JUNE  2012

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As part of the Society's Silver Anniversary Campaign, the Society Newsletters are being underwritten by a generous donation from Frances Vorys, a Society Life member.

Notes From Your President

The Annual meeting for the Saugatuck Douglas Historical Society was held on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. The following members of the Society were thanked for their special services toward the good of the organization.

Two members of the Board of Directors were honored for their service. Sally Winthers served two years as Secretary and "Great Thinker" and was honored for both. Sally was instrumental in graphics for the award winning cookbook and she was also instrumental in bringing the Society's Historical Chronicle into reality. Jon Helmrich was honored for serving four years as Vice President and for his Long Range Planning. Both Sally and Jon will be missed.

New members of the Board are Sharon Bauer, Secretary; Judi Vanderbeck, Event Coordinator; Ed Kelly, Membership; Sharon Kelly, Grants; Bill Underdown, Development; Ryan Kilpatrick and Renee Zita.

Others who were given BIG THANK YOUS were; Jim Schmiechen, Vic Bella, Bill Hess, Chris Yoder, Jack Sheridan and Ken Kutzel.

Ruth Johnson was honored for her six years of service to the Society in planning and executing the Back-In-Time Garden. Ruth spent many, many hours working on behalf of the Society. She worked in sunshine, in rain (and mud) and was honored with the Volunteer of the Year Award.

The Charles J. Lorenz award was presented posthumously to Harold Thieda and his wife Sandra Thieda accepted the award on his behalf. She was thanked for sharing Harold with the Society. Harold was in his fourth year as President and was the backbone of the Saugatuck Historic Walking Tours. He led the Society with a caring spirit and with respect. He will certainly be missed and remembered. It was also announced that Sandra had purchased a bench in Harold's memory and honor and the monies collected in the Memorial will be used to sustain the newly formed Art Gallery on the second floor, east side of Union School (Old School House).

The evening progressed to Kit Lane and her program on the story of the Michigan Titanic - The Chicora.

Refreshments were provided by Nancy Woods - wonderful treats!                           submitted by Marsha Kontio

Society's Monthly Meeting
7:00 pm, Wednesday, July 11
at the Old School House History Center

The Circus Comes To Douglas
with Bob & Kay Sapita
sponsored by Kathy Lehrer and
Travis & Sandra Randolph

Our summer spectacular. View the famous model circus and hear SDHS member Bob Sapita tell how this amazing circus was built -- with sound and animation leaving you spell bound. Circus time refreshments. The Model Circus will be on display at the Old School House until July 23

Bob and Kay Sapita with their model circus.

2012 Tuesday Talks
Village Visits

These fun and informal Talks will kick off on Tuesday, July 3 at the Old School House History Center in Douglas when the school bell rings at 11 AM and run through the end of August.

For only $125 you can be one of the two sponsors per Talk.


You will be acknowledged as one of the sponsors of the Talk on the press release, the Society's website, newsletter and at the Talk. Just REPLY to this email and we'll be in touch!

1. July 3 Lakeshore Life and Fruit Farming - Past and Present by Joan Donaldson, sponsored by Carolyn Richards
2. July 10 The Hungry Village: Exploring Agri-Business on the Lakeshores by David Geen

3. July 17 Goin Fishin. Lost Stories and the Big Catch by Mike Peel, sponsored by Howard & Paula Schultz and Kathy & Frank Wilson, BeachWay Resort & Hotel and Bayside Inn
4. July 24 Theater as History: The Red Barn Story by John Huyge, sponsored by Candice Lewis and Kathy & Frank Wilson, BeachWay Resort & Hotel and Bayside Inn
5. July 31 Re-Designing Douglas. Connecting People to a New Douglas by Ryan Kilpatrick, sponsored by Harbor Duck Adventures
6. August 7 Art Collection Secrets: Stories from the SDHS Art Archives by Ken Kutzel
7. August 14 Saved from a Slow Death: How Mom & Dad Saved Saugatuck's Pump House by Jay Shorey
8. August 21 Look. See. Hear. How Does Our Garden Grow? by Ruth Johnson, sponsored by Osman Flowers and Firs
9. August 28 Good Looking? The Art of Looking Good by Maryjo Lemanski, sponsored by Jim & Janie Flemming

Welcome New Members

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

l Julianne Fletcher, Saugatuck, MI
l Dave Brigham, Lansing, MI
l Sally Sparks & Paul Lewis, Bloomfield Hills, MI
l Dan McGavin, Fennville, MI
l Brian & Judith Baumbach, Fennville, MI
l Laurie Goshorn, Saugatuck, MI
l Alan D. Kercinik. Saugatuck, MI

Don't Miss the Back-In-Time Garden & Shipwreck Exhibit his Summer

Hours open through mid-August

Great article on the Historical Society in the Jun/Jul 12 issue of Urban Street Shore West magazine. Pick up a copy around town or click HERE to read the article.

