Posts Tagged With: clare county

A Face to a Name in a Graveyard

Jim Garrity went off to war.

Garrity family _EyersJim was a farm kid from rural Clare County, Michigan, a poor, sparsely populated county in mid Michigan. According to family history, Jim enlisted in the navy in Nov. 1917 joining his cousin Arthur Looker at the Naval Training Academy in Illinois.

Jim Garrity went off to war but never saw combat. He died barely two months later while in training of the Spanish flu, a pandemic that would kill an estimated 50 million to 100 million worldwide before disappearing. Many of the flu’s victims were young men, like Jim—and like Arthur who also died of the deadly virus one week earlier.

So instead of coming home proud veterans, Jim and Arthur came home in wooden boxes. Jim was buried in his family’s small cemetery on a knoll in Hamilton Township. Arthur was buried in Gladwin cemetery.

2013_August_Harrison_Gerrity Cemetery2So two sisters grieved their two sons. It was a tragic bond they now held with a third sister who had also lost her son from the flu the year before. Ervin Reed had been at Fort Wayne near Detroit. Reed too is buried in the small Garrity Cemetery.

Last year, Jim Garrity, Arthur Looker and Ervin Reed were just names. They became the subject of a blog post because I wanted to tell the story of their brief lives.  That post caught the attention of Marianne Eyer, a direct descendant of the Garrity’s, who lives in Marquette, Mich. She shared a photo of Jim; and suddenly a name I knew only in a graveyard had a face.

newsletter JamesA handsome face. The nearly century old photo of Jim is badly faded but shows a young broad-shouldered young man staring confidently into the camera.

We don’t know exactly why Jim Garrity went off to war, but according to Marianne, the story is that Jim was the only son in a farm household with four sisters. His father would not let him join the service so Jim convinced his mother to let him go. Perhaps the lure of far off places, the excitement of war despite its dangers, trumped life on the farm.

Did Jim’s father ever forgive his wife because she gave their only son her blessing to join the Navy? One wonders, after Jim died, whether his mother blamed herself because she did allow him to go.

Family history also says Jim’s sister Hazel insisted Jim be given his high school diploma, although even at 20 he had not graduated. He was smart, his report card from 1916 shows that fact; he just didn’t like school—and maybe farming. Maybe he felt he was destined for bigger things than tilling the soil. We will never know.

Newsletter - graveBecause Jim Garrity went off to war.

Categories: Cemetery, Clare County, Harrison, History | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

1.8 Million Years of Clare History (or 150 feet)

Note: This is the first of two posts dealing with the geologic history of Clare County, Michigan, USA.

Map showing where Clare County is in MichiganEver take a good look at our county?  Its rolling landscape, many bodies of water (20 Lakes in 20 Minutes), numerous gravel and sand pits, the fact that the south end of the county is hundreds of feet lower than the north end.  Ever wonder why it looks the way it does? Why it has so many rocks? So many lakes? And oil?

It’s a fascinating story.

What we now call Clare County has been around for more than 4 billion years and has physically traveled a long way and has seen volcanos and oceans.  Only recently–in the last 11,000 years of so–has it been in the form we now know it.  If you think of time as a yardstick*–a really long yardstick in this example–with every 1,000 years being an inch and us at one end, Clare County has existed in its present form for about 11 inches, while the land far underneath and around has been in existence for about 66 miles or so. As I said, a really long yardstick. But more on that later.

And while the land has been around for more than 4 billion years, you won’t find any dinosaur bones. Now there is always a remote chance you will find the remains of a mastodon and woolly mammoth in the county (a tooth most likely since those tend to survive because they don’t decay as easily, no pun intended), any traces of dinosaurs were scrubbed way by glaciers and/or buried several thousand feet and under tons and tons (and tons) of glacial till, which is debris from a glacier.

Circles indicate where a remain of a mastodon has been found.

Circles indicate where the remains of a mastodon were found. Most discoveries have been where swamps once existed. The theory is that the animals may have fallen through a mat of vegetation trying to feed, were quickly swallowed by mud and were preserved.

If you do find a mastodon or mammoth (and it more likely to be the former since they have been found in Michigan more often), yours will be the first. That’s because while mastodon fossils have been found in most surrounding counties and mammoth fossils in a few counties, neither has been found in this county. And yes, there is a difference between the two herbivores but no, they are not dinosaurs. Real dinosaurs like your t-rex and triceratops have been extinct for hundreds of millions of years (3 miles on our yardstick), while these elephant-sized, mammals (the largest that we know of in our state) last trod our mitten-shaped peninsula 6,000 to 8,000 years ago (6-8 yardstick inches away), according to scientists who study that kind of stuff.

