Gladwin

Three Area Soldiers. One Epidemic. Three Graves.

Three young men—two from Clare County and one from adjacent Gladwin County–go off to World War I. We know little about the three other than two were cousins and enlisted close together. One of them had not even graduated from high school. The third who enlisted earlier was described as a “bright, cheerful lad.”

We can envision the excitement all three felt; the pride of their fathers; the worry of their mothers; and the envy of their friends who watched them leave on what was probably a grand adventure and ticket out of a quiet (and probably boring) rural environment.

And we can imagine the sorrow felt in the community when news came back of their deaths while in training.

Ervin Reed died September 1917 at Fort Wayne in Detroit. He had enlisted in the National Guards just two months earlier, on July 4th. James Garrity and Arthur Looker —cousins—enlisted in the Navy on Dec. 6, 1917. They died within a day of each other in January 1918 at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois.

The official cause of death for all three was pneumonia. Their deaths were most likely due to the flu.

The three had enlisted during a time a deadly flu virus was raging across the globe. This great flu pandemic, (a pandemic is one that affects a wide area of the world) sickened more than a half a billion people worldwide and killed anywhere between 21 million and 100 million. More than 675,000 Americans died and deaths were especially high in young men, a group included soldiers. For whatever reason, the flu triggered a very strong response from the immune system that sometimes overwhelmed the body. Those with the strongest immune systems were especially vulnerable, the opposite of what one would think. An estimated 43,000 servicemen died of the flu. Roughly 1 in 4 military personnel came down with the virus, and of those who did, 1 in 5 died. Death often came quickly, sometimes even within hours of the first symptoms. Congestion brought on by the flu built up quickly in lungs, resulting in pneumonia.

According to Navy Nurse Josie Brown, who served at the Naval Hospital there in 1918:

“The morgues were packed almost to the ceiling with bodies stacked one on top of another. The morticians worked day and night. You could never turn around without seeing a big red truck loaded with caskets for the train station so bodies could be sent home.

“We didn’t have the time to treat them. We didn’t take temperatures; we didn’t even have time to take blood pressure.

We would give them a little hot whisky toddy; that’s about all we had time to do. They would have terrific nosebleeds with it. Sometimes the blood would just shoot across the room. You had to get out of the way or someone’s nose would bleed all over you.”

The pandemic hit especially hard at military camps like Great Lakes where a large number of men were in close proximity to one another. Great Lakes was the largest Navy camp, with a population of 44,000. Although the worst of the pandemic had passed by the time Garrity and Looker came to Great Lakes, the presence of so many men packed close together and a continuing turnover of personnel meant the epidemic continued to take a toll.

Blog-cemeteryThere is little information about Fort Wayne, with its smaller force. However, its proximity to Detroit and the men to each other meant illness was a constant at the fort.

One would think Garrity and Looker  knew of the deaths of Reed, but enlisted anyway, perhaps choosing a different branch and location as a precaution. Newspaper articles said that Garrity and Looker had caught the measles beforehand and Reed had come down with appendicitis. Perhaps, those health conditions were enough to make the three more susceptible to the flu. We will never know.

Garrity and Reed are buried in the Garrity Cemetery in Clare County. Looker is interred in McClure Cemetery in Gladwin County. Markers and flags mark their graves.

This Memorial Day weekend (May 24, 2014), the Clare County Historical Society will conduct a clean up at the Garrity Cemetery and replace the flags. It’s the least we can do to honor these Clare County men. Gone need not be forgotten.

Click to  read obits for Clare County soldiers:

 

Reed

garrity

 

 

Categories: Cemetery, Clare County, Gladwin, History, Life, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Amish in Clare County

Amish3If you were to guess the decade the Amish established a presence in Clare County, what would be your answer?

