Click HERE for printer friendly version with images


Haven't signed up yet? Not to worry. Just click HERE to download and print a 2011 Red & Silver Holiday Party Reservation Card. Fill in the information requested and send it along with your check to SDHS, PO Box 617, Douglas, MI 49406.


Look for your Membership Renewal letter coming to a mailbox near you. The Society's 2012 program promises to be bigger and better - don't be left out in the cold - RENEW your membership and be part of the greatest Historical Society on the lake shore.

Welcome from Jack Sheridan leader of the Society Family History Group. The Group usually meets on the first and third Thursday of every month at 3:30 in the Old School House. Group focus is on building family trees by learning and utilizing web based digital research techniques. Because of Turkey Season our next meeting is not until next month on Thursday December 1. Please plan to join us and see what we are all about.

This short feature will appear each month in the newsletter. Members plan to tell you about their rewarding and always exciting, family history discoveries. Here is this month’s blurb.

It was some thirteen years ago when a good friend told me that she had discovered her great grandfather on the new Mormon Church genealogical website! Hmmm, that sounded interesting to me and I was soon learning to use my new computer to search the Mormon IGI [International Genealogical Index] record database. It did not take long before I began to discover long lost great grandparents. My family tree was taking root!

In those days the IGI records were digitized but census records were on microfilm. Today these records – and many, many more - are digitized and available for study on line. And best of all, they are a mere “mouse click” away.

Making things easier for me was the fact that most of my ancestors came to this country way back. So their traces are easier to find here in the USA. But if you have to search back to the "old country" do not be discouraged, as that is very possible.

One of my EUREKA! moments came when after twelve years of work, and ten generations, I connected to my Mayflower ancestors. Building the family tree back to the Pilgrims 1620 landing was a long process, full of blind alleys, moments of discouragement until finally – wow – it was worth every bit of work and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I realize though, an amazing fact that keeps my head at normal size. There are an estimated 30 million people in our country today that are descended from the Mayflower passengers! I wonder how large is the group of family history buffs, in that 30 million, who have managed to follow their family history trail back in time to that little ship in Plymouth Harbor. A small percentage I am sure, but it is not at all an impossible task and what a neat challenge. A challenge just waiting for you to take it up!

Contributed by Jack Sheridan. Contact me at: or 269 857-7144.


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

l Mark Barrone, Fennville, MI
l David & Marcia Falconer, Nepean, Ontario, Canada
l Chuck Gustafson & Maria Droz, Douglas, MI
l Michael, Ruth, Thea & Jillian Johnson, Saugatuck, MI
l Stanley & Mary Mather, St. Joseph, MI


On the closing day of the 2011 Museum Exhibit, a BIG thank you
Chili Supper was held for the many Society volunteers at the
Old School House hosted by the Society Board of Directors.


The Commercial Record Announces We Are At War

Mary Olendorf remembers that when the attack occurred on Pearl Harbor, she was a junior in a private girl's school in Albany, New York:

"I was just petrified, it really jarred my life. This was the first time anything had broken my bubble. I was a "day hopper", a day student. We just lived five miles from the school. The teacher came in and announced it. And then within a year the boys I had known were all going to war and being killed. It was another life I had never seen. After that we were rolling bandages and planting Victory Gardens and all that. I was a war bride too. Bill was in the Navy and he was headed for Japan when the Atomic bomb was dropped, and they got half way over and then the ships were all turned around".

Yvonne (Mokma) Koppenaal was in the kitchen of her parent's home in Holland, when her mother told her that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. She thinks she had just gotten home from school, so it much have been Monday after the Sunday attack. They learned later that one of her neighbors several houses up the street, Robert Falcon, was in the Army and on-base in Hawaii, and spent the attack on top of a roof with a machine gun, firing at the enemy aircraft.

                                              contributed by Chris Yoder


"Mr. Krehbiel 's studio was in a building on what would be the north end of Ship 'N Shore. They moved the building across the river. In the 20's there was a dining room out over the water called the Pokagon Inn. And that was when Mrs. Ruley ran the Beachway Hotel, and she had that dining room down there, and they moved it across the river and set it on the piece of property there, what would be the north end of Ship 'N Shore now, the south side would have been the Tourist Home Hotel. Al Krehbiel had his studio in there, because I used to model for him, pose for him and some of his students, just a kid- ten years old or so."

