Lovely Model “Shot” in City Park

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: George Ridenour

Headlines in the April 30, 1948, issue of the Ypsilanti Daily Press indicated “Police Discover Who “Shot” Lovely Model in City Park. The article went on to say that “Chief LaVerne Howard and his Ypsilanti Police Department, assisted by the FBI, solved the mystery in jig time Thursday, after the “bullet-riddled” form of a young woman was found concealed in bushes at Gilbert Park shortly after 3:00 p.m.”

The name Lilly White was tentatively assigned the lifeless figure after a lady’s wallet was found nearby with a sheet of paper with that name scribbled on it. That was the only clue about the identification of the body. The local coroner, Dr. Berry M. Deep, pronounced that death resulted from “lead poisoning.” A loaded .38 caliber revolver, which had been fired twice, was found near the victim’s head. The police also found two slugs imbedded in a nearby tree. The police determined that a very tall man must have done the dastardly deed “…because of the trajectory of the bullets from the victim’s head to the tree roots indicated a 10 footer or maybe someone floating in space.

The unusual activity in Gilbert Park attracted hosts of curious children and adults but they were kept some distance from the murder scene.

Chief Howard ordered the detention of the individual who discovered the body while traversing the park en route to his job. The man was only identified as J. W. in the paper. The paper reported that "…Cowering under suspicion, J. W. stoutly professed his innocence, but a concealed fully loaded .38 automatic found on his person didn’t help his cause any, nor did his answers which Chief Howard termed extremely vague.”

The final paragraph in the Ypsilanti Daily Press indicated “…But don’t get excited, for this wasn’t a real murder. From an instructional point of view, however, it represents the earnestness with which police endeavored to solve a hypothetical murder for experience.” The article went on to indicate the model “Lilly White” was played by a department store manikin used by the FBI, the suspect J. W. was FBI Special Agent Jack Willoughby, and Dr. Berry M. Deep was played by Special Agent Bob Murphy. Both FBI Special Agents were from the Detroit Bureau office. Later at the YPD Special Agent Murphy commended the Ypsilanti Police Department for the spirit in which they controlled the crime scene and for their persistence in finding all available clues.

(Editor’s Note: George Ridenour was asked to write this article after we ran across the Press pictures in the YHS storage room and George discovered the related article in the April 30, 1948 issue of the Press in the YHS microfilm collection.)

(George Ridenour is a volunteer in the YHS Archives and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Police Chief LaVerne Howard was unable to find a “pulse” in lifeless “Lilly White,” the model found dead in Gilbert Park.

Photo 2: The police thought a very “tall” man had done the dastardly deed from the trajectory of the bullets from Lilly White’s head to the tree roots.

Photo 3: A curious crowd of children and adults gathered in Gilbert Park but were kept some distance from the actual body of Lilly White.

Wanderer Arrested - Charged with Arson

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

Washtenaw County Deputy Hipp arrested a man on Saturday, May 24, 1913, on a charge of arson. The man was accused of setting fire to a stack of straw on the farm of D. V. Harris, just east of Ypsilanti. The stack of straw was valued at over $150. Little more could be learned about the man at this time, as he would not speak to officers. Novak seemed to have little understanding of English. He was arraigned before Justice of the Peace Martin Stadtmiller on a charge of arson. Novak remained silent during arraignment, which Justice Stadtmiller decided was a plea of not guilty. He was then sent to the jail in Ann Arbor to await examination.

The identity of the man remained unknown until Saturday, May 31, 1913, when a woman in Detroit reported her husband missing. The woman reported to police her husband, Joseph Novak, had disappeared from their home at 1560 Dubois avenue in Detroit, on Wednesday, May 21, 1913. Novak left the house to look for work, with ten cents in his pocket. The wife was left alone to care for their two young children. The family was from Poland, and had little understanding of English.

In the morning on Saturday, May 31, 1913, a representative of The Daily Ypsilanti Press went to the jail in Ann Arbor, and talked with the man. The report that followed in the paper stated:

“Novak could understand but little English and could say only a few words. The words Dubois Avenue struck a vein of memory, and he nodded eagerly. He traced the figures 1560 indicating his residence laboriously on a piece of paper. He did not understand the word wife; but ‘babies’ brought forth the guttural response, ‘boysh.’ He remembered his two little ones,”

“Novak is thought to be slightly unbalanced,” continued the report. “He had been saving money for a home, and was not in want…for several weeks previous to his disappearance, his wife says he had been acting strangely, and brooding over much.”

