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Still haven't renewed your Society membership for 2011??
Don't miss out on a great year of events


LADIES ARE INVITED TO WEAR HATS AND GLOVES to the "Tea With May" on Wednesday, March 9, at 7pm at the Old School House. The March SDHS monthly program will feature Saugatuck historian May Francis Heath (1873-1961).

Marsha Kontio's powerpoint presentation includes never before released photos and documents from the Heath family archives, and information gleaned from the files of the Commercial Record, the Saugatuck Woman's Club, and 30 years worth of May's personal diaries.

May's roots reach back to the founders of Saugatuck, and this is the story of her family and of her own lifetime of service to our community. Come learn about this amazing Renaissance woman who made such a difference in preserving our local history. Be sure not to miss this very unique and fun event!


On Sunday, March 20th, the SDHS will host an all out "fun evening" to eat, drink, play games, visit or just plain party with friends The event will be at Toulouse Restaurant, on the corner of Culver and Griffith Streets in downtown Saugatuck.

Click HERE for details and to make your reservations. Don't miss all the fun!


Editors Note: "Glad You Asked" is a new column to answer questions that have been asked by Society members. Hopefully the information will be informative to all members.

Q. Seems like I am getting more frequent requests for donations and sponsorships for SDHS projects than I did in the past. Can you explain why?

A. It's not your imagination - you have been getting solicitations for support as the SDHS has evolved to a new level of sophistication and effectiveness. Years ago, when members numbered fewer than 75, the Society’s major focus was the monthly meeting at the high school. As the membership grew (now to nearly 700 individuals), we gradually added the museum and initiated a series of annual exhibitions; have published 13 prize-winning books; established an active technology center; expanded the archives; purchased the Old School House and renovated and opened it as the History Center; initiated a collection of historical art, and engaged in a wide range of high-level programs and services, including topical study groups and an annual awards program, that benefit members and the community at large. Thus, our capital and annual operating budgets have necessarily increased in support of these activities. In short, our members and friends give more, but they also get more.

Some have remarked that it is nothing short of remarkable how the Society, its programs - and its reputation in the community - have grown over the years. Members and friends of the Society have been consistently generous with their support (both financial, professional in-kind, and volunteerism), which is no small measure of how we’re doing. Further, we have been acknowledged state-wide and nationally through prestigious project grants and awards of excellence.

So, yes, members are asked frequently to give. But we hope that everyone understands that members must decide for themselves how much they value this or that project and at what level they wish to contribute. Know that all gifts are appreciated, regardless of size - and all are crucial to maintaining the continued excellence the Society has become known for. Know, too, that the board and project volunteers appreciate your trust and take seriously their responsibility both for making wise use of your valued gifts and also for delivering the best quality programs possible.

Because of dedicated members, the Society has a bright future. Thank you for your sustained support

Click button above to make a donation
to the Society using PayPal.


We would like to welcome these new members who have joined the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society since the last newsletter.

Damien & Judith Jarzembowski, Saugatuck
Angela Pastorelli & Sven Roenspiess, Chicago & Saugatuck


Frank W. Wade (1852-1947)

The Commercial Record of January 12, 1940 featured an article about nine octogenarian snow birds who had assembled in the park near Braden Castle, Bradenton, Florida, for a picture taking.

Frank W. Wade, 87, of Douglas was among this number, which totaled 104 seasons in Florida and 752 years of age. He was the third oldest of the group and one of four Michiganders.

Mr. Wade (1852-1947) was the first white child born in Douglas. He served as village president for 5 years and as a member of the village board for 21 years. He served six terms as master of the Dutcher Lodge, and was a past patron and charter member of the Douglas O.E.S. He was a member of the Douglas Congregational Church. His wife Nettie Hutchinson predeceased him in 1939. They had no children.

In 1940, Mrs. Josephine Rockwell, 84 of Ludington, MI arose after the photographer had finished his work and entertained her compatriots with the following philosophy:

The horse and mule live 40 years,
And never taste of wine or beers.

The goat and sheep at 20 die,
Without the aid of scotch or rye.

The cow drinks water by the ton,
And at 18 is mostly done.

The dog at 15 cashes in,
And nothing knows of rum or gin.

The cat in milk and water soaks,
And then at 12 short years it croaks.

The sober, modest bone-dry hen,
Lays eggs for noggs.
Then dies at ten.