I learned this from a paper by Margaret Anne Skeels of The University of Michigan, entitled The Mastodons and Mammoths of Michigan, presented back in 1961. And if a mammoth or mastodon remain has been found in the last 54 years, I can’t find evidence of the discovery.

Ms Skeels also wrote that we don’t really know why these critters became extinct, but that it was most likely due to a warming climate.  The same warming that caused the glaciers to retreat to the arctic. While there is evidence that Indians of the Southwest hunted mastodons, we have no evidence that Indians in our state hunted them or were at all responsible for their extinction.

However, let me rewind a bit and talk more about glaciers and ice ages.  I will cover our really distant past (oceans, the equator, formation of oil deposits and more) in Part 2.

graphic showing the lobes of a glacier

The retreat of last of the four glaciers that covered Clare County. Each glacier sculpted our county and dropped tons of sediment (glacial till), in its wake.

Scientists believe there were at least four glaciers that covered all of Michigan and much of North America over many hundreds of thousands of years, complete with warm periods in-between when the glaciers receded. These ice ages and resulting glaciers were known as the Nebraskan, Kansan, Illinoisan, and the Wisconsinan. Why the earth cooled enough that glaciers from the arctic region expanded to cover all of Michigan and a good part of North America is unknown but it may have to do with long-term variations in the orbit of the earth (Milankovitch Cycles).

And whether we are currently in one of the those “in-between periods” is also unknown; however, it is known that  starting about 1.8 million years ago (150 feet away on our yardstick), at the start of what is known as the Quaternary period, it got cold and it stayed cold and that ice sheets covered all 83 Michigan counties including ours.  The height of those glaciers has been is estimated to be 10,000 feet or more, and the tremendous weight and pressure of the ice compressed the earth as it gouged and shaped the landscape.

While these  glaciers advanced, they captured and transported with it everything in its path from huge boulders to rocks, stones and gravel. That means many of the rocks you see or that farmers have to contend with when they plow, may have come from hundreds of miles to the north where it was transported by the final glacier.

Map showing glacial moraines.

Black lines show the many moraines in our state. The Saginaw Bay region is without moraines because it was until relatively recently (geologically speaking) under water and its moraines have been eroded by wave action or low areas filled in with sand and debris.

The glaciers’ movements weren’t constant and the advances and retreats occurred over 10s of thousands of years (the last glacial age lasted more than 100,000 years). When the Wisconsinan glacier finally retreat for the last time–which means the glacier was melting faster than it was advancing–all the geologic junk contained in the ice was dropped in irregular piles, creating the landscape we now see. Where the glacier was in one place for a longer period of time (decades perhaps) hilly areas developed called moraines.

There are many moraines in Michigan and one rather large one divides our county roughly in half. Its southernmost boundary is quite visible as one drives on Old-27 near Adams Road with James Hill as one of the landmarks (see photo below).  In this general area the Saginaw lob of that final glacier rubbed up against the Lake Michigan lobe with both dropping glacial till in the form of rocks, sand and gravel, and gushing huge quantities of meltwater. To the south of the moraine and several hundred feet lower in elevation are Clare and Farwell. Atop the moraine are the communities of Harrison, Temple and Leota.  There is more to the story than just a difference in elevation. The soils are different with that to the south being less sandy and more fertile (see Soil story below).

Our lakes were included in the glacial formation, both the Great Lakes and our inland lands.  Many of the inland lakes were the result of great blocks of ice being dropped by the glacier, then being buried under tremendous amount of debris left by ice. Once the glaciers melted, the ice blocks too slowly melted under the glacial till leaving depressions filled with water in their wake.  How big were the ice blocks? Well, think Houghton Lake and closer to home, Budd Lake.

The glacial till is thick. According to S. G.Berquist, in his The Glacial History and Development of Michigan, the average depth of glacial deposits over the bedrock in the state is 300 feet. In other places, like in the western end of the Upper Peninsula, the bedrock remains visible and minerals such as iron and copper can be found because the glacier was not powerful enough to erode them.

Photo taken atop the glacial moraine.

