On the Beach

On the Beach

On This Date: Photo taken 2/25/2016.

About half the time February 25 is a travel day. I manage to take photographs, but a surprising number of them are of the Morley rest area, south of Big Rapids, which is flat and wide open and fairly photogenic. I also take pix of US-131, and the passing scenery.

We eventually make it to Traverse City. Last year we found the water high, relatively little ice, and the beach at Pointes North much abbreviated.


We’re not on the road today. We’ll head north in about a week.

Number of pix taken on various February 25ths: 84
Year of oldest photo: 2006

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 1 [a very poor video]
  • 2 Stars: 4
  • 3 Stars: 63
  • 4 Stars: 14
  • 5 Stars: 2

Revision History:

Lewis Cass by Andrew McLaughlin: a review

A painful read; the author’s low opinions of almost everyone not named Lewis Cass overwhelm any value from his research. The early French settlers, according to this book, were incompetent and lazy, and didn’t understand democracy. The British who succeeded them were devious and untrustworthy. All of America’s subsequent Indian problems were provoked by foreign powers.

General Hull–well, he gets Hull right. Hull was incompetent, and he demonstrates that in detail. But even here the author’s text is unnecessarily biased.

Gave up after about 60 pages.

Revision History:

A Fine Place for a City by Nick Kekic: a review

This is a far better book than I expected. While it can be viewed as a biography of Kalamazoo’s founder, Titus Bronson, structurally it’s five short essays exploring aspects of his life and character. Along the way you get a lot of information about the early history of Kalamazoo County, learn a bit about Kalamazoo’s other founders, explore probably more of the history of English Puritanism than you perhaps want, and get a good description of the busiest land office in history. Nicely done.

And the map on the cover–Bronson’s original plat of the village–is just delightful.










This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Revision History:

Portrait and biographical album of Barry and Eaton counties, Mich. by Chapman Bros: a review

This book–like all Chapman Brothers books with similar titles–is pretty much what the title says: a collection of biographies of folks and families who lived in Eaton and Barry Counties in 1891. The local biographies are preceded by a couple hundred pages of biographical sketches of the presidents of the United States and governors of Michigan.

The Chapman Brothers mass produced similar books for many Midwestern counties by selling subscriptions and sending out questionnaires. If you paid the subscription fee and returned the survey your biography would be printed in a book, which would arrive for you to place on your bookshelf. Chapman’s staff members in Chicago turned the questionnaires into very formulaic biographies, which were gathered into the book in no evident order. The resulting bios are as reliable as their sources–which varies, of course–and as interesting as the information the sources provided. Any impression one might get of local history or local geography is incidental and unintentional. That does not much meet my research interest.

For my purposes, the book is pretty frustrating. With no historical overview in the book, no deliberate organization, and neither maps nor other geographical clues, trying to glean any understanding of local history is difficult. Moreover, the template used to compose the biographies becomes pretty aggravating after the third or fourth example–you get a brief overview of the subject’s life, then reviews of his parents’ life stories, then back to the original person’s bio with more detail and perhaps a story or two. Unless you’re otherwise familiar with the person whose life’s being summarized, by the time you get to the meat of the composition you’ve often forgotten the subject’s name.

Another issue is the subscription model. Lacking either a geographical or alphabetical organization, I made searches for people and places I was aware of in both counties. These searches often came up empty, even for families I know to have been resident in the area around 1890. This, of course, indicates that the Dow and McCargar families, to pick two prominent Roxand Township clans, were uninterested in subscribing–which is OK, to be sure, but it leaves important gaps in the story. Side issue: This book consistently calls this township Roxana, and never calls it Roxand. I’m quite tempted to do so myself.

I do not mean to imply that this book has no value. I found a (somewhat) useful biography of Sylvanus Peabody, for instance, and now know a bit about him; this is information I’d not found elsewhere and knew I wanted. Which is a clue about the book’s usefulness: If one of the biographies is someone who’s interesting to you, it’s probably useful. That’s reason enough to locate a copy, and keep it around. But if you’re looking for an overview of local history, the Chapman books likely won’t meet your need.






This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Revision History:

Deckhand by Nelson “Mickey” Haydamacker and Alan D. Millar: a short review

This is a brief (100+ pages) “as-told-to”, with Haydamacker the storyteller and Millar the transcriber/editor. Both did excellent jobs, and produced an interesting book about the day-to-day life of deckhands on Great Lakes freighters in the early 1960s.

