The Surrey House in Harrison, Michigan

Plans are underway to reopen the Surrey House in Harrison if grants can be obtained to purchase and renovate the building. The goal is to take the historic two-story building that most recently housed a restaurant and bar and turn it into a mixed-use facility to help grow retail businesses. Tenants could include a small restaurant and community kitchen, and possibly several hotel rooms and a spa, according to an article in the March 1, 2012 issue of the Clare County Cleaver.

The Middle Michigan Development Corporation, a private, non-profit economic development organization responsible for the industrial and technological development of  Clare and Isabella Counties, and the Small Business Initiative Council, an organization that seeks to foster entrepreneurial activity the county and create an atmosphere that is inviting for business growth are assisting in the project.

The city of Harrison agreed to the project including taking title to the building as long as the city would not be under any financial obligation if grants do not cover the costs involved. The Surrey House has been closed since January 21011.

This is an ad that appeared in the Clare County Cleaver not long after the Surrey House reopened.

The building was constructed around 1880, a time when Harrison was booming thanks to the logging industry. Trains pulled into town on a daily basis bringing lumberman, storekeepers, families and even criminals like the infamous Jim Car (one of the most despicable men Michigan has ever produced), and taking lumber back south to construct cities in Michigan and in the Midwest.

The building was originally called the Lockwood House and served as a boarding house and restaurant during the logging era. Later renamed the Ohio Tavern and then the Colonial Hotel,  it was bought by two Flint businessmen in fall of 1945. At that time it was remodeled and renamed the Surrey House, according to an article in the June 13, 1945 issue of the Cleaver announcing the reopening. (There was no reason cited in the article for the name change.) Changes at that time included a Colonial porch constructed on the west side, two available entrances and “Beautiful sleeping quarters are on the second floor all remodeled rooms with splendid beds and cleanliness that is bound to please those seeking lodging.”

Rumor has it the building is haunted by a small boy that prowls the rooms upstairs. While his is a restless and sometimes mischievous spirit, it is not an evil one. Moving items from one location to another or opening closed doors is about the worst a waitress at the restaurant told me several years ago.

It will be nice to see the building reopened for use by more than just restless spirits.

Categories: Clare County, Economy, Harrison, History, Jobs and the economy | Tags: | 3 Comments

Clare County Michigan History in Photos

I added a video to You Tube, well, basically a slideshow that consists of old photos. Most of them show the cities of Clare, Harrison and Farwell. The show lasts about 6 minutes and music in the background. The photos are primarily from the collection Forrest Meek gave to Mid-Michigan Community College. Here’s the link to the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTX84V-VZfM

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Michigan | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Best Well Digger in Clare County

Paraphrased from the story of the same name from the book “At Ease With Col. Sharp,” by Dale Sharp.

Who knows if this story about the well digger, Oliver Gosine, is true or not?  Oliver lived until the ripe old age of 101 and some of his stories and exploits were recorded in “Ticket to Hell, A Saga of Michigan’s Bad Men.”  Its author, Roy Dodge, reported that Oliver used to work for saloonkeeper and brothel owner Jim Carr, who was one of  the most dispicable people this state has ever known.  Dodge also wrote that Oliver cut ice during the winter in Harrison’s Budd Lake.  However, Dodge doesn’t mention anything about Oliver’s well-digging prowess and it’s not mentioned elsewhere as far as I know.  Now Oliver is also known for a tombstone he built for himself complete with a mirror.  The tombstone can be seen in Harrison’s Maple Grove Cemetery.  And the mirror, well, that’s another story and the subject of another post on my blog.  This particular story, true or not, is about Oliver, well digging and a horse.  I hope Col. Sharp, wherever he is, will forgive me for rewriting his story and publishing it on my blog.

bucketIn the spring of 1889, Harrison was still basically a lumber town but homesteaders were building and claiming the land in the area.  The conversion from lumber to farming was just beginning. Jim Carr, undoubtedly the most despicable person to ever live in Clare Countywas history.  It was a fresh time and Oliver Gosine was the best well digger in Clare County.

Gosine was kept busy digging wells.  People literally stood in line to employ him.  However, the only way Oliver liked water was mixed with a little bourbon.

