Restoring Fish Populations on the Boardman, 1920 to the Present

Image of The Shack on the Boardman River, surrounded by a landscape devastated by human influence., ca. 1915. Image courtesy of the Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection (3315).

by S.A. McFerran, B.A. Environmental Studies, Antioch University

A cognoscenti of fishers met at “The Shack” that was located on the Boardman River near the community of Keystone. Operated by Traverse City Fly Club founder and barber, Art Winnie, and frequented by nine of his friends, The Shack was a fishing camp that encourage anglers to fish stretches of the Boardman River, South of Boardman Lake. There was much to discuss at The Shack meetings because the grayling were disappearing and the banks of the river were in tatters due to logging and dams.

A diary of activities at The Shack was kept. The first entry was March 3, 1913.  Visitors such as conservationist Harold Oswald Titus and Remington Kellogg of the United States Biological Survey joined members for fishing trips on the Boardman River. Also noted in the Shack Diary was the planting of fish in the Boardman River and its tributaries. (1)

The milk cans that were dropped off at the Keystone train station each contained 2000 trout. The water in the cans had to be changed hourly until the fish were released into the Boardman and its tributaries. Creeks flowing into the Boardman River such as Beitner, Thorpe, Bonath, Jaxon, Sleight and Hogsback all received trout raised in the state fish hatchery.

With the forest gone, erosion washed sand into the Boardman and the sun warmed the water. Dams also warmed the water and blocked the movement of fish up and down the river. The elegant structure of the Grand Traverse ecosystem was reduced to a shack, and the grayling died. Self-appointed architects of the ecosystem at The Shack did the one thing they could think of: add fish to the water so that they could catch fish.

The Shack Diary entry dated April 3 – 4, 1920: “Planting Liberty Brown trout as follows: Thorpe Creek,10,000. Shack below the bridge, 10,000. Shack Creek above the bridge, 10,000. From Umlor down in Hogsback Creek, 4,000. Boardman River, 20,000. Between Summit City and Keystone there were planted 294,000 trout of which 112,000 were brook and 182,000 were Liberty Brown.” (The name “German Brown” was changed to “Liberty Brown” in response to anti-German sentiment related to World War I.)

Fisheries meeting are always contentious. Image from the Hanley Wilhelm album, Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection.

The Shack members had a shortsighted view: If the fishing was good, all was well. The State of Michigan provided the fish to support the efforts of these sportsmen, but not to create an environment in which these fish would naturally thrive. In retrospect the answer is: river restoration. The answer still is river restoration that takes an ecosystem view and includes fish stocking as one measure of the restoration.  If the river ecosystem is functioning and habitat cared for the fishing will be good.

River restoration seeks to link ecosystems. The Grand Traverse Bay once teemed with fish and some moved from the Boardman to the open water. Coregonids, a very important and numerous mid-tropic level fish that were preyed on by the trout spawned in the open water of the Bay. The Shack cognoscenti were well aware that the elegant structure of the ecosystem had been lost. Art Winnie: “But here’s where we always put the conservationists…let the perch spawn . . . once every two or three years. Let them spawn and get a new breed in. Then they’d be comin’ pretty good. Look how they used to come up the river.” (2)

Looking downstream from one of the Boardman River Electric Light & Power dams, undated. Image from the Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection.

Captain Boardman built his dam in 1847, and the electric power Boardman Dam was built in 1894. The Sabin dam was built in 1907. The Keystone dam was built in 1909. In 1921 the Brown Bridge dam was built. The Boardman dam was rebuilt in 1931. Each of these actions were major disruptions to the ecology of the Boardman River. Dams were also built on the upper reaches of the Boardman River in Kalkaska, South Boardman and Mayfield’s Swainston Creek. (3)

There was disruption of the river ecosystem and disruption of the large Grand Traverse Bay that once teamed with whitefish, herring and cisco. The bay was host to “pound nets” that devastated corigonids.  The State of Michigan managed the river and open water separately. Progress is now being made in raising coregonids in the state hatcheries. There will be another attempt to re-introduce grayling.

