Articles in this feature are reprints from works in the public domain, typically anything published prior to 1924. Reprinting public domain articles both promotes the survival of these works for future generations and brings to light histories that have been forgotten. Articles are chosen that recall the history of the Grand Traverse Region.
O.W. Johnson, the author of the following poem, was one of the Johnson Boys, sons of Johnson, all of whom were lumbermen. They may have all spent time in the woods, as O.W. mentions here, but the family made their money speculating and trading lumber, as opposed to cutting it themselves.
O.W.’s untitled poem is a humorous little ditty, written by an amateur poet (at least, we did not find anywhere that he had been published.) It was recently rediscovered among the working papers of the Johnson family in the Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection by our good volunteer, Marlas Hanson, and we simply found it too fun not to publish!
Untitled Poem by O.W. Johnson
There was a well known lumberman who bought a Willys Knight
He thought his car was just about the only thing in sight.
And after work was finished and the stars were shining bright
He’d steal away from Sam’s Cafe into the Silent Night.
Now as I said before this man was just a lumberjack
And had a little office up along the railway track.
But now he was a city man, a guy who had the goods
Said he “With this new Willys Knight I’ll steer clear of the woods.”
He stood before the shining car and thought she was a dandy
Electric lights and left hand drive would make it pretty handy;
So on one fine October day he thought he would decide
To take a Traverse City friend out for a little ride.
The question was where would they go — Old Mission would be nice
Said W.E. “I think that we have both been out there twice,”
She turned and looked into his eyes and said, “I guess you’re right,
We did go to Old Mission, but it wasn’t in the Knight.”
“It’s erysipelas to me just where we drive,” said he
“There’s gasoline and oil enough to run to Tennessee,”
“It that’s the case” said she “I think we could run out to Empire,
I have the latest style in hats and wish to find a buyer.”
They dined and had a pleasant time, to leave it seemed a pity
But soon were on the winding road that leads to Traverse City,
The stars came twinkling out above, the occupants were merry
The purring of the engine showed the load it had to carry.
Upon a hill ahead of them two glaring head-lights shown
The steering-gear was turned at once into a safety zone,
The other car came coasting down and after it had passed
The Lumberjack exclaimed “Good-night, I think we must be fast.”
He pushed the throttle higher and the tires spun round and round
‘Twas 15 miles to Empire and 10 to Traverse town,
He heard a crushing, grinding sound that made him have his fears
But then he never dreamed that he had ripped and stripped the gears
He sat there thinking what to do and then began to scold
The lady said “I’ll stand it if I do not get too cold,”
The hint was plain enough alright, but Johnson was too sore
Said he “These damn Knight cars are punk I’ll not buy any more.”
The time was flying fast, and the moon was getting higher
The hero thought he’d warm her up by building her a fire
“Perhaps you wouldn’t be so cold if you’d sit on the hood,
Don’t be afraid I’m only going off to carry wood.
But wood was scarce expect a little just around the car
And Mr. Johnson didn’t like to carry things too far,
He hurried to a farm house and called up Mr. Dutt,
A Traverse City auto man, quite small around the gut.
And soon this brave mechanic was flying to the scene
He glided up to Johnson just like a submarine,
“What in Hell’s the matter?” Dutt yelled out as he stopped,
But Johnson was dumfounded and very nearly dropped.
“Holy Moses Johnson, I thought you were alone.”
“Never mind that Dutt, I want to get back home.”
“Have I hurt the car” said Mr. J. His eyes were full of tears.
“Oh no” smiled Dutt “not at all, you only stripped the gears.”
Before the government social services we know today (Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance, etc.), how did we care for people in our society in need? Using the terminology of early reports that recently surfaced at the Traverse Area District Library’s local history collection–how did we care for “paupers” and the “indigent”? These reports, annually filed by Grand Traverse County with the state of Michigan, date from 1885, 1886, and 1891.
The records are scant, but interesting, and would merit further study using nationwide statistics. But, for our purposes, we’ll present the reports as they are, whether or not we can draw definite conclusions about them. (1)
Two unidentified adults of Irish nationality, a man and a woman, were the sole “paupers” maintained in the Grand Traverse County Poorhouse in 1885 (and 30 other people were assisted in other institutions and in their homes). Other than where they hailed from, we know nothing about them, but get this: Under the reporting section for “Food,” the Superintendents said: “No regular routine has been adopted, but the usual food found upon the table of a good wholesome farm table.” A regular routine for feeding I think would be beneficial, but at least it was all “wholesome” (as a nation, we wouldn’t start counting calories regularly until Lulu Hunt Peters, whose 1918 book on diet, exercise, and health, promised all women they could get their ideal body image through counting. “Thin is in!”)
How wholesome was the food? We don’t know what was served, but of the $1,981.51 spent on the care of persons in the poorhouse, a whopping $1,489.87 was spent on food alone. DANG, that’s a chunk of budget! But was it enough? Considering a $460 yearly income for a family of five was considered just out of poverty, spending that much on 32 people for a year seems adequate, each being fed on about $43 a year (especially since most only received a little assistance for part of the year).(2)
What did care look like? The reports provide little detail, but they did differentiate between the costs of care provided to those living at the poorhouse and the costs associated with people living on their own, but requiring some extra assistance. Deaths or illness in a family were common reasons people living on their own sought help.
For both groups, there are expense lines for staff, medical services, funerals, food, fuel, clothing, necessary supplies, furniture, hired labor, purchasing land for a poor farm, erecting new buildings, supplies for said farm, and paid transportation. The reports written by the superintendents are short and to the point. Under “Facilities for Bathing,” a category describing the poorhouse, the answer was “Not any.” Not even a jug in the corner? Harsh.
