Posted tagged ‘the queen city’

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.


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.

White Christmas: A Teaser

December 12, 2012

The following passage is from my novel The Queen City: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Two. It takes place at Christmas 1944, during World War II. At Christmas, let’s not forget our veterans and those we’ve lost:

Margaret woke up early to start the coffee. Christmas Day was just about the longest day of the year for her because of all the work she had to do. But it was also the only day she had the entire family gathered under one roof—well, almost all the family. Roy would not be home—he was somewhere in France she believed. And Bill—she had no idea where he was, only that he was sailing on the U.S.S.—-; she imagined the ship was somewhere in the Pacific. She hoped it would not be too melancholy a holiday for her boys; this was the third Christmas they would be away from home. Even the joy of her grandchildren could not remove the worry from her heart. She hoped next year this damn war would finally be over. For a moment, she chided herself for thinking the word “damn”, but then she told the kitchen stove, “It is a damn war,” and for the thousandth time, she wondered why God allowed it.

The kitchen clock said it was seven-thirty. Henry’s family would be over for breakfast in an hour. She wished she had stayed in bed another half hour—she could use the extra sleep, especially after being at church late last night, and then staying up to finish wrapping all the packages. But she was up now. She turned the radio on to keep her awake, then started the coffee. She hoped some Christmas music would get her in the spirit, and then she would go get dressed. She would have preferred to get dressed first, but that would have woken Will, and then he would have been cranky if the coffee were not made when he came downstairs.

The Queen City: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Two

The Queen City: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Two

Her heart lightened a bit as “White Christmas” came over the radio; she had first heard the song last year. It always reminded her of when her parents had been alive and living in California and writing home that they missed the snow in Marquette. That was two more people—her mother and father—who would not be here for Christmas dinner. Six years now they had been gone, yet she still missed them everyday.

Twelve cups should be enough for breakfast. She could always make another pot later. Before getting dressed, she had better put the children’s presents under the tree in case they arrived early—she hoped she had not forgotten anything. She had presents hidden all over the house, but trying to remember where, and how many she had bought, and who was to get what was becoming a problem. She would have to plan better next year, especially if she kept having more grandchildren.

She put the coffee pot on the stove, wiped her hands on the dishtowel and headed toward the stairs.

Then the radio stopped her.

“This just in. The U.S.S.—- has been sunk in the Pacific by a German submarine. Further details will be forthcoming.”

Margaret froze. She must have heard wrong. It couldn’t be. Didn’t they notify families before broadcasting this kind of news? Maybe she had heard the ship’s name wrong. Why didn’t they repeat it? No, instead they were playing “Silent Night” and at this hour of the morning! Oh Bill. And she had just been wondering how he would spend today, all the while not knowing the truth. It had probably happened hours ago, and now the news was just broadcasting it. Imagine, to have slept soundly all night, not knowing. How could a mother not have felt it?

She caught sight of the Christmas tree. She should turn on its lights before Henry’s family arrived. She would turn on the lights in a minute, but she felt too dizzy right now. She told herself not to faint. No, better stay seated and take it in. If it were true, she would have felt it. She knew she would have. She would have woken up in the middle of the night feeling upset or odd at least. It must be a mistake. Not her Bill. And why today, Christmas—what timing. She must have heard wrong. Why didn’t they quit playing that damn “Silent Night” and broadcast more news? If she hadn’t heard wrong—she’d have to tell Will. How could she? But she would have to. And then Henry and Beth would have to be told, and then Eleanor and Ada and—oh, the poor grandchildren—they were all too young to understand—they scarcely remembered Uncle Bill from before he left for the war, and now their Christmas was ruined.

She just couldn’t tell everyone. Not today. She would keep it to herself—so everyone could still have a Merry Christmas—if Bill were gone, what difference would it make to tell them tomorrow?

The radio paused. She waited for another announcement. She could hear the water on the stove boiling. The coffee must be almost done. Another Christmas song started to play. Coffee would help her nerves, distract her attention and give her another minute to compose herself before going upstairs. She trembled as she walked back into the kitchen. She found a cup and filled it, putting in a teaspoon of sugar and a drop of milk, then another spoonful of sugar, too distracted to remember the first one; then she sat back down at the dining room table. She tried to listen to the radio, but instead, she heard Will coming downstairs. What would she say? How could she possibly tell him?

