Saturday, September 20 at 7:00 PM
Cocktails at the Historic Riley-
Heirloom Lane in Douglas)
$50 per person
Still a few tickets left!
This is a unique opportunity to get a glimpse inside
the well-preserved Riley-Slack-Ellis House, built ca. 1880 by
carpenter and joiner Thomas A. Riley*.
Join hosts Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget
Mary McCormack and her husband Steven Croley for a cocktail party in
their historic home. $50 per person
*Riley was killed in the Civil War, and his widow,
Fidelia, continued to live in the house after she married another
Civil War veteran, Anthony Slack. Subsequently, their daughter,
married to Claude Ellis, a lake ship's captain, continued to occupy
the house, thus keeping it in the same family for generations.
your ticket, REPLY to this email
and we'll be in touch.
HERE for more
details on this Dine Around event.
Saturday, October 4 at 6:00 PM
An evening at DollyBrook Resort
$50 per person
DollyBrook Resort is a 2011 Heritage Preservation Award winner and a
must see for everyone. Park once and stroll the nine cottages at
your own pace. Each cottage will serve cocktails and one of the
following: Appetizers, Soups, Salads, or Dessert.
Mix and mingle with
friends and enjoy each cottage's fabulously unique decor featuring
local artifacts and antiques. The cottages will be hosted by
different members of the Society doing the cooking and serving up the
cocktails. Make this event a "must do" on your list of fall
your ticket, REPLY to this email
and we'll be in touch.
HERE for more
details on this Dine Around event.
Saturday, October 25 - 7:30 PM
at the Old School House
$50 per person
The annual Halloween party has become a favorite for
many members and friends of the Society. This year's party will be
hosted by Sharon Kelly, Janie & Jim Flemming, Ken Carls and Howard &
Judi Vanderbeck. Don your costume (or not) and come
to the Old School House for drinks and dinner preceding the
fantastic Douglas Halloween Parade.
If you would like to reserve
your spot for one of these upcoming Dine Around
events, REPLY to this email and we'll be in touch.
to the Historical Society
while shopping at
you can shop at Amazon and have Amazon donate to the Historical Society.
to start your shopping on
Amazon and your purchase will automatically designate the Historical
Society as your charity. There is no additional cost to the shopper and
Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the
don't forget to add
to your internet shopping
Bookmarks or Favorites today.
you have any questions on this program, please REPLY to this
little bit helps. Thanks for participating.
Welcome from Jack Sheridan and Chris Yoder, leaders
of the Society Family History Group.
Please visit us to see what we are all about and
most importantly, share "lessons learned" about the many tools
available for family history research.
Census information is by far the most valuable in
the research of family history. All federal censuses [except 1890
which was destroyed by a fire] and many state censuses exist and
most are available for review and search on the internet.
The first Federal census was taken in 1790 and
another made every ten years since. Over the decades, the census
data gathered each decade has expanded and changed. Prior to 1850
the name of the head of each household, number in the household,
their age and gender was asked. Starting in 1850 all household
members were identified. Data is not made public until seventy two
years have passed, so the most recent census now available is the
Think about it - this information is a treasure
trove of family history clues! So how about giving a search of the
Federal censuses a try? All you need is the ability to use the
internet plus a bit of patience and perseverance.
has a marvelous Federal census database because it is 100%
complete and easily searchable. The Ancestry folks would like to
sign you up as a subscriber. But before you seriously consider
that alternative try searching the 1880 and/or the 1940 Federal
census, for no charge, to get an idea of how it works.
Here is an easy way to do that: Go to the
Ancestry.com search page at this address:
This takes you to a free [no strings attached]
Ancestry.com search page. Enter information on a family member who
may have been in either the 1880 or the 1940 Federal census. Start
out by entering minimal information [name, birthdate, state of
residence], especially if the person’s surname is an uncommon one.
If you get a lot of results with the same name enter more data to
differentiate your target person from similar hits.