  • Maybe the 1890s after the lumberjacks had left and farmers moved in?
  • Or the 1930s during the Great Depression when farmers moved to new areas looking for inexpensive farmland and new opportunities?
  • Perhaps after WWII when suburbs began to sprout in rural areas once containing the Amish, hiking the cost of farmlands beyond what young Amish couples could afford? 
  • The 1980s, because it took them that long to travel that far north by horse and buggy?  

The answer IS the 1980s, but not due to any reason related to horses or buggies.

Amish 1Although Amish have been in Michigan since 1895, and there were even Amish settlements in mid-Michigan that did not proper (Coleman, 1911-1913), it wasn’t until 1980 that Amish settlements started in Clare and Gladwin counties.  Although it’s not known exactly what brought the families from Ohio, a local history book called “Amish Society,” by John Hochstettler, a member of the Amish community,  mentions two reasons for the Amish coming to mid-Michigan,  including the fact it was becoming difficult for younger Amish to purchase farms in traditional Amish communities and there were  some unspecified conflicts with church ministers among some congregation members.

 Whatever the reasons, the first Amish resident in Clare County, according to the community’s local history, was Roy J. Yoder from Holmes County, Ohio.  Before coming to Clare, Yoder had investigated Michigan’s thumb area then came to mid-Michigan looking at various properties in Gladwin county before settling on land northeast of Clare.  In the spring of the following year, a second family moved to the immediate area and other families followed, beginning what is now the Clare Settlement.

Growth continued until, by 2010, there were four communities near the City of Clare, each with its own church and school, and led by its own bishop.  The Amish continue to move north with families now located both east and west of Harrison.  Currently, there are about 1,000 Amish living in the county.  (Amish tour and shopping)

About the same time, the first Amish settlement near Clare was being established, another group of Amish from Hardin County, Ohio purchased farms in Gladwin County and a large community developed in the Gladwin and Beaverton areas.Amish map

There are approximately 13,000 Amish in Michigan residing in 38 separate communities and 98 church settlements.  (Michigan’s Amish  population increased 115 percent between 1991 and 2010.) Because the Amish have no churches, instead meeting in homes, an individual community has to be small enough so meetings at homes are practical, yet large enough to be viable.  A church community has approximately 30 families (120-200 people) headed by (usually) a bishop, two preachers and a deacon.  The school has one or two teachers serving the students of that community who attend grades 1-8, which is all the schooling required by the Amish.  Community is paramount in both orders and its members operate under the Orndung, or consensus of the community.

Michigan has two orders of Amish: The Old Order  and New Order. Neither allows the driving of cars but the two orders differ on allowable technology (i.e., cell phones, power lawnmowers) and church discipline, with the New Order being more lenient.  There may also be some differences in the Orndung from community to community but because communities want to be in communion with one another and can risk being shunned by neighboring communities, the Orndung changes slowly and usually in conjunction with other neighboring communities.

Speaking of shunning, in their late teenage years Amish young people make a decision whether to be baptized into the Amish community.  Approximately 25 percent of all Amish either do not join the order or leave it after joining.  Those who choose not to become Amish are not banned or shunned.  They are welcome to visit the community and their family and friends can talk to them.  Shunning is reserved for those Amish who take the vows to be members of the community and then break those vows.  It is this process that helps keep the community strong and single-minded.

The Amish pay property taxes and income taxes.  If self-employed, they do not have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes.  However, if they work for an employer, they do have to pay those taxes, even though the Amish do not use either of those social programs.

2010_Feb_Harrison_Amish_buggy

Amish FAQs

The Amish in Michigan, by Gertrude Enders Huntington (2001, Michigan State University Press)

Categories: Clare County, Gladwin, Harrison, Home life, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Jim and Maggie: Disreputable, Despicable and Clare County’s Own

The evil that men do live after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.  Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Jim Carr and Maggie Duncan were evil, but for a few years their evil deeds made them two of the richest individuals in Clare County.  When they died as paupers on straw mattresses on the frigid floor of a rundown shack in March 1892, few people shed tears upon hearing the news.  If Shakespeare was right, the good they did—if any—is buried with them in their unmarked graves.

