Posted tagged ‘Marquette Michigan’

The Prologue to my new novel Spirit of the North: a paranormal romance

April 26, 2012

Here’s a sneak preview at the prologue to my new novel Spirit of the North: a paranormal romance. The book is now available on my website at: as well as in ebook format at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

How This Book Came to Be Written

             The other day, my granddaughter came over to help me pack and weed through a half century of accumulated items. I am moving now to Snowberry Heights, the senior citizen high rise in Marquette. I am looking forward to the move, the comradeship it will provide, and the freedom from the care of a house and all its possessions, yet it is hard for an old woman to leave her home; here I first came in 1941 as a young bride, here I raised my daughter, here I lived as a widow when my husband passed away, and then later, here I raised my granddaughter, Sybil, after her parents died in a car crash when she was a young child. Now she is in college, living in the dorms at Northern Michigan University, and I have no need for so much space as my house gives me. In my life, I have acquired so many items, both my own, as well as those I packed away after my husband, my parents, and grandparents died. Since I inherited my house from my grandmother, and raised my own daughter and granddaughter here, the house contains the collected possessions of five generations. I felt too overwhelmed to sort through and toss out everything on my own, so I asked Sybil to help me. I came to write this explanation as a result of what happened that day as we were cleaning and packing.

            Sybil was standing on a chair in front of the back bedroom closet. She was pulling down boxes from a high shelf while I sat on the bed, sorting through old wedding invitations and funeral cards for people half of whom I could no longer remember.

“Grandma, what’s this?” Sybil asked.

I looked up to see an old notebook in her hand; she had it open to a page filled with handwriting. I knew at once what it was, but to put off giving her an immediate answer, I said, “There should be another one just like it up there.”

She dug for a minute before she pulled another notebook out from under a box.

“What are they, Grandma? Did you write them?”

“I guess you could say that.” I didn’t know what else to say. I had never told anyone about those notebooks. I had always wanted to tell someone, but I had feared no one would understand, except maybe Sybil. Many times I had thought about explaining them to her, but I kept telling myself she was still too young. Finally, I had decided I would just leave them for her to find after I’m gone. I was not prepared to explain them to her that day, perhaps because she would think me crazy, but also because she was always such an odd girl—probably from living with an old lady all these years, and from the blow of her parents’ tragic deaths in that car crash—a crash she survived. I cannot imagine what affect that must have had on her. She’s always been a moody child, given to odd outbursts of enthusiasm followed by moments of severe melancholy. I’m afraid I was not the best companion for her to grow up with. I worry about what will become of her when I am gone—I hope I live to see her finish college, start a career, and find a husband. I hope college will allow her to find the friends she failed to find in high school because she was always so different from everyone, such a loner as her generation says. I’ve always felt for some unexplainable reason that it was important she learn what the notebooks contain, but I have just never been sure she was ready for that knowledge—maybe she is more mature than I believe, but the notebooks are strange, and I have not always been sure she would be emotionally stable enough to handle the information.

Yet the story is meant to be known by her—meant to be known by everyone who cares to hear it really. My own fears are what have kept it from the world, fears I have held onto since I wrote the notebooks back during the Second World War. My grandmother insisted the story be told, but I was always afraid to tell it, and somehow I’ve sensed it is Sybil who is to make the story known; I have just had to wait until the right time to make it known to her. I’m not really sure it was meant for me because while it is quite a curious tale, my life has been basically happy, and the knowledge of that story has made little difference to me. But I trust my grandmother, Barbara Traugott, knew better than me when she had me write it down. My role in the story is probably intended to be minimal, only to act as a link between generations to pass the tale from my grandmother to my granddaughter. Sybil will be the one to decide how and when to bring the tale before the world.

As Sybil held the notebooks in her hand that afternoon, she said, “Grandma, I didn’t know you were a writer.”

“I’m not,” I replied. “That’s about the only thing I ever wrote.”

“But it looks like a whole book,” she said, flipping through the pages of the first notebook.

“Yes, but it’s the only book I ever wrote,” I replied. “Let me have it.”

She was resistant to hand it to me.

“Didn’t you think it was any good?” she asked. “The few sentences I’ve read sounded interesting.”

“Don’t read any more of it, please. Bring it here.”

She looked disappointed, but she obeyed. I took the notebooks and set them behind me on the bed. She frowned.

“You can read them when I’m gone,” I told her. “In fact, I’ll make sure you get them, but not until then. Now, pull down that stack of records. There’s no sense in my keeping them. I haven’t had a record player for years.”

When she turned her back, I slid the notebooks under a box—to leave them visible might only entice her to further questions.

Later, after Sybil had gone home, I pulled out the notebooks and reread them. I had not thought about them for many years, and often when I did think about them, it was dismissively, as if they were the result of some delirious fantasy of my mind, but as I read them again that night, I was struck by just how remarkable they were, and how utterly impossible it seemed that, even at my most imaginative, I could have written them. They contained information about life in early Marquette: names of pioneer families—the Ridges, Whitmans, Hennings; families whom I had no knowledge of—and terms from the nineteenth century I had never heard. I know it would have been impossible for me to have written this book, even though it was in my own handwriting.

I’m probably confusing the reader now, the first of whom I imagine is Sybil. Be patient, dear, and you’ll understand it all shortly. The story of how those notebooks came to be written goes back to a day similar to the one when you found them. On that day, I had gone over to my grandmother’s house, the very same house I inherited and the one you grew up in.

I was a young woman then, and I had just finished my courses at the Northern State Teachers College and was still looking for a position. My grandmother knew I had little money, so she asked me to come over and help her clean in exchange for a few dollars.

My grandmother was an ornery old woman, but God rest her soul, she tried always to rise above her nature. She would go the extra mile for those she loved, but in return, she demanded strict obedience to whatever she asked. Even in her eighties, her eyesight remained impeccable enough to notice every speck I missed when I dusted her hutch cabinet.

On this particular day, I was cleaning in her bedroom. As I lifted the edge of her dresser scarf to dust beneath it, a young man in an old tintype photograph stared up at me. He was very handsome, and not more than eighteen, I would say. Although the picture was quite old, his face was still clear. He looked as if he would have been blond, and tall, and strong, what the young girls today would call “a hunk” I suppose. I had never seen a photograph of my grandfather, so I naturally assumed it was him, but when I looked at the back of the photograph, it was signed, “To Adele. Love, Ben.” And below that was written some sort of poem, although the paper had rubbed away in so many places that I could not fully make out the lines.

I knew Adele had been my grandmother’s sister—dead long before I was born. But I had no idea who Ben was—perhaps some secret lover—but certainly not Aunt Adele’s husband, for she had never married.

While I pondered the handsome man’s face, my grandmother came into the room. Despite her age, she could still manage to sneak up on people; she was not yet feeble enough to warn others of her approach by clumping down the hall with a cane.

“Haven’t you finished in here yet?” she snapped.

“I’m almost done,” I replied.

“What’s that you’ve got there?”

“I don’t know,” I lied. “It just fell out from under the dresser scarf when I was dusting.”

She came up to me and put out her hand. When I gave it to her, her face started to go pale. Lifting the edge of the dresser scarf, she stuffed the photograph back where I had found it.

“Well, come on. I’ve made us dinner.”