View looking south atop the glacial moraine at James Hill (Adams and Old 27).

Because the till left by the glacier are mixed, the deposits in many areas of our state are unstratified, that is mixed and lacking in layers. However, because the vast amount of meltwater issuing from the retreating glaciers carried sediment with it as it flowed, that water often sorted the till into various sizes such as cobble, gravel, pebble, sand, silt and clay, according to Berquist. That’s why we find sand pits, gravel pits and the like in our county and around our state.

So, the next time you take a drive or a walk, look around you and marvel at what God, nature and time has wrought.  Then pick up a rock and look at it carefully and take time to appreciate it.  After all, it traveled a long way to get to you.

cartoon(Writer’s Note: Please let me know if any of my information is not clear or in error. I like geology and wanted to keep this brief and easy to read but I also want it accurate.)

Want to learn more about Michigan’s glaciers? Here are some resources:

* The yardstick idea comes from Geologic  Time Line Helper on the Dept. of Environmental Quality website. (www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/GIMDL-GTLH-GEN_307780_7.pdf)

MORE ON CLARE COUNTY’S SOIL

The book the Soil Survey of Clare County, Michigan, published by the United States Dept. of Agriculture’s Soil Conservation Service (1978) graphically illustrates the soil types found in the county. Below is a map of the county and accompanying legend.

The approximate location of the glacial moraine (running northeast to southwest) can be discerned in the map below in the soil shown in yellow.  The legend descriptions of the soils in the northern section of the county generally include sandy in their definitions, while the soil to the south (designated by a 4) does not include that term.  Soil to the south of the moraine is generally more fertile.  One reason is that the lower elevations to the south were under water for an extended period of time when the glaciers receded due to the elevated levels of the Great Lakes and the forerunner to Saginaw Bay.

Blog-Soils

Colors show the various soil types found in the county. The soil to the south is more fertile owing to the fact the land below the glacier moraine was underwater following the glacier and gained additional nutrients. The red circle at the center shows the general location of James Hill.

soil survey map with the county's various soil types

 

Categories: Clare County, ecology, History, Michigan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Dropped Dead!’ (What was the Editor Thinking?)

It’s interesting to read old newspapers. You never know what tidbits of information you will find that brings history to life. Even if the article has to do with death.

deadTake this one that appeared in the front page of the May 2, 1884 issue of The Clare County Press about the death of Rebecca Rulapaugh.  I ran across the article while doing some research on another topic, and the headline and subhead made me want to read it.

Dropped Dead!

Sudden Demise of Mrs. Rebecca Rulapaugh at the Dinner Table Tuesday.

In the Best of Health one Minute and the next a Corpse.

Mrs. Rebecca Rulapaugh wife of John Rulapaugh who lives north of Clare, died very suddenly on Tuesday. The family had just taken their seats at the table for their midday meal when the wife and mother fell from her chair to the floor. Her husband immediately went to her assistance and she was placed upon a bed but she expired almost as soon as she was laid down. The deceased had been feeling as well as usual Tuesday morning and she was subject to no trouble that the family knew of. Her sudden death was a great shock to her family and friends. She was 57 years of age and leaves behind a husband and seven children to bear the loss…

When I first read the piece my first reaction was one of laughing atRebecca the headline.  However, one would expect Rebecca’s death would have devastated her husband and the entire family.   After all, Rebecca was only 56 and had been in the best of health-or so it appeared.  We have no other information on the cause of death but do know that Rebecca was buried in Woods cemetery in Clare County thanks to information posted on “Find a Grave” by someone with the username of twkistle.  Her husband John would join her in death two years later at age 64.  Whether his wife’s death was a factor in John’s passing, we do not know. 

What did John and the family think when they read that article? Were they horrified at the wording?  Or was this just considered the norm a century or more ago.  Maybe the Rulapaugh’s didn’t have the time, money or desire to read the paper, and so never saw the article.  This is not the first time I’ve run across articles that have seemed to sensationalize a death (if, in fact, this is what the editors intended)  Yet, I wonder what was the goal of using those headlines and subheads and did they regret their decision later.  We will never know. However, is does make me wonder, what were they thinking?

Categories: Clare County, General, History, Home life, Michigan | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Michigan Lumber Pikes

  railroad coverThe following article by Fred C. Olds appeared in the July 1953 issue of Railroad Magazine.  I thought it was a terrific article, although it does not really break new ground.  It also contained a number of photographs that I have not included here for the simple reason that the pages of the magazine, has discolored over the years, as newspaper quality paper tends to, and so would not reproduce well.  Instead, I have included photos in the Clare County Historical Society archives. 