An examination of the case was held before Justice Stadtmiller on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 4, 1913. The case was bound over to the fall term of the Circuit Court. Novak was returned to the jail in Ann Arbor.

“Prosecuting Attorney Burk intends to write his family in Detroit of his present circumstances. An investigation will probably be made into his sanity,” noted The Daily Ypsilanti Press Wednesday, June 14, 1913.

Mrs. Novak stopped in Ypsilanti on the afternoon of Saturday, June 7, 1913, as she made her way to Ann Arbor to visit her husband in the county jail. She told a reporter for The Daily Ypsilanti Press she believed her husband to be mentally unbalanced.

“For some time before he disappeared,” she said speaking through an interpreter, “…he has been acting strangely. He used to brood for long hours. He had a seeming mania for clothes. Often I have found him putting on, or parading around in mine; and he was continually changing the clothes of our boarders from one trunk to another. Up to the time he left, he was working, and we had some money laid away, so that there was no reason for him to worry,” reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press Monday, June 9, 1913.

Mrs. Novak brought the matter to an end on Wednesday, June 30, 1913, when she arrived from Detroit with an interpreter, to talk with the farmer D. V Harris. She paid Mr. Harris $60 for the stack of straw. In return for this Mr. Harris withdrew the complaint against Joseph Novak. “The police,” noted The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Thursday, July 1, 1913, “are confident that the fire was the result of nothing more serious than carelessness, and that Novak had no criminal intent.” Novak was released and returned to Detroit with his wife.

(James Mann is a local historian and author, a volunteer in the YHS Archives, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Ypsilanti’s Own “Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Peg Porter

(Several contributors to Gleanings have included Sleepy Hollow in their stories. It occurred to me that many of our readers would not know what or where it was. One of my functions as an editor is to help clarify what the author intended. Sometimes this is as simple as unscrambling an awkward and confusing sentence. Other times more work is required. Such was the case with this article. There is virtually no written history of the Hollow. I tried another approach. That is to find people who remembered the place and who were able to expand my own somewhat sketchy recollections. For their help I thank Don Foreman, Karen Nickels, Pam DeLaittre, Joyce Wales Novak, Judy Morey, and Anne Tubbs Massey. I also drew on the writings of Jack Shepherd and Barney Hughes. Also thank you to the Eastern Michigan Archives especially for the photographs that illustrate this article.)

A long time ago, before there was a Michigan State Normal, let alone an Eastern Michigan University, a small stream made its way from deep in Washtenaw County towards the Huron River. During the last part of its journey it was nearly parallel to the River itself. The stream traveled across the flat land that lay below the bluffs where, in the 1850s, the first buildings of a new educational institution were constructed. This institution was dedicated to the training of teachers, the second such school in the entire United States.

A number of years passed before the little stream was to feel the effects of this change. Trees grew along its banks. In some places the trees thickened to form woods. Homes were built to the east as the small town of Ypsilanti expanded. The stream made its way through this newly developed area and joined the Huron close to the big bend where the river heads south toward Lake Erie.

The earliest buildings that housed the college were on Cross Street. Eventually the small campus expanded to Forest Avenue, but no further. However, in 1913 the school, now the Michigan State Normal College, began expanding. The college administrators acquired sixty-five acres to the north and east. The acquisition included 43 acres belonging to T.C. Owen who had once sold mineral water from wells beneath what would become Roosevelt High School.

The stream and surrounding areas were known as Sleepy Hollow, probably after the setting of Washington Irving’s famous short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” How and when it was named is not recorded. Perhaps someone noted that Ichabod Crane, the primary character in the story, was a teacher as did Joyce Novak when asked to share her memories of the Hollow.

All sorts of Ypsilanti residents began to visit the Hollow. Children splashed in the stream watching the minnows and crabs. Families visited, usually on the weekend to take a stroll along the stream and through the woods. And college students found their way down the hill to court their sweethearts or just commune with nature. During the snowy days of winter, the hills above were filled with sledders who could get a good run down to the more level land below. And spring brought May Day. Young female students, dressed all in white, danced around May Poles, an event that attracted numerous spectators. At the western end of the Hollow, kids from the nearby neighborhood played a boisterous game of Capture the Flag using the stream as the border between the two warring factions.

In 1938 the Rackham School was built on what was then on the outer edge of the campus. According to a virtual tour of the campus, Rackham overlooked a scenic area known as Sleepy Hollow. Close by was Sherzer Hall and the campus gardens. These gardens extended north from Sherzer to Sleepy Hollow. During the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s the Hollow was part of the campus but left untouched and remained much the same as it had for many years. The local Girl Scouts used it as a Day Camp during this period.

