Posts Tagged With: clare county

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)

1940
(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.”

1941
(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.)

1943
March 23: “Repairs on car: $4”

1945
(Mileage reimbursement now 12 cents)

1946
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
Crossing
Straits         3.00
Total        $65.10

1948
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.)

1949
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.)

1950
(Deputy pay for a day: $5)

1951
(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.)

1952
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: , , , | 9 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.

         UNIQUE OBELISK MARKS HARRISON MAN’S GRAVE

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

Biking at Mid-Michigan Community College

Maple tree in fall on Mid-Michigan bike trailThere are four miles of great hiking trails at Mid-Michigan Community College‘s Harrison campus. I’ve walked all of them at one time or another during all seasons. One of the trails even follows an old railroad bed for a time where steam locomotives once ran regularly from Clare through logging towns (and now ghost towns) such as  Hatton, Mannsiding and Mostetler up to the present day community of Dodge hauling lumberman and their families and taking back timber for the growing cities of the Midwest.

But until this week I never took the biking trails. And I missed out. Like their brother hiking trails, these pass through some wonderful stands of maple, beech and pine and are uncrowded. However, unlike the hiking trails that are relatively level and 12-feet wide, these biking trails are very narrow and transverse the hills around the campus.

I enjoyed the ride. However, it showed me just how out of shape I am. It took me two days to cover it all and I must admit I walked a portion of it. These middle-aged legs and my cheap little bike just wouldn’t take me up all the hills. And in some cases I was afraid to ride down ’em. I am proud that I didn’t break any bones and I am not too sore (except maybe my bottom).

This fall is a great time to be out there. Temperatures are mild, the trees are exploding in color, the trails are dry and the bugs are non-existent.

So it you are able, grab a bike and a helmet, tuck in those elbows (the trees in spots are very close together) and go for a ride. You might even see me…well, on the hiking trails. When it comes to riding, I think I will stick to the Pere-Marquette Rail Trail that now runs from Midland nearly to Reed City. Maybe I’m a wimp but I prefer my trails for my two-wheeler to be broad and flat.

Categories: Clare County, ecology, Harrison, History, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Lost on the Green Pine Lake Pathway

Green Pine Lake mapI got lost on the Green Pine Lakes Pathway in Clare County, Michigan. Twice. Heck, I got lost just trying to find the place.

Now getting lost is not a big deal for me. I can get lost on my way to the my bathroom. That’s why, when I go on a hike,  I generally go where there is a broad path and a well-marked trail. None of that “take the path least traveled” crap for me. Give me well-traveled anytime. And deserted. I hate to run into people when I walk, but that’s a different topic…

Anyway, my walk that day stated out well, well–it did once I found the right spot. My first attempt to find the pathway had taken me to the State Forest Camp ground at Mud Lake. It’s a pretty lake and nice campground and the Green Pine pathway does connect to the campground. However, the connector path is several miles long and several miles from where I wanted to be. Luckily, there was a nice map of the trail created as an Eagle Scout project. So, after reviewing the map I climbed back into my dirty Ford Freestyle and finally found the right parking lot on M-115, and within sight of Lake George Road. I parked I grabbed my camera, cursed myself for forgetting water and headed off down the trail  An identical map by the same Scout was located down the path so I oriented myself and began to walk the level path.

It’s a pretty trail and the first section was easy to navigate. Trees had blue paint and blue medal markers on them and since there was nobody around but me, I was having a grand time. Then I got to the second loop around Green Pine Lake and things started to go awry.  The trail narrowed and about the time I got to a couple off-kilter wooden bridges almost impassable due to vegetation, the markers had disappeared. That left me to flounder about in the dense woods. Although normally when I Obscured Bridgeflounder about in the woods I worry about my bleached bones being found years later, I wasn’t too worried in this case since the sun was out and I could navigate (somewhat) using that. I also had my cell phone with me.

