Tag Archives: Grand Traverse County

Freshwater Jellyfish: Cute, and They Don’t Sting

Students frequently confront teachers of biology with a variety of organisms: snakes captured under porches, wild birds rescued and nurtured at home, preying mantises temporarily housed in glass jars, occasional pet hamsters brought to school in their wire cages, and—occasionally—creatures one doesn’t see regularly.  That was the case when a boy lugged a large bucket of water into the classroom one September day.  His question was the kind I welcome the most: What are these?

Location of High Lake, East Bay Township, Grand Traverse County, Michigan. Image courtesy of Google Maps, September 2016.

I looked inside the bucket, at first not seeing a thing as I focused on the bottom of the bucket.   Then I saw them, swimming in the water column, tens of white, almost transparent disks, each one the size of a penny, swimming—is that too strong a word?—keeping themselves from sinking to the bottom.  Astounded because I had never seen them before, I croaked out, “Do you know what you’ve found?  Freshwater jellyfish!  They’re rare…where did you get them?   The boy, proud of his accomplishment, replied, High Lake.  High Lake!  High Lake had freshwater jellyfish! I wondered if I should report this finding to the University of Michigan.

Since that time much has been learned about freshwater jellyfish.  The source I had used concerning these organisms, Pennak’s Freshwater Invertebrates of the United States (1953) was outdated even at the time my classroom adventure occurred.  The book emphasized how rare the animals were, having been found at only fifty locations throughout the country.  As I read about them today I get a different impression about their origin, frequency and distribution across the lower 48 states.

Craspedacusta sowerbyi, a freshwater jellyfish native to China that is now a world-wide invasive species. Image courtesy of OpenCage (opencage.info) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Craspedacusta sowerbii, a freshwater jellyfish native to China that is now a world-wide invasive species. Image courtesy of OpenCage (opencage.info) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
They are not native to North America, having gotten here from China most likely with shipments of tropical fish and aquarium plants.  Fifteen years ago High Lake was one of the earliest lakes affected by that introduction.  They are not rare:  freshwater jellyfish are found in bodies of water in almost all of the states east of the Mississippi River as well as many more out west.  Outside of the United States they are now found in North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand, almost always in temperate locations.  Alas, my excitement at finding rare fauna has cooled considerably.

Another invasive species!  I anxiously turned to Wikipedia to read about its effects on local ecosystems: What foul deeds is it performing on our freshwater lakes?  At present it is not clear what harm they are doing.  They do not seem to disrupt the major feeding relationships among the animals we care about, the fish, birds, and mammals.  Certainly they feed upon near-microscopic members of the zooplankton–the animals that feed small fish–and occasionally upon minnows themselves, but their presence seems benign—at least so far.

The development of Jellyfish. This image is taken from the book "Das Meer" (The Sea), by Matthias Jacob Schleiden. Top are medusae, or jellyfish; bottom are polyps. In the middle polyps strobilate (divide horizontally) to form medusae. Image courtesy of Matthias Jacob Schleiden (1804-1881) - Schleiden M. J. "Die Entwicklung der Meduse". In: "Das Meer". Verlag und Druck A. Sacco Nachf., Berlin, 1869.NOAA photo library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2051
The development of Jellyfish. This image is taken from the book “Das Meer” (The Sea), by Matthias Jacob Schleiden. Top are medusae, or jellyfish; bottom are polyps. In the middle polyps strobilate (divide horizontally) to form medusae. Image courtesy of Matthias Jacob Schleiden (1804-1881) – Schleiden M. J. “Die Entwicklung der Meduse”. In: “Das Meer”. Verlag und Druck A. Sacco Nachf., Berlin, 1869.NOAA photo library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2051

The fluttering disks I saw in the bucket represented the medusa stage of the jellyfish, the sexual stage in the life cycle, the stage that produces eggs and sperms.  However, the creature usually prefers the ease of asexual reproduction—a statement supported by the observation that all of the medusae in a lake might be male or else female, never a mixture of the two genders.

Students of Greek mythology might remember the word “medusa”, a monster with a hideous female face surrounded by venomous snakes, its visage so terrible that humans would be turned to stone upon beholding it.  The jellyfish medusa, thankfully, does not possess that power.  It is named after the many tentacles that hang from its margin, a reminder of the monster’s snakes.  Indeed, like the snakes,  it does possess venom—in tiny darts called “nematocysts”—but these are not robust enough to penetrate our skin.  They cannot “sting” us like their relatives, the Portuguese Man of War.

How does the jellyfish reproduce without sex?  It spends much of its life under water in the form of a polyp, a tiny but not microscopic form without tentacles that pinches off the little caps that become the medusa.  Sometimes it does not even bother with that, simply budding off a new polyp from its side.  Boaters and swimmers may not even see medusae in the water for years at a time.  The animal produces them when he/she is ready.

That bucket of water from High Lake did open my eyes to something I did not know existed, even if it proved not to be the rarity I had imagined.  It made me aware of another living form I had never heard of.  Does stimulating my curiosity add to the value of an organism?  If so, I have come to value the freshwater jellyfish.

Richard Fidler is co-editor of the Grand Traverse Journal.

