Archive for the ‘Upper Michigan History’ category

Experience the Power of “Willpower” – Coming Soon to the Kaufman Stage by Moire Embley

September 8, 2014

The following article is by Moire Embley, Director of Willpower, an original play I’ve written that will be presented at Kaufman Auditorium in Marquette on Thursday and Friday September 18 and 19.
A sunny mid-August day in Marquette, Michigan, an operatic aria fills the air from a west side apartment. The melody is from an original composition, “You Will Not Love Me” for the upcoming Marquette Regional History Center’s new production Willpower by Tyler Tichelaar. The beautiful soprano voice of Sara Parks floats effortlessly along with piano accompanist and composer, Jeff Bruning. As Sara soulfully sings the repeated lyric “You will not love me; you won’t say why,” her character, Miss Norma Ross, comes to life.

"Willpower" director Moire Embley

“Willpower” director Moire Embley

I have assisted and directed several plays in Marquette over the last fourteen years. Willpower is one of the first original plays I have had the opportunity to be a part of. Last September, the Marquette Regional History Center’s Director, Kaye Hiebel, was scouting for a director and I was lucky to recommended by a good friend and mentor of mine. I came into the first meeting feeling slightly shy and a bit overwhelmed to be offered such a break as a director.

I sat quietly in the large conference room surrounded by high-powered ladies, taking in the conversations, stories and ideas, which saturated the room. The focus was on a young man from Marquette in the late 1800s by the name of Will Adams. Will, I came to understand, was not your typical boy. Adopted as a young child by former Marquette Mayor Sidney and wife Harriet Adams in the early 1880s. Growing up at 200 East Ridge, the beautiful sandstone house, which is now known as the “Terrace Apartments.” As a youngster, Will sang in a boy’s choir at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and was a noted athlete, artist and literary mastermind by the community. After suffering a severe baseball injury to his knee, an ossifying disease began to develop in his legs. As he grew, so did the disease, until it consumed his body, slowly turning his soft tissues to stone before he passed away at thirty-one.

Will’s story is not a sad one, but one of love, ambition, community and courage. After leaving the meeting, I found myself eager and driven. This was a drama I needed to help tell on the historical stage of Kaufman Auditorium. Tyler Tichelaar a well-known local novelist, was hired as the playwright. After Tyler released the first draft of Willpower, I spent an entire road trip reading the play and then reading it again. Tyler’s use of public domain music was thoughtful and clever. His character delineations were accurate, concise and well researched. I could not put the script down. I became fascinated by his depiction of Will.

Will was not the only character in Willpower to stand out. His caring childhood friend Norma Ross also captured my imagination. Norma and Will met as young children, and a friendship was nurtured by their shared love for music, theatre and literature. As Will’s disease became more debilitating, Norma would visit almost daily. They would pass the time singing to one another. When Will began to lose the use of his arms, unable to hold a book, Norma became his eyes and hands, reading aloud to him.

After graduating from college with a degree in music from Northwestern University, Norma returned home to Marquette. Will, now in his late twenties, became fascinated with writing an operetta in which he enlisted the musical talents of his good friend. Norma and Will spent nearly three months preparing the lyrics and music. Will hummed the melodies as Norma played the piano, putting the music down on paper. Miss D.Q. Pons opened at the Marquette Opera House in the summer of 1905. The operetta’s success spread quickly, eventually touring to Ishpeming, Sault Ste. Marie, Hancock and Calumet.

As I read the first draft of Willpower, I couldn’t help feeling that there was more between Will and Norma. I met with Tyler and Jessica “Red” Bays in mid January to discuss the first draft. I hadn’t met Tyler before and I was very nervous to discuss some edits I thought could be made. My approach was only to assist in using my theatre background to help guide the script to the stage. Some minimal character enhancements were made along with some plotline adaptations. Red and I left the meeting with Tyler more excited than ever. I felt he graciously considered my notes, however standing his ground on some changes. Between Red, myself and Tyler ideas bounced back and forth as we found our creative balance.

Poster for Willpower, an original play by Tyler Tichelaar. Poster art by Cory Sustarich.

Poster for Willpower, an original play by Tyler Tichelaar. Poster art by Cory Sustarich.

Tyler quickly came back with the second draft. Every note we had discussed was in the script. Tyler’s attention to detail and respect for my creative vision as director was admirable. I frequently would tell him my job is to bring his story to the stage, but in a way I feel that this play is a collaborative effort between Red, Tyler and I. With only minimal edits to be made Tyler quickly moved on to the third draft.

After the script became finalized, I searched for the best artistic staff I could find. Suzanne Shahbazi, well known for her work with the Lake Superior Youth Theatre, agreed to do costumes. Jalina Olgren joined the production; she is one on the most talented stage managers we have in the Marquette community. Lastly, Jeff Bruning, a brilliant pianist, voice teacher and music virtuoso signed on. To round out the creative production team, Jessica “Red” Bays became my right hand, my support and promotional guru.

Casting is always a wonderful process, offering a director a first-time glimpse into seeing the characters come alive. Within the two-day auditions and one day of callback auditions, I was blessed with an overwhelming amount of talent. I feel fortunate as a director to work in a community with high talent, quality vocals and acting ability. The final casting after auditions can be sometimes difficult. It is important undoubtedly to see a specific character within an actor. A director must also see that the character, small at times, be in the actor’s potential.