Here is a brief summary of two of the nastiest people ever to call Clare County home:

Jim Carr was born in Buffalo, NY about 1850 (1).  After knocking around Toledo, Chicago and Eaton Rapids, Carr ended up in Clare County, where, in 1868, he started working for lumberman Winfield Scott Gerrish.  Carr, according to an article in the Gladwin Record, was a well-built man, six-feet tall with a mustache covering a pleasant face and possessing a gentlemanly manner.  At the same time, the writer aid there was an “air of danger” around him.

Not much is known of Duncan (2), but in her, Carr found a kindred spirit and in him, Duncan found a way out of poverty.  So Duncan was with Carr in 1881 when he decided there was more money to be made from lumberjacks than lumbering and struck out and opened a business just outside of Harrison, a town recently hewed out of the forest and the Clare County seat.

One would have said Carr’s odds of success were slight. Although Harrison was growing fast and up to 20 trains a day rolled into town, it already had 20 saloons.  Carr was not highly educated and could read but could not write.  But if the old adage is true that the three most important factors in real estate are location, location, location, then he opened his Devil’s Ranch Stockade in the right place. The stockade was a two- or perhaps three-story saloon, hotel, gambling hall, brothel located on a hill just outside the town’s limits.  When the city fathers had platted Harrison, they had determined the hill to be worthless and so didn’t include it within the town’s boundaries.  That meant Carr were not under the town’s laws but only under the jurisdiction of the county sheriff, an individual Carr apparently came to own, if reports published in local papers were true.  Plus, the hill meant the Carr’s place was visible to everyone coming into town.  The promise of cheap booze, loose women, open gambling and few regulations made Carr’s place popular with lumberjacks who flocked there to do much as they pleased.  For some lumberjack’s, Carr’s stockade was their first stop when they came to Harrison and their last–literally.  The hill on which Carr’s place stood soon became known as Dead Man’s Hill because of the people Carr was reported to have killed and buried there.

This view of Harrison was probably taken about 1880-81 and would have been taken somewhere near the site of Carr's Devil's Ranch Stockade.

This view of Harrison (facing east) was probably taken about 1880-81.  The photographer may have been standing somewhere near where Carr’s Devil’s Ranch Stockade was  or would be.

The term “stockade” used to describe the ranch was literal and not figurative.  The complex had a high fence around it meant to keep prying eyes out and the women that worked in the brothel in.  While some women began prostitutes by choice, others were forced into the business.  There is one story of a prostitute named Jenny Kinney (or King) who fled Carr’s stockade one winter night clad only in her after being beaten.  She ran into town knocking on doors asking for shelter.  When one family took her in, Duncan, a companion and a big dog appeared at the door demanding her return.  The family refused to give her up. No one was ever charged.

While Carr ran the overall business focusing on the saloon, Duncan ran the brothel.  She had experience with brothels (but then so did Carr for that matter, since that’s how the two seemed to have met).  Anyway, it was a love and business partnership that seemed made in heaven–or hell.  Duncan seems to have been Carr’s equal in every way with a love of vices and strong drink and a reputation for cruelty.  Their Harrison business  proved so successful that they even expanded and opened a second establishment in the then growing town of Meredith, some 10 miles to the northeast and in the center of some 50 logging camps.

Carr made a profitable living (or perhaps killing) off lumberjacks.  The ranch was big enough to fit up to 250 – 300 men at a time, most of them at the bar drinking Carr’s beer and rot-gut whiskey.  There was so much money that instead of cash registers, Carr’s place had buckets for the men to throw their money in for their drinks.  When the buckets were full, they were carried to Carr’s office for emptying and counting.  Carr also advanced lumberjacks credit in exchange for their time tickets, which he discounted 25 – 50 percent. (Some lumberjacks were not paid until logs they had cut were delivered to the sawmill in the spring, so to reflect their earnings, the men were given “time tickets.”  These were redeemable by bearer for cash in the full amount.)  Carr was not above adding to his earnings by robbing drunken lumberjacks or those he and his cronies drugged.  This also proved lucrative since the men carried all their earnings–sometimes for an entire logging season–on their person.