A few tips to help in your search. Remember that
the original census documents were hand written by a census
enumerator as he interviewed a member of the household. Very often
names were written as they sounded, not as spelled. In addition,
exact information was often not known by the interviewee. The
search software is designed to help you overcome these problems
but you should expect challenges. Call or email me if you get
stuck or have questions.
The 1880 and the 1940 censuses are free, as are a
number of other databases [such as Find-a-Grave], but most census
years and databases are not free. However, remember all the
databases are available to you at no charge if you come to a
Family History Group meeting. Good luck and I hope to hear from
The Group's regular meeting schedule is the first
and third Thursday of every month at the OSH. Upcoming meetings
Thursday, September 18
Thursday, October 2
Thursday, October 16
Remember, your family history does not have to have
any connection to the Saugatuck-Douglas area !!!
Still not sure how to get going? Let us provide a
helpful jump start by recording 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
We will soon be back to you with readily found data
and with suggestions on the next steps to take. Further help is
readily available from the Family History group. Again, the only
requirement is membership in the SDHS.
Mayflower ancestor, Revolutionary War vet, great
grandparents? Still wondering? Questions/ comments/advice/needs -
269 857-7144 Chris Yoder
email@example.com 269 857-4327.
This news letter column is produced by Jack
Click on the picture for a
higher resolution copy
The higher resolution copy is a large file. It will take a
while to download . . . be patient
Panoramas – One by One - Piece by Piece
This month starts a new
History by Camera series of old photographs taken from the top
of Mt Baldhead. We are very fortunate to have photos from this
great vantage point over a long time period. The photos are
accurately dated and in most cases the photographer
Two other factors make
them special. First, when the first photo was made in 1874
most of the town trees had been logged off and there were few
to block the view. Second, the photographers used quality big
glass plate cameras that were capable of capturing details.
Though most of the glass plates are lost, the prints made from
them, faithfully contain the details. When scanned at high
resolution, the images yield marvelous results.
In order for you to see
a historical progression, I have selected a partial view of
the town at one date and contrasted that with a view of the
same area at a different date. The numbers on the images are
the key to comments below the images. This month's comments
are on 1874 and next month they will be on the 1895 view.
We start with the
earliest photo, taken in 1874, photographer unknown. This is
contrasted with the same exact area taken in 1895. The
photographer in 1895 was Miller Robinson, professional
photographer and grandfather of Peggy Boyce.
1 – Now, Uncommon
Grounds coffee house – Then, a home. May be the oldest
structure still existing in Saugatuck. Built in the 1840s as
home by Daniel Plummer, first township supervisor.
2 – Now Pumpernickels Restaurant – Then, saloon and pool
parlor. Probably built first in the eastern US, then
dismantled and brought here as early as 1860s – corner of
Mason and Butler.
3 – First fine house in town – burned in the late 1970s -
built by Stephen Morrison 1852 – corner of Butler and Culver.
4 – Lumber drying and waiting to be shipped on Culver St
waterfront. Sawmill will be seen later.
5 – Morrison’s tannery built in the 1840s. Located near the
foot of Butler at the river.
6 – Morrison’s Dutch windmill built in the 1840s. Source of
7 – Mill in Douglas at the junction of the bridge and
Washington St. Note the schooner with sails hoisted.
8 – Wilson Empire Saloon and hall – next to it to the south is
the Coates and Arnold hardware and general store. All the
buildings in that block were destroyed by a disastrous fire in
9 – Another saloon – Saugatuck was a hard drinking town in
10 – George Peter Heath grist mill. Steamed powered – that is
steam you see. Built in 1866, burned in 1879.
11 – Now, Saugatuck Tea Party Café - Then, Kleeman's Tavern –
on Water Street.
This newsletter column is written by Jack Sheridan.
Welcome New Members
We would like to welcome the following new members who have joined the
Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society since the last newsletter.