Unveiling of a recently acquired Chicora artifact!

Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.

Ron Spengler and Mary Redford, Society Young Scholar, hold a wooden plaque with a portrait of the Graham & Morton lost steamship the Chicora burned into it.

The artist's name in the lefthand corner is Haine and the picture is dated 1896, a year after the Chicora was lost on Lake Michigan in a January storm. A large amount of wreckage washed ashore between Saugatuck and South Haven and it is likely that the wood for the plaque is a salvaged piece of this wreckage.

Spengler bought the plaque from a Hillsdale area man, restored it and presented it to the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society. It was unveiled following a presentation on the Chicora given by society member and author Kit Lane on June 13.                                  submitted by Kit Lane

Second "101" Coming Up

New - and old - members who want to learn about the history of the Society and the opportunities that it has to offer are invited to attend the second and final "101" session of the year.

It will be held on July 28th at the OSH History Center in Douglas, beginning at 10:00 a.m. For more information or to confirm that you will attend contact Nyla Hensley at 269-857-5704 or

White Run With A Splash Of Rainbow

Young Scholars Greg Farrand, Chad Mitchell & Jordan Hathaway are all colored up.

What’s better than viewing the scenery that is Saugatuck and Douglas? Getting covered in color with friends, family and the young scholars and the same time!

The Young Scholars program, through the Saugatuck Center for the Arts (SCA) and the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society (SDHS), will be hosting "White Run With A Splash Of Rainbow" on Saturday, August 18 at the Old School House on Center Street in downtown Douglas.

The young scholars (Jordan Hathaway, Chad Mitchell, Dustin Moore, Mary Redford and Greg Farrand), while interning for the 2012 summer, are hoping to create funding through the colorful walk/run event for future interns to participate in the Young Scholars program.

"We believe this event will be a great way to combine the arts of the Saugatuck-Douglas community and the Young Scholars program," Moore said. "The internship program offers a lot of great experience for college students in any field they're going into."

The festivities don't stop with the race, however. Show off your colorful new outfit while enjoying food, drinks, music and some amazing silent auction items.

For more information, contact Jordan Hathaway at 616-283-6441 or

The SDHS is proud to be competing in Allegan County's ArtsAlive competition for the first time this year, and would like to thank everyone who has already contributed for helping us climb the ladder to first place!

ArtsAlive is an arts and cultural competition between 14 local organizations. Organizations compete to see who can get the most votes. Each vote costs one dollar, and 100 percent of each dollar comes back to us at the end of the competition. Organizations in the top five get additional prize money.

As you know, every vote counts. As of week two, the Historical Society reached first place in the competition, but we haven't met our goal. Any funds you would like to contribute to the SDHS this year would help us even more if they were run through the ArtsAlive competition.

Since our organization can't vote for itself, we need you to send your donation to the Allegan County Community Foundation. Click HERE for a donation form. Simply fill it in and mail it along with your donation to Keep Your Arts Alive VOTES!, ACCF, 524 Marshal St., Allegan, MI 49010. Checks can be made out to ACCF for short. We will get 100 percent back at the end of the competition!

Of course, cash is welcome too. We have donation boxes at the Old School House and the Pump House Museum.

The competition ends September 13, so please don't hesitate to ask any questions you may have.

Questions can be directed to Chad Mitchell at or 248.930.6450.

Thank you for your consideration.

"The Village Table" Receives Award

The American Association for State and Local History has selected the SDHS publication The Village Table for a 2012 Award of Merit by the Leadership in History award committee.

The AASLH Leadership in History Award is the nation's most prestigious competition for recognition of achievement in state and local history. The award will be presented on Friday, October 5, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Keep The Barrel Rolling

The Friends of the Barrel will be marching in the 4th of July parade to raise awareness of the Douglas Root Beer Barrel restoration project. Come help the Friends make a big splash for the Barrel. Everyone is welcome!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Muster at the Saugatuck High School at 1:30 pm
The parade rolls at 2:00 pm.