I followed her to the dining room where she had set sandwiches for us on the table. I waited until we were both seated, then boldly asked, “Grandma, who was in that photo? The back said it was to Aunt Adele from Ben, but Aunt Adele never—”

“Best to leave the past alone,” she said. “They’ve both been dead so long now it doesn’t matter.”

“Was Ben her boyfriend?”

“You are too nosey,” she replied. She took a sip of her coffee and then looked me straight in the eye. “You must get that nosiness from your father’s side of the family; you sure didn’t get it from mine. In my day, a person only had to be told once that something was none of her business.”

“But Grandma,” I said, “if they’re both dead, what would it hurt to tell me about them?” If there were nothing to tell, she would have said so, but her resistance to talk revealed that there had to be a story behind that picture, and my curiosity made me persistent.

“There really isn’t much to tell,” she grumbled. She sat down, then picked up her sandwich and inspected the meat in it. “I can’t believe I let that butcher sell me this ham. I don’t know how I’ll ever chew it. I could barely slice it. Seems as if there’s chopped up little bits of bone in it.”

“Grandma,” I scolded. “You’re changing the subject.”

“There isn’t much to tell,” she repeated. “He was just a boy my sister knew when we first moved here to Marquette—just a friend. We didn’t know him long. That wasn’t long before my sister went to—”

Before she finished the sentence, my mother knocked on the door and entered. My mother was always such a talker that others could scarcely get a word in. She and grandmother could gossip with the best of them, but if the conversation turned personal, Grandma would instantly clam up; she feared if people knew her business as she made a point of knowing theirs, she would never have any rest from others’ tongues. Apparently, the mysterious Ben was too personal for her to talk about because when I tried to mention the photograph to my mother, Grandma purposely changed the subject by asking me about my future plans now that I had finished my schooling. I forgot about the photograph for the time being.

That fall, I got my first teaching position in another town too far away for me to live in Marquette. While I was gone, Grandma passed away. That same week, a teaching position in Marquette opened for me. And although Grandma had three sons and a daughter (my mother) for her children and plenty of other grandchildren, she had left the house to me. As her only granddaughter, I had always suspected I was secretly her favorite. At that time, my fiancé, Earl, lived in Marquette, but we had put off getting married until we could afford it, and my living in another town had only complicated the situation. Now everything seemed to have come together for us. We married that summer and moved into grandmother’s house. Everything would have been perfect except that the United States had entered World War II, so Earl soon found himself enlisted. A month after he entered the service, I learned I was expecting a child.

Earl and I had no time to clean out Grandma’s belongings before we moved into the house, but now I decided to turn Grandma’s bedroom into the nursery. While cleaning her room, I again found the photograph of Ben. I don’t know why, other than that I fancied Ben’s looks, but I hung onto the picture, hiding it in my own dresser. I was even a little afraid Earl would find it when he returned. I admit I peeked at it fairly often. I knew there had to be something terribly romantic behind that picture—Ben looked like such a naturally heroic young man with that great blond curl waving over his forehead. No harm existed in looking at his handsome face; Grandma had told me Ben was dead anyway, and even if he were alive, he would have been about ninety by then, and I was a married woman. But I never did show the picture to my husband. I placed Earl’s picture on my dresser where I could see it each morning as I woke, but I confess I looked at Ben’s picture almost as much. Perhaps it was only a misdirected longing for my husband, but I started to feel a serious infatuation with Ben; I started imagining some remarkable stories about whom he had been and what his relationship may have been with Great-Aunt Adele. I convinced myself that she had been in love with him.

It is silly now, even embarrassing, to admit how infatuated I was with that photograph. I rather fancied Ben looked as if he wanted to talk to me, as if he were trapped in that flat black and white world and yearning to escape. He looked so alive, so vibrant, though seventy years had passed since the photo had been taken. It seemed a shame that a young man with all that energy should not be alive now. I bet he could have taken a dozen Japs with his bare hands. What an asset he would have been to the war effort. How did Aunt Adele ever let him slip through her fingers? Grandma had said Ben and Aunt Adele were just friends, but I found it difficult to believe any woman could settle for just being friends with such a good-looking man.

Sometimes I daydreamed so much about Ben that I felt guilty, and then I would try to make it up to Earl by writing him an extra sweet letter, and saying my rosary to pray for his safety. And now comes the hardest part to explain—far harder than to explain my infatuation with Ben.

I was sitting at the kitchen table one evening, trying to write to Earl, but I had nothing to say to him other than the usual about how much I missed him. When he had first gone away, I had written to him everyday, but after the first couple of months, it felt like a chore to write more than once or twice a week. I wished I’d had the baby before he had gone—then I could have written to him about its first tooth, its first word, its first attempt to walk. But until the baby was born, what was there to say? My life was dull compared to the dangers Earl was experiencing in the Pacific. All I could talk about were the school papers I had to grade, and how once or twice a week I went to my parents’ house for supper because my mother worried I was lonely. I was lonely, but I didn’t want to express that to Earl—he would only worry about me, and that might distract him from paying attention to whatever battle he was facing, and then he might not come home to me. And then I would wonder whether that was how Aunt Adele had felt—that Ben had not come home to her—I didn’t know what had happened to Ben, but he hadn’t married Aunt Adele; I was certain there had to be some great heartbreak there, yet I could not believe any man so outwardly attractive could be anything less than inherently good, so I remained curious why they had not married.

One evening, I decided to write to Earl before I made supper, but instead I found myself just sitting at the table, long after dark came, without turning on the light, letting my mind wander until I dozed off. I dreamt I was writing something, not a letter to Earl but some sort of beautiful story, even though in my sleepy state the words did not quite make sense. Finally, I woke to find myself sitting in the dark. When I turned on the light, I found I still had the pen in my hand. I had scribbled all over a sheet of paper, scribbled, not written any words. I crumpled up the sheet, threw it in the wastebasket, and then made myself supper. By the time I finished the dishes, I realized I did not feel well. Fearing that if I became sick, the baby would be in danger, I decided to go to bed early.

I was asleep by eight o’clock, and slept until after midnight; then I woke up sweating and lay awake in a miserable state for hours, too tired to get up, yet unable to fall back asleep until the early morning. Then I slept fitfully, dreams flitting through my head. I know I had many dreams that night, yet when I woke, the only one I remembered was of lying on my stomach, trying to write a story on my pillowcase with an imaginary pen.

I got up with the first glimmering of daybreak and made myself some tea since I doubted my stomach could take anything more substantial. I thought I should finish writing my letter to Earl before the mailman came—if I became more ill, I did not know when I would be able to write again. But I got no farther than, “Dear Earl” when I felt so tired and groggy that I thought I should go back to bed. My mother had feared that having Earl away during my pregnancy would be too much of a strain for me. I began to think she was right—I suddenly felt overwhelmed by my entire life—the responsibility of teaching so many students, being alone and pregnant, worrying about my husband overseas—it all seemed so unreal, so nonsensical, so absurd to believe it was my life.

I stared out the window until the sun rose—its rays breaking pink over the lightly snow-covered ground. The snow looked so smooth in the early morning light—smooth like Ben’s boyish cheeks. Earl, by comparison, had a very rough face, even after he shaved. I wondered what it would be like to touch a smooth face on a man. For a second, I sort of reached out my arm, as if Ben were before me so I could stroke his cheek.

