August 27, 2015
Here’s a fun pair of pics. Tom went back to where this family photo was taken in the early 30s and got a picture of the scene. You can see the one above background big, the one below right here and see more including another shot from the Belle Isle Conservatory in his Wonderful Michigan slideshow.
August 22, 2015
Earlier this week I posted about The Crooked Tree. While August isn’t yet shipwreck season in Michigan, the post reminded me of the 1915 novel by William MacHarg & Edwin Balmer set in the same region called The Indian Drum. The whole book is available online at Project Gutenberg (hooray for free books!). It begins:
Near the northern end of Lake Michigan, where the bluff-bowed ore-carriers and the big, low-lying, wheat-laden steel freighters from Lake Superior push out from the Straits of Mackinac and dispute the right of way, in the island divided channel, with the white-and-gold, electric lighted, wireless equipped passenger steamers bound for Detroit and Buffalo, there is a copse of pine and hemlock back from the shingly beach. From this copse—dark, blue, primeval, silent at most times as when the Great Manitou ruled his inland waters—there comes at time of storm a sound like the booming of an old Indian drum. This drum beat, so the tradition says, whenever the lake took a life; and, as a sign perhaps that it is still the Manitou who rules the waters in spite of all the commerce of the cities, the drum still beats its roll for every ship lost on the lake, one beat for every life.
So—men say—they heard and counted the beatings of the drum to thirty-five upon the hour when, as afterward they learned, the great steel steamer Wenota sank with twenty-four of its crew and eleven passengers; so—men say—they heard the requiem of the five who went down with the schooner Grant; and of the seventeen lost with the Susan Hart; and so of a score of ships more. Once only, it is told, has the drum counted wrong.
At the height of the great storm of December, 1895, the drum beat the roll of a sinking ship. One, two, three—the hearers counted the drum beats, time and again, in their intermitted booming, to twenty-four. They waited, therefore, for report of a ship lost with twenty-four lives; no such news came. The new steel freighter Miwaka, on her maiden trip during the storm with twenty-five—not twenty-four—aboard never made her port; no news was ever heard from her; no wreckage ever was found. On this account, throughout the families whose fathers, brothers, and sons were the officers and crew of the Miwaka, there stirred for a time a desperate belief that one of the men on the Miwaka was saved; that somewhere, somehow, he was alive and might return. The day of the destruction of the Miwaka was fixed as December fifth by the time at which she passed the government lookout at the Straits; the hour was fixed as five o’clock in the morning only by the sounding of the drum.
The region, filled with Indian legend and with memories of wrecks, encourages such beliefs as this. To northward and to westward a half dozen warning lights—Ile-aux-Galets (“Skilligalee” the lake men call it), Waugaushance, Beaver, and Fox Islands—gleam spectrally where the bone-white shingle outcrops above the water, or blur ghostlike in the haze; on the dark knolls topping the glistening sand bluffs to northward, Chippewas and Ottawas, a century and a half ago, quarreled over the prisoners after the massacre at Fort Mackinac; to southward, where other hills frown down upon Little Traverse Bay, the black-robed priests in their chapel chant the same masses their predecessors chanted to the Indians of that time. So, whatever may be the origin of that drum, its meaning is not questioned by the forlorn descendants of those Indians, who now make beadwork and sweet-grass baskets for their summer trade, or by the more credulous of the white fishermen and farmers; men whose word on any other subject would receive unquestioning credence will tell you they have heard the drum.
Read on at Project Gutenberg.
More Michigan shipwreck lore on Michigan in Pictures.
August 20, 2015
Robert writes: Huge and ancient . . . this locally famous ‘Crooked Tree’ sits beside one of the roads near my home. “Crooked Tree”: “Crooked Tree Arts Center”, “Crooked Tree Breadworks”, “Crooked Tree Golf Club”, “Crooked Tree Septic Service”, “Crooked Tree This and Crooked Tree That”. This may not be the actual tree from which they take their names . . . but it is the most crooked tree I’ve come across in my travels, and it jumps out at everyone as they drive past.
Robert is correct that this isn’t the original. The Crooked Tree; Indian legends and a short history of the Little Traverse Bay region is available online and tells the story of the original Crooked Tree:
A tall, crooked pine tree overhanging a high bluff, served to designate what was probably the most important Indian village in the north, prior to the advent of the white man. “Wau-go-naw-ki-sa” the Crooked Tree could be seen for many miles by the occupants of approaching canoes. After rounding the northwestern extremity of what is now Emmet county, in the state of Michigan, on their way south, it was a familiar sight, and one that never failed to bring exultations of joy from the brave and daring Ottawas.
Just where the Crooked Tree stood we have been unable to ascertain; but tradition says it was in the vicinity of Middle Village of the present day. According to the legend it was bent by Na-na-bo-jo. Formerly it was straight, but as the great hunter and chieftain was climbing the hill one day at this point, with his canoe over his head, the end of the boat caught on the tree and gave him a bad fall. In anger he struck the tree a blow with his fist and bent it over. Where he hit the trunk a large swelling came out, and henceforward every knot or growth protruding from a tree was called “Na-na-bo-jo’s Fist.”
Read on for some cool stories from the area including some about the tree-punching Na-na-bo-jo!
