November 10, 2014
November 11, 2010
When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?
Today and this weekend there will be ceremonies and parades honoring those who have fallen in defense of our nation. Here’s a listing of Michigan Veteran’s Day events and our Veterans Day post on Absolute Michigan has some great interview with Michigan veterans.
See it bigger in Andy’s slideshow.
November 11, 2008
Today is Veterans Day and I hope everyone gets a chance to to take some time to remember those who have served and are serving our nation.
I’m pretty sure this photo is from the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan. The Holly cemetery is the second national cemetery in Michigan. Michigan’s other national cemetery is the Fort Custer National Cemetery.
Michigan Veterans and Veterans Day on Absolute Michigan has a lot of good information and resources and you can get some good photos & articles about veterans on Michigan in Pictures.
June 9, 2015
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore tells the rich tale of the ghost town Aral:
Aral was located on Lake Michigan where Otter Creek empties into the Lake just south of Esch Road, a few miles south of Empire, MI. Today this is one of the most popular swimming beaches in the Lakeshore, but in the 1880s, Aral was a booming lumber town!
When the United States acquired land, it first had to be surveyed before it was made available to individuals. In the summer of 1849, Orange Risdon was one of the surveyors assigned to the area around Grand Traverse Bay. In 1853 soon after he finished the survey, Risdon and his wife, Sally, bought 122 acres where Otter Creek emptied into Lake Michigan.
The US Civil War began in 1861, and to induce able-bodied men to join the Union forces, the US government offered $100 bounty to men who enlisted. By 1863 the bounty was increased to $300, and finally a draft was instituted. An interesting provision of the draft act allowed drafted men to avoid service by hiring a substitute or by paying $300. One of the men receiving draft notice was Robert F. Bancroft, who was married and 30 years old. He chose to take advantage of this provision by hiring a German immigrant to take his place as a soldier, but interestingly he followed his replacement to the battlefield. Instead of carrying a gun, he brought his camera and became one of the first battlefield photographers.
Following the war, the veterans returned home, and Robert Bancroft settled with his wife Julia and daughter Anna in Traverse City. He began buying land in Platte and Lake townships as investments and in late 1864, he bought the 122 acres from Orange and Sally Risdon of Saline, MI.
Bancroft cleared 20 acres and built a log cabin for his family to live in. Then he planted some black locust trees and an apple orchard around the cabin. Lumber speculators soon arrived looking for stands of white pine. Most of the forest in this area was hardwood, but there were some stands of white pine inland from Otter Lake. By the late 1870s Daniel Thomas bought a 5-acre parcel on Lake Michigan south of Otter Creek, but he decided to build a house across the road from the Bancroft’s. Lumber speculators were on their way north as the forests near Grand Haven and Muskegon were harvested.
…By 1883, the lumber business was booming and the town was growing. A post office was required. The community was known as Otter Creek – the “Krik” by locals. When they applied for a post office, their name was rejected because there was already an “Otter Creek” in Michigan. “Bancroft” was the next suggestion, but again the name had already been used. One of the workers suggested the name “Aral” because of the beautiful Aral Sea in Europe. Locals continued to call it Otter Creek though. Dr. Frank Thurber was named the first postmaster. Keep his name in mind, for he too would play a central role in the murder.
Murder you say? Indeed – read on for lots more…
November 13, 2014
If you know of any shipwreck on the Great Lakes, chances are it’s the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald. While that was no doubt a terrible tragedy, my vote for the most grievous loss is the S.S. Carl D Bradley which sank 56 years ago next Tuesday on November 18, 1957. I found a really excellent article on the ship and shipwreck at Lake Effect Living titled Lost To The Lake: The Wreck of the Carl D. Bradley:
Known as ‘Queen of the Lakes’, the Carl D. Bradley was the largest ship on the Great Lakes from 1927 to 1949. At 639 feet, it was the longest freighter on the Lakes until the launch of the SS Wilfred Sykes twenty-two years later. The largest self-unloading ship for its time, the Bradley was the Bradley Transportation Company’s flagship. Named after the president of Michigan Limestone, Carl David Bradley, this state of the art freighter had its maiden voyage in the summer of 1927. Since Michigan Limestone’s company base was in Rogers City, Michigan, the freighter drew most of its crew from this small community.