Although Willpower is a straight play, public domain music and old ragtime songs are used. This piano style popular from the nineteenth century through the early twentieth century gives the play a musical feel and also illustrates how music was an integral part of Will and Norma’s relationship. There was one piece composed for the play, “You Will Not Love Me,” by Jeff Bruning and lyrics by Tyler Tichelaar. Jeff wrote the piece, which captured the feel of the romantic ballads at that time. Tyler’s lyrics possess a witty touch, as if Will wrote them himself.

The set design I will keep secret. I will only allude to my extensive research done at the J.M. Longyear Research Library. Using the expertise of research librarians Rosemary Michelin and Beth Gruber, the three of us spent hours hunting for Will and Norma’s past in genealogy files, photos, books, newspapers, magazines and plat books. I have great respect and gratitude for all the hard work Rosemary and Beth did for me. This play would not be what it is without their assistance.

Directing Willpower has been an amazing experience thus far. I look forward to every rehearsal, researching each character and also learning more about the community in which I live. Willpower is a production that everyone can relate to, whether you are a history buff or a theatre and music enthusiast. It is a play that will warm hearts and tickle the mind.

Please join us at Kaufman Auditorium on September 18th and 19th at 7:00p.m. For more information, call the Marquette Regional History Center at (906) 226-3571. Tickets are on sale at the NMU EZ Ticket Outlet or by visiting www.nmu.edu/tickets. This production is made possible by the Marquette Regional History Center and generous grants from the Michigan Humanities Council in addition to a matching grant from the Marquette Community Foundation and the Upper Peninsula Heath Plan.

August 5, 2014

The following article about my new play Willpower was first published in the August 2014 issue of the Marquette Monthly and online at: http://www.mmnow.com/z_current_a/b/c/arts.html#wilbri

‘Willpower’ Brings Marquette’s Ossified Man to Stage

by Tyler Tichelaar

When Kaye Hiebel and Jessica Red Bays asked me to write a play as a fundraiser for the Marquette Regional History Center, I was hesitant, considering myself a novelist, not a playwright. But when they shared with me their vision of bringing Will Adams’ story to the stage, I instantly saw its dramatic possibilities and how it would speak to modern audiences as a true tale of overcoming adversity.

Poster for Willpower, an original play by Tyler Tichelaar. Poster art by Cory Sustarich.

Poster for Willpower, an original play by Tyler Tichelaar. Poster art by Cory Sustarich.

I already knew the basics of Will Adams’ story. He was born in 1878 and adopted as a young child by prominent Marquette businessman Sidney Adams and his wife Harriet. Will was a talented singer in the boys choir at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, played baseball, and by the time he was a teenager, was considered a literary expert by Marquette residents.

But in his late boyhood, Will developed a life-changing disability. The tissues in his legs began to harden until they became immoveable—a disease the Victorians termed ossification. Numerous doctors were consulted, but none could explain the disease’s cause.

For most active boys, the diagnosis would have been earth-shattering. But Will took it as a challenge to accomplish all he could before the ossification took over his entire body. For as long as possible, he employed his hands, drawing countless cartoons of notable locals such as Nathan Kaufman and Peter White. He wrote poetry and essays and began the magazine CHIPS, illustrating it himself. Unable to sell magazine ads in person, he did it over the telephone, eventually having an attendant hold the receiver for him.

One of Will’s frequent visitors was his good friend Norma Ross, a music teacher in the Marquette Public Schools. In 1905, Will and Norma wrote an operetta titled Miss D.Q. Pons. Will composed the music in his head and hummed the tunes for Norma, who wrote down the notes. Later, Norma starred in the production, which toured the Upper Peninsula. Will attended the performances, traveling by railroad in a portable bed.

Will’s positive attitude and creative abilities made him not only popular with locals, but he won the respect of famous people such as actress Lillian Russell, who visited him when she came to perform at the Marquette Opera House. Russell was impressed by Will’s cheerfulness, despite his being blind by then, and he sang one of his songs for her. Not long before his death in 1909, Will told a Detroit Free Press reporter who interviewed him, “Don’t call me a cripple when you write your story, and don’t say I am bedridden. I don’t like those expressions. They put a fellow off, you know…. Had it been otherwise, I might have become the subject of a trust investigation committee or a bank president. And I’d rather be literary than sordid any day.”

And then there was Norma Ross. With the help of MRHC research librarians Rosemary Michelin and Beth Gruber, I learned Norma’s father had owned one of the first theatres in Marquette, Mather Hall, so at an early age, Norma was exposed to music and the theatre, and she developed her musical gift by singing in the First Baptist Church’s choir. Frank B. Spear, Sr. of Marquette offered to finance sending her to New York to be in the theatre there, but her father opposed his daughter having a “life upon the wicked stage.” Instead, she went to Northwestern University to become a music teacher. She returned to Marquette to teach in the public schools and also be very active in community theatre and music productions for decades.

In Willpower, I wanted to bring Will and Norma and their family members and friends to life. Artistic license was taken to fill in some gaps in their stories, but I tried my best to represent them truthfully. I worked in as many of Will’s actual words and expressions into the play as possible. Music was so important to Will and Norma that I knew it had to be an integral part of the production. While no copy of Miss D.Q. Pons could be found, the playbill, advertisements, and reviews all helped me to recreate a scene from the operetta to give the audience a taste of what it might have been like.