“What is that about a poor farm?,” you say? Indeed, farmland was purchased by the County in 1885 to operate a farm, with the resulting food stuffs either being consumed by the residents, or sold at fair market value. We don’t know if a profit was ever made, as those lines on the reports are blank all three years. The initial cost of the land was $300, acreage unspecified.
The population in 1886 was much more diverse than 1885, with seven people: three Americans, one English, one German, one French, one Swedish, one Canadian/Scotch, and one “Mulatto.” The Report makes it clear, the State wanted a count of “All in whom there appears a mixture of White and Negro,” whether that was self-reported or not, we will never know. You could also have been Indian, or, if one qualified and wished to be more specific, Half-breed, by the State’s reckoning. Yikes.
A similar mix occupied the poorhouse in 1891. In that year, the total amount spent by Grand Traverse County on the care and support of the residents was $2,994.62, about half of which was spent on maintaining the poorhouse and farm ($851.76) and the salary of the poorhouse keeper ($645.60). Only $112.75 was spent on food, so here’s hoping the poor farm was producing some supplemental vittles!
Grand Traverse County was not the only provider in the area, either: Traverse City also provided for the poor in its jurisdiction, as far back as 1898. They may have been offering services prior to that year, but unfortunately we do not have the City Annual Reports dating earlier. Also, 1885 is the year the Traverse City State Hospital (then known as the Northern Michigan Asylum) opened its doors to its first 43 residents, and there is every real chance some of the locals that were formerly on the “poor rolls” were committed there. We also have newspaper articles advertising various fundraising events by a number of civic-minded groups and individuals, raising funds for the care of people in need. So, care for those in need was considered a “group effort” in young Grand Traverse County.
More information on the poorhouse and its operations can be found in the “Proceedings of the Grand Traverse County Board of Supervisors, Reports of County Officers and Official Canvass,” the oldest volume of which Traverse Area District Library has is 1904. That particular volume contains a number of interesting facts about medical care to the poor. At the meeting of April 12th, the name of Dr. August L. Rosenthal Thompson pops up, one of our favorite women of young Traverse City (Thompson appears briefly in the tales of our other early female physician, Sara T. Chase-Wilson.) Thompson visited Maude and James Wheeler of 428 Garfield Avenue, who suffered from Scarlet Fever and pseudo-diptheria a total of 44 times, charging the poorhouse $1 for each visit, and $3 for medicine, a total bill of $47.
Dr. Holliday also presented a bill at the same meeting, which was at first disputed by the poorhouse supervisors, but ultimately paid in full. Perhaps in response to some ill-treatment (pun intended) Holliday had felt from that event, he and many other doctors, including Rosenthal-Thompson, submitted a “recommended” plan on October 17th: that the Board of Supervisors should take responsibility for decisions made by county employees under their direct supervision, and that, when they hire a doctor, they would ensure the service “would be paid for at a rate based upon either the usual rates charged by reputable physicians, or, if the body deemed advisable, upon a basis of a fixed tariff of rates compiled by and agreed up, by a joint committee representing your honorable body and the physicians of said county.” Holliday, et. al., must’ve felt quite put-out, or, as the kids today would say, “Bitter much, Doc?”
As another scholar in the field observed, responsibility for the poor in our community fell first to the family.(3) Only if the hardships were beyond the scope of the family, or in the case of tramps, there was likely no family at all, is when the state and local government would step in and provide care. Despite the apparent racism and classism built in to the reporting, overall it appears Grand Traverse County did at least and adequate job to help those in need in the 1880s.
Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal. For more on Traverse City’s work with the poor, check out Richard Fidler’s Who We Were, What We Did.
(1) A brief digression: Let’s talk about the mindset of the persons providing the care to those who needed it. The nineteenth century was rife with doctors and do-gooders who saw the flaws in humanity as a product of moral failing (read more on this school of thought in the words of Dorothea Dix and other social reformers). In these reports, the handwritten notes indicate that there are people considered “deserving poor,” who were not held responsible for their lot in life, such as the deaf and disabled, the aged, etc. Then, there are the “paupers,” which included tramps, hobos, and other persons that were seen as “unwilling to work.”
(2) Hunter, Robert. Poverty. London: The Macmillan Company, 1904.
(3) Fidler, Richard. Who We Were, What We Did. Traverse City: Traverse Area Historical Society, 2009.
by Mary K. Buck (1849-1901), poet of renown from Traverse City
Mary K. Buck, whose poetry we’ve featured before, comes again to grace our pages with her thoughtful pen. Buck was a strong advocate for women and letters, and we think she would be pleased to be remembered in conjunction with Women’s Equality Day. A day often forgotten in women’s history, Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on August 26th, when we remember the passing of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote.
Buck did not live to see the Woman’s Suffrage movement achieve its penultimate goal, but in her lifetime, she touched the lives of many Traverse City women looking to learn and achieve. She was one of the founders of the Ladies’ Library Association, she supported the authorship of many of her friends by editing their works, and she co-authored two books in her lifetime with journalist M.E.C. Bates.
This poem, The Ideal Woman, comes from her book, Songs of the Northland, published posthumously by her husband in 1902. What does this poem say about how women viewed each other at the turn of the last century? Clearly, the Suffragette and socialist cry of “sisterhood” extended even to remote Traverse City. It makes one wonder: What did those ladies talk about at the Ladies’ Library Association meetings?
The Ideal Woman
Who shall describe her, since each mind doth hold
Its own conception of that fair ideal
To which our longing tend? Or who shall say
Which type were best of those we most admire?
Each one, perhaps, shrines in her inmost heart
The image of some loved one who to her
Holds highest place on earth, yet it may be
To eyes more critical devoid of grace.
(It needs a loving knowledge to discern
The inner beauty ‘neath a surface plain.)
Yet though your thought and mine may differ wide,
Some points there are on which we shall agree-
Some attributes all true hearts must admire;
Then bear with me while I shall seek to show
The vision sweet that stands as my ideal:
A woman strong in body, fair of form,
And radiant with the vigor health bestows;
Her face is beautiful with that rare charm-
The loveliness that shines from starry souls;
A mind of broad and varied culture, keen
Of intellect and quick of sympathy;
But best of all a heart o’erfilled with love,
And charity embracing God’s wide world.
Slow in her censure, ready with her praise.
Seeing the good, yet steadfast ‘gainst all wrong.
Demanding justice for another’s rights,
But modest in her claims for self alone.
Her dress? That which doth best become her and
Her circumstances; so, seeing her, we say,
“How well she looks,” and not “How fine her dress.”
Sweet piety is hers and doth pervade
Unconsciously each act. A trust in God
And faith in holy things befit her well.
For as a lovely flower without perfume
May please the eye but disappoints the heart,
So woman without piety must lack
The crowning grace.
“Old-fashioned,” do you say?
Ah, it may be, for women there have been
In every age so gracious, pure and good
That loyal hearts do homage to them still;
And on Time’s roll of honor they shall stand
For ages yet to come. “Old-Fashioned” these!
Though high or lowly be her lot, she rules,
A queen in her own realm, or court, or cot.
When public duties call she shuns them not,
But best fulfills her mission in her home-
A wise and tender mother, loving wife-
“Her husband’s heart doth safely trust in her,”
So Solomon described her, long ago.
A faithful friend who will no trust betray-
Her friendship is a boon one well may crave.
Not perfect quite- some sweet faults still remain
To link her with our common human needs,-
But gentle, gracious, lovable and true.
O, brave “New Woman,” standing calm, serene,
To watch the dawn of the new century,
Wilt thou fulfill for us the grand Ideal?
The power is in they hands to choose and mold
They destiny at will. What shall it be?
The heritage of countless years is thine-
The toil and travail of thy sisterhood.
That which they sought with tears, almost with blood,
Is freely thine if thou wilt take and use-
The open door to Learning, Science, Art;
The right to think, to labor, to achieve!
Use then thy power with humble, rev’rent heart,
And give the world its noblest womanhood.
From Michigan in Literature, Andrews, Clarence, 1992:
An unusual entry is Mary K. Buck’s Songs of the Northland (1902), published posthumously. Mrs. Buck (1849-1901) was born Marjanka Knizek in Bohemia and came to Traverse City, Michigan, at the end of the Civil War. She attended college, became a schoolteacher and a contributor to several nationally circulated magazines. She also collaborated with Mrs. M. E. C. Bates on a volume of northern Michigan stories, Along Traverse Shores.
Editor’s Note: This text comes to us courtesy of the July 1953 issue of Railroad Magazine, and republished with permission from Mr. EuDaly of White River Productions. A copy was recently donated to the Local History Collection by Mr. Allan Pratt. This particular article will be of interest to railroad historians of Northern Michigan, but also to those who hike or camp in the area, as many of former lumber pikes have, over time, become part of our trails. This article also answers a number of questions brought in by the curious.
by Fred C. Olds
The racing crests of Michigan’s big rivers, with picturesque river hogs riding spring log drives, captured most of the glamour in Michigan’s lumbering history. All but forgotten, less colorful but just as vital to the timber industry, was the role played by the logging railroad. Pushing out into isolated forest cuttings, these little iron pikes early in the 20th Century criss-crossed the northern and central interior of lower Michigan in a web-like pattern of rail.
Their existence dependent upon the product they transported, most were doomed from the start for but a brief span of operation. Mileage grew at a furious pace as rails opened new timber areas for the lumberjack harvest, but these little pikes withered almost as quickly on their iron vines when the logs were cut off. Their demise was often sudden and without ceremony. Abandonment of a forest road simply meant piling its equipment, including locomotives, on flatcars to be carried out over its own creaky rails for service in another sector or for another owner.
How and where did the logging railroad get its start in Michigan?
Records show that by 1875 loggers had been busily chewing into the state’s extensive forests for over 40 years. Over this period commercial lumbering interests had steadily whittled their way northward, skirting the shores of Lake Huron and Michigan, penetrating inland along the larger rivers — the Grand, Tittabawasee, Saginaw, Au Sable, Muskegon, Manistee, Chippewa, Pere Marquette and their tributary streams – to strip out the lush stands of cork pine. In those first years water played the major role as a log hauler. Timber (pine, that is) had to be readily accessible to a suitable stream for flotage or it was practically valueless. It was this lack of water transportation, according to a claim set forth in an old issue of The Northwestern Lumberman that caused the nation’s first logging railroad to be built in Michigan’s Clare County in 1876. Its builder was Winfield Scott Gerrish, who owned extensive pine holdings in Clare in the center of Michigan’s lower peninsula about halfway between the Straits of Mackinac and the Ohio line.
A brief biography of Gerrish, carried in A History of Northern Michigan, shows that he gave early promise as a timber operator. Born in Maine, where his father Nathaniel was a lumberman, young Gerrish spent his boyhood and early manhood in Croton, Michigan; started driving logs at the age of 18, and when 25 made his first large logging contract. It called for the timber to be beanked on Doc & Tom Creek in the southwest part of Clare County in 1874 for flotage to mills in Muskegon via the Muskegon River. Misfortune struck without warning, however. The Doc & Tom shrank to a mere rivulet as the result of a spring drought, and Gerrish’s winter cut of logs was left high and dry on the banks.
