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Again this year, the Society Newsletters are being underwritten by a generous donation from Frances Vorys, a Society Life member.

Upcoming Dine Around Events: A Delicious Series of Dinners and Parties
to support the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society
From gourmet dinners in exclusive homes to casual cocktail parties, these culinary events feature great food and great times for a great cause.


A Pleasant Evening
on Pleasant Street

Saturday, May 17 | 7:00 pm

Linda & Dick Riekse and John Cannarsa & Tim Straker will host twin cocktail parties in their homes. Park once and visit two wonderful Pleasant Street properties filled with appetizers, drinks, friends and fun. $50 per person

On the Cusp of Summer
Saturday, June 14 | 7:00 pm

Celebrate the seasonal transition with cocktails and dinner at the home of Jerry Carpency and Doug Turner. Meander the grounds and sip drinks on the terrace while taking in sweeping views of the Kalamazoo River Marshlands below. Meal prepared by Christine Ferris. $150 per person

Dine around events sell out quickly.
Save yourself from worry or disappointment
by reserving your spot at the table right now.
Call 269-857-5751 or email

Renew Your 2014 Membership On-Line

If you haven't renewed your SDHS membership for 2014, do it today. It's easy to renew your membership on-line. Just click HERE to Keep History Alive

Join us for the Historical Chronicle's 3rd Year!!

For a 3rd year, the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society will print the broadsheet, old style, newspaper called the Historical Chronicle. As you may know, this is a publication that is intended to amuse and inform our visitors about our history and promote our local businesses. 20,000 copies of the Chronicle are printed and handed out at businesses, B&Bs, hotels, the Pump House Historical Museum, the Old School House, and many other places that visitors frequent.

Ad pricing starts as low as $100 and the Chronicle will be handed out all summer long.

Join us in supporting the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society and our community!

Click HERE for 2014 Ad Rates and details.

Contact Kay Reckley, Editor at or 616-283-1109 with any questions.

Welcome from Jack Sheridan and Chris Yoder leaders of the Society Family History Group. Our regular meeting schedule is the first and third Thursday of every month. Upcoming meetings are:

Thursday, February 20
Thursday, March 6

Please join us to see what we are all about and most importantly, share "lessons learned" about the many tools available for family research.

Believe it or not, somewhere around 10% of you, the readers of this column have a great grandparent that came to this country on the Mayflower! Based on genealogical arithmetic, this is a good estimate. So depending on the size of our readership the number might be one hundred or so.

Now the bigger question. How many of the one hundred know that? Very few! If you know or have good reason to believe you are a Mayflower descendant please let us know. If you would like to determine that you have a Mayflower grand parent, the SDHS Family History Group is the place to start.

A few of the basic facts on the subject are:

There are twenty nine adult Pilgrims known to have descendants.

The Mayflower Society has garnered the results of extensive research on the first four generations of Pilgrim descendants from 1620 to the mid 1700s. In addition they have a database of submissions of descendants requesting Mayflower Society membership. These submissions have been proven and accepted by the Mayflower Society.

For a small fee the Society will confirm that your tree [or portions thereof] agrees with proven and accepted family trees.

It is estimated that there are as many as thirty million Mayflower descendants in our country!

I must stress that your family history does not have to have any connection to the Saugatuck-Douglas area !!!

If you need a really painless jump start - record what you know about your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents and send it along for a review by Chris Yoder or myself. The snail mail address is SDHS Family History, Box 617, Douglas, Michigan 49406, or email a copy to either or Give us time for an initial assessment.

We will soon be back to you with readily found data and with suggestions on the next steps to take. Further help is always available from the Family History group. Again, the only requirement is membership in the SDHS.

Still wondering? Questions/comments/advice/needs - contact 269 857-7144 Chris Yoder 269 857-4327.

This newsletter column is written by Jack Sheridan.

Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy

The William "Bill" Simmons story

Last week I browsed Bill Simmons' photos for the umpteenth time. The more I look at them the more I treasure them!