A sudden jolt shot through my arm, from my shoulder to my wrist, and then my left hand began to tingle. My hand picked up the pen, gripping it tightly, and in a fury, it began to pour out words onto the blank paper. I was terrified—I had lost control of my arm, but I was too astonished to try stopping it. It felt numb, as if separated from my body, yet it was functioning perfectly. I stared as I scribbled words onto the paper. I felt as if I were leaning over someone else’s shoulder, watching her write. I wondered whether I was possessed by a demon; should I grab the phone? But who would I call? St. Luke’s Hospital? A priest to come do an exorcism? I could not move from the chair; my arm would not stop writing, and my body could not move without my arm.

Then I started to read the words my hand was writing. My fear turned to amazement and curiosity. I had no way of knowing what power or intelligence was forming the words, but I saw names on the paper, sentences written about people whose names I did not know except those of my grandmother and Great-Aunt Adele. Then after a few paragraphs, I recognized the tone as my grandmother’s voice. Curiosity overcame my fear as I read further. My grandmother’s spirit—I don’t know how else to describe it—was somehow flowing through me, forcing me to write for her a tale from her own life. And while my hand continued to jot down words, in my head, I heard my grandmother speaking. “Every morning before you go to school, you must wake up early to write until the story is finished.” I still could not believe this possession was my grandmother, but as the writing continued, I realized it could not be otherwise. Later, although I never told my mother about the experience, I asked her questions about my grandmother’s life; my mother confirmed knowing some of the people mentioned in this manuscript in her early childhood, and she confirmed those people’s positions in the community so that I cannot doubt my grandmother herself wrote this story through me, although I find it unexplainable. There is nothing in the writing that makes me believe I was possessed by an evil spirit, even if some of the story’s message does not perfectly coincide with the Church’s teachings. The way the sentences are turned, the words put together, all sound so much like my grandmother’s way of speaking that the only explanation is that her spirit was using me to perform some type of automatic writing, so she could tell me her story now because she had been afraid to speak it during her lifetime.

I don’t want to say much more. Every morning after that for several weeks, I woke up in time to spend a quiet hour or two allowing my grandmother to use me to perform her writing. I think it best I say no more about the manuscript’s contents but that I leave it to speak for itself. Perhaps because I am old now, people might dismiss this story as the ravings of a madwoman trying to put one over on the public. I do not know what people will say about it—that is why I have always been afraid to show it to anyone, so I leave it for Sybil to decide how to use it. I only know it was an experience I can never explain. I know, during those hours of writing, my arm moved at an alarming pace I never could have maintained by sheer human stamina. I don’t know what made me susceptible to the spirit world’s influence—although I have an idea it had something to do with my family background, and perhaps because I felt such an attachment to Ben’s photograph, an attachment that in itself felt almost otherworldly.

I verify that this story is written in my grandmother’s own words—she never spoke a word to me about anything it contains during her actual life. Neither did I change a word of it from how it was channeled through me. I don’t believe there is any way I could have known this information, or provided the historical details the work contains. Never could I have imagined with such clarity what my grandmother’s life would have been like when she first came to Upper Michigan, seventy years before I wrote this manuscript.

I leave it to the reader to decide what to believe of this strange story. Perhaps the people of the twenty-first century will be less skeptical than those of my own largely atheistic twentieth century.

Sarah Bramble Adams

Marquette, Michigan

August 27, 1997

My Sixth Novel “Spirit of the North: a paranormal romance” is on sale now.

April 5, 2012

Tale of Marquette’s First Ghost Told in New Historical Novel

 From automated writing and secrets in the deep north woods, to ghosts, folklore, and reincarnation, Tyler R. Tichelaar’s new paranormal romance “Spirit of the North” offers an old-fashioned story with an extraordinary new vision of life.

Marquette, MI April 1, 2012—Forced to spend the winter alone in a northern woods cabin in 1873 Upper Michigan, sisters Barbara and Adele Traugott battle the elements and their own fears to discover the miracle of their own being in Tyler R. Tichelaar’s new novel “Spirit of the North” (9780979179068, Marquette Fiction 2012).

Spirit of the North: a paranormal romance - on sale now.In 1873, orphaned sisters Barbara and Adele Traugott travel to Upper Michigan to live with their uncle, only to find he is deceased. Penniless, they are forced to spend the long, fierce winter alone in their uncle’s remote wilderness cabin. Frightened yet determined, the sisters face blizzards and near starvation to survive. Amid their difficulties, they find love and heartache—and then, a ghostly encounter and the coming of spring lead them to discovering the true miracle of their being.

Fans of Tichelaar’s popular Marquette novels will enjoy this new story that reintroduces many familiar characters from his first book Iron Pioneers, including loggers Ben and Karl, Sophia Henning—the woman readers love to hate—Molly Montoni and the Whitman family. But at the center is Barbara Traugott, a woman used to holding everyone together until circumstances arise that even she cannot control but will awaken her to a new vision of life.

Influenced by the Gothic tradition, Tichelaar weaves stories within stories, including ghost stories and a tale of Paul Bunyan, all containing supernatural elements. And among them is the tale of Annabella Stonegate, a minor character in some of Tichelaar’s previous novels, whose story is told in full here. “Annabella was a ghost in a story I wrote in middle school,” says Tichelaar, “she has haunted me for more than a quarter of a century, insisting I tell her full story. I think I have finally satisfied her insistence.”

Readers love Tichelaar’s new literary departure into the spirit world. Diana M. DeLuca, Ph.D. and author of “Extraordinary Things” states, “Tichelaar’s characters…are shaped by the northern Michigan woods he describes so lovingly…The woods, of course, are dark and hold their secrets, but when the past starts to take a direct hand in the present-day lives of the main characters, it’s clear that Tichelaar believes human lives are full of beauty as well as of things that defy rational explanation.” And fellow Upper Michigan author of “Finding My Light,” Chris Shanley-Dillman, declares, “In ‘Spirit of the North,’ Mr. Tichelaar cleverly weaves together the past, present, and spiritual worlds to create a heart-touching story that will inspire readers to ponder their own existence.”

About the Author

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is best known for “The Marquette Trilogy,” where his characters serve as a microcosm for the American Dream being played out on Lake Superior’s shores. In 2009, he was awarded Best Historical Fiction in the Reader Views Literary Awards for his novel Narrow Lives and now he sponsors that award. For his travel/history book “My Marquette,” he received the 2011 Barb H. Kelly Historic Preservation Award from the Marquette Beautification and Restoration Committee. That same year he was named the “Outstanding Writer” in the Marquette County Arts Awards. Tyler is a seventh generation resident of Marquette, Michigan, where the roar of Lake Superior, mountains of snow, and sandstone architecture inspire his writing.

“Spirit of the North” (9780979179068, Marquette Fiction 2012) can be purchased through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit Review copies available upon request.


John Lautner – Famous Architect, Marquette Native

September 11, 2011

In honor of Marquette native John Lautner’s one hundredth birthday in 2011, two Marquette museums – the DeVos Art Museum at Northern Michigan University and the Marquette Regional History Center, are both holding exhibits on Lautner’s life and work. For more information on both exhibits, you can visit, which has links to both museums and their exhibits.