Featured Inventor found anew in Recently Discovered Photograph

Longtime readers of Grand Traverse Journal are in for treat. Take a close look at this photograph:


Notice the look in the man’s eyes, the jaunty tilt of the cap, the devil-may-care, speed-demon attitude. Some of you may recognize him, I hope. It’s our good friend, that alligator-owning, intrepid inventor, Charles A. Augustine.

Perhaps you need a refresher? Take a look back at Julie Schopieray’s article on Charles, his one-time partner Andrew Smith, and the aircraft industry that almost took off (pun intended) in Traverse City, ca. 1910. As you will recall, Charles was keen on building anything that moved, including his own motorcycle!

On December 16, 1911 Charles tried out another new invention which was a watercraft he called a hydroplane.  The description given in the newspaper is similar to that of a modern airboat or fanboat:

The hydroplane consists of two hollow steel tubes which not only serve as floats but  are also necessary to retain craft’s equilibrium. It might be termed as a hydro-plane with the planes [wings] taken off, for the means used to propel it is in the shape of an aeroplane propeller about three feet in length, and driven by a four cylinder motor cycle engine. This odd yet practical and pleasure giving affair is the work of a local young man, Chas. Augustine, who is not only the owner of the first hydro-plane in this vicinity; but it will be remembered that he is the first one to have an aeroplane and a motor sled… The boat is capable of making eight of ten knots an hour, he having rode from Greilickville across the bay to the mouth of the river and up the river to Park street bridge in about twenty minutes…

This photograph was found in a (quite random) pile of materials donated to the Traverse Area District Library recently… a warning to all who might just throw things away! As far as we know, this is the last surviving copy of this photograph in existence, and we are pleased to publish it for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks to Julie Schopieray for her keen eye in spotting this image from the aforementioned “pile.” Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.

How old is that Courthouse solved!

Thanks to reader Marly for her correct answer to May’s mystery photo! The Grand Traverse County Courthouse (the historic building) was completed and in operation in 1900. You can read all about the ceremony for its opening in past issues of Grand Traverse Herald, a predecessor to the Traverse City Record-Eagle, now available online courtesy of the Newspaper Digitization volunteers at Traverse Area District Library:



If you’ve missed the peals of the great bell at the historic Grand Traverse County Courthouse as much as your editors have, you’ll be pleased to know that we once again have a bell to be proud of!

A Restore the Bell rededication ceremony will be held this Saturday May 2, starting at 11:15am at the Courthouse building, corner of Boardman and Washington. The bell will ring for the first time since 2008 at noon. Please gather at the north lawn and bring your own chairs. Event is free and open to the public, and will include a number of speakers.

Preservation is all about Perseverance and Patience; Grand Traverse Journal salutes the success of that fine group of citizens who got the bell ringing again!

So here’s this month’s mystery: What decade was the Courthouse built?

Perhaps you’ll attend the ceremony and find out!

Image courtesy of photographer Jimmy Emerson, https://www.flickr.com/photos/auvet/14734511549/

The Joys of Historical Research: A Mysterious Grave in Yuba City

by Julie Schopieray

Unless you are already aware of its existence, or happen to pull off the highway on a little side road that was once a part of the old highway, you’d never know it was there. A small gravestone stands alone under a large pine tree, just off US-31 near the ghost town of Yuba in Acme township, Grand Traverse County. It belongs to two-year- old William Leith, who died in February 1859.

This lone little grave has stirred much curiosity, including mine. Its solitary status has led to assumptions about its origin, which has resulted in stories designed explain it . After seeing this gravestone, I too wanted to know about it.

Obituary of William Leith, from the "Grand Traverse Herald," 1859.
Obituary of William Leith, from the “Grand Traverse Herald,” 1859.

Starting with just an internet search, I found one author who reported that this was “the oldest known Caucasian grave in the northwestern region of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.” Another website gave an account of the family traveling in a wagon train through the area when their son became sick and died. They buried him along the road and even with their grief, had to continue on their journey.

This particular tale raised the question: Why would anyone be traveling in a wagon train in Northern Michigan in the middle of the winter? It did not seem likely.

My next step was to search digitized issues of the Grand Traverse Herald. The search brought up three hits with the name Leith. The first was from Dec. 1858, which described a very large chicken belonging to Mr. Crawford Leith, a resident of Whitewater. The second was an obituary for William Leith, the son of Crawford and Elizabeth Leith, who died of scarlet fever. The date matched the gravestone exactly. (The third hit was in April, 1859 with election results mentioning Mr. Leith running for commissioner of highways—he lost the election).

Leith family, ca. 1880. Image courtesy of Leith family ancestors.

My curiosity then took me to the county deeds office to check just where this family lived. I knew that in 1859, this area of the county at Yuba was still called Whitewater. My first thought was that when Willie died, he was buried on their own property, which was a common practice at the time, especially since there was no established cemetery nearby. [The Yuba cemetery, across the highway from this grave, wasn’t established until 1904.]

Vincent Crawford Leith purchased 160 acres in Section 26 of what is now Acme Township. The dates on the land records were a bit confusing. The land grant was dated 15 August 1862, but on the very next page of the liber was a warranty deed where Mr. Leith sold this same property to a Mr. Price in Aug. 1859. It may be that the transaction took place much earlier, but was just not recorded until 1862.