Many readers of this column know the history of Bill and his photos. For those who do not, the history is worth relating again.

Recently I have done a bit of digging into his family history and have set up a brief family tree in the SDHS collection.

Bill died here in 1966 at the age of seventy five. Working with the help from census data, I see he was born in Neodesha, Kansas in 1891, the son of George Simmons and Myrtle Moore Simmons. His father George, born in Illinois, was a railroad conductor, probably sent to Neodesha by the railroad. Mother Myrtle was born in northeastern Indiana.

By 1910 the family is in Ellsworth, Kansas. George is now a railroad brakeman, son Bill driving a livery truck. There are two younger siblings, Russell and Ruth. In 1920, they are in Terre Haute, Indiana where George is again a conductor and Bill is the managing editor of the Greater Terre Haute Club. Looking at the 1930 census, the family is living in Chicago, George is a conductor and Bill is a newspaper reporter. The other children have left the household but Bill is living with his parents. I was unable to find him in the 1940 census but I do find a 1942 WWII draft registration record. His address is Ellis Avenue, Chicago, his mother a personal contact and his employer is Time Inc.

The rest of the story is drawn from my memory bank. Bill began coming to Saugatuck on a regular basis about 1940 and within a few years moved here permanently. In Chicago he had been a reporter and photographer, at least part time for Time Inc. He loved photography and sharpened his skills here. Also a reporter, he was twice editor of the Commercial Record. He had his own portrait photo studio of sorts and also did commercial photography for advertising illustrations. He produced things like local directories and event calendars.

I have the sense that he was reserved and well liked. Many of his photos are of people, he loved to shoot the pretty girls a good example is the Ed Mar Seabee shot above. Though that photo is an exception to his usual scene treatment most people in his shots are looking away from the camera.

The SDHS has some 2000 negatives shot by him and donated by a family member in 1998. A few years later, digital technology made it possible to turn the negatives to viewable positive images. The expertise of Dick Haight made this possible and that project was the reason for my initial involvement with the SDHS.

The photos made possible a time trip for me back to the mid century Saugatuck of my youth. What a pleasure they have been. I am so lucky!

Many of the Bill Simmons' images are available for your viewing on the SDHS website and in the SDHS book OFF THE RECORD.

Next month we will travel back in time to the Big Pavilion movie theater.

This newsletter column is written by Jack Sheridan.

Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy

News from the Archives

A photo of the Chain Ferry ca 1920
(Click on the image for a higher resolution copy)

2014 Monthly Programs and Tuesday Talks Line-Up

If you would like to sponsor one of the Monthly Programs, please REPLY to this email and we'll be in touch. Sponsorships are $150


l March 12, Last Stop Saugatuck with Norm Krentel
The History of the West Michigan's Interurban Train
l April 9, Extreme Yachts and Classic Boat Restoration with Jonathon Reus
Inside Saugatuck's Macatawa Bay Boat Works
l  May 14, Dunelands Diary with April Scholtz
A Naturalist Takes Us Behind the Scenes at the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area  Sponsored by Sharon Kelly
l June 11, To the Dunes with The Hiking Group
Photos & Stories from the State Park Hiking Group
l July 9, From Branch to Basket: At the Pleasant Hill Farm with Joan Donaldson
l August 13, Picnic + Gallinipper Talk + Beer with Jim Schmiechen
l September10, Country Life: The Felt Estate on the Midwest Riviera with Patty Meyer
l October 8, Tales from the Cemeteries with Kit Lane and Marsha Kontio
l November 12, Michigan's Hottest Town Revised with Mike Sweeney
l December 14,  Holiday Party at the SCA

