Archive for the ‘Upper Michigan History’ category

Marquette’s Centennial Year 4th of July – 1949

July 4, 2015

In honor of Independence Day, here is the passage from the end of my novel The Queen City: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Two, depicting the 100th anniversary of Marquette and Fourth of July Fireworks. Happy 4th to all!

The Queen City: The Marquette Trilogy, Book 2 covers Marquette's history from 1902 until the 1949 centennial celebrations.

The Queen City: The Marquette Trilogy, Book 2 covers Marquette’s history from 1902 until the 1949 centennial celebrations.

In small towns, people depend on each other. In Upper Michigan, through long, harsh winters and economic woes, people form bonds even without blood ties. On this day of civic pride, an entire city became one family, a city filled with people descended from a handful of brave pioneers who came to Iron Bay a century before to build a community which still prospered. Even Jimmy Whitman, who today would rather be in California, and as an adult would live miles from Marquette, would in later years look back on this day with fondness.

The picnic broke up all too soon as everyone looked at their watches and realized it would soon be time for the fireworks. People went their separate ways. Bill wanted to be alone with Sally. Thelma was tired so Jessie brought her home. Harry Jr. had promised to take his children over to a friend’s house. Some decided to go home rather than attend the fireworks, but Sylvia insisted on seeing the finale of the city’s celebrations, and Eleanor, finding her daughters’ enthusiasm matched that of her aunt, agreed to take them all. Margaret told Roy he had no choice but to drive her to Memorial Field for the fireworks. “It won’t hurt you to take me and then stay at your mother’s house another night before going back to that old cabin of yours,” she insisted. Roy knew better than to argue. Henry and Beth talked Michael into piling into their car with the children. Then they followed Roy’s vehicle while Eleanor and company brought up the rear. Once the three automobiles reached Memorial Field, the Whitman clan found thousands of people crowded together, eagerly awaiting the finale to the centennial celebrations.

The Boy Scouts of Racine, Wisconsin entertained the crowd with their drum and bugle corps. Then a Vaudeville show made the crowd laugh and join in singing.

Gazing at the crowd, Sylvia felt overwhelmed. “I never saw so many people in my life. Everyone in Marquette must be here.”

“Yes, this city sure has grown,” said Margaret, remembering as a girl how she had thought Marquette much too small. Now amid a sea of jubilant faces, she scarcely recognized anyone. Proudly, she said to Sylvia, “Unlike us, most of these people don’t have their names in The Mining Journal as Marquette residents for over fifty years.”

“No, I guess not,” said Sylvia. “I’ve lived here my whole life, that’s seventy-seven years. I was born in Marquette’s twenty-third year, so I feel as if I belong more to the little village of a hundred years ago than to this big modern city.”

As they found a place to set up chairs and lay a blanket for the children to sit on, Margaret asked her sister-in-law, “Do you remember the day they unveiled the statue of Father Marquette? There was a big crowd that day, but nothing like this.”

“Yes,” said Sylvia, “I remember that, and I remember when the streetcars were put in; we were all so excited to have them, and now they’ve been ripped out for I don’t know how many years. I can even remember when we first got electricity.”

“I can remember the days before electricity,” said Margaret. “I’m sure glad those days are over.”

“Life was harder then,” said Sylvia. “But back then, since we had no idea there would one day be electricity, and automobiles, and movie theatres, we didn’t miss them. I don’t think people are as polite and courteous as before the wars either. I do miss that.”

“People don’t have the class they had back then,” Margaret agreed. “All these young girls running around with skirts above their knees.”

Eleanor and Beth chuckled, knowing this comment was pointed toward Bill’s girl Sally, who had come to the picnic with her knobby knees on full display.

“And this modern architecture,” sighed Sylvia. “Houses look like boxes now, and each one is painted a dull white. Houses had more color when I was a girl. I remember my grandparents’ house on Ridge Street—my grandparents moved away when I was only four, so maybe my memories aren’t exact, but my parents often told me what a beautiful house it was. Inside there was ornate woodwork and elaborate colored wallpaper and stenciling on the walls and borders along the ceiling. It was so beautiful you never wanted to leave it. Now we have these puffy sofas and metallic kitchen tables with pop-up leafs and—”

Sylvia could not finish her sentence but just shook her head.