With the removal of the Boardman Dam and the Sabin Dam the only barrier that will remain to upper stretches of the Boardman is the Union Street Dam. The restoration of the Boardman River could mean the restoration of fish populations in the Grand Traverse Bay.

A fisherman of The Shack. Image from the Hanley Wilhelm album, Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection.

A cognoscenti of fishers will meet January 18, 2018 to consider the passing of fish from the Bay to the River and River to Bay. Restoration of the elegant structure that once rested on both streams where small fish were hatched and the big bay where fish grew big will be considered. Architects of the ecosystem now have access to resources that Art Winnie and the boys who built The Shack could only dream of.

But will an elegant structure that resembles the ecosystem that once stood be able to be built? I think not.

For more information on the FishPass Project, visit the Great Lakes Fishery Commission website. The next meeting of the Boardman River Implementation Team will take place on January 18th,  from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Traverse City Governmental Center, Commission Chambers, 400 Boardman Avenue, Traverse City, MI. Meetings are open to the public.

Stewart. A. McFerran teaches a class on the Natural History of Michigan Rivers at NMC and is a frequent contributor to the Grand Traverse JournalMany of his contributions, including this piece, are written as a direct result of interviewing people with stories to tell.


(1) Grand Traverse County Historical Society. Currents of the Boardman.

(2) Art Winnie interview


50 YEARS AGO: January 1968

In response to several readers’ desires, all of whom greatly admire the 110 Years Ago column written for the Traverse City Record-Eagle by Cathy Griffin, volunteer for the Traverse Area Historical Society, Grand Traverse Journal has solicited the assistance of regular contributor Bensie Benghauser, to produce 50 Years Ago. The readers who requested this column asked that we cover years more recent than 100, as they hoped to encounter the names of people they once knew. Please enjoy, and if you would like to assist Bensie with a bit of news from the past, you are welcome to join her! Email your editors at

So, what was Traverse City talking about in January 1968?

A second heart transplant was performed by Dr. Christian Barnard in Cape Town, South Africa. This was his second operation, and the third such operation to be performed.  The gentleman receiving the heart was a retired dentist, Dr. Philip Blaiberg, 58.  His donor was a 24 year-old man who died from a brain hemorrhage while playing touch football with friends at a beach resort. The operation took 5 hours.  Dr. Barnard’s first operation was on December 3 of the previous year and took 7 hours.

The polls are split when it comes to guessing who will be the best Republican candidate against incumbent Lyndon Johnson.  One poll has Richard Nixon as the most likely to get the GOP nomination, but another poll feels the Governor Nelson Rockefeller would be a stronger candidate.  Newsweek shows that Nixon has a commanding lead while the New York Times says that Johnson would carry the states with 378 electoral votes.

1899 Traverse City High School football team. George Raff, quarterback, is sitting on the far right of the front row.

Graveside funeral services for George W. Raff, 88, of 306 W. 7th Street, were held this afternoon at Oakwood Cemetery, with Rev. George A. Belknap of the Evangelical United Brethren Church officiating.  Arrangements were made by the Reynolds Funeral Home. Mr. Raff was born October 29, 1879 in Napoleon, Ohio.  He moved to Traverse City in 1880 and had operated a fishing camp at Northport for 20 years, and one at Grand Marais for 15 years.  He is survived by his wife Nellie Mae Chaney whom he married November 8, 1927.

The Grand Traverse Bay YMCA will sponsor a cake decorating course beginning Wednesdays at the YMCA.  Mrs. Richard (Jean) Kluzak will be the instructor.  Participants are to bring an eight-inch cake pan.  All other materials will be furnished.  The fee for the course is $6 for members and $8 for non-members and covers the cost of the cake decorating kit.