Gerrish managed to float his cargo to mill by dint of hard work, but he conceded that small streams proved an unsure means of transporting his timber. He obtained an interest in 12,000 acres of pine on the west side of Clare County between the headwaters of the Muskegon River and Lake George, but because of its remoteness (6 to 10 miles) from a good floating stream, not a tree had been cut in this tract Gerrish was not one to be easily discouraged. The Northwestern Lumberman report noted that he considered pole roads and tramways to transport logs but tried neither method, believing both were impractical. Instead, he found his solution in a most unlikely spot — hundred of miles away, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. While on a visit there he saw a small Baldwin-built locomotive displayed in a machinery exhibit. It gave him an idea.
If he couldn’t gloat his logs to the Muskegon River, why not haul them on the first leg of their journey by rail? Figuring that it was worth a try, he hurried home and hastily built the Lake George and Muskegon River Railroad, as he called it, which was splashing its valuable timber merchandise into the mighty Muskegon early in 1876. The Northwestern Lumberman account calls this 6-mile pike, running from Lake George northwesterly to the river near the present village of Temple, the nation’s and perhaps the world’s first logging railroad. Other railroads had penetrated timber areas before that time but conducted a general greight and passenger business. The LG&MR was strictly a log hauler, and as such is claimed to have been the first of its kind.
Gerrish, Edmund Hazelton and four associates of Hersey, Michigan, were listed as the road’s incorporators in a Special Report of the Michigan Railroad COmmission. on November 28th, 1881 the railroad was acquired by John L. Woods and on February 18th, 1882 by C.H. Hackley & Co., the last named a large Muskegon firm which operated it as a forest road until its sale in the Toledo, Ann Arbor & Cadillac Railway (now part of the Ann Arbor Railroad) between August 25th and December 20th, 1886. Approximately four miles of the old LG&MR grade now carry Ann Arbor rails between Lake George and Temple.
It’s very lonesome country up there, particularly in the winter months. Acres of stumps scar its ridges and valleys, a fading legacy from that long-lost pine kingdom. Paralleling Highway 10 west from Clare for a few miles, the Ann Arbor rails turn northwest to skirt Lake George along its east rim, cutting a thin swath through the brushy second-growth timber and yopung sprice as it heads toward Temple, Casillac and its Lake Michigan terminus at Elberta. Lake George is a bustling resort community in the summer, but the old gray depot has been closed for many years.
Gerrish, after completing his logging short line, espanded his lumbering operations until his biographer described himas being at one time probably the world’s largest indicidual logger. It is estimated that his highest individual contribution to the Muskegon River was 130,000,000 feet of timber in 1879. Most of this was carried over his Lake George & Muskegon River Railroad — not a bad tonnage record for a little two-bit logging pike founded only three years before.
His new transportation idea gained quick favor among the state’s lumber kings. It ushered in a new era, opening up hitherto unprofitable but heavily timbered pine and hardwood country. It brought an unprecedented boom in Michigan railroad building. Both broad and narrow-gauge lines were pushed deeper into backwoods districts to take out timber. For a few years a weird assortment of motive power echoed their whistle tones across the long plains and forested hills. Saddle-tank dinkeys and Shay-geared sidewinders chuffed and clanked over hastily-built rails which meandered around hills and across swamps, their tenders and log cars bearing now all but forgotten titles.
Built for a special purpose , log hauling, these railroads accomplished their chore efficiently and without delays. A venture as utilitarian as the lumbermen’s favorite axiom, “Cut and get out,” no money was wasted on frills, deluxe equipment, or polished roadbed. Swampers would first slash a rough path cross-country from an owner’s timber tract to the nearest river if his logs were to be floated part of their journey by stream, or directly to his own mill, or to a rail junction where they could be transferred to an already established carrier to complete their trip.
Rails followed a path of least resistance, guided by the hastily scraped-up roadbed’s serpentine twisting and turning to take advantage of the land’s natural contours. Hills and extensive swamps were skirted when possible, to avoid expensive fills and steep grades. To cross a swamp, low log trestles were built to provide the track with a solid bottom instead of using earth fill, timber being cheaper than the cost of moving dirt. Many of Michigan’s vacationland hunting and fishing trails still in use today were built over all or part of some timber rail line.
Motive power, based upon modern standards, would be considered mediocre. Locomotives during the early period wore bonnet stacks, burned slab wood for fuel, moved after dark to the feeble rays cast by oil headlamps, and hauled primitive four-wheel flatcars whose link-and-pin couplers exposed trainmen to an extra hazard. Lightweight rail, sometimes strap iron screwed to a wood base and set insecurely upon the rough roadbed, made the journey into the woods comparable to a sea voyage.
Back in the forests the trees were chopped down, trimmed of their branches and their trunks cut into suitable lengths. A log then was skidded through the brush by a team of horses or oxen to an opening where a set of big wheels could be driven over it. The log (two or three logs if they were small) would then be lifted and carried to a rail-side decking ground where a jamming crew loaded the log lengths on railroad cars. In winter the big wheels were supplanted by sleighs which carried the big piles of logs to the decking ground.
Loading cars of logs was described by Ferris E. Lewis in the December 1948 issue of Michigan History: “Short wooden pins were first driven into iron brackets on the side of the flatcars to keep the logs from falling off. Hooks like ice tongs, each one at the end of a steel cable, were placed in the ends of a log. A little team of horses with muscles as hard as knots, at the command of a teamster who drove them without reins, would raise the log and swing it over the flatcar where it would be lowered gently into place. One by one the logs were loaded onto a car. A pyramid pile, placed lengthwise of the car, was thus built at each end. When a car was loaded, it would be moved away and a new one would take its place.
In later years steam jammers replaced horse power, particularly among the larger operators. These were the conditions and equipment used along one of the nation’s last frontiers to attack the final great stand of pine and hardwood timber remaining in Michigan as the 19th Century came to a close.