…On Monday, November 17, 1958, the steamer left Buffington, Indiana bound for Port of Calcite harbor in Rogers City, Michigan.
The Bradley’s captain was 52-year old Roland Bryan, a veteran seaman. Manned by a crew of thirty-five and carrying a light cargo, the Bradley headed out onto Lake Michigan at 9:30pm. But signs of severe weather were already in evidence when they left Buffington, where winds gusted at more than 35 miles an hour. It was the first ominous indications of an extreme cold front forming over the plains. Temperatures in Chicago plummeted twenty degrees in one day, and thirty tornadoes were sighted from Texas to Illinois.
Aware that gale winds were forecast, the crew readied the steamer for bad weather. They traveled along the Wisconsin shore until reaching Cana Island, where they shifted course for Lansing Shoal which lay across Lake Michigan. The winds on the lake reached 65 miles an hour by 4pm the following day. Still, the Bradley seemed to be weathering the gale force winds and heavy seas with little problem. This changed at 5:30pm when the Port of Calcite received a radio message from First Mate Elmer Fleming informing them that the Bradley, approx. twelve miles southwest of Gull Island, would arrive home at 2am. As soon as this message was sent however, a loud thud or bang was heard on the ship.
When the day was done, 33 of the 35 member crew were dead, 23 of the from Rogers City, Michigan. For a town of less than 4000, it was a heavy blow. Read on for much more and also see Seeking Michigan: The Wreck of the Carl D. Bradley on Absolute Michigan and the tribute site at carldbradley.org.
John Rochon shared this photo of the Bradley was taken from the Blue Water Bridge by Schjelderup Marine Studio and shows the ship heading towards the mouth of Lake Huron. View it big as the Bradley and see more in his massive Great Lakes Ships & Shipping slideshow.
More shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.
October 30, 2013
Grand Island North Light, photo by Jeff Shook
The photo above is from the Grand Island North Light page at Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light. Head over there for all kinds of information about one of Michigan’s lonelier lighthouses.
As Halloween is tomorrow, I thought I’d share the tale of a mysterious murder at North Light from the Center for U.P. Studies at Northern Michigan University.
On June 12, 1908 the body of 30-year old Edward S. Morrison, the assistant lightkeeper at North Light, was discovered in a small sailboat near Au Sable Point. Although identification took a while, since few of the local people knew him, it was definite once made. Morrison had a distinctive tattoo of thirteen stars on his left arm, leaving no doubt as to the identity of the remains. Initial reports said his head had been “battered almost beyond recognition” and that “the head and shoulders were fearfully crushed, as if battered by a club.” Inexplicably though, a coroners jury concluded death was due to exposure, thought to be caused by the rough weather on the 7th. A reported second coroners jury also examined the evidence and returned a verdict that the members were not able to tell how he died, but they had a strong suspicion of murder!
Morrison had been assistant keeper only six weeks when he met his death. A native of Tecumseh, Michigan, he joined the Lighthouse Service on May 1, 1908 and secured the assistant keeper’s appointment at North Light. Friends claimed he had a “bright and sunny disposition” and that he “didn’t have an enemy in the world.”
The keeper of the light was George Genery, a long-time veteran of the Service. Appointed to North Light in 1893, he had been the assistant keeper at Menagerie Island, Isle Royale from 1887 until his posting to Grand Island. It was later claimed he had trouble keeping his assistants since none lasted longer than a season. Working with Genery was said to be difficult at best. The keeper was in Munising on June 6 to get supplies.
Baffled by the discovery of Morrison’s body and the knowledge that the beacon had been dark for nearly a week, a delegation from Munising went out to the light. They discovered the supplies Genery had brought back from Munising still piled on the dock. An empty wheel barrow stood nearby and his coat dangled undisturbed on a hook in the boathouse. Morrison’s vest was hanging carefully on the back of a chair, his watch and papers safe in a pocket. Of the three boats normally kept at the station, reports differed whether two or only one was missing. The last official log entry was made on June 5, while the slate entry for the 6th was made in Morrison’s hand. Neither gave a clue to anything being amiss. Other than the untended lamp, all else was normal, without evidence of any unusual occurrence. Local volunteers manned the light until the service send a replacement.
