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History Lives Here Text

Flowers, Artifacts and History


In1976 the Saugatuck Historical Museumopened in celebration of the Nation's bicentennial. It was located on Lake Street inSaugatuck in the back of the old Commercial Record once in historic Wright'sPavilion, later used by Handled With Care. The call went out for bits ofSaugatuck history to add to the display and Jeanette Barr of Port Washington, Wisconsin,responded. She was the only daughter of Dr. R. J. Barr who was a doctor in theSaugatuck area from 1895 until 1943. In addition to offering some historicalartifacts Mrs. Barr is also responding to a request for information on a strainof iris that was developed by John Nies, a California resident but a Saugatuck native,and named after his birthplace.


April 1, 1976 DearMrs. Lane:

Amsorry to answer your letter of Mar. 15 so late but we were gone all last month.It will take me awhile to unearth the information you want on the Saugatuckiris. I had 2 or 3 of Mr. Nies' iris planted along our fence, but they have notbloomed for several years and some have died out. I don't believe I have theold iris catalog from which I ordered the Nies iris but think I can find theold garden magazine in which they were written up. As soon as I can locate anyinformation I'll let you know.


Inotice that your museum is asking for souvenirs of Saugatuck. I can give youthe following if they fit your needs:


1.A 4" sterling spoon inscribed "Saugatuck Mich." on bowl and an enameldesign of peaches on handle of spoon.


2.A 5 I/4" sterling spoon with "MaplewoodSaugatuck" and an engraving of the south side of the hotel as it looked inearly 1900's inscribed on the bowl. On handle the head of an Indian and corn,tepees, canoe and arrows.


3.A 5 3/4" sterling spoon in a well known pattern (Mt. Vernon Ibelieve) with inscription "Douglas"with curly cues in bowl.

4.A ceramic pin tray or ash tray in artist's palette shape inscribed"Saugatuck" made by the Saugatuck Pottery located on the old FrankHayes farm on the New Richmond Road, or Allegan Road as it's now called. It doesn't have theirtrademark on it was


whichis on a flower bowl I have. I sold some other pieces to a woman who advertisedfor them in your paper.


Gettingback to the iris again. I remember that the woman who lived in the house nowowned by Marc Waugh north of the Cong'l Church planted some Saugatuck iris.They might still be there. Mrs. Heath's didn't do well, I know, too much shade.


[Welooked but couldn't find any of the iris at either location. However, there aresome outside of the `flea market" on 64th Street that fit thedescription of the variety, very large and tall, and a true Spuria, purple withgray overtones.]


Iwas interested in the old letter from Lee Leland in your paper. I would guessits date would be in the 40's or 50's. He mentioned Griffin & Henry mill.John F. Henry was my mother's uncle and I have his old scrapbook but nopictures of the mill. I might give the scrap book to the museum or library oran historical society. His home is now occupied by a Mr. Coe, I believe, abrother of Mrs. Fred Koning. It formerly belonged to one of the big shots inthe 0. R. Johnson mill and the two houses, adjacent and around corner from itwere once part of it. It was always painted dark red in the old days. The BigPavilion orchestra men roomed in the 2nd floor rooms every summerfor many years.


[Doesanyone know where this house was located? One member of the Coe family laterran a car agency in Holland.Several oldtimers we have spoken too remember the Goes that were related to theKonings, but do not know where they lived. And no one seems to remember a redhouse, claiming that the only red buildings in town besides barns were the BigPavilion and the Fruit Exchange.]




Thenext week Mrs. Barr sent an entire box of materials for the new museum, alongwith a second letter with many more tidbits of area history.


April 7,197b Dear Mrs Lane:

Iam mailing the three souvenir spoons and the pottery ash tray to you. I am gladto give them to the museum. The spoon commemorating Maplewood Hotel was givento me by Mr. and Mrs. E. S. Pride who were the proprietors in 1902 when I wasborn. It was one of my baby gifts. The spoon with peaches on it commemoratesthe great peach growing boom which began in the last century and at one timesuffered a disastrous freeze.


Inconnection with Mrs. Pride who with her sister Mrs. Whipple conducted a privatehospital in Saugatuck for my father's patients (Dr. Walker). [This early hospital waslocated on the Village Squarein Saugatuck.] I wonder if you could getsome historical material from Mrs. Funk [Julia Funk, a teacher for years in the gradeschool. Her husband, Roscoe, ran a newstand on Butler Street] about them. Their little hospital paved the way forthe one started by Mrs. Nevins in Douglas which directly preceded the Community Hospital. [Faith Nevins began thefirst Community hospital in what is now the Kirby House Bed and Breakfast on Center Street, justwest of the Blue Star Highway.]


Atone time you asked for information about local authors. There was a Mrs. [Stella] Calkins, widow of a doctor and mother of Mrs. Dailyand grandmother of Capt. Charles bailey. Mrs. Calkins wrote poetry, privatelypublished. Mrs. bailey wrote all the publicity for the Woman's Club for manyyears and Capt. bailey was the author of a booklet of poems including one whichwent: "Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat the more youtoot." This was a radical departure from the style of his mother andgrandmother.


Thenthere was a Mrs. McDonald in Douglas, mother of Claude and sister-in-law ofMrs. McDonald of the funeral home. She wrote short novelettes that were printedin folders advertising Saugatuck as a resort. They were all romantic in theme.


Therewas also a Mrs. Baker in Douglas, mother of the late Mrs. Robert Dempster whowrote stories for magazines. I used to have samples of all but the lastmentioned and if I can find any will send them to you.


Aboutthe iris: All of my catalogs, notes and correspondence about them havedisappeared. A local friend who used to grow them has no memory of them either.Mrs. Nies was related to the Nies family that ran Nies Hardware in Holland formany years, now Vogelzang's. It's the same family as the Mr. Nies who was apartner of Griffin & Henry in the boat line. They had two boats, one ofwhich collided with a Bird & Rogers boat off Chicago in the fog. My grandfather [Captain Dennis Cummings] was Captain of the Griffin & Henry boat thatsank. My uncle, Mr. Henry, used to say that it was pure luck that Capt.Cummings was judged the blameless party because one was just as guilty as theother.


[Thiswas the historic crash of the Pilgrim and the Kalamazoo May 26, 1892. The Kalamazoo sank but her entire crew wasrescued by the crew of the Pilgrim. Captain Fred Sears was master of thePilgrim. According to newspaper stories both captains and both first mates hadtheir licenses suspended for running too fast in foggy weather.]


Nowback to the iris: the current Flower and Garden Magazine advertisesan illustrated iris catalog from MelroseGardens, Stockton California.this could be the one. they have several types of iris. the Saugatuck iris wasnot the prettiest of Mrs. Nies' Butterfly Iris strain, but was rather a grayedblue as I remember it.




Manysmall tidbits of history can be gleaned from even the simplest letter. For thisreason ye ole editor asks that members look over old letters in theirpossession for insights into area history. As these two indicate the lettersthemselves need not be ancient to have wonderful, useful information. The itemsthat Mrs. Barr gave to the 1976 historical museum are now in the archives ofthe Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society where they may figure in futureexhibits.