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History Lives Here Text

Lettersto a Great Lakes Sailor

(Continued fromPage 223)

Douglas, Nov. 19, 1901

from Mama




Theweather has been something terrible here. I guess we have had the same kind as youdescribe. We are not done husking corn yet,' we have one-hundred and sixteenbushel baskets husked and have the corn on the hill to husk yet, we had twentynine bushels of potatoes and have not got our vegetables pulled yet waiting forthe snow to go off so we can pull them. Our pig is doing nicely and our cowsare doing pretty well. If we only have enough feed to feed them all winter. Thehorses are all right.


Gracetakes music lessons from Helen Henry in Saugatuck. Leckbrings her doom every Sat., but of course it is too far for her to come toDouglas to see us so she writes for Sara to meet her at Taylor's when she wantsto tell her anything. Sara- is well but oh, so lonesome as there is no one hereshe can go any where with now. She is asked to every thing going on inSaugatuck but it is too far to go alone over there and there is nothing goingon in Douglas.


JimMcVea is home. Sam is working in Fowler's packinghouse in Chicagoand is going to stay all winter so Jim says. Louise Lundgren is staying up toSue's fat New Richmond].Lou is going to teach the Tracy school, the same one Sara taught two yearsago if she can get a certificate. I never saw Ray and Sue looking better, theyare both fat and well.


Thereare two new houses going up in Douglas. Bob Dempster bought two lots from Tom Martin and is buildingright next to Martin's house and Walker bought a lot just north of AlbertBeebe's and is building there. Walkersold his place for $1000. Write when you can, I am sorry you have such a poorcook but keep well if possible.

Lovefrom us all





Douglas, Nov, 30`h 1901

from Mama




Yourwelcome letter received, I am very sorry you are having such awful times, we are having awful stormy weather here too. I hope youwill not have to go up there again this fall anyway.


Yourtaxes this fall will be about $13, I guess. The assessment is raised to $600 onyour forty acres and $300 on your twenty. Papa did not get time to work outyour road tax on the forty he worked out the other by cutting the brush infront of your place.


Yourfruit would have brought better prices if we could have shipped them by anything but these boats. The McVea was taken off thisroute and sent to the pier and the Saugatuck tried to make daily trips fromhere, of course that would make her late every day so that our fruit had to goon the local market and sell for whatever they would bring.


Wehave our corn husked, we only had eighty-one bushelbaskets. This fall it has been a very poor corn year, we have had an awfulseason. Nothing grew but weeds. We had forty-four bushels of potatoes.


ThanksgivingDay we were all up to Leck's and had a very nicetime. Ray could not get any one to take his place for that day so neither Ray or Sue were there. Ollie (Leek's husband) justwent home a week ago yesterday. He put in three weeks on the Addie Wade after the Saugatuck was laid up. Will is stillworking at the factory.


Bakerhouse in Saugatuck burned Thursday night - you know the old Bird house on theDeming hill.


Ican't think of anything more to write. I am very thankful to you for the moneyyou said we could have. Take good care of yourself and don't worry. God willtake care of you.

Lovefrom us all



Douglas, May 26, 1904

from Mamma

Dear George,


Wewere all very glad to hear from you, we were torturing our brains to know whatwe had done to you and Bob which would account for your silence, and as we hadno address to send a letter to we could not write, but your being sick ofcourse, exempts your from blame.


Iam very sorry you were so sick, you must be very careful of yourself as I knowsomething about lung troubles and I know how you must have suffered. Jim McVea told us you were in Tonowandaso we knew you must have gone to fit out, but we have seen no report of yourboat anywhere.


Everything has been cold and backward here so far but things are brightening up verymuch now. the fruit trees are loaded with flowersexcepting the peach, I think that crop will be very thin. We have our plantingabout all done excepting some Indian corn to be planted on the place across theroad from the house. Your house and everything is alright and your lawn iscarving up some. The shrubbery you set out around the house is all growingnicely.


Tomorrowis Sara's last day of school for this school year. They have offered her theschool again so I suppose she will begin again next Sept. They are going tohave new teachers in Douglas all but HattieSpencer. Hugh Graham died last Monday and Simon Olson, Mrs. Frank Weed's fatherwas buried last Sunday. Tim McVea is very low also.Papa works very hard all day but is quite weak.


