JULY  2015 Click HERE for printer friendly version with images

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


Save The Date - Always A Sellout Saturday, October 31st - 7:30 PM Halloween Bash
Old School House
$60 per person

The annual Halloween party has become a favorite for many members and friends of the Society. A chance to get an early guaranteed parking spot for the big parade.

This year's party will be hosted by Janie & Jim Flemming, Sharon Kelly and Jim Schmiechen. Put on your costume (or not) and come to the Old School House for cocktails and dinner preceding the fantastic Douglas Halloween Parade. Great food, great friends, great fun!

To reserve your ticket, just REPLY to this email and we will be in touch.

Trip Advisor

Do you contribute to Yelp or Trip Advisor? Consider writing a review of your experiences at the Museum. Let's show the world our hidden." Just click on the Trip Advisor logo below and write a review!           submitted by Sally Winthers

Here is what some visitors have written about our Museum on Trip Advisor.

Absolutely a First Class Museum
I have been to dozens of small history museum across the world and I must say, I was unexpectedly blown away with the quality of the presentation and exhibits here. It's a small place, right at the bottom of the steps to Mt. Baldhead, but it tells a well-told story. We were the first ones in to see the new exhibit that will run for two years and the volunteers added to the fun and educational time we spent here. Well done! It is free admission but please leave a generous donation. It appears to be spent well in preserving and presentation of local history!
Tim O., Nashville, Tennessee Visited May 2015

A Rare Treat
This small museum is a treasure. We lost time while we visited the current exhibit on water, but there's also a wealth of capsule collections of previous exhibits. Some very talented people are behind this gem.
Kim W., Valparaiso, Indiana Reviewed June 9, 2015

New at the Museum Shop

Enjoyed the fish at the WATER exhibit?

Now, thanks to local artist Sandra T. Schneider of Reverie Design & Craft, you can take home your very own Michigan Bluegill.

These ceramic art-fish are handmade so each is delicately unique. They come in two versions: with a wire hanger on back to use as a wall decoration or with a footer to use as a small plate or spoon rest.

These little Bluegills make a charming addition to any home or a unique gift or souvenir.

Available at the Society's Museum bookstore.

Click on the image for a higher resolution copy.
                         submitted by Sally Winthers

June Board Meeting Summary

l The 2015 Historical Chronicle has been printed and distributed. Look for a copy.
l A new refrigerator has been purchased for the Museum.
l If there is a desire or need to de-access any item currently housed by the SDHS be advised that the policy and procedures outlined in the "Collections Management Policy" dated 10/21/2014 must be followed. Contact a Board member for further information.
l The search for the Executive Director continues with second interviews scheduled for two candidates.
l The Board requests that any request to sponsor or donate to any special project, event or other SDHS activity be submitted to the Board for discussion and approval.
l The Board has decided to place the Achievements Brochure on the SDHS website. Be patient, the file will take while to download but definitely worth the wait..
l The Allegan County Arts Alive program is starting in July. All contributions to the SDHS should be processed through the Arts Alive program. If you have any questions, please contact Fred Schmidt.        submitted by Sharon Kelly

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.

A great source of hard to find family history information is found on website. Most of us have veterans in the family tree, sometimes back to the Revolutionary War. Membership in the SDHS family history gives you no charge access. In addition to service records there is other information:


WAR OF 1812
- Prize cases
- Land grants
- Ratified treaty data CIVIL WAR
- Southern Claims Commission
- Florida service records
- Naturalization index
- Air Service records
- Hero pages
- Pictures and photos
- Missing air crews
- Prisoners of war
- Casualties
- Pictures and photos

Got questions on how to get going? That is what we are for! Call or email us and remember, the SDHS family history group's regular meeting schedule is the first and third Thursday of every month at the OSH.

Upcoming meetings at the OSH are:
Thursday, July 23 [rescheduled date]
Thursday, August 6
Thursday, August 20

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 either or

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 - contact Jack Sheridan at 269 857-7144 or  Chris Yoder at 269 857-4327.

This newsletter column is produced by Jack Sheridan

The Baldhead Panoramas – One by One - Piece by Piece - 10

Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.
Be patient, it may take a while to download.

Last September I started a new HBC series of panoramic photographs taken from the top of Mt Baldhead. We history buffs are fortunate to have photos from this great vantage point over a long time period. The photos appearing span some fifty years, are accurately dated, and in most cases the photographer identified.

Other factors make these photos special. First, earlier photos had few mature trees to block the view. Second, the photographers used quality cameras with large glass plate negatives 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. By 1920 Herman Simonson, the photographer, was using film as glass plates were history.