Miss Suanne Stouten and Jack R. Keyes were married Friday evening, December 22 at the Mayfair Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.  Mr. and Mrs. Robert Keyes of 13910 West Bay Shore Road are the parents of the groom.  Mr. and Mrs. Niel Stouten for Grand Rapids are the parents of the bride. They honeymooned in Northern Michigan following a church reception.  Jack Keyes  is serving with the U.S. Navy stationed at Great Lakes Naval Training Station.

Movies showing on this day were “More Than a Miracle” starring Sophia Loren and Omar Shariff, and “Reflections in a Golden Eye” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando.

Original prints by master artists of the 15-20th centuries are currently on display at the Mark Osterlin Library at Northwestern Michigan College.  The exhibits of 36 woodcuts, engravings, etchings and lithographs is circulated by the Michigan State University Art Collection at Kresge Art Center and is sponsored by the Michigan State Council for the Arts.

Traverse City area’s “Fabulous Four” ski resorts and related businesses all report the best start in many years for a winter sports season.  Thousands of skiers a day enjoyed the slopes at Traverse City Holiday Hills, Crystal Mountain, Shanty Creek, and Sugar Loaf Mountain on several Christmas week days.  In addition,  restaurants, hotels, and motels reported excellent volumes of business.

Young people of the Mesick Free Methodist Church will host the Cherryland youth rally which is held each month at a different community within the area.  The event will take place at the Mesick High School Saturday evening, January 13, in the old gymnasium at 7:00p.m.  A drama, “Dream of Heaven”, will be presented by the Pisgah Heights Wesleyan Methodist Church group.

Classified ad:  To all the nice people in the Grand Travese Area…Thank your for making 1967 another fine year for Vita-Bay Potato Chips, “The Outstanding Potato Chip”. And for Snacktime Nuts & Snacks.  Your Friendly Vita-Boy Man.

South elevation (back entrance) of U & I Lounge. The interior of the lounge has caught fire, and smoke billows from the open doors and windows. Traverse City Fire Department truck in foreground, ca. 1950s.

Traverse City firemen went to the Mary E. Lawton residence, 809 Thirs, at 1 a.m. today after a furnace humidifier’s plastic pipe broke and spilled about an inch of water on the basement floor.  A water vacuum was used to remove the water and no extensive damage was reported.

First Straub & Amiotte factory on west Front Street, where Hattie likely spent many hours.

Funeral services for Mrs. George (Hattie) Amiotte, 100, of 319 Sixth Street, Traverse City, will be held at 11 a.m Saturday at Reynolds funeral home.  Mrs. Amiotte was born May 1, 1867 at Muskegon, an in 1899 came to Traverse City with her husband, the late George E. Amiotte, who entered into the partnership of Straub Bros. and Amiotte Candy Manufacturers.  Mr. Amiotte died in 1939.  Mrs. Amiotte was a life member of Traverse City Woman’s Club, a member of the First Congregational Church, a charter member of the Ladies Library Association, and was very active in civic affairs until her health no longer permitted her to be so.  On her 100th birthday anniversary, she was honored with a celebration at which she received messages form the president of the United States, Governor George Romne, and many others.

Park Place Hotel parking lot construction, Washington Street entrance. The First Baptist Church appears in the background of the image, ca. 1991.

The First Baptist Church announces the arrival of its new pastor, Rev. Elmer Katterjohn, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, as is his wife. He will commence his pastorate Sunday during the 11:00 a.m worship service.  Eugene Pelizzari, moderator for the church, has stated that the call to Rev. Katterjohn was voted unanimously by the church members.  For several months the church has been under the leadership of interim Pastor Gilbert Miles.