Besides increasing production, these railroads revolutionized the industry by making logging a year-round business. Owners found they no longer were dependent upon proper river levels for their log transportation, and cutting could continue around the calendar instead of just during the winter months. Some figures proving this accomplishment are cited in the book, Lumber and Forestry Industry of the Northwest, for just three railroads — the Grand Rapids & Indiana, Flint & Pere Marquette, and Manistee & Grand Rapids. Each of the these [sic] conducted a general freight and passenger business, although primarily engaged in timber hauling during the years cited.
Mills along the Grand Rapids & Indiana (now part of the Pennsylvania Railroad) manufactured 367,000,000 feet of lumber and 404,000,000 shingles in 1886, while the total output along this road, from construction of the first mill in 1865, to 1898, is estimated at 6,000,000,000 feet of lumber. Timber production on the old Flint & Pere Marquette (now part of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway) totaled 5,000,000,000 feet between 1876 and 1896. The Manistee & Grand Rapids (later named the Michigan East & West and eventually abandoned) placed 500,000,000 feet of pine and 1,000,000,000 feet of hardwood timber into Manistee sawmills for cutting in 1891. In the Cadillac region up near Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan, it was not uncommon for a pine tree to yield three logs, each of which would reach across car sills set 30 to 33 feet apart.
Another distinction claimed by the Cadillac region in logging transportation was the invention there of the narrow-gage [sic} Shay logging locomotive in 1873 and 1874 by Ephraim Shay. Slow but powerful, the Shay-engine had vertical pistons to operate the driving cranks, working a shaft geered [sic] to the motive wheels.
An account carried in The Cadillac Evening News said that Shay developed his locomotive to pull log cars from northwest of Cadillac to his sawmill at Haring. First made in Cadillac, its patents were later sold to the Lima Machine Works in Ohio, which manufactured it for use all over the world.
There is not a logging railroad, operating as such, remaining in the lower peninsula. In fact, their names even escape the memory of all but old timers. Mention the Lake Count Railroad and among railroaders you would likely draw only blank looks. Or the Cadillac & Northeastern, Louis Sands’ Road, Nesson Lumber Company, Cody & Moore, Bear Lake & Eastern, or the Canfield Road — recalling only a few.
The logging railroad gave rise to few legends. It could not match the glamour attached to sawmill towns which grew and flourished beside its tracks, nor could it furnish the rough color provided by the swift rivers with their tension-packed spring drives. Its mark upon the timber country, once painted briefly in bold outline, today has virtually disappeared. Traces, of course, can still be found in the old crumbling grades winding unevenly across grassy plains and ridges, pointing toward some distant banking ground. The old names, with some searching, can be found buried in official reports listing rail mergers and abandonments. But that about ends it. That and some faded photos, dim with age, gathering dust in old picture albums.
Editor’s Note: A more recent article on the subject, authored by Carl Jay Bajema, was published in the April 1991 issue of Forest & Conservation History, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Apr., 1991), pp. 76-83. “The First Logging Railroads in the Great Lakes Region” is available online, made available by Grand Valley State University: http://www.gvsu.edu/anthropology/adc/files/document/1DB0E4E0-DCDC-7956-473CC7989F113C65.pdf
Sanborn Maps, if you are a researcher in the fields of architecture, genealogy, or local history, are invaluable tools. Until recently, Traverse Area District Library only held a copy of the 1929 Traverse City Sanborn, a very small slice of the pie. As of May 25th, the Library of Congress has announced the digitization of their collection of maps, some 25,000, all originally published prior to 1900. Maps will be added monthly until 2020, making for a total of 500,000 Sanborns available in their digital collection. As of this publication, the Traverse City maps for 1884, 1890, 1893, and 1899 are all available.
A Sanborn Map was originally used to provide insurance assessment information to insurance underwriters. Lets say that you owned a wooden warehouse near the pier in Traverse City in 1890. In it is your whole life’s savings, amounting to $100,000 worth of product to ship out… and that product is quite flammable. You would want to insure it, right? But, there are no local insurance companies, and no insurance agent is traveling to so far a place as Traverse City for several months.
So, how can a company assess your property correctly and insure it for the amount you need? The company would rely on information found in the Sanborn Maps. The Sanborn would reveal where your property was within the city, what type of building it was, its composition, and size. They could also look at your neighbors as well. While the Sanborn might not say what is in each building, knowing who your neighbors were (a gas works, other warehouses, residences), would help the insurance agent make a quality guess on what to appraise your property at… and how risky you’re living!
How is this information useful for researchers today? Once you know how to read a Sanborn, the world of the past comes alive. Color coding and other indicators found on these maps tells the story of a town. When you boil down all the information, the Sanborn tells you one thing, which can be used for a myriad of uses: How did a city grow, both physically and financially?
How does a map answer that type of question? Look to our previous example of 1890s Traverse City. From the Sanborn, we can tell that the city had a significant collection of warehouse buildings near the waterfront, indicating that it was a port city that relied on trade. The large swaths of the city colored in red indicates the predominance of brick-built structures, indicating a lot of sustained growth in the area. How fun would it be to compare the same area, year after year, through the Sanborns? Get the whole family together for that kind of fun!
In addition to these sweeping generalizations, you can also use them to find the businesses owned by your ancestors. As you can guess, there are a number of businesses owned by persons with Bohemian (or Czechoslovakian) names near Randolph and Second Streets. So, even if your family did not own a business, this could be a clue that you should be looking in the general vicinity for your family, if they are of Bohemian descent.
Another hidden gem in a Sanborn are the names and widths of streets. For any researcher who has had to rely on census records or city directories to try and figure out where a relative lived, especially if street have been renamed or moved since then, this information is no small treat!
Before now, these maps were only available by traveling great distances to larger libraries, or by paying for very pricy access online through private companies. Every day, your library (whether here in Traverse City or the Library of Congress), is hard at work getting the information you need, in a way that you prefer. We live in amazing times!
Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.
Recently uncovered in our local history files here at Traverse Area District Library were three photographs and a handful of typed memos, that tell the story of the end of the Campbell House. You may know it better as the Park Place Hotel, the name Perry Hannah and A. Tracy Lay graced the building with after they purchased the property in 1878.
The Campbell House was announced as open for business in the Grand Traverse Herald on November 20, 1873, by proprietor Henry D. Campbell. The imposing three-story wooden structure dwarfed most of the surrounding buildings. You might be surprised to hear that the House sat at the southeast corner of State and Park Streets, “fronting State Street on the north and Park Place on the west,” 80 feet by 82 feet respectively. How is that possible? Before the Park Place was built at its current location, Park Street (or Park Place, the names were used interchangeably) extended through to Washington Street.
The all-wooden structure “succeeded to progress of the age,” according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle, who reported on the the demise of the original building on September 6, 1929. By the memos found, we know that the Hotel staff, including a moving gang of 20 men, were able to remove all the furniture before noon on September 5th, beating the scheduled evacuation date of September 9th by three days. The wrecking crew wasted no time, and began demolition the same day (right about 7 p.m.) that the building was evacuated.
The Park Place Hotel as we know it, with its 1930s Art Deco construction, was finished and open for business in June 1930. In the meantime, business continued as usual for the staff. How was that possible? There was no building, right?
Few probably remember The Annex, which was located basically where the Park Place’s covered parking structure is today, and served as the “offsite location” of the Park Place Hotel. The Hannah & Lay Company originally constructed the Annex when business outgrew the original structure. When the portion of the building that was the Campbell House still stood, the two buildings were linked by an overhead, covered walkway that extended across Park Street. It operated as a complete hotel for guests, and was lightly remodeled to create additional space for an office, lounge, and a coffee shop and grill.
The Annex Coffee Shop was such a success that the Park Place continued to operate at that location for another year, even after the new Park Place Hotel building was finished. As the Park Place itself described the Annex, it was “very convenient for Luncheon when downtown or an afternoon game is on… Or perhaps Sunday dinner when you are dressed up and look so nice.” Classy!
Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal, and special collections librarian at Traverse Area District Library. Thanks go to Marlas Hanson for re-discovering these gems on the Campbell House!
An unassuming black binder was unearthed in the Local History Collection at Traverse Area District Library (TADL) this past month, which tells the forgotten story of the disastrous fire the Wilson Furniture Company survived in 1955. The fire started on the ground floor shortly after closing time, and first blew out the great display windows facing Union Street before quickly spreading through the four-story building. It was considered a serious disaster, resulting in over $200,000 worth of damage, and forcing the Company to close that location for a full two years.
When the store reopened in July 1957, it was to many accolades published in the Traverse City Record-Eagle by fellow Union Street businesses, like the Hubbell’s Service Station ad pictured here:
The binder of material actually came not from the archives of Wilson Furniture Company, as one might expect, but from the papers of their insurance agent, Jack Coddington Fitzmaurice. Jack was the owner of Fitzmaurice Insurance Agency, which later became Fitzmaurice Garwin Insurance when Jack took on partner Gary Garwin.
It’s an interesting look into how insurance claims were handled in 1955. Although brief, the correspondence included is explicit about F.D. Leonard’s, then President of the Wilson Furniture Company, satisfaction with Jack and his work. Jack coordinated the efforts of the Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company (which he was an agent of) and the Employers Mutual Companies to ensure that Wilson’s not only received the funds needed to rebuild, but to ensure that the staff was retained and compensated.
Three aged and cancelled checks are included with the collection, all from the Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company, totaling $76,201.27 paid out in workers’ lost wages. Does that name sound familiar? It should! You will recall in February 2017, the Grand Traverse Journal revealed that Millers Mutual is the long-time home of Queen City No. 2, the second steam-powered fire engine operated in Traverse City.
When we published that story, local historians were at a loss as to how Millers Mutual came to own the engine. Discovered amongst Jack’s papers was an article clipped from a 1965 Record-Eagle, revealing the provenance as the steamer was sold from one private owner to the next, ultimately ending up in the Millers Mutual collection.It is more than satisfying to find these disparate pieces of history and find a cohesive narrative within them.
Look at these rediscovered photographs, and imagine the front of Wilson Antiques as it looks today. I suppose we need to thank Jack for that astounding transformation!
TADL’s Local History Collection is made up of stories like Wilson Furniture’s, Jack’s, and thousands of others. What will you find?
Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.
By Bob Wilhelm, author and historian of Traverse City
The Grand Traverse Journalalready published the first three chapters of the late Bob Wilhelm’s history of the Wilhelm family in the November, 2016 issue. Now we wish to continue the project with this excerpt describing the Bohemian community along Union Street in the 1880’s and the construction of Wilhelm’s clothing store at the corner of Union and Eighth Street (now the AT&T store). We plan to offer Bob’s book online in its entirety at an early date.
CHAPTER 9: Entrepreneur on South Union Street
Around 1880 when Anthony Wilhelm took up residence in Traverse city, Union Street was “paved” with sawdust its full length from downtown to Sixteenth street. The wooden South Union Street bridge was low and the slope from Seventh Street to the river provided fine sledding for the young.
In the spring when the pork barrels were low, people could be found on the banks of the river with dip nets and spears catching suckers, bass, pickerel and trout.
Two local Indians, Louis and Jake, who lived in a slab wigwam on Sixth Street near the river sold fish to the neighborhood. The price was always 25 cents regardless of the size or amount of the fish.
When the pigeons returned along the river, rifle fire was common.