I did not change the spelling or grammar used in the original article, and that includes any factual errors.  Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy Mr. Olds’ article and hope that Logging2since the magazine is no longer in print that I’m not violating any major copywrite laws. 

The racing crests of Michigan’s big rivers, with picturesque river hogs riding spring log drives, captured most of the glamour in Michigan’s lumbering history.  All but forgotten, less colorful but just as vital to the timber industry, was the role played by the logging railroad.  Pushing out into isolated forest cuttings, these little iron pikes early in the 20th Century criss-crossed the northern and central interior of lower Michigan into a web-like pattern of rails.

Their existence dependent upon the product they transported, most were doomed from the start for but a brief span of operation.  Mileage grew at a furious paces as rails opened new timber areas for the lumberjack harvest, but these little pikes withered almost as quickly on their iron vines when the logs were cut off.  There demise was often sudden and without ceremony.  Abandonment of the forest road simply meant piling its Logging19equipment, including locomotives on flatcars to be carried out over its own creaky rails for service in another sector or for another owner.

How and where did the logging railroad get its start in Michigan?

Records shows that by 1875 loggers had been busily chewing into the state’s extensive forests for 40 years.  Over this period commercial lumbering interests had steadily whittled their way northward, skirting the shores of Lake Huron and Michigan, penetrating inland along the larger rivers—the Grand, Tittabawasee, Saginaw, Au Sable, Muskegon, Manistee, Chippewa, Pere Marquette and their tributary streams—to strip out the lush stands of cork pine.  In those first years, water played the major role as a log hauler.  Timber (pine, that is) had to be readily accessible to a suitable stream for flotage or it was practically valueless.  It was this lack of water transportation, according to a claim set forth in an old issue of The Northern Lumberman that caused the nation’s first logging railroad to be built in Michigan’s Clare County in 1876.  Its builder was Winfield Scott Gerrish, who owned extensive pine holdings in Clare in the center of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula about halfway between the Straits of Mackinac and the Ohio line.

Logging49A brief biography of Gerrish, carried in the A History of Northern Michigan, shows that he gave early promise as a timber operator.  Born in Maine, where his father Nathaniel was a lumberman, young Gerrish spent his boyhood and early manhood in Croton, Michigan; started driving logs at the age of 18, and when 25 made his first large logging contract.  It called for the timber to be banked on Doc & Tom Creek in the southwest part of Clare County in 1874 for flotage to mills in Muskegon via the Muskegon River.  Misfortune struck without warning, however.  The Doc & Tom shrank to a mere rivulet as the result of a spring drought, and Gerrish’s winter cut of logs was left high and dry on the banks.

Gerrish managed to float his cargo to mill by dint of hard work, but he conceded that small streams proved an unsure means of transporting his timber.  He obtained an interest in 12,000 acres of pine on the west side of Clare County between the headwaters of the Muskegon River and Lake George, but because of its remoteness (6 to 10 miles) from a good floating stream, not a tree had been cut in this tract.  Gerrish was not one to be easily discouraged.  The Northwestern Lumberman report noted that he considered pole roads and tramways to transport logs but tried neither method, believing both were impractical.  In stead, he found his solution in a most unlikely spot—hundreds of miles away, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.  While on a visit there he saw a small Baldwin-build locomotive displayed in a machinery exhibit.  It gave him an idea.

If he couldn’t float his logs to the Muskegon River, why not haul them on this first leg of their journey by rail?  Figuring it was worth a try, he hurried home and hastily built the Lake George & Muskegon River Railroad, as he called it, which was splashing its valuable timber merchandise into the mighty Muskegon early in 1876.  The Northwestern Lumberman account calls this 6-mile pike, running from Lake George northwesterly to the river near the present village of Temple, the nation’s and perhaps the world’s first logging railroad.  Other railroads had penetrated timber areas before that time but Logging204conducted a general freight and passenger business.  The LG&MR was a strictly a log hauler, and as such is claimed to have been the first of its kind.