One May morning in 1889, Oliver was getting ready to dig a well for a homesteader when the sheriff rode up and asked Oliver to stop what he was doing and dig a well for the county jail.  Apparently the well at the jail had just about gone dry and they needed a well pronto.  In the interest of the village’s welfare, Oliver took on the job.

The way Oliver dug a well went something like this: He would dig down the first six feet by hand.  Once he had a hole six foot wide and about the same deep, he would take a large bucket and toss it down into the hole. Now the line was secured to Oliver’s horse, Old Gray, with a long rope.  Oliver would climb down into the hole, fill the bucket with sand, climb in the bucket, yell “git up” and then slowly he and the bucket would be taken to the top as Old Gray moved slowly away from the hole. Oliver would unload the bucket and repeat the process until he struck water—usually 18 to 30 feet down.

Things apparently went well on this dig until the third day.  It was then Oliver struck a rock. Deciding dynamite was the only way to deal with the problem Oliver had Old Gray “git up” to pull him and the bucket out of the hole.  Oliver then commenced to walk over to Hughes Brothers Hardware and bought himself five sticks of the explosive, a blasting cap and a couple feet of fuse. Going back into the hole he packed the five sticks under the stone, tamped it all down, lit the fuse, climbed into the bucket and yelled up at the horse to “git up.”  Well, nothing happened. Oliver yelled louder and still the bucket and he remained unmoving in the hole as the fuse burned closer to the dynamite meant to blow the rock to smithereens.  In a state of panic, Oliver dove out of the bucket toward the rock, crawled over to the fuse and pulled it out at the last second.

A couple of hours later, one of the local judges was walking home and spied the horse standing half asleep at the top of the hole and Oliver at the bottom of it fit-to be-tied.  The judge led the horse away from the hole bringing the bucket up. When the bucket and well-digger reached the top Oliver lit into the horse with a litany of expletives in two languages (Oliver also knew French).

The judge went home not too much afterward swore he heard a gunshot but passed it off as routine in this rural community.  The next day walking to work he noticed a large crowd around Oliver’s not quite completed well. He peered over the edge and saw Old Gray standing at the bottom, blood dripping from its head and what appeared to be a boot print on its rump.

Sheriff Thompson was summoned, and although the evidence was circumstantial Oliver was arrested for cruelty to animals.

It apparently took two days to put the horse in a sling and pull it up the 20 feet from the bottom of the well, apparently none the worse for wear despite its wound.

As to Oliver, he went to trial.  Although the boot print on Old Gray’s rump matched the one Oliver wore and the fact Oliver had a derringer in his pocket that the sheriff sniffed and announced that it had been fired, Oliver was found not guilty by a Judge Green.  Rumor had it that Green was beholding to Oliver since the latter had taken the rap for illegal pike spearing  while Green hid in the bushes.

Anyway, the next day Oliver and Old Gray were seen heading off toward Leota for some fishing. The next morning Oliver returned alone–and on foot.  When he was asked what happened, Oliver said that Old Gray had just stopped in the road near Jed McCord’s place, rolled over and died.  Oliver said Jed offered him $5 for the carcass to feed Jeb’s hounds, and he took the offer.  “Now gentleman, what would you have done?” Oliver would ask with a twinkle in his eye.

By the way, the story doesn’t say whether Oliver ever finished that well at the jail.  However, it does say that on the day Oliver reported that Old Gray had died of “natural causes”  Jed recalled hearing a gunshot. You can draw your own conclusion.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Michigan | Tags: | 6 Comments

Heading to Bed (a Railroad Bed) in Clare County, Michigan

A Walk Along an Old Railroad Bed

The remains of an old railroad bed from the 1870s on state land off Mostetler Rd.

I went for a long walk a couple of weeks ago (before the winter snow) on state land, along a path that was once the bed of an old railroad track that ran from Hatton to Dodge City, a distance of about 11 miles.

Hatton is now a ghost town and driver’s driving down Hatton Rd. south of the town of Harrison, a small town in mid-Michigan Clare County will find little evidence it ever existed. Dodge, on the other hand is now a quiet community with cottages nestled around small lakes.

There is little at either site to suggest they were once vibrant logging communities with post office, homes, businesses and more supporting the railroad and workers from nearby logging camps.

This map shows many of the stops trains in Clare County would make. The PM-LH2 route shown in this map is not correct in this writer's opinion. The track shown here did not go to the logging camp of Mostetler and then to Dodge. What is shown on the map is a railroad spur off that went to Mostetler. The main PM-LH2 track went in a relatively straight line from east of Hatton up to Dodge.