If you would like to sponsor one of the Tuesday Talks, please REPLY to this email and we'll be in touch. Sponsorships are $150


l July 1, Bee Garden Buzz ("MisBeeHiving") with Ruth Johnson & others
l July 8, Maryjo Gets You to Talk About Art with Maryjo Lemanski Sponsored by Sharon Kelly
l July 15, The River and Harbor: A Status Update with Bob Sapita
l July 22, Houses on the Move: Four Historic Restoration Stories (Presenters to be determined)
l July 29, Birds of the Dunelands with Rick Brigham Sponsored by Sharon Kelly
l August 5, Tales of the Silver Screen with Mike Sweeney and Mary Ann Curtis
l August 12, Arriving In Style: The Automobile (and Bus) as Saugatuck & Douglas History with Jim Schmiechen
l August 19, What Did You Do Last Summer? with Ruth Johnson, Kids Summer Camp Review
l August 26, Gangster Stories: Fact or Fiction - Bring Your Story with Jim Schmiechen, Kit Lane and the Audience

Garden Happenings

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant."
                                            --- Anne Bradstreet

It has been a long time since we've had a true Michigan winter. Let's not complain for this is what our gardens need! and believe it or not, there is an end in sight. The days are getting longer and the birds are really starting to sing. Before you know it our Daffodil Trail is going to explode with color, but, in the meantime, let's keep dreaming.

The Landscape Committee is dusting off its cobwebs and starting to think of spring maintenance and the installation of our Orchard and School Yard Stations. Kristi and Jim are diligently working on our graphics with hopes of installing them this spring, while Lee and John are booking tours of our garden for the summer. We are also fine tuning our text for giving tours, so anyone who would like to help this summer will be able to walk visitors through our garden and answer questions.

The Root Camp committee is eagerly planning, developing and loving our new summer camp. The camp will run for a week in June and a week in July. It will be open to twenty kids per session between the ages of 6-11. The camp will mimic a day at school very much like Laura and Mary Ingalls, while educating the kids on our local history and conservation efforts promoted in our garden. More information and sign up will happen in March.

On a very sad note, David Mueller, Kristi's best friend and husband, died February 1. We will miss him so very much. Our prayers and love go out to her and their kids, Nellie and Henry.

See you next month, The Landscape Committee

Cameras Ready to Roll for Michigan Hometown Stories!

Yes, Virginia . . .there is a Michigan Hometown Stories: Saugatuck Douglas! Things got quiet last year for a number of reasons on the project, but we're happy to report that shooting has begun on the WGVU documentary project to tell our story to the PBS world!

Corporate sponsorships have been slow to come in for the show, but many generous, local people have made gifts to the project along with the Michigan Humanities Council.

WGVU and the Society board have agreed to move forward with the TV show as a half-hour rather than an hour. This means we have begun shooting footage around town to capture our winter charm and will begin to plan production and complete a script in March. There will be more interviewing and more shooting around the towns over the summer.

We hope to have the program ready to premiere by the end of 2014! The production team welcomes your input and suggestions, and additional donations could make it possible to create a longer program. If you have ideas on possible corporate sponsors or wish to make a tax-deductible gift, please contact either WGVU Assistant General Manager, Ken Kolbe, at or our Society member and leader of the local production team, Jon Helmrich at or 269-857-3574.

The Michigan Hometown Stories team thanks everyone for their support and patience. We will keep you posted on further developments. Remember to smile if you see a camera crew!

                                       submitted by Jon Helmrich

News from the Art Gallery

We started the new year with the acquisition of a wonderful gem, a crayon pastel drawing given to us by Cynthia Sorensen, our very generous member and volunteer.

(Click on the image for a higher resolution copy)

Pictured above, the tiny (6.5" x 8.5") dune/pier scene was signed by F. Lightbody. Does this name "ring a bell" with anyone? More research may reveal information about the artist, but anything you could share would certainly help. The new work will be available for viewing as soon as it can be rematted/refitted.

Thank you, Cynthia, for another generous gift to us all. Ken Kutzel, Art Collection Manager

Saugatuck's Philatelic Connection
                                 contributed by Chris Yoder

Did you know that there is a US postage stamp which is connected to Saugatuck? The Great Lakes steamer depicted on this 1 cent stamp (Scott#294 - issued May 1, 1901), sailed for 17 years as the "City of Saugatuck". The stamp was part of a special six-stamp series designed to advertise and commemorate the Pan-American Exposition held in Buffalo, New York in 1901 to celebrate the New World's progress during the 19th Century.