Gerrish, Edmund Hazelton and four associates of Hersey, Michigan, were listed as the road’s incorporators in a Special Report of the Michigan Railroad Commission.  On November 28th, 1881 the railroad was acquired by John L. Woods and on February 18th, 1882 by C. H. Hackley & Co., the last named for a large Muskegon firm which operated it as a forest road until its sale to the Toledo, Ann Arbor & Cadillac Railway (now part of the Ann Arbor Railway) between August 25th and December 20th, 1886.  Approximately four miles of the old LG&MR grade now carry Ann Arbor rails between Lake George and Temple.

It’s very lonesome country up there, particularly in the winter months.  Acres of stumps scare its ridges and valleys, a fading legacy from that long-lost pine kingdom.  Paralleling Highway 10 west from Clare for a few miles, the Ann Arbor rails turn northwest to skirt Lake George along its east rim, cutting a thin swath through the brushy second-growth timber and young spruce as it heads toward Temple, Cadillac and its Kale, Michigan terminus at Logging193Elberta.  Lake George is a bustling resort community in the summer, but the old gray depot has been closed for many years

Gerrish, after completing his logging short line, expanded his lumbering operations until his biographer described him as being at one time probably the world’s largest individual logger.  It is estimated that his highest individual contribution to the Muskegon River was 130,000,000 feet of timber in 1879.  Most of this was carried over his Lake George and Muskegon River Railroad—not a bad tonnage record for a little two-bit logging pike founded only three years before.

His new transportation idea gained quick favor among the state’s lumber kings.  It ushered in a new era, opening up hitherto unprofitable but heavily timbered pine and hardwood country.  It brought an unprecedented boom in Michigan railroad building.  Both broad and narrow-gage lines were pushed deeper into backwoods districts to take out timber.  For a few years a weird assortment of motive power echoed their whistle tones across the long plains and forested hills.  Saddle-tank dinkeys and Shay-geared sidewinders chuffed and clanked over hastily-built rails which meandered around hills and across swamps, their tenders and log cars bearing now all but forgotten titles.

Logging2Built for special purpose, log hauling, these railroad accomplished their chore efficiently and without delays.  A venture as utilitarian as the lumbermen’s favorite axiom, “Cut and get out,” no money was wasted on frills, deluxe equipment, or polished roadbed.  Swampers would first slash a rough path cross-country from the owner’s lumber tract to the nearest river if his logs were to be floated part of their journey by stream, or directly to his own mill, or to a rail junction where they could be transferred to an already established carrier to complete their trip.

Rails followed a path of least resistance, guided by the hastily scraped-up roadbed’s serpentine twisting and turning to take advantage of the land’s natural contours.  Hills and extensive swamps were skirted when possible, to avoid expensive fills and steep grades.  To cross a swamp, low log trestles were built to provide the track with a solid bottom instead of using earth fill, timber being cheaper than the cost of moving dirt.  Many of Michigan’s vacationland hunting and fishing trails still in use today were built over all or part of some timber rail line.

Motive power, based upon modern standards, would be considered mediocre.  Locomotives during the early period were bonnet stacks, burned slab Logging103wood for fuel, moved after dark to the feeble rays cast by oil headlamps, and hauled primitive four-wheel flatcars whose link-and-pin couplers exposed trainmen to an extra hazard.  Lightweight rails, sometimes strap iron screwed to a wood base and set insecurely upon the rough railbed, made the journey into the woods comparable to a sea voyage.

Back in the forests, the trees were chopped down, trimmed of their branches and their trunks cut into suitable lengths.  A log then was skidded through the brush by a team of horses or oxen to an opening where a set of big wheels could be driven over it.  The log (two of three logs if they were small) would then be lifted and carried to a rail-side decking ground where a jamming crew loaded the log lengths on railroad cars.  In winter the big wheels were supplanted by sleighs which carried the big piles of logs to the decking ground.

Loading cars of logs was described by Ferris E. Lewis in the December 1948 issue of Michigan History:  “Short wooden pins were first driven into iron brackets on the side of the flatcars to keep the logs from falling off.  Hooks, like ice tongs, each one at the end of a steel cable, were placed in the ends of a log.  A little team of horses with muscles as hard as knots, at the command of a teamster who drove them without reins, would raise the log and wing it over the flatcar where it would be lowered gently into place.  One by one the logs were loaded onto a car.  A pyramid pile, placed lengthwise of the car, was thus built at each end.  When a car was loaded, it would be moved away and a new one would take its place.