Below is a short piece from my book My Marquette about the John Lautner home in Marquette:

1308 Presque Isle Ave ~ Lautner Home

John Lautner home Presque Isle Ave Marquette

John Lautner's boyhood home

This home was built by John Edward Lautner Sr. in 1912. He was a professor of modern languages at Northern Normal School and his wife was a budding artist. The house is a New England salt box style which looks like it belongs in Salem, Massachusetts. While an architect drew up the plans for the house, John Sr. and his son John Jr. built the house by hand. John Jr. would later become a famous architect himself who would study with Frank Lloyd Wright. John Lautner Jr. married Mary Roberts, the granddaughter of John and Mary Longyear. He would go on to design numerous buildings including the Googie Coffee Shop at the corner of Sunset Strip and Crescent Heights in Los Angeles, the Bob Hope home in Palm Springs, and the Chemosphere house, a raised octagonal home which looks like a flying saucer and was used in the film Body Double. Movie stars David and Courtney Cox Arquette today reside in one of his homes. Two books have been published about his work—John Lautner, Architect by Frank Escher and The Architecture of John Lautner by Alan Hess.

Marquette’s Historic Wagner Home 229 N. Fourth Street

September 2, 2011
Wagner Home 229 Fourth St. Marquette Michigan

The Wagner Home at 229 N. Fourth St. Marquette

One of the most noticeable historic homes in Marquette that is not officially in the historic residential neighborhood of Arch and Ridge Streets, although it’s on the corner of West Ridge, is the Wagner home.

This home was built by Honorable George Wagner, who was born in Prussia, Germany in 1834 and came to Marquette in 1854. He served the community in numerous capacities including justice of the peace, township treasurer, and alderman. In the early 1890s, he represented the First District of Marquette County as a member of the Michigan Legislature and introduced the Upper Peninsula Insane Asylum bill. In 1855, as a contractor, he laid the first tram road from the Jackson Mine to the Cleveland Mine. He erected sawmills in Alger County and in 1881, he discovered the Breitung Mine of which he became superintendent. Mr. Wagner was married to Gertrude Dolf in 1869, who was a relative of a relative on the Zryd side of my family. Consequently, my great-grandmother Barbara McCombie White used to visit the Wagner family in the early twentieth century. The last Wagner to own the home was Nettie Wagner, who later went to live with her Dolf family relatives. My distant cousin, Dorothy Dolf Drozdiak remembers when she was a little girl in the 1930s that Nettie Wagner used to toss her pennies from the tower’s windows. Today, the home is divided into apartments.

Discover more of Marquette’s historic homes in My Marquette at

Early Upper Michigan Literature – a Brief and Incomplete History

July 18, 2011

The U.P. Author Book Tour is in its last week, but several events are still happening. You can find the list of the remaining events at: The book tour has generated a lot of discussion about Michigan, and specifically Upper Michigan authors, both present and past, so I wanted to post a little about the legacy of Upper Michigan literature. I am sure there is much more than what I will post here so I invite others to let me know of any early U.P. literature I forget. Finally, thank you once again to Ron Riekki, author of U.P. for all his work organizing the biggest literary event in Upper Michigan history with more than 60 authors over the course of a month!

The Beginnings

the song of hiawatha

The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Upper Michigan literature really begins with the Native Americans since they were here first. They practiced oral traditions and talked about their myths and the supernatural creatures and beautiful Great Lakes area. Much of this wonderful oral tradition has probably been lost, but some parts of it were preserved. As far as printed books go, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft and his half-Ojibwa wife, Jane Schoolcraft, lived at the Sault and wrote down several Ojibwa legends that were collected into book form. Various versions of these works exist today. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow used these stories to compose his famous The Song of Hiawatha in 1855. Longfellow never set foot in Upper Michigan, but we can claim him as one of our own for first making Upper Michigan significant in literature on a nationwide level. The poem remains well-known today and the U.P. continues to commemorate the Hiawatha legend in the Hiawatha National Forest that composes a large part of central Upper Michigan as well as the Hiawatha Music Festival held in Marquette every July (coming this weekend July 22-24–visit And any true Yooper knows Lake Superior’s true name is Gitchee Gumee, as Longfellow states:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

ojibwa narratives charles kawbawgam

Ojibwa Narratives

Once you read the poem, the rhythm never gets out of your head. An interesting sidenote is that Longfellow borrowed the meter for the poem from the famous Finnish epic, the Kalevala–a work also well-known in Upper Michigan because of the large number of Finnish immigrants who have come to this area, although a generation after Longfellow’s poem was written.

Another wonderful collection of Ojibwa narratives are those that Chief Charles Kawbawgam of Marquette and his brother-in-law Jacques LePique told to Homer Kidder in the 1890s (a depiction of this event is included in my novel Iron Pioneers). The manuscript was not published until 1994 by Wayne State University as Ojibwa Narratives, but it is another example of early Upper Michigan literature.

The First Novels

Snail-Shell Harbor Langille

Snail-Shell Harbor by J.H. Langille

I am uncertain what the first Upper Michigan novel was, but for now, my best guess is Snail-Shell Harbor (1870) by J.H. Langille. This novel is set in the bustling early village of Fayette, Michigan, once an iron-smelting town in the Garden Peninsula. Today it is a famous Michigan ghost-town. The novel describes the everyday life in the village of the ironworkers, fishing in the harbor, and the life and death struggles that those early pioneers faced. A reprint of the book is available at Great Lakes Romances. Fayette is today a historic park open to visitors. For more information, visit Historic Fayette State Park.

Anne by constance fenimore Woolson

Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

Another early novel is Constance Fenimore Woolson’s Anne (1882) set on Mackinac Island. Woolson was the great-niece of James Fenimore Cooper. she lived in Ohio but dearly loved to visit Mackinac Island. She was the aunt to Samuel and Henry Mather, owners of the Cleveland Mining Company. Henry Mather’s home still stands in Marquette, Michigan today, although no record exists that Woolson visited any of Upper Michigan other than Mackinac Island. When Woolson died, her nephew Samuel erected Anne’s Tablet on Mackinac Island in her memory. On the tablet is a passage from the novel. The novel itself has beautiful descriptions of Mackinac Island in winter, and frankly the Mackinac Island scenes are the most worth reading. It is a rather conventional romance novel of its time in that the heroine leaves the island and goes to the East Coast where she falls in love with a man in society but is ultimately jilted and returns home to Mackinac Island. It is not a great novel, but it is well worth reading for the descriptions of Mackinac Island alone.

Children’s Books

Much of Upper Michigan’s early nineteenth century literature is in the form of children’s books.

In 1904, Marquette author Carroll Watson Rankin published Dandelion Cottage, which is still considered a minor classic by many children’s literature enthusiasts. She reputedly wrote it because her daughter complained that she had read every book ever written for little girls. The story is about four little girls growing up in Lakeville in Upper Michigan who want a playhouse. The church allows them to use a small rental property it has in exchange for picking the dandelions off the lawn. The novel is based on a real house which still stands in Marquette today. See my previous post on Dandelion Cottage. Rankin went on to write several more books, including three sequels to Dandelion Cottage.