Michigan State Normal College became Eastern Michigan College. The Gymnasium, dedicated in 1894, was demolished in the 1960s. The gymnasium, recognized as state of the art when it was built, had its own historic significance. It was the site of the first basketball game in the State of Michigan played on May 19, 1894. This imposing building was replaced by a parking lot. A new field house was constructed and much of Sleepy Hollow was destroyed in the process. A parking structure finished the job.

Now a University, construction continued to the north until the campus backed up to Huron River Drive. Was this the end of Sleepy Hollow? Not quite. Surprisingly the stream still makes its way across the campus. It feeds two “lakes” (most Michiganders would call them ponds). Each lake has a jetted fountain that shoots the stream up in the air, a sort of “grand finale” of its trip to the Huron River. It is no longer the gentle, sleepy stream of years past. And yet, if you cross a bridge between the parking structure and the Student Center and look towards Oakwood, you will find a small stretch of creek that resembles what many of us remember. The creek is bordered by reeds, trees, and wildflowers. So despite all the construction, landscaping and whatever else we humans do to our natural landscape, Mother Nature prevails.

(Peg Porter is Assistant Editor of the Gleanings and third-generation Ypsilantian. Her articles cover a wide range of topics, some based on first-hand experience.)

Photo Captions:

1. Michigan State Normal College – 1940 – The tree line running from west to east, marks the creek: 1) Gymnasium (demolished): 2) Old Pierce Hall, also known as Old Main (demolished); 3) Snow Health Center, later Department of Music classrooms (demolished); 4) Zwergel’s Book Store(demolished); 5) Rackham School; 6) Roosevelt High School, now classrooms and offices.

2. The campus gardens extended north from Sherzer Hall to Sleepy Hollow.

3. Michigan State Normal College students working in the campus gardens (circa 1930).

4. May Day dancers (1917).

5. The stream still makes its way across the campus and feeds two “lakes” (most Michiganders would call them ponds) each with a jetted fountain.

First Prize To Ypsilanti's Neptune No. 1

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

On display in the Bill Edmonds Room of the Ypsilanti Historical Museum is a silver trumpet. The trumpet, in fact, more a megaphone, stands inside a display case, enclosed in a glass case of its own. Trumpets such as this would have been used to shout orders to firefighters and others during a fire. This trumpet was most likely never used for this purpose, as it was a prize awarded to the firefighters of Ypsilanti in 1859.

The third annual fireman’s tournament was held on the 5th and 6th of July in 1859 in Jackson, Michigan. The tournament was attended by eighteen fire companies and thousands of spectators. A special train left Detroit at four in the morning with five fire engines on board, and increased in length as more cars were added when more fire companies joined the train. The weight of the added cars taxed the train’s engine and the special fell behind schedule. A regular train which left Detroit at seven in the morning passed the special, as it sat on a siding, to let the scheduled trains pass.

There was a stop at Ypsilanti, so the men of the volunteer fire company, Neptune No. 1, and its Wright 2nd class engine, sometimes called “the tea kettle,” was attached to the train.

“The variegated colors composing the firemen’s uniforms were visible at every standing point, and they covered the train like a swarm of bees, hanging upon platforms or window sills, sitting on the roofs like passengers on a Broadway omnibus, or riding astride their favorite machines on the open cars, all in the highest spirits, and wakening the echoes with shouts and cheers, and waving of hats, that reminded one of schoolboy days come again. The swift express train shot by in the midst of a rousing cheer from several hundred lusty throats, and was followed by the long special at the best pace it could make, which eventually brought it into Jackson two hours behind time,” reported The Detroit Free Press of Friday, July 8, 1859.

“The main street of Jackson was crowded with thousands of people who had come to see the tournament. So many had arrived that movement from one place to another on the sidewalk was almost impossible. One could only stand in place and watch events pass by. The firemen formed a procession at the depot and marched to the Hibbard House where there were brief speeches of welcome. Then the procession was reformed and marched to the public square where the firefighters were addressed by Governor Austin Blair.”

“The firemen then disbanded for dinner, which exercise being concluded the alarm bell was sounded, and the several companies proceeded to the grounds selected for the trial, below the city, near the Central Railroad,” reported The Michigan Argus of Friday, July 8, 1859.