Comstock Park school officials today had under advisement a complaint charging that one of its instructors is teaching religion.  The complaint was made to the board of education at a meeting Wednesday night by Mrs. Lorraine Dykehouse.  She said that James Gole, a sixth grade teacher, has been teaching Bible stories in his classroom. She claimed it was a violation of Supreme Court opinions banning prayers and Bible teaching in public shcools during regular school hours.  Mrs.  Dykehouse said unless the Comstock Park board instructs Gole to refrain from teaching Bible stories, she will transfer the complaints to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Kalkaska Sand: Michigan’s State Soil

The state of Michigan has a state flower: the apple blossom; it has a state bird: the American robin; it has a state wildflower: the Dwarf Lake Iris; it has a state gem: Lake Superior greenstone; it has a state stone: the Petoskey stone; and it has a state soil: Kalkaska sand.

Sandy barrens forest with pines, a typical landscape supported by Kalkaska Sand. Image courtesy of Joshua G. Cohen, Michigan State Extension.

Wait!  A state soil?  Who would care enough to advocate for a state soil?  As a student of nature, I know that there can be only one answer—and correct me if I am wrong: a soil science class somewhere pushed state legislators for the adoption of Kalkaska sand as the state soil–and got the job done.

Pine barrens, Burlington County, New Jersey. Pine barrens are a typical sight in Michigan as well, supported by Kalkaska Soil. Image courtesy of

What of this Kalkaska sand, then?  Besides a location where it is found, what more is to be said about it?  Is it the soil that made this state rich in agriculture, the soil that grows soybeans, corn, potatoes, and fruit?  Perhaps it is the rich mucky soil found around Kalamazoo that used to produce so much celery that the city was once called Celery City?  Or, is it the fabled soil close to Michigan’s thumb with rich, black humus that goes down two feet or more?

No, it is none of these things.  Kalkaska is located in the pine barrens of Northern Michigan.  It once grew white pine, red pine, jack pine, and a variety of oaks—and still does between logging operations.  It generally does not grow crops successfully, especially those requiring moisture retention—like soybeans, for example.  The parent material of Kalkaska sand, is, unsurprisingly, a coarse sand that let’s water percolate through easily.  It dries out quickly between rains.

Kalkaska soil profile; photo from USDA: State Soils.

The parent material of a soil is made up of varying amounts of clay, silt, and sand, those particles graded in size from very small to quite coarse.  A clayey soil—most common in Southern Michigan—contains microscopic grains that retain moisture well–while sand is gritty, unable to retain water; silt is somewhere in between.  Soils that are most versatile contain fair measures of clay, silt, and sand: they are termed loamy soils.

In Northern Michigan a soil much prized for cultivation of many crops—corn through potatoes—is Emmet till, a loamy sand that takes on a reddish hue when moist.  It is commonly found plastered upon the hills of the region, the glacial morraines that cover much of Leelanau and Benzie counties as well as other nearby places.  When you take a handful of it, and squeeze, you get a gritty ball that sticks together, unlike Kalkaska sand that slithers through your fingers like dry sugar when compressed.

All of the soils in Northern Michigan—and in Michigan generally—are transported, in the sense that the glaciers brought down the parent material from the north.  Elsewhere, as in the Southern states, soil developed from underlying rock layers as they weathered.  Commonly, such soils are made of reddish clay that dries almost as hard as concrete in droughty summers.  Root crops—like potatoes—and flowers like lilies—struggle under such conditions.

Kalkaska soil landscape in Michigan; photo from USDA: State Soils.

Emmet till naturally supports hardwood forests made up of Sugar Maple, Red Maple, North American beech, American basswood, White Ash (now gone), and Eastern Hemlock, while Kalkaska sand (and its related sandy relatives) grow pines and oaks.  From the beginning, settlers to the area recognized the fact that hardwoods made better farms than pines.  Many abandoned homesteads are to be found in the sandy barrens of Nothern Michigan, testimony to the difficulty of making a living on such unpromising soil.

So, why should Kalkaska sand achieve such recognition?  My theory is this: the state tree of Michigan is the White Pine, and for good reason–it supported the logging industry that eventually tamed a vast Michigan wilderness.  That being the case, then what soil grows white pines in abundance?  You know the answer—Kalkaska sand.

