MAY  2011

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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

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.

Private showing for Society members, Wednesday, May 18 from 6-8 pm at the Old School House, Click HERE for details.

Thursday-Saturday, May 19-21
"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.

Thursday, May 19
6:30pm to 8:00pm at the Saugatuck-Douglas Museum

Friday, May 20
7:30pm at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, Jim Schmiechen will receive the Michigan Historic Preservation Network's highest honor, the "Lifetime Achievement Award." Please REPLY to this email if you plan to attend.

Saturday, May 21
MUSEUM HOSTS' ORIENTATION Saugatuck-Douglas Museum

Saturday, May 28
SDHS MEMBERS MUSEUM EXHIBITION RECEPTION 5:30pm-7:30pm at the Saugatuck-Douglas Museum

Open May 29 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).

We Need Your Help to Make the 2011 Upscale Sale Collection A Success

This years' Upscale Sale will be held on Saturday, July 16 with the preview event the prior evening. The sale 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.

Our members' donations are a key to the success of this major SDHS fund raising event.

A reminder - 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 (60% to seller and 40% 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.

E-mails will be sent to all members with information about time and location for donation collection in early June. For additional information or questions, REPLY to this email or call (269) 857-5751.


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

l Betsy Kubota, Saugatuck, MI and Schaumburg, IL
l Tom & Donna Farrington, Douglas, MI
l Mark Neidlinger & Steve Merouse, Douglas, MI and Chicago, IL - returning after too long an absence


Daffodils Blooming at Waugon Gravesite

One of the local gravesites visited last fall by a band of bulb planters was the unmarked plot of Benjamin John Waugon and his family. Benjamin Waugon, age 35, died of pneumonia at Lansing, November 11, 1916. His obituary lists him as "the full-blooded grandson of Chief Pokagon of the Pottawattamies, whose father Leopold ceded to the Government in 1833, over one million acres of land on which Chicago now stands. His death brings to a close the distinguished family of Pokagon, all of whom lived in the vicinity of Saugatuck and are buried here, with the exception of Chief Pokagon ---" who is buried at the Rush Lake Indian Cemetery near Hartford in Van Buren County.

Benjamin Waugon, who was unmarried, was educated in the Saugatuck Schools and finished at the Haskell Institute in Kansas (an Indian school). He was raised in the Saugatuck area and "spent his young manhood with his parents at Indian Point." He had training as a machinist and at time of death worked for the Reo Automobile factory in Lansing.

His brother Frank Waugon, age about 21, died February 24, 1907 from pneumonia, and the obituary notice in the Commercial Record reported "John Waugon who lives near the bayou received a message Monday announcing the death of his son Frank, who had been attending school in Arkansas the past year". Frank's remains were returned to Saugatuck for burial. Their father John Waugon (1850-1909) and his wife Mary Snay Shashagquay Waugon (1848-1915) also rest in this unmarked plot.

What were the details of the Waugon family and its connection to Chief Pokagon? As with most things dealing with local history, you can't dig far without coming upon the work already done by our master historian Kit Lane. She writes of the Waugon and related Indian families in her book "Saugatuck Visitors". The Pottawatomie Census of 1895 lists John Waugon, age 36, living in Saugatuck, as the son of a Waw-o-gun, b. about 1820 of Lake City, MI. His sons Benjamin age 12 and Frank age 10 are shown, and it's written for each of them "lives with Simon Pokagon at Lee, MI". No wife is shown for him, but Mary Shashagway age 60 is listed separately with two Shashagway children - Joseph and Frances.

A HERALD-PALLADIUM newspaper article of 1977 said of Simon Pokagon "During his lifetime he became known as the best-educated full-blooded Indian in North America and was called "the Redskin Bard," "the Longfellow of his Race." He visited President Lincoln on two occasions and smoked a pipe-of-peace with President Grant." "A pauper at the time of his death, he was 69 years old. Chief Pokagon --- lived in slab shanties around 60th and 109th Avenue, near Pullman, Lee Township Allegan County Michigan." This location seems likely to be where his grandsons lived with him in 1895. Simon Pokagon died in 1899.

Kit Lane writes "Simon Pokagon and his first wife Lonidaw (or Angela or Angelique) Sinagaw had four children: Cecilia, William, Charles and Jerome and the mother died at the age of 35 --- Another source says that the lone daughter Cecilia (also sometimes called Hazeleyes, Teresa, or Sarah) "died young" in accident that had something to do with two drunken white hunters and a boat, but I am beginning to wonder if she, perhaps, had two children before she died -- Ben and Frank". Her speculation seems confirmed by the marriage records on file in Allegan County which show:

CACEILIA - POGAGON -- m -- JOHN - WAGON -- 01 FEB 1887 

The date appears to be a "recording" of the marriage as both sons were born before this time. The story of Cecelia's drowning can be read in Chief Pokagon's book "Queen of the Woods" which can be read on-line at the SDHS web site (Thanks to Google books).

