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Letters toa Great Lakes Sailor

Thenewsletter has run several pages of letters written by the Tisdale family toGeorge Tisdale in 1902 when he took over as captain o f the steamer Folsom.This next series begins in 1900 when George must have had a difficult timefinding a job he liked. Letters from the family were directed toward fourdifferent boats over the course of the season: the Santa Maria, A. Folsom, Wm. Burdette and theColin Campbell.

 

His parentswere William Graham and Hanna (Mortenson) Tisdale who arrived in the area in1874 and settled on the west side of the KalamazooRiver in Douglas where a small creekruns into the river near Tower Marina.They had six children: Electa (often called Leck), Matilda (called Till),George, Susan, Sarah and William.

 

Douglas,July 20,1900

from brother,Will

 

Dear George,

 

Your letterreceived. We saw where you were in Chicagoand Pop has had to figure it up every day since, when we would hear from you.

 

We are not anybehind you in regard to the weather for with the exception of one or two hotdays we have had it nice and cool, in fact several times in the evening I havefound my light overcoat quite comfortable. The strawberry crop came to a verysudden end about July 4 we had a warm rain and what few berries were left justturned into mush.

 

They are shipping quite a fewpeaches from here all ready and in a couple of weeks the rush will probablycommence and then no more work for the poor miserables that have to work in thefactory, we run short on crates and it is going to be a great deal worse onbaskets. They expect to use nearly a million packages at Glenn along besidesthere is Ganges, HawkHead, Spring Grove, Pier Cove, Laketown, Meres, Bell-knap [Belknap],Fennville, Saugatuck and Douglas, to supply so you see we are going to bekept busy alright. Weed & Co. are getting to be quite a concern. They havetwo boilers and two engines in the factory now, and next week it is 12 hours aday.

 

Pop has gotthe rye all cut and in the shock and is going to stack it tomorrow. It is thesame old story rain and lots of it here. It has been so cold and wet that asyet the corn does not amount to very much but there is lots of time from now onfor hot weather.

 

I had quite anexperience the other night and I will have to tell you about it. There was acouple of Mrs. Miller's nieces and Laura and Sara and myself went for a boatride and when we were way down the river Weed's boat, with Elmer [Weed] andMilton [D. Milton Gerber] and Roger, jail Douglas Basket Factoryofficials] besides all their families and a few others came along. Theyhollered to us to go down to the mouth and they would tow us back, so we didand they picked us up just outside of the piers. Roger and Milton says,"Now Will, we can't tow your boat with all of you in it so about four ofyour get in here and the other stay in there and steer. That would leave me allalone you see. Well, of course, I bit. I agreed with them. After I had madetheir line fast I helped Sara and Laura and one of the other girls into theirboat, then I shoved our boat off and told them to go ahead. Maybe they didn'tgive Roger and Milty the laugh then.

 

Everythingwent along in fine shape till we got pretty near to Douglas when Roger sang outthey wanted to drop us so to let go of their line. The minute I stoppedsteering and went forward our boat began to sheer, fast she went off one wayand then the other and the third time she went over on her side and by the timeI had gotten an oar to steady her up she was half full of water. A11 this timethe girl that was with me was sitting with her feet up on the seat laughingwhile those in the yacht were yelling bloody murder.

 

For all it waslots of fun, I didn't try to let go that line till we got to the boat house.Roger said, Well, he wanted to drown both of us. He wanted to drown me forflirting with his wife and the girl for cutting Laura out. Gerber came aroundthe next morning and wanted to know who came pretty near getting a good joke onthem and I asked him who DID get a good joke on them. Well, he said, I camepretty near it. Weed says, "Will, that was a dirty mean job the; weregoing to play on you but I wouldn't let them." It was a D--- shame after afellow had rowed four girls way down there to try and take them away fromhim."

 

Weed has givenme a note for my wages at 4% and every $25 I earn is to be added to it so it willbe little money that I will draw this summer if I can possibly scrape up enoughto carry nee through.

Goodbyefor this time

Will

 

P.S. Therewere three men got the ends of their fingers cut off today in the factory, allon different machines too.

Douglas, July22, 1900

from sister,

Sara

My Beloved Brother:

 

How are youanyway? Lu Sprague stopped the other day and said you were down to the boat andwere looking very good, which is probably a lie as I don't doubt a bit but whatyou were smoking either a pipe or a cigar.

