On Saturday evening January 14, several hundred people attended the
'opening' of the exhibition "Small Towns, Big Picture - the
Photography of Bill Simmons" to see 31 giant 'blow-up' photos from
the huge Simmons collection of the Society's photo library of
Saugatuck area life in the 1940s and 1950s. The exhibit, which runs
through March 9, is sponsored jointly by the Society and the
Saugatuck Center for the Arts and is featured in the Center's
Ken Carls viewing one of the exhibit 'blow up' photos.
When he died in 1966, photographer Bill Simmons left nearly 3,000
photographs documenting life in Saugatuck and Douglas from 1940 to
1961 - filed away in little envelopes, numbered, named, and
placed in two wood boxes, some with date and identifying
information. Making up what must be one of the largest "photo
shoots" of any mid-century American town, the collection disappeared
until it was given anonymously to the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical
Society in 1998.
This exhibition presents some Simmons photos which are shown here
for the first time. The exhibit curators/designers were Jim
Schmiechen and Ken Carls. Jack Sheridan will present a program about
the Simmons collection at the SCA on Wednesday, February 8. Walk
onto the SCA's Big Screen and into the 1940s and 1950s on February 8th
with Jack's Q & A presentation of these and more from the Simmons
There still is a limited quantity available of the book Off
the Record: The Unpublished Photographs of Bill Simmons. A Pictorial
History of Saugatuck in the ‘40s and ‘50s published in 2001
and authored by James Schmiechen and Jack Sheridan - a perfect
complement to the current exhibit. To order your copy, just REPLY to
this email, and we'll take care of the rest. The cost is $29.95 plus
Michigan Sales tax and shipping.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
In early February 1950, a letter was sent to then Michigan
Governor G. Mennen Williams from Miss Dee Whipple inviting him to
attend an Old Time Square Dance sponsored by the Saugatuck High
School Senior Class on February 25 from 8 p.m. to 12 p.m. The
governor’s response was as follows: "Thank you very much for your
recent letter cordially inviting me to attend the Square Dance
being sponsored by the Senior Class of Saugatuck High School on
February 25, 1950 in Saugatuck. Much as I would like to be on hand
for this dance, I sincerely regret a previous commitment in the
Upper Peninsula makes it impossible for me to accept your
invitation for that date. Kindly extend my best wishes to members
of the Senior Class for a most enjoyable evening of square
dancing. Sincerely G. Mennen Williams , Governor."
On the evening of the big night, a Western Union telegram was sent
to be delivered at 9 p.m. It read, "KINDLY EXTEND MY SINCERE BEST
WISHES TO MEMBERS OF THE SENIOR CLASS OF SAUGATUCK HIGH SCHOOL AND
GUESTS FOR A MOST SUCCESSFUL AND ENJOYABLE SQUARE DANCE. – G.
Mennen Williams, Governor".
Both pieces of mail as well as the invitation and the 50 cent
ticket to the event were donated by Sandra Finch Edson via Cynthia
Sorensen to the SDHS archives.
PS: postage in 1950 was 3 cents.
submitted by Mary Voss
WELCOME NEW MEMBERS
We would like to welcome these new members who have joined the
Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society since the last newsletter.
l Keith Walker,
l Durenda Walker,
l Conrad Campbell,
THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF ORRIN LAWRENCE
the mid 19th century, there was an interesting landmark in the
Saugatuck Village Square called the Republican Liberty Pole. Our
nation's flag flew 130 feet tall, unfurled, to be seen by
residents and visitors. The September 26, 1868 edition of the
Saugatuck Commercial reported that new halyards had been strung to
replace those that had been stolen the week before.
Republican Liberty Pole -1874
Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.
Twenty-three year old Orrin Lawrence was the one to climb the pole
and string the new ropes. The young man, son of Asa Lawrence and
Emeline Moulton, was born May 22, 1845 and served in the US Navy
during the Civil War. Orrin had been discharged in August of 1865.