For more information about the soils in Michigan, check out the soil surveys published by the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, available online.

Can you name the factory across the way on Boardman Lake?

This image is easily one of your editors’ favorites! Taken about 1910, here is Boardman Lake, taken from the northern end and looking south. In the photograph, we see a number of fun-loving Traverse City residents ice skating, playing hockey, and in general enjoying a perfect frozen lake with no piles of snow to contend with. Solve the mystery of this image: What is that large factory shown on the background on the left? Bonus question: What building now sits where that factory was?

Boardman Lake, ca. 1910. Image 718.000001.327, Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection.

“Lament of an Obese Bachelor,” Humorous Poetry from 1916

A treasure trove of humorous poetry written by students at Sault Ste. Marie High School for the Su Hi student newspaper was discovered in the Local History Collection of Traverse Area District Library by intrepid volunteer Marlas Hanson. Hanson has been working with the papers of the Johnson Family, who were lumbermen of Traverse City. Besides documenting the family business, consisting of securing lumber for the Michigan Paper Company, a paper mill in Muskegon, the collection also documents the courtship and marriage of W.B. Johnson and Earnestine Gunn. We believe Earnestine may have worked at Su Hi with the student newspaper, and that is why the Johnson family had these gems in their collection.

Unknown friend of Hanley Wilhelm. Image from a photograph album containing pictures of the area taken on touring trips Hanley Wilhelm and friends made before WWI (1913-1915). Hanley died of the flu during the war. Image from the Local History Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

When we look at black and white photographs of bygone eras, we have a tendency to think the people must have been as stiff and stodgy as they seem to be on film. Surviving documents, like this poem, prove otherwise. We wish we could give credit where credit is due, but alas, the poem is unsigned.

Lament of an Obese Bachelor

I’ve made ardent love
To a good many girls in my time
But somehow
I never seemed to make much of a hit
With them
They always said I was too fat
And made fun of my clumsiness
Little realizing
How sensitive I was about it
And how much their light-hearted comments
Hurt me.

I remember well the time I essayed
To carry Mary Hilliston across
The stepping stones in Grimes’ Creek,
She the while admiring my great strength,
When all of a sudden
In midstream
I slipped and fell dropping her
Into two feet
Of muddy water;
And how mad she was about it!
And the cutting things she said!
I’ve never really gotten over it.

I’m not so very old
Even now, only thirty-four
But I’ve lived so long here
In this same town
That they’ve come to regard me
As a permanent

They’re always asking me
About it
And asking me why I don’t
Marry Mary Hillston now
Since her first husband’s died
And left her well-fixed.

But I
Never will forget the things she said
About me that day,
I never did care
For widows.

Jack Robbins and the Tortured Landscape of the Boardman River Valley

Partial image of Jack Robbin’s copy of a 1915-1916 map of the Boardman River property owned by the Boardman River Electric Light & Power Company.

by S.A. McFerran, B.A. Environmental Studies, Antioch University

The new theology has borrowed, without credit, one of the fundamental planks in the old religion: despite his disclaimers, man stands at the center of the universe. It was made for him to use, and the best and wisest men are those who use it most lavishly. They destroy pine forests, dig copper from beneath the cold northern lakes, and run the open pits across the iron ranges, impoverishing themselves at the same time they are enriching themselves: creating wealth, in short by the act of destroying it, is one of the most baffling mysteries of the new gospel. ~Bruce Catton (1)

Boardman River Valley, November 2017. Image courtesy of the author.

From the front window of his farmhouse Jack Robbins has borne witness to the lavish use of the Boardman River. The Robbins farm is in the Boardman Valley on Cass road near the site of the Boardman dam.

Captain Harry Boardman first dammed the river for his mill before the turn of the last century, around 1847. Many subsequent dams have either washed out or been removed. The most recent dam removal is almost complete and is restoring the river to its natural state. The river restoration effort was aided by a historic map that Mr. Robbins had tucked away in his farmhouse.