Beyond entertaining audiences, I wanted the play to offer an educational step back in time. For that reason, period music was used. An article written by Norma’s sister Grace recalled musical events at their father’s theatre, including performances of the well-known 1890s hit song, “After the Ball,” so I incorporated it into the play. Another period song, “Turn Off Your Light, Mr. Moon Man,” filled in for a similarly themed but lost song in Miss D.Q. Pons. An original song, “You Will Not Love Me,” was composed for the play by Jeff Bruning. My own tongue-in-cheek lyrics for the song are hopefully in keeping with Will’s sense of humor. Director Moiré Embley’s vision for the play also focuses on the time travel historic experience for audiences with historical costumes and furniture, and I believe audiences will be impressed with the historic-themed sets.

Writing a play is one thing. Bringing it to the stage is another. Various drafts of Willpower were shared with Embley, Marquette Regional History Center staff, and a few close friends, all of whom offered feedback and suggestions. In the process, I learned not only to consider plot and character development, but how to work in set and costume changes between scenes, and what was possible within our budget limitations. Fortunately, our budget, initially provided by the Marquette Regional History Center, was enhanced through a generous grant from the Michigan Humanities Council and matching grants from the Marquette Community Foundation and Upper Peninsula Health Plan.

Will Adams with his parents, sister Bertha, and close friend Norma Ross (seated), with whom he wrote an operetta.

Will Adams with his parents, sister Bertha, and close friend Norma Ross (seated), with whom he wrote an operetta.

Writing Willpower has been a wonderful experience for me, and I hope audiences will find it nostalgic, entertaining, and inspiring. Please join me at Kaufman Auditorium on September 18 and 19 at 7:00 p.m. for a trip back to Old Marquette at the turn of the last century. The superb cast is led by Andy Vanwelsenaers, playing the adult Will Adams, and Jessica Red Bays, playing the mature Norma Ross. Even Fred Rydholm will make a cameo appearance.

Tickets are $15 and on sale through www.nmu.edu/tickets. For more information, visit http://www.marquettefiction.com/Willpower.html and www.marquettehistory.org.

Willpower: An Original Play about Marquette’s Ossified Man

February 14, 2014

Yes, the rumors are true. I have written a play titled Willpower. The play is about Will Adams (1878-1909) who lived in Marquette and was ossified. What is ossified? Think petrified and paralyzed. When will you be able to see the play? It will be produced by the Marquette Regional History Center at Kaufman Auditorium on Thursday, September 18th and Friday, September 19th at 7:00 p.m. It will be directed by Moire Embley and will have a stellar cast.

The Adams home at 200 E. Ridge St. in Marquette where Will lived with his parents, Sidney and Harriet Adams, and his sister Bertha.

The Adams home at 200 E. Ridge St. in Marquette where Will lived with his parents, Sidney and Harriet Adams, and his sister Bertha.

But if you can’t wait that long, you are invited on Wednesday, February 26th to the Marquette Regional History Center’s Annual Meeting, where besides the annual business meeting, introduction of new board members, and presentation of the Peter White and Helen Longyear Paul Awards, I will give a short talk about my process of writing this play and then Jessica Bays will offer a dramatic reading of a scene from the play. The meeting is at 7:00 p.m. at the History Center and free to members and the general public.

Below is some more information about the play from the MRHC’s events listing:

There are some stories that deserve to be told.  As a young boy Will Adams’ soft tissues were becoming harder, turning him into a living statue.  Others faced with such a dark future might have felt sorry for themselves, turning inward.  Not so for Will, his disease brought about an amazing creative burst of energy.  His story is as inspiring today as it was 100 years ago.  With a stellar cast and direction, this will be a “do not miss” production! Tickets in advance are $15; $20 at the door.

Will Adams with his parents, sister Bertha, and close friend Norma Ross (seated), with whom he wrote an operetta.

Will Adams with his parents, sister Bertha, and close friend Norma Ross (seated), with whom he wrote an operetta. (Photo courtesy of the John M. Longyear Research Library)

And here is some more about Will Adams, taken from my book My Marquette:

Will Adams, the adopted son of Sidney and Harriet Adams, was born in 1878 to Detroit parents who died while he was an infant. In his youth, Will was a soloist in the boys choir at school and church and enjoyed athletic pursuits, but a baseball injury resulted in soft tissue becoming hard until eventually he ossified into a living statue. By his mid-teens he was confined to a portable couch and only his face remained mobile. By sheer willpower, Will survived to the age of thirty-one. No longer able to perform athletics, he became one of Marquette’s first literary figures, starting his own magazine business. His family hired him an attendant to whom he could dictate his magazine. He named his magazine CHIPS. Besides his own text, he included political cartoons and even caricatures of such town leaders as Peter White, Nathan Kaufman, and John M. Longyear. The paper was largely supported by advertising, so a phone was installed in the Adams home, and his attendant would hold the phone to Will’s mouth so he could talk up his bi-monthly magazine to prospective advertisers.