The location of the bed I walked is off the south side of Mostetler Road (also called Mosteller) across from Michigan Moto Mania and located a couple of miles east of Harrison.

Mostetler is an east-west gravel road that passes private and public land filled with scrub pines, oaks and cedar, and dotted with occasional homes.

The road is named for a former logging camp/town Mosteller that existed for about five years in the 1870’s when this area’s massive white pines were cut and hauled south to build homes in growing cities like Detroit, Saginaw, Flint and even Chicago.None of the trees remain and even the stumps, some that measured nearly 5-feet across have decayed in the intervening years.

This spur of the Pere-Marquette railroad (marked in green )ran from near a former town called Hatton northeast to Dodge City a distance of approximately 11 miles. Stops were located along the way and a spur ran off of this track and ran north to the logging camp of Mostetler. The red dot is the location of Mid-Michigan Community College. The blue dot shows the location of the path this writer took.

While the tracks, pilings and all evidence of the trains are gone, the bed is still relatively easy to find in most areas, especially in the fall and winter after the frost has killed the vegetation (not to mention the mosquitoes). Like all rail beds, this one runs straights and is relatively level since trains needed a grade in the order of 1 or 2 percent to safely haul the heavy logs. It is easy to see where workers raised the rail bed in areas or sunk it in others to keep the rail bed level.

In many spots the railroad bed was built up to ensure a level path for the train but in a few areas the road bed was sunk down a few feet to provide a level grade.

The walk I took headed south and I passed small creeks and downed trees. The walk also took me near to Mostetler Creek that begins in the Dodge City area, crosses Mostetler Road and then flows through state land before disappearing by the time it reaches M-61 to the south.

This site is popular with hunters in the fall since the roadbed makes for easy walking. At the same time, hikers may have a difficult time in the summer since the land near the road is swampy for the first couple of hundred years. However, once further in the woods, the land is dry and sandy and quite peaceful.

If you want to see a railroad bed in Clare County, this is a nice one to see. And maybe if you stand still and close your eyes you might even hear a faint whistle of a train long gone.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Michigan, recreation | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

A Glimpse into the Life of a Rural Michigan Sheriff: 1939 – 1952

Serving Summons and Shooting Stray Dogs…

Sample view of the diariesI bought 13 diaries on eBay the other day for more money than I care to admit. The diaries were from the years 1939 through 1952, although 1944 was missing. They had once belonged to a sheriff in Harrison, Michigan, or at least to someone in the Sheriff’s Department in that mid-Michigan town located in Clare County. When I bought the diaries I was hoping it would provide a wealth of information, a window into the life of a rural sheriff, including how he spent his time, and would include names and events.

Sadly I didn’t get a wealth of information, more like a trickle, and as for the window
anlogy…well I see through the glass there but darkly. Turns out the diaries–and diaries is not the right name although I am not sure what to call them–were really served as a place to list events and activities for which the sheriff either was paid (like issuing a summons) or needed to pay others (like hiring a deputy for the day if he was on the road). Still it was an interesting read and my biggest impression is that the sheriff spent a lot of time issuing summonses and shooting dogs. For the former, the sheriff received $2 and for the latter $1–and the fee for shooting a dog never changed from 1930 through 1952.

I jotted down a few of the items written in the books I found interesting. Items in quotations are direct quotes from the books and items in parenthesis are my comments or thoughts.) And although the shooting of dogs and the issuing of summonses make up the biggest part of the diaries I have spared you from reading all but maybe one or two.

A page from one of the diaries1939
(Charge for mileage: 5 cents per mile; meals: 50 cents; serving papers: $2.50; Addition charge if a deputy is required: $1; pay for deputy if needed for a day: $3)
June 15–“Fred Dorsy chicken stolen. Art Olsen cows killed.
Aug. 20: “Complaint in Temple on Lester Bowen”
Aug. 21: “Arrested Lester Bowen”
Aug. 25: “Lester Bowen hearing”
Nov. 7: “Start of Bowen trial”
Nov. 10: “Took Bowen to Jackson”
(No mention of Bowen’s crime, his conviction or his sentence)