Authorities immediately started a search for the missing keeper, but he had completely dropped out of sight. There were reports that five different men had seen him at various times in Munising between June 9 and 12, and that he was drinking heavily. His wife, living in town, claimed no knowledge of his whereabouts and did not seem overly concerned with his strange disappearance.
There were several theories proffered to explain the case. One said the two men had gone out to lift nets and that Genery had fallen overboard and drowned. Morrison, unfamiliar with a sailboat, then drifted about helplessly until finally perishing from exposure. Friends, however doubted such reasoning. They considered Morrison an expert sailor, and in fact he had previously owned a 32-foot sailboat on the Detroit River.
Another theory is based on their having been paid on the 6th; that they were attacked by one or more unknown assailants on the island, murdered, robbed and the bodies dumped into the sailboats and cast adrift. Morrison’s eventually made shore. Genery’s never did. Lonely to distraction, no better location for such a crime could be imagined. No one else was in the area to witness such a heinous deed. The nearest other occupant on the island was the Cleveland Cliffs game keeper, whose house was seven miles to the south. There was a story that a body was later discovered in the east channel, but it was apparently never identified so whether it was the missing keeper is unknown. Finding “floaters” was not that unusual, so no definite link between it and Genery was possible.
The third theory was that Morrison was murdered by Genery…
The photographer is Jeff Shook of the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, an organization that does great work in the preservation of Michigan’s lighthouses.
October 5, 2013
7 years ago I shared the story of the Southdown Challenger on Michigan in Pictures. I was happy to see that the oldest operational freighter on the Great Lakes is still in action. The feature on the St. Marys Challenger on Boatnerd.com begins:
Currently holding the honors of being the oldest lake boat still trading on the Great Lakes, the self unloading cement carrier St. Marys Challenger was built as a traditional Great Lakes bulk carrier as hull #17 by Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse (Detroit), MI in 1906. This veteran of the lakes was launched February 7, 1906 as the William P. Snyder for Shenango Steamship & Transportation Co. (subsidiary of Shenango Furnace Co.), Cleveland, OH. Retaining her original overall dimensions, the St. Marys Challenger is now powered by a Skinner Marine Unaflow 4 cylinder reciprocating steam engine burning heavy fuel oil rated at 3,500 i.h.p. (2,611 kW) with 2 water tube boilers. The power is fed to a single fixed pitch propeller and the vessel is equipped with a bow thruster. The vessel is capable of carrying 10,250 tons (10,415 mt) in 8 holds at mid summer draft of 21’09” (6.63m). Cargoes of bulk or powdered cement can be unloaded by a fully automated system including air slides, conveyor equipment and bucket elevators feeding a forward mounted 48’ (14.63m) discharge boom.
Of note, the St. Marys Challenger is one of only two remaining U.S. flagged vessels still active on the Great Lakes to be powered by the classic Skinner Marine Unaflow steam engine. The other vessel is the car ferry Badger (2) which is powered by two of these engines and, in turn, remains as the only coal fired vessel still in active service on the Great Lakes. The only remaining Canadian-flagged steamer powered by a Canadian-built (Vickers) Skinner Unaflow engine is the James Norris.
Many more Michigan ships & boats on Michigan in Pictures!
July 30, 2013
Henry Ford poses with 1921 Model T, photographer unknown
150 years ago today, on July 30, 1863, American industrial icon Henry Ford was born in Greenfield Township. The museum that he founded, The Henry Ford, says that Ford was a complex man who was ultimately responsible for transforming the automobile from an invention of unknown utility into an innovation that profoundly shaped the 20th century and continues to affect our lives today. A sampling of some of the facts about Ford they offer bear that out:
- As a child, he was inspired by his mother, who encouraged his interest in tinkering. His father was a farmer. He encouraged Henry’s interest in the use of machines on the farm.
- Thomas Edison was Henry Ford’s role model and later his close friend. (here’s a photo of Edison & Ford)
- He built and drove race cars early in his career to demonstrate that his engineering designs produced reliable vehicles.