Carr’s unsavory and illegal activities were apparently well known and the subject of numerous stories and editorials in the local press (although one paper defended him by saying that men like Carr were “a necessary evil” in growing towns).  And that’s not to say Carr wasn’t arrested.  At one time when asked how many times he had been arrested, he claimed it was so many times he couldn’t remember.  However, being arrested was one thing, being convicted was another.  Witnesses were often too afraid to appear in court, were paid off, disappeared, or Carr simply paid a fine.

However, when Frankie Osborne, a prostitute popular with the lumberjacks died in Carr’s employ in 1885 that Carr’s and Duncan’s life began to start unraveling.  It was also around this time a new sheriff was elected that was not under Carr’s control and a new prosecutor named W.A. Buritt decided to rid the county of Carr.

Osborne’s death was due to a beating and at Carr’s hand.  Initially, Carr wasn’t too worried about being arrested in Osborne’s death.  When he was indicted for her murder, it’s reported he laughed and said, “Is that all?” and prepared to leave the courtroom.  Instead, the judge ordered him to jail to stand trial.  Carr was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to 15 years.

Carr was freed by the Michigan Supreme Court after a year in prison (although the Court stated Carr’s conviction was improper, it did state he was a very depraved individual).  Duncan was also freed  about that time from the Detroit House of Correction after a conviction for running a house of ill repute.  The two began their businesses again, although Buritt was not done with Carr.  Although Carr had beaten the murder rap, Buritt brought Carr up for trial, this time on charges he burned a James Silkworth’s establishment at Frostd in 1884.  Although Carr again beat these charges, the continuing legal costs had taken much of his fortune.  In addition, most of white pine in Clare County had been cut by this time and the lumberjacks had moved on to new territories.  Fewer customers, a population increasingly intolerant of Carr’s activities and increased raids on his establishments meant fewer profits.

Carr and Duncan apparently abandoned their place in Harrison but continued to run a brothel in Meredith.  In a burst of imagination and to try to avoid the law, it is said Carr put the building on skids.  Either that or put it on a railroad car.  Since Meredith was on the Clare/Gladwin County line, Carr would simply move the building between counties whenever things in one county got too hot for him.  Whether one story or the other is true isn’t known but the legend has grown with time.  In any event, the building, wherever it was located, eventually burned to the ground leaving the two without regular income.

Carr and Duncan remained in Clare County.  Why they didn’t move on with the lumberjacks and resurrect their fortunes in a new place isn’t known.  Maybe they were broke.  Maybe their alcoholism had so taken its toll they no longer had the inclination to start over.  In any event, it appears Duncan resorted to her old trade to get the two of them money for liquor.  If nothing else, she remained loyal to the end.

That end came in March 1892, when Carr died next to Duncan in a freezing shack outside Meredith.  According to some accounts published years later, Carr and Duncan died together and were buried by lumberjacks on land outside a cemetery since no minister would officiate and no cemetery would take them.  Other accounts say Carr was buried near the shack, his body dug up sometime later by the county undertaker and buried in a local cemetery.  Duncan who did not die that same night as Carr was sent to the county poorhouse where it is said she died some months later.

When Carr died, he was just 42 (although other records say 37).  Duncan’s age isn’t known but going by jail records, she was about 33.

Carr’s story (and to a lesser extent Duncan’s) is told in three books:

There is also an in-depth article by David McMacken that appeared in the Summer 1971 issue of Michigan Living magazine (Volume 55. No. 2).

Portion of jail record showing Carr's name and some information including what is termed his "social condition."

Portion of jail record showing Carr’s name and some information including what is termed his “social condition.”