John & Barbara Burmeister, Fennville, MI
Dave & Jan Ryder, Fennville, MI
Diana Badion, Douglas, MI & Napa, CA
Charles & Victoria Ebeling, Chicago, IL
Louise Brode, Coshocton, OH
Peggy Bowe & Liz Stern, Clayton, MO & Kirkwood, MO
Don Wiley, Fennville, MI
Thomas & Janice Krakowski, Douglas, MI
New Life Members
Margaret Gipson, River Forest, IL
John & Barbara Ludlow, Saugatuck, MI
Means Back to School
start to warm up in the Saugatuck and Douglas areas classrooms,
your Museum and History center hit the planning road toward
collaborative local history education programs with a number of
grade levels at our local schools. The photo below is of a Douglas
Elementary grade visit to the museum a few years ago.
2014 Monthly Programs
October 8, Tales
from the Cemeteries with Kit Lane and Marsha Kontio
Michigan's Hottest Town Revisited with Mike Sweeney
December 14, Holiday
Party at the SCA
Board of Directors Meeting Schedule
Starting with the
September meeting, the Society's Board of Directors will be meeting
on the third Tuesday of the month at 5:30 PM at the Old School
Society Afghans Now Available
Afghans are now available at the Museum and the OSH for $40. Or if
you would like to order an Afghan, just REPLY to this email and we
will be in touch. submitted by Steve Hutchins
"Designers want me to dress like Spring, in
billowing things. I don't feel like Spring. I feel like a warm
--- Marilyn Monroe
With another beautiful summer
behind us and all of its great memories, we now have the season of
autumn to look forward to . . .shorter days, crisper nights, and the
turning of the trees. The deeper colors of summer are already
present in our garden with the blooming of the asters, the sedum and
many more beautiful perennials. So put on a jacket and come stroll
through the garden in all of its fall glory.
Root Camp lost one of
its founding members to cancer. Our friend, Linda Roerig, passed
away on Saturday. We can't even tell you how much we will miss her.
Until next month,
The Landscape and Root Camp Committees
Linda Roerig, a member of the
Society and one of the founding members of the Society's Root Camp
passed away recently. Click
HERE for more details,
The Big Pavilion Fire Mystery Solved?
Click on the picture for a
higher resolution copy
A recent (August
18, 2014) Tuesday Talk program at the History Center
on gangster presence in Saugatuck included a number of testimonies
and known facts about Saugatuck's most famous fire, the enormous
(May 6, 1960) conflagration that destroyed "The Brightest Spot on
the Great Lakes" - the Big Pavilion, which was made up of a huge
dance-ballroom, bar, and film theater complex.
The "take away"
from the session was that it was most probably arson - undertaken by
Chicago "hit men," but for what reason it is not clear.
There was much
speculation at the time. Arson was always whispered to be a possible
cause, but never proven or even investigated (the fire commissioner
ruled it out for lack of evidence). The most popular cause set forth
was that the fire was by a bird bringing a lighted cigarette in the
The passage of time appears to have encouraged some people to speak
out. Revealed at the Tuesday Talk was a "death bed"
confession by a witness nearly a half-century after the event. This
"death bed" testimony (disclosed for first time at the History
Center event), centered on three well-known Chicago mobsters who
told an acquaintance the day before the fire that they were in town
"to torch the Pavilion." This testimony was investigated privately,
with considerable assurance that the "confession" was true, but the
investigation was halted. It appears that someone is alive that was
implicated. "Never to be proven?"
collaboration. Comments at the session provided further
accounts that confirm the "arson" claim - including the testimony
that prior to the fire a local businessman was advised that it would
be a good idea to remove his valuable equipment from the building.
Others at the Talk, came forth with (some anecdotal)
evidence passed on to them by people who were alive at that time:
the point being, a person (or persons) set the fire who was paid by
an interested party, most probably the owner of the building who was
interested in an insurance payout.
One wonders what
other stories known on that fateful day went untold to the grave.
More text and
photos are to be found in the SDHS publication, Saugatuck's
Famous Dance Hall, The Big Pavilion, by Kit Lane, available
Society's web site or at the Museum.
