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History Lives Here Text

by Chris Yoder

In the "Local Happenings"section of the May 12,1933 Commercial Record, there is a note whichsays:


Themonument for the grave of Whistling Bill, which was paid for by donations, hasbeen erected and looks very nice.


Jack Sheridan had heard of"whistling Bill" but had to refer me to Kit Lane to get the detail onwho this fellow was. She wrote "Elmer Haselgren ("whistlingBill"), a cheerful greeter of people, was fondly remembered by enoughfriends to erect a modest tombstone in the Saugatuck cemetery."


Kit was also able to direct me to wherethe stone can be found today, in the Riverside Cemetery at the side of Lilac,about 40 feet from its intersection with Daffodil.


The stonereads simply:

1869 - 1932





An obituary which appeared the yearbefore in the September. 16, 1932 issue gives a bit more information about thegentleman.


ElmerHaselgren, better known as "Whistling Bill'; was born inSt. Joseph, Michigan, June 26, 63 years ago.

He had lived in or near Saugatuck 35 years, firstcoming to work on the Heath farm.

He lost his mother, his only relative, 48 years ago.

Friendssay that as a boy Bill showed remarkable talent in drawing and music. Throughhis musical ability he spread much sunshine.

Blllleaves to mourn his passing a host of friends.

Thefuneral services were held at Riverside cemetery where he was laid to rest.Rev. R. L. Kortkamp officiated."


Rev. Kortkamp was then the pastor of theFirst Congregational Church.


A review of the Michigan census showsseveral entries which add a small amount to what we know about him. The 1880census for St. Joseph, Berrien County, shows Elmer as a 9 year old living withhis mother "Carey Hasselgren". She was 40, had been born in Sweden,and was a carpet weaver. Elmer was born in Michigan and was attending school.


He next appears in the 1900 census. Atthat time he had moved to the town of Lincoln, also in Berrlen County and was aservant living in the home of Jacob and Martha Ebert. His birth is shown ashaving been in June 1870 and both of his parents had been born in Sweden.


By 1910 he was a boarder in Saugatuck inthe household of Nelson and Johanna Nickelson. I could not spot him in 1920,but the 1930 Michigan census shows 60 year old Elmer Hasselgren as a"porter at the hotel" living in the household of Edson G. Crow, age49, and his wife Louise, age 45.


Edson Crow had had purchased HotelSaugatuck in 1928 and following Prohibition installed the bar which is todaycalled "the Old Crow". Certainly a position as the "porter"for Saugatuck's premier Kalamazoo River hotel was an ideal place for"Whistling Bill" to "spread much sunshine" and be anambassador of welcome to Saugatuck visitors.



Who can add to this story? Did anyone in the Societyknow him? Or have you heard stories about him? Why was a fellow named"Elmer" called "Bill". Please send to Chris Yoder