All animals are strictly dry,
They sinless live and shortly die.

But sinful, ginful, rum-soaked men
Survive to three score years and ten;
And some of us, the mighty few,
Stay pickled till we are 92.

                                           submitted by Chris Yoder


The SDHS archives recently received this photograph of Orville Millar standing in front of the Millar Brothers Standard Service Station, located on the Blue Star Highway near the bridge in Douglas. Orville and his brother Stephen, operated the station, which was leased from the Standard Oil Company for 1 cent per gallon from 1939 - 1940.
                                                   submitted by Mary Voss


The 2011 exhibit committee for the museum is still looking for a number of photographs to use in "Village Patchwork: Everyday Life in Saugatuck and Douglas" which will open the end of May at the Pumphouse Museum.
The pictures can be any size, any year, but they must have been taken in the Saugatuck area, and if the site is recognizable that is a plus.
1. We are still looking for a photo of someone canning, or standing around proudly looking at shelves of canned items.
2. Photos of Saugatuck during the 60s when it was packed with college aged kids.
3. A copy of the old pass that used to be issued to residents and downtown workers to get past police barricades when the city got so crowded they wouldn't let anyone else in. It started out "Admit one to Saugatuck."
4. Pictures of the annual Labor Day bridgewalk.
5. A completion certificate from the annual Labor Day bridgewalk.
6. A photo from a lighting the Saugatuck traffic light ceremony we held for a couple of years when the streetlight turned green in the spring.
7. Photos of area people of all kinds, young and old, men and women, doing village-type things especially in the off-season.

Mardi Gras parades -- G rated please. Oktoberfest. Little league. Hiking through the woods. etc.

If you can scan your picture, do so preferably at least 300 dpi and email to . If you have prints, mail them to SDHS, PO 617, Douglas MI 49406  att: Jack. He can scan and return them to you. If the photos are black and white and you just have the negatives, we can deal with that too.
Include what dates and names you can  and information about the circumstances.   submitted by Kit Lane

from this week's Holland Sentinel and Grand Rapids Press


Bonnie McVoy, Car Hop, circa 1955

We are still collecting memories of the Douglas root beer barrel!! Ten former employees or owning families now have their memories on the "Barrel blog".

These include young Miss Bonnie McVoy (Now Bonnie Verwys) whose family may have operated it for the longest period (c1954-c1961). If you have memories or pictures to add, send them along to Chris Yoder at or call 269-857-4327.


The Charles J. Lorenz Award of Achievement is given to acknowledge distinguished leadership in service to the Society toward fulfilling the spirit and mission of the Society, namely, "to provide leadership, enabling the community to understand its past, and use its history to shape its future and preserve its quality of life". Click HERE for a Nomination Form for this year's Lorenz Award along with a list of previous winners.

Volunteers are needed to guide visitors on the Society's summer Walking Tours. You don't need to be an expert, but you must enjoy interacting with visitors who are interested in local history. Interested? Contact Harold Thieda  by email at or call 269-857-2985.

Our January photo is a portrait of William Gay Butler, in 1830, the first settler and founder of Saugatuck. Last summer the original of this photograph came to the SDHS, a splendid gift from the descendants of Doc and May Francis Heath. Thank you, thank you, Heath family! It is believed that the original photograph was given to May Heath by a member of the Butler family about 1955.

Because we had the original to scan, it was possible to make a high resolution digital copy. As you see here, the computer scanner records fine detail, providing a higher quality image than has been generally available. To me previous copies have always looked more like an etching than a photograph.

When I examine an old photograph I think - what, when and where? These questions often present a mini puzzle.

The Butler portrait provides a good example. We believe the photo came from the Butler family and I had seen previous copies so I knew that I was looking at the source of those copies.

William G. Butler died in 1857 at age fifty seven. This era was the dawn of the age of portrait photography. Dick Haight, SDHS resident guru of photo technology, identified the glass plate and separate reflective black background as an ambrotype. After the daguerreotype method which was invented in the 1840s, the ambrotype came into common use in the early 50s. So this photo could have been taken during the lifetime of Mr. Butler.

Our feature photo preview [below] will be explained in March. It dates to ancient! Stay tuned, email me comments and enjoy the photos.
                                             submitted by Jack Sheridan                                    

Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.