To get your "Save the Barrel" T-shirt please visit the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum (the Pump House) or contact Chris Yoder at ASAP.

For information about the Barrel restoration, click HERE

The history of the Barrel is growing, click HERE for details

Friends of the Barrel on Facebook, click HERE

Large Turnout for Armed Forces
Day Luncheon

Thanks to everyone for making the Saugatuck-Douglas Area Armed Forces Day Luncheon on May 19th a great success. Armed Forces Day is a salute to our service members, past and present, first celebrated in 1949. Over 140 people turned out for the event held at the Saugatuck Masonic Lodge.

The SDHS was a co-sponsor for this event and our own premier historian Kit Lane gave a wonderful program with tales of local folks in the Civil War. Lester Schaffer of Douglas, Michigan's oldest Vet at 103 years young, joined in honoring his fellow servicemen and women. Lester was in the Army in the 1930's and was a sergeant during WWII.

Planning is in process for the 2013 event. Jim Schmeichen has committed to do his program on "The Dope", the WWII newsletter sent around the world to our local service members. Anyone who would like to help out with the efforts, please contact: Chris Yoder, 269-857-4327, email:  or Judy Mauger, 269-283-6958, email:

From the Archives
June 22, 1912

Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy

Saturday was a big day in Saugatuck, about 300 people from Holland, Grand Rapids, South Haven and Chicago going there to witness the launching of the new steamer Anna C. Wilson. As the steamer started to move down the ways, Miss Mary Randall, daughter of one of the owners broke the bottle of wine over the bow and christened the steamer.

The new boat will replace the John A. Aliber on the Saugatuck and South Haven run during the months of July and August, plying between Chicago and Saugatuck the remainder of the season.

From the pages of the Holland City News and the Holland Sentinel
                                               submitted by Mary Voss

Michigan Hometown Stories:

WGVU Public Media would like to thank the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society for its support of the Michigan Hometown Stories: Saugatuck/Douglas documentary project. We will be submitting updates every month in order to keep you informed about the progress of the project.

The WGVU production crew started taping around town beginning at the Historical Society’s annual Memorial Day Weekend reception. WGVU is a proud sponsor of the Great Lakes Lifeboat permanent exhibit. A crew was also on hand for a private tour of the Keewatin and was onsite when she made her departure from Saugatuck. We're trusting that WGVU crews will soon become a common and welcome sight around town!

In addition to a one-hour program, which will air on WGVU stations for many years promoting your beloved towns and businesses, the project will give-back to the area in many ways. This includes a new curriculum plan for teaching local history in our schools and an exciting history tool for use on smart phones and tablets. This tool will use archival information and photographs from the Historical Society and be available for all to use, share and upload additional content.

During the first phase of the project our goal was to receive the endorsement of key partners in the area. We are very pleased to have the following partners supporting the project:
l Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society
l Saugatuck/Douglas Area Business Association
l Saugatuck/Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau
l West Michigan Caterer
l Laketown Golf & Conference Center
l Saugatuck Public Schools
l International Broadcast Communications - Jon Helmrich
l Saugatuck Center for the Arts
l Rotary Club of Saugatuck/Douglas
l Michigan Humanities Council

On Saturday, June 9, 70 people gathered at the home of Patrick and Pam Murphy of Douglas for a fundraising reception. We'd like to thank all of those that attended and made a financial investment in the project. The project is still in the all-important development and fundraising phase, so we would appreciate your continued financial support!

Jon Helmrich (right) addressing guests at Patrick (left)
and Pam Murphy’s home

For more information about Michigan Hometown Stories: Saugatuck/Douglas or to make a donation to the project, please contact Chelsea Dubey at WGVU at (616) 331-6782 or or visit

Pictured at the May 26 Exhibition Opening with their life jackets on are Dean Batchelor, Dick Lyons, Dave Mauger and Al Lyon (L to R) who spent about 2,000 hours over two years restoring the 1854 vessel that once was at the Saugatuck lighthouse ready to pluck sailors from turbulent Lake Michigan. (Picture by Jim Hayden, Holland Sentinel)

For the complete Holland Sentinel article including more pictures and a short video of Jim Schmiechen thanking those who made the exhibit possible, click HERE.

2012 Membership Directory
Coming Soon

You should be receiving your 2012 Society Membership Directory before long. Look for it in your mailbox. For members who have not renewed their membership for 2012, this will be the last newsletter you will be receiving and unfortunately, your listing will not be in the new Directory.

