Social Media in the 19th Century

Social media is not a recent invention.  Twitter, Facebook, and even blogging are just the latest means people have used to spread the word about themselves and learn about their neighbors.  (And, of course, there’s gossip, a form of social media that has been around forever.)

Newspapers have also been good sources of information.  Back in the 30’s and 40’s Hedda Hopper dished dirt and spread the word on Hollywood celebs.  And in rural communities in the days before the telephone made it easy to communicate and the Model T made it easy to get around, no self-respecting newspapers would have been without a column with information on the local community’s goings ons.  While the content they printed was pretty tame, they did provide a way for people to learn about their neighbors. 

Map of Clare County circa 1885

Railroad map showing small communities in Clare County, MIch. While Dodge and Mann’s Siding appear on the map, Dover does not since it was not on the rail line. Dodge is located approximately where the letter “g” is in Moore’s Siding, northeast of Clare. Dodge is also the site of the Clare County Historical Society museum complex.

The Clare Sentinel was one of those newspapers with such a column that ran on a weekly basis.  Below is part of one column that shows the news in the communities of Clare communities of Dodge, Dover and Mann Siding.  Only Dodge* is still in existence. 

While 100 years ago or so, the column provided readers with news, now the column provides us a window into the general life of Clare County inhabitants.

*What is somewhat noteworthy is that the column appeared less than a month after a big fire that struck Dodge and its giant mill and burned for three days.  The mill was never rebuilt and eventually, Dodge disappeared from maps until the late 1940’s.

The Clare Sentinel
April 26, 1894


  • Mr. Joseph Carrow was out of town on business Friday.
  • Mt. L. M. Shumway was out of town Thursday.
  • The doctor has been somewhat under the weather the past week.
  • After a few days absence on business, H. Derail is again in town.
  • The party at Wm. Bolier’s was a pleasant affair.  All report a jolly time.
  • Master Herma Dehart went to Midland Tuesday where he is to spend a portion of his vacation visiting relatives.

Mann’s Siding

  • Boltone and Stillwill were visiting friends and relatives in Mt. Pleasant last week.
  • Will Davis has moved into his new house. It is hard to tell how long he will live there because he is always on the move.
  • The quilting bee at Mrs. Boulton’s was a success to the letter and all agree in saying they enjoyed themselves.
  • A heavy snow storm visited this part Friday night.
  • An uncle of Hiram and Silas Brown is visiting them
  • Charley Dingman who has been visiting parents and friends for the past three weeks returned to his home in Traverse City .
  • Miss Laura Walters visited Mrs. Leonard on Friday last.


  • We think the time that Elder Rogers occupied at the Eagle belonged to the Lord, not to the people.
  • A great many ladies enter Mrs. L. B. Lyons shop but scarcely none come away without a new hat. Her prices are within the reach of all. Butter and eggs are taken in exchange.
  • The mill is still running.
  • Mrs. Wm. Parrish and daughter called on Mrs. L. B. Lyon last Friday.
  • Harry Beacon has the quinsey.  (note: a throat infection)
  • W. L. Lyons is making a nice improvement to his store.
  • Geo. Dennis has moved in his new house.
  • One of Mrs. Donley’s children is quite sick.
  • D. Denno and wife were in Clare Tuesday.
  • A.    N. Whitlock has purchased a span of horses from a man in Farwell.
  • Mrs. L. B. Lyons was the recipient of a new sewing machine from her father. It is nice to have a kind father.
Categories: Clare County, History, Home life, Michigan | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Social Media in the 19th Century

  1. Nick Korstange

    Hi there. I have enjoyed reading your commentaries for a while now, and now I see that you have seen some of my work – the map of Clare County you used from “Michigan Railroad Lines” by Graydon Meints is one of mine. I live in Grand Haven, formerly from Grand Rapids, and am retired – at least from employment, and am both a history and railroad buff. I made all of the maps for Meints’ book, and have been working on improving all of the lower Michigan county maps ever since, as well as a commentary, which I hope to publish some day. I’ve spent the last 5-6 years trying to locate logging railroads, at first only by maps, books, newspapers and aerial photographs, mostly on the internet. Three years ago a fellow member of the West Michigan Railroad Historical Society took me out metal detecting on obscure logging grades and I am now hooked on it. We go out looking for the old grades, often ones where I have limited knowledge of the exact location, and explore the areas until we find them and “track” down where they ran to and from. I noticed that in one old post you were asking for someone who knew more about finding logging railroad grades, which as we both know is sometimes easy but often very difficult. If you would like to ask any questions, I would be glad to help you out with either historical data or practical knowledge. Meanwhile, I applaud your efforts to keep local history alive. Often we talk to land owners who are totally unaware that an old logging line ran across their property until we share some of the history with them.

    Thanks for the history lessons! Nick

    • Nick: Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I appreciate your feedback and kind words and also your hard work with the maps. As for metal detecting, I’ve got the bug too and one use of my detector is to confirm that a site is really an old RR bed and not a logging road or something else. (I look until I find a spike or something else RR related.) If you are ever going to be up in Clare County, drop me a line. Maybe we can go looking for old grades and I can pick your brain. There are some routes we still need to find and maybe you could help in that regard. Anyway, have a good winter. Marty

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