The wording of Benjamin's obituary makes it seem like he was the last of the Pokagon line. Kit Lane writes "After his first wife died Simon Pokagon married again. His second wife was called Victoria, and the two had an indeterminate number of children -- some accounts say as many as four." His death certificate records that he had 9 children, only 1 of whom was living as of 1899. While we have not succeeded in putting together a complete tree for Simon Pokagon, we know that an obituary for WWII veteran Frank Shagonoby (Shagonabe) refers to him as having been a grandson of Chief Simon Pokagon. Frank died in 1971, age 56, and is buried at Oakwood cemetery in Allegan. One Michigan death certificate gives a hint. It shows a stillborn baby born/died Jan. 2, 1916 to John Shagonaby and Mary Pokagon of Paw Paw Twp, Van Buren Co, MI. A number of Shagonaby family members are buried at the Douglas Cemetery.
                                                 contributed by Chris Yoder

"A Village Patchwork: Everyday Life in Saugatuck and Douglas" the 2011 exhibit at the Pumphouse Museum of the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society will concentrate on village life outside of summertime activities.

"It is natural to want to display summertime activities," said curator Kit Lane." The area is a delight when the water is sparkling and the sand is warm, but there are another nine months of the year. Summer visitors have often asked us what happens in Saugatuck in the wintertime. This is a partial answer to the question."

The exhibit, designed by Judy Hillman and Sally Winthers, includes many photographs of fall, spring and snow-related activities, and groups of residents meeting together, including the almost-championship football team of 2010. In addition the archives were searched for artifacts of working and living --not just resorting.

The high school contributed decorated boxes, in the style of Joseph Cornell, displaying additional artifacts, and there is one entire wall covered with old birdseye views of the villages.

The Village Table A Delicious History of Food in the Saugatuck-Douglas Area
By Stacy Honson and Kit Lane
Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society, 2011

This new book celebrates the Saugatuck-Douglas area by exploring its food: what the settlers found, what was fished, what was gathered and grown, what each wave of newcomers brought, what the restaurants served to visitors, and what we eat today.

Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the food scene and concludes with a selection of menus and recipes that favor locally-available ingredients.

This richly illustrated book is a great gift for anyone who loves history, cooking, or understanding local food. Copies are available at the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum.

You can also REPLY to this email or call Fred Schmidt at 269-857-1620 to order your copy. Soft bound books are $35 and are individually shrink-wrapped. A limited edition of hardbound books will also be available at $125. Sales tax and shipping are not included.

Chicken Dinners a Summer Feature

Until at least 1930, one item that appeared on every menu during the resort season was fried chicken. When asked why fried chicken was a particular Saugatuck thing, an old timer responded that it wasn’t just Saugatuck – it was a "summertime thing."

In northern climates it was too cold in the winter to incubate 

eggs and raise the peeping chicks. Chicks were hatched only in the spring and summer. Hence, a chicken was only young and tender enough for frying in the summer and early fall. In winter the more mature chickens were stewed or cooked into pies.

The June 11, 1920 Commercial Record carried an advertisement for the Leland Tea Room noting: "Special Chicken Dinner for Tourists and Home People $1.50." The Leland Tea Room, a project of Thornton Leland and his son, E. L. "Lee" Leland, was located in the Leland Building on Butler Street. It was quite an elegant restaurant with a French chef. Its gray-and-lavender décor featured a dozen live caged canaries, which sang both for their suppers and the customers.

The Village Table is published in conjunction with the 2011 exhibition: A Village Patchwork: Everyday Life in Saugatuck-Douglas and is supported by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information about The Village Table, contact Sally Winthers, 269-543-2112 or

Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.

Wallace Kirkland Life Magazine Superstar.

The summer of 1954 was a busy one for the Simonson Photo Studio. A steady stream of customers brought in rolls of vacation snapshots for our 24 hour service. The Studio [founded by Herman Simonson in 1906] was located in the middle of the first block of Culver Street in Saugatuck. Carlton and Irene Simonson were the owners. Sixteen year old Jack Sheridan [that's me] was their only employee and my job was to wait on counter customers and assist in the processing of film. It was my third summer working at the studio and living across the street with my Grandmother, Sarah Sheridan.