“Maggie, I thought you’d wake me up. It’s eight o’clock already.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize how late it was. I was just enjoying the Christmas music. I better go put the rest of the presents under the tree. Grab your cup of coffee and then you better get dressed before Henry’s family arrives.”

“Yeah, all right,” muttered Will, not much of a talker before his morning coffee.

The radio kept playing Christmas music. Margaret went upstairs to find the children’s presents. What if the radio repeated the announcement while she was gone? Then Will would hear it. What a way for him to find out, but at least then she would not have to tell him. She did not know if she could. Bill was his namesake—the baby of the family.

“I can’t obsess about it now,” she said, opening the bedroom closet and digging into its hidden recesses to discover where she had stuffed away her grandchildren’s gifts. As she found them, she piled them on the bed. Then she took off her nightgown and quickly put on her slip and dress. As she buttoned the dress, a weakness overcame her and she sat down. Then the tears came. She grabbed a pillow and covered her face so Will would not hear her sobbing. After a couple minutes, she still ached, but the sobs had helped her regain her self-control.

She was still not sure whether what she had heard was true, or whether she had heard it right. If it were true, wouldn’t she have received a telegram? Didn’t the government always notify the family before making a public announcement? But maybe the telegram was lost, or maybe the government accidentally forgot to send one. She might have been overlooked—after all, there must have been hundreds of men on that ship, and the ship might have sunk days ago, and its loss was only now being announced after the families were contacted. But that she had not received a telegram might also be a sign that she had heard the news wrong.

She heard Will’s step coming upstairs; quickly she jumped up, set down the pillow and started to make the bed. His step sounded slow—had he heard the news? Her heart nearly stopped as he entered the room. But his face looked composed—he must not have heard anything.

“You better get dressed,” she told him. “Henry’s family will be here any minute.”

Will said nothing to her as she left the room—that seemed strange—could he have heard, and not knowing she already knew, he did not know how to tell her? But after forty years of marriage, they often did not speak to each other—what was there left to say when they understood each other so well? Will had never been talkative, the direct opposite of her, but even she did not talk that much around him anymore. Funny, none of the children seemed very talkative. They must all take after their father that way. Roy was so moody and quiet, and Henry always seemed just silently content. And Bill was—

Poor Bill—how could she even for a few seconds be thinking of something so stupid as how much people talked when her son might be dead? But for those seconds, there had been no fear in her heart. She would have to think of other things if she were to get through this day—she could not tell Will yet, not moments before the family came over. She did not want the family depressed on Christmas morning.


To find out what happens, read The Queen City, available at

Blueberry Picking Season – 1920 Style

August 6, 2012

I just had a wonderful piece of blueberry pie, so in tribute to my favorite pie, favorite berry, and an occupation I find quite relaxing, I am posting a scene from my novel The Queen City that takes place in 1920 and depicts some of my characters taking the blueberry train north of Marquette to go blueberry picking.

Enjoy, and may you have blueberry pie sometime in your near future.



            On this beautiful August morning, Kathy McCarey felt all was finally right again with the world. This time two years ago, the war had still been raging, but now some good might be detected as having resulted from it. She would never cease missing Frank, but the worst pain of his loss had been dealt with, and while a day never passed without her thinking of him, she found life remained abundant about her. Jeremy had come home from the war, and a year ago, he had married. Now Kathy and Patrick were expecting their first grandchild. Jeremy had met his bride, Caroline, while training downstate at Fort Custer; after the war, he had gone back to Battle Creek to visit her family and bring her home to be his wife. Caroline missed her family downstate, but Kathy felt once the baby was born, her daughter-in-law would adjust to the change of location and feel her life was complete, just as Kathy had felt when her first child, Frank, had been born. She had become a mother so many years ago, yet Kathy found it hard to believe that only her baby, Beth, was still at home. And now Beth was a big girl of ten and would be running off to get married before she knew it, but by that time, Kathy imagined she would have Jeremy’s children to spoil.

The Queen City

The Queen City: The Marquette Trilogy, Book One

            “Mama, hurry, or we’ll be late!” Beth shouted.