James Cloyd Bowman lived across the street from Rankin on Ridge Street in Marquette. He was the head of the English department at Northern State Teacher’s College (now NMU). He became famous for his children’s book story collections, especially Pecos Bill for which he won the Newberry Medal, but he also published a book about Upper Michigan’s own Paul Bunyan, and Tales from a Finnish Tupa (doubtless because of the Finnish population in the U.P.) and he wrote a little known novel Mystery Mountain, set in a fictional version of Marquette and featuring the Hotel Superior. I imagine he and Carroll Watson Rankin knew each other, living across the street from one another. If only their conversations had been recorded.

Two other children’s authors from Marquette were Dorothy Maywood Bird and Holly Wilson. Bird’s best known book, Granite Harbor (1944) is also set in a fictional Marquette and tells of a girl from Texas who comes to stay in Upper Michigan. Although resistant to her new home at first, she soon discovers how much fun a girl can have in the U.P., especially in winter with skiing and other activities. Bird wrote a couple of other novels as well.

Holly Wilson grew up in Marquette on Arch Street. She wrote several children’s books set in Upper Michigan, and others just set in the Great Lakes region. Among her best books are Clara the Unconquered, which depicts a fictionalized version of Marquette in its early years, Deborah Todd, the story of a girl’s antics based on Wilson’s childhood, and The Hundred Steps, about the hundred steps in Marquette that led from Ridge Street down to the harbor; Wilson uses the steps to depict the class divisions in the town.

U.P. Literature Becomes Famous

Anatomy of a murder by Robert TraverDr. James Cloyd Bowman taught creative writing at Northern, and one of his students was John Voelker, who would publish the bestselling Anatomy of a Murder (1956) under the pen name Robert Traver. Voelker used to bring his writing to where Bowman was residing and go over his stories with him. Wouldn’t we love to have those conversations recorded as well? Of all the novels to come out of Upper Michigan, Anatomy of a Murder remains the best known. It is based on a real murder that took place in Big Bay. Voelker was the defense attorney in the court case, and consequently, he was well-qualified to write a fictionalized version of it. In 1959, it was made into the film of the same name, starring Jimmy Stewart, Eve Arden, Lee Remick, George C. Scott, Ben Gazzara, and Arthur O’Connell.

Upper Michigan Literature Today

Novels set in the Upper Peninsula remained relatively few throughout the rest of the twentieth century, but in the last decade the number has grown tremendously as more and more locals come to appreciate how special Upper Michigan is as well as changes in the publishing industry allow people to self-publish their books.

Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton

Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton

Well-known authors like Jim Harrison have depicted Upper Michigan in books like Returning to Earth. Lilian Jackson Braun’s Cat series (The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare etc.) are set in a fictionalized U.P. town. Mystery novelist Steve Hamilton has set several books in the U.P. including Misery Bay . (You can catch Steve Hamilton as part of the U.P. Author Book Tour. He makes his last appearance on Beaver Island on Thursday afternoon, July 21st at the museum).  These authors have all achieved nationwide attention.

The list of UP authors today is far too numerous to list them all. I encourage anyone interested in who is writing about the U.P. today to visit the UP Publishers and Authors Association for a list of all the member authors’ books. Another, far from complete list of U.P. authors can be found at my website

I began writing novels set in Upper Michigan back in 1987, although I did not publish any until 2006. I felt strongly that Upper Michigan is full of stories, wonderful characters, dramatic episodes, significant history, and beautiful settings. The perfect place to write about. At the beginning of my first published novel Iron Pioneers: The Marquette Trilogy, Book One, I inserted the following quote from Ralph Williams’ biography of Marquette pioneer Peter White. I think those words, more than a century old, remain true today about why Upper Michigan literature is and will continue to be significant:

Iron Pioneers The marquette trilogy book one tyler r. tichelaar

Iron Pioneers: The Marquette Trilogy, Book One

“The beginnings, therefore, of this great iron industry are historically important and are of interest to every citizen in the United States, for there is not a man or woman today living who has not been, directly or indirectly, benefited by the great mineral wealth of the Lake Superior country and the labor of winning it and working it into the arts . . . . Has it not the elements in it out of which to weave the fabric of the great American novel so long expected and so long delayed? For the story is distinctly American. Indeed there is nothing more distinctly American.”

—Ralph Williams, The Honorable Peter White: A Biographical Sketch of the Lake Superior Iron Country (1905)

Come to the 13th Annual U.P. Publishers and Authors Conference!

May 16, 2011

On Saturday I will be the Master of Ceremonies as President, for the 13th Annual UP Publishers and Authors Conference. It’s not too late to sign up. Here are all the details!

Upper Peninsula Publishers & Authors Association

For Immediate Release…

Contact: Tyler Tichelaar

(906) 226-1543 (Phone) (Email) (Website)


Publishing Industry, Writing, and Book Marketing Explored At 2011 UPPAA Conference

MARQUETTE, Mich. (April 6, 2011) – In its constant commitment to keeping regional authors and publishers up-to-date on changes in the publishing world and providing effective marketing and writing strategies, the Upper Peninsula Publishers & Authors Association (UPPAA) will hold its 13th Annual Conference on May 21st in Marquette at the Peter White Public Library beginning at 10:00 a.m.


Irene Watson - UPPAA's Keynote Speaker

          This year’s keynote speaker will be Irene Watson of Reader Views in Austin, TX. Watson is the managing editor of Reader Views, an online book review and publicity service. Watson is also the co-host of the Authors Access radio show and co-author of the book “Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers.” Watson also is author of the award-winning book “The Sitting Swing: Finding Wisdom to Know the Difference.” Watson’s keynote speech will be about how authors can find and identify their audience. Watson will also present afternoon sessions on creating a marketing platform and blogging.

This year’s conference offers several additional sessions on a wide range of topics in the publishing industry. Workshop topics and speakers this year include Larry Alexander, owner of Storyteller’s Friend, who will present “Authors Online: Why You Need A Website And How To Get One,” Kristy Basolo and Carrie Usher of “Marquette Monthly” will present “How to Work with the Media for Publicity,” Cheryl Corey of McNaughton-Gunn Printers and Stacey Willey of Globe Printing will present “The Basics of Self-Publishing,” and John French, local artist and illustrator, will lead a discussion on writing and publishing children’s books.

            A business meeting and the election of a new board will also be held. And a giveaway drawing will result in several book publicity packages, books, and other items possible to be won.

            The general public may attend the meeting for a $10 registration fee, while UPPAA members can attend free of charge. As space is limited, advanced registration is recommended. Annual membership dues are $25 for individual membership and $35 for family membership (all memberships include the quarterly print newsletter, online discussion group, semiannual meetings, and discounts on dues to two national publishing organizations). A catered deli lunch is available for $8 per person with advance reservations required.

            Those interested in registering for the meeting and/or joining UPPAA can get more information online at or by contacting membership secretary Cheryl Corey at 9001 N. Pheasant Ridge Dr., Saline, MI 48176 (734) 429-8757. Registrations online or by mail must be received no later than May 18.

            Established to support authors and publishers who live in or write about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, UPPAA is a Michigan nonprofit association with over 60 members. Over 100 member books are posted on the UPPAA website. UPPAA encourages everyone with an interest in writing and publishing books to join and participate.



Marquette’s McCombie Family and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

April 18, 2011

Today, April 18th, is the 105th anniversary of the Great San Francisco earthquake, an event I always associate with my ancestors.