Our most prestigious and interesting customer was Wallace Kirkland, renowned photographer for Life Magazine and summer resident at Oxbow. I still remember his smile and his flat top crew cut. Mr. Kirkland would frequently bring in multiple rolls of film. His photo subjects were sand spiders and nudes! The spiders were photographed – closeup - as they moved out of a sand hole to attack passing prey. The nudes were photographed posing in a heavily wooded glade. Shadow patterns created by sunlight through the leaves on the female form were most interesting - especially to my teenage eyes!

The gentleman below was a mover and shaker - no doubt a very strong personality! Find out about him next month.

                                           submitted by Jack Sheridan                                    


"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. I work during the week so I miss the Tuesdays Talks and the Monthly meetings. Can these programs be moved to the weekends?

A. Society membership is wide and varied, including singles, families, snowbirds and year-round residents. Many members, like yourself, work 9 to 5; others are retired. To best serve the most members, some SDHS programs are offered during the week, while others (like the Holiday Party, Members Museum Opening Reception, and Heritage Festival) are held on weekends.

Editor's note: We will ask the 2012 program group to consider the request. Also, we need more volunteer help in organizing and presenting programs. Can you help?


Lt. James Avery (1832-1911) - Riverside

Horace G. Welch (1857-1932) - Douglas

Stella Tobey ( - 1866) - Taylor Cemetery

Here are a few more results from last fall's project to plant a Dozen Daffodils for the Dearly Departed (D4). This project selected "orphans" in the Douglas, Riverside and Taylor Cemeteries (people who either have no living family, or whose family has moved away) to remember with a spring time bouquet. Click HERE to see the list of names. Thanks to our bulb donors (including HuntTree) and our bulb planters. Hope to do it again in the fall with a new batch of "orphans" (Nominees and volunteers welcome- contact Chris Yoder, or call: 857-4327).

May Heath - Artist

May and Her Art
Photo Taken By Nat Steinberg Several days Before Her Death

Doc Heath did not think much of May's interest in Art. According to great-grandson Bill Bleeker, it was only after he had passed on that she was able to take lessons and start to paint. His cousin Lisa Nash writes: "We heard this story from our mother, Bette Barron Diaz. She would say Nanan told her 'I loved the idea of painting so much, I was happy to wait for a time when I could enjoy it without interruption.' That sounded like Nanan to me --- happy to find a solution that worked for others, but making sure she got what she wanted!"

This is not to say that May was completely idle during the previous years. It's impossible to be disconnected from the arts in a community like Saugatuck. When the Commercial Record of July 24, 1931 announced the opening of "the first art gallery established in the village of Saugatuck", Mrs. D. A. Heath "presided over the punch bowl". May was involved in the Arts Balls of 1934 onward, and was a hostess at receptions for the Cora Bliss Taylor Art School in 1935. In the "Living Art" program of the Student Art Show in 1936, May won Third Prize for her pose as a Godey print.

But her life as a painter did not begin until she was 78 years old. She joined an art class at Lake Worth, Florida, where she had spent the winters for many years. Her diary records her first lesson on Jan. 9, 1951 and that the first study was poinsettias. Once started, she tackled it with a passion. On the 10th she painted 3 hours in the morning, on the 12th from 9 to 12, another lesson on the 17th, paints again the 18th, 19th (finished poppy), another lesson the 23rd (doing red birds and roses), paints more the 25th, 29th, the 31st. And on she went ---

On her 80th birthday, May 13, 1953, May held a "one man show" of the 27 paintings she had completed over the previous two years. In an article which appeared in the Grand Rapids newspaper, it referred to her as "somewhat of a Grandma Moses of Saugatuck" (an interesting comparison as in her family papers is a letter she wrote to the real "Grandma Moses"- but no reply). She is quoted "Every artist and would-be artist dreams of someday having a one-man show, I've had mine." She greeted 275 guests at the Saugatuck Woman's Club building. May's diary records that "people came from Douglas, Allegan, Muskegon, and Holland, etc. Such a happy crowd."

Mrs. Heath was a realist when it came to art and said "When I paint something I want people to recognize the subject" We have collected copies of several of her works during this memorial project::

Unsigned but Labeled "First lesson with Lona"


Fishing Dock

Heathcote in Snow

Fishing Shack

Woodland Path


The Ferry


Sand Dune

Thank you to those who have shared photos of their May Heath paintings. If you have or know of the locations of other of her works, please contact Chris Yoder, of call 857-4327.                               contributed by Chris Yoder


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

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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 2011 exhibit is titled:

The Museum will reopen in May 29, 2011 with the 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

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