SEPTEMBER  2015 Click HERE for printer friendly version with images

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


Director's Corner

'Greetings, and welcome!' Ive heard a lot over the past few weeks from the friendly SDHS folks I've met during my first month on the job as Director. Allow me to return the salutation to the Director's Corner. Each newsletter, I plan to share with you interesting and exciting news and notes from my perspective as the Society's full-time staff member.

My first weeks have been busy in addition to learning the day-to-day ropes of keeping a busy organization like SDHS running during the tail end of the tourist season, I've been meeting with each of our board members, committee leaders, and other key volunteers. With this continuing interaction, I have begun to understand the core functions of SDHS how all of the important moving pieces (there are A LOT of them) fit together to make this one of the premier local history organizations in Michigan.

SDHS has accomplished so much with the time, talents and enthusiasm of volunteers. It is my goal, as Director, to facilitate further growth in our programming, fundraising and outreach within the organization and the community.

From my meetings thus far, we are clearly an organization with a lot to be proud of and aspirations to share stories of the past with even greater audiences. Im excited to be a part of this new phase of growth at SDHS, and I look forward to meeting and getting to know the membership over the coming weeks and months.

My regular hours are 9-5 M-F, and my office is in the back corner of the Old School House. You can also reach me at my new email:

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.

Mark Your Calendar
2015 Monthly Programs


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

Michigan Hometown Stories: Saugatuck/Douglas

The story of Saugatuck and Douglas, as seen on WGVU-TV/PBS in June, is at last available on DVD as a keepsake for your film library and a great gift for family and friends. This special one-hour documentary celebrates our history, people, art, diversity, and strong community commitment to preserving our townscape and nature-blessed environment.

Told in the words of more than 30 townsfolk and visitors revealing their impressions and memories, this unique program distills 40+ hours of interviews videotaped all around the area from the Crow's Nest to the Old School House and in and around dozens of our businesses, lodgings, and galleries even on the Star of Saugatuck and Dune Schooners.

And, owning this DVD gives you exclusive access to hours of bonus material shot, but not used in the one-hour broadcast!

Created by Historical Society members Jon Helmrich and Stephen Mottram, working with WGVU's head of production Phil Lane, the project was funded by donations from members of the community, augmented by a generous matching grant from the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.

Now it's yours for a mere $25 plus MI sales tax. Supplies are limited, so order soon! Proceeds will help support the Historical Society's many volunteer-based programs and activities.

Click HERE to purchase your DVD.

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.

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

Upcoming meetings at the OSH are:

Thursday, October 1
Thursday, October 15
Thursday, November 5

Remember, your family history does not have to have any connection to the Saugatuck-Douglas area !!!

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 always available from the Family History group by phone and email. Again, the only requirement is membership in the SDHS.

Mayflower ancestor, Revolutionary War vet, great grandparents, WWII vet? Stop wondering and get the facts. Come to this weeks meeting - 3:30 on Thursday at the Old School House tech room.

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

This newsletter column is produced by Jack Sheridan

The Bill Simmons Scrapbook

This month marks a new History by Camera feature. I have dubbed it the BILL SIMMONS SCRAPBOOK.

Bill was a semi professional photographer, originally from Chicago, who moved to Saugatuck about 1940. Over the next twenty years he took thousands of photos. He had a couple of stints as the editor of the Commercial Record.

He died in 1962 and these photos went unnoticed until 1998 when they were given to the SDHS. What a record of our town in the middle of the twentieth century!

Many have appeared in SDHS books and exhibits. However, others ended up - so to speak, on the cutting room floor, because Bill would often take numerous shots of a particular subject. We have all these negatives but have used only the best of them. So many of images have not been published.

Click on the Scrapbook image at the top of this article to examine the photos and see what you can identify before reading my brief captions. This is a History Mystery exercise without hints. Have fun.

I appreciate your feedback on my captions and selection of the images. Please point out my errors and omissions by sending me an email at

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.

l Linwood (Woody) Ogle, Saugatuck, MI
l Cindy Stearns, Glen Ellyn, IL
l Kenneth & Emily Nietering, Dearborn, MI (Parents of the Society's new Director)

New Life Members

l Robert C. Hudson and family

New Commercial Records
To Be Added

Thanks to Allegan News/Commercial Record Publisher Cheryl Kaechele and to the SDHS Board, our on-line Commercial Record issues are being expanded by 9 years!