(Sheriff appears to have been a S. M. Amble)
March 15: “Picked up 5 boys from Freeman Twp for unlawfully driving a car belonging to ____ Gould. Namely RIchard and Robert Barton, Russ Goodrich, Chas. Waldron and Darrell Weage.”
March 21: “Boys sentenced to 3 months probation”
(One of the boys listed above still appears in the local phone book. Can’t be sure it’s the same person but it would be interesting to call and find out. Wouldn’t he be surprised?)
March 21: “Killed and buried dog – $1”
(There are many mentions of the killing of stray dogs. Sometimes two at a time and sometimes the name of either the person requesting the killing or the owner of the dogs is listed. Not sure who they are. And sometimes there is a notation that the head was cut off and sent to Lansing–probably for testing for rabies.)
Aug. 24: “Hughes store broken into at night.and $3.50 taken from cash register.”
Oct. 18: “Investigated pig shooting.”

(Mileage rate now 10 cents. Reimbursement for breakfast: 70 cents; dinner: $1)
Feb. 23: “Robt. Kroll house burned. 3-year-old-boy burned to death.”
(There is no entry on Dec. 7, but then many pages in the book lack entries and because the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred on a Sunday there would not be much happening on a Sunday in Harrison anyway.)

March 23: “Repairs on car: $4”

(Mileage reimbursement now 12 cents)

June 29: Airplane crash at Airport. Killed Barbara Wenig, Paul Treadwell and Wenig.”
(No more information on the type of plane involved or the reason for the crash.)

June: Sheriff’s Convention in Marquette
Mileage: $42.60
Room:        9.00
Meals:       10.50
Straits         3.00
Total        $65.10

Feb. 18: “Served summons on Spikehorn for Harold Hughes”
April 7: “Ice off of Budd Lake.”
Aug. 10: “Found body of Frank Biker”
Oct. 8: “Served tax notice on Spikehorn”
(Spikehorn was a local character around Harrison who kept beers and had run-ins with locals and with the state conservation department. I was surprised that I did not find more mentions of him.)

Aug. 25: “Arrested Vern Charette and Richard Henry for maliciously destroying property at state park”
(A Vern Charette is still listed in the local phone book)
Oct. 24: “First snow flakes”
Oct. 29: “Albert Eaton died”
Nov. 19: “Wet snow storm. Froze roads. Very icy. Wreck near James Hill. 2 people killed.”
Nov. 20: “Bad traffic jams. Lots of accidents.”
(The ice storm would have hit during the opening week of deer hunting season when a lot of visitors come to this part of the state. I am curious to know however, where a traffic jam would have occurred and what the sheriff considered a traffic jam.)

(Deputy pay for a day: $5)

(Mileage rates seems to have decreased from 12 cents to 10 cents a mile)
Feb. 5: “Mertle Shummway shot Ray”
Feb. 6: “(2:30 a.m.) Drove Roy to Gladwin Hospital”June
April 13: “Budd Lake opened up”
June 30: “Mertle sentenced to 2 1/2 years in House of Correction”
(No idea what drove Mertle to shoot her husband, the seriousness of his wounds or what happened after Mertle was released from jail.)

April 18: “Ice out of Budd Lake”

And that’s a recap of the diaries. Now you know as much as I do–and for much less.I may stop by the local paper, the Clare County Cleaver and take a look into their archives to find out more about some of these stories. And as tempted as I am to call a couple of the people mentioned in the diaries, I will let sleeping dogs lie and hope the sheriff won’t shoot them.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Life, Michigan | Tags: , , , | 14 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

Amerigas: Worst Customer Service in the World (well, maybe not that bad but it ain’t good)

Man pulling hair in frustration(Note: This post contains several updates.)

I use Amerigas up here in Clare County. I use them only because the former owner of my property leased the tank from the company so I have continued to do so. However, I wish I didn’t. Amerigas has the worst customer service in the world.

Here’s the story: I have an online account with them and recently needed to change my credit card number because Amerigas couldn’t bill me. My bad. I had not updated my credit card with them.

When I attempted to do so, I was unable to get into my Amerigas account using the password I had been using. No big deal, I thought  so I requested a new password using the Amerigas online system. Sadly, their online system would not respond. I tried again and again got the same lack of response. So I gave up and decided to call instead. Then suddenly a temporary password showed up from Amerigas in my mailbox. Problem over, I thought.

Wrong, as it turned out.