The girl had learned to yell for her mother’s attention, and usually Kathy heard her. At first, the deafness had been difficult for Kathy, but she soon found she knew her family so well, she could guess what each one wanted even if she only caught a couple words. She had become very good at reading lips, especially when speaking to people outside of her family. At other times, her family might speak loudly to her, but because she was not facing them, she pretended she did not hear them; she had found that a little exaggeration of her deafness helped to prevent many unnecessary family conflicts.

“Thelma’s already waiting outside,” Beth continued to holler.

Thelma was making her annual summer visit. Kathy felt the girl was a good companion for Beth, old enough to watch over her, yet young enough to play with her. That Thelma was a bit slow for her years made the two girls all the more compatible. Kathy had often feared Beth would become a tomboy because she only had older brothers to model herself after, but Thelma was decidedly feminine with her fancy white gloves, expensive dresses, and refined taste in music. And Thelma had not yet acquired any of those silly notions about boys that so many young women had these days. Kathy had been married at Thelma’s age, but Thelma was a late bloomer, and Kathy was thankful because then Beth was less likely to get any ideas while so young. Thelma’s eccentricities actually dissuaded several young men who might otherwise seek her hand solely from interest in her father’s wealth.

“Mama!” Beth hollered again.

“I’m coming,” Kathy called. She had promised to take the girls blueberry picking. Last year a huge forest fire near Birch and Big Bay had resulted in this summer’s mammoth blueberry crop. A “blueberry train” had been organized to take people to the berry fields north of Marquette so they could spend the day filling their pails. When Kathy heard reports that people were returning with tubs full of berries, she was determined to go; she just hoped the fields were not completely picked over; she longed for blueberry pie and did not want to disappoint the girls.

Kathy, Beth, and Thelma soon walked to the train at the depot with a few dozen Marquette residents, all fiercely intent upon blueberry picking, and even more intent on having a good time. Smiles and general gaiety marked the group, for it was a pleasant summer day, with a slight breeze to cool them from the sun’s rays, and the low humidity meant the woods would not be stiflingly hot. True Marquettians are always ready for an excuse to get out of town, no matter how much they love their distinguished city of sandstone and scenic views; they have an innate desire to get lost among trees, to forget civilization’s existence, to renew their spirits amid Nature’s serenity.

The train trip was uneventful, but all the more pleasant for it. Quiet yet eager conversations filled the railway car, and Kathy found herself surrounded by several of her acquaintances. Marquette’s population now surpassed ten thousand, but it remained small enough that if everyone did not know everyone else, people were sure to have mutual friends and acquaintances. Because she could read lips, Kathy could better converse on a noisy train than most of her neighbors with perfect hearing. She felt she hadn’t known such fun since long before the war. Thelma and Beth occupied themselves by looking out the windows. Beth tried to count the birch trees, but she soon gave up—they flew past so rapidly. Thelma willingly entertained her younger cousin, pointing out pretty little meadows or oddly shaped trees. They spotted a few deer, including a princely young fawn. The morning sun glistened through the trees, casting a medley of sunshine rays through the train windows. The ride felt all too short on such a glorious morning, but after a long day of berry picking, they knew they would all appreciate the shortest return trip possible.

When the train stopped at the berry fields, the passengers scurried across the meadows and copses, laying claim to large shady trees under which they could leave their excess belongings until lunchtime. Several people had brought multiple buckets, one even brought a small washtub. People went off with one pail, returned to place it under their claimed spot, set off into the fields to fill a second, and then started on a third. Little fear existed of anyone stealing berries amid such a multitude of overflowing bushes.

Kathy selected a spot for lunch while Thelma led Beth across the berry patches; Beth anxiously followed her cousin, but her enthusiasm was not bound to last.

After fifteen minutes of berry picking, Beth was tired enough to want a break. Thelma, too focused on picking berries to bake a pie for her father’s visit next weekend, ignored her cousin’s complaints.

Seeing that Thelma wasn’t paying attention, and that her mother was across the field, Beth decided to quit picking and go for a walk by herself. As she crossed the fields, she spotted another girl close to her age. She did not recognize the girl from Bishop Baraga School, but that did not matter. Beth went over to introduce herself; in a few minutes, the two girls were best friends, chasing each other and playing hide-and-go-seek among the trees; they completely neglected the blueberries, save for trampling over some of the bushes.