Strangely, the spot where Willie is buried is not the property the Leiths owned. Since Willie died in the winter, a burial may have been delayed until the spring.

Now I had more questions than answers: What did they do with his body until the ground thawed? When the Leiths moved to Ohio later that year, did they have someone place the stone for them, and if so, did those people put the stone on the wrong spot? Why would Willie be buried on property they didn’t own and so near the road?

A thorough search of the 1860 Federal Census shows no sign of Mr. Leith or his family, although I suspect they moved to Allen County, Ohio after their property was sold in 1859. They may have been traveling during the census, and were not counted.

Mr. Leith volunteered and served as a musician in the 118th Ohio Infantry from September 1862, until the end of the Civil War. They spent the next 45 years in Allen County, Ohio. Basic genealogical research shows that this is indeed Willie’s family.

Willie Leith’s gravestone. Image courtesy of the author, captured in the summer of 2011.

There is a romantic feel to the legends that have evolved around this stone. The statement that it is the oldest known grave in the region may be true. It can be documented that others died in the area before this, but grave locations are either unknown, unrecorded, or were later moved.

The reason for the location of the solitary little grave remains unanswered. The truth however, is that this little boy’s family were area residents for a few years, not just passing through. The fact that the child is separated from the rest of his family, is a reality which pulls at the heartstrings of those who see the stone. The little boy’s resting place has been lovingly cared for over the years. The stone has been broken in several spots, but an anonymous person has made a gallant effort to cement the fragments together to keep it in one piece. Artificial flowers and small trinkets surround the stone, left by kind-hearted, nameless visitors.

Julie Schopieray is a local author and history buff, who enjoys debunking local historical myths.

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

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

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

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

C: What were your parents names?

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

C: Were there doctors in town?

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

C: How did they come to live in Kingsley?

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

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

C: Where did they get married?

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

C: What did your father do?

Downtown Kingsley in the 1930s. The building furthest away, north of M113, was Hooper's tavern, where Katy's folks first lived when they moved to Kingsley. The Cleland Tavern, where movies were shown on the painted screen on the building's side, is now where the auto supply store sits. Image courtesy of the Floyd Webster Historical Photograph Collection, http://localhistory.tadl.org/items/show/605
Downtown Kingsley in the 1930s. The building furthest away, north of M113, was Hooper’s tavern, where Katy’s folks first lived when they moved to Kingsley. The Cleland Tavern, where movies were shown on the painted screen on the building’s side, is now the home of Kingsley (Thirlby) Automotive. Image courtesy of the Floyd Webster Historical Photograph Collection, http://localhistory.tadl.org/items/show/605

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

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

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

C: What was your first husband’s name?

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

C: How long were you married to Larry?

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

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

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

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

Ralph Case family home on Brownson Avenue north of M113, 1934. The farm house on the left became the Smith (now Covell-Smith)  Funeral Home, where Katy babysat the Smith children.
Ralph Case family home on Brownson Avenue north of M113, 1934. The farm house on the left became the Smith (now Covell-Smith) Funeral Home, where Katy baby-sat the Smith children. Image courtesy of the Floyd Webster Historical Photograph Collection, http://localhistory.tadl.org/items/show/927

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

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

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

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

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

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

C: What did they pay to start?

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

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

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

C: Did Larry paint houses?

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

C: What are your kid’s names?

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

C: Your next child down?

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

C: Did you go to church here in town?

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

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

C: Did you like Ken when you met him?

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

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

I said, “I don’t think so.”

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

“I’m pretty busy.”

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

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

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

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

Downtown Kingsley, 1957.  Close on far right is the IGA; in the distance are the Standard and Pure gas stations at the corner of M113 and Brownson Avenue.
Downtown Kingsley, 1957. On far left is the IGA; in the distance are the Standard and Pure gas stations at the corner of M113 and Brownson Avenue. Image courtesy of the Floyd Webster Historical Photograph Collection, http://localhistory.tadl.org/items/show/910

C: Were there many gas stations?

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

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

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

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

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

C: How did your mother get clothes for you?

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

C: Did you mind being an only child?

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

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

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

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

C: Who were the wealthy people in town?

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


When the Aircraft Industry Almost Got Off the Ground in Traverse City: The Tale of Two Inventors

by Julie Schopieray, local historian and writer

This story is about two very different Traverse City men, each with his own ambitions in the emerging world of manned flight.  Both had skills and talents to be successful, but for different reasons neither realized their aviation dreams.

Many direct quotes from newspaper articles have been included because their wording best expresses the attitudes and humor of the time.

It was 1909. The Wright Brothers were setting flight records repeatedly.  In St. Louis, Missouri, during various centennial celebrations, balloon races, dirigible exhibitions and aeroplane contests made national headlines.  In the small northern Michigan town of Traverse City a young man with a natural gift for mechanics and apparently innate engineering skills made aviation headlines, himself–at least locally.

In August 1909, Charles Albert Augustine, a twenty-one-year-old son of a tailor, along with a few friends, put together a 20-foot long bi-plane glider. The young man and his friend, Edwin E. Smith, made their maiden flight on October 17, 1909 from the top of a hill just south of town on the Ransom farm. Several men ran alongside, pushing the glider with its pilot until it caught air and rose up about 50 feet, gliding a full 600 feet and landing lightly again. They gave the glider several tries that day, but the flight that Smith piloted was the longest. After this successful flight, the achievement was eagerly covered in the paper.