2011 Upscale Sale to Offer
New Consignment Sale Option

This years' Upscale Sale will be held on Saturday, July 16 with the preview event the prior evening. The sale, to benefit SDHS, will once again focus on high-quality items such as antiques, framed art, collectables, jewelry, small-scale furniture, toys and games, housewares and small appliances.

New this year is the opportunity for SDHS members and area residents to sell distinctive items on consignment. The seller and the Society will share (75% to seller/25% to SDHS) in the profit of the consignment sale. The consignment goods will be display in a special area of Old School House during the Upscale Sale.

Start setting aside those great items you wish to donate or place on consignment for the sale. Donation collection will begin next May. Information about the consignment sale option will be announced in April.

For additional information or questions, call (269) 857-5751.

May Heath - Public Speaker - And the Douglas O. E. S.

Time and time again, over the course of decades, May Heath was called upon to be a toastmistress or a speaker for local groups. She served as toastmistress to many Alumni and Woman's Club Banquets in the 1910's and 1920's, and was a frequent speaker in each decade of her life, particularly on historical topics. We can thank her family for preserving many of her hand written texts and presentations from the 1890's onward. Of the organizations she helped found or lead, her focus was on Saugatuck, with one exception. For some reason, she was a member of the Douglas chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star (O.E.S.).

At the 35th Birthday banquet of the Douglas O.E.S. (Chapter No. 203) on February, 24, 1932, she was asked to respond to the toast "The Charter Members". "I well remember when I joined over here, 32 years in March (1900), how I drove over with my aunt and uncle Leland in an old democrat buggy - a two seater and high up in the world too, and it was drawn by his old farm horse, Molly. Was it cold? Oh those March winds in the open buggy - why it seemed like the bridge was miles long! But that was 32 years ago when there were no autos in this section, as yet."

May spelled out the history: The chapter was chartered Oct. 14, 1897- 1st Worthy Matron Mrs. Sarah Kirby; 1st Asst Matron Mrs. Abbie Kerr; 1st Worth Patron- Milton Gerber. The 31 charter members were: Mr. Frank Kerr, Mrs. Abbie Kerr, Mr. John Hoy, Mrs. Mary Hoy, Mr. Fred Herbert, Mrs. Anna Herbert, Mr. John Durham, Mrs. Jennie Durham, Mr. Elmer Weed, Mrs. Lizzie Weed, Mr. H. A. McDonald, Mrs. Abbie McDonald, Mr. Joshua Weed, Mrs. Mary Weed, Mr. William C. McVea, Mrs. Rachel McVea, Mr. Milton Gerber, Mrs.M. Belle Gerber, Mr. Frank Wade, Mrs. Lizzie Wade, Mrs. Sarah Kirby, Miss Helen J. Kerr, Mrs. Jane Kibby, Mr. Wm. Kerr, Mr. H. G. Welch, Miss Blanche Slack, Mrs. Alice Devine, Miss Lenore Spencer, Miss Hattie Spencer, Miss Minnie Walbreuck, Mr. Thomas Martin.

She went on that of these "ten have passed on - It is really amazing that after 35 years more that 2/3s of the charter members have been spared, have seen the organization prosper and grown, have welcomed the younger generation into it's ranks, and such is life." Almost 30 years later, she was to post a note on the member list used in her speech "Alive in 1961 Rachel McVea". This last charter member died in 1968 and is buried in the Douglas Cemetery.

(According to the Michigan state O.E.S. "Douglas Chapter No. 203 consolidated with Saugatuck No. 285 on September 25, 1962 and became known as Riverview Chapter No. 203. Riverview Chapter consolidated with Bethel No. 173 on December 27, 1978 and became known as Saugatuck-Douglas Chapter No. 173. Saugatuck-Douglas Chapter No. 173 consolidated with June Chapter No. 343 on December 27, 1987 and became June No. 343. June Chapter No. 343 surrendered their charter on October 14, 2002.)

This series on Saugatuck Historian May Francis Heath (MFH) will continue until the 50th anniversary of her death in September, 2011. The MFH Study Group continues to seek information, documents, photographs of May, her paintings, and personal recollections of Mrs. Heath. If you have any to share contact: Chris Yoder at 269-857-4327 or Marsha Kontio at 616-566-1239.

Society Program & Member Activity Schedule for 2011

2011 Theme: "Our Village Life, Connecting You to Everyday Life of Past Times"
Using multiple venues and presentation strategies (exhibits, talks, programs, tours), the
"Our Village Life" program year 2011 aims to document, preserve, and present the
many layered history of "village life" in the Saugatuck-Douglas area since 1850.