Will also composed an opera with his childhood friend, Norma Ross, then the directress of the Marquette schools’ music program. Will hummed melodies and Ross wrote them down. Their end result was the production of Miss D. Q. Pons an opera which premiered at the Marquette Opera House on July 3, 1905 with Ross in the title role. Will viewed the opera from the wing in his portable bed, and when its success led to the troupe traveling for sellout performances in Ishpeming, Hancock, Calumet, and Sault Ste. Marie, Will traveled with them by train. In 1906, Will also founded another newspaper, the Marquette Chronicle to which he contributed an original article each day. He died on August 10, 1909, preceded by his adopted father, Sidney Adams in 1906. Will once joked about his literary efforts, “Every specimen of writ is a silent story of how the author was saved from cerrebrius combustion.”

I hope you will join me in celebrating one of Marquette’s most fascinating historical figures, both at the MRHC’s annual meeting and when the play is performed in September. As Will himself wrote in one of the ads for his own operetta, Miss D.Q. Pons: “you will finally have the chance to enjoy yourself for once in your life.” See you there!

Goodbye Bonanza

January 29, 2014

It’s with great sadness that I heard Bonanza was to close this past Sunday, January 26th. A lot of people clearly shared my sadness since the restaurant was so busy on Saturday that it had to close a day early because the staff feared they’d run out of food.

Mitch Lazaren, Ed Gudewicz, and all the Bonanza staff did a fine job for 37 years and Marquette just won’t be the same without being able to go there on a Saturday night to fill up on salad, steak, and chili.

In the restaurant and staff’s honor, I am reposting the chapter in My Marquette about Bonanza:

Grandpa and Grandma were regulars at Bonanza, which ensured that Chad and John got extra suckers with their little wrangler meals. They all overstuffed their stomachs with steak, chili con carne, salad, french fries, and ice cream.

— Superior Heritage

When Bonanza opened in 1977, it was one of those new restaurants, springing up along U.S. 41 leading out of town and actually in Marquette Township, but today, it is a mainstay as one of Marquette’s longest operating restaurants.

After 37 years, Marquette says goodbye to its favorite family restaurant.

After 37 years, Marquette says goodbye to its favorite family restaurant.

Soon after it opened, my mom and grandma went there for lunch. At that time, Grandma thought Grandpa wouldn’t like it because it wasn’t a “sit down and be waited on” kind of restaurant. Boy, was she wrong!

Grandpa loved Bonanza. Soon my grandparents were going there for supper at least twice a week. They became good friends with Mitch Lazaren, the owner, and all the Bonanza staff. My grandpa made some frames for different maps and posters for the restaurant, and for Christmas one year, my grandparents were given Bonanza jackets with their names embroidered on them.

For years, my grandparents, parents, brother and I could regularly be found at Bonanza on Saturday nights. It was my favorite restaurant as much as Grandpa’s. The Chili Con Carne alone was enough to keep me going back.

How special was Bonanza to my grandparents? So special that during winter blizzards, my mom had to argue on the phone with Grandpa to get him to stay home rather than go there for supper. So special that in 1983, my grandparents celebrated their forty-ninth wedding anniversary there.

Other steakhouses have come and gone in Marquette, but Bonanza has outlived all its competition. The service remains impeccable, the food fantastic, and the atmosphere friendly, if a bit overwhelmed by hungry people crowding around the salad bar—but that’s the sign of a truly good restaurant.

My Buschell and Molby Ancestors

January 8, 2014

Recently, the Marquette Regional History Center published the latest issue of Harlow’s Wooden Man which included a wonderful article about some of the early German families who came to Marquette. This encouraged me to post something about my own Marquette German ancestors, the Buschells. The following is taken from my book My Marquette about a bit of my family history:

My grandmother Grace Elizabeth Molby White’s family settled in South Marquette, and they were among Marquette’s earliest residents. My great-great grandparents John and Elizabeth Buschell were married in Marquette in 1858. Neither John nor Elizabeth are listed on the first Marquette census of 1850 and no relatives appear to have been in Marquette with them.

John was born in 1820 in Saxony, then one of the many little kingdoms and principalities that made up greater Germany, while Elizabeth was born in Massachusetts of Irish parents. No information has been found about their parents or families. John and Elizabeth were to become my inspiration for Fritz and Molly Bergmann in Iron Pioneers. Since John was clearly German, I decided to make Fritz part of the group of German immigrants who arrived in Marquette that first year of 1849 and be among those who came down with typhoid and for whom, Peter White, perhaps Marquette’s most famous pioneer, cared, bathing them in the makeshift hospital. These Germans later started to walk to Milwaukee in December to prevent the rest of the village from having to starve until word was sent after them that the supply ship had finally arrived.

In the novel, Fritz is frequently ill, never having quite recovered from the typhoid. Since I know so little about John Buschell, I used my imagination to fill in the holes. I can find no death record for John. I only know he and Elizabeth had their last child, Thomas Buschell, in 1876 and then on the 1880 census, Elizabeth is remarried to a Jeremiah O’Leary. Perhaps John’s death was not reported and I can find no listing for him in a cemetery. In any case, I assume since Elizabeth remarried and since divorce was not common in those days, especially among Catholics, that John died, and since Fritz therefore would also die young, the typhoid and a lingering weakness as a result was a good way to explain his untimely death.