Augustine had high hopes of starting an aeroplane manufacturing company.  However, he needed funding for his projects and had competition for financial support.  Another man with better connections to local businessmen was also making news with his invention–which threatened to overshadow that of the younger man.  Andrew Smith was seventeen years older than Augustine and had already established a reputation as a proficient inventor, although the extent of his training is unknown. In 1895, he had patented an oarlock mechanism for boats, making a good amount of money from it. By 1904, he had several patents, one for a diamond-shaped clothespin, and another for a machine to make them. His machine was used to open a clothespin factory in Muskegon, Michigan. Obviously mechanically talented, he is listed in the 1900 census as an inventor.

Andrew Smith's 16-cylinder engine trials on icy Grand Traverse Bay.
Andrew Smith’s 16-cylinder engine trials on icy Grand Traverse Bay.

In 1910, Smith was listed as a mechanical engineer at the Oval Wood Dish Co. His biggest venture yet was perfecting a 16-cylinder airplane engine. Working with the Traverse City Iron Works to build his engine, he had it ready to test in early 1911.  In February that year, he put together a contraption with the test engine attached to a sled and an eight-foot propeller. During the test runs on the ice of the bay, Smith experimented with different amounts of engine power:

Mr. Smith turned the power of all the cylinders on at one time as an experiment, but the heavy boat was practically lifted off the ice… the second test was made over the same course and under similar conditions with the exception that 12 passengers were carried. The added weight did not seem to make any difference as practically the same speed was made and the boat went over the course like an express train without mishap.

This experiment drew the interest of local businessmen, and Smith started gaining support from the community. Several men subscribed to incorporate the Smith Aeroplane Engine Company, which was capitalized at $100,000.  A publication called Aircraft dated March, 1911 noted the activity of the two men, “Andrew Smith and Charles Augustine are the prime movers towards the organization of a company at Traverse City, Mich., for the purpose of manufacturing aeroplanes and aero engines in that growing western town.”  There seems to have been some sort of partnership between the two men, but perhaps only a verbal agreement, not a contractual one.

Augustine’s biplane, as it appeared in a photograph published in the Grand Rapids Press, 1910. This is the first time this image has been shown to persons interested in local history, as this image is not available through the History Center.

A January 1910 Grand Rapids newspaper covered the exciting achievement of Augustine’s first flights the previous fall, including a photo of the builder and his biplane. The article mentioned the partnership with Smith but explained that they somehow ended their relationship, “Originally, Augustine was working in conjunction with a local machinist who promised to produce an eight-cylinder fifty horsepower gasoline engine… but Augustine and his machinist friend have had a split….”

In August, 1910, Augustine’s new plane was finished, but he was waiting for Smith to return from a business trip in New York. Augustine was to pilot his plane with the Smith engine and a newspaper reporter was to accompany him on the flight. The flight with the Smith engine never happened.  No documentation has been found to show that the Augustine airplane body and the Smith engine ever came together as a unit and flown. The following month, Augustine left for New York spending three months learning about planes, gaining experience with engines and working for an aeronautical society on Long Island.

After returning home, Augustine placed an ad in the wanted column of the paper asking for capital to purchase an engine for his monoplane, but few came to his aid. A supporter wrote a piece in the paper encouraging others to contribute:

In a January issue of the Grand Rapids Press we read that Traverse City people were electrified last year when Charles Augustine made his flights in a glider of his own construction. We wonder if they were so electrified that they still remained dazed and as they read the ad in home papers for financial aid to purchase an engine for this same young man for his new monoplane, do they fail to see in this an opportunity to aid one of Traverse City’s boys? What might mean very little to each one who might lend a hand might mean much to one who has spent all his spare time and all his earnings during the past few months working on this machine, which is nearing completion only lacking the engine. One man says he will give $25 toward it, are there twenty-four more men who will do likewise? This would set the young man on his feet and show to our sister cities that the Queen City of the North is still loyal to her boys.
–Owen Schoolcraft

Prospects for financing a fledgling aircraft company centered on Smith rather than Augustine. The Board of Trade created an aviation committee consisting of three local businessmen, and pledged whatever support they could to Andrew Smith and his engine-building venture. There was talk of starting a factory for production right in Traverse City.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1911, the Smith engine made mention in the paper with results of testing in Saginaw and Chicago, and word of an additional $1,000  being donated to the testing fund.

Augustine's monoplane never got off the ground, but reality never stopped famed postcard designer Orson W. Peck. Read more about him in the "Then and Now" feature of this month's Grand Traverse Journal!
Augustine’s monoplane never got off the ground, but reality never stopped famed postcard designer Orson W. Peck. Read more about him in the “Then and Now” feature of this month’s Grand Traverse Journal!