When Kathy looked up, she was concerned not to see her daughter near Thelma, but after a minute, she saw Beth and the other little girl. Having known Beth’s work ethic would not last long, she smiled to see her daughter had found a friend. Kathy returned to berry picking until Thelma had picked her way in the same direction. When the two were close enough, they started to chat and momentarily forgot about Beth until Thelma heard her scream from across the meadow.

Thelma told her aunt what she had heard, and then Kathy, who had not heard anything, quickly looked about for the source of her daughter’s cries. Then Beth came running toward her mother, her dress ripped, her eyes filled with tears, clutching the handle of her berry pail, only half connected to its handle so that the berries were haphazardly plunking from the bucket to the ground as she ran.

“Beth, what’s wrong?” asked Kathy, rushing to take her girl in her arms.

“I saw a snake! I nearly stepped on it before I saw it,” she said between sobs. “And that girl, Amy—I hate her—she just laughed, and she picked up the snake and shoved it at me; it hissed and tried to bite me!”

“There, there, dear. There aren’t any poisonous snakes around here. What color was it?”

“Green, and it was really big, like this.” Beth held up her hands to indicate a foot and a half.

“Ha,” laughed Thelma. “It was just a little garter snake. It won’t hurt you. I know a boy back in Calumet who keeps a half dozen of them as pets.”

Rather than be consoled, this news ran shivers up Beth’s spine.

“There, dear, it’s okay,” said Kathy. “It wasn’t nice of Amy to do that, but it didn’t hurt you any. Now tell me, how did you rip your dress?”

“Oh,” said Beth, forgetting she had intended to carry her pail in front of the rip so her mother would not see it. The snake ordeal had broken her cunning, so she had to confess. “I tore it on a branch while Amy and I were climbing a tree.”

“Well,” said Kathy, “it’s one of your older dresses, and I imagined you’d end up with berry stains on it, but I wish you wouldn’t climb trees.”

The mention of berries made Beth look to see how many she had picked. Then she discovered her bucket handle had broken. The bucket hung down at a forty-five degree angle. Inside, only six berries and some blueberry leaves were to be found.

“I lost all my berries!” she cried.

Twenty feet away, a young boy heard the lament. He had witnessed the snake incident and been unable to restrain from silent laughter, but now he felt sorry when Beth looked devastated by the lost blueberries.

“Come, dear,” said Kathy. “Let’s have lunch, and then we’ll fix your pail so you can still fill it this afternoon.”

“But I had it almost full,” sobbed Beth. “I wanted to pick two pails worth.”

In truth, the pail had barely been a quarter full, but Beth exaggerated her loss so her mother would not chide her for slacking in her berry picking.

Kathy and Thelma continued to console Beth as they found their shady tree and set up lunch. While they unfolded the picnic cloth, the young man who had witnessed Beth’s tragic scene approached. He waited to be noticed, then said hello.

“I saw you spill your berries,” he told Beth. “You can have my pail full if you want. I don’t really need so many.”

“Oh no, we couldn’t,” said Kathy.

“I insist,” he said, turning to Kathy. “It didn’t take me long to pick them, and I already filled two other pails this morning. I have all afternoon to pick, and I know little kids get tired quicker, so now she won’t have to pick all afternoon to make up her loss.”

Kathy was going to object again, but the young man said, “Please. I really do insist.”

“What do you say, Beth?”

“Okay,” Beth agreed, too surprised by such kindness to remember her manners.

“We thank you, Mr.—”

“I’m Henry,” he replied, although pleased to be called “Mister” when he was only fifteen.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Henry,” said Thelma, holding out her hand. “Would you like to have lunch with us?”

Henry did not wish to impose. He waited for permission from the adult.

“There’s plenty of food,” Thelma said. “Isn’t there, Aunt Kathy?”

Kathy smiled. “We have more than enough. Please join us.”

Henry accepted by sitting down. Thelma introduced everyone, explained that she was visiting her relatives in Marquette, then launched into her life story, which despite her short lifespan she described in enough detail that it could have rivaled War and Peace if written down. Beth sat quietly, too shy to say anything, but she adored the kind young man. Kathy emptied the picnic basket and spread out everything while Thelma continued to chatter.

“Henry, are you here by yourself?” asked Kathy, breaking in as Thelma paused before beginning to describe her life at age nine. Kathy was surprised the boy did not eat with his own family or friends.