When I first became interested in genealogy and tried to find information about my Grandma Grace Molby White’s family, I heard stories that we were supposedly related to Mrs. O’Leary, whose cow started the great Chicago Fire. I assume this story comes from Elizabeth’s second husband being an O’Leary. I have not been able to locate much information about Jeremiah O’Leary other than that he was Irish and came to Marquette through Canada—his naturalization and immigration records exist in the Marquette County records. I have not been able to locate any relatives for him, but in Elizabeth’s obituary, it does state that she lived in Chicago for some time, so it is possible that Jeremiah had relatives in Chicago whom they went to visit, but for now a blood connection has not been confirmed between Jeremiah or the Mrs.O’Leary who had the infamous cow.

In Iron Pioneers, I also had Molly remarry, but I deviated from the family history, feeling I had already attested to the presence of Irish immigrants in Marquette, so I married her instead to an Italian, the brutish saloonkeeper, Joseph Montoni. I felt I wanted the novels to represent the wide number of immigrants who came to Upper Michigan, and the Italian population was significant, although that Montoni beats his wife and dies in a saloon brawl would not make his nation proud.

I also wanted motivation for Molly’s character to transform over the course of the novel from an outspoken, sharp-tongued young woman to a rather saintly one by the end, and an abusive husband served this purpose because her marriage thereby taught her about survival, love, forgiveness, and how to strengthen her faith in God. I was inspired to depict Molly as becoming kind and faith-filled by Elizabeth Buschell O’Leary’s obituary in The Mining Journal in 1897 which said, “Among her neighbors and friends Mrs. O’Leary will long be remembered for her many acts of kindness.”

John and Elizabeth Buschell had several children, two of whom particularly have lived on in family stories, notably their son Frank and their daughter Lily, the inspiration for Karl and Kathy Bergmann in Iron Pioneers. Frank Buschell, like Karl, was a logger and he did end up in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Rather than marrying a Finnish wife who died in childbirth, the real Frank Buschell’s wife, Mary, gave birth to several children, most notably for my fiction, Valma Buschell, the inspiration for Thelma Bergmann. Valma was my grandmother’s cousin and like Thelma, she came to live in Marquette. She was a wonderful pianist but she also suffered from epilepsy, which I changed in the novel to multiple sclerosis. I am sure she was much brighter than I depict Thelma as being, but one other aspect of her story is true. As far as I knew, she never married, but one day while looking through the Marquette County marriage records, I stumbled upon a listing for her in the marriage index. Surprised, I went to find the actual marriage record, only to find there was none. The clerk at the courthouse explained to me that the license must have been applied for, but that the couple had never married and therefore, had not returned the document. What happened to Valma’s prospective marriage, I don’t know, but she never did marry. In writing fiction, however, I could always make up stories to fill in the blanks as I did here, having Thelma Bergmann elope with Vincent Smiley to Mackinac Island, only to find out he was a bigamist and her marriage not legal.

Valma never adopted children, but I decided in The Queen City that Thelma would adopt Jessie Hopewell. I was inspired by this plot twist after visiting the historical Honolulu House in Marshall, Michigan. In the house was a photo of a girl who had been adopted by the female owner of the house—only the owners had been white, and the girl was black. Interracial adoptions in the early nineteenth century must not have been common, so again, I thought it would make a great story. Only, Marshall, Michigan was more likely to have black residents—it being near the route of the Underground Railroad that aided escaped slaves. Upper Michigan has very few black residents, and I had given little treatment to the large Finnish population in Upper Michigan, so I decided to make the adopted child Finnish and her adoption explainable since Thelma was herself half-Finnish although her mother had died before she really knew her. It also allowed me, in the person of Jesse’s father, to tell the fascinating true story of how many American Finns had left during the Great Depression to go to Karelia, in Russia.

One last interesting piece about the Buschell Family is that Buschell Lake, just south of Marquette, is named for them. No one seems to know exactly how the lake came to be named for the family—I would assume it was named for John or for Frank and that one of them owned property on it although I have been unable to find property record to confirm this.

As for Frank’s sister, Lily Buschell, she married John Molby, who came to Marquette in 1882. John and Lily would be my grandmother’s parents. Like her counterpart, Kathy, in the novel, Lily would end up going near deaf from the measles. I don’t know when this happened, but I decided to place it during World War I for dramatic purposes. Also, as in the novel, my great-grandparents’ sons went off to fight in World War I. My grandmother, Grace Molby White, said she remembered as a child going down to the train station to see her brothers leave for the war. Both Daniel and William would fight in the war, William going to Camp Custer in September 1917 for training and Daniel to Camp Gordon, Georgia in June 1918. After my grandmother died, we found among her belongings a handkerchief that had “Paris 1918” stitched on it which she had preserved—doubtless the gift of one of her brothers. She would have only been thirteen the year the war ended, although I chose to make her counterpart, Beth McCarey, five years younger so she would be all the more confused in trying to make sense out of the war.