The system would not let me in using the new password and finally locked me out. So I tried to call them using the phone number in the email. The email also said their call center was open until 8 p.m. EST. Very convenient I thought as I called one early evening.  I went through the many prompts on the Amerigas phone system only to be told the office closed at 5 p.m. Thinking I was mistaken I reread the email. “Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.” it read.

So I tried again the next day about the same time after receiving yet another email from them that gave the 8 p.m. closing time. Same result.

So the third day I called earlier and was placed on hold. After a time a message came on saying I could just leave my name, account number and phone number and someone would try to call me back within the half hour. So I waited. And waited and waited.

The few days later I called again. This time midday. Was placed on hold, left a message when prompted and waited. Still no response. Today I called yet a third time and the wait continues although more than two hours has already elapsed.

So each day, Amerigas tries to bill my account and sends me an email when they are unable to do so. And each day I call. I am happy to report however that their email now gives the 5 p.m. closing time so that’s a step in the right direction. But not a big one and it doesn’t change my opinion of the company.

I have always hated Amerigas and I don’t hate too many companies. It stems from a few years ago when I didn’t lock in my rate for propane because gas prices were low and the price of propane (which is petroleum-based) basically follows the price of gas. Also, by not locking in my rate I saved $100.

Amerigas monitors my tank and normally come out whenever the propane level in my tank is 30 percent or less. On this particular day a few years ago, the tank was nearly full when the truck came out. I was not alarmed. They were there so they filled the tank.  When I got the bill however, I about hit the ceiling. Amerigas had charged me around $5/gallon for propane.

I immediately called their call center (this time I had easily gotten through). Their explanation: On that particular day the price of propane had spiked for some reason to $5/gallon in that region. Just that day. No, they didn’t know why. No, they couldn’t tell me anything more. No, they couldn’t cut my bill. No. No. No. And yes, I should have locked in the rate. Luckily for me my tank hadn’t been  empty or I would have been looking at a $3000 bill.

I should have left them that year but with fees for turning off service and disconnecting service and picking up the tank I didn’t. And that’s why today I sit and wait for Amerigas to call me back although I realize the call may never come.  So while I sit and wait I continue to hate. Amerigas sucks. Stay away.

Dec. 20 Update: Amerigas called me back at 7:15 p.m. last night but I was not available to answer the phone so I called them back this morning (Dec. 20) a few minutes after they opened. I was on hold for 10 minutes before a polite gentleman named Jason answered the phone and reset my password. All my delays and time spent waiting for something that took Jason all of two minutes. I thanked Jason for his help and told him Amerigas customer service was horrible and asked that he pass that up to the powers-that-be within the company. I reset my password and updated my account. For now, all is well.

Dec. 22 Update: I thought all was well with my Amerigas account but I was sadly mistaken. Yesterday I received an email that Amerigas had successfully billed my new credit card for a $20.09 payment. Now this payment attempt goes back to early December when I received the first indication that I had an invalid card attached to my account. And while I tried to get it all sorted out, I DID send them the payment via check so my account was up to date. In fact, when I talked to Jason he assured me it was up to date and when I was able to access my account online I verified it was up to date. Well, apparently with everyone but the computer at Amerigas, which billed my credit card. Thank goodness it is a relatively small amount. Had it been my entire bill for propane it could be devastating to my account. I contacted Amerigas yesterday to ask that the amount be credited. I have not heard back from them. My battle continues.

Graphic is from Photobucket.com

Categories: Clare County, General, Harrison, Michigan | Tags: | 5 Comments

Digging and Metal Detecting in Clare County

I have a small parcel west of Harrison back in the woods. When my now ex-wife and I bought it 10 years ago or so, we put a 1/4 mile trail that winds along the edge of a small shallow pond and through the woods that cover much of the property.

Not long after that our neighbor who we let walk the trails mentioned that she could see the outline of a dirt foundation next to the trail and about 100 feet from the pond. The foundation, for lack of a better term, was a a raised sand rectangle measuring about 16×20 feet. Trees up to 6-inches in diameter grew on and in the rectangle showing it had been there for a long time.