Mickey Haydamacher was just out of high school and looking for a job. He grew up near (and on) the St. Clair River and had family members who crewed on lakers, so he applied for a job with the Interlake Steamship Company. This book is his retelling of his two years as a deckhand on Interlake ships.

The book’s subtitle, “Life on Freighters of the Great Lakes,” is a good description of its contents. This is a book about everyday life–fighting to open and close hatches, washing things down, surviving the weather, sharing a smoke, visiting waterfront bars. It’s also about friendships, growing up a bit, and getting on with life.

The author served on (then-)new boats–the Eldon Hoyt 2nd and J.L. Mauthe–and a “bucket of bolts”–Col. James Pickands–so he can make some valuable best-and-worst comparisons. He visited most of the upper lakes ports, and tells tales about a few of those. But mostly it’s a book about his ships, his shipmates, and the things he did every day on the ships.

It’s a different perspective than offered by most who write about lakes shipping. It’s well done, and worth your time.






This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Revision History:

Pioneer History of Eaton County by Daniel Strange: a review

This book’s subtitle begins “OR the story of the last to lead the simple life…” and goes on for several lines demonstrating that pioneer life was, well, different, if not simple. The subtitle ends: “…Who gave us, their coming sons, their lives, their loves, their labors.” (I rather like that.)

Everyone should read a county history sometime. This one’s structured around identifying the first settlers in each Eaton County (Michigan) township, and how they arrived in the county; he also discusses early township leaders, school beginnings, and suchlike. There are also stories, digressions, and the occasional poem. A few of the stories are repeated, but in each case the perspective’s changed and the tale with it. All in all, an interesting diversion, especially if you’ve Eaton County connections. The potentially dry material is relieved by the author’s wry humor–he’s particularly amused by conflicting claims about the meaning of “first settler.”

The book’s impeccably researched; Strange clearly consulted land office records, county and township archives, memoirs authored by the early settlers, and news accounts. He spent his life teaching in local institutions, and seems to have known most of the county’s early residents.


This ebook, retrieved from the Internet Archive, is based on a Google Scan and has the usual spelling and formatting errors. I’ve seen worse.

A certainly-unimportant note: I notice Strange calls Mulliken’s founder T. Edgar Potter, which supports my impression that folks called Mr. Potter “Ed.”










This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Revision History:

The Autobiography of Theodore Edgar Potter: a review

In 1890 I sold my Vermontville farm and bought another in the same county, located on the new line of railroad being built by the Pere Marquette Railroad where I laid out the present village of Mulliken, Michigan, and continued a few years longer as a farmer with an incidental lumber business. My Mulliken farm I soon sold to my eldest son and purchased a quarter interest in the Potter Furniture Manufacturing Company at Lansing, Michigan, which city has been my home for the past thirteen years.

I live on Potter Street in Mulliken, and that quotation explains why I read this book. I’m pretty sure that 1890 date is wrong, as the railroad line and settlement both date from 1888, but we’ll allow an old man that error. I stumbled across this while looking for something else, so I snagged an electronic copy of the book. It’s far better than I expected, though potential readers should be cautioned that it describes many brutal events.

Potter was a competent writer and a gifted story-teller. His memoir is largely concerned with the years from 1852 to 1865, during which the author joined the California gold rush, took part (after a fashion) in William Walker’s Nicaraguan filibuster, visited New York, New Orleans, and Saint Louis, and took up residence in southern Minnesota. He was a captain in the militia which defended New Ulm during the Dakota War of 1862; later he was a Union officer whose troops participated at the fringe of the Battle of Nashville–mostly they chased, and sometimes caught, partisan guerillas. Some years later he was involved in the apprehension of the Younger brothers gang, again in southern Minnesota.

Theodore Potter–it’s pretty clear his friends called him Ed–was born in Saline, Michigan, in 1832. His family moved to Eaton County (at or near what became Potterville) in 1845 and Potter spent his teen years in the area. The first chapter largely tells of his teenage escapades; these tales have a delightful grasp of the local geography. About half the book recounts his California adventure; in tone and in substance it’s much like Twain’s Roughing It, and enjoyable for pretty much the same reasons. The Minnesota portion of the book is largely devoted to describing the Dakota War and the Army’s subsequent efforts to quell the rebellion, and is an exceptional rendering of what folks call “the fog of war.” While the last chapter describes his encounter with the Youngers, it also provides a sketchy overview of his subsequent life (through, apparently, 1904; the book was published in 1913, three years after Potter’s death.)