Meanwhile, Augustine was still perfecting his monoplane. Surprisingly, even with all the talk of the Smith engine, in September, a full eight months after his plea for financial aid, the latest Augustine aeroplane was finished but still without an engine. Newspaper accounts were supportive, “The machine is completed and a model in every respect, similar in size and design to many of the best aeroplanes now in use. Experts have judged this a perfect machine, but as yet Mr. Augustine has not been able to secure a suitable engine with which to operate it.” The plane was put on display at the local fair, a sensible move according to the paper, “This of itself will be a great attraction and as aerial navigation has now become firmly established, additional interest will be given to this exhibition.” It seems strange that with the glowing description of the quality of Augustine’s plane, he was not being taken seriously, and left without securing funds.

After the excitement of a nearby town holding an aviation exhibit at their fair, at the last minute Charles’ plane was rushed in and put on display in Traverse City. It seems his plane was only being used to bring more people into town for the fair. In the end, Augustine’s “perfect machine” never left the ground.

Meanwhile, an exhibition was planned to show off the improved and tested Smith engine. With the backing of prominent businessman Henry Hull, the Board of Trade made an agreement with Smith which stated he would pay for all advertising. Subscribers who donated were assured their money would be well spent and, if they were “in any way dissatisfied with the flights, they could have their money cheerfully refunded to them.”

Together, Smith and the Board organized an exhibition once Smith’s engine had been perfected and tested at an air strip in Chicago. Three days in late November, 1911 were set aside for the show.  The paper waxed enthusiastic about the exhibition and the prospects for airplane manufacture in the city:

Under the auspices of the Board of Trade, this machine will be brought to Traverse City and two days exhibition given. There is a two-fold object in this proposition- one is to give the people of this section of the state an opportunity to see a real air ship in action; another is to give a demonstration for the purpose of interesting local capital in this company for the purpose of manufacturing these engines in  this city…Taking these things into consideration, there is a great future for the aeroplane engine and the Traverse City product promises much for the future. This community now has an opportunity to assist in establishing what will probably become a large and valuable industry.

Smith secured professional aviator Vandie Ludvik to fly the plane in the exhibition in Traverse City.  Ludvik had been testing Smith’s engine in various planes in other exhibitions around the Midwest, and a Curtiss bi-plane was chosen to use with the Smith engine. Ads were placed in the paper and tickets sold by the Board of Trade for 25 cents, and the 12th Street fairgrounds were chosen for the exhibition. The first two days’ weather was not good, and only one flight was taken on the second day, its outcome reported quite positively:

A large crowd witnessed the experiment on seventh street and when the machine was ready, it was followed to the Twelfth street grounds by hundreds of people.  After a run about 150 feet, the air craft gracefully rose about 30 feet going gradually higher as it encircled the field until it reached a height of about 50 or 60 feet, when a stiff air current partially toppled the machine, but the aviator with quick manipulations righted the craft and completed the circuit of the field at a height of about 30 or 40 feet, making a very good landing.  

On the third day, the conditions were better.

The trial was the best yet given… and the engine was in first-class condition. The aviator rose to a height of about 200 feet, encircling the grounds twice, in his flight sailed over the asylum grounds. When he landed, the rear wheel of the bi-plane struck a stump and was badly punctured… About 5,000 people…gathered on the twelfth street grounds to witness the scheduled exhibition of the Curtis bi-plane…the great throng of men, women and children, who covered the field could not be controlled…the crowd was so great that he was afraid that he could not pick out a suitable landing place without danger of injuring several people in alighting. Besides, there was a defect in the connecting rod of the frame work which was broken in the landing which prohibited another trial. Naturally the great crowd was very much disappointed.

According to a 1957 article by Al Barnes, after the initial flights, the test pilot “refused to make another flight” with the Smith engine “saying it was ‘no good.’”

There was still talk of gaining support for Charles Augustine and his inventions, but it seems to have not been enough to make a success for him. In December, 1911, after testing another invention called a hydroplane, a propeller-driven watercraft, he was still struggling to find financial support for his inventions.  The newspaper ruefully comments, “Some time ago Charlie made an appeal to certain parties for assistance in perfecting his aeroplane which he is sure would have succeeded in flying if he could have secured an engine powerful enough for this purpose. Although he failed to receive the assistance for which he asked he has not given up entirely because  of discouragement, but is still hammering away. It is too bad that Mr. Augustine does not receive the encouragement and necessary assistance of which he is deserving for he has proven by his work in the past, that he is endowed with the ingenuity of an inventor.”

A few days later, a local citizen also contributed and “Editorials by the People” letter which was published to, hopefully, encourage local businessmen to support Charles.  This letter sums up what some locals must have been feeling. The Board of Trade had supported Andrew Smith, but only because they thought there might be a benefit to the city if an engine factory could be established and bring more business to town. What Charles Augustine was doing did not appear to benefit the city.