In later years, steam jammers replaced horse power, particularly among the larger operators.  These were the conditions and the equipment used along one of the nation’s last frontiers to attack the final great stand of pine and hardwood timber remaining in MichLogging7igan as the 19th century came to a close.

Besides increasing production, these railroads revolutionized the industry by making logging a year-around business.  Owners found they no longer were dependent upon proper river levels for their log transportation, and cutting could continue around the calendar instead of just during the winter months.  Some figures proving this accomplishment are cited in the book Lumber and Forestry Industry of the Northwest, for just three railroads—the Grand Rapids & Indiana, Flint and Pere Marquette, and Manistee & Grand Rapids. Each of these conducted a general freight and passenger business, although primarily engaged in timber hauling during the years cited.

Mills along the Grand Rapids & Indiana (now part of the Pennsylvania Railroad) manufactured 367,000,000 feet of lumber and 404,000,000 shingles in 1886, while the total output along this road, from construction to the first mill in 1865 to 1898, is estimated at 6,000,000,000 feet of lumber.  Timber production on the old Flint & Pere Marquette (now part of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway) totaled 5,000,000,000 between 1876 and 1896.  The Manistee & Grand Rapids (later renamed the Michigan East & West and eventually abandoned) place 500,000,000 feet of pine and 1,000,000,000 feet of hardwood timber into Manistee sawmills for cutting in 1891.  In the Cadillac region up near Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan, it was not uncommon for a pine tree to yield three logs, each of which would reach across car sills set 30 to 33 feet apart.

Another distinction claimed by the Cadillac region in the logging transportation was the invention there of the narrow-gage Shay logging locomotive in 1873 or 1874, by Ephraim Shay.  Slow but powerful, the Shay-engine had vertical pistons to operate the driving cranks, working a shaft geered to the motive wheels.

An account carried in The Cadillac Evening News said that Shay developed his locomotive to pull log cars from northwest of Cadillac to his sawmill at Haring.  First made in Cadillac, its patents were later sold to the Lima Machine Works in Ohio, which manufactured it for use all over the world.

There is not a logging railroad, operating as such, remaining in the lower peninsula.  In fact, their names even escape the memory of all but old timers.  Logging108Mention the Lake County Railroad and among railroaders you would likely draw only blank looks.  Or the Cadillac & Northwestern, Louis Sands’ Road, Nesson Lumber Company, Cody & Moore, Bear Lake & Eastern, or the Canfield Road—recalling only a few.

The logging railroad gave rise to few legends.  It could not match the glamour attached to sawmill towns which grew and flourished beside tis tracks, nor could it furnish the rough color provided by the swift rivers with their tension-packed spring drives.  Its mark upon the timber country, once painted briefly in bold outline, today has virtually disappeared.  Traces, of course, can still be found in the old crumbling grades, winding unevenly across grassy plains and ridges pointing toward some distant banking ground.  The old names, with some searching, can be found buried in official reports listing rail mergers and abandonment.  But that about ends it.  That and some faded photos, dim with age, gathering dust in old picture albums.

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

Putting a Face to History

Charity and Chancy Root1 (2)One of the amazing things about historical research is that it can get personal.  That’s personal as in meeting people and not just learning facts and figures.  Another amazing thing is how one bit of research can branch off and head in another totally unintended yet fulfilling direction.

Take the Root family of Hatton, Michigan. T hey were the subject of a blog post a couple of weeks ago that sought to connect the now dead Clare County town of Hatton and two Root children buried in the township cemetery.  The two died several years apart before the turn of the 20th century during a time when Hatton itself was dying.  The town died because the lumber industry that had sparked its birth and life was over and most of the town’s 200 residents had moved on, including Chancey and Charity Root, parents of the two deceased children.

I visited the kids’ graves earlier this year and became curious why the parents were not buried near their children in the family plot.  A huge stone with the word “Root” carved on it seemed to indicate would be the final resting place of the entire Root family.

In the course of my research, I contacted Virginia Braun, my mother-in-law and a gifted genealogist to see if she could tell me what happened to the two elder Roots.  She immediately wrote back recommending I visit “Find A Grave (findagrave.com).  It was there she had found the Roots’ finally resting place in a cemetery in nearby Gladwin County.  Even better, she found photos and a family contact.

So I emailed that contact who was also the source of the Root family material.  The contact, Ken,  wrote back immediately, providing death certificates for the two Root children along with additional photos of the parents, Chancey and Charity Root some of which are shown below.  (It also appears Chancey was married before but not sure if that union resulted in children or how long it lasted.)