Theyhave begun working at the harbor at the mouth so I guess we will have a harborat last. [The new harbor mouth was not completed until April, 1906]. Oursteamboats are following the lead of the big freighters by lying at the docksin Saugatuck. Jim and family were down last night to the promotion exercises inSaugatuck, they were fine. I was over as Baker [probably Henry Baker whowould be married to Sara in 1906] cannot leave the store evenings,I go as Sara's escort. Will of course is too busy taking care of M-.


TheGoshorn bridge is to becondemned, the Supreme judge reversed the decision of Judge Padgham.[The floating bridge over Goshorn Lakewas in disrepair and residents tried to force the township to maintain it.]


We could not get any trees to plant this spring that would amount toanything. A few 2nd class Salways from Hamilton set out on thehill but can't tell yet how they will turn out. Willie has set out Catalpatrees in front of the place from his corner to the bridge and they are doingwell. Love from us all.




Douglas, October 10, 1904

from brother Will

Dear George,

Itis awful hot here and has been for the last three or four days. It rainedharder this afternoon than it has any time before this summer and I guess it isnot over with yet.


Iwas in hopes we would get a few good days as we have got a lot of painting todo fat the Douglas Basket Factory] and I seem to be the only painter inthe bunch. We're going to paint the mill and two of the warehouses if we gettime and the weather. We started the job about the middle of August and I guessmaybe it is one tenth done, but from now on we will probably have more time asfruit is about gone.. As we paint from now on we're going to change the colorof all the buildings from red to slate color, it looks a whole lot better andwears longer. I also wanted to paint my house too this fall, but don't knowwhether or not I will get to it.


Thefolks have somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 bu.of potatoes, lots of apples and I guess quite a fair amount of corn. they have gathered their wood from the factory andaltogether will be in pretty good shape for the winter I guess.


Yes,there was 20 cds. of your wood, I put in your orderway last spring and then stood guard with a club all summer till it was hauled,otherwise you would have been short as they made about 2000 cdsless this year than they did last so when it came down to the windup it wasworse than the coal deal last winter as quite a few went away with 1/2.It was $1.50 in the yard this year or 1.75 del. Papa has yours all piled up soit will be in better shape this winter.


Jimand the bunch were down yesterday but I did not see much of them as I went toFennville in the afternoon to see my latest.


Yourknock kneed dog? Well, if he was a little more particular of his company andwouldn't get familiar with strange cats of a doubtful nature, we wouldappreciate him a little more. He must be something of a socialist, at least, heseems to believe in equality, for after making a close acquaintance with one ofyour sweet scented perfumery foundlings, he thinks it no more than right andjust to come and sleep in the same bed with me. With that exception he seems tobe quite a well behaved and orderly dog.


Youneed be in no hurry with that $30. Of course the wood was all a cash deal thissummer, so I payed for yours and you can pay me whenit comes handy.



Douglas, October 16, 1904





Yourvery welcome letter received alright and we were all very glad to hear fromyou. It is lovely weather here now and hope it willcontinue so for a long time. Last week and the week before itwas raining or blowing all the time.


Wehave our potatoes all dug, we had about ninety bushels, but they are onlypaying thirty cents a bushel for them, so I think we will keep them tillspring. Our corn is all cut, it is very fine and we have anice lots of cabbage and vegetables so we won't starve this winter. Ithink we have about 200 bushels of apples. We are trying to sell some of thembut it is almost impossible to sell any fruit here. Jim has some on the Renterplace and we may have a chance to sell ours when he disposes of his. They wereall down here last Sunday. It was Will's house that you saw about in the paper,he just began to paint it yesterday. Oil is only SO cents a gallon now, whitelead 7 cents a pound, so it does not cost much to paint. I am very glad you areout of debt. I hope you will soon be able to stay ashore and not risk your lifeon that awful water.


Douglashas annexed all the lake shore that is north of the new road,and such a howl as Will McVea made you never heard.He was just agoing to show them a thing or two, but Iguess he has cooled down now.


Bob Moore was buried at 2 o'clock today. He died in Holland last Thursday night. Mr. Baker, Sara,Will and his new girl from Fennville have all gone boat riding down the riverand Papa is reading the paper. Papa's health is better this fall than it waslast fall, but his neck seems to be very large yet. He has piled your wood andyou have a fine lot of it. Your lawn has got a nice sod on it and your rosebushes are doing finely. Will has set Catalpa trees in front of your place andthey are growing nicely altogether your home looks beautiful. I will have toclose now as my hand pains me awfully. Good by, God keep both you and Bob andbring you both home soon safe and sound.




