Archive for July 2010

My Family’s Iron Pioneers – The Bishop, Remington, and White Families

July 20, 2010

People frequently ask me about my own family. I have several different branches of ancestors who came to Marquette. Below is a discussion of one branch, an excerpt from my upcoming book My Marquette, to be published this Christmas.  

The Remington, Bishop, and White Families

Marquette, or rather, the settlement of Worcester which would later have its name changed to Marquette, was established in 1849. The first census taken was in 1850. On that census are listed Edmond and Jemima Remington and their children, including their oldest daughter Adda, who was born in 1845. Edmond and Jemima are my great-great-great grandparents, six generations back. They came to Marquette from Vermont according to the census. Edmond was born about 1821 and Jemima about 1820. Although best guesses exist about Edmond and Jemima’s ancestors which include revolutionary war soldiers for grandfathers and Mayflower Pilgrim ancestors, we know few details about their lives before they came to Marquette. They were the first of my ancestors to arrive on Lake Superior’s shores.

My next ancestors to arrive in Marquette were my four greats-grandparents, Basil and Eliza Bishop. From one of Basil’s letters, we know he arrived on May 1, 1850. The 1850 census was taken on July 22, 1850, so Basil and Eliza should have appeared on it. Instead, the only Bishop listed has the first name of Beelzebub and he is thirty-five years old. Since no other record exists of a Beelzebub in Marquette history, it is fair to guess Basil was joking with the census taker, providing one of the Devil’s biblical names; the census taker apparently failed to get the joke. Basil also lied about his age—he would have been sixty-one at the time. However, Beelzebub is listed as a bloomer from New York, a job description and former residence that matches Basil Bishop’s true background.

Basil and Eliza Bishop - my 4-greats-grandparents

           Basil Bishop was born in Vermont in 1789. His Bishop family ancestors were Puritans who first settled in Connecticut in the seventeenth century—other branches of the family include colonial governors of Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay. Basil was the son and grandson of American Revolutionary War soldiers, and during the War of 1812, he served at the Battle of Plattsburg. In 1812, he also built a famous forge at Split Rock Falls in New York. His family prospered along with his business; his wife Elizabeth “Betsey” Brittell would bear him eighteen children. Then as the prosperous couple entered their golden years, they decided to move to the new settlement of Marquette, founded in 1849 by Amos Harlow.

The journey was arduous; the Bishops travelled through Ohio, where they contracted the ague, from which they would suffer the rest of their lives. Far from disappointed by the journey, Basil wrote to a friend of his arrival in Marquette (note, his original spelling, far from standard, has been retained):

“I heard of the iron Mountains on Lake Superior & that a Forge was going & I was wholly bent to Sea it & in April I Started & Reached hear the 1 day of May 1850 the next day I was on the Iron Mountains & Sea to Sea Millions upon Millions of the Richest ore I ever Saw piled up 200ft above the Laurel Maple timber land below it was the most delightfull Seane I ever experienced.”

Basil believed the iron ore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was the finest he had ever seen in forty years of working with iron. Although his original intention was to build his own forge, he ended up instead working in the one owned by Amos Harlow, the village’s founder.

The early years of Marquette were difficult ones of near starvation in winter, and little contact with the outside world due to no railroads and the short shipping season. Nevertheless, Basil continually wrote letters to praise Marquette. He convinced four of his adult children, Delivan, Lucia, Omelia, and Rosalia and his wife’s nephew, Daniel Brittell, to move to the new settlement. He proudly watched the little village grow, and in 1852, he wrote to a friend, “it is but 2 years last july that the first blow was Struck hear & now it is quite a viledge 15 large uprite houses 95 numerous log & Small ones a forge 130 ft long a machine Shop Shingle Mill Lath Mill & grist mill all under one Roof.” Today’s Marquette residents who grumble about short growing seasons will marvel when Basil declares the area has the best growing soil ever, and that visitors to Marquette find it a “great wonder” to see Basil’s “Beets Carrots Cabbage Cucumbers onions corn pumpkin squash sugar cane 9 ft hy and beans…narrow fat peas 2 roes 6 rods long that were 9 feet hy & loaded down with pods.” His visitors “expressed much astonishment to sea such crops heare where all thought this was a frozen reagion as I once did.” The visitors indeed would have been astonished were all this true—certainly, the sugarcane was an exaggeration.