February 9 Wednesday MONTHLY MEETING 7pm at the Old School House History Center "Village Food as Village History". Get a sneak peek into the Society’s as-yet-untitled "Food" book that will document our area’s long and delicious relationship with food. Kit Lane will recount stories she uncovered while researching the book. Stacy Honson will demonstrate one of her favorite "local" dishes.
March 9 Wednesday MONTHLY MEETING 7pm at the Old School House History Center "Tea With May: The May Heath Story". Presentation by Marsha Kontio (with the May Heath Study Group).
March 20 Sunday COMMUNITY GET-TOGETHER & SDHS BENEFIT "Spring Forward". Beginning at 6pm. Restaurant Toulouse, Downtown Saugatuck. Enjoy an dinner of comfort. After dinner there will be a game area for everything from card games, to dice games, charades, pictionary, etc. Click HERE for details.
April 13 Wednesday MONTHLY MEETING 7pm at the Old School House History Center "You Were There News Hour, 1850-1900: Storms and Saving Lives—Shipwrecks and Lifesaving Stories". Saugatuck High School Advanced Placement Language & Composition Class research project/collaboration with SDHS History Center/OSH exhibition "Rowing Them Safely Home".
Opening April 29 Through June 20 EXHIBIT Saugatuck Center for the Arts, Exhibit Gallery
"PIE. From Michigan Orchards to the American Dinner Table and a Factory for the Arts." This exhibit follows the village economy and the history of fruit growing, fruit export, and the adaptive re-use of old pie factory into a major art center. An SDHS exhibit in collaboration with the Saugatuck Center For the Arts. See related ”About It” talk at SCA—June 2.
May 11 Wednesday MONTHLY MEETING 7pm at the Old School House History Center "Anniversary Party" celebrating the Historical Society’s 25th Year - with the dedication of the "new" Union school as History Center and the first public viewing of the OSH Garden and Back-In-Time Walkway. Event will include the official opening of the SDHS Art Gallery.
May 15 Saturday MUSEUM HOSTS' ORIENTATION Saugatuck-Douglas Museum
Opening May 15 Through July 1 OLD SCHOOL HOUSE HISTORY CENTER EXHIBITION Exhibit of model "village places" built by students from Saugatuck-Douglas school's fifth and sixth grades. The student teams build models of "village places" as a way of documenting and understanding "village life." At the Old School House History Center, Douglas. See the Society’s website  for exhibit opening times.
"Just Add Water: The influence of Michigan’s lakes, rivers, ponds and streams on its culture and architecture" is the theme of the 2011 Michigan Historic Preservation Network Annual Conference - to be held in Saugatuck & Douglas with the SCA and the SDHS as conference hosts. Public invited.

The MHPN is Michigan's largest non-profit organization dedicated to recognizing and preserving Michigan’s cultural and architectural heritage. Each spring the Network sponsors the state’s largest annual preservation conference - offering a wide number of interesting sessions relating to the conference theme. The Conference Keynote speaker will be the Mayor of Grand Rapids, a well known advocate for architectural and land preservation.

May 19 Thursday MHPN "TWILIGHT WALKING TOUR" WINE AND CHEESE RECEPTION 6:30pm to 8:00pm at the Saugatuck-Douglas Museum
May 28 Saturday SDHS MEMBERS MUSEUM EXHIBITION RECEPTION 5:00pm-7:00pm at the Saugatuck-Douglas Museum
Opening May 28 Through October 30 EXHIBIT Saugatuck-Douglas Museum Through October 30 "A Village Patchwork: Tales of Everyday Life in Saugatuck-Douglas." Photographs, artifacts and text uncover the mysteries and stories of daily life in the Saugatuck area (1890-1950).
June 1 Wednesday SABA MEMBERS ANNUAL MUSEUM EXHIBITION RECEPTION 5:30pm to 7:30pm at the Saugatuck-Douglas Museum
Gallery Reception 5:00pm-7:00pm Collaborative Program with Saugatuck Center for the Arts
Every Wednesday, Friday,
Saturday & Sunday
WALKING TOUR OF HISTORIC DOWNTOWN SAUGATUCK 2pm starting at the Information Booth across from City Hall. Experience historic & Sunday Saugatuck on the 75 minute walking tour.
July 5, 12, 19 & 26 Tuesdays SAUGATUCK-DOUGLAS HISTORICAL SOCIETY’S TUESDAY TALKS  From 11am until Noon at the Old School House. Presentation will coordinate with this year’s Saugatuck-Douglas Museum’s exhibition - "Our Village Life". A person of expertise will share knowledge of a particular local historical subject.
July 13 Wednesday MONTHLY MEETING "From Fishing Tug, to Net, to Market and Fry Pan." A visit to historic fish shanties/docks and slideshow and fish dinner at a local restaurant
July 14, 28 Thursday DOUGLAS HISTORY TROLLEY TOURS Beginning at Beery Field Park Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society historians conduct the 25-minute tours of Douglas. 5:30 – 8:00 pm. In collaboration with City of Douglas “Community Summer Socials”
July 15, 16 Friday & Saturday SAUGATUCK-DOUGLAS HISTORICAL SOCIETY’S UPSCALE SALE At the Saturday Old School House History Center, Douglas. It's not a garage sale, its better, it's the UPSCALE SALE! The sale features high-quality antiques, collectibles, art, curiosities, knick-knacks, housewares and more. Preview and silent auction, Friday, July 15 and sale, Saturday, July 16
Every Wednesday, Friday,
Saturday & Sunday
WALKING TOUR OF HISTORIC DOWNTOWN SAUGATUCK 2pm starting at the Information Booth across from City Hall. Experience historic & Sunday Saugatuck on the 75 minute walking tour.
August 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30 Tuesdays SAUGATUCK-DOUGLAS HISTORICAL SOCIETY’S TUESDAY TALKS  From 11am until Noon at the Old School House. Presentation will coordinate with this year’s Saugatuck-Douglas Museum’s exhibition - "Our Village Life". A person of expertise will share knowledge of a particular local historical subject.
August 10 Wednesday SDHS ANNUAL PICNIC On the lawn of the Old School House History Center “Food as History” at OSH School Yard
August 11, 25 Thursday DOUGLAS HISTORY TROLLEY TOURS Beginning at Beery Field Park Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society historians conduct the 25-minute tours of Douglas. 5:30 – 8:00 pm. In collaboration with City of Douglas “Community Summer Socials”
September 17 Saturday FALL HERITAGE FESTIVAL. Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society presents the 8th annual Heritage Festival. "Visiting the Past: Village Life in Douglas and Saugatuck: Tour and Storytelling," Discover the rich historical heritage of the Saugatuck-Douglas area
October 12 Wednesday MONTHLY MEETING 7pm at the Old School House History Center "Ghost Story and Cemetery Night."
October 15 Saturday 2nd ANNUAL DINE AROUND TOWN BENEFIT. Ten homes-ten meals-ten guests. An evening of tasty fun and palatable fundraising.
October 30 Sunday ANNUAL VOLUNTEERS THANK YOU CHILI SUPPER at the Old School House History Center
November 9 Wednesday MONTHLY MEETING 7pm at the Old School House History Center “Our Veterans: Experiences Told and Historic Photos”
December 4 Sunday SDHS HOLIDAY PARTY At the SCA. Theme: "An Old Fashioned Village Holiday"


To become a member or renew your membership select from the following categories:

Individual $30
Household $50
Premium $250
Corporate $500
Life $1,000
Senior (65+) $20
Senior Household $35
Student $5

Send check payable to the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society to: PO Box 617, Douglas, Michigan 49406. You can also click HERE for a Society Membership Application.

Send items for the newsletter to: Fred Schmidt, PO Box 617, Douglas MI 49406 or email


The Saugatuck-Historical Museum is located in the historic Pump House at the foot of Mt. Baldhead on the west bank of the Kalamazoo River. The Museum's 2010 exhibit was titled:

"A Place Called Ox-Bow: 100 Years of Connecting Art, Nature, and People"

The Museum is now closed and will reopen in May 2011 with a new exhibit. Click HERE to learn more about the Museum and view images of the 2010 exhibit.

The Society's Technology Center is located in the lower level of the Old School House History Center at 130 Center Street in downtown Douglas.

Society Phone: 269 857-5751
Museum Phone: 269 857-7900
Tech Center Phone 269 857-7901

If you would like to contact us with comments, please email us at or call us at 269-857-5751.
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