A few notes: It’s fair to say that Potter was sympathetic to the plight of the plains Indians, except when they were threatening his family and neighbors. He had far less sympathy for the rebel cause. The author’s wife gets surprisingly little mention, though their marriage lasted over fifty years. And the book describes a surprising number of truly gruesome events.

In 1916 the Minnesota Historical Society published a version of Potter’s account of the Indian war, which is available here. (A casual check seems to show it to be nearly identical to the account in this book, with some changes.) The footnotes published with the MNHS account make it clear that while Potter’s memory of details cannot be fully trusted, his account is essentially true. One would reasonably suppose that to hold true for the rest of his story.

Ed Potter’s life wasn’t particularly remarkable, as he notes on the last page of his book. It was, however, not an untypical life for a man born on the American frontier before the Civil War, and he recounted it well. The book deserves more attention than it’s received.


This ebook is a 254-page Google scan, though my copy’s via the Internet Archive. The scan deserves a couple comments. The first 180 pages are excellent, with only the minor punctuation and capitalization errors which plague most OCR scans. These are followed by a half-dozen pages of often-garbled text, with usual result that the reader’s obliged to guess occasional words and to sometimes puzzle out the meaning of entire sentences. After this rocky stretch, the scan returns to the previous excellent rendering. Then from pages 244 through the end the scan remains excellent but the text retains the page headers that had evidently been edited out of the rest of the book. It is, all in all, an odd rendering that defies obvious explanation. Overall, though, it’s unusually readable for a Google scan.










This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Revision History:

The Copper Mines of Lake Superior by T. A. Rickard: a review

Thomas Rickard may have been the best technical writer ever. He was exceptionally good at analyzing what he saw and explaining how the things he saw worked.

This book examined the state of the mining industry on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula as of 1904. Although there’s quite a bit of local history and some social commentary in the text, the heart of the book is a mine-by-mine and plant-by-plant examination of the technical aspects of mining and processing minerals, as practiced in the copper country at the beginning of the twentieth century. This is an exceptionally lucid book. Although the author often lapses into jargon, it’s a jargon his readers could reasonably be expected to understand; when a concept or piece of equipment was unusual, he went to the trouble of defining it.

Rickard examined the mining practices of most of the major mines on the range, with the significant exceptions of the Calumet and Tamarack mines, where non-employee mining engineers were not welcome. For the mines he did examine, he highlighted what they did best, the roots of their technical preferences, and any glaring weaknesses he identified in their processes. He then did the same for the associated mills (including, interestingly, the C&H mill on Torch Lake). There’s a wealth of technical detail, and enough economic detail that one could estimate the entire cost of production for many of the mines.

Rickard singled out the management of the Atlantic for special praise, whose mine he clearly found delightful (oddly, he failed to mention the new-built Redridge dam, which was part of their operation). It’s quite clear he thought this may have been the world’s most efficient mining operation, and he described how they work in loving detail. This is surprisingly fun reading.

An excellent book, and a key book for any researcher studying Michigan’s copper range. It should be paired with William Gates’ book Michigan Copper and Boston Dollars, which examines the business and financial background for essentially the same mines, though the Gates book was published fifty years later. The third crucial copper range book is Larry Lankton’s Cradle to Grave, which dates from the 1990s and examines the social context and consequences of these same mining operations. These three works, together, are an excellent survey of this community from a variety of perspectives. Would that the Michigan iron ranges had anything comparable.


This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

The Copper Empire, volume 1, by Mike Forgrave: a review

Roughly fifty maps of towns and mining locations on the Keweenaw peninsula, with only a minimal amount of text. These are sort of idealized maps, actually, showing each town/mine’s main features but not tied to specific dates. So (according to the author/mapmaker) some of the maps include structures which not only are no longer there but which never coexisted on the specific site. The result is that each map locates both current (2009) buildings and construction which was dismantled 70 years ago.

That sounds worse than it is. This book is a reconstruction for someone who wishes to know where, for instance, the Mohawk mine’s paint house was, and will use now-existing roads and buildings as routings and landmarks. It’s also useful for folks reading about specific locations and trying to understand the geography of a book’s description.

A good book, although I suspect with a fairly limited potential audience. It’s available here in both paper and ebook formats. The ebook is PDF and is not suitable for e-ink readers but works just fine in my tablet.


This short review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Revision History: