents married, they moved into a little apartment behind the tavern that I think was owned by Bean Shaftee, brother of Rosie Hooper,  Joe Hooper’s mother.  The tavern was located where the Subway sandwich now stands. Later  Bean had a furniture store there.  After the furniture store, it became a series of gas stations, first a Pure Station, and later a Shell Station. After the gas stations, it was purchased and became the Dairy D soft ice cream shop owned by Cal and Phyllis Kroupa. I worked there one summer when it was owned by Cal and Phyllis . It was later sold to Keith and Pauline Aeschliman.  After that it was owned by the  Gomez family and Phil had his barber shop in the room on the north end of the building.

I was maybe a year or two years old when my folks moved to the house across from the Methodist Church. In my early childhood, we had an outdoor toilet and used the pages of catalogs for toilet paper.  I think that was pretty standard back in the ’30s.  Those colored pages, were heck. My great grandma Keffer had a “two holer.”She had taken an old fur coat, cut a hole in it, put it on the seat, so you wouldn’t have to sit on that cold piece of wood in the winter time. It was a fur lined toilet seat. How is that for comfort? We lived there on Blair Street until I was about 5 years old when my folks built a house on Fenton Street.

After I married, my folks bought land on the Boardman River and built a new house there. My husband, Larry, and I bought the Fenton Street house from them. I lived there from the time I was a small child until after our children were grown .  Larry and I bought the Floyd Adams farm on Blackman Road and  built our house overlooking “Adams Pond” . Kingsley hardly resembles today what it was like as I was growing up, except for some of the old brick buildings in downtown Kingsley. In a town the size of Kingsley, everybody knew everybody and when someone passed away I remember a lady who went house to house,  Mrs. Marion Manigold, asking for donations for funeral flowers for the deceased.  People just expected to help. It was part of our lives.

C: What was your first husband’s name?

K: Larry Adams. Larry and I were engaged to be married just before I started my senior year of high school. He gave me a ring on my birthday in August and we were married in July of the following year. There were 26 students in my senior year of high school . A couple of boys dropped out at the end of the first  semester joining the Marines, leaving only 24 to graduate.  Four of the graduates  went to college, continuing education wasn’t any big thing then.

C: How long were you married to Larry?

K: 45 years. He died of cancer that he had battled for sixteen years.

C: When you were young, what was there to do in Kingsley? Were there theaters?

K: There were free shows every Saturday night in the summer. When I was a teenager, movies were held next to where The Rock teen center is today.  Previous to that, and still visible, a big white movie screen was painted on the south wall of Kingsley Automotive that was Baldie’s (Cleland) tavern at that time.  There were wooden benches for seating where the fitness center stands today. Farmers would come into town Saturday nights, get groceries, bring their families, and stay for a free show. The village merchants  stayed open and they financed  the rental of the movies.  Ken Mox opened a hardware store where the fitness center is today, after the movies were moved from Baldie’s to the lot south and east of there. Next door to that Wayne Lewis opened a barbershop, which later became a beauty shop.

K: I did a lot of baby sitting for Henry Mox, who, today, is remodeling the house in which he was raised, on the corner of Fenton and Brownson Streets.  His dad, Ken, owned the hardware store in Kingsley and his mother, Mildred, went to the store every afternoon to do the bookwork while I took care of Henry. As soon as I got out of school, I would go to their house. While I took care of Henry, I did dishes, vacuumed the floors, and did errands for 25 cents per hour. There was always a sink full of dirty dishes. I took care of Henry for several years. A few years later Henry’s brother, Mark was born, and I took care of him too, when he and his mother came home from the hospital. I did a lot of babysitting during my high school years. I was the last female paper carrier for The Grand Rapids Herald newspaper. I delivered papers from when I was 12 or 13 until I graduated from high school. I don’t remember how much I earned, but the paper cost 20 cents a week for delivery.  I can remember one person who gave me a tip every Saturday, which was collection day. He always gave me a nickel tip.

Ralph Case family home on Brownson Avenue north of M113, 1934. The farm house on the left became the Smith (now Covell-Smith)  Funeral Home, where Katy babysat the Smith children.
Ralph Case family home on Brownson Avenue north of M113, 1934. The farm house on the left became the Smith (now Covell-Smith) Funeral Home, where Katy baby-sat the Smith children. Image courtesy of the Floyd Webster Historical Photograph Collection,

K: I also sat for Claude and Mildred Smith who lived in the upstairs portion of the Smith funeral home.  I was always a little uncomfortable, knowing there was a body or two downstairs. Shenbelle, the oldest of the children liked to greet visitors at the shared entry door of the apartment and funeral home. One of the regular visitors was the Traverse City Record Eagle paper carrier, Larry Adams.  He loved to tell the story about going there to leave the paper and little Shenbelle would greet him at the door and say, “Would you like to come in and see the body?” He never did.

K: There was a new nursing school in Traverse City at Northwestern Community College. I decided that I wanted to enter the program. I had not taken chemistry in school, so before school started in the fall, I went to see Joe Bellinger, the superintendent of Kingsley Schools, (then known as Paradise Township Unit Schools), and told him that since they had the nursing  program beginning in Traverse, I would like to go for an RN, but I had not taken chemistry in high school, and regretted not having taken it.  I wanted to come back to school every day and take chemistry with the high school students.  I was accepted back to school and took the class.  Announcements were made over the P.A. every day.  One morning during class, the announcement came, “Katy Adams, would you come to the office when class is over?”  I was so embarrassed in front of these kids, I was  28 years old then with a bunch of kids who were 17 or 18 and I was getting called to the office. I went to the office right after class.

Mr. Bellinger said, “I’ve looked over your school records, and I see that you’ve taken bookkeeping, typing, and know shorthand. They all pertain to secretarial work, and my secretary is leaving. I would like to offer you the job.”

I was flabbergasted. I had no idea prior, to why I was called to the office. I told him, “I will talk this over with my husband and let you know, but if I take the job, I want you to know that I am two months pregnant.”

He said, “Well if you give me your word that you will not quit as soon as your baby is born, that won’t make any difference to me. But, I don’t want you to learn everything and then leave me after a few months, I would rather start training someone else.”

I talked with my husband, Larry. He didn’t have any problem with the job offer. So I canceled my thoughts of nursing. I kind of weighed it, because I would have to go to college for a few years to be an RN and would be driving every day to classes, and have extra expenses. To have a  job at school, I would just walk a block to work and would always be home weekends with my husband and children. My hours wouldn’t be much longer than my children’s school hours. It seemed that was the way to go. So, when I accepted the job, he said, “Now you will really stay after you baby is born.” I said that I would. I stayed for 32 years.

C: What did they pay to start?

K: I started out at $3000 a year which was OK back then.

C: What did you wind up making? Did you get insurance and a pension?

K: Yes. When I left the school position, I was getting over $16 per hour. I knew, initially, that my job entailed almost everything.  I did all of the general office work, helping out with secretarial duties for both elementary and secondary principals, as well as the superintendent, all of the bookkeeping for the district, the hot lunch account, the check writing, the payroll, and whatever else popped up. At that time, Larry was working for Schall’s Bread Company in Traverse City. He had a route going store to store from Traverse City to Elk Rapids delivering bread, rolls, and other baked goods.

C: Did Larry paint houses?

K: My husband never painted. My father painted.  Grandpa Webster, my dad’s father, painted for years, but he ended up retiring from Parts Manufacturing  plant in Traverse City.  My dad had various jobs when he was a young man.  He cooked in the C.C. camps and later was a cook on an iron ore ship on the great lakes. My son has two degrees from Ferris State University and worked as a personnel director for United Technologies and later as business manager for Thomas and Betts, both in Boyne City. He tired of that and he now has a successful painting business and has several people working for him.  I think painting is in the Webster blood.

C: What are your kid’s names?

K: My oldest daughter, is Lori Lynn Norton, the wife of a minister. Lori and Terry have two children. He’s had four churches since they have been married.

C: Your next child down?

K: My second child is Lindsey Webster Adams, who with his wife Shannon have 2 sons.  My youngest is Kara Ann Schmidt, an accountant married to Damon, a mechanical engineer.

C: Did you go to church here in town?

K: I have been a member of Kingsley Baptist Church for 50 years.  After Larry died, I married Ken Hedden.  Pastor Summerfield married us in the old Baptist Church on Blair Street.  During the ceremony he said, “I always counsel couples before I marry them, but between Katy and Ken they have been married 95 years, I didn’t think they need counseling.”

Katy and Ken Hedden, at Christmas-time 2012.
Katy and Ken Hedden, at Christmas-time 2012. Image courtesy of Kathleen Hedden.

C: Did you like Ken when you met him?

K: It was a blind date.  Ken is a very nice person. I had met him once a couple of years prior  but really didn’ t remember him.  He had lost his wife to cancer a couple months before I lost my husband.  One evening, a mutual friend said to me, “Shall we ask Ken if he would like to go out to dinner with us?”  I said “Yes.”  So, the four of us went out to dinner and afterward went back to their house and played cards.

Ken soon asked, “Can I pick you up tomorrow night?”

I said, “I don’t think so.”

Ken asked, “Well how about the next night?”

“I’m pretty busy.”

Ken said, “Well, how about a movie this weekend?”

I finally said, “Alright. We can go out to a movie this weekend.”

C: I bet you thought that you would never get married again.

K: I thought, “Well I’m  63. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life by myself.”

Downtown Kingsley, 1957.  Close on far right is the IGA; in the distance are the Standard and Pure gas stations at the corner of M113 and Brownson Avenue.
Downtown Kingsley, 1957. On far left is the IGA; in the distance are the Standard and Pure gas stations at the corner of M113 and Brownson Avenue. Image courtesy of the Floyd Webster Historical Photograph Collection,

C: Were there many gas stations?

K: Yes. There were several gas stations. Bob Adcock’s building on the south side was Davis’ Gas Station. Another one sat where John Sedlacek’s shop is on the SW corner of M113 and Brownson. Straight across M113 was the Standard Station that belonged to Mickey Mox. Across Brownson to the east was the Pure/Shell Station. I say that because it was first Pure then Shell. What is now the vacant lot west on the SE corner of Cottage and M113, there was a grocery/gas station.  Some of the owners that I recall over the years were Harold Vogue, Chet Berdinski, and Durwin Mackey.  On the next block, where the ice cream shop is now, SE corner of Clark and M113, was an Old Dutch gas station owned by Al Hoeflin.

There were several grocery stores on the  main street (Brownson) in Kingsley.  The first owner that I remember was Ed Mox, then later bought out by Bob Lint and Don Westrate.  The pizza place is where the IGA store used to be, and right next to that was Clover Leaf Store what you might call a dime store belonging to Frook’s. It was later owned by Louie Kyselka. Next door  was Sieffert’s Grocery Store, which was operated by Thelma Sieffert and was later converted to the Kingsley Bank. Next to that was the drug store operated by Lane (Doc) Fenton. You could go right from the grocery store straight through to the drug store. Nixon’s was another grocery store but when it  burned, Ray and Agnes put in a Gamble’s store . The next building belonged to Frank Baldwin. He had a barber shop in the front and in the back was a pool hall with always a card game going on.  Grandpa Webster spent a lot of time playing cards there which really irritated my grandmother.

K: I lived on Fenton Street for about 40 years–from when I was a small child  until my children graduated from high school. Floyd Webster lived right where he lives now. When he came back from the army, that was his and Melvina’s first house. He, my parents, and grandpa built it.

C: You said that your kids went kindergarten through twelfth grade in the local school?

K: Yes. All grades were located in one building.

C: How did your mother get clothes for you?

K: She made them when I was a child. I don’t know how old I was before she got a washing machine. Before that she used a scrubbing board.

C: Did you mind being an only child?

K: I can remember them asking me, “Wouldn’t you like to have a little brother or sister?” I  always gave them the same answer, “No.”

C: Did you as a teenager do the sleep over thing?

K: I didn’t really do much of that. One thing I enjoyed, growing up, was roller skating.  For several years, while I was in junior high and high school, a company would come once a week with roller skates. The school would open up the gym, students could come there and rent the skates, have the music going and roller skate. They would have special things to do. The girls would line up and the boys would line up, and you would pair up according to the position in each line, much like a reel. Another thing we did as kids—the pond on our street, it’s still there behind the Westrate house, that’s what we called “The Little Pond.”  It always froze over early in the winter time because it was shallow. We would meet there every night and bring our shovels, clean it off, skate, and get warm by a bonfire . As the winter progressed, what we called “The Big Pond” would freeze, and our gathering would go there, what was a lot bigger than it is now.

K: By the time my kids were old enough to go ice skating that area of Fenton Street was being built up, so the village built a rink at Brownson Park, and it was well lit.  The town kids would walk there and skate afternoons and evenings.  Broomball was popular, especially with the young boys.

C: Who were the wealthy people in town?

K: I think Frank Saylor was the only one that I would have called wealthy.  I remember that  Al Hoeflin, who had the Old Dutch gas station, had the first television in town. My dad had the second one and Rex Henschell had the third.  You knew who had TV’s because of the tall antennas that were necessary to bring in the only 2 channels, Green Bay and Milwaukee, were available.  I was on the village council quite a few years. Not many people showed up to the meetings.


Bologna for Thanksgiving and other Adventures of the Brautigam Family of Kingsley

by Eileen (Brautigam) Reamer, with editing assistance from Pete and Connie Newell of Kingsley, known for their personal story writing workshops.

Author Eileen Reamer, in a 2012 photograph. Image courtesy of Pete and Connie Newell.
Author Eileen Reamer, in a 2012 photograph. Image courtesy of Pete and Connie Newell.

Eileen is the daughter of Fred and Neva Brautigam. She resides in Kingsley, Grand Traverse County. She and her siblings were raised in the village proper during the 1930s. 

I’ve always wondered how my father’s family all ended up in Jackson when they were all born in Kingsley, but I do know that my father was nine years old when his mother died leaving eight children and it’s one of those questions you wish you knew the answer to and there is no one left to ask.

After the passing of his mother, my father lived for a year with Bob DeFrance and his wife in the Kingsley Hotel which is almost in my present back yard at 203 Fenton St. in Kingsley.  It is on the point where Brownson and Spring Streets come together. My dad said he planted asparagus in their garden which is just behind my garden now, and to this day some of the asparagus still comes up in the spring, so it’s like having a part of my dad around.

Mom was born in Mt Victory, Ohio on May 26, 1901. She met Dad in a Baptist church in Jackson, Michigan and they married on March 30, 1921, then moved to the village of Lake Ann, Michigan where my brother David, Sister Virginia and I were born. Because they lived in a rural part of Lake Ann, Mother held David back until it was time for Virginia to start school so he wouldn’t have to walk the mile and a half alone.

We lived across the road from the Bill Morse family, so Esther and Mom were such good friends.  Esther didn’t have a mean bone in her body, and she spent much of her life playing the piano at nursing homes along with her son, Bill Jr., who played an instrument too.  Even in old age she would kid about going and playing for the “old folk”.

When it was time for me to enter the world the doctor was nowhere to be found so Esther delivered me, and she always referred to me as her baby. The Morse’s were a wonderful family and we have remained friends to this day.

In the five year span between Virginia and me, Mother delivered a stillborn girl. Since she was born in March and Dad’s name was Fred, she was named Winifred. It wasn’t until 2009 while visiting Virginia in Florida that we got to wondering where she is buried. It seems so odd that we never questioned it while there was someone still around to ask.

Peter Brautigam, at his home on Sparling Road in Kingsley, undated. Image courtesy of the author.
Peter Brautigam, at his home on Sparling Road in Kingsley, undated. Image courtesy of the author.

When I was just a baby we moved to Kingsley and lived with my Grandpa, Peter Brautigam, on his farm on Sparling Road east of Blackman road, and the undated house is still there.  My mother never liked my grandfather because he was a boozer and when he had company he made her take us children into the parlor and keep us quiet.  He always favored me and was constantly disciplining David and Virginia; He would reach across the table and crack them across the knuckles with his table knife if he didn’t like what they were doing.

Marian was born on the farm and we moved into town shortly after that to a house on Fenton Street next door to the house that would later be the home I grew up in.  When Dad bought the house it was barely a skeleton. It was one of what everyone called “Parker’s old tin houses.”  They were sided with tin shingles as one can see from looking at the picture of what the house once looked like. You can see them on the top half of the house, but more on that house later.

My memories of the first house on Fenton Street, even though I was under five, are sparse but clear in my head.  We four kids slept upstairs in one big bedroom with two beds.  I slept with David, a sleepwalker, who took the blankets with him wherever he went.  He was famous for sleeping at the bottom of the stairs, and we used to get dressed behind a wood stove in the living room.

One of my memories of Marian at time was her sitting in a high chair asking for a donut. Mother told her if she took it she had to eat it. Well, she wouldn’t eat the donut so Mom sat her in the wood shed off the kitchen until she did. Marian was a problem from then on, it seems. She didn’t get along with other kids very well and the only one of us kids I remember who ever got a spanking.

Charlie Snyder lived in the big house next to the hotel and had a barn on Spring Street which is still there. He had cherry orchards and horses, and one day the horses got loose and ran down Fenton Street and into our driveway which is butted up to our house. Marian just happened to be in the driveway at that time and they knocked her down and scared the daylights out of all of us but fortunately she didn’t get hurt. It’s something you don’t forget!

The shell of the Brautigam family home, mid-construction, where Eileen was raised on the corner of Fenton and George Streets in the village of Kingsley. Image courtesy of the author.
One of “Parker’s old tin houses,” the shell of the Brautigam family home, mid-construction, where Eileen was raised on the corner of Fenton and George Streets in the village of Kingsley. Image courtesy of the author.

Dad was a carpenter so he was able to restore the house next door. One of the first things he did was to close the open stairway.  He always maintained too much heat was lost going up open stairs. The house had two very large bedrooms upstairs and we had two beds each in them.

There were three small bedrooms on the main floor and he turned one into a bathroom eventually. He also took the partition out between the other two bedrooms making it one large one.  We moved into this house when I was five which is where Beverly was born when I was eleven and that completed our family of one boy and four girls. The night Beverly was born, we kids were herded away to some friend’s home to await her arrival.

We were a happy family and I have good memories, but one not so happy memory comes to mind as I think of the time we were going to Jackson to Grandma Alwine’s for Thanksgiving. In those days it was an all day trip. The morning we were to leave there was car trouble.  What a disappointment that was.  Bologna for dinner!

I loved my Grandma Alwine so much.  I remember the time when I was a young grade school student, we were visiting Grandma and when it came time to go home I wanted to stay. I made such a fuss that my parents decided to play a game with me. They supposedly left thinking I would change my mind when they drove away. I was a happy camper and it was with much distress when they drove around the block and came back for me.

My grandparents later retired to the North and bought a house on Wexford Corners one mile East of M-37 near Buckley. It was a happy time having them so close, but it had a sad ending.  Grandpa went to the basement to look for a gas leak and suddenly there was an explosion, and the living room floor fell right into the basement, plus it blew out the sides of the house. The paper stated that Grandpa lit a match to look for the leak but we know that is not true as he was always so cautious that way. He may have lit his pipe without thinking, but we will never know.   He was rushed to the hospital with his hands hanging out the window as the skin was burned off from them.  I don’t even know who drove him as it was before we arrived. Unfortunately his lungs were burned also, and he died two days later.

Grandma was never the same after that, so she moved back to Jackson to live with her daughter. Grandpa was 81 when he died and Grandma lived to 87.

There is so much more I could write but that will be another story.

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Growing up Wilhelm: Childhood memories of life on the farm

by Claribel (Wilhelm) Dugal Putnam (1893-1987)

These memoirs were written to Claribel’s granddaughter, Virginia LeClaire, in 1977.  Claribel died May 27, 1987 at the age of 94.  She is buried next to her husband and daughter in Oakwood Catholic Cemetery.

I was born May 15, 1893 on the family farm in Grand Traverse County.  My father, Joseph Emanuel Wilhelm, was several years older than my mother, Rose Zimmerman.  He had made himself very well-to-do in the wholesale lumber business prior to their marriage.  He built the farm house in Garfield township and took my mother there as his bride in 1885.  It was called “Pleasant Valley Farm” and was located on U.S. 37 South near McRae Hill.  (There is a trailer park there today.)

Pictured in the elegant farm home are siblings Claribel (the author) and her brother William Wilhelm.
Pictured in the elegant farm home are siblings Claribel (the author) and her brother William Wilhelm.

The house was rather elegant for the times with a vestibule facing the driveway, parlor, sitting room with a curved alcove of windows facing the flower gardens, large dining room, kitchen, summer kitchen, huge pantry, and five bedrooms.  A rear entrance led to a large wood-covered space.  Across this space was a three part building which housed a room for storing wood for the kitchen stove, the milk room where milk was separated for cream, and the ice house where in February the men cut blocks of ice from nearby Silver Lake and packed them with sawdust for summer use.  A hired man put one block in the ice box each morning and it was one of my duties to see that the pan under the ice box was emptied once each day – otherwise it would run over on the floor.  Occasionally I forgot and suffered the consequences!  There was a large bell outside of the back door, near the windmill, mounted on a large wooden pole.  It was used to call the men from the fields for dinner and supper.

Our basement was full of wood for the hot-air furnace.  The wood was cut from our own woods each fall.  However, there was no plumbing and no electricity.  On a shelf in the kitchen were eight kerosene lamps.  Each day we filled them with oil, trimmed the wicks, and washed the glass globes.  In addition, there was a lamp over the dining room table, one in the sitting room, and a table lamp in the parlor, all of which had to be cared for regularly.  Of course, we had the necessary little house “out back.”  It was there, surrounded by lilac bushes.  There were two grownup seats and one little low one for small folks.  We had the usual accessory: the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

In the kitchen, we had an iron sink with a pump which we used to obtain water for cleaning and washing.  The drinking water had to be brought in from outside where we had the windmill and another pump.  The first windmill was a wooden structure and I remember when it was replaced with a steel frame.  We were so very proud of it.  On one kitchen wall was a bench for the pails of drinking water.  Hired men kept these filled.

Rose (Zimmerman) Wilhelm and daughter Claribel at the family farm, ca. 1915.
Rose (Zimmerman) Wilhelm and daughter Claribel at the family farm, ca. 1915.

Although there was a table in the kitchen, we always ate our meals in the big dining room.  My mother was a fine cook and housekeeper.  She never had a loaf of baker’s bread in the house.  She made bread twice weekly and every day she baked goodies.  She had learned from the Wilhelms how to make their famous kolaches and we were never without pies, cookies, donuts, and cakes all made, of course, from scratch.

Claribel's parents, Joseph Emanuel Wilhelm and Rose Zimmerman.
Claribel’s parents, Joseph Emanuel Wilhelm and Rose Zimmerman, ca. 1885.

My mother was unusually kind and good natured with an over abundance of patience, so we children were never punished severely.  I can’t remember that I ever was spanked or slapped and I wasn’t a model child by any means.  I remember my father only as a sick man in a big chair.  During his final days, we were sent to our Zimmerman grandparents to stay.  One Sunday, Uncle George Fritz decided to take us home for a visit.  As we drove over McRae Hill, we met Dr. Julius Wilhelm with his horse and carriage.  “It’s all over” he said.  Of course, we wanted to know what was over.  Uncle George told us: “Your mother will tell you when you see her.”

Mother wished to keep the farm for my brother William, so her four brothers found a good man to act as superintendent.  That good man was William Henry Gravell.  He was a bachelor, and eventually he and Rose were married.  I was only six when my natural father had died in 1900, and “Grandpa Gravell” was wonderful to us all.

I remember when Rural Free Delivery came our way.  Our first mailman was a bachelor, Mr. Gilbert, who drove a horse and buggy.  We were always sitting by the mailbox, on a post, waiting for him.  We had mail every day except holidays and Sundays.  Our first telephone was really an event.  It was on a slab of oak and we had to “ring for central.” There were several families on a line – sometimes as many as ten. We never had a radio, that came after I was married, but we did have an Edison phonograph with cylinder disks.  We thought it was wonderful, and it was!  I remember the first automobile I ever saw.  One day I was out in the yard and I saw a car enclosed in glass!  I rushed in to tell mother and she said that it just couldn’t be.  When the weekly newspaper came out, it told of a wealthy Chicago man who had driven through town on his way to his summer home in Petoskey.  It described the car as being enclosed in glass and was called a “sedan.”

Claribel, Olive and William, children of Joseph and Rose Wilhelm.
Claribel, Mabel, and William, children of Joseph and Rose Wilhelm.

We tapped the maple trees in the spring and had maple sugar parties.  The juice had to be boiled on the cook stove for a long time, then we dropped it on a cake of ice and it hardened, making it like candy.  Every Sunday in nice weather we made a five gallon freezer of ice cream.  It was so good – made of real cream, beaten eggs, sugar, and vanilla.  The freezer was packed in layers of ice and salt and the melted water ran out of a hole on the side of the freezer, so it had to be made outdoors.  We took turns rotating the paddles until the ice cream had turned solid.  Once a year, in late fall, we made sauerkraut.  We used wash tubs with large cutters to slice the cabbage, put it in a barrel close to the hot-air furnace, and then left it to “work.”  When it was thoroughly “ripened” mother put it in glass jars.

Washing was always and only done on Monday.  We did the washing on the back platform in summer and in the kitchen in winter.  We had tin tubs, used washboards, and boiled everything except colored clothes.  We also starched many things, including ruffled petticoats, and then hung them on a clothes reel to dry.  Ironing was a big task in those days.  Irons came in groups of three different sizes.  There was a handle that clamped over the tops of the irons.  You used an iron until it got cold and then you went to the wood stove and exchanged it for a hot one.

Gathering eggs and bringing the cows up to the barn to be milked each night was a job for sister Mabel and myself.  We took turns, but when the hens were “setting” in the spring, they were very angry when we reached in for the eggs and would peck at our hands.  It hurt and I cried, so Mabel did the full job in “setting time” and I took the dog and rounded up the cattle.  

Saturday was bath day.  Children had to bathe in the afternoon so the grownups could have the kitchen for their baths at night.  We had a round tub and you stood up unless you were small enough to sit down.  Hot water came from the reservoir on the side of the kitchen stove.  When you used any water from this hot water tank, you must replace it so it would be warm for the next bather.  Daily baths were something of which we had never heard.

Billy the horse; driving is Jane Shilson, riding with Mabel Wilhelm, Olive Lackey, Claribel Wilhelm and unknown woman.
Billy the horse; driving is Jane Shilson, riding with Mabel Wilhelm (left), Olive Lackey, Claribel Wilhelm (center) and unknown woman.

I couldn’t tell you about life on the farm without telling you about our driving horse, Billy.  We raised farm horses, but a driving horse was “something else.”  We had a rubber-tired open carriage which was the latest word in elegance, but we used this only for Sundays and trips to the city to exchange our butter and eggs into groceries.  For every day fun we had a two seated sort of light wagon which held a lot of youngsters.  When we came to McRae Hill, Billy would stop and we would walk up the hill.  When he got to the top, he would stop and wait for us to get back in the wagon.  We loved that horse!  When he got old and sick, Grandpa Gravell decided he should be taken out of his misery.  The only way at that time was to shoot him.  He couldn’t bring himself to do it, so he hired a neighbor.  When the day came, he was so afraid that the man wouldn’t kill Billy instantly, that he did it himself.  We all had a bad day that day.

It was a mile walk to the one-room school house.  Grandpa Gravell took us in wintertime with the horses and sled, but in good weather we walked.  There were eight grades and one teacher.  Often the teacher boarded at our house.  We carried our lunch in a tin pail.  There was a wood burning stove for heat and of course, “rest rooms” were outside.  At recess time we played “Anti-I-Over the Woodshed”and had lots of fun.  A pail of water with a dipper was at the front door.  We had never heard of “germs”!

When we finished eight grades of country school, we were required to take an examination at the court house in Traverse City.  It was a written exam and if I live to 100, I will never forget how frightened I was.  You needed to pass this test in order to progress in your education.  My poor older brother William had gone through all of this.  In fall he drove a horse into the city to start his freshman year of high school.  He came home on Friday night feeling badly and we thought it was because he was so scared of a new school.  However, on Saturday he was feeling worse.  Sunday he went into a diabetic coma and died that night.  He was 14.  William was a good big brother to me.  I remember one time when I picked the raisins out of the middle of my mother’s cookies.  She said I had to eat all of the cookies.  I didn’t like them so I sneaked them out to William and he ate every single one of them for me.

Claribel Zerlina (Wilhelm) Dugal.
Claribel Zerlina (Wilhelm) Dugal.

I want you to know that my experiences on the farm were all pleasant ones.  I had a wonderful time as a child and it has been a pleasure to think of many of those happy days as I have written them down for you.  No wonder I have lived to a ripe old age when I got such a good start on the farm home.

Thank you to Virginia LeClaire, local author and historian, for providing her grandmother’s memories for all of us to share. LeClaire is author of the popular local work, “The Traverse City State Hospital Training School for Nurses,” available at local retailers and She is currently working on a history of the Federated Women’s Clubs of Traverse City.

Gretchen Votruba Oral History

edited by Nancy Bordine, Vice President of Women’s History Project of Northwest Michigan

Gretchen (Arntz) Votruba, in the apron, at a St. Francis Bazaar selling canned goods. Gretechen was active in the Salvation Army and Child and Family Services and later at the Dennos Museum, ca. 1940s. Image courtesy of the History Center of Traverse City.
Gretchen (Arntz) Votruba, in the apron, at a St. Francis Bazaar selling canned goods, ca. 1940s. Gretechen was active in the Salvation Army and Child and Family Services and later at the Dennos Museum. Image courtesy of the History Center of Traverse City, Al Barnes Collection.

The Women’s History Project of Northwest Michigan kindly contributed the following edited oral history, originally recorded in 2002. It is certainly timely; on October 9th, we will again regret the loss of Gretchen Votruba, who passed away on that date in 2004 at 88 years old. Gretchen was a volunteer with Child and Family Services in the Grand Traverse Region from 1960 until her passing. She was honored several times for her tireless dedication to the children and families she worked with, most notably in 1989 when she was honored by the State of Michigan as “Michigan’s 150th First Lady,” and again in 1995 when the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce awarded her their Distinguished Service Award. Gretchen’s example is one we should all keep in mind as the needy winter months descend.

My daddy’s job took him to Cleveland when I was about 18 months old. I used to spend every summer with my grandparents. I would head up to Marshall as soon as school was out, and stay ‘til the day before it started.

Grandpa and I used to do the shopping every day because we didn’t have any refrigeration. Fortunately, we were right next door to the milk station, so I could run over there and get milk at noon time. We’d keep it in well water that was wonderful and cold!

Grandpa and I would go to the creamery to get butter. The floors were wet down there and I was always barefoot. That sure felt good after Main Street, because some days you had to hop because it was hot.

My dad taught me to drive ‘cause they didn’t have driver’s training in school. When I was at home, he’d take me out in some of the new developments and places where the traffic wasn’t bad, so I could learn to turn decent corners and learn to park. The fact is, I think he made me change a tire. I had to change a tire before I could take the car alone.

I went to Olivet to go to college. I started out being a camp counselor in the summers, and worked for the Battle Creek Campfire Girls. I became a Campfire Girls executive, but I didn’t like living on the dole from the Community Chest, so I went back to school to get a teacher’s certificate. I started teaching in ‘38.

I knew Traverse City from having spent summer up here at Camp Arbutus. I just liked it and one of the other girls decided she liked it too; so the two of us moved up here in 1943.

I was teaching school during World War II. We worked on saving grease and getting out ration cards because they used the school as an easy place so people wouldn’t have to go so far to sign up to get their sugar card or their meat card. I had the first Girl Scouts troop here too. We got started and went out collecting grease.

I met my husband when his family were members of the First Congregational Church. I lived in an apartment on the same block when I first came to Traverse City. I knew his wife and I knew their kids. Catherine died in ‘46; their youngest was only two at the time.

Bill was coming home from a Rotary Minstrel Show; he had black face and all. I was walking home across Union Street Bridge when he stopped and gave me a ride. We had a good visit that night, and then we started going together. We’d do things on Sundays with the kids and his mother. She’d have dinner and then we’d go for a ride. The kids always thought they had to be in the water, at least on Memorial Day, even if it was cold, they would make a quick dip. We got married New Year’s Day 1952, at the First Congregational Church Chapel.

Bill’s father had come from Czechoslovakia when he was seventeen. His family went to the Bohemian settlement in East Jordan because they knew some people up there. He and his brother used to walk to Traverse City for supplies, and they’d carry a stool or a rocking chair home on their backs for their mother.

One time his father and his brother got on the wrong trail when they were leading a cow back to East Jordan. They found themselves at the end of Old Mission Peninsula. They had to tramp all the way back and come up the other side to get to East Jordan.

F. Votruba Leather Goods store exterior, 1996.
F. Votruba Leather Goods store exterior, 1996. Image courtesy of the History Center of Traverse City.

Frank was his name, that’s where the ‘F. Votruba’ comes in on our store name. Frank was one of the builders of the Opera House Building. A matter of fact, ours is the only store still going from 1891.

My work with Child and Family Services took me all around the country. I drove miles and miles getting new babies from hospitals, as well as sick kids. All of a sudden I’d get a phone call, ‘We’ve got a sick kid over in Elk Rapids… can you get over there and get him?’ I entered two or three children into the hospital at different times when they had to go in. I still see some of the kids around that I knew when they were little. It was nice because I enjoyed all the foster parents. They were really wonderful! The kids were so cute and the other kids in the families were so understanding.

Oh, I used to take them and buy them shoes from (sic) when they needed ‘em and get haircuts and different things like that. That was real rewarding. Goodness sakes, we did travel miles and miles.

I’m still volunteering there, and I’m still donating to them. They wanted to hire me at one time, but I said, ‘That would take all the fun out of it, and I don’t think Bill would approve of it. He’d rather I just do it to help.’

1989 was the 100th anniversary of our State. The Michigan Women’s Commission, under Governor Blanchard, selected Michigan First Ladies by counties. Each county go somebody in there. Most of ‘em have two; Grand Traverse was big enough to have three.

Child and Family Services nominated me. We were honored at a luncheon down in Lansing. I was so flabbergasted; it was a real honor, ‘Michigan 150th First Lady Award.’ My award said, ‘Traverse City’s quiet giver, honored. Gretchen is a rare, warm, giving person. Everyone should have a friend like Gretchen.’

The Women’s History Project of Northwest Michigan’s mission is to preserve and recognize the contributions of women to their families and communities in northwest lower Michigan.  The Board of Directors are always looking for new interviewers for their oral history program, as well as recommendations for women to be interviewed. Copies of the oral histories and transcriptions are held at the archives of the History Center of Traverse City. For more information, visit the Women’s History Project website at

Mud Turtle Jack: Riverman, Poet, Grandfather

by Valerie Himick, first-time contributor to GTJ

Seek channels deep,
Avoid the bars –
We’ll have more fun
Than them in cars

Mason Herbert (Jack) Wallis.
Mason Herbert (Jack) Wallis.

My Grandfather, Mason Herbert Wallis, who preferred to be called Mud Turtle Jack, knew rivers, loved rivers and all bodies of water, and passed that love to the children he left too soon, and the grandchildren he never knew.

The son of George Herbert Wallis and Ellen Marie Wilson Wallis, he was born at Point Betsie on Lake Michigan near Frankfort, Michigan, in 1889 while his father was in the Lifesaving Service there.

His mother, Ellen, was the daughter of Charles Henry Wilson, a noted vaudeville actor of the time whose family settled in the Herring Lakes area.  Sadly, Ellen died of tuberculosis at an early age.

"From my window", Lake Michigan.
“From my window”, Lake Michigan.

Jack attended High School in  Manistee where he had a view of Lake Michigan from the window of his room.  His early writings from that time reflect his love of the waters.

This is from his Gloria Lacui ; Written in Manistee High School April 13, 1909.

Be mine the spot
Wherein my boyhood days were spent and there
Aux Bescies pours its gently moving stream.
An Indian village once o’er looked the lake
That marked the outlet of the little stream.
Marquette, as told by records of the French,
Here drew his birch ashore and on the mound
Which then the river mouth o’erlooked, he lay
Surrounded by his voyagers, and cease
His wanderings.

Ah, Frankfort, nestling there
Beside the tossing lake, recall me to
Thy former home and let me listen in
The quiet eve, to songs the lake is sending o’er
The hills.  Didst ever listen to the roar
Of penned up ocean’s force, confined in shells
From Indian island brought?  Tis but a dream,
From which you would awake to real life
By listening to the roar on Frankfort’s coast.
Where ivy, long, five-fingered, green, its arm
Has spread, and there o’er hung a quiet porch.
Twas mine to sit beside my father’s knee
And learn to love the music of the sea.


In September of 1906 he wrote this about Lake Michigan

‘Tis there on your wild bounding surface,
Those grand old waters of ours,
That ships with music and laughter
Plunge on through your storms and your showers.

‘Tis there in your calm placid waters,
The fishes all bask in the sun,
Till ships rush madly upon them,
They wake before sleep is begun.

‘Tis there on your wild bounding surface,
That ships in agony strain
To reach some harbor of refuge,
‘Tis rest from the toils of your main.

‘Tis there in your cold deep oblivion
The forms of your sailors are laid;
Not all who dared brave your dangers
Returned to a welcoming glade.

‘Tis still on your calm gentle bosom
We float in a bark small and frail;
We wonder that calm will turn motion
And roar in a death-dealing gale.

Never content to be far from the water, he turned to canoeing the rivers with his friends in his beloved canoe.  He wrote long narrative poems describing the fun.

I knew the channel where the current ate
Away the muddy banks in deepest holes.
I knew where sandbars piled themselves in play
And caught at drifting stumps and such debris
As is picked up by the rivers in their course.
I knew the turtles by their given names
And they knew me, for when I’d pass them by,
‘Hey mister, where you goin’?’ they’d always say.

Jack Wallis serving as postman in Ann Arbor, ca. 1915.
Jack Wallis serving as postman in Ann Arbor, ca. 1915.

As a young man, Jack lived in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor where he worked as a shoe salesman and a mail carrier.  There, with his good friend, pharmacist Stan Smith, he created Stage Stuff, “a series of vaudeville playlets, – each one complete in one act, – yet all closely related, – and each one staged for the mere benefit and enjoyment of the actors, themselves, before an empty house.”

Stan Smith, friend of Jack Wallis and fellow  Stage Stuff performer.
Stan Smith, friend of Jack Wallis and fellow Stage Stuff performer.

“There is no description,
It’s our bunch of fun,-
Some set to music,
Some verse, and some slung
As random shot
Or analysis clear,-(clear as mud)
To explain some Big Time Stuff
That we hold most dear.”

However far removed, his early years in Frankfort were never far from his thoughts:

Then all the time I thought of my old dad
And how he’d spent his life on bigger boats,
For what he knew and taught to me of them
I modified and changed for my canoe.

So trained was I in waterlore that if
A gay procession of the boats in the whole world
Could pass before a judges’s stand to view
Their skill,-my dad would rise up from his grave
On Frankfort’s hill, and point me out and say,
my kid there; I know him by the way
He grips the haft, and how his paddle cleaves
The water at his every stroke.  There now’s
The Loafing Stroke; they say the Injuns found
It for their light birch bark canoes, but we
Deep Water men would say its best when used
For dress parades and idle hours.  But look!
The Man of War Stroke!  It’s the same we used
To drive our surfboat to a wreak, and now
My kid had found it best for his canoe.
Just note the forward reach, the sudden pull,
The throwing of his weight as balanced by
His braced feet and dipping blade, the craft
Most leaves the water in its leap.
But lad,-
There is,- Ah, there you are, The Cruising Stroke
And with that steady pull you’ll drive that shell
All day; Why, when you were a kid in arms,
I’d put you in your little chair lashed in
My skiff, and pull out miles into the lake
With that same stroke.
And all the thousand
Little touches of the blade, – the One Hand Stroke,
The Overhead, the Submarine, the Brakes,
Reverse, and Backward scull,- like spur to horse-
The shell obeys thy will.  Ah, that’s my kid!
You cannot fool an old man when he sees
His youth again, performed by his own blood!” 

In the fall of 1929, now married and the father of three children, Stan, Marce, and my mother Joy, Jack became seriously ill with the same disease that claimed his mother’s life, tuberculosis. Eventually, he was forced to leave his family and live with his stepmother, Ada Bagley, in Muskegon. Confined to his bed, he wrote and sold stories to magazines to support his family.

"Stage Stuff" scrapbook by the cast from Ann Arbor.
“Stage Stuff” scrapbook by the cast from Ann Arbor.

Sadly, we have not been able to locate any of his published writings from that time.  In fact, we had no idea any of his writings had survived until my Aunt, Marce Forton, of Traverse City, called me a few years ago and asked me to take a box of things to my mother.  There in the box, under an old tablecloth and some clothes, I found treasure, a leather journal and an old photograph album – The Libraria of M.H. Jack Wallis, marked private, and the Stage Stuff photos.  Marce had kept it safe all these years. 

Valerie Himick is the author of two novels, Life is a Cabernet and The Birds & The Bees, set in the wine country of Old Mission Peninsula in Grand Traverse County. Like her grandfather, she finds inspiration for her writing in the natural beauty of the rivers and lakes of northern Michigan.

Earliest Settlers of Almira Township

Contributor Richard Leary and his wife, Eleanor Riehl Leary, are summer residents of Lake Ann.

Addison and Ann Wheelock, my wife’s great-great grandparents, were the first European settlers in the Lake Ann area. The lake, Ann Lake, was named for Ann Wheelock. While Eleanor was doing family history research, I began researching the history of the village of Lake Ann.

The village has a long and fascinating history, extending from its logging days in the 1860s into the early 20th century. At the turn of the century – 19th to 20th – Lake Ann was a tourist destination, with daily trains bringing people from Traverse City and Manistee. An elegant hotel, the Douglas, stood just a short walk from the fine train depot and another hotel, the Lake Hotel, was just down the road.

Lake Ann boasted (if that is the correct term) of a half-dozen or more saloons, good card games and, according to rumors, several brothels.

Among Lake Ann’s more noted historical events were three major fires, each of which nearly destroyed the town. Lake Ann survived and today is a busy, growing community.

But I get ahead of myself.

During the spring and summer of 1862, three groups of settlers arrived in the area that later became Almira Township.  They homesteaded different places and later obtained land grants for their land.

Addison (28) and Ann (28) Wheelock, with their first two children, Ebenezer (6) and Mary (3) settled on the north shore of Ann Lake. Addison named the lake for his wife. The Wheelocks came from Vermont.

Andrew (32) and Almira (30) Burrell arrived about the same time. They settled on the north side of Sancrainte Creek. An area northwest of Ann Lake was informally known as “Sancrainte Hill.” This is consistent with Andrew Burrell’s land grant. The township was later named for Almira Burrell. They apparently only farmed that area briefly as they were listed in the 1880 census in Monroe County in southern Michigan. The Burrells came New York.

Also arriving during 1862 were two brothers from Canada. Alexander (Alex or Alec) and John (30) Heather settled on the northeast end of what is now called Stevens Lake. Alexander Heather obtained a land grant for a quarter section of land in section 3 and a quarter-quarter section in section 14, northeast of Ann Lake. They farmed the land on the shore of Stevens Lake for several years before selling. Only John was listed on the 1870 census. We were unable to find either John or Alexander Heather listed anywhere in the 1880 U.S. census. They may have returned to Canada.

Addison Wheelock, early settler of Almira Township.
Addison Wheelock, early settler of Almira Township. Image credit: Almira Historical Society.

Addison P. Wheelock and his wife Ann were among the first settlers in Benzie County, Michigan, and the first in the Lake Ann area. Soon after they arrived from Vermont in 1862, Addison acquired extensive land on the north shore of Ann Lake. Eventually he owned all the land now occupied by the village of Lake Ann.

It is unknown exactly where the Wheelocks lived. Their home was probably on or very near the new Almira Township Park. As reported in the Grand Traverse Herald on 28 June 1883, Ann Wheelock hosted a Fourth of July party on her property:

There will be a Fourth of July celebration held in the woods on Mrs. Wheelock’s farm, near Lake Ann. L. Palmer will have his swing on the grounds. J. J. Gray and R. Gane will have a stand where refreshments will be sold and there will be boats furnished for those who like excursions on the water. The pleasures of the day will end with an oyster supper in the evening at Mr. Hathaways.

Ann Wheelock, the namesake of Lake Ann.
Ann Wheelock, the namesake of Lake Ann.

Addison Wheelock was among the founders of Almira Township and the village which later became Lake Ann. The lake was named for his wife, Ann McBride Wheelock. He was active in local politics, was the first sheriff of Benzie County and served on many local committees.

Addison acquired much land, most of it land grants from the U.S. government through the General Land Office (GLO). A few pieces of land were purchased from the Auditor General of Michigan in tax sales. By 1872, Addison Wheelock owned nearly 450 acres in Benzie County. On the 1870 census he valued his property at $10,000, far more than anyone else in the area.

After arriving in what is now Lake Ann, Addison and Ann had 5 more children:

1.  Ebenezer T.           – b. Apr. 20, 1856,  Vermont,

2.  Mary Ann              – b. Sept. 24, 1858, Vermont,

3.  Willie A.                – b. Feb. 14, 1863, Michigan,

4.  Hector C.               – b. Apr. 18, 1865, Michigan,

5.  John P.                   – b. Mar. 21, 1868, Michigan,

6.  Julia E.                   – b. Dec. 23, 1869, Michigan,

7.  Amy A.                  – b. Jan. 28, 1876, Michigan,

Sometime during the summer of 1883, Addison P. Wheelock left this area, leaving behind his wife and children. Vague rumors of distant destinations have proven fruitless. In Ann Wheelock’s estate papers, Addison’s address is listed as Bear Lake. This misinformation was probably given by the eldest son, William.  The search, now more than a decade old, continues.

The Leary’s are volunteers at the Almira Historical Society Museum, whose holdings provided some information and images for this article. Please visit the Museum at 19440 Maple Street, Lake Ann, for further information on the history of Almira Township.

Remembering Bob Wilhelm

Robert Wilhelm, noted local historian, pictured in front of a Traverse City carriage house.
Robert Wilhelm, noted local historian, pictured in front of a Traverse City carriage house.

Robert David Wilhelm, 76, of Traverse City, passed away on Thursday, June 5, 2014 at Grand Traverse Pavilions. Robert was born on February 25, 1938 in Traverse City, the son of Lyle and Martha Wilhelm. An avid Historian, Bob leaves us with his historic family legacy. His great grandparents arrived in Traverse City from Bohemia in 1854, two years after Perry Hannah came to the area. The Wilhelm family was involved in a variety of local businesses, trades, and community activities for the next 150 years.

A.J. Wilhelm's Department Store on Union and 8th Streets, Traverse City.
A.J. Wilhelm’s Department Store on Union and 8th Streets, Traverse City.

His grandfather opened the A.J. Wilhelm Department Store, and in 1996 it became a Centennial Business. Later, the building and business were also designated State Historic Sites, largely due to Bob’s perseverance and efforts. Bob majored in American History and spent many years researching and teaching Michigan history. After retiring from the Howell Public Schools, he returned to his native Traverse City. Some highlights of Bob’s community stewardship include: sitting on the Committee to Save Building 50, working with the State of Michigan Sesquicentennial Committee, and actively contributing to the Michigan History Museum in developing curriculum programs related to the state’s history. Not many days went by, without visiting the History Center of Traverse City where Bob enjoyed researching & telling the stories of the area. Many thanks go to everyone who sent wishes of good cheer and encouragement to Bob during his recent illness. Bob expressed his gratitude on many occasions and found great comfort knowing his friends were nearby. A memorial gathering celebrating Bob’s life was held on Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 2 pm at the History Center of Traverse City, 322 Sixth Street, Traverse City.

Thank you to Laura Wilson of the History Center of Traverse City for permitting the reprint of Bob’s obituary in the first issue of the “Grand Traverse Journal,” which is dedicated to his memory.