In December we had full photos of 1895 and 1906 without comment. In January, February and March we looked at the details one third of the image each month. In April we had 1906 and ca 1920, the full view. In June we compared 1906 and ca 1920, the north one third. This month we continue comparison with the middle one third. The 1906 photographer is unknown but may have been Herman Simonson. Note that the 1906 photographer’s location on Mt. Baldheaded was not exactly the same location as 1920.

The numbers are keyed to my comments about points of interest.

38 - The ferry landing - the empty ferry is visible.
39 - The site of the Ivy Inn.
40 - Old Singapore Bank building now retail stores.
41 - Women's Club - originally Brueckman home.
42 - Brown residence now a restaurant corner of Mason and Griffith.
43 - Griffin and Henry sawmill - peninsula into river made of sawdust and mud.
44 - Steel truss bridge replaced original 1870 bridge and causeway in 1903.
45 - Fruit Growers Bank building now a rose garden.
46 - Now The Uncommon Grounds - one of the oldest buildings in town.
47 - Bird Drugstore building built by Doc Heath ca 1902.
48 - Kleeman Saloon in the late 1800s. Currently being restored as a residence.
49 - Today the site of Wick's Park.

This newsletter column is written by Jack Sheridan.

The Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society is again participating in the ArtsAlive! Competition. Voting started on July 1 and runs until September 8. Thanks to community support, we finished in first place last year. These crucial funds helped support the amazing new Pump House Museum Exhibit, the Old School House and its Gallery, the Boathouse and Back-In-Time Garden. Not to mention Monthly Meetings and Tuesday Talks. Keep History Alive Here!

The Keep Your ArtsAlive! is an arts and cultural competition of the Allegan County Community Foundation. It was created to engage and encourage our community to support the rich arts and cultural offerings we have in Allegan County. Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society is one of 18 organizations competing this year. The organizations compete to see who can receive the most votes.

Each vote costs one dollar. 100% of each voting dollar comes back to us at the end of the competition. Please vote for the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society. Your votes can help the Society finish on top again this year. Just click HERE and vote on-line.

Welcome New Members

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

l Victor Cardona, Douglas, MI
l Nancy & Will Gervais, Douglas, MI
l Julee Rosso, Fennville, MI
l Amy Connor, Douglas, MI & New York, NY
l Carole Hunter, Santa Rosa Valley, CA
l Mardi Douglas, Moorpark, CA
l Marianne & Michael Giersch, Douglas, MI
l Judy & Jon Klatt, Grand Rapids, MI
l Samuel Fitzpatrick, Saginaw, MI
l Keith Connor, Douglas, MI & New York, NY
l Karen & Hardy McWilliams, Fennville, MI & Mansfield, TX
l Sandra Immink, Hamilton, MI

Review of Achievements

The Society's Review of Achievements: 1994-2014, a 28 page booklet beautifully written and designed by Jim Schmiechen and Ken Carls is now available on the Society's web site. Just click HERE but be patient, it is a large file but worth the wait..

 What you missed

The June Monthly Program, Coral Gables: The People Behind The Place with Mike Johnson was very well attended and held at Coral Gables. In case you missed the program or would like to see the presentation again, click HERE to view a copy. Be patient, the file might take a while to download.

Mark Your Calendar
2015 Monthly Programs and Tuesday Talks

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


l August 12, Society Picnic at the Old School House
l August 13, Civil War Reenactors Program
                Looking for a sponsor

September 9,
Fishing: Commercial & Recreational sponsored by Howard & Paula Schultz
l October 14, Crane's Orchard Field Trip sponsored by Janie & Jim Flemming in memory of Fran Vorys
l November 11, Fire, Storm and Ice: Shipwrecks sponsored by the Star of Saugatuck, Marilyn & Bruce Starring
l December 13, Holiday Party

General sponsors: Carolyn Richards, Howard Rochte and Jim & Janie Flemming

l July 21, Bee Keeping sponsored by Osman Flowers & Firs
l July 28, Kalamazoo River Sturgeon Habitat Restoration Project
                Looking for a sponsor
l August 4, The Peachbelt Schoolhouse sponsored by Fred & Janet Schmidt in memory of Fran Vorys
l August 11, Invasive Species: On Land and Water sponsored by Harbor Duck Adventures Co., Brent Birkholz
l August 18, The Art of Water sponsored by Ken Carls
l August 25, Extreme Yachts and Classic Boat Restoration - Macatawa Bay Boat Works sponsored by the Star of Saugatuck, Marilyn & Bruce Starring

Garden Happenings
"To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves."  --- Mahatma Gandhi

Although the weather hasn't been the greatest, our gardens are, and by the looks of the chalkboards in the children's garden - a lot of people are experiencing them. Hopefully, soon, we will have some text on two of the slate boards explaining the games of yesteryear. We will, however, leave one of the slate boards open so visitors can leave their mark.