 

Well I wishyou could see your adored and adoring sister. I have only lost 20 pounds since Icame home and am expecting every moment to have the crows foreclose theirmortgage. I have been wondering if it wouldn't pay to have my picture put onpoison labels. Exact representation.

 

I intend to goto Allegan a week from to-morrow if nothing happens to take a week or two ofthe summer Normal.I am going to teach in the Chase school so you see I will be where I can gethome very often this winter and behold your lovely countenance. They want me toteach a ninth grade and I am going to the normal to review a little.

 

I was up to Holland Thursday on thecars and have been half sick ever since. My, but I do hate that town.

Yours with love

Sara

Douglas, July 24,1900

from brother, Will

Dear Geo.

Yours of 7/21received last night and was very glad to hear from you. I had written you aletter last Friday expecting to mail it so you would get it at the Soo as youwent down but did not send it in time. I was surprised to hear that times areso poor over in Chicagoas here they have been first rate for common labor. But my trouble has begun,up till today everything has been O.K., but [Elmer] Weed has hired HarryForrester to help me and he and I get along about as nicely together as dosweet milk and sour pickles.

 

I told Rogertonight that if everything did not go alright that I was done there, as Harryand I had no love for each other and he said to do the best I could and as soonas anything went wrong to go to Milty [manager D. Milton Gerber) andmake my kick and it would be 0. K. for they were too well satisfied to let mego. They (R. T. M.) think Harry and Elmer are doing some knocking down as theyboth hate Harry like poison, but Elmer is bound to keep him.

Will

 

 

Douglas, Aug. 8th,1900

from Mama

 

Dear George,

 

Your two letters received allright and we were very glad to hear from you. I got the money and paid your twonotes the interest on D_'s note was thirty-three cents making thesum of the notes $85.32. I paid them the same day I got the money. I told Sarato write it to you but it seems she did not. Papa has the oats cut and once theclover was up so high in them he had to mow them and stack them like hay. Papaand I are going up to your place some day this week and cut the brush aroundyour house for fear of fire and Papa will try and get someone to begin clearingyour land. He will do all he can to get some ready for rye this fall. Perhapshe will have to get Erickson as it is almost impossible to get any one to workhere for love or money. It is so hot here at present that no one can work. Thethermometer is 110 degrees in the sun, but I guess it won't last much longer.Pap says if your land catches as this first did you have the best piece of landin Allegan county. We were up to your orchard yesterday and got four baskets ofEarly Rivers which we sold to Riley for fifty-five cents leaving you 43 centsout; your peaches have dropped very badly but your trees, new and old lookfine. Our trees up there have not got a single peach on them although the treelooks very well.

 

Sarah is up toSue's. I am going up to get her today if l don't melt on the road. Your yellowtransparent apple trees are full of nice apples and you can't sell any here. Iam drying all I can, no time to pare. Papa says you could not tell your appletrees from a yellow rosebush, they are sure loaded right down with apples.Write when you get this and I will try and answer at once. Love from us allMama

 

Douglas, Michigan October 8, 1900

from brother,

Will

 

Dear George,

 

You may thinkit strange that none of us write to you but mamma's hand is so sore, and I havebeen working from 6:30 A.M. to about seven every night and when I get through 1am so tired I can hardly sit up.

 

I was quitedisappointed because you did not get that site on the Campbell [steamerColin Campbell]. I tell you I did some fine hustling. I was going pastMiller's place when he came out and told me there was a telegram over at theoffice for you, that was about 6:45 so you know how much time I had to get homeand then catch the boat over the river, but I don't know but it is just as wellyou didn't go in her for if you don't find anything else to do you can comehome and clear some land, You never had it so you could work to advantage atthat before.

 

We are just about done in thefactory. They have all ready finished in some departments and there is onlyabout 1/2 of a crew working now. I guess I will work till about Friday noon andthen quit. I could work till some time in November if I wanted to go into thesaw mill but they will run shorthanded and it gets dark in the mill now about5:15 and it is by no means a safe place to work. I do not think the few dollarsI could earn there would be much if l should lose a hand or arm.

 

Friend Harrywent to Weed a week ago Sunday and told him there was no need of two salesmenhanging around there any longer, as one could do the work just as well as twocould. Weed says "Well, I guess you are about right Harry, so I guess thebest thing you can do is to quit tonight." Do you suppose he would do it?No, he waited till they nearly had to fire him by main force and I can tell youhe gained no friends by it. For I have too many there. Gerber has told some ofthem that I was the best man they had in their employ. The peach season is justabout done here, and what are not shipped all ready will be this week.