“The ground where the engines were placed was near the depot, a platform having been built across a mill-race which furnished water. The streams were thrown down an inclination of several feet, the wind blowing considerably during a greater part of the trail. Twenty minutes were allowed each engine, during which time the company had the privilege of throwing as often as it chose. Numerous accidents occurred, such as bursting of hoses, breaking of connecting rods and plungers, and displacement of packing, all of which had the privilege of repairing if it could within time,” noted the account.

The Neptune, No. 1 from Ypsilanti, with its Wright 2nd class engine had a distance of 183 feet.

Because of the late hour the train had arrived at Jackson, the contest for quantity was postponed until the next day. For the contest on quantity, a large tank with accurate measuring facilities had been prepared. Each engine had three minutes to play their hose. The contest was lively. Neptune No. 1 from Ypsilanti won first place for second class engines with 32 and a half barrels. The prize was the silver trumpet.

Then was held the “sweepstakes” trail on distance, which was entered by ten engines. This was won by Neptune No. 1 from Ypsilanti with 211 feet 11 inches. The prize was $150 in gold.

“Our Ypsilanti friends,” noted The Michigan Argus of Friday, July 8, 1859, “have reason to feel proud, a $125 trumpet and $150 in gold, the reward of energy and perseverance.”

(James Mann is a local author and historian, a regular contributor to the Gleanings, and a researcher in the YHS Archives.)

Photo Captions:

1. Neptune Company’s highly prized Command Horn.

2. Ypsilanti firefighters in 1870 with their new steam fire engine.

Ypsilanti's Dutch Town

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Doreen Binder

(Note: This article was originally published in the Summer 2004 Issue of the Gleanings.)

My family has fond memories of growing up in the “Dutch Town” area of Ypsilanti during the 1930s and 1940s. The neighborhood borders River Street to the west, Babbitt to the north, Grove on the east, and South Street to the south with Michigan Avenue cutting right through the middle. Other streets included Parsons, Lincoln, and Park.

Woodruff School, at the corner of Michigan and Park, was a local landmark. Floyd Smith was the well-loved principal who cared for his students as family. Floyd was an effective role model for the boys in the school. Louella Parsons, Esther Fletcher, Jane Holzhauer, and Amy Hopkins Thomas were some of the wonderful teachers. Derwood Hagen, the Poling girls, and Bob Russell were some of the alumni. Derwood later served as an election worker at the Adams School polling station.

Businesses on the north side of Michigan Avenue going east from River Street started with Ken Brokaw’s gas station on the corner. Ken later opened Ken’s Bar in Depot Town. Continuing east, Dolph Thorne’s Tire and Appliance store was on the site of Lucas Restaurant, followed by the A & P store on the northwest corner of Grove and Michigan. Marsh Plating is now located on that corner.

On the south side of Michigan, early businesses included Otis Tooze’s Barber Shop, Herzberg’s Processing (we called it a junk yard, modern jargon would call it a recycling center), Steffe’s Gas Station, Russell’s Bakery, and C.F. Smith’s Grocery on the southeast corner of Park and Michigan. Parkview Pharmacy occupied what is now the party store on the south side of Michigan Avenue. My dad, George Binder, partnered with Bernard McLlhargie and bought the pharmacy. The pharmacy was locally called McLlhargie & Binder drugs where I spent many hours serving sodas and helping dad. Later, John Kealy’s Bakery replaced Russell’ Bakery. John’s glazed donuts were memorable.

Additional businesses included Al Holzhauer’s Print Shop, Max Bitker’s Dry Goods, and Emil Batchelor’s Meat Market where neighbors bought fresh meat daily. What is now the Bomber Restaurant was started by the Baldwin family and was known as Mrs. Baldwin’s Restaurant. During World War II, the family changed the name to the Bomber. The house that stood to the east of the small building that was Al’s Barber Shop was Clarence Tyrell’s Plumbing Shop. Clarence taught his customers how to do repairs and he had every plumbing part a customer could ever need that only he could find. Clarence even made labor free house calls for his Dutch Town neighbors. The plumbing shop building burned and was demolished as a consequence of the fire in 2004. Carrie Chadwick’s Piano store occupied the southeast corner of Grove and Michigan where the Mida’s Muffler is now located.

In 1935, a State Police Post was erected on the southwest corner of Michigan and Park. The first commander was Frank Walker. The good looking troopers brought a new look to the area. The building became a rug market and was demolished as part of the Water Street development. Gilbert Park, on the south side of Michigan Avenue and between Park Street and Lincoln Street, was the center of summer activities for the neighborhood kids. There were band concerts in the summer as well as supervised playground activities. Summer ended with a friendly tournament with kids from all the City supervised playgrounds competing. Gilbert Park was sold by the City of Ypsilanti during the 1960s for economic development that featured an Arlens Department Store.