The first new year, 1969, has already been posted, and the remaining ones will be processed incrementally taking things up to 1977. This adds to the issues which had already been made available (1868-1968).

The pages can be accessed either through the SDHS web site on-line research section or directly from Thanks also to Dick Haight for the technical work which incorporates these pages and to the Saugatuck-Douglas District Library.
                            submitted by Chris Yoder

 What you missed

The August 25th Tuesday Talk, Extreme Yachts and Classic Boat Restoration - Macatawa Bay Boat Works with owner, Jonathan Reus provided a state-of-the-art look at high-end wood yacht and classic boat restoration.

Macatawa Bay Boat Works, a local shop more familiar among well-to-do boat enthusiasts around the Great Lakes and New York's upstate Adirondack region than to most townspeople here. Jonathan, a lifelong aficionado of classic cars and boats, discussed the Michigan history of his craft and showed what's involved in building and restoring wood boats.

In case you missed the program or would like to see the presentation again, click HERE to view a copy. Be patient, the file will take a while to download.

Garden Happenings
"A man may die, a nation may rise and fall, but
an idea lives on." --- John F. Kennedy

Our garden started off as an idea, now look at it! With the fall flowers, the "almost there" Peach Orchard graphics and our Little Free Library installed, the idea is growing into a place filled with beauty, history, and a touch of whimsy. Many thanks to Ingrid Boyer for giving us the idea and providing the books for our library, and our own John Migas for the design, construction and installation. We hope to see these libraries pop up in other areas of our communities.

Little Free Library in the Old School House Garden

Our little Garden Gnome has told us that the Hornbooks are being used. Thanks to Jim, Sam and the people at Evergreen Commons for these fun, little informational tools. During our annual Chili Party, we will, once again, plant daffodils for our Daffodil Trail. We are asking for a $25.00 donation to plant a bunch of bulbs. We will dig the holes and you can plant them.

This winter our committee is going to work on developing a plan for our Green Team. This group will be in charge of some general care of our garden, such as deadheading, planting and weeding. We may have someone that will be the leader of this Green Team, but will need volunteers. More information to come.

The Root Camp committee is already thinking of ideas for next year. Native American Drummers and Basket Weaving are two ideas we are toying with. If anyone knows someone that could be our "teachers" for these lessons, please contact Ruth Johnson at

Until next month,
The Landscape and Root Camp Committees

Intriguing Conversation: The Power of Our Past - Stonewall and Saugatuck

Saugatuck Center for the Arts
Saturday, September 17 at 7:00 PM

The events in Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969 launched a revolution in America. The Stonewall riots inspired LGBT communities throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights, and within two years following those historic events, gay rights groups were organized in nearly every major city. Today the movement has grown to include the Stonewall Inn and Christopher Park in the National Park System.

This special Intriguing Conversation, presented by the National Parks Conservation Association and the Saugatuck Douglas Historical Society features David Carter, author of Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution, and Philip Bockman, a Stonewall veteran.

These speakers will discuss the formation of a local gay history initiative, frame our own local history in the larger national context, and introduce the concept of Stonewall becoming a national park.

Sponsored by Bill Underdown/Hungry Village Tours​

The Hattie Cottle Home

Click on the image for a higher resolution copy

Click on the image for a higher resolution copy

Among the photographs in the May Heath Collection are some wonderful posed shots of the Hattie Cottle Home in Saugatuck. The property, located at 143 Elizabeth St., is now owned by Robert and Mary Waters. Who was Hattie Cottle? From her 1926 obituary in the Commercial Record, we learn:

At her home in Saugatuck Mich., on Saturday morning, Jan. 9, Hattie Mason Cottle entered life eternal, leaving behind a host of friends and the record of a life rich in service. She was born in Polo, Illinois, the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Mason, and was the last surviving member of the family.

She began her life work of teaching when 20 years of age. Her earlier work was outside of Chicago, but she gave thirty-two years of faithful conscientious service to that city, and the lives of hundreds of children, and the community in which she lived, have been enriched by her unselfish devotion to her work as assistant principal of the Wadsworth school. Mrs. Cottle's effective work was known in nearly every home in Woolawn, and many an individual in this section of Chicago owes their success in life to her influence. Mr. Mayo, the present principal of the Wadsworth school, under whom she taught for five years, paid her the following compliment:

"I knew Mrs. Cottle and worked with her for many years. She was kind, gentle and persevering; always ready to lend a helping hand, to encourage a non-interested pupil, and ever alert to inspire a student onward and upward into new realms of self betterment. She goes to her last resting place mourned by her many friends. After long years of toil, that to her were a pleasure, peace and quiet and rest await her."