 

TheMcVea left here this morning for Manistee for a load of timber for Weed and hewent along too, so I am head push for a few days. I tell you it has been ascramble for baskets up till today but we are gaining on them now.

Will

 

Douglas, Oct 9th1900

from Mama

 

Dear George,

 

Papais at me all the time to write to poor George so here goes. Our potatoes areall dug. We had thirty-five bushels. Papa took what rye we had left to Hamilton last Saturday Hegot 48 cents a bushel for it. Our pigs is doing well and we have quite a fewvegetables besides. When you feel like coming home come you know - you arealways welcome. When Leck & Jim were in Chicago I had the children here and Isurvived that so you can see I am strong and hardy yet... I am trying to helpget the work done up here so he can go to hauling the corn from your place,then I suppose I will have to pitch in and husk it. Come home if you think bestand don't worry if you can't find anything to do it is all for the best.

Mama

 

Douglas, Mich Oct 9, 1900

from sister,Sara

 

My Beloved Big Brother,

Well you see Igot home O.K. We got in Hollandquite early but we didn't get up till about 6 0' clock. [The boat arrivedbefore dawn, but they didn't awake in their berths until 6 a. m.] Then wewent uptown and found that the first car [interurban] did not go until7:30. So we concluded we would walk out to the city limits and save fivecents so we got out there and waited about half an hour then the car came andwe got on and rode a ways and when the conductor came to collect the fare hesaid that car went to the park [Jenison Park near Macatawa] so we had toget off just in front of a slaughter house and waited 36 minutes for the nextcar. Well this was the right car, but imagine our horror & disgust when wefound out the fare was just the same as if we had got on at Holland. We couldn't take our goods down soJim had to get them yesterday and will bring them down today.

 

Your lovingsister, Sara

 

Douglas, Nov.29, 1900

from Mama

 

This isThanksgiving Day. I have been ironing all day till now, 2 o'clock P.M, and Iwill write you a few lines. Papa has been hauling out manure all day. Sara wasto church this morning, now she is dressmaking.

 

John Kenter isno better. His brother, Azel is with him. Old Hank Allet is dead and buried inAllegan. Tom McVea is getting worse so Mary Mc told me. Jim McVea is on the Dell Shoresnow.

 

I went toTaylor's bank [A.B. Taylor, the forerunner of Fruit Growers Bank] andborrowed fifty dollars to pay Mrs. Whiten the money due her. I had to give anote for $52 payable in six months but then I can get it renewed if I want to.It was the only way I could do as I did not want to ask her for any longertime. I was in hopes you would be home by this time. The weather is awfulstormy here most of the time. We have finished husking the corn on this place.We would have had quite a fair yield but it had been stolen, we could easilysee where the ears had been taken off.

Love from us all.

Mama

And oneletter from 1901:

 

Douglas, Sept.1st, 1901

from Mama

 

I will try andwrite you a few lines. We received your letter and money order all right. Willwent just as soon as he got your telegram so I suppose he is with you by thistime though we have heard nothing from him. Papa had gone looking for the boatwhen we left. He came back while I was gone without the boat, he stayed allnight with a man by the name of Inman and they started by day light but couldsee nothing of the boat. Friday we got a letter from Inman saying he had theboat but wanted two dollars for his trouble in getting it. We had paid him 50cents before. This Inman's father raised Joe Lewis and they are great chums. Ithink Lewis put him up to this as Joe is up there getting out wood. Inman saidif we wanted to he would send the boat down with Lewis. fine times when we haveto pay for getting back stolen property. Wonderful Sheriff Leland is, isn't he?Lewis is up the river now and he may bring the boat back or he may not. I don'tknow what he will do, but I tell you I don't know where we will get the moneyto pay for it. It's outgo here all the time and no one cent income.

 

We picked ourpeach crop, four baskets in all and sold them to Winnie McDonald for tens centsa basket, in all 40 cents. We will have to try another year and put in smallfruits and vegetables on the home place and sell to resorters. We can do so Ithink to advantage. We will certainly have to do some such thing or starve.

 

Fred Stone andhis folks went to Chicagoto stay Saturday night. He has sold his boat. Sam Reid the blacksmith is goingto take care of their horse and excepting for a short time in summer that willbe the last of them here until the old man gives up railroading. Sarah's schoolwill begin tomorrow. She is taking some medicine Dr. Brunson gives her and Ithink it is helping her. I hope she will get fleshly, she will certainly lookstronger

Love from us all Mama

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