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History Lives Here Text

Biography ofa Boy

ByFlorence(Shiver) Shriven

About 1925 Florence (Shiver) Shrivenundertook to write a biography of her son for his 16th birthday. Shewrote it was in order to make amends for not keeping a baby boob She was thewife of Will J. Shriven, a son of Henry Shriven who built the white house nearthe road at what is now Ox-Bow. An identical house, built by Henry's brother,Charles, was later expanded to become the Riverside Inn, now Ox-Bow Inn. Therecipient of the letter was the couple's son, William George Shriven, born in1909 in Saugatuck.

 

Sixteen yearsold! You will soon be a man; and a good one, I am sure. Sixteen years ago onMay fifteenth in the big corner bedroom at Ashton I saw you for the first time.As your father lay you in my arms he smiled at us bothand said: "I'm so proud of him, Florence.He has the chest of a prize fighter and see howstraight and strong he is."

 

"I'm gladof that," said I, "but what I want most is that he growup to be a good, noble man like his father."

 

As you see ourfirst wish for you was not for riches, fame or power, but just to be good andnoble. The strong fine-shaped little body of which your father was so proud wasnot made in the nine months in which you had been near my heart, but in severalgenerations of clean, right living and was given to you by not only your fatherand mother, but your grandfathers and grandmothers as well. Isn't that a wonderfulheritage for any boy, and I am sure you too will give your little boys andgirls, when that time comes, the same chance.

 

When you weresix weeks old we went down to the old homestead where your father and Hope wereboth born and all that summer you slept and crowed and grew down among thecrabapple trees and ripening grapes.

 

This would have been the oldShriven home near the Ox-Bow Road,later owned by Alice Bogart and acquired on her death by the Ox-Bow art school.The building has had hard service the last few years as a painting studio, butan Ox-Bow official said there are plans to restore the it for use as an onceand visitor center.

That was adear old place, William, and one you too would have loved could you remember itas it was then, but the last time I saw it it made myheart ache with its rundown decayed look.

 

In the autumnwe moved up town just in front of Grandma's and many little tracks your feetmade in a day between the two houses. Even before you could walk one day when Ileft you on the grass in the front yard while I ran in to attend to the dinner,you crept over there, across the dusty street, in your little white dress andwhite shoes and stockings. Grandma never forgot that and always said that yourfirst voluntary visit was to her.

 

The elder Shrivers moved into Saugatuck Village about 1907. Their home, calledAshton, located at 346 Mary Street,still stands. It has been recently refurbished but the square tower is intact. Applecrest, the house across the street occupied by Will andFlorence and their family, has been destroyed.

 

When you wereeighteen months old you had your first journey of any note. You and Hope and Iwent down to Arkansasto see Grandma Lou and Grandpa Walter. You were wonderful in traveling and sopatient for such a little fellow. I remember Hope was then about eight yearsold and she had been warned bout kidnappers so she watched you pretty closelyon that trip. There you grew acquainted with your other grandfather andGrandmother and aunts and uncles tho' you were tooyoung to remember them.

As Florencenoted earlier William 's f other, usually known asWill, was a Michigannative, born in the old Henry Shriven house near the lagoon. William'smother, Florence Shiver, was a native of Hope, Arkansas, a town more recentlyin the news as the hometown of William J Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States.When you grow up and are making a great deal of money I hope that you can gothere again for there is where mother was born, where she went to school, whereshe romped like a tomboy through the sleepy fields and woods after persimmons,nuts and berries. You would find Hope a sleepy little town and it will seem oddto you after Chicago'sbusy whirl, but you will like it for a little while tho'Grandpa isn't these any more to spoil you.

 

The Shiverfamily of Hope, Arkansas,was related to the Shriven family of Michigan.The Arkansasend of the family lost the "r" in the name during the Civil Warservice of one of its members, when the name was misspelledon a military record and it was easier to go along with the error, than takethe steps to correct it. Florence met Willduring a visit to Michiganto visit relatives.

 

When you werefour years old your father had found the fishing unprofitable and had gone intothe inspection work with the Globe Indemnity Co. and the following spring,1914, we moved away from Saugatuck to Grand Rapids and in that same year youstarted to kindergarten. How well I remember that morning. Jennie, a girl whoused to live with Grandma and was staying with me for a few days, took you toschool for the first time. Things went quite well that morning until theteacher told you to march one way and you marched the other and she punishedyou by standing you in the corner. While you were there you formed a resolvenever to go to school again and when you came home you told me so. My resolvewas quickly made that you had to go back as it would be hard to ever start youagain, altho' I will admit that the teacher couldhave been just a little more lenient with a first day pupil.

 

I had to use persuasion and even aswitch to get you started but after you had become accustomed to going I neverhad anymore trouble tho' one time when there was acircus in town with Jess Willard, the pugilist, one of the attractions. You anda little chum forgot all about school and tramped nearly the whole afternoontrying to find his private car and getting a glimpse of him. That was one timethat my hair nearly turned gray and I searched the whole afternoon for youuntil you came home tired, dirty and hungry, but happy that you had seen yourhero.

 

We lived at 1402 Russell Ave Our landlord's name was Hotchkiss and he had a little boynot much older than you were and how you two did scrap. There was alwaysexcitement between you two.

 

In the autumnof 1914 your father started to work for the Fidelity and Casualty Company of New York and has beenwith them ever since. At first his territory was Indianaand Illinois and he was not home at all, sofinally in 1915 we moved to Chicagowhere for two years you went to the Ravenwood School...

 

WilliamGeorge Shriven grew up in Chicago and married Mildred Maude Ruggles,a native of Kalamazoo.He later moved to Port Hueneme, California,where he died in 1945 at the age of 36. The couple had two daughters, theelder, Joan Hope (Shriven) VanLue, sent this familyletter and accompanying information to the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Societyand was very helpful in furnishing pictures of life in Fishtownfor the 2000 museum exhibit.

 

WilliamGeorge's big sister, Hope, married Eric Dickson and the couple returned toSaugatuck in their retirement, living in a new house on Pleasant Street. Hope died in 1979 andEric in 1984.

 

Julia Laura Shriver (a sisterto Will J., the fisherman who was the father of Hope and William), married J.Howard Coates in 1908 and lived in the old Coates cottage, recently called"The Shoe Box" on lower Spear Street in downtown Saugatuck. After thedeath of her husband in 1947Julia was the village "nanny" and caredfor many area children. A couple of years before her death in 1975 she was named "Man of the Year" by the local LionsClub to honor her service.