Included with your Directory will be a copy of the Society's Historical Chronicle

If you would like more copies of the Historical Chronicle, they are available at the Old School, Museum and all advertiser locations.

Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.


From the first moment I saw the photos of the Avalon, I wanted to know more about it. You might say that this structure must have been the best seen cottage in Saugatuck. Poised on the skyline, on a stunning vantage point atop the high ridge that borders north Park Street across the river from Moores Creek. It commanded a view of both Lake Michigan and Lake Kalamazoo. To reach the location one must start up the road leading to the water reservoir located on the north shoulder of Mt. Baldhead. About fifty yards up, a branch of the road goes to the right and heads steeply up the front of the bluff overlooking the river. Immediately at the top are the remnants of the Avalon foundation. Unfortunately, today the view is lost to the surrounding foliage.

The history is interesting, especially so since we are now learning about the family that built it. The Avalon was built by William Harbert (1843-1920) and his wife Elizabeth Boynton (1845-1925) in 1905 for their daughter Corrine. Their home was in Evanston, Illinois but they obviously had affection for Saugatuck.

William Harbert was a successful attorney in Chicago. He founded the law firm of Harbert and Daley which specialized in right of way work for railroads in the period 1880-1910. As a personal investment, he bought a great amount of land in the Saugatuck area, including a large parcel surrounding the Avalon location.

Elizabeth Boynton was a PhD, a successful writer and was very highly regarded for her leadership activities in the National Woman Suffrage movement.

The great great grandson of the Harberts, Bill Frederick contacted me at the SDHS last April. He was here from California gathering information on the Harberts. He knew of the family connection with Saugatuck and wanted to see the town and the Avalon site. I was pleased to oblige him with a tour and we exchanged historical information.

I was anxious to know what happened to the Harberts and to the Avalon. Stay tuned for more in next month's newsletter.

Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.

                            submitted by


Welcome from Jack Sheridan leader of the Society Family History Group. The Group meeting schedule is the first and third Thursday of every month at 3:30 in the Old School House. Our next meeting is June 21st, Please join us to see what we are all about and most importantly, share "lessons learned" about the many tools available for family research.

Our standing offer to members: Send us information on a person and we will find them for you in the U. S. Census, maybe even a Canadian or English census.

In April 2012 the 1940 United States census data was released. The US census has been taken every ten years since 1790. By law each census cannot be released for public viewing for 72 years after it is taken. The 1940 census has a lot of pages - some 3.8 million and will take professional workers many months to index completely.

But, thanks to Chris Yoder one of the leaders of our technical team, you can browse the 1940 local census today! We have placed a copy of the census for Douglas (11 pages), Saugatuck (16 pages) and Saugatuck Twp (19 pages) on the SDHS web site. Just click HERE to view the 1940 census on the Society's web site.

Each month in this column I talk about a family history discovery. Such a discovery is called a EUREKA! moment. Here is one from my family history research experience.

The year was 1998 and I was struggling to learn a new PC and how to use it to surf the internet. One day, a good friend told me she had discovered her great grandparents on the Mormon Church genealogical web site. She was virtually dancing up and down with excitement. Wow!

So of course I had to start a search for my unknown ancestors using newly minted computer skills. My family history was largely unknown except for some very old photos and sketchy facts about a few great grand parents. My starting point was a New Hampshire local history book my brother purchased on a New England trip some twenty years before. The book said in 1830 in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, Betsy Fisk had married a James Sheridan. Hmmmm. The book contained information on the Fisk family - enough to start searching the Mormon data base.

And --- EUREKA! There it was, a Fisk family tree leading back to the Plymouth colony in 1643 and from there to England. I was stunned! This small step was to be the beginning of a long and rewarding search to discover and explore the Sheridan family roots.

Questions/comments: Contact me at: or (269) 857-7144.

Orra Shead, Early Allegan Settler

This year there's been a special SDHS focus on Great Lakes ship wrecks. The June monthly meeting featured the 1895 loss of the Chicora. A visit to the Old School House reveals displays and student art on many such wrecks, dating back to 1842. It seems appropriate to take a look at how a ship wreck on Lake Erie in 1838 brought tragedy to one pioneer Ganges family.

By the time New Yorker Orra Shead's purchase of 640 acres of land in Allegan County was recorded on May 1, 1839, he was already dead. He had drowned almost a year before while on his way back to New York to bring his family to their new home. Like Moses, he was not to enjoy his promised land, but his family did.

