Tag Archives: published works

New Book by Benzie Author reveals Crystal Lake History

Your Editors at Grand Traverse Journal look forward to publications of local interest, and 2015 has kicked off with a winner in Dr. Stacy Leroy Daniels’ The Comedy of Crystal Lake

The Comedy of Crystal Lake is the type of regional history we long to read, filled with descriptions of true characters that cultivated our immediate surroundings. Perhaps you too have driven through the quaint village of Beulah and wondered, “Who is Archibald Jones, and why does he deserve his own day?” Or, having read the 1922 account of The Tragedy of Crystal Lake, you were left saying, “If you ask me, it’s the present asking prices of homes on the shore that are the tragedy, not the rapid lowering of the lake level way back when.”

This tome answers a number of these questions and curiosities of life on Crystal Lake, and to our joy, Daniels’ robust scholarship more than stands up to scrutiny. Within, you will find a number of contemporary accounts that introduce you thoroughly to the people and their thoughts in 1870s Benzie County, as well as historical records, some of which were found hilariously serendipitously! Your Editors would reveal more, but instead, we encourage your patronage of local authors of history: Pick up your copy today! ~Amy Barritt, co-Editor

Dr. Stacy Leroy Daniels presented the following summary of his work to Grand Traverse Journal, at the request of Your Editors. Information on purchasing your own copy is found at the end:

Shortly after settlement in the 1850s, Michigan’s peculiar travel needs were apparent: to improve the land-locked entrances of drowned river mouths along the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan  by creating “harbors of refuge” for shipping, and inland waterways to access the interior of the State. Many natural river outlets were straightened and new channels dredged to navigable depths to connect nearby inland lakes by “slack-water” canals to Lake Michigan.  These included: Saugatuck, Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, White Lake, Pentwater, Ludington, Manistee, Portage, Frankfort, Charlevoix, and Petoskey.  The attempt to connect a canal from Frankfort Harbor to Crystal Lake proved to be the most ambitious of its kind.


Published earlier this year, The Comedy of Crystal Lake, by Dr. Stacy Leroy Daniels,  details the  real-life drama of the lowering of Crystal Lake (Benzie County), which resulted from an attempt to build a slack-water canal to nearby Lake Michigan.  It is a sequel to “The Tragedy of Crystal Lake”, a classic pamphlet by William L. Case (1922).*

Daniels covers this part of Benzie County history with a focus on Archibald Jones, “the man who (allegedly) pulled the plug at Crystal Lake.” Jones founded the Benzie County River Improvement Company in 1873, to improve waterlots on Crystal Lake, remove obstructions and construct slack-water canals between Crystal Lake and Lake Michigan, and build a steamboat to facilitate shipping of settlers and goods to and from the interior of the County to the nearby port of Frankfort.  

Crystal Lake outlet dam with three people standing in the lake (ca. 1920). Image courtesy of History Center of Traverse City.
Crystal Lake outlet dam with three people standing in the lake (ca. 1920). Image courtesy of History Center of Traverse City.

By Jones’ maneuverings, the level of Crystal Lake was dramatically lowered in an attempt to construct a slack-water canal between it and Lake Michigan in 1873.  Most other canals had differences in level of only a few feet; The original level of Crystal Lake was 38 feet above Lake Michigan which made it especially attractive for a canal.  Unfortunately, the whitecap waves of Crystal Lake washed out a temporary dam before a permanent canal could be completed.  The level of the Lake dropped precipitously by 20 feet and 76 billion gallons of water poured down its outlet. 

Although a canal system was never realized, the lowering of the Lake exposed a 21-mile perimeter of sandy beach where none had previously existed. This made possible: the founding of the Village of Beulah, the coming of the railroad, installation of telegraph and telephone lines, development of lakeside resorts, construction of 1,100 cottages, all connected by an infrastructure of perimeter roads and trails. 

Such is the “Comedy” of Crystal Lake – an epochal event with unintended consequences which has evolved from perceived “failure” of an “ill-conceived” project by an apparent scapegoat, to unqualified “success” by a visionary celebrated as a local hero!

Copies are available for purchase at BaySide Printing, Frankfort; The Bookstore, Frankfort;  Cottage Book Shop, Glen Arbor; Horizon Books, Traverse City; Benzie Conservation District;  Benzie Area Historical Museum; Benzie County Chamber of Commerce;  Frankfort-Elberta Chamber of Commerce; partial proceeds to local nonprofit organizations. 

You may also purchase copies direct from Flushed With Pride Press, PO Box 281; Frankfort, MI 49635; 989-750-2653; flushedwithpridepress@gmail.com. 496 pages; 46 chapters; 16 appendices, 200 illustrations, maps, timelines, & sidelights.  $49.95 + $3.00 sales tax (+ $10.00 shipping and handling if mailed).

Author and Archibald Jones-reenactor Dr. Stacy Leroy Daniels.
Author and Archibald Jones-reenactor Dr. Stacy Leroy Daniels.

Dr. Stacy L. Daniels (PhD, UM 1967), has been a practicing environmental engineer in industry (Dow Chemical Co.), academia (University of Michigan), small business (Ingenuity IEQ, Inc.), governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations (Crystal Lake & Watershed Association, CLWA) since the 1960’s.  He has observed, participated, and directed many  studies of Crystal Lake and its Watershed, and has published a new book, “The  Comedy of Crystal Lake (2015). His activities with the CLWA have included: chair of the Education & Communications Committee, editor for the newsletter and webpage, and coordinator for the Crystal Lake “Walkabout”.  He has been a member or chair of several national science advisory committees, and has authored/coauthored over 300 papers and presentations.  He runs the Crystal Lake Team Marathon, enjoys reading history, and writing serious (and humorous) environmental poetry. 