Chancy and Charity Root- editedFrom a few of the photos I saw, Chancey looked happy or at least (as in the photo at left) had a gleam in his eye. None of the photos shows his wife smiling. Not sure why.  For sure, a woman’s life had to be hard, especially she was generally tasked with all the housechores, and they had to be many given she was raising and cooking for what might have been a family of 12.   Adding to her sadness was the fact that at least two of their children died at young ages.

During our emails back and forth, Ken did ask something of me:  He wanted to know if I could find out any information on a Delbert Root and whether a tombstone in the Hatton cemetery inscribed with the letters DEL might be the gravestone of Delbert.

DEL tombstoneI again turned to my mother-in-law who found a Delbert on the 1910 census when he was 16 and still living at home, which was now in the northeast corner of Clare County, near Gladwin County. Virginia also told me about Rootsweb  (www.rootsweb.ancestry.com),  part of Ancestry.com, saying that was another wonderful free source.   (The fact that both the family and the Website share the same name is a coincidence.)

She added that she did not find a Social Security death record for Delbert.  “Looks like he didn’t marry and no one filed for his death benefit,” she wrote.  So it’s possible he died young.  Because the stone in the photo is not in the Root family plot, I doubt the grave belonged to Delbert Root, but until evidence is found elsewhere, it’s difficult to say where Delbert is and who DEL was.

As for Chancey and Charity, may they rest in peace.  Delbert?  The search continues.   And who knows who might help me this time around and where that help may come from?

Categories: Clare County, History, Home life, Life, logging, recreation, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Starting a Clare County Library

Timber BattlegroundClare County, Michigan has a rich history, but not one that has inspired a lot of writers to put pen to paper.  As opposed to counties in other sections of the state, like Wayne County,  Kent County or even Grand Traverse County, little has been written about Clare County.

Now that doesn’t mean the Clare County section of the library is bare.  Not in the least.  We have been blessed with a few wonderful historian/writers who have taken it upon themselves to craft some interesting books.  Forrest Meek, Roy Dodge and T. M. Sellers are three that come to mind.  Sadly, after them the pickings get a bit slim.  There are a few still publishing content, like former Judge Jon Ringelberg who is summarizing county court cases from the 1870’s to the present. And, of course, there is this blog (although this content won’t ever appear in a library),  but there’s not a lot more out there, of which I am aware.  Sure, there are books that contain a mention or two of something county related, or that talk about an incident that occurred in the county, but that is about all. 

On the bright side, the lack of books means it can be pretty easy to put together a library! Below are my choices for books that should be in every Clare history buff’s library. And no, I don’t have them all.  Not yet, anyway.

  • Michigan’s Timber Battleground by Forrest Meek
  • Heartland by Forrest Meek
  • Clare (Images of America) by Robert Knapp
  • Ticket to Hell, a Saga of Michigan’s Bad Men by Roy Dodge
  • Ghost Towns in Michigan by Roy Dodge
  • Michigan Rogues, Desperados & Cut-Throats by Tom Powers
  • Michigan Shadow Towns, A Study of Vanishing and Vibrant Villages by Gene Scott (Includes short mentions on Leota, Meredith and Temple)
  • Michigan Place Names: The History of the Founding and the Naming of More Than Five Thousand Past and Present Michigan by Walter Romig and Larry Massie
  • Spikehorn: The Life Story of John E. Meyer by T. M Sellers
  •  A Dictionary of Clare County Citizens Who Served Their Country (1996) by Forrest Meek.
  • Clare Remembered.  The First Hundred Years–An Introduction to the History of the Clare Area  (1979) by the Clare Area Centennial Committee

A couple more books are in the planning stages: One on the Leebove/Livingston murder in 1938 and an Images of America hook on Harrison. Both are due out in 2014.

So, what other books need to be added to this list?

Here’s a link to another site with books about Clare County and links to retailers: http://cliophilepress.com

Oh, one more thing: The lack of books and the wealth of things there are to write about (history and otherwise) means opportunity knocks.  I hope people answer it.

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

A Divorce in the Country

Attorney: The child that was born, at the time was it born dead?
Plaintiff: Yes, just at that moment, but if we had help it wouldn’t have been born dead.
A: What did your husband say he was going to do with the body of this child?
P: Feed it to the hogs.
A: Did you object?
P: I was too sick.