Partial image of Jack Robbin’s copy of a 1915-1916 map of the Boardman River property owned by the Boardman River Electric Light & Power Company.

The map took two years to make (1915-1916) and was drawn on a special fabric by surveyor E.P. Waterman. The detail on the large map includes the location and elevation of bench marks that assisted in the removal of the original dam built  in 1894. The Sabin dam is also included on the map.

Over one hundred years later Mr. Robbins shared the map with the Army Corps of Engineers Manager Alec Higgins (2). The map was used to locate the historic channel of the Boardman River while the 1931 dam was removed this year.

Jack Robbins bought his farm in 1951 and fished the deep holes above the Boardman dam until October 1961 when the Keystone dam washed out and filled in the holes with sediment. He showed me the location of the original Boardman River Electric Light and Power dam from his front window. His map reveals the points of interest such as the grade of a carriage road that lead to a wooden bridge just across from his farm.

Photographic postcard of Boardman River Light & Power Plant Dam under construction, 1894. Image from the Local History Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

In November 1894 Boardman River Electric Light and Power completed construction of its first dam and turned on the electricity. This original dam was just downstream and twenty feet lower than the Boardman dam that was just removed. The powerhouse was right across the road from the Robbins farm.

Boardman River Electric Light and Power Company. Crew working on the Cass Street dam, 1903.

More power was needed and so the Sabin dam was built in 1907. The Keystone dam was built in 1909. In 1921 the Brown Bridge dam was built. The Boardman dam was rebuilt in 1931. Each of these actions represent major disruptions to the ecology of the Boardman River. Dams were also built on the upper reaches of the Boardman river in Kalkaska, South Boardman and Mayfield’s Swainston Creek. (3)

The dam on Swainston Creek washed out in 1961. That large slug of floodwater washed out the Keystone dam during a rainstorm. Jack Robbins remembers this event well and has stories to tell about how the dam operators attempted to avoid disaster.

Boardman River Valley. Image courtesy of the author, November 2017.

9.5 million dollars was spent in 1979 to renovate the dams on the Boardman River. It will cost $2,834,535.60 to remove the Boardman and Sabin dams, return the river to its original channel and restore the banks. (4)

River restoration is an art and a science. River restoration is taking place in watersheds across the country and represents a change in the “new gospel”. It would be approved by Bruce Catton. Mr. Robbins is well aware of the environmental destruction that has taken place in the Boardman Valley which began in the logging era, and he approves of the Boardman River restoration project.

Stewart. A. McFerran teaches a class on the Natural History of Michigan Rivers at NMC and is a frequent contributor to the Grand Traverse JournalMany of his contributions, including this piece, are written as a direct result of interviewing people with stories to tell.


  1. Catton, Bruce. Waiting for the Morning Train: An American Boyhood.
  2. Higgins, Alec. Email interview with the author.
  3. Grand Traverse County Historical Society. Currents of the Boardman. 
  4. FINAL CONCEPT DESIGN REPORT, Boardman and Sabin Dam Removals, BOARDMAN RIVER DAMS IMPLEMENTATION TEAM December 2014; 301 S. Livingston St., Suite 200, Madison, WI 53703 | 608-441-0342 |; 10850 Traverse Highway, Suite 3365, Traverse City MI 49684 | 231-922-4290 |

December events to feed your love of history!

History of the Protestant Reformation on December 7th

The Protestant Reformation was a major turning point in Western history, affecting not just religious but also social, political, educational and economic development. Policies and mores made popular then still shape our daily lives. We mark the 500th Anniversary of the onset of the Reformation this year, but the history leading up to and after that is just as fascinating.  What was going on in the Medieval Church to prompt Martin Luther’s radical uprising? And why were Protestant leaders like John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli and Luther so successful in changing the world? Join Rev. Jonathan Williams for this engaging lecture on what is seen as one of the most far-reaching events in world history.

