August 7, 2014
Here’s a Throwback Thursday featuring one of Northern Michigan’s most colorful characters:
Harrison’s most colorful character was John “Spikehorn” Meyers, known to thousands of Michigan residents simply as Spikehorn. He was a showman, naturalist, politician, coal miner, tile manufacturer, furniture builder, inventor, realtor, bear hunter, lumberjack, and above all, individualist. The old gentleman had a fertile imagination under his white thatch of hair and full white beard.
According to neighbors, Spikehorn’s interest in the woods and buckskins developed around 1930, when he opened his Bear and Deer Park established on his property at the corner of US-27 and M-61. Rumor has it the park even contained an occasional buffalo.
Spikehorn and his friend, Red Eagle, dressed in buckskins for tourists and treated them to tales of their adventures in the woods. He enjoyed feeding his pets sweets, popcorn, and pop and loved posing with his deer and bears for cameras.
His enemies were the Conservation Officers, as indicated by the sign in front of his business: “Feed Conservation Officers to the Bear.”
Spikehorn also appears in one of the best Michigan history videos, Roaming Through Michigan, a classic newsreel.
“Mr. Scott never did anything for Detroit in his lifetime and he never had a thought that was good for the city.”
~ J.L. Hudson
Sometimes when you peer into history, you see things you didn’t expect, and that’s definitely the case with today’s subject. The Cass Gilbert Society’s page on the James Scott Memorial Fountain on Belle Isle explains that the fountain was completed in 1925, designed by noted architect Cass Gilbert (designer of the US Supreme Court Building in DC), and executed by sculptor Herbert Adams
The fountain was the result of a bequest from millionaire playboy James Scott, a figure of much controversy in Detroit at the turn of the century. Detroit’s fountain of mirth from the excellent Rearview Mirror series in the Detroit News (removed, but see The Wayback Machine) tells of the opposition from prominent citizens and clergy like J.L. Hudson and Bishop Williams that a playboy, loafer, gambler and vindictive practical joker like Scott be memorialized solely because he was able to plunk down a vast sum for his own monument. While public opinion kept the project scuttled for years after Scott’s death, influential Alderman David Heineman and others took up the charge, likely seeing how a vastly expensive fountain could enhance Detroit’s island park.
Speaking to reporters gathered in the office of Mayor Philip Breitmeyer, Heineman said: “I can look around this office and see pictures of men who played poker with Jim Scott. I say the bequest should be accepted.” He also recalled that “Jim always liked Belle Isle and loved to see the children there.”
The mayor agreed with Heineman. “I don’t believe the city has a right to insult any of her citizens by refusing a gift for such a good cause,” he said.
In the end, their view prevailed. It took more than 15 years, but Breitmeyer lived to attend the fountain’s dedication in 1925. Cass Gilbert, the New York architect who planned the Detroit Public Library, won a competition for design of the glistening white memorial at the lower end of the city’s pleasure island.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post previously appeared but sadly the photo was deleted by the owner. It’s one of my favorites so I re-blogged it!
April 10, 2014
If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.
There’s much more photographic goodness from Ralph on Michigan in Pictures.
March 17, 2014
February 25, 2014
February 7, 2014
January 24, 2014
John is a Michigan in Pictures contributor and friend whose photo “Reflecting” was named the first place winner at the Crooked Tree Arts Center’s 34th Annual Juried Photography Exhibition. If you make it up top Petoskey, check out the show which runs through April 5th.
More black & white photography on Michigan in Pictures.
December 31, 2013
Probably my favorite thing about the New Year is the sense that anything and everything is possible. For myself, I’m happy to close the door on 2013 which has been a tougher than usual year and looking forward to new opportunities in 2014.
I hope that whatever you’re feeling about the year that’s gone that the year to come brings you everything you hope for and some wonderful surprises that you weren’t expecting. Happy New Year everyone!
PS: Thanks everyone for the great comments and kind words yesterday!
October 21, 2013
The Poe Reef Lighthouse page at Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light begins with the story of the vessel that preceded the lighthouse:
Poe Reef lies just eight feet beneath the water’s surface between Bois Blanc Island and the Lower Peninsula mainland, and as such has long represented a significant hazard to vessels making their way through the Straits between Lakes Michigan and Huron.
In the early 1890’s the Lighthouse Board faced a vexing problem. Increasing vessel traffic created a need to install navigational aids at a number of offshore shoals and reefs. With Congressional funds increasingly difficult to obtain, and the costs of offshore lighthouse construction prohibitively high, the Board determined that the use of lightships to mark such hazards would be both significantly more expeditious and cost effective.
Unable to convince Congress to free up the funds for these lightships, the Board took the chance of redirecting an existing $60,000 congressional appropriation for a lighthouse off Peninsula Point to the purchase of four lightships.
In 1892 two contracts totaling $55,960 were awarded to the Craig Shipbuilding Company in Toledo for the construction of four lightships. Designated as Lightships LV59, LV60, LV61 and LV62, all four vessels were built to similar specifications. Framed and planked of white oak they measured 87′ 2″ inches in length, 21′ 6″ inches in the beam, with a draft of 8 feet. In a cost-cutting effort, the vessels were un-powered, outfitted with only a small riding sail carried on a short after mast. Equipped with a cluster of three oil-burning lens lanterns hoisted on their foremasts, each was also equipped with 6″ steam whistles and hand-operated bells for fog use. Work was completed on the four vessels the following year, and after sea trials, all four were commissioned by the Board and placed into service, LV59 being assigned to Bar Point, LV60 to Eleven Foot Shoal, LV61 to Corsica Shoal and LV62 to Poe Reef.
With the words POE REEF brightly painted in white on her fire engine red hull, LV62 was towed to Poe Reef by the lighthouse tender Marigold, and anchored on station to begin her vigil on September 29, 1893. For the next seventeen years LV62 spent every shipping season faithfully guarding the shoal. With the end of each shipping season, one of the lighthouse tenders would make the rounds of all lightship stations in the Straits area, and tow them into Cheboygan harbor for winter lay-up. While in Cheboygan, necessary repairs and improvements would be made in preparation for the following season. At some time in March or April, the ice would break up sufficiently to allow the vessels to be towed back to their stations to stand guard for yet another season.
Read on for another shot of this vessel and for more about the lighthouse that replaced the lightship at Poe Reef. Also have a look at these photos of Light Vessel 96, which took over for LV 62 from 1915-1920 at Poe Reef.