Eventually, the missing blue paint was replaced by red paint and I followed that out to a dirt road and walked the road until it intersected with Lake George Rd. I walked Lake George Rd. for a while and when I figured I was parallel with the part of the Green Pine trail that would take me back to my car I headed cross-country to intersect it. Dumb move given my lack of navigational abilities and woodland skills.

Anyway, once back in the dense woods I mistook a couple of deer trails for the path, wandered/floundered through the remains of a lake bed, through some heavy brush, found evidence of some long-ago beavers and, after 30 minutes, ended up back on Lake George Rd. not far from where I had gone in. At that point, I threw in the towel and walked the road to my car and headed home without incident.

It was a good walk but I wouldn’t do it again and I wouldn’t advise anyone else to do that second loop around Green Pine Lake. I DO plan to go back in the near future and walk the first loop. I think I can do that one. Only this time I will take water, a compass and a map. One can only cheat death so many times.

Pike LakeJune 2012 Update: I received a comment from Mark who has a Hiking Michigan-North/Central Region blog. He walked the trail just recently and also posted an entry about his experience.

Categories: Clare County, Michigan, Travel and tourism, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Death of a Cemetery

“At the end of the fight is a tombstone,
white with the name of the deceased…”
The Naulahks
Rudyard Kimpling

Meredith, Michigan cemeteryIn Meredith, Michigan lies a cemetery, or more correctly, a former cemetery.  Like the town itself, little remains to mark what once may have been the burying ground for those whose lives ended in this town in the northeast corner of Clare County.

Meredith was once home to nearly 2,000 people and sported a three-story school, an opera house, a roundhouse for the numerous trains that rolled into town and saloons to help slake the thirst of the lumberjacks that came to the area in the mid- to late-1880s to cut the massive pines that once grew here. Now, Meredith is home to perhaps 300 hardy souls who enjoy the solitude this town offers.

Marker of Ebbie Coffill in Meredith, Michigan cemeteryFor nearly 20 years this town prospered, grew and was the home of not only lumberjacks but storekeepers, laborers, and railroad men and their families.It prospered. But once the lumber was cut, the jobs, like the trees that brought people to this north woods town, disappeared.

And so did the people.  They too left to find new jobs, taking with them memories and leaving behind the graves of loved ones like Edna Ross, who died  in 1885 at the age of 10 and was buried in one of two local cemeteries.

Now, Edna’s stone is one of two that can be seen in one of those cemeteries. The other visible tombstone lies some 40 paces away and belongs to a Ebbie Coffill, age unknown. Between the stones, trees grow and weeds flourish over ground where families and friends once mourned the passing of loved ones.

Rumor has it that stones that once marked many of the other graves. Unmarked stones the size of pillows that the families picked out to mark the site where their loved ones would lies for all eternity or until the resurrection, while they, the living, would moved on in search of jobs and better lives.

Did they know that someday, the cemetery would fall into private hands and that a the future landowner would sell those stones to a landscaper and placed as an attractive marker in someone’s yard? That someday, no one would ever know that a mother, father, son or daughter was buried under that spot. That nothing would be left to mark their passing or no one remember their lives.

How many cemeteries are there like that in Clare county? Or in Michigan? No one knows. And they may always remain hidden unless a shovel or a piece of excavating equipment disturbs them as the living go about their lives.

Although the fact the cemetery is gone may be sad for us the living, the fact the cemetery is gone may not matter to the dead. They are gone from this world and may not care. And if they don’t, should we?

Categories: Clare County, History, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments

Small city, Great art

515 Art Gallery building in Clare, MichiganOn Saturday, July 23, I attended a “Block pARTy” at the 515 Art Gallery in Clare, Michigan. Now, I didn’t expect much, after all, Clare may be a nice city, but it’s in mid-Michigan for goodness sake, where art is usually found in the quilts the Amish hang from clotheslines on street corners to sell to tourists.