Basil wrote of how rich everyone in Marquette was growing, and he was pleased to see his children prospering beyond their dreams. Writing to his other children back East, he remarks:

“I suppose you thought I was a visionary & too much taken up with this contry but experience now shows I was right in all my prodictions as far more has come to pass than I ever named in so short a time & now there is every indication of there being double of the business done hear next season than was done hear before in one year.”

Basil foresaw a great industrial metropolis arising in Marquette, and his letters speak of early Upper Peninsula dreams of statehood. In a letter of December 1858, Basil notes, “a voat was passed in the legislature of this state last winter to let all of the Upper Peninsula for a new state & the first voat gave us a new state lacking but one & all believe we shall soon be set of & heare will be the capitol.” Perhaps Basil was too visionary in this respect, but his letters speak to the optimism and determination of Marquette’s first settlers, a spirit of survival that continues with today’s residents. When he passed away in 1865, Basil could feel proud of his contributions to the new community.

In 2001, a plaque was placed at Basil Bishop’s grave in Park Cemetery to commemorate him as a War of 1812 veteran. His letters are available at the Marquette County Historical Society. He was indeed, a great iron pioneer, perhaps not remembered in the history books, but one who intimately knew the early Marquette residents and their experiences.

While iron ore attracted the Bishops to Marquette, religious reasons inspired them once they arrived. Delivan, Basil’s son, was a founder of Marquette’s First Methodist Church and many of the family would be involved in church activities including the Methodists two primary social causes: temperance and the abolition of slavery.

Two members of the third generation of the Bishop family would serve in the Civil War. One of them would be Delivan and Pamelia Bishop’s son, Francis Marion Bishop. Francis was my great-great grandfather’s first cousin, and important to my family history because more than fifty of his letters he wrote home during the Civil War have survived. The letters allow the modern reader to understand what it was like to be twenty, brave, homesick, and frightened. His parents’ return letters have not survived, but his responses to them give insight into Marquette’s early years. He comments in 1863, after hearing of the burning down of the nearby village of Chocolay that he had warned people the fire would happen, and next time maybe they will be more careful. He constantly names relatives, friends, and church members, asking to be remembered to them. He asks his grandfather to write if he can, and he tells his father to thank Mr. Everett, presumably businessman Philo M. Everett, for the loan of thirty dollars.

Francis continually comments on the war, the marches, army food, and his fellow soldiers. The dramatic climax of the letters occurs when an army chaplain writes to Francis’ parents: “your son Marion still lives. He is in Washington, badly wounded, but will recover, so says his surgeon. The ball lodged in his shoulder blade has been extracted and he is doing nicely.” A few weeks later, Francis describes in near-epic prose how he fell at the Battle of Fredericksburg:

“At the time I received my wound we were advancing on the enemies works in double-quick time at charge bayonet. When within about 20 paces of our line I saw my Company were somewhat scattered by getting over a fence we had to pass and turning for a moment to my men I waved my sword over my head shouted “Come on Boys” Mind you I was not behind them but no sooner had I turned again to face the foe than I felt a stinging sensation pass through my left breast near the heart and I fell powerless to the Earth, turning as I fell striking on my back. I uttered a low groan and offered a prayer to God. [I fell] with sword unsheathed for the protection of our glorious starry Banner, whose gallent folds waved o’er my head as I fell, for you must know mine was a post of honor, as commander of the 1st Company I stood beside the good old flag of freedom [and I now have] an honorable scar and one received in the best cause for which ever man fought and died.”

Despite his wounds, Francis wanted to continue his service so he was transferred to be Adjutant at Rock Island, Illinois, a prison for Confederate soldiers in the Mississippi River. Here his duties were less rigorous, although he does mention a breakout when the prisoners dug a tunnel. Six rebels escaped and one drowned trying to get across the river, while an officer of the guard was also killed.

 When the war ended, Francis remained in Illinois to study zoology at Wesleyan University. His interest in Marquette continued, and prior to an 1866 visit he remarks, “I expect I will scarcely know Marquette when I see it. It has grown so much if I am to judge from the [Lake Superior] Journal.”

In May 1871, Francis joined Major Powell’s second expedition down the Colorado and Green Rivers and through the Grand Canyon; today, the expedition is considered the last great exploration of the American West. Powell’s first voyage had been a disaster that included shipwreck and the murder of crew members by the Shivwits Indians. Francis, known by his fellow travellers as “Cap” for achieving the rank of captain during the Civil War, was ready for adventure and fame as the expedition’s zoologist and cartographer.