(1) Some records indicate Carr was born in 1855, but records from the county jail at the Clare County Historical Museum show that he was born in 1850.  Records at Ancestry.com also show he was born about 1850.   The records show Carr was the second person held in what was then the new jail.  He was held there on the charge of arson (possibly related to the burning rival James Silkworth’s place in 1884).   The jail records state Carr stood 5 feet 10 inches and weighed 175 pounds.   He was fair-haired and had blue eyes.

Maggie 1

Maggie Carr/Duncan’s name appears when she was put in jail in April 1886 on the charge of keeping a house of ill-fame.

(2) County jail records also shows Maggie Carr/Duncan was also arrested and held in the jail on the charge of “running a house of ill-fame.”  The records show Carr/Duncan was 27 at the time of her arrest, which meant she was born about 1859.  She was  5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 130 pounds and could neither read nor write.  The record also shows that she like Carr was born in Rochester, New York so it’s possible that she knew Carr or his family in her youth, or that common thread was one of the things that brought the two together.

Note: No known photographs of Jim Carr or Maggie Duncan/Carr are known to exist. This post originally had photos of two individuals that appeared in “Frankie and the Barons” by Stuart Gross and “Michigan Rogues, Desperadoes and Cut-Throats” by Tom Powers that were identified as Carr and Duncan but no documentation exists. See my blog post on the topic of the photos entitled “Take Old Time Photos with a Grain of Salt.”

 

Categories: Clare County, Gladwin, Harrison, History, logging, Michigan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meredith: Wonder of the North Woods (Back in 1884, Anyway)

Clare County map

1886 railroad map showing Meredith in NE corner of the county

There may have been towns during Michigan’s lumbering era that had uglier reputations than Meredith, but I’ve not heard of any.  While the town in the northeast corner of Clare County was created to serve the thousands of lumberjacks who worked in nearby camps with essentials like food and clothing; it flourished by providing those men with booze and women.

It was a town that lacked

Plat map of Meredith from about 1906

Plat map of Meredith from about 1906

for little—except maybe a church and a sheriff (the former burned and the town wouldn’t finance the latter).  Meredith also had Jim Carr and Maggie Duncan, two of the worst human beings ever to set foot in Clare–or any county–for that matter. Carr and Duncan trafficked in every vice known to man including white slavery, robbery, arson and even murder.  (I plan an article on them in an upcoming post.)

It’s hard given the town’s evil reputation that it was once called the “wonder of the north woods,” the “great city of the day” and “a marvel,” all these in an article in the Gladwin Record in March 1884.  That’s when 18 visitors from Gladwin traveled into through what was then wilderness to visit the town.

The visitors returned with a glowing report.  However, whatever good they saw in Meredith disappeared not long afterward, and remains long buried. But here is a look at the town as it was once seen.  (Note: I left the grammar as it was in the original article that can be found on microfilm at the State of Michigan’s library in Lansing.   Spaces or question marks show where I could not read the text.)

A Visit to the City in the Forest, the Wonder of the North Woods

In company with a jolly party of 18 people (babies included) the editor of the Record visited the far famed city of the north, known as Meredith, this week.  Starting from our thriving village, passing through the settled country containing flourishing farms etc, for about 4 miles north on the Midland and Houghton Lake state road, we are amidst the monarchs of the forest.

Eleven miles farther we go without passing even the cabin of a settler—all to relieve the monotony being the camps of Rust, Eaton & Co, about midway, where 40 men are employed and huge rollways of logs are seen on the north branch of the Cedar near by.  The trees were crested with flakes of “beautiful snow” which rendered the scene exceedingly picturesque.  The timber passed is pine, hemlock and hardwood, in some parts being intermingled and in others pine or hemlock towering majestically on either hand.  There are excellent openings for saw and shingle mills and a tannery in this locality would find an excellent outlook.  A large part of the way is what is known as “stripped lands,” the pine timber having been cut. Where visible the soil seemed to be a good rich clay, and from the variety of growing timber we judge that the thousands of acres of wilderness are capable of being made into beautiful farms, and are many years pass we predict that the axe of the settler will resound throughout the forest where now deer and other fierce residents thereof roam.