The event will be held at Traverse Area District Library, Main Library, 610 Woodmere Ave., Traverse City, MI 49686, on Thursday, December 7th, from 7-8:30 pm.

 Jonathan Williams, MDV currently serves as Associate Pastor at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Big Rapids. Williams received his Masters of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary (LCMS) at Fort Wayne. He also carries a Masters in Library Science and has previously worked as a public librarian.

History of Buckley Old Engine Show on December 14th

In 1967, a group of fellows, in the northwestern part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, stopped just talking about their old engines and antique equipment and decided to do something. They set a date; gathered up their old engines and equipment; and met at Joe Rebman’s farm to run them. The word quickly got out and many others gathered to watch. They all had such a good time that it was decided they should organize a non-profit club and make it an annual event. The club was named the Northwest Michigan Engine & Thresher Club and over time the annual event became known as the Buckley Old Engine Show.

Today, each year the The Northwest Michigan Engine & Thresher Club puts on The Buckley Old Engine Show in Buckley, Michigan. With tens of thousands of attendees each year, the show pulls in vendors, enthusiasts, members and children. With a variety of events and demonstrations, there’s something for everyone!

Join us as members of the club show and tell their amazing history of this annual event through time.  Their book, just published in August will be available for purchase, perfect Christmas gift for your history buff or tractor aficionado.

The event will be held at Traverse Area District Library, Main Library, 610 Woodmere Ave., Traverse City, MI 49686, on Thursday, December 14th, from 6:30-8 pm.

Benzie Area Historical Museum presents program on the Irish Winter Solstice, December 14th

Sunrise on the winter solstice 2010, looking over Cavan Upper toward Bohanboy/Killygordon. Image copyright Sian Lindsey, licensed for reuse cc by-sa 2.0,

Misty Sheehan, director of the Benzie Area Historical Museum, will present a program titled “An Irish Winter Solstice” on Thursday, December 14 at 4:00 PM at the Benzie Area Historical Museum.
Ireland has had a tradition of concern for the seasons of the sun beginning 5000 years ago.  All are welcome to come learn a little prehistory!

Festival of Trains chugs along for another great year!

One of our favorite holiday traditions is a trip to the Festival of Trains! The Northern Michigan Railroad Club, City of Traverse City,
and the Great Lakes Children’s Museum present this awesome event, full of model trains decked out for the holidays! Come join the fun and support local charities at the same time. The event takes place at the former Carnegie Library, 322 Sixth Street, Traverse City, MI.

Daily Schedule:
Event runs December 14th-31st
Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm
Sunday 12pm – 4pm
Special Hours:
December 24th and 31st 10 am – 2 pm
Closed December 25th

$5 (4 and under free)
$30 Festival Pass – unlimited visits/household
(includes 2 adults and up to 3 children)

Swap Meet December 16th and 17th 10 am – 6 pm
Visit Santa December 16th and 23rd 2 pm – 6 pm

The Sedentary Lives of Moss Animals

I knew from my friend’s lively cry that something big was afoot: “There is some kind of colonial animal living over here!”

She was knowledgeable about outdoor creatures, so I had little reason to doubt her unlikely comment.  I came running over to where she was pointing.

“There, there, at the lip of the spillway—can you see it?”  She was pointing at something twelve feet from where I stood on the concrete abutment above the dam that released water from Lake Dubonet to the Platt River system below.  “No, I can’t see—it’s too dark!

“Just look.  It’s perched on the edge of the spillway.”

My eyes were getting used to the shade cast by the abutment.  “I see it!” I proclaimed, “and I think I know what it is,” I replied with a bit of hesitation in my voice.  “It’s a freshwater sponge!  I haven’t seen one in years.  Let me get a picture of it.”

I worked myself down, as close as I could to where the thing was growing.  It looked like a mass of gelatin, as large as a loaf of bread, without any recognizable appendages, without a head or a tail.  Colonial animals, indeed!  What else could it be?