Editor Record-Eagle: Selfishness seems to be the predominating spirit of the age; it blinds us to our own interests, to our neighbors’ interests, and to the interests of the city in general. We have the business men’s association, the grocers’ combine, labor unions, etc., each trying to get some advantage of the other, each trying to benefit the organization they represent at the expense of the others. We also have a board of trade composed of lawyers and business men to look after the city in general.  In seeing for something great, we sometimes overlook the great things. The prosperity of any city can only be obtained by the mutual working together of all of its inhabitants. In a recent issue of your paper I noticed these headlines, “Hydroplane a Success.” I say that a boy with the inventive ingenuity that Charles Augustine possesses ought not to go unrewarded, and that the Board of Trade could do nothing better for Traverse City than to back him with the means necessary to start a factory for the manufacture of aeroplanes, hydroplanes of any other kind of planes his inventive genius may bring forth. The time is near when the air will be filled with some kind of machines, and if Traverse City wants to receive the benefit, as other cities are now receiving from the manufacturer of automobiles, it had better get in line immediately.
— W.H. Henderson

Biography of Charles Augustine, working class inventor

Charles Augustine grew up among the working class and had the typical schooling available in Traverse City at the time, most likely an education that ended at the eighth grade. He earned his daily living as the projector operator at the Dreamland Theater on Front Street, a fitting job for someone who enjoyed how mechanical things worked. He also is listed as an electrician and a chauffeur in various city directories.

He obtained his mechanical education in a correspondence school, getting actual experience in automobile factories.  His skills permitted him to build a motorcycle when his finances were not good enough to purchase one.

The story was that he became interested in flying through a dare.  He took that dare and first started creating a dirigible, but the expense of the gas needed changed his focus to the biplane. Augustine had even gone to a flight school in Missouri and learned to pilot an aircraft with great skill.

He was obsessed with mechanical things because, not only did he build airplanes, he invented other modes of engine-driven transportation.  Late in 1910 he invented something called a motor sled, described as follows, “built like an iceboat, only much smaller, being, but eight feet long, it is a curious looking affair. The propellor seven feet long is located in front, on a raised frame, and connected by a chain to the engine. The engine is a three horsepower motor cycle engine, and drives the propellor at a rate of 250 revolutions per minute.”

On December 16, 1911 Charles tried out another new invention which was a watercraft he called a hydroplane.  The description given in the newspaper is similar to that of a modern airboat or fanboat:

The hydroplane consists of two hollow steel tubes which not only serve as floats but  are also necessary to retain craft’s equilibrium. It might be termed as a hydro-plane with the planes [wings] taken off, for the means used to propel it is in the shape of an aeroplane propeller about three feet in length, and driven by a four cylinder motor cycle engine. This odd yet practical and pleasure giving affair is the work of a local young man, Chas. Augustine, who is not only the owner of the first hydro-plane in this vicinity; but it will be remembered that he is the first one to have an aeroplane and a motor sled… The boat is capable of making eight of ten knots an hour, he having rode from Greilickville across the bay to the mouth of the river and up the river to Park street bridge in about twenty minutes…

In 1913, the newspaper noted his latest invention, a primitive automobile, “[Charles Augustine] appeared on the streets yesterday with his latest mechanical production. A motorcycle motor has been mounted on a small chassis supported by four bicycle wheels. The body of the car is built of unfinished lumber, but in spite of its odd appearance the vehicle negotiated the streets and hills about the city easily. The seating capacity is arranged to accommodate one person.”

As far as his personal life goes, he married Loretta Valleau on June 5, 1911, but  the marriage only lasted three years. Perhaps Charles spent too much time working on his inventions, which he was continually creating. A friend recalled that Augustine “could stick to one thing only long enough to make it work, and he would jump to another challenge.”

He was known around town for his quirky nature. For over ten years, he kept a pet alligator which was sometimes put on display, and was known to have escaped from its tank more than once. The first recorded incident was in 1905. The three-foot reptile, which had been missing for two months, was discovered in a neighbor’s wet cellar by two men who were taken by surprise by the creature.  In 1916, it vanished from Augustine’s Front Street home and managed to find its way into West Bay.  By this time, the ‘gator was five feet long.  The newspaper was quick to make fun of the situation:

While the sharks were biting great holes in the Atlantic seaboard this summer and driving the bathers from the salty surf to their enameled bath tubs the swimmers in Grand Traverse bay cruised leisurely back and forth and thanked their lucky stars that the inland waters were free from the menace of of submarine attack. Little did they dream that a five foot alligator was no doubt then watching their every stroke simply waiting and watching for an especially plump morsel. But such must have been the case for yesterday afternoon after a desperate struggle two young gentlemen named Carver and Abbott captured and dragged ashore this self same alligator. While loitering along the beach near Sunset Park they noticed what they first considered to be a log floating idly near the shore. The log seemed to be propelled through the water and as this seemed to be a strange condition they investigated and discovered that it was not a wooden thing but something imbued with life. The fight and capture resulted. By the time that the monster was brought ashore the story had spread and there were crowds of people along the shore. The question of its disposal next arose and there was also much speculation as to which course the captive took to reach these waters from its southern home. About this time one of the spectators identified the alligator as belonging to Chas. Augustine of East Front street. Due inquiries brought out the fact that the alligator was a family pet and had escaped last week.

Augustine enjoyed performing in theatrical productions. In 1906, he played a villain in “A Hobo’s Triumph”, and somehow worked his pet alligator in the story! In 1908, he purchased the Elk Rapids Opera House, but it isn’t known if he had any success with it.

His flamboyant nature got him arrested numerous times for speeding on his motorcycle and driving without headlights. He loved his machines and their speed!