*Several editions of “The Tragedy of Crystal Lake,” by William L. Case, as well as copies of “The Comedy of Crystal Lake,” by Dr. Stacy Leroy Daniels are available for circulation at Traverse Area District Library, Benzie Shores District Library and Benzonia Public Library.

Header image of Crystal Lake courtesy of Delta Whiskey, https://flic.kr/p/9AgJme

Saboteurs, Toasters, and More from Cadillac

by Dr. Cliff Sjogren, local history author

Editor’s note: Typically, Grand Traverse Journal focuses on the five-county area surrounding the Bay. However, this article features our southern neighbor, Cadillac, located in Wexford County, a community that lived through the same growing pains as any in the Bay region. This is but one article in Mr. Sjogren’s new book, “Timber Town Tales,” a collection of 38 articles on Cadillac and Wexford County, originally published in 2014 in the Cadillac News.

Thanks to our area’s remarkable history, my retired life has been enriched immeasurably by my varied museum volunteer projects.

When we launched our website a few years ago through the Cadillac News web service, CNDigital Solution, I somewhat thoughtlessly agreed to handle viewers’ questions submitted to our website. Since then, I have responded to hundreds of inquiries from all over the U.S. and many foreign countries. Because the site is “name & place searchable,” many inquiries are from Sweden and other northern European countries seeking long-lost relatives.

Most foreign inquiries, however, come from Ireland. The Irish, too, have a Wexford County Museum and I rather enjoy responding to those who mistakenly find us as they seek information from our namesake county museum in Ireland.

Cadillac Chemical Company on Lake Cadillac's southeastern shore. The company provided wood alcohol to British and French armed forces during WWI. A mysterious fire was said to be caused by a German saboteur in 1916. Photo courtesy of Wexford County Historical Society.
Cadillac Chemical Company on Lake Cadillac’s southeastern shore. The company provided wood alcohol to British and French armed forces during WWI. A mysterious fire was said to be caused by a German saboteur in 1916. Photo courtesy of Wexford County Historical Society.

A few years ago, an Ann Arbor researcher emailed me about a German saboteur who set fires and destroyed chemical factories in several Michigan cities during World War I. He suspected that Cadillac was one of his targets. Having read and indexed the two celebrator issues of the Cadillac Evening News that included a historical chronology of thousands of news items dating from 1871, I responded that it was unlikely such an event took place in Cadillac. I added that if I had the approximate date of the event, I would “see what I could find.” Later, when I accessed our Cadillac Evening News index, I found the following 1916 chronology entry:

May 18- The Cadillac Chemical Co. group of buildings was destroyed by fire starting about noon. The company was making chemicals for war purposes and its product was in the greatest demand in the concern’s history at high prices. The loss is estimated at $50,000. Next day Charles T. Mitchell, president, said the plant would be rebuilt as soon as possible.

My researcher friend was delighted with our find that validated his supposition. No mention of the fire was included in a feature story about the chemical plant. The facility was located in the Cobbs and Mitchell complex about where a Pearl Street extension would end at Lake Cadillac on Holly Road. Their products included wood alcohol and acetate of lime, both used in teh manufacture of explosives. They also made pig iron from the charcoal residue. According to the inquirer, the company’s products were shipped to England and France for their military uses against the Germans prior to America’s entry into the war in 1917.

Another interesting inquiry concerned toasters.

“Did you know that your community is historically significant as a maker of toasters?” was the question. It was submitted by the editor of the Saturday Evening Toast (no joke!) who claimed that a small firm, the Cadillac Electric Manufacturing Company, was the second U.S. manufacturer of toasters. General Electric made the first toasters.

The small company, organized in Reed City, moved to 216 South Mitchell Street in Cadillac where it was incorporated on December 29, 1910. The short chronology entry included, “…they planned to manufacture a light electric stove.”

Cadillac Type C Combination Stove & Toaster, Circa 1911. Photo courtesy of toast2go.tripod.com.
Cadillac Type C Combination Stove & Toaster, Circa 1911. Photo courtesy of Terry Vollmer, http://toast2go.tripod.com .

The toaster, depicted here, was a combination stove and toaster that was engineered to have the entire breakfast prepared for eating at the same time. One ad displays a man reading his morning paper and drinking coffee while his breakfast was being prepared beside him. Search “Cadillac Toaster” online and enjoy several views of a product created and manufactured in Cadillac and still displayed at toaster-collector conventions around the U.S. Unfortunately, we do not have this important historical product to display and we would be most appreciative if one were to be gifted to the Society.

Our very active website with its 150 hits a day continues to yield a number of historical events that might never have otherwise been revealed.


Cadillac Evening News celebratory editions are available in their entirety online through Central Michigan University’s Digital Newspaper Portal, http://condor.cmich.edu/cdm/search/collection/cadevenews/order/title

Cadillac Evening News Index is also available through Central Michigan University’s Digital Newspaper Portal, http://condor.cmich.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/cadevenews/id/119658/rec/2

Dr. Cliff Sjogren is a volunteer for the Wexford County Historical Society & Museum, and was highly involved with the newspaper digitization and indexing project recently undertaken by the Society. His book, Timber Town Tales, is his first book on local history, and is available for purchase at Horizon Books, Traverse City and Cadillac, as well as through the publisher, Cadillac Printing Company, Inc. (http://www.cadillacprintingco.com/). All money generated by book sales beyond printing and mailing costs will be donated to the Society. Sjorgen enjoys history, Alpine skiing, and his hometown of Cadillac, Michigan, where he resides with Patricia, his wife of 62 years.

Advertisement courtesy of Terry Vollmer, http://toast2go.tripod.com.
Advertisement courtesy of Terry Vollmer, http://toast2go.tripod.com.