“Yes, my pa is working for the Kaufmans over at Granot Loma. I usually work with him, but today there wasn’t much I could do, so he suggested I pick berries, and I’ll meet him when he’s ready to head home.”

“Oh, you’ve seen Granot Loma!” squealed Thelma, although less interested in Granot Loma than in gaining the boy’s attention. He was younger than her, but boys rarely spoke to her, so she was not choosy.

“Yes, it’s incredible. It’s so big, and it’s progressing beautifully.”

“What is your father doing there?” asked Kathy.

“He’s a carpenter, just like me,” Henry replied.

“You’re not old enough to work,” said Beth. “Don’t you go to school?”

“I did until this year, but from now on, I’m going to work with my Pa to help out the family. I have four younger brothers and sisters; the youngest one, Bill, is just two months old, so we need all the money we can get.”

Kathy smiled. She believed in the importance of education, but Henry seemed intelligent from his manner and speech, and a boy who helped his family was often of better character than one who received honors at school. It was unfortunate he knew tough times at his young age, but she suspected he might persevere all the more because of it.

“You look familiar,” she said. “Who are your parents?”

“My pa is Will Whitman, and my ma is Margaret. She was a Dalrymple.”

“I used to know Jacob Whitman and his wife Agnes. Are you related to them?”

“They were my grandparents.”

Then the names clicked in Kathy’s head. So this was Will’s son—Jacob and Agnes’s grandson. She had not seen Will in years—would not recognize him if she did see him. He must be middle-aged now, although she could only picture him as the little boy she had once gone sledding with. That meant, if Will were Henry’s father, then Sylvia Cumming was Henry’s aunt. Well, she mustn’t hold that against him.

“I remember your father when he was just a baby,” said Kathy. “When I was a girl, my mother was good friends with your family, especially with your grandma, and I think your great-grandparents. When your Grandpa Whitman moved the family out to his farm, though, we didn’t see much of them after that.”

“My pa did grow up on a farm,” Henry said. “But I never knew my grandparents; they died before I was born.”

“Mine and Beth’s grandparents are dead too,” said Thelma. “Grandpa and Grandma Bergmann I mean. We never knew our grandpa, but our grandma only died a few years ago.”

“Tell us more about Granot Loma,” said Kathy. She did not want to talk more about Henry’s family; his connection to the Cummings reminded her that Sylvia’s sons had come home from the war while Frank had been killed in France.

“Is Granot Loma as grand as everyone says?” asked Thelma. “It sounds like a castle in the wilderness.”

“Sort of is, like a castle masquerading as a log cabin,” laughed Henry.

He launched into a description of the Kaufman family’s magnificent mansion on the shore of Lake Superior. Intended as a summer home, it far outrivaled any cabin in the great North Woods, even those at the exclusive Huron Mountain Club. The Kaufmans had named the cabin for their children by using the first two letters of each of their children’s names to spell out Granot Loma. The famous architect, Marshall Fox, had been hired with several assisting architects to design the monstrous getaway. The main sitting room alone was to be a tremendous eighty feet long, forty feet wide, and thirty-six feet high. Henry did not know all the details, but he remembered those dimensions because they were so unfathomable. His parents’ entire house could fit into that one room. Stonemasons, plumbers, electricians, all were working constantly, yet completion of the building, already begun a year earlier, was estimated to take another five years. Rumor said the Kaufmans would build several smaller yet ornate cabins in the surrounding woods, one for each of their children, locally known as the “million dollar babies”.

“I just can’t imagine anything so grand in Upper Michigan,” said Thelma, jealous that despite her father’s own lumberjack prosperity, he would never be able to afford anything a quarter so splendid.

“Oh, great homes have been built here before,” said Kathy. “You’re all too young to remember the Longyear mansion, but it was a marvel in its day.”

“My pa told me about that,” said Henry. “He and my Grandpa Dalrymple were among those hired to take it apart.”

“It must have been quite a job,” said Kathy. “It was so enormous it filled an entire city block, and when the Longyears decided to move, the whole house was taken apart and shipped out East on railway cars.”

“My ma,” said Henry, “went inside it one day when my grandpa was working there. She got lost in it, it was that big.”

“It must be grand to be so rich,” said Thelma, although she had far more than most young ladies.