Dutch Town families included the Thumns, Beggers, Harners (Ev, Harp, and Win), Horns, Hipps, Reddaways, Hinschs, Croghans, Parkers, Thibodeaux, Mayos, Malcolms, Hines, Tuckers, and others. With his automotive dream, Preston Tucker became the most famous Dutch Town resident. Bob Mayo delivered newspapers to Dutch Town residents during the 1950s. Carl Hipp grew up on Michigan Avenue between Park and Grove and was always eager to share his stories of the area. Carl moved up near North Congress and Wallace and died some time ago in his late nineties.

Within the small town of Ypsilanti, Dutch Town was a district residential community served by a full service business district. The local businesses provided all of the needs and services a family could want. The families gave me warm memories of my childhood. As is the same story everywhere, the small businesses lost out to supermarkets and large chain stores. With the loss of businesses, Dutch lost its identity and is only remembered by us old timers.

(Doreen Binder, now retired, was a teacher and principal for forty-two years and is a life long resident of Ypsilanti.)

Photo Captions:

1. Doreen Binder at three years old in front of the drug store.

2. George Binder in front of store (c. 1935).

3. Dutch Town parade (c. 1940).

4. Corner of Park and East Michigan Avenue

Ypsilanti History on the Internet

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Melanie Parker

A strong internet presence has become essential for historical institutions. Providing an informative, easy-to-use website helps information seekers discover what an institution has to offer, and aids potential guests in planning their visit. “Social media” sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have also become increasingly more important, because they are free marketing tools and allow people to have constant connection with a site.

In recent years, many museums and archival institutions have taken the initiative to digitize their collections. Digitization preserves content for the future, and helps safeguard original materials from frequent handling by creating an accessible, digital replica. Moreover, this process makes collections available online to people all over the world, and gives the public access to these materials even if they are unable to visit the institution.

Here at the Ypsilanti Historical Society, we too are taking steps to digitize our collections and bring Ypsilanti history to life online. Links to online resources are available on our website homepage, Under “Collections,” there are photographs of the Museum, giving you a taste of what you will see on an on-site tour. To aid in planning your visit, our event schedule is complete with upcoming exhibits for the year.

Interested researchers should consult our “Master Database,” a listing of the material we have in the archives. This can be done at home to give you an idea of what is available prior to your visit. Are you from out of town? No problem: simply call us or send an email with what you are interested in, and we can assist your research from there. Though we are constantly updating our database and adding new items, it currently contains 23 different collections and over 20,000 entries.

Also in progress is the “Digital Photo Archives Project,” a cooperative venture between the Ypsilanti Historical Society and the University of Michigan Digital Library System. Once complete, the collection will contain approximately 5,000 photographs dating from the 1850s to the present.

A benefit of membership in the Ypsilanti Historical Society is receiving the Gleanings, which can be a great resource when researching. Through a partnership with the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti District Libraries, we have been able to digitize past issues of the Gleanings. Both these and the Digital Photo Archives Project are available on our website under “Publications.”

On the right side of our homepage are links to “Online Programs.” The “Historical Highlights of Ypsilanti” section offers a look at citizens who were an integral part of the development of the city, as well as places of significance from 1900-1975. For more information on these locations, many of which that are recognized as Michigan State Historic Sites, visit our “Markers and Statues” pages.

The Willow Run Bomber Plant has left an undeniable mark on Ypsilanti. At the time of its construction, it was the largest factory under one roof in the United States, and was known for completing one bomber every hour. The plant attracted so many workers that a community emerged around it. Information on the plant is available in the Archives, and a portion of what is available is online under the “Bomber City” page.

The Ypsilanti Historical Society is not the only group working to bring Ypsilanti to life online. The “Online Programs” section also offers links to other sites that focus on Ypsilanti history. Two of these links lead to projects completed by students in the Historic Preservation graduate program at Eastern Michigan University. “Gals with Gumption,” designed as an informative website and walking tour “reflects the accomplishments and struggles of women in the city of Ypsilanti.” The “African American History” link directs to a website focused on the historic South Adams Street neighborhood, circa 1900. You can stay connected with the neighborhood by “liking” them on Facebook; search “South Adams Street circa 1900.”

