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.
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
I never seemed to make much of a hit
They always said I was too fat
And made fun of my clumsiness
How sensitive I was about it
And how much their light-hearted comments
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
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
And asking me why I don’t
Marry Mary Hillston now
Since her first husband’s died
And left her well-fixed.
Never will forget the things she said
About me that day,
I never did care
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)
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.
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 dam built in 1903 and the building of the 1931 Boardman dam. 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.
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.
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.
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 Journal. Many of his contributions, including this piece, are written as a direct result of interviewing people with stories to tell.
Catton, Bruce. Waiting for the Morning Train: An American Boyhood.
Higgins, Alec. Email interview with the author.
Grand Traverse County Historical Society. Currents of the Boardman.
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 | interfluve.com; 10850 Traverse Highway, Suite 3365, Traverse City MI 49684 | 231-922-4290 | urs.com
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
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.
Event runs December 14th-31st
Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm
Sunday 12pm – 4pm
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
This stairway is all that remains of a formerly well-known nightclub in Traverse City that operated from the 1930’s up to 1970. It is located where Maple Street crosses over Kid’s Creek. What was the name of that nightclub? (Hint–the Kid’s Creek name might suggest the answer!)
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?
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.
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.
Ms. Josephine Hasse, a reader of Grand Traverse Journal, was kind enough to write in with a few reminiscences that we are glad to publish. Thank you for sharing your past, Josephine! She turned 96 years-young this past October.
“My father lived in Traverse City since he was a small child, and I learned much from him. He worked where the Maritime building is now and it was Cherry Growers. He was an engineer and kept the ice machines running.
Since there weren’t ice machines that made ice in people’s homes, people would bring meat that they bought from farmers and had it butchered into family-sized packages. Then they were put into ‘cold storage’ in bins and when families wanted meat he would let them in to get what they wanted.
Down the street where the Holiday Inn is there was a huge barn and it was full of sawdust. Men would cut ice from the Bay in large pieces and they would haul it there by horse and sleigh. They would stack it up with sawdust between the layers.
Then with horse and wagon they would go down the streets and sell the ice to people who had Ice Boxes. Homeowners had signs that said 25 lbs. or 50 lbs. and you put it in the front window so the people selling ice would bring in the amount you wanted and filled the Ice Box. It was fun watching for them to come.”
by S.A. McFerran, B.A. Environmental Studies, Antioch University
A new group recently met at Fishtown in Leland to initiate the Fisheries Heritage Trail. The trail will link historic fishing villages throughout the Great Lakes. It will provide access to historic archives relating to commercial fishing as well as the sites occupied by shoreline communities where fishers lived.The effort is sponsored by Sea Grant, Michigan Maritime Museum, the Pokey Huddle Institute and NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and others.
Fresh Great Lakes fish bought in the market are caught by commercial fishers, sports fishers are not allowed to sell fish they catch by hook and line. Commercial fishing operations still use classic high deck tugs that can protect the crew from the weather all year round. The tug I worked on had a coal stove that really kicked out the heat. Trap net commercial operations use vessels with low decks and generally only fish in good weather.
It was decreed with consent that the sports/commercial fishing divide would be defined by kinds of fish caught as well as fishing methods. Commercial fishers catch coregonids, whitefish, chubs, cisco and herring. These native fish of the genus coregonus live in all parts of Great Lakes waters and throughout colder regions of the globe. Sports fishers catch large predator fish that are raised in hatcheries and have biometric tags inserted in their heads as they are released.
As the 20 year period of the consent decree approaches the end, it is apparent that the fisheries resources pie has changed since 2000. While some species have declined others have increased such as walleye in the Saginaw bay. Many feel it would be appropriate to allow commercial walleye fishing in the Saginaw Bay. Randall Claramunt of the DNR has recently talked about “paradigm shift” due to changing fish populations. 1.
The catch of native whitefish (coegonus cupaliformis) in Lake Michigan and Huron is still substantial, 2.2 million pounds in 2015. The trap nets whitefish are caught in stand on the bottom of the lake in shallow areas and are pulled up and checked for fish. The tugs set gill nets that can stand at depths of hundreds of feet.
Aquaculture in Michigan is in service of sportsmen. Sportsfishermen are fishing harder with their hooks and lines for the non-native game fish raised in State of Michigan Hatcheries. The State government has a firm hold on aquaculture and an enthusiastic constituency of sportsmen. As the ecosystem changes and the “consent decree” expires it is time to rethink how fisheries in Michigan are managed. With an eye to history, thoughtful decisions can be made with the consent of stake holders. Many who buy fresh Great Lakes fish in the market recognize the efforts of commercial fishers. Efforts to expand aquaculture operations in Great Lakes waters are long over due.
The Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail can provide perspective on how the fisheries resource has changed. The Consent Decree renegotiation is an opportunity to envision a new paradigm. Former commercial fishers and others knowledgeable in fisheries issues support the expansion of commercial fishing and aquaculture in the open waters of the Great Lakes. State governments have the expertise to manage such operations without interfering with sportsmen as they take their boat rides in fine weather.
1. “King salmon reign becomes more precarious on changing Great Lakes”; Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press Published, Oct. 23, 2017
Stewart. A. McFerran teaches a class on the Natural History of Michigan Rivers at NMC and is a frequent contributor to the Grand Traverse Journal.
Jack Hobey presents Edward Beebe’s Historic Leelanau Photographs Wednesday, November 15th 4:30pm
at Leelanau Historical Society
During the Golden Age of Postcards, Edward Beebe documented the resort, lumbering and transportation history of Leelanau County. Between 1909 and 1915, he was the best-known photographer in northern Michigan, using a large format camera and producing glass plate negatives that developed incredible black and white photographs.
He came to North Manitou Island first to photograph its lumber industry. The rugged beauty and the character of its residents captured his imagination and brought him back frequently. Historic Leelanau Photographs of Leland, Suttons Bay and North Manitou Island from 1909 to 1915 captures nearly 300 of these rare historic photos with a narrative of these early times written by Edward Beebe, Jack Hobey expert.
Leelanau Historical Society is located at 203 E. Cedar Street, Leland, Michigan 49654.
Grand Traverse Area Genealogical Society Hosts Annual “Holiday Sharing”
Thursday, November 3rd, 1:00 p.m.
Celebrate your breakthroughs in genealogy research (or recruit a few awesome minds to assist you with your brick wall) at GTAGS’ annual “Holiday Sharing” Meeting! Enjoy some social time and engage with others of like-mind.
Meetings are held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 3746 Veterans Drive, Traverse City, Michigan. Event is free of charge and the public is encouraged to attend.
John Brian presents A History of Merchant Shipping on the Great Lakes Sunday, November 19th, 1-3 p.m. at Traverse Area Historical Society
Join us on Sunday, November 19th, 1-3 p.m., when John Brian will speak on the history of Merchant Shipping on the Great Lakes in the Twentieth and Twenty-first centuries. Brian is recently retired from serving over 25 years as a merchant marine deck officer on the Great Lakes.
Traverse Area Historical Soceity’s Monthly History Series meetings take place in the McGuire Room at Traverse Area District Library, 610 Woodmere Ave., Traverse City. Event is free and open to the public.
Outside Oryana Food Co-op at Lake St. and Tenth, just beyond the old railroad yard, a stand of grass grows far taller than my six-foot frame. The stalks are sturdy and straight, colored with maroon, gold, and a touch of blue at the nodes where the leaves come out. They grow in the rubble of a formerly active railroad, amid the cinders, stones, broken glass, and pieces of coal of the roadbed. Alongside the tallest grasses is a shorter species which looks much like the larger, but reaching only a bit above my knees. It definitely plays second fiddle to its larger cousin.
I know these grasses. The larger is Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and the smaller—appropriately—Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). Both are native to Michigan, the smaller species quite common along interstate highways and sandy, well-drained fields in locations where farming proved nearly impossible decades ago. Big Bluestem is harder to find: the most likely place in Northern Michigan to find it is near Lake Michigan among the dunes.
Both grasses are prairie species. As components of that ecosystem, they depend upon environmental disturbance for their survival, that taking the form of occasional drought, fire, and windblown soil. In Michigan we do not have good examples of prairie ecosystems. Perhaps the oak openings around Kalamazoo and the sandy, unstable soils near Lake Michigan come the closest, but they lack many prairie species present further west. Sleeping Bear dunes has areas heavily populated with prairie grasses, especially Big and Little Bluestem.
If prairies are the natural habitat of these grasses, then why are they found along railroad tracks? Two reasons occur to me: first, railroads do away with woody plants growing near the tracks through pruning or herbicides. With no trees to shade them out, grasses have the advantage. The second reason has to do with fire. Before the days of diesel engines, fires along railroad tracks were common as hot cinders escaped the smoke stacks of steam engines. Fire would spread from the tracks, sometimes starting wildfires that extended for miles. Of course, lightning causes such fires, too.
Michigan does not have the endless oceans of grass rippling in the wind as the Dakotas or eastern Montana do. Buffalo did not wander among stalks of Big Bluestem that grew shoulder-high to those animals. The sky did not spread to the far horizon, creating a sense of both immensity and emptiness as Western writers describe for us. Instead, here the hills and trees make for a more closed—some would say, friendly environment. Still, in small places and large expanses all around—by old railroad tracks and in sand dunes—we get a hint of the prairie further west, only we must search hard to find it. Look along railroad tracks to find Big and Little Bluestem before the snow presses their stalks to the earth.
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.”
Locally-produced digital magazine featuring nature and local history from the Grand Traverse Region.