In 1905, my great-great grandparents, William Forrest and Elizabeth May (Zryd) McCombie moved to San Francisco where William’s sister, Margaret and her husband Louis Hansberry and her family lived. I don’t know why they moved, but most likely William went to work as a carpenter where he probably could have found more work to support his family. Five of his eight children: his oldest child Sadie, 24, and then the four youngest children, Raymond 14, James 11, Byron 7, and Burton 4 accompanied him. My great-grandmother Barbara, and her brother Joseph William Wallace were already married and stayed in Marquette, and her sister Eleanor was working for a family in Marquette, so they remained behind.

 My cousins, Sadie’s granddaughters, have a book that was preserved from the earthquake. Young Burton later wrote the following piece for school about his experience with the earthquake:

            When I was a boy of four years of age my parents moved to San Francisco in 1905, and lived there ten months.

            On the morning of April 5th at 5 A.M. 1906 we had the big earth quake.  It cracked the earth all over a big area there and shook the ground and the furniture and stoves and stove pipes, soot and bricks came sown [sic] the roof and crashed thru the windows and a couple landed on my parents bed and I was lieing at the foot of the bed when a brick came down.  My mother grabbed me and pulled me out of the way just in time.

            Buildings and homes were in ruins.  Telegraph poles were bent way over and swaying.  There were a lot of fires.

            My dad worked at tearing down buildings at $1.00 per hour.  We were given free transportation and moved back to our home at Marquette.

                                                                        Written by Burton McCombie

The McCombie’s experience was common for many. Free transportation was given to leave the city following the earthquake, although William must have stayed for a short time to help with the clean-up.

Later, my great-grandmother, Barbara McCombie White, also wrote a short story that is a thinly disguised version of her family’s experiences during the earthquake. It also contains a story within a story that her father must have told her. I also have some short stories William Forrest McCombie wrote, and to discover my ancestors wrote stories, although not necessarily polished ones, was a great discovery for me. Here is my great-grandmother’s story about the earthquake.

The descriptions of the earthquake are hard to envision, but wikipedia has several great photographs of the earthquake’s aftermath at: 


            We lived in the little town of M-, Michigan.  We usually had a long cold, winter with much snow.  Sometimes when the snow plows went by the snow piled ten feet high.  We had many snow storms and when a high wind accompanied it old Lake Superior roared and it was bad for shipped that happened to be out on the lake at that time as they were sure to be dashed to pieces.

            My father always longed for a warmer climate.

            About two years before the San Francisco Earthquake he expressed a desire to roam.  I knew he was possessed of a roaving nature but did not dream he would ever go to California.

            We had often heard him speak of a sister he had not seen for about twenty-five years, who resided in the land of flowers and perpetual sunshine.

            It was rather sudden mother became aware of the fact that father was about to leave for the west.

            As he was a carpenter and builder he was very sure of finding work soon after his arrival.

            We all went down to the depot to see him leave and as he kissed mother good-bye, promised to send for the family before long.

            In due time we received letters from father telling about the nice climate and what a beautiful place California really was.

            He first wrote about Aunt Mary’s home and told of the large fruit farm she had, not far from San Francisco and how he met his sister Mary at the gate as she was about to go to visit her son who lived in Tiburn;  she did not know him untill [sic] he spoke and said his voice had not changed in all those years.

            Father took long rambles over the mountains and he was quite lonely he saw a great deal of the surrounding country before he was there very long;  he wrote about Golden Gate Park and how such a fine view of the harvor could be seen from the Berkeley Hills.  It was a beautiful sight at night to see the many lights twinkling and ships from all nations in the harbor.  He told about Golden Gate also.  Father wrote often and told about the nice climate and beautiful flowers of many hues.

            I was so pleased with father’s accounts of California I was very anxious to go but my husband said we should wait and see how mother liked it.

            In October father sent for mother and the boys and sister Ellen.  Ray was fifteen years.  John twelve, Dewey nine and Harry three years;  sister Ellen was seventeen years old.  My eldest sister Sarah who was twenty-one wished to stay with me untill I should go and my eldest brother Will was married and lived in M- also.

            We all helped mother pack and get ready for their trip to the coast and with tears in our eyes sister Sarah and I bid them goodbye;  little did we know what was to take place before we were to see them again.

            Father had rented a furnished house in the Island town of Alameda across the bay from San Francisco.

            We were anxiously waiting for a letter from the family and soon received word of their safe arrival in the Golden State;  upon reading of their dangerous trip over the mountains I could feel the goose flesh creep up my arms;  they told of the high cliffs on one side and deep chasms on the other where one could look down hundreds of feet below.  The boys wrote of their fishing in the early morning and how they gathered clams after the tide went out.

            I enjoyed those letters and secretly hoped some day I too could view the beauties of that far western land.

            Every Saturday was marekt day in San francisco [sic] and the boys always looked forward to that time as they accompanied father to that busy, noisy city.

            Christmas was not far away and we were all very busy packing boxes for the folks away from home.  It did not seem the same without mother and the rest so we invited Aunt Nellie and Uncle Bill over to drive away the blues.  Many mysterious packages were brought out of their hiding places and little Robert was so delighted with the toys that he almost lost his appetite.

            The holidays passed and we settled down to work again and letters came quite often without any news untill [sic] the month of March mother wrote and told us she expected to spend the second week in April with Aunt Mary.

            I will never forget the day we read the papers.  On the front page was written in great head lines, “Terrible Earthquake in San Francisco;”  We read on, “At five-fifteen this morning thousands were rudely awakened from their slumbers by a terrible trembling and as folks who were not badly hurt ran out into the streets they saw many buildings topple over, many on fire.  Great office buildings were shook to pieces and as the earthquake swept down Van Ness Avenue there was devastation everywhere.  There was great fear among the people as fifty years before, when the last earthquake took place a tidal wave followed which swept everything before it into the bay.  It was a strange sight to see everyone out in their night clothes, some praying, others screaming and waiting for they knew not what.  Many homes were thrown from their foundations and others shattered so that the walls fell out and furniture slid out.

            I thought of my dear mother;  was she among the dead?;  as I remembered her promise to visit with Aunt Mary Frost in that city.

            We read that dwellings on Webster St. were damaged, but to what extent we knew not and Aunt Mary lived there.  How I prayed for their safety.  For about four or five days we tried to send telegrams but as we afterward learned the wires were down around Alameda.  We could only wait and hope.  About the fourth day we were overjoyed to receive a letter from my dear mother telling briefly about the earthquake and they were all safe;  she could not write much unnerved as she was but knew she must quiet our fears, also telling us that Aunt Mary was safe.  The next day we received news of their coming home;  as they were afraid of a famine all the people wished to leave the stricken district would be given free passage to any place in the United States.  Words could not express our joy;  sister Sarah and I joined hands and danced around like two crazy loons.

            We looked for three days for them and on Sunday morning they came back to the old home where brother Will lived since they had left.  All day friends and relatives came to greet them.  After a lot of hugging and kissing and even crying we settled down to talk.  Mother was so glad to be home that she could hardly speak.  Father said he had a notion to go right back as he loved to get up in one of those high buildings and feel it tremble.  He told how upon awakening he had felt the house moving back and forth.  The boys Roy, John and Harry and sister Ellen all ran into mothers room but Dewey had not awakened so mother said, “O wake Dewey, if this is to be the end we want to be all together.”