A big thank you to Dottie Lyon and the garden club for designing and installing the plants along the fence row. They look beautiful and we are sure our neighbors appreciate it.

You may wonder why the Peach Orchard isn't being mowed. Well we have installed a no-mow grass to give the appearance of an old fashion orchard - we think it works! As we speak, Jim and Sam are working on the graphics for that area and the names for the trees. Sorry it is taking so long, but we want them to have a particular look for the orchard, and that takes time.

Anyone interested in helping with the weeding, please do not hesitate to contact Ruth Johnson at Many thanks.

Root Camp was a complete success this year. With 25 kids participating in the two sessions, it made for one exciting week at the Old School House. The kids were happy, the parents were happy and we were exhausted. Many thanks go out to our "teachers" and our counselors, both junior and senior, we could not - and we really mean it - have done it without all of you. Also to Sam Fitzpatrick, Steve Hutchins and our terrific sponsors. We are hoping to share the photos with all of you on our web site. So look for them in the very near future.

Until next month,
The Landscape and Root Camp Committees

Cletus the Crawdad

Click on the image for a higher resolution copy

Meet Cletus the Crawdad in the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum’s new "Crayfish Corner" for kids.

Rainy day?

Need a break from the sun?

Visit the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum. Adults and teens have been amazed by stories of how water transformed Saugatuck and Douglas. And now, younger visitors can kick back in the new "Crayfish Corner."

Crayfish Corner is located in the Supermap room, just off the main gallery. A children's activity table features the aquarium-home of shy, Cletus the Crawdad. Visitors can observe Cletus searching the gravel for bits of food or rearranging his flowerpot house.

In addition to viewing Cletus, coloring pages introduce younger children to native fish species. Need more of a challenge? Try the river maze or critter search work sheets. Kids can post their finished pages on the corner display board along with the Crayfish Fun Facts or take them home.
                          submitted by Sally Winthers

The Douglas Basket Factory

The fruit industry along the Lake Michigan shore of Saugatuck and Ganges Townships was producing more than 50,000 bushels of fruit per season by 1874. Steamboats left the port of Saugatuck each trip during peach season with baskets of fruit filling the holds and occupying most of the deck space. Oldtimers used to claim that after the boats disappeared over the horizon those on shore could still see, the shimmering cloud of fruit flies in the air.

Click on the image for a higher resolution copy.

It was obvious that there would be a great need for containers to carry the fruit to market, and in the early 1870s Captain Robert Reid retired from the lakes and started a small basket factory in Douglas, utilizing an old sawmill near the lift bridge that crossed the river from Saugatuck to Douglas. William and Joshua Weed were taken in as partners, and by 1878 had taken over ownership, later with William's son Elmer E. Weed.

An 1880 reporter explained how it worked: "The material mostly used is soft maple and elm. The logs are first cut by a drag saw to the required length, about six feet. After having the bark peeled each log is placed in a large steam-box and thoroughly softened by steam directly from the engine. The log is raised and grasped at each end by the lathe centers which hold it firmly in position as it revolves. At every turn a knife gauged to the required thickness pares off a continuous sheet which is passed to the cutting tables and sawed to the various sizes required."

The prepared wood was taken upstairs where the actual baskets were formed in a department staffed almost exclusively by women and girls, including some Native Americans. In the early days, many of the baskets required a single nail in the bottom to keep the side pieces from slipping. Nailing was considered a special skill and 10 to 5 nailers were hired on for the summer. Most of these men lived in bunk houses on Lake Street in Saugatuck, and had a reputation for being rough and hard drinking. Residents were wary and young girls were forbidden to walk along Lake Street during basket season.

Click on the image for a higher resolution copy.

In the manufacturing season of 1877 the factory produced 125,875 peach baskets, 1,000 peach boxes, and 3,000 berry crates, "all of which have been sold" the factory's annual report bragged. In 1880, the Douglas Basket Factory was producing 3,000 peach baskets and 750 crates a day, and the demand was so great that the factory was running night and day to fill the orders.

As the largest employer in Douglas, the factory was a big influence in village life. The factory clocks were 30 minutes faster than standard time. According to one resident, "When someone made an appointment you had to determine if he meant factory time or regular time".