But at length we arrive at the far-famed city afore mentioned,
MEREDITH!
And we are in the great city of the day.  Behold its fine large hotel and numerous business houses where but a few short weeks since all was wilderness.  Everything about Meredith is new, neat and thriving, except for her streets—and they still appear in their primeval state, brush, trees and logs appearing on all sides, but this difficulty will be overcome soon aster the season opens up.  Our party put up at the
CORRIGAN HOUSE
The large and excellently equipped hotel recently opened to the public by Thomas J. McClennan of Bay City, the found of the town.  The house is furnished in a _________ that would do credit to a good sized city of several thousand people.  The house is 40 feet by 105 feet, 3-stories high. On the first floor is the sitting room, office, washes room, bar room, dining room and kitchen.  The second story has an elegantly furnished ladies’ sitting room and in the two upper stories we find 14 single bed rooms and 11 double rooms, besides rooms for help.  Arthur Meyer, late of Alma, has charge of the house, and to him we are indebted for courtesies extended in showing us through the apartments.  He is the “right man in the right place.” Our party partook of dinner, served in a sumptuous manner, which we pronounced a No. 1. To enumerate(?) this bill of fare would be difficult.  We counted upwards of 40 at dinner, besides a greatly number who partook afterwards. Mr. Mayer informed us that the hotel was doing a flourishing business steadily.  Although it was Sunday, the bar was open and liquor flowed freely as water being partaken of by large numbers of wayfarers(?) who had gathered from the surrounding camps. However, all was quiet and we failed to notice an uncivil act.

Our day was limited, in the time we took to look over the town, however, and with the assistance of our friend “Joe the barber” the following list of
BUSINESS ENTERPRISES
was prepared:
S & C.C. R.R. depot
Reardor’s Bro’s, general store
Alex Rail restaurant
Billy Jose, Meat market
Roche & McKenna, drugstore
Hotel – Corrigan House
___________, Butcher Shop
McClennan & Stephens, billiard hall
Haiey & Covert, drug store, in which store upstairs is located:
Joe Hatfleld’s(?) barber shop
Dr. Tibbles’ office
Dr. Keating veterinary hospital and harness shop

These named being on one side of the street and the following on the other:
Alex. Andrews, grocery store
City bakery
Livery stable of _______ Frank
Searn & Co., hardware store and postoffice
__________ Maybee, general store
Millinery establishment
Sandy Marshall, wagon shop
Clason(?) & Avery, livery

Besides the above, we notice quite a few dwellings and a number of buildings in the process of erection.
LOCATION AND FUTURE PROSPECTS
The village is located on the line of Gladwin County on section 13, town 20 north, range 11 west, and is the terminus of the Saginaw and Clare County railroad.  It is 15 miles northeast of Harrison and about 15 miles northwesterly of this place.  The village was platted in December last by T. J. McClennan, of Bay City, who has a stand of pine nearby, where he now has 40 men at work cutting and skidding.  A large lumber district surrounds the village and so long as the lumbering continues so does a lively business from this point. Considering the rapid growth of the place, it is a marvel.  We trust that it might continue to thrive and we see nothing to hinder if steps are taken to secure the permanent development of the country surrounding, with the aid of manufacturing enterprises and settlers.

The article turned out to be very wrong.  By 1893, the town was in a fast decline.  The lumber was all cut, Carr and Duncan were dead, and the railroad gone.  In 1895, the post office closed and in 1896, a fire tore through the town destroying most of what remained.

There is little visible from Meredith’s past that would indicate that it onceThis screen can be found in what was once the center of town. had nearly 2,000 part-time and 500 full-time residents, and was a big enough town to have such things as a roundhouse for trains, a city hall, an opera house that seated 700 and a three-story school.  There are a couple of cemeteries, but they are on private property.  The township hall was once an old church, and I’ve read that once the town burned, residents from other areas came to scavenge the bricks and rocks for their buildings.