            They dressed and went out into the street which was thronged with people all very much excited and many in night-gowns.  Mr. Bellon, the next door neighbor said he ran out when he was almost thrown from his bed and saw father’s house and theirs tip and touch and settle back on their foundations.  There were fourty-two or three tremors in all.

            Sister Ellen had been working in a candy facotry in San Francisco and not knowing how extensive the work of the earthquake had been, took the ferry boat and went over to the city but was greatly surprised to see the city in ruins and was not allowed to land.

            In the afternoon father and Ellen went over to the city and as they walked around saw dead bodies stacked up like sacks of grain;  they saw a chicken run out of a coop with scarcely a feather on.

            Two roughly dressed fellows were wallowing in a ditch which was dug in which flowed beer and muddy water and one of them said, “We’re having a High Old time.”

            A young man met a friend and was asked where he was living.  “Well,” said he, “you see that tree over there?  I live in the third branch to the left.”

            They called for volunteers and father responded as many men were needed to tear down buildings which were partically [sic] destroyed by the earthquake;  whole blocks were blown up to stop the fire from traveling.  Armed guards were stationed all over the city.

            Mother said the most trying time came when the family were obliged to stand in line in Oakland for three hours in order to get free transportation back to M–, Michigan.  There was also a bread line which was about a block long.

            The authorities were glad to have as many refugees as wished to leave the earthquake district as they feared a shortage of food and the churches and hospitals were full of wounded and sick.

            There were so any underground passages in China Town of San Francisco, no one would ever know how many were killed as police in their raids were never able to explore them all.

            I have heard my father relate about the strange sight on Nob Hill on which hundreds of tents could be seen which sheltered those who lost all.  Five hundred babies were born in these tents the day after the earthquade [sic].

            Father was always willing to tell us of his experences [sic] while in the west but the story we liked best we will call “Shanghaied”, which I will tell as father related it to us.

            One day he went to the Post Office in Frisco;  that was before mother went to California, and upon asking for his mail was handed a letter addressed to Alex Mack.  “Well,” said he. “this is not mine but he may be a relative of mine, I will just write down the address.”  The next day he started out and his sister Mary said, “Where are you going today?”

            “I am going to look for a thirty-fourth cousin,” he said in a laughing manner and as he told her about it she said,

            “Well Bill Mack, you do beat the dutch;  now dont get lost.”

            After a long tramp he found Alex Mack who had a chicken farm;  upon learning that their names were the same, Alex concluded they were in some way related as they came from the same place in Scotland.  I will put down Alex’s story as he told it to father.

            “About the year eighteen-hundred-forty great grandfather whose name also was Alex Mack shipped cattle to Liverpool.  He was the largest cattle raiser in Scotland and lived in Inverness.  He had a son Alex whom he sent on the schooner to Liverpool accompanied by Thomas Forbes to sell his cattle;  as Alex loved strong drink foreman McLeod was sent along with them but Alex was trusted with the pay for the cattle.

            Alex and foreman McLeod loved the same girl, Jinnie McDonald.  She loved Alex the best and as he had promised to leave whiskey alone she had promised to marry him, but he never stayed sober very long and spent a greater part of his time at the saloon when he was not buisy [sic].  For three years Jinnie waited patiently for Alex to change his habits.

            During this time John McLeod kept asking her to forget Alex but Jinnie was steadfast and always refused to listen to his pleasings [sic].

            When John realized the situation he resolved to put Alex out of his way.

            Sometime later they again left on the schooner for Liverpool;  a scheme had been planned to remove Alex from his path.  After they had sold the cattle McLeod took the two youths to a saloon and after they became so intoxicated that they were in a stupor they were put on board a whaler named, “The Jolly Rover.”  They were far out to sea before they realized the situation and the ship was bound for a three year whaleing cruise in the Northern Pacific.  Between kicks and blows they scrubbed decks and did other work that was new to them and after a time became good sailors.

            Altho’ a longing for home gripped them they became accustomed to life on the bounding main.

            As they neared the South American coast they sighted whales.

            “There she blows,” was heard by several of the sailors.  It was then the boys from Scotland experienced their first exciting work of helping to capture whales.

            Among the crew was a very grizzled fellow with a weather beaten face who seemed almost a giant in strength and was admired for his coolness, skill, audacity and cunning which he possessed in a superior degree.  No whaler had been better armed.  He had every known device from the barbed arrows of the blunderbus to the harpoon.  He was prince of harpooners.  He was called Mekie Alowa, altho’ no one knew his real name.  Some folks said his mother had been a Hawaiian beauty and his father English.  His father having been a sailor met and married his mother in Hawaiia and having made up his mind to settle down in England after five years sailing they started for England and the boat sprung a leak and went down and his father and mother were drowned and the sailors cared for the little orphan who was two years old at the time.

            He loved the sea and at the age of sixteen got his first whale.  He had sailed on the Atlantic and the Pacific and was as much at home on a whaler as other boys would be in their own play rooms.

            They sailed around Cape Horn and had many exciting and dangerous experiences with whales and other monsters of the deep.

            When they sighted an island in the Southern Pacific the captain sent a few men out in a boat telling them to get fresh water.  Among them were Alex Mack and Thomas Forbes and when they landed the sailor who had orders from the captain said, “Alex, you and Thomas go up that way,” indicating over a hill, “and we will go this way,” which was in a different direction.  After the lads disappeared over the hill the rest of the sailors hastened back to their boat and rowed away leaving enough provisions for only a few days and an axe, as they never intended that the boys should leave the island.

            When Alex and Thomas took in the situation they made up their minds that McLeod had employed someone on the whaler to get them out of the way.

            They felt very much disheartened when they understood a trick had been played on them but set to work to make a shelter for the night after they had partaken of a portion of the food.

            Alex knew he had not lived as he should and vowed if he ever reached Scotland again he would show Jinnie he could be a man and let whiskey alone.  They lived on birds and fish after the food was gone.

            The youths spent over two years on the island and in that time no ships had ever sailed near enough for them to hail, altho’ several times they saw a faint line of smoke and only once saw a ship in the distance.  They grew to love the Pacific;  it was vast and smooth and peacefull with swells like the mile long ridges of the desert.

            The lads looked every day for a ship and never gave up hope.  They went to the other side of the island very often which was about three miles around.  Every day they searched the shores for drift wood and they made a raft as it was their only hope of ever leaving the island.  At last when it was complete they took what food they had which consisted of broiled fish and birds and drifted out into the great Pacific.  After drifting for about two days they sighted a ship and were very glad as they had eaten the last of their food.  One of the youths took off his shirt and tied it to the end of a long pole and signaled the ship.

            Words could not describe their joy as the big ship came nearer and the boys heard the boom of a big gun which told them they would soon be rescued as they neared the ship they saw it was a large freighter.  Upon being taken aboard they related their story and the captain could scarcely believe them.

            The captain told them they were bound for Liverpool with a cargo of spices and silks and would give them money for their passage from their to Scotland if they proved good workmen while aboard.

            Alex Mack and Thomas Forbes reached Liverpool and the captain true to his promise paid them well and bought them clothes and as they were very anxious to see their folks again took the first boat home.