“Which grandparents’ house are you talking about?” asked Henry. “Your Grandpa and Grandma Whitman?”

“No, they had a boarding house when I was a girl,” said Sylvia. “Not that their house wasn’t nice, but the house I’m talking about was my Grandpa and Grandma Henning’s house. They built one of the first and finest homes on Ridge Street, but they only lived there a few years before they moved away. I wonder what happened to all their money. I never saw any of it. I bet Grandma Henning left it all to Aunt Edna.”

“You mean that big sandstone house, don’t you?” said Margaret. “I remember Will pointed it out to me one time.”

“Is the house still there?” asked Henry, his carpenter instincts awakening.

“Oh, yes.” Sylvia described it until Henry suspected it was the same as Robert O’Neill’s house, where he had fixed the porches during the war.

“Aunt Sylvia, why did your grandparents move away?” Lucy asked.

“Well, their daughter, my Aunt Madeleine, drowned in the lake. I can’t really remember how; I was just a little girl then, but my grandparents were so upset they sold their house and moved back East. I never saw them again except once when my grandpa came to visit just after I was married. I don’t remember much about him either. I wish now I knew more, but my mother died when I was just a girl and my father died when I was in my twenties, so I guess I was too young to think about asking them many questions then.”

“I know what you mean,” said Margaret. “My grandfather always said the Dalrymples were related to the royal family of Scotland, but I was too lazy to ask exactly how and write it down. Just think, I might’ve been a Scottish princess.”

“I do remember,” said Sylvia, ignoring Margaret’s pretentious claim to the Scottish throne, “that my father said my mother’s family came to Marquette the year the city was founded.”

“You know,” said Michael, “my Grandma Bergmann used to tell me she came to Marquette during its first year. How odd. I bet our families have known each other a long time.”

“They have,” said Sylvia, taking his hand. “I remember being at your parents’ wedding when St. Peter’s Cathedral was just being built. I must have been about twelve then.”

“Someone,” said Roy, “should write all this down. Marquette is the finest city ever, and since our family is part of its history, neither should be forgotten.”

Everyone nodded in agreement, but writing Marquette’s history seemed too daunting a task for any of them. Not one felt confident with pen and paper.

“Hello, Roy,” said a young man passing by. “How are you?”

“Hi, Fred. Everyone, this here is Fred Rydholm,” Roy introduced. “He works with me up at the Club. He drove the Club’s car in the parade today.”

Everyone greeted Fred. Introductions were made and remarks exchanged about how impressive the parade had been. Then Fred said goodbye and walked away. One day, Fred Rydholm would pen two mammoth volumes detailing the history of the iron ore industry, the founding of Marquette and the Huron Mountain Club, and the Upper Peninsula’s important role in American history.

“How long before the fireworks start?” asked Ellen.

“Can’t we go home?” Jimmy complained. “It’s cold out here, and fireworks are boring anyway.”

“Don’t be a creampuff,” his grandmother teased. “The fireworks will be marvelous. This has been the best Fourth in the North.”

At that moment, the first loud cracking thunder broke. Memorial Field was packed with thousands of city residents and visitors who lifted their eyes to the glorious explosions in the night sky. Pink blazing sparks spread in every direction. Then a burst of blue, an explosion of green, a shot of white, a spray of orange, then yellow, then blue again, and red, and green, and blue, and orange, and yellow, and pink, and white. Burst after burst, straight firing white lines, kaleidoscopic green, pink, purple, all at once. One separate firework to mark each year of Marquette’s history. Up into the sky they shot in shimmering streaks like a hundred candles blazing on a bombastic birthday cake. Ellen covered her ears; the fireworks were so delightfully loud.

Henry leaned over to kiss his wife’s cheek.

“Ouch, that tickles,” Beth giggled. “When will you shave off that silly beard?”

“First thing tomorrow morning,” he promised, “but you have to admit it looks pretty good for having been grown so quickly.”

“Shh, Daddy, you’re missing the fireworks,” Ellen scolded.