In 1914, Augustine married  Pearl Wells-Machado. His relationship with her seems to have been an on-and-off affair. They must have divorced since she was recorded as marrying another man in 1919, but was remarried to Augustine in 1925.

augustine-engineshowingHe entered the service during WW1 and shortly after contracted tuberculosis. His health plagued him for the rest of his life and he was in and out of hospitals from 1923 on, never fully recovering. Augustine died in 1933 at the age of 46 in a Veterans Hospital in Los Angeles, CA.

In his obituary, he was still remembered as the first to take flight in Traverse City some 24 years prior.

Charles Augustine, 46, pioneer motion picture operator and machinist of Traverse City died, in Los Angeles, Calif., Wednesday afternoon according to word received by friends in this city this morning. Mr. Augustine was a World War veteran and since his service had spent much of his time in veterans’ hospitals about the country, part of which was in the hospital at Camp Custer. For several years he had been in California in another hospital. About the time the Wright Brothers were starting work on their heavier than air machines, Charley Augustine was also experimenting with flying. He was intensely interested in aviation and only the condition of his health kept him from going more deeply into the development of the airplane. When motion pictures first came to Traverse City Mr. Augustine became interested in them, and then made picture projection his life work. This was interrupted by his service in the World War and his following hospitalization. Word of Mr. Augustine’s death came from Pearl Augustine, his widow who announced that burial will take place in Los Angeles.

Charles Augustine never fully received the support of the community.  The newspaper writes with apparent sympathy, “…handicapped by lack of experience, by lack of tools, by lack of material and by lack of money, Augustine, who is a natural mechanic … has been sure that he is right and so let none of the many obstacles discourage him.”

Unfortunately, these obstacles along with ill-health–and perhaps an inability to stay focused on any one thing for long–kept him from making a success in the aviation business. It seems sad to think that the local businessmen of Traverse City did not offer more support to encourage his talents. Was it public perception that caused the local businessmen to hold back on investing in Augustine? In 1910, at the height of  Smith and Augustine’s airplane and engine testing, the financial backers had to decide which inventor seemed to deserve their hard earned money. Would it be the mature man who already held a position as a mechanical engineer at a reputable company, and held several mechanical patents–or a working class twenty-one-year-old moving picture projector operator who made machines in a shed behind his parents’ house?  Who knows what Augustine could have accomplished if he’d had the resources to continue with his passion?

Brief Biography of Andrew Smith, inventor and patent-holder


Andrew Smith’s dream of an airplane engine company in Traverse City fell apart. In 1912 the company he started folded due to a lack of support for the project. This didn’t seem to diminish his spirit. He continued to successfully invent and patent his ideas through the 1930s.

By 1920, he had moved his family to Chicago where he was hired by the Halsam Products Company, a toy manufacturer. For that company, Smith invented a device to make toy blocks safer by rounding the edges: the company was well known for its “safety blocks.” Smith also invented a propelling device or shooter, and an improved game table.

He moved to Milwaukee around 1922, where he patented and manufactured an improved version of his 1894 oar lock.  In addition, he patented several automobile parts, including an oil pan, oiling system, clutch control, and a starter.  Never limited to one industry, he invented a machine to make blanks for paper poker chips and a machine to finish them. His chips were sold under the Thesco-Kirby-Cogeshall brand name.

It is believed Andrew Smith continued to live in Milwaukee until his death.

Julie Schopieray is a local historian and writer. She is currently working on a project concerning Jens C. Petersen, a Traverse City architect who practiced in this city from the early 1900s to 1918.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready to share your family stories? Consider submitting them to Grand Traverse Journal! For information on submission, visit http://gtjournal.tadl.org/about/#submissions

Growing up Wilhelm: Childhood memories of life on the farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah St. Mary’s: the Treasure

Hannah St. Mary’s has a story no one besides a few select people know. This is that story.

It all started when the first settlers came to Hannah. Around 1850 Perry Hannah, A.T. Lay, and James Morgan came and bought a sawmill along the Boardman River and started a business. Then in 1857 Congress passed a grant allowing funds to build a railroad in Michigan from Grand Rapids to Traverse Bay. In 1862, George Nickerson and his family came and urged other families to join them.  In 1872, with the railroad finally finished, settlers came from all over for the cheap land and the plentiful amount of timber.

Later, after the railroad was built, they decided that they needed a church, building and completing it in 1885.  However, the church did not have any altar fixtures in it until around 1896 when they bought their altar. It cost $81.84.  It probably does not seem like much to us, but back then it was a large sum of money.

As always, horrible things seem to constantly plague good people; this church was no exception. In the late 1800s or early 1900s robbers on horseback stole everything from their altar.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is where this story begins…

This is the account told to me by Eugene and Jim Johnson. In 1982 on Easter Sunday Eugene Johnson took his eight-year-old son Jim fishing on Fish Lake.  It was a slightly chilly, foggy day but you could still fish. They also took Jims’ metal detector to fiddle around with later.

At long last, after continually failing to tempt the fish to bite, they pulled out the metal detector. They started in the parking lot, just finding small things such as pennies and other small coins. But as time passed, they wandered on down into the more swampy area of the woods past the campground, and over a bank when suddenly the metal detector was almost off the scale.