He had hazel eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion. We do not
know what became of his father Asa, but his mother Emeline died
September 20, 1855, and rests in the Plummerville cemetery under
an attractively carved stone erected by her son Orrin. Her age is
given as "27y 11m 9d." It is thought that Emeline was a daughter
of Almarin Moulton, an engineer at the Singapore mill who served
as justice of the peace in 1839.
Orrin Lawrence Discharge Papers - 1865
Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.
the 1850 census, there is no sign of Orrin's father Asa Lawrence,
but Emeline Lawrence (listed as 24 year old) is shown in Newark
(which later became Saugatuck) in the household of Timothy L.
Coates. Orrin, age 5 in that census, is shown to be residing in
Ganges Township in a Plummerville area boarding house living with
14 year old Elvira Moulton, perhaps a sister of his mother
Emeline. Others listed as living in the same boarding house at
that time included Plummers, Pincheons, Weeds, and others, many of
whom seem to have been in the tannery trade. In the 1870 census,
Orrin is shown in the village of Saugatuck and his occupation is
listed as "sailor."
Orin A. Lawrence married Susan
Ensfield on May 12, 1872. In the 1880 census, the young couple was
shown living in the household of his father-in-law Christian
Ensfield, in Ganges Township, and Orrin's occupation is still
given as "sailor." By that time the couple had lost 2 daughters
Foola and Tula, both of whom rest under smalls stones at the
Taylor cemetery. One rests under a carved lamb, and the other
under a small cross.
On October 2, 1890, Orrin
Lawrence was sailing as first officer of the steam barge, H. A.
Root, under Capt. O. E. Parks. The Lake Shore Commercial gives the
"The steamer was light, bound
north about 12 miles from Michigan City, and about six miles from
shore, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon of Thursday October 2, when
Lawrence was seen entering the pilot house with a piece of
watermelon in his hand. Soon afterward it was noticed the boat was
swinging, and it was found the wheel was deserted. Search was
immediately instituted and the captain and crew were dismayed to
find that the missing officer was not on the vessel. The boat was
immediately put about and in just seven minutes from the time the
search was instituted, a cap worn by the missing man and two
cigars were found to be floating on the water which solved beyond
doubt the fate of the owner. How the accident occurred is a
mystery almost beyond conjecture. The watermelon was found on the
deck opposite the pilot house door and near the rail, as if the
unfortunate man had stepped there and fallen overboard, but it
seems almost impossible that this should occur, as the deck is
protected by a two foot railing. But this must have been the case
from some reason, which will never be known, and once overboard he
must have been drawn under the boat and struck by the wheel as he
was a good swimmer and could easily have made his predicament
known to the others of the steamer. There is no probability that
the body will ever be recovered."
did not accept this conclusion readily. His wife's brother
Christopher had worked for three years on his brother-in-law's
ship, and when Orrin was lost at sea. Christopher and his father
Christian walked the shore between Benton Harbor and Muskegon
looking for the remains.
Floral Memorial to Orrin Lawrence
In January 1891,
a memorial service was held at the Methodist Episcopal Church in
Ganges. The Jacob G. Fry Post, Grand Army of the Republic (of
which Orrin's father Lawrence was a member) turned out in force
for the ceremony. About 30 people from Saugatuck attended,
including Capt. and Mrs. O. E. Parks, Capt. and Mrs. R. Ames,
Capt. and Mrs. William Trumbull, and Capt. George Phelps. "The
church was crowded to standing room to accommodate the attendance,
"The memorial service was given by Rev William Nelson
Breidenstein, who used the Revelations 21:25 scripture for his
message, "And there shall be no night there." An excerpt from the
newspaper report of that service read as follows: "The mystery
surrounding the casualty occasioning the death of Orrin Lawrence
will never be cleared."
In the summer of 1893, the
grieving widow erected a beautiful marble memorial to her husband
in Taylor Cemetery. The work had been done by a Plainwell firm.
She had reportedly been completely prostrated by the news of her
husband's death and rarely left the house of her father for the
balance of her life. She died November 9, 1894, at the age of 43
and rests beside her husband's memorial in the Ensfield family
Orrin Lawrence Memorial
The Ensfield family was not
to forget this honored brother-in-law. Beginning with the birth of
Christopher Ensfield's eldest son in 1880, three generations of
Ensfield's have borne the name "Orrin." Ensfield family members
believed that because Orrin had the reputation of being a strict
task-master, a member or members of the crew may have "helped him
over the side" instead of this being a simple accident.