Independent blogs are kept by two Ypsilanti historians, both of whom have published books on Ypsilanti history. Laura Bien keeps the “Dusty Diary,” and James Mann writes the “Ypsihistor.” Both are volunteers in the Archives; please contact us for more information regarding these blogs and their content.

Many historic sites and organizations in Ypsilanti have websites and Facebook pages that you can “like” to stay updated with news and events, including the Downtown Association of Ypsilanti, Visit Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum, Michigan Firehouse Museum, Yankee Air Museum and I Grew Up in Ypsilanti.

The Ypsilanti Historical Society is also on Facebook! Please “like” us to stay updated with what is going on in the Society, see posts featuring collections from the Museum and Archives, and photographs uploaded weekly. For more information on this and our other online initiatives, please contact us by phone or email. Museum: - 734-482-4990; Archives: - 734-217-8236.

(Melanie Parker is a student in the graduate program in Historical Preservation at Eastern Michigan University and is currently serving an Internship in the YHS Archives.)

Photo Captions:

1. The Ypsilanti Historical Society web page at

2. Over 600 Ypsilanti history photos can be viewed on the University of Michigan Library digital collection site.

3. The “Historical Highlights of Ypsilanti” program on the YHS website includes pictures and information about people and places in Ypsilanti.

4. The “Markers and Statues” program on the YHS website highlights the many historical places and events in Ypsilanti history.

5. The “Bomber City” program contains pictures of Willow Run before, during and after World War II.

6. The “South Adams Street @ 1900” covers the history of African Americans in Ypsilanti.

7. The “Gals with Gumption” program highlights the women who played significant roles in Ypsilanti history.

8. James Mann has posted 33 stories about Ypsilanti history on his “YPSIHISTOR” blog since January 1, 2013.

Case of the Lost Handbag

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

Travelers must be careful when in strange places, as it is easy to lose personal property. Habit causes us to place items in the same place every day, but when away from home, habit can cause us to put something down and then not be able to find it again. This may explain what happened to a family passing through Ypsilanti one day in 1913.

Frank M. Mason a doctor from Rossville, Ill., was passing through Ypsilanti with his wife and three children, when they stopped at Ypsilanti on their way to Niagara Falls. The family stopped for dinner at the Occidental Hotel, on the east side of North Huron Street, on Monday, July 7, 1913.

Mrs. Mason carried her handbag into the dining room with her, and placed it on the floor beside the table. When dinner was done, they got up and left the room, leaving the handbag behind. When they realized what they had done, they returned to the dining room and a search for the handbag was made. No trace of the handbag could be found. The police were then informed of the missing handbag, and the waiters were questioned. One person in the room said they had seen the handbag on the floor of the dining room. A search was made of the building, but again, the handbag was not found. The police did not believe the handbag was stolen.

The police still had to question three girls who occupied the table after the Mason family had left.

The handbag, reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Tuesday, July 8, 1913, had “contents valued at a considerable sum, in a monetary way, and inestimably precious to his wife because of associations formed with certain gifts that were in it.”

The family had spent time on the campus of the Normal College, now Eastern Michigan University, so President Charles McKenny was informed of the loss. McKenny was asked to advertise the loss of the handbag on bulletin boards throughout the campus. President McKenny complied with the request.

On the morning of Wednesday, July 9, 1913, a student at the Normal, Marjorie Snow, found a handbag lying in the road. As soon as she heard that there was a search for a missing handbag, she informed President McKenny of what she had found. President McKenny then informed the police. Police met with Miss Snow on campus, just before one of her classes. She was questioned, and police concluded she was telling the truth. The contents of the handbag were intact.

“There was about $60 in bills and a $20 gold piece, the two rings that had been mentioned by Mrs. Mason, one of three turquoises and the other of three topazes, and among the customary miscellany of every hand-bag, a set of gold ornaments and brooches with old fashioned ivory engravings upon them,” reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press Thursday, July 10, 1913.

“What still remains to be discovered, if all the facts related are true, is how the bag got from the Occidental hotel to the Normal campus? If any one had taken it, it would seem that with so certain a getaway, the thief would have kept it in his possession, instead of dropping it on the street, without even sampling the contents. Unless the thief, in turn, lost the bag unintentionally,” noted the account.

In the end, all that mattered was the handbag, with all its contents, had been found and returned to the Mason family.