The Krehbiel Studio, Water Street, Saugatuck

Mr. Krehbiel 's studio was referred to as the "A.K. Studio." Thanks to Jack Sheridan for compiling this comparative view of the building as a restaurant (on the west shore), and later as a studio (on the east side of the river) .

One of the memories recorded by visitors to the 1998 exhibit "Heroes, Rogues and Just Plain Folks" was by her son Stu Ruley who tells of his mother operating the Holiday Hill and Beachway back in the teens. Mrs. Ruley baked donuts and Stu and his brother, David, carried them dawn the hill in a laundry basket to the Ferry Store (Mae Heath's Store). Mrs. Ruley received 10 cents per dozen for them.

Albert Henry Krehbiel (1873 - 1945), was an American artist who was born in Denmark, Iowa and who taught, lived and worked for many years in Chicago. His entry on Wikipedia says:

"Krehbiel was a member of the faculty at The Art Institute of Chicago for 39 years and at the Armour Institute of Technology (later Illinois Institute of Technology after merging with the Lewis Institute) for 32 years. In 1926, he helped pioneer the Chicago Art Institute Summer School of Painting (later named Ox-Bow) in Saugatuck, Michigan, where he spent most of his remaining summers teaching and painting. In 1934, Krehbiel opened his own summer school of art in Saugatuck called the AK Studio. When able to break away from his students, he would capture the surrounding rolling hills and the Kalamazoo River in oil, watercolor, and pastel. He would often visit Saugatuck in winters to portray the area in its vast and billowing cover of snow."

Krehbiel in his AK School. Saugatuck, Michigan, 1940.
                                   contributed by Chris Yoder


Project director Jim Schmiechen with Agio Imaging production team finishing installing mural based on painting by Michigan artist Randal Higdon and mural design by Kristi Mueller - with addition of names of 100 lake Michigan shipwrecks being pulled into the waters. The ship is the Chicora which was wrecked in January of 1895. The waves are to scale.

Many members and friends have already had a sneak preview of the society's famed Gallinipper lifesaving boat of 1854 in its new home with the long-anticipated lifesaving-shipwreck display, which includes a 47-foot mural of the shipwreck of the Chicora in 1895.

This permanent display, "Rowing them Safely Home", was conceptualized, written, and designed by Kristi Mueller and Jim Schmiechen - with help from Mr. Shaw's Advanced Placement English class, artist Randall Higdon of Coloma, and John Capotosto of Agio Imaging. A part of the display tells the interesting story of the boat's rescue and restoration by a team of Society volunteers.

Thanks go out to the donors of the Society's garden-lifeboat fund. The mural production was underwritten by a special gift from WGVU television. The display includes 9 beautiful and interesting (and large) display panels that tell the story of lifesaving and shipwreck on Lake Michigan. The total display was also supported by a grant from the Institute of Library and Museum Services Museums for America program.

Jim Schmiechen says "I have had the thrill of seeing over 15 spectacular SDHS history displays go up, but this one absolutely sent me over the top." A formal opening of the boathouse display is being planned for spring of 2012 - at which time the smart phone 'apps' accompanying the panel stories will be operative.

Nellie Mueller, Thea Johnson, and Henry Mueller inspect the "Gallinipper" in front of the mural of the Chicora at the Lifeboat display.


WGVU announces the launch of a new series of documentaries focusing on the communities in West and Southwest Michigan titled Michigan Hometown Stories. WGVU has partnered with The Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society to produce the first in the series of documentaries, Michigan Hometown Stories: Saugatuck/Douglas.

Every Michigan city and town has stories to tell-stories that offer unique and intriguing glimpses into Michigan’s past.  Stories like these are the focus of a new television series called Michigan Hometown Stories, produced by WGVU. Michigan Hometown Stories will focus on Michigan history, one community at a time, bringing the history of those places to life for West and Southwest Michigan and beyond.

While geography lays the first stone of destiny, people build on that foundation, creating communities where lives become connected to place.  Michigan Hometown Stories are stories of our hometowns, and how they’ve made Michigan what it is today.

"The Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society is thrilled to be one of the key endorsers of the first Michigan Hometown Stories with WGVU. Our staff, volunteers, and expansive archive on local history will be integral to making the documentary project a success for WGVU and West Michigan. It is a real honor to bring the rich and exciting history of Saugatuck and Douglas to the public television audience. We value our relationship with the WGVU team and look forward to working with them to make this exciting a project a success." Jon Helmrich, Vice President, Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society.