Susan Ensfield of Ganges writes: "The story of this man was often
repeated because our 'limb of the tree' was a namesake bearer. My
husband is a III-third; his father would tell the story of family
members walking the shoreline looking for remains of Orrin for
several seasons." The story went on - "I was surprised to read
that he disappeared in the middle of the afternoon. We had always
assumed it occurred in the dark of night, when there was no one
around to witness what happened. When Orrin Ensfield Sr. told the
story no one ever questioned; just listened as it was a sad one
for him because he remembered the pain his family felt all of
their lives. Yes, the family of his generation (Orrin Lawrence and
Orrin Jr.) definitely believed that he was "helped" overboard."
Many thanks to family historian Susan Ensfield for sharing the
wonderful memorabilia from her family collection.
contributed by Chris Yoder
SPONSOR A MONTHLY PROGRAM
These fun and informal programs will kick off on Wednesday, February
8th. A complete schedule with topics and speakers is
shown below. For only $125 you can SPONSOR A MONTHLY PROGRAM! You
will be acknowledged as a sponsor of the program on the press
release, the Society's website, newsletter and at the Program. Just
REPLY to this email and let us know which Program you would like to
help sponsor and we'll take care of the rest.
Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society
2012 Monthly Program Schedule
Sin, War, Base-Ball, Shipwrecks, Circus & More
submitted by Jim Schmiechen
l FEBRUARY 8:
Small Towns, Big Picture - Simmons Photo Stories Uncovered.
7 p.m., Saugatuck Center for the Arts. Walk onto the SCA's Big
Screen and into the 1940s and 1950s with Jack Sheridan's Q & A
examination of the Bill Simmons Photo Collection. Refreshments
served in the SCA Gallery following the presentation. This program
is part of the SCA "About It" series and will be held at the
Saugatuck Center for the Arts, in conjunction with the SDHS-SCA
collaborative exhibition "Small Towns | Big Picture" through March
l MARCH 14: The
Wages of Sin and Other Tales. 7 p.m., Old School House
History Center. A sit-down photo tour with Marsha Kontio at the Old
School House. Sinful refreshments served.
l APRIL 11: How
the Home Folks Followed the War. 7 p.m., Old School House
History Center. Jim Schmiechen uses images and the little-known
"Douglas Dope" wartime newsletter to examine the news that connected
the local boys at the "front" with the folks at home during World
War Two. War-time ration refreshments served.
l MAY 9:
Shipwrecks, Heroes, & Scallywags - an Exhibition. 6:30 p.m.,
Old School House History Center. Saugatuck Middle School Sixth
Graders tell Lake Michigan stories through words, artwork, and model
building. Join in this "exhibition opening" and reception hosted by
Wendy Colsen's 6th Grade Language Arts Class." Massive
desserts. Note early starting time. The exhibit continues until June
Old School House History Center.
l JUNE 13:
Michigan’s Titanic: The Mysteries of the Wreck of the Steamship
Chicora. 7:30 p.m., The Boathouse at the Old School House
History Center. Join us in the Old School House garden as Kit Lane
presents the disaster story and the attempt to find its remains.
Shipboard refreshments. The Annual Meeting/Report by the SDHS Board
precedes this program at 7 o’clock.
l JULY 11: The
Circus Comes to Douglas. 7:00 p.m., Old School House History
Center. Our summer spectacular. Learn about the history of the
old-time circus and hear SDHS member Bob Sapita tell how this
amazing model circus was built - complete with sound and animation
that will leave you spell bound. Circus time refreshments. The
Circus will be on display at the OSH until July 23.