- He financed a pacifist expedition to Europe during WWI, but during WWII Ford mobilized his factories for the war effort and produced bombers, Jeeps, and tanks. (more about that check out Willow Run on Absolute Michigan)
- He owned a controversial newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, that published anti-Jewish articles which offended many and tarnished his image.
- Henry Ford built Village Industries, small factories in rural Michigan, where people could work and farm during different seasons, thereby bridging the urban and rural experience.
- The idea for using a moving assembly line for car production came from the meat-packing industry. Ford sought ways to use agricultural products in industrial production, including soybean-based plastic automobile components such as this experimental automobile trunk.
- He was one of the nation’s foremost opponents of labor unions in the 1930s and was the last automobile manufacturer to unionize his work force. (not really a surprise there)
Read on for a full bio and if you ever have a chance definitely visit – it’s pretty amazing!
July 4, 2012
My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.
~Adlai Stevenson, speech in Detroit, 1952
The safety to be unpopular is a freedom we don’t always think of, but something we might well consider. It strikes me that in our relentless drive to get everyone on the same page, we’re not able to get anything done. There is a lot to be done and a lot of places we can find common ground to make our schools and communities better and protect the natural resources that make Michigan the place we love.
If it’s total agreement you’re looking for, that’s probably fascism. Democracy is messy.
Speaking of messy, you’ve no doubt noticed bigger booms over the last few days, That’s due to a new law in Michigan that allows the purchase of any federally allowed firework. The messy democratic process is already at work:
City officials across Michigan have scrambled in recent weeks to try to stymie the party in the sky — limiting when residents can set off fireworks in light of a change in state law that allows a more powerful category of explosives to be sold and used in the state.
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts blasted the state law, saying “pyromaniacs” are terrorizing the community, scaring children, pets, seniors and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder with the louder explosions caused by the more powerful fireworks.
“The state has legalized these ‘consumer fireworks’ and people are going gung ho,” Fouts said. “People, who were hesitant to do illegal fireworks now are empowered.”
State legislators approved the looser fireworks legislation, which went into effect in January, to keep residents from taking their money to other states to purchase fireworks not available here. The new law forces communities to allow the fireworks on the day before, the day of and the day after federal holidays, such as the Fourth of July.
Warren, Grand Rapids, Ferndale, Novi, Birmingham, Royal Oak and other cities across Michigan are already creating ordinances to ban these fireworks during other times of the year.
Here’s hoping you have an explosively fun and very safe Fourth of July! Here’s many more Fourth of July photos from Michigan in Pictures!
December 16, 2011
The Iraq War began on March 20, 2003 and was formally ended yesterday, December 15, 2011. At 8 years, 9 months it was longer than Vietnam, longer than World War II. This Detroit Free Press article on the costs of the war in Iraq says they include 4,487 dead and 32,226 wounded Americans and over 100,000 Iraqi dead. Michigan’s contribution was at least 159 dead and 1,000 wounded, according to Pentagon records. Military Times has the number at 216, and you can see the list of Michiganders who gave their lives in the Iraq War.
Retired Marine and Iraq vet Steve Maddox says that veteran’s challenges are just beginning and cannot be answered by yellow ribbons or catchy sloganeering. In addition to combat injuries and frightening suicide rates he writes:
I see post-Iraq War challenges that are as big, if not bigger than those we faced as a nation for the past eight years. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans face higher unemployment rates than their contemporaries. In Michigan, with an overall unemployment rate hovering around 10%, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans’ unemployment rate is over 29%, by far the highest in the country.
One of the articles I read noted that we’re not leaving Iraq in very good shape. The Iraqi Hope Foundation was founded by Michigan Tech alum and Iraq veteran Major Don Makay. The foundation seeks to honor the sacrifices of veterans by building stability and prosperity of Iraq through investment in small and mid-level businesses. Read more about it right here.
About this photo, the National Guard says:
U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas Loyd, assigned to Foxtrot Company, 425th Infantry (Long Range Surveillance), Michigan National Guard, based in Selfridge, Mich., holds hands with an Iraqi child in Sununi, Iraq, Oct. 29, 2009. Loyd was standing outside the mayor’s office while a meeting was taking place when the child attached himself to Loyd and would not let go. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Carmichael Yepez/Released)