When they looked down they saw something that resembled metal. They set the detector down and gently started digging. Soon they discovered that the first piece of metal was the base of a tarnished candlestick. They kept digging as the fog danced around them.  Soon Jim found a potato sack; When it finally left its grave, it was revealed that it was chock-full of more candlesticks and vessels.  As they dug even deeper, they started uncovering more candelabras–and discovered the piece that explained what all the others were, a large cross.

Exterior of St. Mary of Hannah in 2014, a Catholic church in Grand Traverse County, south of Chum's Corners and west of Kingsley on M1-13. Photo credit to GTJ editors.
Exterior of St. Mary of Hannah in 2014, a Catholic church in Grand Traverse County, south of Chum’s Corners and west of Kingsley on M1-13. Photo credit to GTJ editors.

Eugene, once having been an altar boy, recognized the cross as one that might grace an altar. The question was where had these treasures come from? Eugene had never heard of a robbery of a church in the area. But they couldn’t just leave these gorgeous treasures alone could they?

They packed the pieces off and went home to ponder their questions in a safer setting. When they arrived home and explained the situation to Eugene’s wife, Vicky, she suggested, “Why don’t you take it to our pastor, Father Murphy?”

They did just that. After explaining their predicament once again, Father Murphy agreed that the artifacts were in fact like the ones put on a Catholic Church altar. However, while the tarnished silver artifacts were found, none of the gold artifacts that would grace an altar were found.

Father Murphy suggested that he take the items in question and in the meantime he would look through old church files and see if he could find out the story behind the artifacts.

Later that day or the next, Father Murphy called up Eugene and said, “Have I got a story for you.” He then proceeded to tell them that in the late 1800s or early 1900s the Hannah St. Mary’s Church had been robbed on horseback. The number of bandits and who they were are an unsolved mystery to this day.

Pretty amazing story huh? Sadly the story never reached the news. The artifacts were put on display in the church rectory; Diane Gray, a Church secretary,  remembers seeing some tarnished altar pieces in the office.  However, today they are probably stuck in some dusty boxes, shoved into an even dustier basement where their history will never see the light.

I am sorry to say that though many questions have been asked, no one can remember this story and that has made it hard to gather facts, though I am ecstatic that, due to research questions, more people know this fascinating story. I have spent several hours at the Traverse Area District Library looking at newspapers but have not found any mention of the robbery of any churches except for an attempted robbery of the St. Francis church in 1905.  I did discover that the early history of the town was filled with robberies and murders. I spent quite a bit of time talking to members of the church whose families belonged to the church for a long time such as Margret Lewis, Messrs. Ray and Jay Weber and former parish secretaries such as Diane Gray and Terry Javin. I also spoke with Sue Zenner the daughter of Julia Harrand who wrote a book on the history of Hannah St. Mary, and interviewed Eugene and Jim Johnson who were the ones who found the treasure.

Hannah Carr is a student at Kingsley Area Schools, who is passionate about writing and research, although she prefers writing mysteries to nonfiction. Carr was one of the winners of the 2014 Floyd Milton Webster Prize for History (Kingsley), Young Adults, for this article. She plans to be responsible with her Prize winnings, and the Editors look forward to her entry next year.

History Center Visitors show Local History Makes a Difference

The History Center of Traverse City is a collaborator of the Grand Traverse Journal. Located in the former Carnegie Library on Sixth Street in Traverse City, the HCTC has a wealth of resources available for research on the history of people and communities around the Grand Traverse Region. Visit their website and digital archives: http://traversehistory.org/

Harts Camp in 1910, a logging site in southern Grand Traverse County.
Harts Camp in 1910, a logging site in southern Grand Traverse County.

Recently something happened at the HCTC Archives that should remind us all as to why what local historians do is important.  I was privileged to witness a wonderful transformation.  A young woman came into the History Center Archives with her grandfather.  They wanted to see anything we had on their home town, which is situated a few miles outside of Traverse City.  I was able to show them 20 – 30 historic photographs, a file of clippings and articles, and a small book on the town’s history,  written by a high school class in the 1950s.

When he first came in, the grandfather had seemed disinterested, disengaged, and frankly, not very focussed.  But not for long! As he and his granddaughter spent time in the Research Room, a wonderful transformation occurred.  As he pointed out things in the photos he began to smile.  As he read parts of the town’s history out loud, and added his own memories to the story, they both began to laugh. By the end of their visit the grandfather was excited, happy and they were both obviously having a very good time.

Farm in southern Grand Traverse County, turn of the previous century. Image donated to HCTC.
Farm in southern Grand Traverse County, turn of the previous century. Image donated to HCTC.

And the story doesn’t end there.  A couple of weeks later they came back, this time with three more family members. The grandfather asked me to pull the same materials as the last time, and the family spent nearly two hours sharing and reminiscing.  Not only that, but they brought in over 20 photos, scans of which are now part of the HCTC archives.

At its best, this is what local history does.  It ties our families to their past., and together.  It creates community bonds and shows us how we must work together to move successfully into the future.

Peg Siciliano is the archivist at the History Center of Traverse City; she has worked as an archivist through various incarnations of the HCTC since the 1980s. To see more of Peg’s work, visit her at the HCTC archives, or view the digital archives online: http://traversehistory.org/