Sunday, July 5, 2009 Holland Sentinel written by Jim Hayden. Bob and
Kay Sapita are members of the Society
l AUGUST 8 : The
'Don’t Panic' Shipwreck Picnic. 6:00 p.m., Old School House History
Center Garden Gather at the OSH garden and boathouse for the
traditional SDHS summertime good-food picnic - with a garden
l SEPTEMBER 12: Take Me Out to the Ball Game -
and buy me a Hot Dog. 6:00 p.m., Old School House History
Center Courtyard. Meet the Douglas Dutcher Team and hear the story
of base-ball in Douglas through the years. On the School House
courtyard. Beer and Hot Dogs.
l OCTOBER 10:
Strange-But-True and other Cemetery Tales. 7:00 p.m., Old
School House History Center. Join Kit, Marsha, and Chris on a photo
and story tour through the nearby (and ancient) Taylor and
Plummerville Cemeteries. Refreshments to die for.
Houses Talking. 7:00 p.m., Old School House History Center.
A wine and cheese reception as the backdrop for an instructive view
of area building renovation-preservation stories - and meet the 2012
Heritage Award Winners.
l December 2:
The Society’s Annual Jolly Holiday Dinner Party. 6:00 p.m.,
Saugatuck Center for the Arts. Begin the holiday season with your
fellow SDHS members. Good cheer, great food, and a special story
Pick your program and become a sponsor. Just
REPLY to this email.
Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.
A Swinging Bridge
On our historical bridge tour via the past two newsletters, we have
progressed southward from the Saugatuck river bank over a fixed
bridge and then a causeway toward the swing bridge on Douglas side.
This ca 1910 photo is of the swing bridge located between the end of
the causeway and the Douglas shore. Headed upriver is the ferry boat
Grace which ran from landings downriver and a landing at the end of
Center Street in Douglas. The basket factory can be seen in the
background. Probably the men at the rail of the bridge are the
attendants. The head attendant lived in a house at the end of the
causeway out of the photo just to the north.
The bridge which was completed in 1902 was in use until 1936. This
steel framed wooden plank swing bridge was a hundred feet long and
eighteen feet wide. It was low to the water requiring the swing
bridge to be swung open for the passage of vessels. The bridge
attendants opened the bridge by walking-pushing a geared lever that
turned a wheeled structure atop a center abutment. The abutment was
constructed by sinking a barge loaded with stone which was then
capped with concrete.
By the mid 1930s the bridge was wearing out and the road traffic was
rapidly increasing. The government embarked on a huge road and
bridge building program - part of many great depression works
programs. A historical time to begin building what we still have
today. Stay tuned.
Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.
It's a big file, so be patient.
MIKE PHILLIPS LETTER
The letter below was sent from Mike Phillips and
is reprinted with his permission. Mike was a member of the Society
Board for several years and served as Membership Chair. Fred Schmidt
Dear Fred (Janet) a voice from the past is
contacting you. Thanks to you Fred, (I think), I have enjoyed so
much reading all the news from the SDHS, seeing the improvements,
current events and savoring the memories of past involvement with
you and the others of my era that you know of. I am so impressed
with all that is happening and often realise what I have left behind
when I moved permanently to Naples. Then I read today about the call
from Marsha Kontio (more memories!) and the need for cookies and etc
for meetings. I also thought of Jane U and her leadership, for so
long on such issues. I just had to write to you.
Though I guess it is certain that I will never
return to Pier Cove/Saug/Doug to live again, and the chance that I
will even visit lessens with each passing year, I want you to knows
how much I appreciate that despite my non-membership status, somehow
I am still on the distribution list for SDHS info.
I am well satisfied to be in my Independent Living
Retirement community, the Carlisle in Naples. Emphasis on the
Independence, for I still drive and have a very active social life
outside the Carlisle. On the other hand I am in a good place for the
support than one needs as one ages. I am very proactive too in a
leadership role, now for the 4th year, in
running/facilitating/moderating very successful Great Decisions
programs at two local libraries in Naples. During the "season", when
the snowbirds are here, over a hundred people from all over the
world attend each of the discussions weekly for 8 weeks. The
challenge keeps my intellect stimulated, and also provides the
opportunity to meet interesting people.
I still have local contact occasionally with folk
from Michigan. Bud and Max, Judy and Tom Anthrop, Shirley and Larry
Akins, for example, and I hope to be seeing Dawn and George soon.