(James Mann is a local historian and author, a volunteer in the YHS Archives, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

The Dynamics

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Fred Thomas

In the spring of 1954 a music style called rhythm and blues was making its way across America. Vocal groups with finely tuned harmonies gained increasing popularity among teenage audiences. Doug Fasing and Ted Carson were influenced by this musical genre and decided to form a singing group. Both were juniors at Ypsilanti High School. Rumors of their efforts circulated quickly. Soon three close buddies wanted in on the action. After a few practice sessions, a group name was being considered. The word dynamic in a newspaper advertisement caught Doug’s eye and stuck with him. He suggested it to the others as their moniker and a yes vote was unanimous. The Dynamics.

During the 1950’s the Gilbert House was home to the Gilbert Teen Club. As you entered, there was a pool table area to the left. To the right was a dance floor. Beyond that was a refreshment area with tables. I recall a nearby jukebox playing records most of the time.

I first saw the Dynamics at a performance there. The dance area was crowded with onlookers sitting on the floor, eager to hear them. The listeners were indulgent when mistakes happened. Those early singing opportunities improved their presentations.

At the time, Ypsilanti had two record stores downtown. One was Magee Music at 303 West Michigan Avenue, just west of Adams. The other was Carty’s Music Box at 204 Pearl. The Carty store occupied the northwest corner of Pearl and Washington. While this location offered music lessons and sold a variety of music, Magee Music stocked rhythm and blues. That enabled customers to buy records by groups the Dynamics introduced them to such as the Cadillacs, the Charms, the Coasters, the Drifters, the El Dorados, the Imperials, and the Midnighters.

The more the Dynamics practiced, the better they became. Before long their reputation preceded them, and appearance requests multiplied. They were just happy to show up, have an audience, and get a few bucks for gas.

In addition to the Gilbert House, they sang at high school proms and private parties. If they got invited, they made every effort to be there. One event was for the Ladies Literary Club at 218 N. Washington where they sang R&B to those sophisticates. Another time they shared billing with the Crew Cuts at a program in Ann Arbor.

In 1954, a popular Detroit disc jockey began hosting the “Ed McKenzie’s Saturday Party” on WXYZ-TV Channel 7. During the two-hour show he discussed new records with teens and hosted talent competitions. Professional entertainers also performed.

In June, 1955 the boys auditioned and earned a spot on the popular program. Not to be outclassed, they donned their finer threads to impress the judges. Word had gotten around town about them appearing on the show and many Ypsi teens tuned in, me included. Well rehearsed for the competition, their vocal talents were at their best. When the acts concluded, studio applause insured their win over four other groups. The first place prizes included an album of Glenn Miller songs, a 45 rpm record player, and season passes to a major Detroit amusement park.

Harry Short joined the U.S.Army in 1956 and was replaced by Bruce Johnson.

In addition, show promoters became aware of their talents. Ollie McLaughlin, a disc jockey at WHRV (now WAAM) represented them for awhile. The Ypsilanti Armory at 1025 South Huron hosted many R&B shows and often invited them to participate. The Dynamics shared the stage with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, the Coasters, Muddy Waters, Bill Doggett, and Little Willie John.

Out of town, regulars at Inkster’s Club Vogue kept them returning every weekend for a month, doing two shows a night. Count Belsa, the band leader at the club, thought highly of their talents. On one occasion he set them up to perform along with some big name R&B groups at the Warfield Theater in Detroit. Their numbers were well received.

In the fall of 1957 the now-seasoned quintet got an opportunity that might have changed their lives. With help from Bruce’s brother who was disc jockey Sleepy Head Ted for WFDF in Flint, they arranged an audition with Barry Gordy, the founder of Motown records. They drove to his Detroit residence where they sang several songs a capella and a few with piano accompaniment. Mr. Gordy liked the group so much that he gave them two original songs to learn before a return visit. Whatever potential the meeting offered, nothing materialized as a result of it.

Unfortunately, the guys couldn’t exist in two worlds at the same time. Devoting time to singing became difficult. Some were now married, one had joined the service, others had job demands, and college study time had taken another. Eventually these diversions made them face the fact that each member wanted to go his own way. And go they did, taking all those Dynamics memories with them.

(Fred Thomas lived in this area (1948-1998) and enjoys sharing his articles.)

Photo Captions:

1. The Dynamics: (left to right) Doug Fasing, Leonard Finley, Randy James, Harry Short, and Ted Carson.

2. Guest entertainers at the “Saturday Party” included Billy Ward and the Dominoes, seen here with host Ed McKenzie, and many others.

3. In June of 1955 The Dynamics appeared on the “Saturday” show and took first place in the talent competition, performing “Chop Chop Boom” by the Danderliers.