“Well,” said Kathy, “let’s have our cake and then get back to berry picking. I spied a good patch just before lunch, and I don’t want anyone to snatch it up.”

When the cake was gone, Henry thanked Kathy and the girls for their hospitality, then said, “I better get back to work. I promised to bring my ma back enough berries for two pies, and I want to bring some home for my grandparents too.”

“We’re glad you could join us,” Thelma said. She was sorry he was leaving; he was a cute boy; she wondered what chance she had to see him again.

Beth was more forward than her cousin. “Henry,” she asked, “can I go pick berries with you?”

“No, Beth, you stay with me,” said Kathy, not wanting to impose on the young man’s kindness.

“But Henry might know where the best berries are,” Beth said.

“She can come with me if she wants to,” said Henry. “I won’t mind.”

“I’m afraid she’ll be a trouble to you,” said Kathy.

“Oh, no,” he replied.

Kathy suspected he was only being kind, but she gave in. “All right, if you’re sure. Beth, you mind your manners, and be back in a couple hours so I don’t have to go looking for you and then miss the train.”

“Yes, Mama,” said Beth, clutching her berry pail, then disappearing with Henry.

Thelma looked after them, wishing she could go along, but she dared not ask—she knew she was no longer a cute little girl who could get away with joining a handsome boy. She stayed behind to help her aunt clean up the picnic.

“Don’t you want to go with them, Thelma?” asked her aunt.

“No, it wouldn’t be fair to leave you alone, aunt,” she said. She was embarrassed that her aunt should ask. She wanted to pick berries with Henry, but having Beth along would just spoil it anyway.

Kathy was pleased such polite young people existed as Henry and her niece, who was always attentive to her. It made her hopeful for the future. The war had not destroyed everything, not when such a beautiful day existed for berry picking, and when grand homes like Granot Loma were being built right here in Upper Michigan. She could not imagine having enough wealth to build such a home. But she was here to collect berries, not dollars, and if she wanted to make those pies, she had better get back to work.

Two berry picking hours later, Henry returned Beth to her mother. Then after saying goodbye, he started for the main road to meet his father and get a ride home.

“He’s so nice,” said Thelma, already starving for another look at the cute boy.

“Yes, the Whitmans were always good people,” said Kathy, thinking the Cummings did not count since they did not share the same name. Kathy thought Agnes would be pleased to know she had such a fine grandson. She wished Agnes could hear how beautifully Thelma played the piano. Agnes had taught Kathy to play and Kathy had first interested Thelma in the piano, and now Thelma was quite an accomplished pianist. Kathy wished Agnes knew how her influence lived on, although more than thirty years had passed since her death.

As they were stepping onto the train, Kathy’s thoughts were interrupted by Mrs. Quigley, whom Kathy knew from church.

“It’s a wonderful blueberry crop this year, isn’t it?” Mrs. Quigley said.

“Yes, I can’t get over how big the berries are,” Kathy replied.

“Listen to this,” said Mrs. Quigley. “I got me a cousin in Chicago, born there, lived there all her life. She called me up on the phone this mornin’ and when I told her I was goin’ to go pick blueberries, she asked whether I was bringin’ a ladder with me. ‘For what?’ I asked. ‘So you can reach them on the trees,’ she said. I said, ‘Blueberries don’t grow on trees, they grow on bushes.’ ‘Oh, I thought they was fruit,’ she says, ‘like oranges and apples.’ ‘They are,’ I says, ‘but lots of fruit grows on bushes.’ And then she got kinda mad at me and said ‘Well how was I to know?’ She ain’t never seen a blueberry bush in her life—only seen blueberries at the grocer’s. Can you imagine that?”

“How stupid she must be?” laughed Beth.

“Beth, we don’t use that word,” said Kathy.

“I’m not sure that she’s stupid,” said Mrs. Quigley, “but it goes to show you that livin’ in the city distorts a person. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere there wasn’t all these woods and open country as we have around here.”

“Chicago must be horrible!” said Thelma.

“Well, some must like it,” Mrs. Quigley replied, “else they wouldn’t live there.”

“People only live there to make money,” said Kathy. “But they don’t realize how little money is worth it. I wouldn’t live there for a million dollars.”

“Me neither,” said Beth.