My grandmother said very little about her family whenever anyone asked her questions. She told me her father was from New York, but other records say he was from Canada, and one family story said the Molby family left Ireland because they were rebels. I have found no direct connection to Ireland, but because Great-Grandpa Molby’s past was such a mystery—after nearly twenty years of searching, I still haven’t found out where he was born or who his parents were—I decided to make up information and depict Patrick McCarey as a rebel who did have to flee Ireland. This decision also allowed for the dramatic scenes in The Queen City when he is old and senile, and while hallucinating, he runs from the house, believing British soldiers are after him. John Molby was himself a bit senile and ended up running down the street in his nightclothes at the end of his life, and my grandparents would have to chase after him to bring him home when he was living with them, although what he was thinking during this time remains a mystery. I also made Patrick an atheist in the novel because John Molby apparently did not go to church or at least was not Catholic, while his wife attended St. Peter’s Cathedral and made sure all the children were baptized there. John Molby’s funeral was held at the First Presbyterian Church, although he was not a member there, and he was buried in the Protestant Park Cemetery while his wife and several children are buried in the Catholic Holy Cross Cemetery.

According to my other family members, the older Molby generations never talked about the family. Part of the reason I’m sure is because of the tragedies they experienced. My grandmother was one of ten children, yet none of her eight brothers lived beyond their early fifties. My mother never knew any of her Molby uncles as a result and my grandmother almost never talked about them. Only after we found her brother’s obituaries among my grandmother’s belongings after she died did we know my grandmother’s brother Charles was accidentally electrocuted at his job in his early twenties, leaving behind a wife and daughter with whom the rest of the family lost contact. Other brothers died of heart attacks, or what today sounds like an aneurism, and one brother died of alcoholism. I imagine all these early deaths were painful for my grandmother, who by age thirty-six, only had her sister Mary still alive, and Mary would die in 1958 at only sixty-two of cancer. My grandmother was convinced she would die young like the rest of her family, but surprisingly, she lived until 1992, passing away at the ripe old age of eighty-seven.

In writing The Marquette Trilogy, I found it necessary to reduce Beth McCarey’s siblings down to three brothers—eight brothers and a sister would have been too many for a reader. I had one brother die in World War I, one die in the Barnes-Hecker mining disaster for its historical significance, and the third brother, Michael, become a priest. None of my grandmother’s brothers became priests, but I had my reasons for Michael to become a priest in the novels as I’ll explain later when I discuss St. Michael’s Parish.

MolbyHome-2

My Great-Grandparents Molby’s home on Division St. still stands today.

My Great-Grandpa and Grandma Molby lived at 609 Division Street in Marquette—their house is still standing today although it was sold out of the family in the 1930s when John, then a widower, went to live with his adult children. In the novels, I had the Bergmann and McCarey families live within only a block or so of St. Peter’s Cathedral because of the importance of Catholicism in their lives, and especially, partially to explain how the nearby cathedral’s influence would have inspired Michael’s desire to become a priest—along with the influence of his saintly grandmother, Molly, whose obituary as given in The Queen City closely resembles that of her real-life basis, Elizabeth Buschell O’Leary.

Today, the Molby name still exists in Marquette in the descendants of my grandmother’s brothers. The Buschell name is not found in Marquette, but Frank Buschell’s descendants populate the Keweenaw Peninsula, carrying on his name.

Note, I am always happy to hear from long lost relatives. I would love photos of any of the Molbys or Buschells or any other information people might be able to provide about the families.

Information on Norma Ross and Comedic Operetta in Marquette Sought

August 23, 2013

I am reposting this for The Marquette Regional History Center:

Call for information! The History Center is looking for information on Norma Ross, now deceased, but a life long resident of Marquette. Miss Ross was a music teacher with the Marquette Public Schools. She was active in the community and was a dedicated friend of William S. Adams. The two wrote a comedic operetta “Miss D.Q. Pons” which was very popular and toured the Upper Peninsula in 1905. The History Center is also interested in finding an original copy of this production.

Do you have any information on Norma Ross or “Miss D.Q. Pons”? Or do you know of someone who may have information?  Please contact the History Center by calling 906.226.3571 or by email to jessica@marquettehistory.org

U.P. Novel Explores Marquette Orphanage and 2005 Finn Fest

June 25, 2013

For Immediate Release – Press Release for The Best Place

U.P. Novel Explores Marquette Orphanage and 2005 Finn Fest

Amid a cast of unforgettable characters, and from the Great Depression to Finn Fest 2005, Lyla Hopewell, survives a childhood in an orphanage and seeks her identity and the love she’s always craved in Tyler R. Tichelaar’s new novel “The Best Place.”

Marquette, MI June 21, 2013—An irritating best friend gained during a childhood spent in a Catholic orphanage, a father who became a Communist and migrated to Russia in the 1930s, and 3:00 a.m. visits to The Pancake House. Such is the life of Lyla Hopewell. But things are about to change for her in Tyler R. Tichelaar’s new novel “The Best Place” (ISBN 9780979179075, Marquette Fiction, 2013).

My new novel - cover photo is a 1940 postcard of Holy Family Orphanage (courtesy of  Jack Deo, Superior View)

Tyler R. Tichelaar’s latest novel – cover photo is a 1940 postcard of Holy Family Orphanage (courtesy of Jack Deo, Superior View)

During the Great Depression, many American Finns migrated to Karelia, a Finnish province under Soviet control. Convinced the American Dream was a falsehood, they were ready to embrace Communism, and Lyla Hopewell’s father was among them. Planning to send for his wife and daughters once he was settled, he was never heard from again. Then Lyla’s mother died, her sister was adopted, and she was sent to a Catholic orphanage.