The journey was the adventure of a lifetime, marked by difficult work, rough rapids, and placid moments of floating down river while Major Powell read aloud from the Bible or Tennyson’s poetry. While the first expedition had been a travel into the unknown, this journey would be more scientific, as surveys were conducted and specimens gathered. Moments of excitement included Francis being attacked by a deer he had to wrestle by grabbing its antlers. The Fourth of July was celebrated by a simple shooting off of guns. At times, the men had to carry their gear overland when the river was too wild to be navigated. Most of the travelers kept diaries, including Francis, and hundreds of photographs were taken. Francis’ maps of the river and canyons would become the first official government surveys of the area. However, in the spring of the expedition’s second year, Francis’ war wounds became too painful for him to continue the journey; reluctantly, he left the party before the final stretch through the Grand Canyon. His companions sadly parted from him, and they named Bishop Creek in the Uintas Mountains in his honor.

Francis then settled in Utah, befriending the local Mormons. He converted to the new religion and married the daughter of Orson Pratt, one of the original twelve apostles of the Mormon Church; one wonders what his staunch Methodist parents thought of his religious conversion and marriage. If only their letters to him had survived! Francis became Chair of the Natural Science Department at Deseret University, today’s University of Utah, where the originals of his letters currently reside. In later years, his companions from the expedition visited him and presented him with Major Powell’s special chair from the expedition. Francis would long remember his famous journey, and in his later years, he published an article on Major Powell’s life and his own journal from the expedition. He died in Utah in 1933, at the age of ninety.

Francis Marion Bishop is today one of Marquette’s famous, although forgotten sons, a pioneer of national importance.

Francis’ cousin, Jerome, also fought in the Civil War, but he was content later to return to Marquette to raise a family. Jerome Nehemiah White, my great-great-grandfather, came to Marquette in 1853 as a child of twelve. He was the son of Basil Bishop’s daughter, Rosalia, and her husband Cyrus Beardsley White. Jerome was one of several Marquette men to join the Michigan 27th. By the end of the war, his company had marched across the South, from Mississippi and Kentucky to Tennessee and Virginia. They fought at such significant battles as Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and the Battle of the Wilderness. The strenuous marching and Southern climate caused Jerome to suffer from sunstroke. At Petersburg, he was wounded by a ball entering his left and exiting through his right side. He was sent to a hospital in Washington where he recovered, although he would suffer partial paralysis the remainder of his life. He was released from the hospital as the war was ending, and family tradition states he was in the Ford Theatre the night of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, a possibility since he was in Washington D.C. at the time.

After the war, Jerome returned to Marquette and raised a family. He continued his Methodist association by serving as the Superintendent of the Chocolay branch of the Sunday School. He also farmed in Cherry Creek, where his house still stands today. In 1900, he died of wounds received from a runaway carriage accident at the Carp River Bridge.

Edmond Remington, his daughter Adda, and her husband Jerome White

Jerome’s wife was Adda, the daughter of Edmond and Jemima Remington. Jerome and Adda married in 1861, before he went away to the war. He was nineteen and a half, she a few months shy of sixteen at the time of the marriage. Adda’s mother, Jemima, had died two months before at the young age of forty. Her father, Edmond, remarried in less than four months to Hannah, an Irish immigrant. Edmond then joined the Michigan 27th with his son-in-law Jerome. Like Jerome, Edmond was wounded in battle and survived. After the war, he and his new wife and children left Marquette and moved to South Dakota. In 1882, Edmond would commit suicide by drinking strychnine, apparently because he could no longer tolerate the pain from his war wounds. His daughter, Adda, would remain in Marquette with her husband, Jerome; she would die in 1891 at the young age of forty-six. Jerome and Adda would have twelve children, the tenth of whom, Jay Earle White, would be my great-grandfather.

Readers of my novels will find that in the history of my Bishop, Remington, and White ancestors are sources for some of the characters in Iron Pioneers. The Bishop family influenced the Brookfields and the Whites influenced creation of the Whitmans. Lucius Brookfield is largely based on Basil Bishop from the information I have about Basil from his letters. Lucius’ wife, Rebecca, the staunch old Methodist, however, is completely based in my imagination. Nothing has been left to tell me anything about Elizabeth Bishop’s character other than Basil’s words of praise for her after her death. Rosalia Bishop was a source for both of Lucius’ daughters, Sophia and Cordelia. Like Cordelia, Rosalia owned a boarding house, and like Sophia, Rosalia was said not always to be a pleasant woman. She does not look terribly pleasant in the one photograph surviving of her. But that statement is based on what her grandson, Jay Earle White, told his children about her and it may or may not be true. Everything about Sophia’s social-climbing aspirations is completely my imagination. The Hennings in my novels are also completely made up. I knew so little about the Remington family that other than Edmond Remington remarrying and moving away from the area, nothing is based in fact there—the Remingtons certainly were far from being as wealthy as the Hennings. In Iron Pioneers, Gerald Henning marries Sophia after his first wife Clara dies. I have had many complaints from my readers about Clara’s early death, but please note Jemima Remington died at forty, a fairly young death as well. Jacob Whitman is loosely based on Jerome White, but I borrowed from Francis Marion Bishop’s Civil War letters to create the letters in Iron Pioneers that Jerome writes home to his family.

My Marquette - Coming Christmas 2010!

“Stuck with a Bunch of Nuns” – Holy Family Orphanage

July 16, 2010

The following essay is an excerpt from my book My Marquette, coming Christmas 2010! For more information, visit

My Marquette - coming Christmas 2010!


She went and adopted Jessie, but she stuck me in the orphanage with a bunch of nuns…if the old woman didn’t want me, what right did she have to stick me in a Catholic orphanage? We were good Finnish Lutherans until she stuck her nose in our business.

Narrow Lives

            In The Queen City, Thelma Bergmann adopts Jessie Hopewell, but no one wants to adopt Jessie’s sister, Lyla. Consequently, Lyla is sent to the Holy Family Orphanage. Years later, as an adult, Lyla remains bitter over the situation as obvious from her complaint above.

            Whether or not Thelma Bergmann made the right decision in not adopting Lyla—based on Lyla’s personality readers are bound to differ in their opinions—Lyla does end up going to the orphanage. She does not view her experience there as very pleasant, but then, Lyla is not a very pleasant person from the way she is depicted in my novels. Nevertheless, as an author, my heart goes out to her and I have every intention of letting her tell her own full story in a future book.

            What was it like to be a child in the Holy Family Orphanage, or even one of the sisters who cared for the children? Whenever I drive past the abandoned building on Altamont and Fisher Streets, I can only wonder what stories it would tell if its walls could talk.

            Built in 1915, the Holy Family Orphanage was the dream of Bishop Frederick Eis of the Marquette Diocese. Bishop Eis wished to have a place that would provide a shelter to the children, as well as be a school to prepare them to enter the adult world. The cost to build the orphanage ranged between $90,000 to $120,000, an astronomical sum a century ago, but Bishop Eis knew the welfare and care of the children was priceless.

Holy Family Orphanage Today

           Doubtless, life in the orphanage was far from perfect, but it did provide a buffer between the children and life on the streets. The building was built to be sturdy, made of concrete and brick with sandstone arched porches for decoration. The Sisters of Saint Agnes came to instruct, feed, clothe, discipline, and love sometimes as many as 200 children at a time.

            The orphanage would stay open for more than fifty years. Its final inhabitants were a group of Cuban children, refugees from Fidel Castro’s Revolution. Imagine the thoughts of those boys, fleeing their warm native tropical land to experience their first winter in Marquette.

            No one can speak for all the children who passed through the orphanage’s doors. Many of them probably felt bitter, abandoned by their parents, or grieving over parents’ deaths. Others may have longed to be adopted, or simply longed for the day they could leave to be on their own. The orphanage was far from a life on Park Avenue, but it was a home, an in-between place, for many children, doubtless a place that gave hope to go out and find a better life when they were old enough.

            Today, the orphanage is in a dilapidated and abandoned state. It remains, looming on the hill as people drive by on US 41, scarcely noticing it is there. It should be noticed. It was the home to thousands over the course of its lifetime. A million dreams were dreamt by its children. Today, perhaps the orphanage has its own dreams for a brighter future. It has passed through about a dozen owners’ hands in the last twenty years, awaiting development or destruction. After providing a home to thousands, it is now itself an abandoned orphan.

            The Holy Family Orphanage’s future is less important than the story of all those who passed through it. These are the real life stories which are greater than fiction, the stories that bear remembering, the truth about what life was like in Marquette nearly a century ago. Who can count how many people’s lives today would be different if they, their parents, or grandparents had not found at the Holy Family Orphanage a family when they had none?