However, it was a sign of human habitation (loggers, Indians, hunters) and got me excited so I dug through a couple of sections of the foundation looking for nails, wood or other signs of former walls. Sadly, nothing so I figured it must have just made to channel the rain outside of a large tent and probably made by hunters that might have frequented the site in the past when the pond was a lake and a nearby empty stream bed that runs through my property was once an active stream. Other than a few rusted tin cans I found nothing of value or interest. So I left it well enough alone until this fall.

Some friends were coming up for the weekend so I took a rake and raked the interior of the foundation clean of leaves and debris, took a chain saw and cut out many of the trees and shrubs and dug out my metal detector.I was determined to figure out what the foundation was and whether there was anything of value in there.

The answers: I don’t know and no. That weekend we set to work detecting and digging. Inside we found junk including two broken horseshoes (different styles) a conventional belt buckle, some hardware and broken pieces of tin. That means I still don’t know what it was or what it was used for. Why it showed signs of people AND horses is beyond me. The neatest thing was a railroad spike. It was not a large spike that one associates with the railroad. This one was about 6 inches long and an inch in diameter. I had seen these spikes before and was told they were used to construct narrow gauge railroads. Once the railroad was no longer needed, the tracks were pulled up and the rails, couples, spikes and more were reused in order to save money. Apparently, the spike I found was left behind and might indicate that a logging railroad line DID in fact run across my property at one time.

items dug up in pond on my propertyHowever, those finds were not the end of the story. Much of my pond evaporates by fall and the mucky ground is hard enough to stand on, so we took the metal detector out and set to work. It didn’t take long to find three items of interest: An axe head, a foot-long section of what appears to be a narrow-gauge railroad track and a piece of plow.

Now I am more confused than ever. I know for a fact the property was lumbered–all the county was since it contained huge forests of white pine. The logging explains the axe head (although why someone would pitch a totally good axe into the lake/pond is beyond me. But what about the section of track and the spike found earlier? Was there a narrow-gauge railroad that ran along the creek on my property? I now have some evidence to support that fact. Other evidence includes a line indicating a railroad that appears on a map created by two members of the Clare County Historical Society. (Clare County had more logging railroads then any other county in Michigan, according to historian Roy Dodge who wrote the book, “Ghost Towns in Michigan.” But why the horseshoes and the foundation? And what about the plow? There is no evidence this area was ever farmed.

But the rains came and filled the pond and winter has arrived freezing both the pond and the ground, that means any further explorations must wait until spring.

As for my three major finds from the pond, I donated them to the Clare County Historical Society. They may use them in their displays in their museum at the corner of Surry and Eberhart roads. The museum is closed now but reopens in the spring. And maybe by then I will have found even MORE stuff to donate.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Michigan | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

Hunger in Clare County

Hi-lo unloads food from semi-truckI knew hunger existed in Clare County, Michigan but I never experienced it like I did on Oct. 29, 2011 when I participated in a food distribution sponsored by the Community Nutrition Network.

I volunteered to assist with the distribution on what turned out to be a cold rainy Saturday. The distribution was scheduled for 11 a.m. that day and when I arrived at 8 a.m. there were already people waiting to get into the building carrying bags, boxes and other containers with which to take their free food home.

As the time came nearer to 11 a.m. the line grew steadily until several hundred people waited in a long line that snaked through the empty bus transit building that opened for the purpose. There were elderly people with walkers and canes, young families or single parents carrying babies or standing with  children who–in a perfect world–would have been sitting in a warm house Food cost comparisonwatching cartoons. Each person was different but they had one trait in common: they all waited patiently.  Some of them asked how they could volunteer so they could give back to this organization that was helping them. Some offered thanks for the fact they were being helped. As they waited they could also view nutritional information,recipes and tips to make them better shoppers and showing them how they could eat better at less cost.

My heart broke for those in line, not only because they were in need but also because I Volunteers unpack delivered food for needycould see myself in that line in the not-to-distant-future if I am unable to secure a job.

The Community Nutrition Network is a group of volunteers who wrote a grant to bring food to the needy in the county. For more information on how you can become involved contact Pastor Mike Simon at The Gathering Church at 989-539-1445 or Genine Hopkins at 989-539-1352. The group is looking for faith-based organizations to sponsor a truck for upcoming months.

Categories: Clare County, Economy, Harrison, Jobs and the economy | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Mirror on the Tombstone

TombstoneEvery once in a while in my readings I stumble across a place I just have to see. That’s what happened when I was reading through a Clare County genealogy site on MIgenweb.net. There was a story by a man named Roy L. Dodge who was one of the premiere historians in the county about 50 years ago and wrote such books as Michigan Ghost Towns and Ticket to Hell: A Saga of Michigan Bad Boys, (I’m still looking to get a copy of the latter).