These inauspicious beginnings gave Lyla plenty of reason to be ornery, but they also made her tough. Now at age seventy-seven, Lyla will find her past intruding into her present. She’ll try to reconcile with her ex-boyfriend, be badgered by her best friend into joining a women’s recovery group, be harassed by a foul-mouthed teenager, and embrace her heritage at Finn Fest 2005.

Author Tyler R. Tichelaar’s novels are popular throughout Upper Michigan as well as far beyond. Canadian author Laura Fabiani describes his books as “Never predictable, sometimes heartbreaking, always hopeful.” Bethany Andrews of Book of the Moment (located in Maine) declares, “I am now and forever a huge Tyler Tichelaar fan. He’s a man with a wonderful gift for storytelling, and a knack for presenting historical facts in a way that can rival any great historical fiction author.” And Upper Michigan author Karl Bohnak states, “Tyler Tichelaar speaks from the heart about his love affair with the town of his birth.”

In “The Best Place,” Tichelaar has created a tour-de-force with memorable characters, many returning from his previous novels, who reflect the insecurities, fears, hopes, and dreams we all have. “The Best Place” is Tichelaar’s funniest, most heart-wrenching, and overall most cathartic novel to date. Lyla Hopewell’s story of survival and resilience amid personal mistakes, rejection, and life’s obstacles will inspire readers from all walks of life.

About the Author

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. in Literature and current president of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association, is a seventh generation resident of Marquette, Michigan, the city where his novels are set. In 2009, Tyler received the Best Historical Fiction Award in the Reader Views Literary Awards for his novel “Narrow Lives.” In 2011, he received the Barb H. Kelly Historic Preservation Award from the Marquette Beautification and Restoration Committee for his book “My Marquette,” and he received the Marquette County Arts Award that same year for an “Outstanding Writer.”

“The Best Place” (ISBN 9780979179075, Marquette Fiction, 2013) can be purchased through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit www.MarquetteFiction.com. Review copies available upon request.

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200 E. Ridge ~ The Burt and Adams Home

April 7, 2013

The following is an excerpt from my book My Marquette:

Directly across from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is the Burt house, more commonly known as the Adams Home. The Burt family is one of the most significant in Upper Michigan history beginning with William Austin Burt who discovered iron ore in Marquette County, thus leading to the building of the mines and Marquette as a harbor town. This home was built by William Austin Burt’s grandson, Hiram Burt. Hiram and his wife fell in love with a house in France while traveling there in the 1870s, and they decided to build a replica in Marquette. Hiram owned the Burt Freestone Quarry and used its own brownstone to build his home. It included a Mansard roof with Gothic gables, and a gabled tower. Behind the house, on the sloping hill down to the lake, numerous terraces were built for gardens and a place to hold parties. Hiram Burt decided to sell the house to Sidney Adams, and then he moved to 351 E. Ridge Street.

The Adams home today. The upper floor has been removed and it is currently the Terrace Apartments.

The Adams home today. The upper floor has been removed and it is currently the Terrace Apartments.

Sidney Adams, the house’s second owner, arrived in Marquette in 1850 with only a dollar to his name, but he bought an ax for fifty cents and set out to become a woodsman. He soon could afford to buy a wagon and oxen to deliver wood to his customers. Besides starting a side business as a potato farmer, he received a contract to haul iron ore in his wagons from the mines to Marquette in the years before the first railroad arrived. He also went on to own a sawmill and to invest significantly in land.

When he bought the Burt house, Adams indulged in designing terraces on the hill behind the house and filling them with fruit and vegetables, as well as bridges for people to walk on. He extended the terraces not only behind his property but behind many more houses extending eastward along Ridge Street. Adams also reputedly built an underground tunnel that ran from his house across the street to the Episcopal Church so his invalid adopted son, William Sidney Adams, could attend church without going outside.

Will Adams, the adopted son, was born in 1878 to Detroit parents who died while he was an infant. In his youth, Will was a soloist in the boys choir at school and church and enjoyed athletic pursuits, but a baseball injury resulted in soft tissue becoming hard until eventually he ossified into a living statue. By his mid-teens he was confined to a portable couch and only his face remained mobile. By sheer willpower, Will survived to the age of thirty-two. No longer able to perform athletics, he became one of Marquette’s first literary figures, starting his own magazine business. His family hired him an attendant to whom he could dictate his magazine. He named his magazine CHIPS. Besides his own text, he included political cartoons and even caricatures of such town leaders as Peter White, Nathan Kaufman, and John M. Longyear. The paper was largely supported by advertising, so a phone was installed in the Adams home, and his attendant would hold the phone to Will’s mouth so he could talk up his bi-monthly magazine to prospective advertisers.

Will also composed an opera with his childhood friend, Norma Ross, then the directress of the Marquette schools’ music program. Will hummed melodies and Ross wrote them down. Their end result was the production of Miss D. Q. Pons an opera which premiered at the Marquette Opera House on July 3, 1905 with Ross in the title role. Will viewed the opera from the wing in his portable bed, and when its success led to the troupe traveling for sellout performances in Ishpeming, Hancock, Calumet, and Sault Ste. Marie, Will traveled with them by train. In 1906, Will also founded another newspaper, the Marquette Chronicle to which he contributed an original article each day. He died on August 10, 1909, preceded by his adopted father, Sidney Adams in 1906. Will once joked about his literary efforts, “Every specimen of writ is a silent story of how the author was saved from cerrebrius combustion.”