August 18, 2015
The Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum page at Pure Michigan says that the Ishpeming museum is open June – September Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm:
Walk back in history to see local historical artifacts representing the local community during the great mining era. View historical displays of miners and mines past and present, headgear & other safety equipment available to miners of yesteryear, and displays on blasting and diamond drilling equipment. Stop in the Ishpeming Rock and Mineral Club’s room and view over 500 minerals from the local area, the Upper Peninsula, Midwest and the world.
Take a guided tour of the tunnels that the miners walked to the base of the C-Shaft and listen to the history of mining from those who worked the mines. Follow up the stairs past old underground iron ore cars with a stop at the blacksmith shop. Go outside to view towers 97’ to 174’ high which were used to lower miners 1250’ into the bowels of the earth. Stand beside a 170-ton Iron Ore Truck with tires 12 feet high.
Don’t forget your camera so you can have a memento of your visit standing inside the 30 ton shovel bucket in front of the Dry building or in front of the 170-ton Iron Ore truck. End your tour in the gift shop to pick up memorabilia of your visit. The museum open with a nominal admission.
Sounds pretty cool to me! Follow the museum on Facebook for the latest (and some old photos).
August 13, 2015
Don wanted me to be sure to let everyone know about this weekend’s annual Traverse City Antique Postcard & Rare Paper Show on August 16 from 10 AM – 4 PM at Northwestern Michigan College’s Hagerty Center. It’s a great chance to view some incredible pics of Michigan’s history … and from all over!
Speaking of history, Asylum Projects page on the Ionia State Hospital says:
The building of the Ionia State Hospital was authorized in 1883 and was opened under the name of the Michigan Asylum for Insane Criminals in 1885. It was found that this name was objectionable as not all of the patients in the hospital were criminals, so the name was changed by legislative action to Ionia State Hospital. The patients committed to this hospital were insane felons, criminal sexual psychopaths, insane convicts from other prisons, patients transferred from other state institutions that had developed dangerous or homicidal tendencies and persons charged with a crime but acquitted on the grounds of insanity. Initially the hospital patients were housed at the site of the Michigan Reformatory.
The hospital was called the North Branch and the farm located on Riverside Drive was called the South Branch. When a large fire broke out at the hospital, all of the rooms were needed to house prisoners, so all of the hospital patients were sent to the South Branch farm. Since that time, the hospital has been located on the grounds of the Riverside Correctional Facility. The hospital was used to treat the mentally ill as well as the criminally insane until 1972, when civilians were removed from the hospital. In 1977, the Legislature transferred the operation to the Department of Corrections when it began operation as a correctional facility. The facility was closed with the reopening of the Michigan Reformatory.
Click through for some pics including a couple of cool panoramas!
July 25, 2015
The Michigan Historical Center’s page on the Fayette Historic Townsite says:
The Fayette Historic Townsite includes 20 historic buildings, exhibits, a walking tour and scenic overlooks. Fayette has 20 preserved buildings and structures. Eleven buildings house museum exhibits and are open to the public, including the hotel, machine shop, company office, town hall, and residences.
A massive blast furnace still stands on the site, and is part of the well-preserved history of this former 19th century industrial site. Fayette is a living museum, telling the story of a company town in the 19th century, nestled on the Garden Peninsula in the central Upper Peninsula.
The limestone bluffs on Snail Shell Harbor were mined for use in the blast furnaces.
Exhibit with clothing and toys, part of the children’s exhibit at Fayette Historic Townsite.
Exhibits at Fayette focus on life in a company town, including what it was like to grow up there. At its height, half the population of Fayette was children.
The townsite is part of Fayette Historic State Park and on the second Saturday of August the annual Heritage Day celebrates Fayette with period displays, food, and music. Click through for more.
More Michigan ghost towns on Michigan in Pictures.
July 23, 2015
Soo Ice Jam of 1953, shared by John Rodawn
The Ludington Daily News from April 9, 1953 had an article titled Try to Clear Soo Lock Ice with Freighters’ Backwash that said:
SAULT STE. MARIE MICHIGAN – Three powerful lakes craft churned their propellers in a huge “Operations Backwash” today hopeful they could clear the Sault locks of an ice jam which has lied up nearly one-third of the Great Lakes fleet. The Coast Guard icebreaker Mackinaw was joined by the Pittsburgh Steamship Company freighter Arthur Anderson and the Canadian freighter Manladoc (not sure this is the right name) in the operation. Shipping men and lock engineers decided on the maneuver after an aerial survey showed the Whitefish Bay area, above the locks, was entirely free of the ice formation which has passed into the proper.
The three craft were tied up side by side at a dock and then went into action, with the propellers turning at full speed to churn up the water. Officials were hopeful the backwash would push the icy mess about 800 feet upstream, against the current, and get the ice in a position so it would be caught in a cross – current and washed over the Soo Rapids and out of the locks area. Coast Guard Commander T. A. Dahlburg of the Sault area expressed belief the ice would be cleared by this weekend, perhaps as early as Friday. Dahlburg reported 90 lake craft were tied up above the locks awaiting passage, while 64 were tied up below the locks upward bound. He called it the largest concentration of shipping ever assembled in the Sault area.
Under Dahlburg’s plan to keep some traffic operating, only the most powerful of the lake freighters and carriers were permitted to make their way downbound through the icy slush in the American locks. The only upbound traffic yesterday was through the Canadian lock, seven vessels passing through while 17 came down on the U.S. side.