Image courtesy of the author.

I took a couple of photographs with my camera held down as close as I could get it to the creature.  The flash went off, so dark it was down there.  I include the view in this article along with one taken by someone else, someone with an easier animal to photograph.

When I got home, I immediately began to have doubts about my identification.  Freshwater sponges are not gelatinous, for one thing.  They are rough to the touch, and generally green.  I thought about my Invertebrate Biology course I had taken so many years ago—and I remembered.  I emailed my friend: “It’s not a freshwater sponge.  It’s a bryozoan, a moss animal!” Not having seen the species for nearly forty years, it was easy to see how I could have misidentified it.

Bryozoans are sedentary creatures made up of individuals with scores of tentacles, all of them connected to a horseshoe-shaped structure called a lopophore.  They are not related to corals—which do not have a lopophore—but extract food from the water the same way they do: filtering out living organisms.  This they do by movements of their tentacles and the cilia (moving hairs) upon them.

Fluted Bryozoan in Monterey, California. Image courtesy of Ed Bierman, through Wikimedia Commons:

Like sponges and corals, they encrust various substrates—wood, rock, old tires, even water intakes–scarcely moving during their lives.  The species my friend had found, Pectinatella magnifica, is known to move as a young colony, at the rate of two centimeters per day.  Its possibilities for adventure are clearly limited by its sluggishness.

“Bryozoan” translates from the Greek as “moss animal.”  In both freshwater and salt water, some species form mats somewhat reminiscent of a bank of moss, though they are rarely colored green.  The species I photographed, genus Pectinatella, secretes a gelatinous outer body that looks like an unappetizing jam one might put on bread.  No one would be tempted to do so, however, given its unprepossessing appearance.

However they might offend our mammalian standards for beauty, bryozoans choose attractive ponds and streams to live in: they prefer unpolluted water, water uncontaminated by mud, debris, or pollutants brought in by humans.  Just as lichens point to unpolluted air, bryozoans indicate clean water. 

The life cycle of Bryozoans lacks the drama of sperm from one colony actively seeking out eggs in another.  Generally, sperm cells from one colony fertilize eggs from the same: a larva grows from the fertilized egg, and is eventually released into the water, often as the colony dies at the end of the summer season.

No one brags about the bryozoan he has captured.  No one raves about how good they taste.  No one tells of the sport they had in catching their first bryozoan.  They live uninteresting lives unaffected by the major currents of a world dominated by other organisms.  Does that make them less interesting to those of us who know them?  Not at all.   

Life Before the ‘Fridge: Stories of Ice from Josephine Hasse

Ms. Josephine Hasse, a reader of Grand Traverse Journal, was kind enough to write in with a few reminiscences that we are glad to publish. Thank you for sharing your past, Josephine! She turned 96 years-young this past October.

Aerial view of Cherry Growers, Inc., and the Cherry Growers’ wharf on West Bay in Traverse City, 1947. Image from the Local History Collection of Traverse Area District Library.

“My father lived in Traverse City since he was a small child, and I learned much from him. He worked where the Maritime building is now and it was Cherry Growers. He was an engineer and kept the ice machines running.

Since there weren’t ice machines that made ice in people’s homes, people would bring meat that they bought from farmers and had it butchered into family-sized packages. Then they were put into ‘cold storage’ in bins and when families wanted meat he would let them in to get what they wanted.

Workers harvesting ice on Boardman Lake, ca. 1900. Image from the Local History Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

Down the street where the Holiday Inn is there was a huge barn and it was full of sawdust. Men would cut ice from the Bay in large pieces and they would haul it there by horse and sleigh. They would stack it up with sawdust between the layers.

Then with horse and wagon they would go down the streets and sell the ice to people who had Ice Boxes. Homeowners had signs that said 25 lbs. or 50 lbs. and you put it in the front window so the people selling ice would bring in the amount you wanted and filled the Ice Box. It was fun watching for them to come.”