“Well, I’ve been to Chicago a couple times,” said Mrs. Quigley, “and it’s a dirty, noisy place. It’s nothing compared to the fresh air and clean water we have here. And it’s too crowded, not quiet like here where you can at least hear yourself think.”

“That’s true,” Kathy nodded as the train started to chug down the track, leaving the blueberry meadows far behind.

“Looks like you all made out well,” said Mrs. Quigley. “Must be nice to have helpers. Couldn’t get any of my family to come out. My husband just wants to lay around the house. I’ve three big boys, but do you think I could get one of them to come? Not that they’ll argue when it comes time to eat the blueberry pie and muffins. But I shouldn’t complain. It was a nice quiet day for me. A woman needs a break now and then, especially when she lives with all men. Nice to be out in the woods like this.”

Kathy smiled in agreement. She felt her spirit refreshed by these beautiful dark woods.

Everyone on the train felt content. Bending down all day to pick berries was hard work, but everyone had a full bucket to make blueberry muffins, blueberry pie, blueberry pancakes, blueberry cookies, blueberry jam, blueberries on cereal and blueberries on ice cream. For the especially brave, there would be blueberry soup, that looked like paint and tasted worse, but even these people had to be admired for their blueberry passion. Yes, it had been a fine blueberry-picking day.

Marquette’s Centennial Fourth of July

July 3, 2011

Happy Independence Day, everyone! I hope you have a wonderful time filled with family, friends, fun, fireworks, picnics and parades. Last year I posted a passage from my novel Iron Pioneers depicting Marquette’s first Fourth of July celebrations in 1855, which you can read here.

This year, I am posting one of my favorite passages from The Queen City describing the celebration of the Fourth of July and specifically the centennial celebrations in 1949. This scene takes place at Memorial Field (where today the Berry Events Center is) where the fireworks used to be shot off before being moved to the Lower Harbor Park. The characters in the novel have been reminiscing about Marquette’s past just prior to the passage, which is why Roy comments, “Someone should write this down.”

I hope this passage inspires you to appreciate our wonderful small-town America and the gift of independence that our Founding Fathers gave to us. Happy Fourth!

From The Queen City, the Marquette Trilogy: Book Three:

“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.”

Marquette’s Castle Brewery

May 3, 2011

 The Castle Brewery, built by George Rublein, one of the first residents of Marquette, does not feature in any of my novels. I had initially planned to set a scene in Iron Pioneersthere but later cut it out. Nevertheless, the building has struck a chord with me from early childhood because of my love for castles.

The Castle Brewery, circa 1998

Today I find the brewery’s history interesting because Rublein, like Fritz Bergmann in Iron Pioneers, was one of the German immigrants who came to Marquette in 1849 from Milwaukee. He and his wife Catherine were probably among those who suffered from the initial typhoid outbreak that summer and later in December started walking back to Milwaukee so villagers in Worcester (later Marquette) would not starve to death without their winter supplies. Fortunately, the supply ship arrived on Christmas Day and the Germans were called back to the village.

Rublein bought 160 acres of land for $1.00 on what became County Road 492. There he built his home, farm, and his beer brewery. He later would expand his business to the west end of Washington Street, building the Castle Brewery, of which a small sandstone portion remains today. Quite far from town at that time, the brewery’s beer gardens would have been a fun excursion out of town for residents.

In Iron Pioneers, the scene I did not include in the novel was to center around Karl Bergmann visiting the Castle Brewery as a young man. The visit would make him feel sentimental over his deceased father and inspire him to make his trip to Germany. Although I left out the Castle Brewery, in The Queen City, Karl did go to Germany, and when he returns, he brings home the German pickle Christmas ornament he gives to his sister Kathy. Decades later, John Vandelaare sees the ornament on his grandmother’s Christmas tree and wonders how such a strange ornament came into the family’s possession. Although no one in the family remembers how the pickle was acquired, it serves as a symbol that the past is always with us.

My grandmother never really had a pickle ornament—I just thought it an interesting German tradition, and I do have my own Christmas pickle ornament today. But Grandma always had pickles on the table at parties—bread and butter pickles. I buy them all the time—they remind me of her; we all have our comfort foods.