Douglas Nov 13th 1904

from Mama




Wereceived your letter alright. I do hope you will not have to be on the lakemuch longer and that you and Bob can soon come home. It will be so nice to haveyou both back again.


Iam very sorry for Auntie, it is so hard she does notknow what to do. Willie does the chores for her now and when he is not here todo them I do, but it keeps us busy and I am not able to do much more than myown work. I do not like to have Papa do much and I try and help him all I can. Itcertainly is enough for one to do, but she persists in keeping two cows and asshe can not milk them it throws it on to Will and me. I do hope things willchange before long as I am tired out, but enough about myself.


Wesold twenty three barrels of apples for 60 cents a barrel here and we haveplenty left for you and for ourselves. We will also have plenty of vegetablesfor us all, so you will have plenty of them this winter. Jim & Leck are anxious to sell their place so they can come downhere and live but it seems very hard for them to sell at present. Auntie wasover here for dinner today, it is the first time I've got her to eat over heresince Uncle died. I truly believe it was smoking so much of that tobacco heraised that killed uncle and she smokes it too and is complaining of her heartall the time. When I stood over him and tried to keep him quiet when he hadthose spasms his breath would almost kill you it was strong with tobacco and Icould taste it for a week afterward.


Papa and I thank you very much for the money you sent him. Dr. Walkertold me promise not to let him work hard and I try to help him all I can. I dowish you and Bob were here, she is so kind and jolly I am looking forward to afine time when you come which I hope will be very soon. Willie has sold hishouse in Douglas for $800 but did not get buta trifle down for it. He has a girl in Fennville this time and has gone to seeher now and I will have to milk. Love from us all




Thisis the last of a series of letters written to Great Lakes sailor George Tisdaleof Douglas between 1892 and 1904. The letters,saved by George and then by the family offer an intimate view of life in thearea during that period, as well as first-hand historical confirmation ofcertain historic dates, i. e. the fire at the butcherLodge, the beginning of work on the new harbor. The short biographies belowround out the information on the major characters included in the letters:


Papa,William Graham Tisdale died January 26, 1907, in Douglas.


"Till,"Clara Matilda (Tisdale) Deming had one son, Frank A., born December 2, 1891.She and her husband, AltonS. "Ollie" Denting lived near Lacota andare buried there.


"Leck," Eiecta R. (Tisdale)Campbell and her husband, Jim, bought the old Kenterplace and moved to Douglas shortly after theletters ended. Jim Campbell ran the West Shore Ferry until his death January 8,1915, self-inflicted by drinking carbolic acid. Lecktook it over for several years but died at her home near Fennville, March 8,1918, of tuberculosis. Their son, Jimmie, also had tuberculosis and he was sentto sanitariums in Florida, New Mexico and Chicago,but the disease could not be stemmed. He died October 5, 1920, at Homeo Hospitalat Ann Arbor.


George retired about 1905 from the Great Lakes and, after the death ofJames Campbell and Leck operated a ferry boat to thewest shore. In 1927 he built the Isabel, named for a daughter. George died May3 at South Bend. His_ wife, Barbara, was buried in Douglascemetery May 27, 1950. A daughter Isabel lived in the old Tisdale house on Ferry Street untilshortly before she died September 7, 1988, at the age of 90. The home is nowthe Deer Creek Bed & Breakfast.,,


Suewas married in 1901 to R. " Ray" H. Leverichand the couple lived in Fennville before moving to the New Richmond railroadoffice, where Ray was agent. They later moved to Berrien Springs.


"Will,"William Graham Tisdale, was married in June of 1906 to Bessie White, and thecouple had three children, William G., White, and Caroline (Haven). Will was astockholder and superintendent in the Douglas Basket Factory, served assupervisor of Saugatuck Township and was president of Douglas1922 to 1924. He died November 23, 1933, on the beach near Camp Gray.


Sarawas married June 19, 1906 at George's residence to Henry Brooks Baker Jr. andthe couple moved to Lansing and later to Ypsilanti.


Mamma, Matilda (Mortenson) Tisdale spent herfinal years with her daughter, Sara, in Ypsilantiand died May 1 at the age of 86. Henry died February 2, 1967. Sara died August15, 1977, in Ypsilanti.