            Jinnie had never married so there was a wedding soon after they arrived.

            Captain Dobson of the “Jolly Rover” was found and punished for the part he played in helping to exile the lads.

            When father finished the story brother Dewey said, “Dad is Alex rich?”

            “No, but he expects to have a fortune left him some day and I hope he finds I am a relative of his.”

            AS [sic] mother and dad sat by the fireplace one evening dad said, “Let’s go back to the land of flowers and sunshine and beautiful women.”

            “No,” said mother, “it is the land of fleas and earthquakes.”

The End

Read an Excerpt from my Next Novel – “Spirit of the North”

March 7, 2011

Since 2007, I’ve been advertising that my novel Spirit of the North would eventually be published. It is now scheduled for publication in Spring 2012 – just a year away. You can get the first sneak peek of it through a story within the novel I gave permission to the new Art on Ice e-magazine to publish in its debut issue, beginning on p. 67. Click here to read the e-magazine, which has great artwork and poetry by many other talented U.P. individuals:

The story is a Paul Bunyan tale which is told by Karl Bergmann, familiar to readers of The Marquette Trilogy. Karl also told a Paul Bunyan story “Paul Bunyan and the Black Rocks,” in The Queen City. Karl will return in Spirit of the North along with his good friend, the lumberjack Ben. Other familiar characters from the trilogy who will return are Nathaniel and Cordelia Whitman, their children Jacob and Edna, and yes, the woman everyone loves to hate, Sophia Henning, also makes an appearance. But the main characters will be completely new to readers.

Here is the description of the book taken from the back cover:

I went upstairs, too tired to fear leaving my sister alone with a strange man. He could not possibly hurt her in his condition, and he was so handsome I felt almost certain he was kind. Perhaps when he became well, he could teach us how to live here—at least show me how to chop down a tree or shoot Uncle’s rifle. I told myself his presence was a good thing. Little could I foresee how much he would hurt us both.

In 1873, orphaned sisters Barbara and Adele Traugott travel to Upper Michigan to live with their uncle, only to find he is deceased. Penniless, they are forced to spend the long, fierce winter alone in their uncle’s remote wilderness cabin. Frightened yet determined, the sisters face blizzards and near starvation to survive. Through their difficulties they find love, heartache, and ultimately, the miracle of their own beings.

For more information about all my novels, visit

Listen to My Interview on Writing Local History on “Authors Access”

February 23, 2011

Recently I was interviewed on Authors Access. Check out the information below and listen to the recording at

Tyler R. Tichelaar – Creating a Local Historical Book

Irene Watson and Victor R. Volkman spoke with local historian, professional editor, and entrepreneur Tyler R. Tichelaar about the ins and outs of producing books on local history, from research to marketing and distribution. Tyler R. Tichelaar,a 7th generation Marquette resident, has written five novels with more to come, all set in Upper Michigan including The Marquette Trilogy, the award winning Narrow Lives, and the recently published history of Marquette, My Marquette: Explore the Queen City of the North, Its History, People, and Places. We covered a wide range of issues, including:

  • What made you decide to write a local history book?
  • What makes your book stand out from other local history books?
  • How did you arrange the book and decide what to leave out and what to include?
  • What was the most difficult part of the research and writing process?
  • Beyond the writing, what other decisions had to be made, such as in acquiring photographs or the layout of the book?
  • What have you done to market the book?
  • What kind of response have you received so far

Tyler R. Tichelaar Tyler R. Tichelaar
Tyler has a Ph.D. in Literature from Western Michigan University, and Bachelor and Master’s Degrees from Northern Michigan University. He has lectured on writing and literature at Clemson University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of London.  Tyler is the regular guest host of Authors Access Internet Radio and the President of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association. He is the owner of Marquette Fiction and Superior Book Promotions, a professional book review, editing, and proofreading service. Besides writing about Upper Michigan, he is interested in the Arthurian legend and recently published King Arthur’s Children, a study of treatments of King Arthur’s children in literature from medieval times to twenty-first century novels. Tyler lives in Marquette, Michigan where the roar of Lake Superior, mountains of snow, and sandstone architecture inspire his writing.

Appreciating My French Canadian Ancestors

February 17, 2011

I recently visited the exhibit about Canadians in the Upper Peninsula at the Beaumier Heritage Center in the Cohodas Building at Northern Michigan University. It’s well worth a visit to come to a better understanding of our Canadian neighbors, and it is clear many of us have roots in Canada, either reaching far back, or just an ancestor who travelled through Canada before coming to Europe. I have numerous ancestors on both sides of my family who came through Canada, including Irish, Scottish, Swiss, and French Canadian ancestors, and even some who were from New England, moved to Nova Scotia, then later came to Michigan.

Here is the section from My Marquette about my father’s side of the family, which includes my French Canadian ancestry and how that influenced the creation of some characters in The Marquette Trilogy:

The Bertrand and Tichelaar Family Branches

            One other family is mentioned in Iron Pioneers, the French-Canadian Varin family. The influence of French-Canadians in Upper Michigan could not be overlooked, and while my father’s family is not from Marquette, they are French-Canadian long-term residents of Upper Michigan. In Iron Pioneers, the first fictional character to appear is Pierre Varin, a voyageur traveling with Father Marquette. He is later the ancestor of Jean Varin, husband of Suzanne Varin, who comes to Marquette in the 1850s.

My paternal grandmother was Harriet Bertrand, and her French-Canadian ancestors had been in Montreal since the 1600s and in Menominee, Michigan since the 1880s. In fact, the name Varin is among my ancestral surnames, but a few generations earlier than my grandmother. While my mother’s family has the long history with Marquette, my father’s family has a far longer history in the Great Lakes region. My most notable paternal ancestor was the famous explorer and Governor of the Wisconsin Territories, Nicolas Perrot. Consequently, I created an early voyageur character in Pierre Varin, and then reintroduced the Varin family to Marquette. I chose to have Jean Varin die in the Civil War so Suzanne could marry Lucius Brookfield, as my ancestor Basil Bishop had remarried a younger woman after his wife’s death, although Basil’s second wife was in her early sixties at the time, not a young twenty-something. Suzanne’s family moves away from Marquette to Wisconsin, but over time her descendants move back to Michigan, and one descendant, Marie Varin, marries a Dutch immigrant named Vandelaare. My Grandpa Tichelaar was a Dutch immigrant, and so consequently, I connected a fictional version of my father’s family into The Marquette Trilogy when Tom Vandelaare, son of Marie Varin and her Dutch husband, marries Ellen Whitman, daughter of Henry and Beth Whitman.


Needless to say, French Canadians had a huge influence on the building of America. Nicholas Perrot, my most noteworthy French Canadian ancestor had countless descendants, and if you are one of his relatives, you may be interested in the society for his descendants:

French Canadians descendants have spread across the world. Another fascinating example is my ancestor Jean Guyon (1592-1663), one of the first settlers in Quebec. Not only is Jean Guyon my ancestor, but he is also the ancestor to Hilary Clinton, Alanis Morrisette, Celine Dion, Angelina Jolie, and Camilla Parker-Bowles the Duchess of Cornwall. Here is one story about their relationships:

Our Canadian neighbors have given us much to be grateful for in the building of the United States. In future posts, I’ll mention some of my other Canadian roots.