Please send any
comments or stories relative to the Big Pavilion fire to either Kit
Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org
or Jim Schmiechen at
submitted by Kit Lane and Jim Schmiechen
Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society is pleased to announce the
addition of Jarrett Zeman as our new Museum Specialist. Jarrett will
work part-time at the Old School House on the renovation of the
First Floor Event Space into a new exhibition gallery. He will also
advise the Society on collections management and the development of
new public programs.
Jarrett, a native
of West Michigan, earned his Master's Degree in Museum Studies from
The George Washington University in Washington DC, where he had the
privilege of working on exhibitions at the Library of Congress.
Closer to home, he has contributed his curatorial skills to two
major exhibitions at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
Jarrett is excited
to get to work with the Society, and he looks forward to your
suggestions as we continue to build a world-class historical
Please feel free to
stop by the Old School House and introduce yourself.
Old Fernwood Farm Resort
Rich in history and
of architectural interest, the Joshua Weed House, 2488 Lakeshore
Drive, Fennville, is now under reconstruction.
Hurst. Designer John Cannarsa.
Original house, ca.
1860 with additions up to 1880.
Said to be a stop
on the underground railroad and long abandoned, but with partial
restoration by the Horist family, the house had 23 rooms, and
functioned for many years as the Weed family's Fernwood Farm Resort.
One of the Weed
sons (Elmer) was manager and part owner of Saugatuck's Big Pavilion
dance hall. The house, with pastiche of Greek Revival and Italianate
features, had two dining rooms, one of which seated 65. The farm
consisted of 120 acres, part of which was devoted to fruit growing,
piers on the Lake to carry fish and fruit to Chicago and a grand
barn which was destroyed in the 1990s.
From Raising the
Roof. A History of the Buildings and Architecture of the Saugatuck
and Douglas Area. Saugatuck and Douglas Historical Society.
Revised and enlarged edition, 2006.
submitted by Jim Schmiechen
The Society is
excited to announce a series of recent acquisitions from SDHS Member
Bart Woloson, owner and operator of Lake Forest Antiques in Glenn,
MI. Mr. Woloson has generously donated a model of a ca. 1900
lifesaving surfboat, of the type once used on the Great Lakes (Woloson
is pictured above with the lifeboat model, and SDHS Museum
Specialist Jarrett Zeman).
This style of
lifeboat evolved during the late 19th Century, and was
designed to loosely resemble mid-century whaling boats. At a 1/10th
scale, the lifeboat model represents a vessel 30 feet long with a 9
foot long beam. Lifesaving surfboats were outfitted with a single
collapsible mast, which held a sail that stabilized the craft upwind
and aided in the boat's return trip to the beach. It also features a
two-wheel carriage underneath, which would aid in pulling the boat
into the water.
Along with the
lifeboat, Mr. Woloson has also donated a treasure trove of 25
antique logging and lumber tools, similar to the type used in the
West Michigan lumber industry during the 19th Century.
The tools include a one-man buck saw used to cut trees into logs, a
"goose wing" axe used to trim logs into square beams for
construction, and a two-man bow saw, which was used to trim the
limbs off a large log.
We thank Mr.
Woloson for these important objects. His donation, and others like
them, help to advance the Society's mission to collect, preserve,
and interpret the rich cultural heritage of Saugatuck, Douglas, and
submitted by Jarrett Zeman
to See the Exhibition: "Dunelands"
Take the "Dunelands"
trail once again - or for the first time. Twelve "trail sites" with
the giant Jim Cook "dunes panorama," and much more including Ted's
amazing hanging "beach trash" display, the outdoor environmental
display by Christa Wise's Saugatuck High School art class, and a
flight over miles and miles of the dunes by way of Jeff Zita's
popular "drone show."
Experience it. Fall
schedule: Saturdays and Sundays from Noon to 4 until October 25.