Scott #294
(Click on the image for a higher resolution copy)

The stamp's central design was entitled "Fast Lake Navigation". At time of issue, the craft was called "City of Alpena" and was operated on the Great Lakes by the Detroit and Cleveland Navigation Co.

The City of Alpena, 1907
(Click on the image for a higher resolution copy)

The ship had been built in 1893, was 285 feet long and was operated by 2000 horsepower steam engines. It replaced an earlier vessel of the same name which was lost in October 1880 en route from Grand Haven, Michigan to Chicago, Illinois

According to C. Patrick Labadie, Historian Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary:

"It carried as many as 400 passengers along with significant cargoes of 'package freight' . . .merchandise and foodstuffs to supply the needs of local communities. They provided a critical link to big cities like Toledo, Detroit and Saginaw, in the years before completion of railroads and highways to the communities of booming Northeast Michigan. The CITY OF ALPENA was taken off the "Coast Line to Mackinac" in 1921 when the lumbering industry had moved to the West Coast and railroads connected most of the towns in the region. She operated afterwards on Lake Michigan as the CITY OF SAUGATUCK, and ended up in the late 1930s as a barge, carrying pulpwood and later petroleum products. The once proud ship was eventually broken up for scrap in 1957."

The Goodrich Transit Company of Chicago assumed ownership of the craft in 1921 and renamed it "City of Saugatuck" in 1922.

"The Vessel Histories of Sterling Berry" reports the following detailed events in the life of the steamer (1893-1957):

Steel sidewheel overnight passenger vessel Built at Wyandotte MI by Detroit Dry Dock Co., Hull 114
Launched March 13, 1893
Dimensions: 275' LOA, 266' LBP, 38'4" beam, 24' depth power - 2 decks, coal-fired boilers, vertical beam engine, 2400 IHP
Enrolled at Detroit MI June 24, 1893 to: Detroit & Cleveland Steam Navigation Co., Detroit MI, David Carter, Mgr. Home port Detroit MI)
Firm name changed 1898 to Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co.
Renamed City of Alpena II 1912
Sold Dec 22, 1921 to Graham & Morton Transportation Co., Chicago IL
Renamed City of Saugatuck 1922
Fleet merged 1925 into Goodrich Transit Co., Chicago IL (home port to Duluth MN)
Firm went bankrupt in 1933 and vessel taken over by Michigan Trust Co.
Sold Dec 16, 1935 at Marshal's sale in St. Joseph MI to Roen Steamship Co., Sturgeon Bay WI, Capt. John Roen, Mgr.
Towed to Sturgeon Bay. Converted 1939 to crane-equipped pulpwood barge at Sturgeon Bay WI by Sturgeon Bay Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. and renamed Leona
Remeasured to 241.7 x 38.5 x 13.3, 999 GT, 999 NT
Sold July 13, 1945 to Northern Paper Mills Co., Green Bay WI.
Transferred 1946 to Canadian subsidiary (home port to Sault Ste. Marie ON) and renamed Normil
Enrolled Canadian 241.0 x 39.0 x 13.3, 987 NT, Can 176163
Firm merged 1956 into Marathon Corporation of Canada Ltd. (home port to Port Arthur ON)
Scrapped 1957 Menominee MI

Photo of the "City of Saugatuck"- compliments of Jack Sheridan Perhaps looking west from around the Chain Ferry Landing
(Click on the image for a higher resolution copy)

Welcome New Member

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

Shannon Connell, Fennville, MI


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 is now closed until Memorial Day weekend. Click HERE to learn more about the Museum and recent past exhibits.

The Old School House History Center and Lifeboat Display, located at 130 Center Street in Douglas, is open to visitors by appointment. Please contact Steve Hutchins at 616-801-3735 or by email at

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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