Dominic’s Daughter – A South Marquette Story

July 13, 2010

Just last week, I heard about the book Dominic’s Daughter by Barbara Mullen after Jim Koski from the Marquette County History Museum led his interesting South Marquette Walking Tour. Barbara Mullen’s book helped me to re-envision South Marquette a century ago. It’s the kind of book that fascinates me because it gives another glimpse into the thousands of stories of Marquette’s people and history, stories I love to tell in my own books.

Dominic's Daughter by Barbara Mullen

Dominic’s Daughter by Barbara Mullen is a bit of a difficult book to define. It reads like a novel, but is categorized on the back cover as a memoir. Barbara Mullen wrote the book based on the diaries of her mother, Ruth Hogan Thomas, who left them to her and asked her to make a book out of them when she died.

While Mullen may have done a little novelizing to write the book, she retained her mother’s voice and throughout she used local place names and the names of the real people her mother knew. In a few places there are exceptions, such as references to St. Michael’s, which wasn’t a church that was built yet in the 1880s-1910s when the novel takes place. I wonder whether the author intended to fictionalize St. John the Baptist, or she just confused the name, since the French characters attend St. Michael’s in the novel and St. John the Baptist was Marquette’s French Catholic Church at the time. St. John the Baptist stood in Marquette from 1908-1986 (an earlier church was on the site with the same name) on the corner of Fourth and Washington Streets. The church’s bell tower remains today. Meanwhile, St. Michael’s in North Marquette on Fourth and Kaye was not a parish until 1942.

Despite these small issues, readers who know and love Marquette can easily follow the story and the characters’ movements as they walk down Genesee or Baraga Ave, visit the Delft Theatre, Donckers, Kresge’s or Walgreens, or the Marquette Library (Peter White Public Library).

But most interesting are the people in this book. They are all historical people from what I can tell. At the center is Ruth Hogan, daughter of Dominic Hogan. Dominic and his brother Edward Hogan reputedly were involved in robbing a railroad in Marquette. Edward got away with the money while Dominic served time for it and when he got out of prison, his brother never shared the money with him. Afterward, Dominic became an alcoholic and could not be a very good father to Ruth as a result. Ruth and her mother, Barbara, went to live with her grandparents, William and Bridget Wiseman, Irish immigrants. Many other historical people are mentioned in the book, all people from South Marquette.

After reading the book, I looked in city directories and drove around South Marquette to see if any of the houses remained that the author mentions. The Deasey house, which belonged to Ruth’s homeroom teacher, still stands.

The Deasy House in South Marquette

However, it looks like both the Hogan house which would have been at 233 Fisher Street, and Ruth’s grandmother’s boarding house where she grew up, which would have been at 308 Division Street are no longer standing. In addition, I discovered that Division Street must have been renumbered at some point since my own great-grandparents, John and Lily Molby, lived at 609 Division St., according to old city directories, but today it is 1509 Division St., which made me then look on the 1200 block for the Wiseman family’s boarding house but I could not locate a house that corresponded to the original address.

While Dominic’s Daughter does not really have a plot but is a story of a girl growing up in South Marquette between about 1902-1920, it is a deeply interesting story for those interested in Marquette history, and it has received Honorable Mention in the Pen Prose Awards. It has also been compared to Angela’s Ashes for its depiction of Irish immigrant life in the United States. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Ruth wins second place in an essay contest for writing about what patriotism means and interviewing many of the other immigrants in South Marquette about their travelling to America and what it means to them to live here. I only wish I could have talked to them, and all the historical people in this book, myself. How many stories Marquette has to tell!

 Dominic’s Daughter is available in local bookstores and online.

Flannel Shirt – published in “Recovering the Self”

July 11, 2010

This month my short story, “Flannel Shirt” has been published in the journal Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing.

Recovering the Self, in which "Flannel Shirt" appears.

This short story is about repressed grief and the relationship between a boy and his grandfather. Here’s a small taste of the opening:

            I had not owned a flannel shirt since I was a boy. Then my wife bought me one for our first Christmas together. When I opened the box, the smell of flannel leapt out. Overpowered by nostalgia, I pressed the flannel to my face to breathe in the comfort of cotton fibers.

            “What are you doing?” laughed my wife.

            “I love the smell of flannel.”


            “I don’t know,” I lied. “I always have.”

            I did know. I just couldn’t talk about it. Flannel reminded me of my grandfather. I rarely thought of him now, but after all, he had been dead for fifteen years. Now the flannel brought back countless memories. Flannel had been my grandfather’s everyday clothing. Some of my childhood’s happiest moments had been spent with Grandpa. Despite the age difference, he had been the best friend of my boyhood.


The story is largely based on my own experiences with my grandfather, Lester White. Most of the story takes place at a Ives Lake, pictures of which I posted in my last two blogs. My grandpa always wore flannel shirts. Below is a picture of my grandpa, taken in 1971, at Ives Lake, along with another excerpt from the short story:

Grandpa (in flannel shirt) feeding a chipmunk at the Ives Lake Barn

            Grandpa was kind to all the animals at Ives Lake. Grandma complained when the raccoons got into the garbage cans, so Grandpa started leaving food behind the barn for them. Squirrels and chipmunks were always racing across the lawn; no matter how many there were, Grandpa could distinguish between them, and each summer, I helped to name them. The chipmunks trusted Grandpa enough to jump into his hand when he fed them peanuts, and he taught me to hold my hand just right so they would equally trust me.

            One summer, a pigeon broke its wing. Grandpa was afraid a wild animal might catch it, so he built a cage and kept it safely in the house. For two months, Grandpa and I cared for the pigeon and walked it around the yard while its wing healed. When it recovered, the pigeon started following Grandpa and me instead of eating with the other pigeons.

            In the evenings, Grandpa and I finally found time to go fishing. My favorite fishing hole was a giant rock that jutted out into the lake. Grandpa helped me catch my first fish, a ten-inch trout. But neither of us were good fishermen, so we rarely hooked anything other than a floating branch; I think the real reason Grandpa went fishing was just to sit on the rock and relax after a busy day.

            I can remember my innocent young eyes gazing out across Ives Lake on those evenings. I would hear the soft lap of water against the rock as the wind gently blew, and I could feel the cool breeze that rustled the leaves. Then I would lay my head against Grandpa’s shoulder, content with life.


To read all of “Flannel Shirt,” order your copy of Recovering the Self, vol. 2, no. 3 at

Besides my short story, the issue is packed with articles on grief, addiction, recovery, interviews with professionals, poetry, fiction, book and film reviews, insights on health and fitness and much, much more!  Don’t miss out.

Return to Ives Lake – Part II

July 7, 2010

In my last post, I showed pictures of Ives Lake but not of the main building, the Stone House where the Longyears summered through the early twentieth century. On my trip there, we received a tour from John Case, Longyear descendant. Here are a few more photos:

The Stone House from across Ives Lake

The Stone House, side view

In a bedroom of the Stone House. Today Michigan State University students stay here to study the wildlife, geology, and plants of the Huron Mountain region.


On the front porch of the Stone House, relaxing.

Return to Ives Lake

July 7, 2010

Last month the Marquette County History Museum held a fundraiser with a special afternoon excursion at Ives Lake. Ives Lake is located at the Huron Mountain Club and was the summer retreat of Marquette’s Longyear family. The visit was particularly meaningful to me because my grandfather, Lester White, was the caretaker there from 1971-1976 so I was a frequent visitor during that time when I was a very young child. My mom and I made the visit last month and took the following photos. My short story “Flannel Shirt” largely takes place at a fictionalized version of Ives Lake. Since the story has just been published in the latest issue of “Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing,”  Vol. II, no. 3, people might be interested in seeing photos of the place that inspired the story.

The back of the barn.

The Barn and Caretaker's House

The Guest House

The side and roof of the barn.


My mom and I had a wonderful time reminiscing about the many happy summers we spent at Ives Lake, swimming, fishing, playing in the yard, watching my grandpa feed the chipmunks and raccoons and even a woodchuck. I remember my fifth birthday party here when I got a record player and Peter Pan records, the kind with the book and story. I trust a few of my readers remember those.

If you ever get a chance to visit Ives Lake, take the opportunity. I’ll post more about its history later, and of course, you can read about it in my upcoming book My Marquette.

My Marquette - Coming Christmas 2010!

Marquette’s First Fourth of July Celebration

July 2, 2010

Happy Independence Day Everyone!

As someone with six ancestors who fought in the American Revolution, the 4th of July is definitely one of my favorite holidays!

Have you ever wondered how Marquette used to celebrate the Fourth of July in its infancy. Below is the passage from my novel Iron Pioneers about the first official Fourth of July celebrations held in 1855, Marquette’s sixth year.

Iron Pioneers: The Marquette Trilogy, Book One

On July 4, 1855, Marquette held its first official Independence Day celebration. The grand master of ceremonies, Mr. Heman Ely, had gone all out for the festivities in the belief that Marquette had plenty to celebrate. Despite many doubts regarding the settlement’s survival, now its success seemed determined. In this year, the locks had been completed at Sault Sainte Marie, resulting in ships making easy travel from any of the other four Great Lakes through the lock at the Sault and into Lake Superior. Until now the differing water levels of the lakes had made it difficult for ships to travel into Lake Superior, but the locks allowed for adjustment of water levels so ships could pass through without difficulty. Trade would now be easier for every city along Lake Superior, and for Marquette, it meant the iron ore would not have to be shipped overland but could be transported by water to the other great ports, such as Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo. With this easier ore shipment, the iron industry would soar to prosperity and Marquette’s harbor would bustle at the center of this activity. Finally, Marquette was realizing its dream of becoming a great industrial metropolis. With such a promise for success, the Fourth of July, until now ignored as a holiday because everyone had so much work to do, was set aside as a day of civic rejoicing, a day of reward for years of pioneer dedication and ingenuity. Mr. Ely, as organizer of the celebration, invited all of Marquette’s citizens to be his guests at a massive barbecue on his property.

            At the party, Gerald had never felt so proud of his role in the birth of this fine community. He gazed with appreciation at the fine estate Mr. Ely had built, with what would soon be one among many prosperous homes in Marquette. The Ely land included a two acre lawn with flower gardens and rustic bridges crisscrossing a small brook that meandered through the grounds. For today’s festivities, Mr. Ely had added a bandstand and a pole to fly Old Glory. The entire community of seven hundred residents–for Marquette had grown until it was almost impossible to know everyone’s name–flooded into his yard. Mr. Ely began the festivities with a welcome speech, followed, to everyone’s astonished pleasure, by the boom of a hidden cannon that would fire continually throughout the day. Fireworks were not yet available for celebrating, but they were scarcely missed amid all the day’s other splendors.

            Gerald admired all these signs of prosperity, as he and Clara strolled about the property with their little girl. While some of the women and children plugged their ears during the cannon blasts, Clara was delighted to see Agnes laugh, her excitement surpassing even that of her parents. The Hennings were raising no dainty little daughter but a courageous native girl of the great North.

            They were soon joined by Fritz and Molly, carrying their baby boy, Karl. Fritz claimed the warm weather put him in good health today, but Clara thought he had looked better ever since the couple’s fear of being childless had been relieved.

            “I’ve not seen a party like this,” Fritz said, “since last Oktoberfest I saw in Saxony.”

            Little Karl struggled to see where the cannon’s boom came from, and he babbled away inquisitive, unintelligible questions.

            “He’s more curious than frightened,” said Gerald. “He’ll be a brave boy.”

            “We hope so,” said Fritz. “You need be brave to live here, but today is worth it, yes?”

            “Well worth it,” Clara said.

            “Air is fresh and healthy here,” said Fritz. “I never see boy grow like Karl. Lake Superior is what does it.”

            Fritz was prone to exaggerate his son’s strength and health, but after his own many years of illness, he could not be blamed for his pride.

            “And now that he’s been baptized, he has God’s favor,” said Molly, who had been overjoyed when the October before, a Catholic church was established in Marquette. The Upper Peninsula had now become a separate diocese of the Catholic Church with its own bishop, Frederic Baraga, stationed in Sault Sainte Marie. Bishop Baraga had come to choose the site of Marquette’s first Catholic church himself, and this year, the building had become functional. Now with a priest in Marquette, the Bergmanns felt they had more cause to celebrate than over the opening of the locks at the Sault.

            But across the lawn, not everyone was enjoying the party. Sophia and Cordelia were deep in argument with their husbands. Tomorrow, Caleb and Jacob wanted to camp overnight by themselves at Presque Isle. Their fathers had approved the plan, but their mothers were convinced the boys would be eaten by bears or accidentally plunge off a cliff to drown in the lake.

            “When I was their age, I had plenty of such adventures and came to no harm,” Nathaniel Whitman told his wife and sister-in-law. “They’re levelheaded boys with ample experience in the woods. If you don’t want them to grow up to be cowards, they need to learn independence, and Presque Isle is the perfect place. They can’t get lost there because it’s surrounded by water on all sides except the narrow land bridge, and it’s close enough that they can run home if there’s trouble.”

            “If anything happened to Caleb, I would never forgive myself,” Sophia objected. “George, how can you agree to this trip? Aren’t you at all concerned of the danger to your son?”

            “Danger,” scoffed George, supporting his brother-in-law. “Ain’t no danger.”

            “What about the bears?” asked Cordelia.

            “Bears are more scared of us than we are of them,” Nathaniel replied. “The boys know better than to rile any wild animals. They were out deer hunting with us last winter so they know how to survive in the woods. And it’s only for one night. They’ll be just fine.”

            “You don’t know how nervous I was when they went hunting last winter,” Cordelia said.

            “It’s a ridiculous idea,” said Sophia. “I don’t want my son growing up to be some wild mountain man. There’s no need for them to go.”

            “Well, George and I already told them they could,” Nathaniel said. “We can’t go back on our word now.”

            Cordelia was angry the men had consented without asking her and Sophia. But she knew further objections were pointless. Men were stubborn creatures who would argue with a woman just to spite her. Cordelia turned away and walked to the picnic table while Sophia remained to glare at her brother-in-law. She hated men who tried to boss her. George knew better than to argue alone with her, yet with Nathaniel, he would always side against her, and Nathaniel was impossible to reason with. She was also angry that Cordelia had given in so easily. When Nathaniel ignored her glares, Sophia also turned away, seeking someone whose society was more desirable than her family’s.

            Peter White stood nearby, engaged in talking to a young couple who had arrived in Marquette on the most recent ship. Ever the storyteller, Peter was recalling how he had rescued Marquette’s mail by hoodwinking the United States Post Office. The mail had constantly been delayed during the winters because of the village’s isolation and a lack of transportation. During the summer, a villager would have to hike some seventy miles south to the shore of Lake Michigan to collect the mail and carry it back to Marquette, but in winter, the only way to cross this distance was by snowshoe, and the constant blizzards and freezing temperatures made such excursions nearly impossible. In January 1854, Marquette had received no mail for three months, so Peter had been elected to go to Green Bay to fetch it. With Indian companions and dog sleds, he set out on the one hundred eighty mile journey. Halfway, he met sleighs coming north with the village’s mail. Eight tons of Marquette’s mail had accumulated in Green Bay, and it took three months for the postmaster to find someone willing to carry it north. Peter sent his companions and the mail back to Marquette, but intent to resolve the situation, he continued on to Green Bay.

            Upon his arrival, he discovered Marquette’s mail was accumulating at the rate of six bushels a day. Frustrated, Peter traveled another fifty miles to Fond du Lac so he could telegraph Senator Cass about the situation. Determined to receive a response, he bombarded the senator with telegrams until a special agent came to Green Bay to investigate. The postmaster in Green Bay, as upset about the situation as Peter, agreed to act as accomplice. Together the two men filled all the post office’s empty sacks, claiming, when the agent arrived, that every bag contained mail for Marquette. Thirty bags of actual mail now appeared to be four times as much. The agent, overwhelmed by the sight, quickly authorized weekly mail delivery to Marquette from Green Bay. Marquette had not lacked for its mail since, and Peter had been hailed as a town hero.

            Peter’s listeners laughed at his story, while feeling relieved to know they would receive their mail in winter. Sophia had listened carefully to Peter tell his tale, all the while admiring the young man’s ingenuity. He had become a jack-of-all-trades in Marquette, not afraid to try anything; recently, he had even become a real estate agent. When Marquette was founded, he had hardly been more than a boy, but now at twenty-five, he seemed destined for a large share of the community’s prosperity. Grimly, Sophia reflected how her mercantile was only making a small profit, while her husband did little to improve their welfare. She almost wished–but Peter was ten years younger than her, and she could not change the past now. But she just wished something . . .

            “Ma!” Caleb shouted, running up to her. “Did you talk to Uncle Nathaniel? Can Jacob and I go?”

            “Yes,” Sophia said, pursing her lips in annoyance and shooing the boy away.

            “Great!” Caleb yelled and ran to tell his cousin; Sophia turned back to hear more of Peter’s interesting conversation.