A new exhibition
"Water" opens Memorial Day weekend, 2015. Thanks to our 2014
sponsors, your support, our host team, and our exhibition team.
submitted by Jim Schmiechen
ABOUT THE SOCIETY
To become a member or renew
your membership select from the following categories:
Send check payable to the Saugatuck-Douglas
Historical Society to: PO Box 617, Douglas, Michigan 49406. You can
for a Society Membership Application.
Send items for the newsletter to: Fred Schmidt, PO
Box 617, Douglas MI 49406 or email
Historical Society Museum Exhibit Celebrates
Area's Duneland Treasure
This year's all-new exhibition at the
Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society Museum offers a multifaceted look at the Kalamazoo
River duneland and its archeological, historical, environmental,
social and recreational significance, in contrasting tales of change
and permanence. The Museum is open daily from noon to 4 pm through
Labor Day and then noon to 4 pm on weekends through the end of
Titled "Dunelands: Footprints on the Sand", the
exhibition celebrates our piece of the world's largest freshwater
dunes system in the world, according to Museum Curator Dr. James
Schmiechen. "It's a marvelous collaboration of restless beaches,
rolling forests and ravines, hidden streams, ponds and marshland
habitats," he says. "This exhibition tells of how they came to be,
how human activity has changed them and how people have changed in
response to them, while giving special attention to historic sites
scattered across the area and how history has set the stage for
today's vibrant local community."
Researched and written by Schmiechen, and designed by
Society volunteers Judy Hillman and Sally Winthers, the exhibition
pulls together an array of photographs, artifacts and stories, set
before a sweeping 50 x 10ft. mural dunescape captured by local
photographer James Cook, intended to visually transport the viewer
Informative wall panels weave text and graphics
together to view the dunes from three different perspectives: The
Preservationist's Notebook surveys 12 nearby "critical dune"
sites with an eye toward "best use" protection of the natural
environment while allowing appropriate public access; The
Photographer's Notebook presents aerial views of local shoreline
geography by Chicago photographer Bill Werme, documenting changes
resulting from both natural and human causes; The Archeologist &
Historian's Notebook, recalls the late 1800s "lumber rush" that
disregarded nature, creating millionaires but sentencing the village
of Singapore to its ultimate burial by shifting dunes.
Another series of wall panels presents a compilation
of photos taken along dune trails, accompanied by hiker quotes
revealing personal impressions and expressing thoughts inspired by
their duneland experiences.
Centerpiece of the exhibition is a simulated "Dunelands
Trail", marked by trail-stop signposts showing and describing a
variety of sites encountered on an imagined hike through the dunes,
including: Dune Rides; Goshorn Lake & Dune; New Harbor & Basin; Old
Harbor & Lighthouse; Fishtown; Oxbow Art School & Lagoon; Pier Cove;
The Oval; Mt. Baldhead; and Lake Shore Chapel.
Hovering above it all is "Beachcomber's Folly" a
whimsical-while-thought-provoking hanging sculpture by Saugatuck
artist Ted Reyda. The colorful composition was meticulously
assembled from thousands of items that were washed up on local
beaches and collected by Reyda over more than 20 years. Below, Reyda
transforms other types of manmade flotsam into spherical standing
artworks. In their own playful way, all serve to raise serious
questions about human carelessness regarding our environment and
disregard for protecting nature's gifts. Museum guests will find
themselves silently drawn to interact with Reyda's art by
identifying its components...sometimes obvious, sometimes not.
Augmenting the Historical Society's exhibits is a
video display created by the Saugatuck High School students of art
teacher Christa Wise, inspired by the work of British sculptor Andy
Goldsworthy, known for combining natural materials such as twigs,
stone, thorns, mud and pinecones into temporary in-situ
constructions that weather the elements and return to nature.