There is a drive-in movie screen from a failed attempt at providing residents and visitors with entertainment and a nice corner store with a helpful clerk/owner.  The store is not the remains of the railroad

County store at corner of M-18 and Meredith Grade Rd.

County store at corner of M-18 and Meredith Grade Rd.

depot.

Categories: Clare County, Gladwin, History, logging, Michigan, recreation | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

An Embankment is NOT a Trestle

I have noted a number of impressive railroad beds in Clare County, Michigan that were built in the 1870s and 1880s when logging was a major industry and the economy was booming.   People were streaming into the county and lumber was being transported out and railroads were the travel method of choice. 

 One thing about trains. They don’t like hills or valleys.  The more level the ground, the easier it is for them to run and stop safely. According to a few websites such as railfan.net, most mainline railroads won’t exceed a 2% incline, although some logging railroads can go as much as 5-6%. Whatever the maximum incline allowed, the railroads hired crews–often immigrants–to do the hard work of constructing the beds, filling in low spots and digging out high spots.

cropped-gerrish-railroad11.jpgThere were a couple of methods railroads employed to creat a railroad bed in a valley or across water.  One way was to create a wooden trestle with logs that were simply laid in a criss-cross pattern. This kind of trestle could be quickly constructed and at low cost since the majority of the materals needed in the construction cou were all around them.   The photo at left shows one built by Gerrish for his logging railroad.

A second way was to build a regular trestle of logs and boards. While this type of construction may have been used in Clare County, no evidence remains that I am aware of, although evidence can be found in Gladwin County near House Lake Ste Forest Campground.

Another way and the cheapest, was to simply use fill dirt from  the surrounding countryside to build low areas up to the elevation needed to build the track.  One can still see today evidence of where workers dug the fill they needed to build up the railroad bed.  In the northern section of the county, the work was relatively easy since much of the ground was sandy soil.  Of course, easy is a relative term.  The crews still had to deal with heat, mosquitoes, rocks, roots, accidents, long hours of back-breaking work, little pay and no benefits.

Earthen trestle at MMCCBecause much of Clare County is fairly level, most areas did not require a great deal of fill.  One of those spots that did is in Harrison where the builders had to construct a bed nearly 30 feet above the surrounding countryside.  How exactly this was done is not known, although one would think the fill was brought in by railcar and dumped and then the tracks extended upon the bed as work proceeded.

In other posts, I have called this type of work a “trestle,” since the term fit, to me at least. However, local historian Cody Beemer who also owns Beemer Sand &  Gravel Excavating in Harrison and knows about such things took issue (in a nice way) with my use of the word.  His comments sent me to the dictionary and the Internet, and (sigh) I found he was right. 

According to Wikipedia and other sources, trestles by their very nature contain piers to support whatever is above them.  And that means they need to be built of something other than earth. In the 18th and 19th centuries, wood and iron were the materials of choice.  In the 20th century steel was used and continues to be used today.

So what are these types of railroad beds called? For that answer, I turned to the National Railway Historical Society in Philadelphia. I sent them an email and received a quick response from L. J. Dean, a NRHS Library Volunteer who emailed me.  “If these are earthen structures higher than the surrounding country, the most commonly used term would be embankment,” he wrote.  “The term fill is also often used, but less likely to be familiar to the general public.”

Now embankment isn’t an exciting way to describe what we have in Clare County.  I would have preferred earthen trestle, but I DO try to be factual in what I write, so embankment it will be from now on, especially since embankment beats using the word fill in my book.

One more thing I learned from looking things up: The difference between a trestle and a bridge.