"We are pleased to launch our Michigan Hometown History Series with our friends in Saugatuck and Douglas.  The enthusiastic response of our partners from the Saugatuck /Douglas Historical Society and other community groups make it a perfect fit to kick-off this service. We look forward to sharing the rich history and captivating stories that the Saugatuck/Douglas area has to offer" says Ken Kolbe, Assistant General Manager, WGVU Public Media.

Michigan Hometown Stories: Saugatuck/Douglas is a partnership between WGVU Public Media, Saugatuck/Douglas Historical Society, Saugatuck/Douglas Business Association, Saugatuck/Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau, Saugatuck Public Schools, International Broadcast Communications, and the Saugatuck Center for the Arts. 

Don't forget to attend the launch Michigan Hometown Stories: Saugatuck/Douglas at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts on Thursday, November 17 starting at 6 pm.


Brent Birkholz, Jim Schmiechen, Vic Bella and Duane Brown
stand at the site of the Root Beer Barrel which has been
moved to winter storage for restoration.


Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.

The Bridge and The Bridges

I often think of this photo as I drive from Saugatuck to Douglas over this causeway, looking out on the river and down on the turtle pond and condos perched on what was once the road. The sandsucker in the photo lying out on the water was a monster machine that sucked silt off the river bottom and pumped it through floating pipe to create much of the fill you see. The structures on the right are the Twin Gables Hotel – still with us today.

Seventy five years later, now we drive on top of the causeway and sit on it while awaiting the green light to cross on the single lane to Douglas due to the bridge rebuilding. A good time to remember the history.

Depending on how you define bridges there have been a number of them between Saugatuck and Douglas. The first was located in Saugatuck where the chain ferry crosses now. The next was fifty yards north of where it is today and of course the present freeway bridge to the southeast. The photo was taken in the summer of 1936 and at that time this causeway was the biggest fill project in the whole State. The new bridge was under construction to the left and not visible in this photo. The bridge and causeway replaced the 1901 bridge that was actually two bridges. On the Saugatuck side and visible in this photo is a steel truss bridge. Small boats could pass beneath it but the water was probably shallow. Then there was a causeway of maybe a hundred yards leading to the main bridge which was a swing bridge over the deep channel. It was about seventy feet in length and pivoted on a piling in the middle of the channel. It was opened with a geared lever powered by an attendant who lived in a house next to the bridge.

In 1869 there was nothing but the river flowing around and through the Clipson Bayou. Then bridge building began in 1870. The photo below will be discussed next month --- stay tuned.

Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.

                            submitted by


Do you know that the SDHS has over 170 oral histories available as digital recordings? These video interviews were done as long ago as the mid 1990's and have all been converted to digital media. Many of the subjects are no longer with us, like: Sylvia Randolph, Pauline Reiser, Garth Wilson. Bea Finch, Johnson Fox, and Carl Wicks. Their faces and voices, however, remain behind and continue to tell their stories. Click HERE to view a full index.

These oral histories can be viewed at the Old School House. And if you are interested in a copy, they are available on DVD ($5 for members, and $10 for non-members). For information contact Judy Mauger at: 616-283-6958.


1944 photo of Stanley Mather

Stanley Mather of St. Joe Michigan (descendant of the Saugatuck Mather family) recalls: "I was going to college at Michigan State. That weekend I was invited down to Notre Dame to a football game. My friend Bob McGargle had a brother going to school there. We ate among the ball players and I recall that I had to look up to see their faces, they were humongous. As we were driving back to East Lansing, it came across the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked." He and his brother both were later drafted. His brother Howard flew B-29s "over the Hump" in India. Howard died on Tinian Island in an air crash in 1945, one month before the bomb went off and his remains rest in the family plot at Saugatuck's Riverside cemetery. Howard had been in the same squadron as the Enola Gay. Stanley's wife Mary had gone out to the family ranch in Eastern Colorado with her Dad. She also heard the news over the car radio while driving back from Colorado.

                                                 contributed by Chris Yoder


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-Douglas Historical Society History 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 was titled:

The Museum is now closed. 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.
We appreciate the opportunity to send you the Society's news and events information. If for any reason you wish not to receive
additional notices, please click on the "UNSUBSCRIBE" option below.