What I saw this weekend blew me away. And in an art gallery run by high school students, no less. The artwork was wonderful, mostly by area artists. All have talent.

I was especially taken by the paper sculptures of Jane Cloutier and would like to take home her piece entitled “Sumacs on a Rock Pile.” It’s wonderful with a badger and rabbit tossed in for good measure. According to the gallery brochure, Jane is a computer programmer. Left-brained AND right-brained. Go figure.

Then there is Judy Thurston’s “Begonias and Pears” watercolor, one of several of her works on display.  It too is a wonderful piece of art.  Judy teaches art at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, just down the road a piece.

Ryan Taylor is a potter. I would say he is serious about his art, yet doesn’t take himself seriously. There’s something appealing about his work and this from a person who is not really big on pots. I especially liked his piece entitled “Composite Floor Vase.” It’s big, but I have just the place for it.

One of the things I found most appealing about the gallery is the works are reasonably priced. The paper sculpture I liked is only $200.  Of course, it’s probably best I hold off purchasing anything until I get a job.  Then I can support the arts and boost the local economy.

The gallery is housed in an old brick building next door to  a very nice coffee house and sandwich shoppe called Coffee Talk and down the street  Cops and Doughnuts.

The Block pARTy was run by nine high school students from Clare who also run the gallery. According to the gallery’s website, they not only learn about the arts but also receive first-hand experience in running a business. How cool is that?  The pARTy was well-attended. I hope it did well and the art is sold. Well, all except for the pieces I like. I hope those will stay on the walls until I get a job. Or hit the lottery.

By the way, 515 Art Gallery is open Fridays and Saturdays  from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. Stop by. You will be amazed at what you will see. I was.

Categories: Clare County, Economy, Life, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A Cross at the edge of the Woods

White cross on a tree at the edge of the woodsDavid Bruce Popovich died sometime early on Sept. 30, 1995 on Mostetler Road east of Harrison, Michigan. According to the Clare County Cleaver, Popovich was the sole occupant of  a pickup truck that went out of control at a curve on the gravel road and flipped over. Popovich, a self-employed auto mechanic, was 41. He left behind a son, Joshua, who lived in Pontiac, Michigan along with three brothers.

I never knew Mr. Popovich or had even heard of him until a month ago when I was riding my bicycle on Mostetler and spotted a two-foot high cross tied to a tree at a curve in the road at the edge of the woods. The cross was well made but its white paint it had peeled and the writing, what remained, was faded. However, the date of birth and date of death was visible along with the words “in Memory of” in neat lettering.

Something touched me about that faded cross. Maybe it’s the fact that it had been forgotten and I wondered whether Mr. Popovich had too been forgotten nearly 16 years after his passing.  Maybe it’s the fact he had moved up to Harrison from Metro Detroit leaving his family behind, something I too recently have done due to a pending divorce.

After visiting the Cleaver and learning about Mr. Popovich and the details of the crash, I wanted to do something about the condition of the cross so I went to the site, untied it from the tree and took it home. As I sanded it in preparation for repainting I found that someone had put a gold necklace with cross over the upright of the cross. I wondered who had created the cross and placed it on the site and who had put the necklace there and did they still think of David on occasion.

The cross has been repainted and  has is tied to the tree.  I added the wording that I saw on the cross when I first saw it along with the name of the person it honors, although the name may not have been there originally. Maybe others will see the cross, and maybe they will slow down at they approach the curve so no one else will suffer the fate of Mr. Popovich. But if nothing else, I hope it honors a man whose life  ended at the edge of the woods.

June 2018: I have repainted the cross for the 3rd time (last time was probably 2015) and reapplied the words. The wood making up the cross is getting pretty rotten and is soft in places. The cross doesn’t have many more years of life. The necklace is still there.  In addition, the property owners have cut a number of trees in the area but left the cross alone.  

Categories: Harrison, History, Life, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.