According to a railroader on a Yahoo answer site, (and I quote since I don’t honestly understand it all), “In typical bridge construction, you will have piers or bents that support the longitudinal, moment carrying members which are usually called beams, girders, joists or stringers depending on the layout and material used.  The piers and bents will typically be constructed only in the plane transverse to traffic and will not have connection from one substructure (pier) unit to the next.

“A railroad trestle will be comprised entirely of wood and one bent or pier will be dependent on the next with longitudinal and diagonal bracing to support the longitudinal loads.  There will be no clear spans between piers.  In other words, in a trestle, all of the piers work together while in typical bridge construction, each of the piers will carry load independently.”

So, now you know…well, sorta.

Categories: Clare County, Gladwin, Harrison, History, logging, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Changing my Blog Title

I’ve changed my blog title from “The Moving Finger” to “The Moving Finger in Mid-Michigan” with the tagline “Random musings of Michigan, its History and More.” The title and tagline are more reflective of what I have been writing about since most of my blog entries deal with mid-Michigan, especially Clare and Gladwin counties and history of the area. The name change and addition of tags should help people better find my blog. At least that’s the idea.

And yes, I am still looking for a job (my former tagline mentioned that my musings were done while in search of a job); however, I want people to know that I find the history of this section of the state to be fascinating and this blog is one way for me to share that love.

Categories: Clare County, Gladwin, Harrison, History, Michigan | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Interviews: A Great way to meet People

I’m new to this area. A new full-time resident anyway. I bought a place in the woods between Harrison and Gladwin about seven years ago and came up here with friends and family on a fairly regular basis during all four seasons. I enjoyed hiking and biking, hunting and fishing and learning about the local history, which I find fascinating.

Now, due to changes in my life (mostly unexpected and unwanted), I live up here Marty's home inthe countryfull-time. The nice thing about it is that I get to enjoy the beauty of mid-Michigan and the friendliness of the people seven days a week. I still love it here. I find I am less stressed when I drive, take more time to enjoy the sights and talk to residents, something I didn’t have the chance to do when I was a Sunday trunk slammer. The downside is it is hard in middle age to get integrated into a new community, meet new people and find ways to keep busy.

Record and Clarion logoConducting interviews for The Gladwin County Record and Beaverton Clarion helps me in all those areas. At least once a week I get to sit down with someone from the Gladwin community and find out about them and about the new place I call home. In the short time I’ve done this job I’ve met a man who races motorcycles on ice, a man who seasons sausage, a woman who directs 4-H in the county and a recently retired State Police Fire Marshal who had some great stories to tell. More than people to interview, I’m making one new friend a week. As a result of one interview I’ve decided to join the local Lions club. I will not be racing motorcycles on ice, though.

I’ve also learned a lot about this area, why people live here, what they like about it and why they call it home. And although I do like talking to the people I am called upon to interview, actually transcribing the interviews is a bear. I’m not the greatest typist in the world and I need to carefully type the 3,500 – 4,000 words of the interview into a Word document and then pare them down to 2,000 – 2,500 words while ensuring the text remains accurate, flows easily and reflects the personality of the subject. I have to say I have a greater respect for Barbara Walters and David Letterman now. Interviewing is not as easy as it seems.

I hope people like the result: The people I interview; the readers of the paper; and of course, Stephanie Buffman, the editor, and Mike Drey, the publisher of The Record and Clarion. I appreciate them giving me the chance to write for the paper; I also appreciate the plug they put in each week concerning this here blog.

I hope this gig turns into a real life, full-time job somewhere in the area, and sometime soon. I love Gladwin and Clare counties but, love alone won’t pay the bills. However, in the meantime, I wrote, I transcribe, I volunteer my time (Mid-Michigan Home Care and Clare County Historical Society), get involved with a nice local church I’ve found, and count my blessings–a good way to spend time in this area I now call home.

If you have someone in Gladwin County you’d like to see profiled, drop the editor an email at Sbuffman@thegladwincountyrecord.com. New friends are always welcomed.

Categories: Clare County, Gladwin, Home life, Life, Michigan | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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