Anyway, Mr. Dodge has written a story about a tombstone with a mirror created by Oliver Gosine. It’s a great story and I just had to find that tombstone since no photos accompanied the story. So one fall day, I trudged out to Harrison’s Maple Grove Cemetery and wandered the rows to photograph it. It wasn’t hard since the tombstone is a  tall one.  Sadly, as in Mr. Dodge’s time, there’s is not much left of the mirror. Vandals broke it years ago. I was tempted to install a new one since Oliver Gosine, the man who built the tombstone and hauled it to the cemetery, installed the mirror for a reason.

So read on. And after you read Mr Dodge’s story below that can be found on Clare County Reminiscences, tell me what you think about installing a new mirror.


by Roy L. Dodge

TombstoneMany gravestones, especially those more than 50 years old, bear epitaphs, fancy engravings, and were made in many unusual designs.  But, the seven-foot high tombstone of Oliver Gosine who made his own monument in 1925, and lived to be nearly 101 years old, is probably the only tombstone embellished with a plate glass mirror.  “Who knows, but what I may want to come up and take a look at myself once in awhile?”, he said in answer to people who paused to watch him work during the two years it took to make it.

Working in his spare time he selected stones about the size of a golf ball until he gathered enough to make the tall obelisk.  While the cement was still wet he fastened a seven-by-nine inch beveled mirror on the stone at eye level.  When the work was completed to his satisfaction, Gosine loaded the monument on a flat wheelbarrow and wheeled it a half mile to the cemetery near the North Harrison city limits and placed it on his grave-to-be.

Gosine was one of the longest-lived of Harrison’s pioneers.  Born in Montreal, of French descent, Gosine came to the Saginaw Valley when a young man to work in the lumber camps.  “I took a train for a new town called Harrison where zey said I could find work.  When I got off zee train, it was night.”, he said in his soft French accent.  “I took  only a few  steps and fell head first into a pile of brush from trees cut to make a street”, he related in later years.

Gosine, spelled Gatien in French, worked in lumber camps around Harrison until 1891 when the Wilson brothers made him foreman of the ice-cutting crew on Budd Lake.  He was paid the then unbelievable wage of $4.00 a day, more than four times the prevailing rate at that time.

After the logging days when most of the lumberjacks moved to the Upper Peninsula or to other states to work in the timber, Gosine stayed on in Harrison. In later years he worked as a handyman for businessmen and at one time, in the 1920’s, he had a fruit and vegetable stand near his home at the corner of present day US-27 and Main Street.

When he was in his 90’s he would point proudly at the sixty-foot high maple trees along Main Street and say “I planted those trees when they were just leetle fellows”.

In 1927, two years after he completed his tombstone, Gosine and Oliver Beemer were interviewed by a news reporter from Detroit which resulted in the only published history of the logging days when Harrison was “The Toughest Town in Michigan” according to the resulting story.

Photo copies of the full page story with photos of Gosine and Beemer, who were both the same age and in their 80’s at the time, hang in several bars and prominent places in Harrison today.

Gosine, who was a practical joker and a fixture around town until he was 100 years old, embellished the story of the rough-tough early days in Harrison for the newsmen.  “One time I see zee sheriff try to arrest as man in Harrison and it took him and seven deputies to take him to jail,” Gosine told the reporter.  “One time I walk down the street and in 10 minutes see twelve and one-half fights!” The reporter asked him what the half-fight was about.  “Oh, it was nothing.  One fellow said take a swing at me and I hit him first.  That was only one-half a fight.”

Gosine always wore a long, handlebar mustache, of which he was very proud.  He was small and wiry and had a great sense of humor.  “When I die I want to be sure my hair and mustache are combed. Maybe I want to look at myself sometime”, he answered when people asked him why he put a mirror on his tombstone.  He died in January of 1946, just short of his 101st birthday and is buried with the mirror.

Several years ago the mirror was broken, probably by vandals, but enough remains to reflect the sun shining through the overhanging branches of a huge pine tree on a bright day.  The tree was only a seedling when Gosine got off the train in Harrison.


Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.