Transcript of divorce proceedings
Circuit Court for the County of Clare
Harrison, Michigan March 28, 1922
Honorable Ray Hart, Circuit Judge, presiding

Lizzie Pom
vs
Anson Pom

For some people, the “good old days” on the farm conjures up a vision of mom and pop working together to raise a passel of little ones, bringing in the crops, going to church every Sunday and fending off evil bankers, clouds of locusts and an occasional tornado or hailstorm.

And sure, there were wonderful marriages among country folks that lasted for decades, Imagesometimes out of love, sometimes mutual respect and often out of need. But life almost 100 years ago was not always idyllic. In fact, in some households, life was sheer hell. Take the Pom family that once lived in Hamilton Township in the northeast portion of Clare County. (Note: Even though this case is in the court records and can be found in the archives of the Clare County Historical Society, I have changed the names.)

In March 1922, Lizzie Pom addressed the court concerning a marriage she wished to end from Anson her husband of 10 years, a husband by the way, who had disappeared years earlier. This is the way it happened, according to the court proceedings:

A: What time of day was it that he left home?
P: It was in the afternoon sometime.
A: Did he tell you where he was going?
P: No sir. Well he had said he was going to leave home and get some money to pay off the mortgage on the place.
A: On this particular day, did he tell you where he was going?
P: No sir.
A: Did he take any clothes with him?
P: No sir.
A: Did he change his clothes before leaving?
P: Yes sir.
A: Where?
P: The boy came from school and the cows were out of the gate and Floyd didn’t see why he didn’t put the cattle in the barn and feed them, and I says, “he must be out in the barn or out to the neighbors. I haven’t seen him since meal time.” So Floyd put them in the barn and there Anse had changed his clothes and left his old clothes.
A: You found his working clothes there on the barn floor?
P: Yes sir and when we went upstairs afterwards to see if his new clothes were there, there, they were gone. He had taken them through the window because we found a window that had been closed, open.
A: Did you ever get any trace of your husband from that time on?
P: No sir.

According to testimony, there’s had not been a happy marriage. Although the worst incident seemed to have been the time when Lizzie was pregnant and having a difficult pregnancy but Anson had refused to allow her to see a doctor. And on the night she gave birth and was very ill, he had still refused to even get up and it was only after she begged him to at least go to a neighbors for help that he had gone out at all. Even then, he stayed at the neighbor’s house until she had done all she could and the baby was dead and she had returned that Anson went back home.

At the time of the proceedings, Lizzie was probably in her late 40s or early 50s. This had been her second marriage. Her first had lasted 20 years and resulted in three children, two of which survived. Lizzie and her first husband had divorced and he had remarried within two weeks.  When asked the ages of her children by her first husband, Lizzie said she knew Floyd, who had been living with them at the time of Anson’s disappearance was now 21; however, she didn’t know the age of her daughter who was now married. And despite the problems associated with the first child in 1913, Anson and Lizzie had conceived a second that was born four months after Anson had left.  Her name was Myrtle. After Anson had left, Lizzie’s father- and mother-in-law had come to live on the farm, a farm they held title to. Lizzie had lived with them until they had both died. Now she was hoping to not only get divorced but take title to the farm, which included more than 70 acres.

Apparently, the Pom family had a penchant for running away. Anson had apparently run away two times before but never this long. And his brothers had both run away from their homes. One of them, Al, was gone seven or 10 years before returning.  Attempts had been made to locate Anson but no one had heard from him, not even his parent’s after he had disappeared from the barn.

The court talked to numerous witnesses and in the end, granted Lizzie’s wishes.

Note: My mother-in-law is a crack genealogist and I passed the transcript to her and asked if she might be able to find out what happened to the Lizzie afterward. She not only did that, but found out about Anson as well, including the fact that he was institutionalized for a time–something that was not too surprising considering the testimony.

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

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

A Little DDT With Your Milk?

I was looking through some back issues of the Clare County Cleaver, a local newspaper with offices in Harrison. The folks at the office are always very open to allowing me to go through their archives. They don’t even ask if I’m a resident and/or subscriber (I am both). Anyway, it’s fascinating to look through the papers, to read the stories and look at the old ads. I was perusing some issues in 1946 the other day to get some information about a fatal plane crash at the airport in Harrison when I came across this ad so I took a photo. How things have changed in the intervening decades. Image

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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

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