The Douglas Basket Factory met its end by fire on April 29, 1927. It was not yet open for the season and many of the buildings were full of leftover baskets from a slow peach season in 1926. The buildings and baskets burned quickly, with towering flames. The next morning a group of "inveterate picnickers" roasted wieners over the coals - and the entire operation vanished into history.
                                  submitted by Kit Lane

The Council Oak

Click on the image for a higher resolution copy

What is the tale behind the "Council Oak" on Grand Street in Saugatuck?

One of the local trees with a story to tell, the unmarked "Treaty Tree" on Holland Street, is memorialized in a story by the late May Heath which has been preserved by the SDHS in writing and in the oral history of Allegan County Historian John Pahl:

Under the Treaty Tree

a. John Pahl Tells the Story As Told by May Heath (Audio WMA File For IBM)

b. John Pahl Tells the Story As Told by May Heath (Audio mp3 File For Apple)

. . . but we find nothing written about Saugatuck's "Council Oak", important enough to have an ornate marker, now well grown in to the side of the tree?

A student of Indian lore who saw the recent WGVU "Michigan Hometown Stories" special on Saugatuck-Douglas saw the picture of the "Council Oak" included in the program. He wrote to the Society to ask for more information about it. What tales were there of Indian gatherings? Who placed the metal marker and Indian profile on the tree? Much to our surprise, none of our premiere historians could provide any historic details!

Click on the image for a higher resolution copy

The SDHS Historic Registry cites the Italianate home which sits behind the "Council Oak", now marked as 345 Grand Street, Saugatuck, as having been built in 1884. It was once the residence of Saugatuck ship-builder John Baptiste Martel (1832-1909). The Saugatuck City Map of 1873 shows a structure already on the property at that time, but an article in the The Lakeshore Commercial of May 18, 1883 explains:

"Mr. J.B. Martel of shipbuilding fame, has begun erection of a new residence, to be 18 X 26 Feet in size, using an 18 foot studding. The present house will be moved back and will serve as a kitchen to the new building."

And an article of Jan 11, 1884 says:

"John Martel has almost finished his new house, and it looks immense. The finishing touches were put on to it by George Hames, a thorough and practical builder. W. Finley furnished the scroll and fancy work."

One thing which IS known was that a daughter of May Heath lived in the house in the 1950s. So we contacted May's three great-grandchildren and the following reply was received from James Barron Diaz:

"My grandfather, James Barron, was President of Seeburg Piano & Jukebox Co. After he died in his 50's of cancer, his widow Gladys Heath Barron moved back from Oak Park in Chicago (she also sold their farm in Fennville) to the house on the hill in Saugatuck . . . " (the Martel House)

"I remember hearing someone (?) talk about it (the tree) being the place where the local Potawatomi Indians held 'council meetings' prior to the settlers founding of Saugatuck."

You can see a 16mm film shot by James' father at the home in the 1950s, along with some beach scenes by clicking HERE.

Unfortunately, this film does not specifically feature the tree. Did our dedicated local historian May Francis Heath and her daughter place the sign on the tree? From the depth to which the bark has overtaken the marker, it would certainly seem a reasonable speculation that they could have had something to do with it 60 some years ago.

Can anyone out there tell parts of the story of our "Council Oak"??? If so, contact Chris Yoder at or phone 616-212-3443.
                            submitted by Chris Yoder


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

Individual $50
Household $70
Premium $300
Corporate $500
Life $1,000
Senior (65+) $30
Senior Household $45

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

New Historical Society Museum Exhibit Examines Area's Relationship With Water

This year's all-new exhibition at the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum, opened for the season on Memorial Day weekend, Sunday, May 24. The exhibition presents multiple stories of how the Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan have shaped and reshaped our area's way of living, working, relaxing and thinking since the mid-1800s.

Founded in 1992 by the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society, the History Museum is open daily Noon to 4pm through Labor Day, then Saturdays/Sundays through September and October. Admission and parking are free. Tel: (269) 857-7900. Click HERE to learn more about the Museum and recent past exhibits.

The Old School House History Center and Lifeboat Display is located at 130 Center Street in Douglas. For group tours, 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.

The Society's Archives office is located in the lower level of the Old School House and is open for research on Monday afternoons 1-4 p.m. Use the back stairway for easy access. The Archives office phone number is 269-857-7901. E-mail:

Society Phone: 269 857-5751
Museum Phone: 269 857-7900
Tech Center Phone 269 857-7901

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