Henry and Beth both chuckled, glad to see their daughter happy. They were happy themselves. They were back where they belonged, in their hometown for its centennial, which they would not have missed for anything. Henry thought back on all of Marquette’s remarkable history, the raising of the courthouse, the library, the banks, the houses, the bravery of its people, the struggles through fires and blizzards, economic woes and wars. He thought of the ore docks, those formidable giants of the iron industry, stretching out into the world’s greatest lake as emissaries to distant lands. For a hundred years, from Iron Bay, the Upper Peninsula’s riches had been shipped out to bolster a nation, yet Marquette had scarcely received mention in a history book. Many people could not even pronounce its name, much less find it on a map. But its Northern sons and daughters knew the great privilege they shared in living here. They knew Nature had blessed them by giving them this land of pristine beauty, mighty forests, fresh air, and remarkable weather. Henry and Beth were grateful to have been born here, and thankful they had been wise enough to return. Thousands that night felt in their hearts what Henry spoke as he turned to Beth.

“We truly do live in THE QUEEN CITY OF THE NORTH.”

———-

Tyler R. Tichelaar, seventh generation Marquette native, is the author of The Marquette Trilogy, My Marquette, and numerous other books about Marquette and its past. For more information, visit his website www.MarquetteFiction.com

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Book and DVD of Popular Local Play Willpower Now Available

June 19, 2015

Marquette, MI, June 19, 2015—When Will S. Adams was diagnosed with ossification, a mysterious disease that caused his tissues to harden until he became nearly a living statue, he refused to quit living life fully and was immensely productive. Now the original play Willpower, which translated his life story to the stage, is available as a book and a DVD.

The new book version of the play Willpower includes the full text of the play, sheet music, historical photos, and essays by the playwright and director.

The new book version of the play Willpower includes the full text of the play, sheet music, historical photos, and essays by the playwright and director.

In September 2014, Marquette’s Kaufman Auditorium was packed with people who came out to see the story of Will S. Adams translated to the stage, much as the Marquette Opera House was packed in 1906 with people who came to see his original operetta Miss D.Q. Pons. Born in 1878, Will was the adopted son of Marquette businessman Sidney Adams and his wife Harriet. He grew up in the sandstone mansion at 200 E. Ridge St., played baseball, and sang in the boys choir at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Then a strange disease began to stiffen Will’s legs and work its way up his body until he lost the use of his limbs, became bedridden, and eventually lost his eyesight before his early death at age thirty-one. Through it all, Will never lost his sense of humor, his energy, or his determination to make the most of every minute. In his short life, he ran his own newspaper, wrote poetry, drew cartoons, and composed the operetta Miss D.Q. Pons with Norma Ross, a local music teacher and his close friend, who also starred in the production. Will’s spirit of perseverance would attract countless admirers, including a Detroit Free Press reporter and the famous actress Lillian Russell.

In 2013, the Marquette Regional History Center hired local novelist Tyler Tichelaar to write a play and bring Will Adams’ story to the stage. The MRHC produced Willpower with the aid of a major grant from the Michigan Humanities Council and grants from the Marquette Community Foundation and Upper Peninsula Health Plan. The play was directed by Moire Embley, with Jeff Bruning as musical director. It starred many local actors and included period music. Filled with humor, romance, dreams, and faith, Willpower was received with standing ovations by audiences, and The Mining Journal’s reviewer said, “Will’s is an interesting and inspiring story to all and deserves to be told and retold.”

“Many people have expressed a desire to see the play again,” said Tichelaar, “and while I hope it will someday return to the stage, I wanted to release a book version to tell more of the history behind the play and allow Will’s story to continue to inspire us.” The newly released book includes the entire script of the play, photos from the original production, sheet music of songs from the performance, numerous historical photographs, extensive commentary on the history behind the play, and an essay by director Moire Embley.

The book version of Willpower is now available in local bookstores and gift shops and online through Tichelaar’s website at www.MarquetteFiction.com. A DVD of the original performance is also available at the Marquette Regional History Center’s gift shop.

About the Author

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., is a seventh generation Marquette resident devoted to capturing the past through his books. He is the author of the popular history book My Marquette and nine novels, including The Marquette Trilogy and The Children of Arthur series. In writing Willpower, Tichelaar grew to feel a special kinship with Will Adams, who shared his passion for literature, and with Norma Ross, who was friends with his great-grandmother.

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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.