There were only a few buildings from Seventh to Tenth streets. On the west side of the street at the corner of Seventh and Union was the Franz [?] Wilhelm’s meat market. Other buildings were the homes of Mrs. Furtsch, the Bartaks, E.P. Wilhelm, Charles Dupres, and Harry Holdsworth.
On the east side of the street were the Boardman River House, Chaloupka’s Saloon and Prokop Kyselka’s home at Eighth and Union. Further up the 500 block was the Dezorme home, the convent, Mattison Drug Store and the residences of Morris Sabin and the Weidenhamers. South of Tenth Street was a forest of second growth and poplars.
Unlike so many of the lumberjacks, Anthony Wilhelm managed to save a few hundred dollars from his many years in the lumber camps. He joined his cousin John Wilhelm buying and selling real estate. On the north side of Eighth Street near Union they purchased several lots. John kept two and built his home.
In 1883 Anthony exchanged the remaining parcels for lots 19 and 20 at Union and Eighth.
The March 26, 1885 issue of the Grand Traverse Herald reported:
Ant. J. Wilhelm is getting the material on the land for a brick building on the corner of 8th and Union Street. The building will be 25 x 60 feet, two stories and basement. It will be built entirely of white brick.
The April 23 issue of the Herald reported:
Work will begin soon on the fine brick store for Ant. Wilhelm corner Union and Eighth. The present building has been bought by Jas. Dunn and is being moved to his lot corner Eighth and Cass St. He is putting in a cellar and brick foundation. This building was the first dwelling on the south side of the river. The new building will be 25 x 60 feet. The foundation will be quarry stone. The west and south fronts of the best pressed brick, the first floor front of iron and glass and the front iron. E. Adaley has the contract and J.G. Holliday will have the carpenter work. The building will cost about $3,500.
The existing building formerly occupied by Caloupaka’s Saloon was raised and placed on the crib and moved on rollers. A large log would be dug into the street with a windlass. Ropes would run to the building and teams of horses or oxen would turn the windlass and slowly move the building.
Since all the brick production of the J.W. Markham’s brick yard on West Bay road was being used to build the Northern Michigan Asylum, it was necessary to go out of the area for supplies. White bricks were purchased in Zeeland and moved to the Lake MIchigan coastline to be transported by boat to Traverse City. The limestone foundation was purchased from the owner of a lumber schooner who had used it for ballast. The beams were two by twelve inches. In the front of the store were cast iron girders. The reason for the twenty five foot width was that this was the maximum width that could be constructed without extra support.
The building was constructed as a millinery shop for his sister Christine, but never opened. While visiting her brother Charles in Milwaukee, she met William Theopolis Bunce at a church party in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. The couple was married April 13, 1889 at the Congregational church in Milwaukee. Bunce worked for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway from the early 1880s until his retirement in 1942. In May 1946, Bunce was featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not because he “has worn a fresh carnation in his lapel every day for the past 65 years.”
With a vacant building, the Bohemian community urged Anthony Wilhelm to open a clothing store to serve the needs of the neighborhood. Anthony and his brother Emanuel formed the Wilhelm Brothers partnership in 1885. The business opened in 1886.
Emanuel Wilhelm had returned to Traverse City after spending three years in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. He was employed in cattle ranching, railroad work and mining. With his wanderlust satisfied, he moved to Milwaukee where he took several business courses and worked seven years before returning to Traverse City to join his brother.
With the establishment of the partnership a second 25 s 100 foot addition was constructed on the north side of the original building.
The Northern Michigan Asylum was nearing completion so bricks could be purchased locally from the J.W. Markham brick yards. The cost was $3.00 per 1,000 bricks.
The first advertisement announcing the opening was carried in the March 4, 1886 Grand Traverse Herald:
A large invoice of Spring Clothing just received. Men’s and Boy’s Suits in all styles and qualities at prices that will surprise you. No shoddy or second hand goods in stock. It will be to your interest to inspect our goods and learn our prices before purchasing. We will have a well selected and complete stock of dry goods about April 1st, 1886. It will be our aim to give our customers honest goods and perfect satisfaction in every respect. South Side Brick Building Wilhelm Bros.
By Richard Fidler, Co-Editor of Grand Traverse Journal
An archives can reveal hidden treasures to investigators with the patience to wade through boxes of records often as uninspiring as ledgers of collapsed businesses and minutes of fraternal organizations.Marlas Hanson uncovered one of them recently: a stack of newspapers never before recognized by historians as a resource for local news.There were about twenty copies of them, all dated in the year 1881.What could they tell us about the area that our other paper of the time, the Grand Traverse Herald, did not?This is a question that sets a historian’s heart racing—a new source of information.
Alas, upon examining issue after issue, it became apparent to us that the Tribune had precious little in the way of stories about the Grand Traverse region.It was a political paper favoring the Democrats, perhaps a counterbalance to the Herald, athoroughly Republican outlet.Most newspapers of the time were explicitly Republican or Democrat: neutrality was not common.The later merging of the Evening Record, a paper with links to Republicans, with the Morning Eagle, a Democratic organ, formed the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a newspaper less partisan than most others.
Unlike the Herald, the Tribune dwelled mostly upon party conventions held elsewhere and descriptions of the nasty things Republicans were doing to the country at the time.It carried no long, detailed accounts of fires, weather events, and happenings about town, and little in the way of editorial reflections on local issues of the day.In short, it was a disappointment.
Still, one can find gold among the dross.Editors at the time had a gift for story-telling, a gift seldom displayed by present-day editors who use the dry, formal language of today’s news rooms.They frequently wrote about their feelings and things that happened to them, spinning complex sentences that astound us today with their style and expressiveness.By contrast, when editors raise their voices these days, it is only about their views on issues, local, state, or national.They do not let us know about their lives, unlike newspapermen of the 1880’s.One personal story captured from the Tribune’s editorials moves us to tears even now, more than a hundred and twenty years later.Though unsigned, it was probably written by Albert H. Johnson, editor and founder of the Tribune.
For background, Johnson previously had started the Leelanau Enterprise, but moved on to tackle the Traverse City market after that venture.We do not know how long the Tribune, lasted in the city—perhaps not long, given the preponderance of Republicans in the area at this time.Since the area has voted quite consistently for Republicans, a Democratic newspaper would not do well in such an environment.However long it lasted, the paper did leave us this story about Johnson’s grief at the death of his young son.It speaks to us across time about the universality of human suffering.
“In the Bottom Drawer
H. Johnson, editor
I saw my wife pull out the bottom drawer of the old family bureau this evening, and went softly out, and wandered up and down, until I knew that she had shut it up and gone to her sewing.We have some things laid away in that drawer which the gold of kings could not buy, and yet they are relics which grieve us until both our hearts are sore.I haven’t dared look at them for a year, but I remember every article.
There are two worn shoes, a little chip hat, with part of it gone, some stockings, pants, a coat, two or three spools, bits of broken crockery, a whip, and several toys.Wife, poor thing, goes to this drawer every day of her life and prays over it, and lets her tears fall upon the precious articles, but I dare not go.
Sometimes we speak of little Jack, but not often.It has been a long time, but somehow we can’t get over grieving .He was such a burst of sunshine into our lives that his going away has been like covering our every day existence with a pall.Sometimes, when we sit alone of an evening, I writing and she sewing, a child on the street will call out as our boy used to, and we will both start up with beating hearts and a wild hope, only to find this darkness more of a burden than ever.
It is so still and quiet now.I look up at the window, where his blue eyes used to sparkle at my coming, but he is not there.I listen for his prattling feet, his merry shout and his ringing laugh, but there is no sound.There is no one to climb over my knees, no one to search my pockets and tease for presents, and I never find the chairs turned over, the broom down, or ropes tied to door knobs.
I want someone to tease me for my knife; to ride on my shoulder; to lose my ax; to follow me to the gate when I go, and be there to meet me when I come; to call “good night” from the little bed now empty.And wife she misses him still more; there are no little feet to wash, no prayers to say, no voice teasing for lumps of sugar or sobbing with the pain of a hurt; and she would give her own life almost, to wake at midnight and look across to the crib at midnight and see the our boy there as he used to be.
So, we preserve our relics, and when we are dead we hope that strangers will handle them tenderly, even if they shed no tears over them.”
A mystery photograph was discovered in the depths of the local history collection at Traverse Area District Library. The image was of a young woman, finely arrayed in a crown and cape, the picture of regal. Our only clues: the photographer’s studio (E.N. Moblo of Traverse City,) and a name written in white (Edna Regina).
Who is she, and why the get-up? Researcher Julie Schopieray had to know. Fortunately, the digitized newspapers collection revealed further clues. In the November 4, 1900 edition of The Morning Record (a predecessor newspaper to the Traverse City Record-Eagle), a brief article announced to the public that “Photographer Moblo has completed an elegant photograph, 11×14, of Miss Edna Wilhelm, arrayed in the beautiful costume she wore as queen of the Carnival on the night of the third of July.”
This revelation blew the case open. Traverse City did indeed host a three-day carnival on July 3-5, 1900. It must have been a well-anticipated event, as both the steam ships and the trains ran special routes for the occasion. The Silver Brothers’ New Tent Novelty Show and Great Trained Animal Exhibition traveled north to provide entertainment to the masses. All manner of street and Caledonian games were played throughout the city, and at least two parades and “the most brilliant display of Fireworks ever seen in Northern Michigan” were sure signs that the City was out to have a good time.
Edna was crowned Queen of the Carnival at a grand reception in the City Opera House, featuring a 14-piece orchestra. From there, she and her suite rode in the “illuminated parade” through town. The parade organizers promised “some surprises… never before seen in this part of the state.” The evening culminated in a reception and ball at the City Opera House. On the 5th, Queen Edna reigned over the Traverse City Driving Park’s horse racing events from her “position of state in the grand stand.” The newspaper announced that her reign “was short but brilliant and triumphant.”
Perhaps even more thrilling than the Carnival itself was the race for the Queenship, an elected position. Such was the furor of the election, that votes were announced every half an hour, starting in the early evening and not finishing until 10 o’clock that night. Edna won by a large margin, receiving 3,423 votes. After her came Miss Minnie Rattenbury, with only 1,216 votes to her cause. Each dollar donated to offset the cost of the Carnival equaled one vote. One “anonymous” gentleman (although the newspaper identified him, based on the thickness of his voting envelope) placed $253 in Edna’s tally box, no small sum in 1900!
How was the news received? According to The Morning Record, “As soon as the result was announced there was a cheer and immediately there was a rush for the door. The band began a march and a line was formed in the street. In a few moments the crowd started for the residence of Miss Wilhelm where that lady was cordially congratulated upon the result of the contest and a serenade was given.” We can only imagine the glow on Edna’s cheeks upon seeing the throngs serenading her on her own doorstep!
The Carnival Committee was bound to prepare a fine celebration, paying attention to all the details, not the least of which was Queen Edna’s apparel. The “regal robes and crown” were acquired at once, and the Committee was quoted on the matter, stating “it is a foregone conclusion that the magnificence of her apparel will excel anything ever seen in this city.” By the photograph that remains, we agree with the Committee: fine attire for a fine lady.
Edna was a woman with moxie, it seems. In addition to performing her duties as queen admirably, she was the chief operator for Citizens Telephone, and she once saved the books of that business from going up in flames in a 1901 fire. She was the daughter of Frank and Anna Wilhelm, and sister to Gilbert and Blanche Violet.
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