(The above article is from My Marquette. For more information about the book, visit

Remembering The Tip Top Café

April 26, 2011

The following article appears in my book My Marquette. A photo of some of the staff of the cafe is also included in the book:

By that time, she knew the library was closed, yet Ron still did not come home. She suspected he was down at the Tip Top Café, hanging out with his idolizing students. He was always seeking to be worshiped for his mind. — The Queen City

For forty-five years, from 1938 to 1983, the Tip Top Café was a popular college hangout, owned by Nick Arger and operated by Gert Johnson. In The Queen City, Ronald Goldman is a professor at Northern who hangs out there with his students. Since the Tip Top closed before I ever entered college, my memories of it are limited to one visit made there about 1980.

That evening, my brother Danny, our friend Ronnie, and I were to be taken by Ronnie’s mom out to supper and to the movie. The plan was to go to Taco John’s for supper, but Ronnie’s mother said her stomach couldn’t handle eating there, so she suggested we go to the Tip Top. When I asked, “What’s the Tip Top?” she replied, “It’s a place I think everyone should experience at least once.”

I don’t know what I expected when she said that, but I did not expect what it turned out to be—a bar! My brother and Ronnie ran off to play the pinball machines (this was in the days before video games). Meanwhile, I sat in the booth with Ronnie’s mother, refusing to go play. College students were there and I’m sure they were drinking beer. I knew my mother would not want me in such a place. Besides, everything smelled of smoke—a clear sign it was an unsavory bar. We had fish which I barely ate—it tasted like smoke. I was embarrassed and ashamed because I felt I was doing something very bad by being there.

I was much relieved when we left for the movies—we saw Mary Poppins—nothing I could complain about there, and Ronnie’s mom let us sit by ourselves right in the front row and buy gigantic sodas.

When we got home, I felt I had to confess to my mom that we had gone to a bar, but strangely, she was a lot less concerned about it than me.

In 1983, the Tip Top Café closed. The building was sold and became Ten O’Clock Charlie’s for the next several years before becoming Mainely Wood. Today, the building is home to Casualties Skate & Snow, a retailer of brand name snowboards and skateboards, both very popular in Marquette.

Ronnie’s mom had said the Tip Top Café was a place everyone should experience at least once. I had my once, but if I’d had a second, I’m sure I would have liked it better.

For more Marquette history visit

Beth Whitman’s Pineapple Brownies Recipe

April 4, 2011

PINEAPPLE BROWNIES are the favorite recipe of Beth Whitman, which she bakes continually in my novels, THE QUEEN CITY and SUPERIOR HERITAGE. The recipe was actually the winner in a 1950s Pillsbury Bake Off Contest. This is the actual page of my grandmother’s Pillsbury Cook Book. Note, my grandma always used a full can of crushed pineapple. They are my all-time favorite! Enjoy! — Tyler R. Tichelaar


Senior Winner by Josephine Demarco, Chicago, Illinois

Chewy and rich chocolate squares chock full of nuts, with a surprise layer of crushed pineapple.

BAKE at 375 degrees F. for 45 to 50 minutes.  MAKES about 2 ½ dozen bars.

Sift together… 1 ½ cups sifted Pillsbury’s Best Enriched Flour

                        1 teaspoon Calumet Baking Powder

                        ½ teaspoon salt

                        ½ teaspoon French’s Cinnamon

Cream………. ¾ cup butter or margarine; add gradually

                        1 ½ cups sugar, creaming well.

Add………….3 eggs, one at a time, and

                        1 teaspoon French’s Vanilla. Beat well.

Blend in……….dry ingredients; mix thoroughly.

Place………….one cup of the dough in second bowl. Add

                        1 cup crushed pineapple, well drained; mix well.

Add…………..2 squares (2 oz.) chocolate [Grandma here said, or 1/3 cup cocoa]

melted and cooled, and ½ cup nuts, coarsely chopped, to balance of dough; mix well.

Spread………..approximately 1 ½ cups chocolate dough in well-greased

                        12x8x2-inch pan. Cover with pineapple dough. Drop

                        Remaining chocolate dough by spoonfuls over pineapple

                        Dough; spread carefully to cover

Bake………….in moderate oven (375 degrees F) 45 to 50 minutes. Cut into

                        Bars or squares when cold.

* If you use Pillsbury’s Best Enriched Self-Rising Flour (sold in parts of the south) omit baking powder and salt.