After her parents and adopted brother’s death, Bertha Adams remained in the house for many years, but as time went on, her father’s terraces fell into disrepair and the gardens became overgrown. When the house was sold in 1946, only slight vestiges of the gardens and terraces remained. After the house was sold, the gabled tower was removed, and the house broken up into the aptly named Terrace Apartments, which it remains today.

(photos of the terraced gardens are included in My Marquette)

The Peter White Home – 460 E. Ridge, Marquette

February 28, 2013

The following is from my book My Marquette. Photos of the Peter White Home are included in the book:

In 1867, Peter White was the first person to build his home on Ridge Street and he lived there until his death in 1908. The home was inherited by his daughter, Frances P. White, and her husband, George Shiras III. George Shiras III was the son of Supreme Court Justice, George Shiras II and his wife, Lillie, another of the Kennedy sisters. George Shiras III would be famous as a naturalist who engineered the ability to photograph wildlife at night. At the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, his work took first prize. Shiras Hills, Shiras Pointe Condominiums, and Shiras Pool at Presque Isle are named for him, but I think he would have been most pleased to be remembered with Shiras Zoo at Presque Isle. George Shiras III would also become a congressman for Pennsylvania and become a friend of President Theodore Roosevelt, having a major influence on Roosevelt’s conservation efforts. Roosevelt would stay at the Shiras home when he visited Marquette, most notably in 1913 during his famous trial at the Marquette County Courthouse. George Shiras III died in 1942 and was buried in Marquette. The Shirases would have two children, George Shiras IV and Ellen Shiras. Ellen would marry Frank Russell Sr., owner of The Mining Journal.

The Frazier Home stands where formerly the Peter White Home stood

The historic Peter White home was torn down by the family in the late 1940s because it was considered too expensive to heat. The current home was built in 1949 by Lincoln and Ann Frazier. Ann Reynolds Frazier was a cousin of the Shiras family and the daughter of Maxwell Kennedy Reynolds and Frances Q. Jopling (Frances’ mother was Mary White, Peter White’s daughter). This new home was the first Ranch style home in the historical residential district of Marquette, which makes it historic in its own right despite its looking out of place among its neighbors. The house was featured in Home and Garden as a model modern home. The entire home is built on one level—no upstairs, no basement—and provides spectacular views of the lake from several rooms. Behind it is the original carriage house and Peter White’s terraced gardens. One can imagine Peter White entertaining his guests there with his famous Peter White punch. Today, the home is owned by Lincoln and Ann Frazier’s son Peter White Frazier and his wife, Peggy.

Summer Memories: Remembering the Hot Pond

August 20, 2012

The following post is taken from my book My Marquette. Unfortunately, I could not find a photo of the Hot Pond when writing my book.

When I was a kid in the early 1980s, the Hot Pond was the place to swim rather than the Shiras Pool. The Hot Pond existed for a short time because the Dead River wound its way under the bridge north toward the ore dock, cutting through the land, thereby creating a warm swimming hole between two beaches. People would often float down the Hot Pond on inflatable rafts and inner tubes, and it was perfect for swimming since it was no more than five feet deep in the middle so parents felt their children were safe swimming there. But rivers flow as they will, and soon a hard winter changed the river’s flow back into a relatively straight line under the bridge into Lake Superior. The Hot Pond was no more.

Had winter not changed the river’s course, doubtless the Flood of 2003 would have. In May 2003, heavy spring rain and rapidly melting snow caused water levels in the Dead River to rise, and the water pressure from the current became too strong for the Silver Basin Dam to withstand. The dam broke, releasing some 90 billion gallons of water. Not only did the river overflow its banks, but trees and boats plummeted downstream. The Dead River flows through the Silver Basin to the Hoist Dam. Fear that the Hoist would also break as water poured over its top caused the evacuation of homes from the Silver Basin and McClure Basin and all along the river. The Dead River flows just north of Marquette’s Wright Street along the Holy Cross Cemetery and then under the Dead River Bridge out into Lake Superior, so that meant all of Marquette north of Wright Street was evacuated—two thousand people total.

Fortunately, the Hoist Dam withstood the flooding and no one in Marquette lost a home, but the flood did wipe out the Dead River Bridge, making Presque Isle inaccessible. The Presque Isle Power Plant was out of commission, resulting in power to the mines being shut down—it would be a month before it was operating again at full capacity. All residents north of Marquette including Big Bay lost power. Marquette’s Tourist Park’s dam and levee just a mile west of the river’s mouth also failed. The Tourist Park’s landscape would forever be changed—the water from the small lake where so many people swam flowed down the river, leaving behind naked land that had once been underwater. The park has never been the same.

Flooding in Upper Michigan is not uncommon in the spring due to melting snow and rain, but the 2003 Dead River Flood holds the record for being the most traumatic ever seen in Marquette County. The damage was estimated at $100 million. Hopefully, the flood’s like will never be seen again.