Mrs. Cottle retired from teaching in June, 1922, the last years being spent in her beautiful home in Saugatuck, where the kindly devotion of her friends and neighbors added much to her comfort and pleasure.

A beautiful painting, Caritas? hangs at the head of one of the stairways of the Wadsworth school. This painting, presented by the Parent-Teacher Association of that school was dedicated last May with Mrs. Cottle being present. Below the painting is this inscription: "A. tribute for many years of faithful service given by Hattie M. Cottle."

She is buried in the Oak Woods Cemetery, Chicago next to her husband Freeman Norton Cottle (29 Apr 1854 in Tisbury, Dukes, MA-21 May 1906 in Chicago Hospital, Cook Co., IL). He also was a teacher. She married him rather late in life as his second wife, Dec. 25, 1895 in Ogle Co, IL, and they were to have no children. Freeman was also a teacher and his death in 1906 at the age of 52 received a mention in the Commercial Record Prof. Cottle's Saugtauck friends have received the sad news of his death in Chicago while undergoing an operation in a hospital.

A review of local tax records shows that in 1900 one "N. C. Cottle" owned 11 acres of land in the township valued at $500, so perhaps he came first to frequent this area, bringing along his wife after their marriage.

Freeman Norton Cottle went to school in Boston and apparently was somewhat of an inventor. In 1880 he patented a "Door-Gong and Alarm" and a "frame" of some type is recorded in 1904. His teaching career was in Massachusetts for many years but by 1889 he was in Chicago as a music teacher.

The 1873 Atlas shows there was no home on the property at that time:

1873 Atlas of Saugatuck Showing No Structure Present

Going back through the township tax records we can find the history of ownership:
By 1880 to his death - David White - A Lt. in the Civil War, he died in 1911.
1913 - Estate of David White (his heir Edith Rieder)
1915 - Hattie Cottle
1927 - Edward J. and Elizabeth Mulholland (of Chicago)
1942 - Irving K and Edith T. Pershing (owner of Pershing Products Corp made military parts during the war and water heaters and machine tool stands afterward.)
1952 - Duncan and Myrtle Byrd
1980 - Anne Marie Marcelletti (daughter of the Byrds)
------- Nancy Nieusma Burch until 1995
1995 - Arnold Shafer - Mr. Shafer, now a Douglas resident and Society member, did some major restoration work for which he received a 2004 Historical Society Heritage Preservation Award and the home was on the 2005 Home tour. One of his changes was to replace the pillar seen in the Cottle picture with a beam ceiling.
2005 - Robert and Mary Waters

The home is featured on page 75 of Jim Schmiechen's wonderful 1999 book Raising the Roof as a "Craftsman Bungalow" Arts & Crafts style and gives a date on it of 1918. However the Property Tax records for 1915 show Hattie as owner of Lots 51 and 52 in Morrison's Addition, valued at $2,000 and paying a property tax of $29'00, an amount which supports a residence already present at that time. Going back a bit further, we see that Civil War Veteran David White (1832-1911) owned the property before Hattie and there was a house on it before 1911. The Commercial Record from July 4, 1913 shows White's heirs staying in the home at that time:

On page 75 of James Schmiechen's Raising the Roof, he writes that the azaleas in front of the house may be the largest and oldest this far north in Michigan and credits them to Duncan (1902-1978) and Myrtle Byrd who were owners from 1952.

One later owner, Arnold Schafer, reports that during the time he lived there, wedding parties would stop in front of the home to get a picture taken with the azaleas in bloom.

Mr. Byrd was a noted botanist/nurseryman, reported to have discovered that if you don't wash blueberries before freezing them, they will not get mushy. He had nurseries throughout west Michigan including Pullman, Grand Junction, Covert, South Haven, Lacoda, Bloomingdale.

Originally from the Carolinas, he received his under graduate degree from Clemson and his Masters at Michigan State. His daughter, now living in Paw Paw, confirms that he planted the azaleas at the front, and others which are no longer present.

Duncan and Myrtle Byrd

We are certainly blessed by the many architectural gems such as this one in our community!

Click on the image for a higher resolution copy
                                 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: Nathan Nietering, PO Box 617, Douglas MI 49406 or email

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 Noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through September and October. Parking and admission are free but donations are appreciated. 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 Nathan Nietering at 269-857-5751 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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