But, as said earlier, when I think about it, I am so grateful for
the opportunity to have worked with folk like you, Jim S, Ken C, Ron
Hirsch, the Yoder's at SDHS, as well as Kristen Armstrong and the
SCA folk, and the many others in both organisations that you know
of. Incidentally, I still have frequent Skyping contact with Kristin
Gebben, now of course mostly living in the UK with Duncan Jackson
and their daughter Lily. There are others too from along the
Lakeshore, neighbours and those that were not much involved in the
activities you and I shared. My memories of the area for both June
and I, and the view from the front of my house of the Lake do not
diminish much. You, who live there now are so blessed.
Am in pretty good health too, at least for my age. I
work out with a personal trainer three times a week, barely making
it through, but at least I try. I also traveled to the south of
France last Oct to be with old friends for a month, so I'm not too
limited in my journeying.
Nuff about me and the rambling comments. I trust you
and your family are well. Clearly you are continuing to be busy with
local organisations. Keep it up Fred!!, you are a great asset. Again
thanks for rekindling the memories. Very sincerely, Mike
Welcome from Jack Sheridan leader of the Society Family History
Group. The Group meets on the first and third Thursday of every
month at 3:30 in the Old School House. Our next meeting is
Thursday January 19th. Please join us to see what we
are all about and most importantly, discover what you are all
Presently, Group focus is on building family trees by learning and
utilizing web based digital research techniques. In our current
meetings we have been learning new ways to search United States
censuses - which are available with ten year intervals from 1790
to 1930, with 1940 to be released this April 2. These records are
a treasure trove of information and are computer searchable in
many different ways. For instance a 1900 census record can be
searched by state, by city, by first name, by last name, by year
of birth, by country of birth – all of these categories can be
searched for at the same time or by any category that you select.
All records that come up [a scanned document] can then be viewed
just as written by the census taker 112 years ago.
Now here is an attractive offer for our members: Send to us
information on a person and we will find them for you [if
possible] in the U. S. Census. If I can't find them Chris Yoder
Each month in this column a member will tell you about an
exciting, family history discovery. A family history discovery is
called a EUREKA! Moment. One such moment occurred
last month in the Czech Republic. That’s right the Czech Republic.
Chris Yoder relates:
A EUREKA! Moment
Czech Cousin Finds Douglas Postmaster Joe Dornak
Our SDHS Web Records have worldwide reach! Douglas Community
Hospital death records scanned years ago by Howard Vanderbeck have
been searched across the internet from the Czech Republic. A
couple weeks ago, we received an email from Peter Svach, age 42.
Five siblings of his great-grandfather came to America around
1910. Their names were Frantisek (Frank), Josef (Joseph), Marie,
Anna and Frantiska (Frances) Svach.
From the Czech Republic, Peter emailed, "Our family kept in touch
with their relatives here in the Czech Republic during the second
world war and even in early 1950's but since then we have not had
any information about them or their families." By searching the
internet, Peter found the death certificate for Joseph Svach on
SDHS On-line Research Center and contacted the SDHS as a
Using our on-line obituaries, and making some phone calls, I
learned that daughters Francis, Anna and Marie still have family
in the area. Frances married Louis Sikora, Anna married Joseph
Smutny, and Maria (Joe's grandmother) married Anthony Dornak. The
families of the brothers are in the Chicago area. We were able to
provide Peter with email addresses to reunite the family.
Contributed by Jack Sheridan. Contact me at:
or 269 857-7144.
TOWNSHIP ADDS NEW CEMETERY ACCESS
Saugatuck Twp Sexton Aaron Sheridan has announced
new on-line access to the records for the Saugatuck Riverside and
Douglas cemeteries. The cemetery management software in use allows
search of the two cemeteries by name of plot owner or plot resident.
You can access this page at:
Then click on "Cemetery Data Search" and again on
"Cemetery search". Or just visit the
SDHS On-line Research Center and click on the "New Saugatuck
Twp Cemetery Search" tab.
Please use this access to help Aaron improve our
records. Feel free to send him any corrections you may find at