Orra Shead had been born about 1788 and was a resident of St. Lawrence County, NY. In 1814 he moved from nearby Russell, NY and built a grist mill at a place which originally was called "Shead's Mill" in his honor. Five years later, he added a saw mill. In 1819 Mr. Shead is shown as being a Lt. in Major James Howe's One Hundred and Eighty-fourth regiment of infantry.

The town was incorporated in 1827 under the name "Edwards" and Orra Shead was elected its first supervisor and postmaster. Orra married about 1816 to Nancy Shipman (b. c1796 in Vt., daughter of William Shipman and Molly Wilder). One record names Orra's father as having been a Daniel Shead (b about 1760). Orra and Nancy were to have the following children:

l Cornelia Shead Goodrich b. 2 Jul 1817 d. 5 Dec 1891 m. Dr. Chauncey Goodrich, Jr. both bur. Loomis Cem, Ganges, Allegan Co, Michigan
l Mary b. c1819
l Franklin O. Shead b. 1823 d. 18 Aug 1850 bur. Loomis Cem, Ganges
l Rhonda Shead b. 1825
l Louis Ashman Shead b 1830 d. abt 1915, Oakland; Alameda; Berkeley, California, USA, m. Lucinda H. Burns Mar. 17, 1852 and m. Lucy C. Goodrich Sep. 7, 1863, it also appears he had a daughter out of wedlock by Elnora T. (Plummer) Weed - Sarah Cornelia b. Jan. 17, 1853 (she married Charles Talbert Lee, died Jan 1, 1903 and is buried at Plummerville Cem.)
l Daniel Lindsey Shead 1833 d. ? m. Lucinda Kenneda Jan. 9, 1858
l Laura Amelia Shead Jewett 30 Nov 1837-22 May 1906 Allegan Vill., Allegan, Wife of Nathaniel Jewett, both buried Oakwood Cem, Allegan.

Mr. Shead came to Newark Twp (now Saugatuck Twp) in 1837 and bought his land. He was on his way back to New York to bring his family when the great lakes steamer Washington caught fire and sank in Lake Erie Jun.16, 1838. We can thank "Find A Grave" volunteers Linda C. Arthur (Orcutt) and Karen Kennelly for going to the Evans Center Cemetery in Erie County, NY, and taking this photo of Orra's now broken stone.

The 1840 census shows the widow and family still living in St. Lawrence Co., NY, but the family is in Ganges by 1850, listed two enumerations away from Harrison Hutchins. It seems the Shead acreage was located just east of the section on which the Loomis Cemetery is located today on 112th St. in Ganges Township. Nancy Shipman Shead, died Apr. 9, 1852 and is buried in the Loomis Cemetery.

Her stone there, like her husband's in New York, lies broken, but thanks to the efforts of descendants Ron Lee of Bella Vista, Arkansas and Aaron Plummer of Ganges, is soon to be repaired. Aaron has already been working on the Goodrich stones in Loomis, see photograph below

The Sheads were to be joined here by other New York neighbors. When Edwards, NY was incorporated, Asa Brayton Jr. was one of the town assessors. John C. Hale (Haile) was town clerk and held several other offices. Both of these folks were to have Allegan County connections. Asa's sister Hannah (c1780-1857) was married to Dr. Chauncey B. Goodrich of Fowler, NY who was to become the first physician in Saugatuck. He began his practice in 1842. Both Hannah and her husband are buried in the Loomis Cemetery. Their son Dr. Chauncey Jr, was to marry Cornelia, daughter of Orra Shead and his wife Nancy. John C. Haile's younger brother James C. Haile came to the lakeshore, south of Douglas, in the early 1830s and built a sawmill. He may have been the first of the Edwards, NY area folks to live in Ganges Twp. John and James were the sons of War of 1812 Brigadier General James B. Haile and Lucy Campbell.

Kit Lane provided these added facts about the Shead family: "According to HH Hutchins, Dan and Louis Shead were the inspiration for the first band in Ganges township, one played cornet and one the baritone horn. Lew Shed (Uncle Henry's spelling was erratic), was a partner in a shingle mill, and Dan Shed was a great pigeon hunter according to his nephew, H. H. Goodrich".                submitted 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 2012 exhibit is titled:

The Museum is open daily from noon until 4 pm through Labor Day and then on weekends from noon to 4 pm through October 28. Click HERE to learn more about the Museum and view images of the 2010 exhibit.

The Old School House History Center and Lifeboat Display at 130 Center Street in Douglas will be open daily through the summer from 11 am to 2 pm.

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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