After watching "Rivers and Tides", a 2001 documentary
featuring Goldsworthy at work, the class set out to Oval Beach and
the dunes to create site-specific sculpture and land-art using
whatever they found. Their short video, in the style of "Rivers and
Tides", documents the students' efforts to follow in Goldsworthy's
footsteps, in the process discovering (in the words of one student)
"how difficult it is to even begin to approach the quality of his
--- Award-Winning Books Highlighted ---
Continuing the Society's tradition of offering books
created to accompany exhibits past and present, the Museum's south
gallery gift shop this year highlights two of its most popular award
winners -- The Village Table: A Delicious History of Food in the
Saugatuck-Douglas Area; and Off The Record...the unpublished
photographs of Bill Simmons.
The Village Table, authored by Society
volunteers Kit Lane and Stacy Honson with graphic design by Sally
Winthers, won a 2012 Leadership In History Award of Merit from the
American Association for State and Local History (AASLH). It
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.
Cues for the recipes came from history, and some
less-palatable historical dishes, like the infamously dry Johnnycake
(a cornmeal flatbread), are served up with a modern twist such as
delicious cornbread French toast. Local restaurants and businesses
contributed the recipes in chapter seven “On the Menu.” The final
chapter “Cooking Local” presents a wide range of family favorites
from Historical Society members. This 144-page book, richly
illustrated in color with lay-flat binding, also features separate
historical and culinary indexes.
Off The Record, written by James Schmiechen
with help from Society volunteers Kit Lane and Jack Sheridan, and
designed by Ken Carls, received a Historical Society of Michigan
Award of Merit in 2001. It offers a fascinating pictorial history of
Saugatuck in the'40s and '50s seen through the eyes and camera of an
insatiable photographer whose skills ran the gamut from art
photography to photojournalism. Simmons (1891-1966), worked for The
Chicago Evening Post and Time-Life, Inc., later was editor of The
Commercial Record for 10 years in mid-century. He left a collection
of some 3000 unpublished photos, mostly negatives, shot in and
around Saugatuck from 1941 to 1961.
SDHS received the long-lost collection in 1998, and
discovered that its images witness the changing geography of the
waterfront and village streetscape while connecting us with life in
the mid-1900s in an unusual way. Unlike most photographers, Simmons
was not interested in getting people to pose, preferring to catch
them off-guard, being themselves, in conversation, at play, absorbed
in thought or responding to events around them. As a result, his
work shows how ordinary people interacted with each other, the
village they lived in and the land they lived on.
The 157 photos selected for this book represent many
hours of research and writing by many SDHS volunteers, as well as
the townspeople they interviewed, plus extensive efforts in printing
old negatives, digitizing photos, and pulling it all together into
--- Interactive Map Tells Stories ---
The south gallery also features the Society's popular
"SuperMap" -- a 6-foot high, 12-foot wide illustrated color wall map
of the Saugatuck-Douglas area with an interactive computer display
to provide a virtual tour through these historic villages,
highlighting significant people, places and events of both past and
present. Map artwork, created by Holland artist-cartographer Mark
Cook based on Historical Society research, recalls the entertaining
illustration/poster maps of the 1940-50 era, combining street
layouts with stylized sketches and notes.
The map offers Museum visitors an engaging way to
soak up the story of the Saugatuck-Douglas area. As many as 70
map-highlighted references are keyed by number to let visitors
select and learn about sites of interest by calling up information,
narratives and images using several video/interactive touch-screen
terminals near the map. The screens also offer topical "interactive
programs" such as History of Hotels/Boarding Houses; History of
Boatbuilding and Boat Builders; Buildings and Architecture; Artists
and Painting; Local Biographies; History of Saugatuck-Douglas
Schools; 13 Tales of the Villages and A Video History of Saugatuck
In addition, the terminals allow public access to the
Historical Society's digitized archives of historical photos, pages
of The Commercial Record dating back to 1868, the
Saugatuck-Douglas Building Survey and more.
Article and photos submitted by John Peters. Click
on any photo for a higher resolution copy.
is open daily from
noon to 4 pm through Labor then on weekends in September and October
from noon to 4 pm. 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
Thursday through Sunday from 11 AM to 4 PM. For group tours or to
schedule another period, 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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