4. An old friend took this shot during one of the Dynamics’ performances at Inkster’s Club Vogue.

5. The Dynamics performed along with some big name R&B groups at the Warfield Theater on Hastings Street in Detroit.

Ypsilanti - Named by Woodward

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Tom Dodd

Ypsilanti’s Woodward Street – just two blocks south of Michigan Avenue – is not often confused with Detroit’s Woodward Avenue, but they are named for the same person and for the same reason. Augustus Woodward left his mark on both cities.

Woodward had been appointed the first Chief Justice of the Michigan Territory where he played a vital role in the planning and reconstruction of Detroit following the great fire in 1805. He was also a key figure in the development of Ypsilanti. Although he never lived here, he owned land, succeeded in giving the community its present name, and had streets named for him.

Augustus Brevoort Woodward was born in Virginia in November of 1774 and died July 12, 1827. It is speculated he received his college education from William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia. In his early life, Woodward devoted himself to literary pursuits and wrote and published several works.

Woodward never married; his personal style might not have been conducive to sharing quarters with other humans. His biographer, Arthur W. Woodford, describes Woodward as a prototype of Washington Irving’s Ichabod Crane, being “six feet, three or four inches tall, thin, sallow, and stooped,” notes Woodford. “His long, narrow face was dominated by a big nose. His only outward vestage (sic) of vanity was a generous crop of thick, black hair. His contemporaries commented on his slovenliness.”

Woodward was present at the official formation of the District of Columbia and witnessed the laying of the cornerstone for the District at Jones’ Point in 1792. He became the first attorney to establish a law practice in the nation’s new capital. At that time he was described as “a man of middle age, a hardened bachelor who wore nut-brown clothing…he slept in his office which was never swept…and was eccentric and erratic. His friends were few and his practice was so small that he hardly made a living.”

Sent to the Michigan Territory: On March 3, 1805, President Thomas Jefferson appointed Woodward as the first Chief Justice of the Michigan Territory. Woodward arrived in Detroit on June 30, 1805, two weeks after the great fire had destroyed most of the city. With Territorial Governor William Hull (the general who later surrendered Detroit to the British at the start of the War of 1812) and Associate Justices John Griffin and Frederick Bates, the quartet had all the legislative power in the Territory and the authority to oversee the rebuilding of the capital. They remained a powerful team from 1805 until the institution of a legislature in 1824; but it was not a pleasant undertaking. Over their years together, Woodward and Hull bickered with each other on nearly every issue.

Woodward took care of business with perspicacity, style and wit. In his 2005 story, “Broken, Obsolete and Wildcat Banknotes,” Fletcher-White Archives Director Gerry Pety pointed out “…in 1806 Judge Augustus B. Woodward of the village of Detroit, Michigan (population 600), organized the Bank of Detroit. He announced its capital at $1 million, ordered at least $3 million from the printer in notes of $1 to $10, signed them, or had them signed for him, and shipped them East. Smart Easterners can always take advantage of country folk, so they bought up the issue at discounts of 10 to 25 percent. When they tried to redeem the notes at face value in 1808, they found that the Bank of Detroit had closed its doors. Judge Woodward, a Cheshire cat smile on his face, had in the meantime put quite a bit of money in the form of hard coin in another honest bank.

As late as 1824, outraged citizens were still trying to prevent Judge Woodward’s continuing reappointment by the United States Senate to the local bench. Woodward’s Bank of Detroit notes are today the most common of all broken banknotes.”

In 1807, in his position as Territorial Justice, Woodward denied the return of two slaves owned by a man in Windsor, Upper Canada (present day Ontario). Woodward declared that any man “coming into this Territory is by law of the land a freeman.”

Penned a street plan, punned its motive: Justice Woodward and Governor Hull did agree on at least a few items. They drew up a plan for the streets of a new Detroit, the capital of the Territory. Basing their design on L’Enfant’s layout for Washington, D.C., Woodward’s version of the plan attempted to live up to the newly adopted city motto: Speramus Meliora, Resurgit Cineribus (We hope for better days, it will rise again from the ashes.)

For the first time in its history, Detroit’s attention shifted from the river to its roads. Woodward Avenue in Detroit, originally called Court House Avenue and other names, was popularly named for Woodward’s efforts in rebuilding the city.

He was known for his sarcasm and used it often in defense of his projects and proposals. In a story in the Detroit News, (Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s grand old ‘Main Street,’ June 13, 1999) Vivian M. Baulch notes “Judge Woodward was quite a character. Controversies about his judicial opinions caused one contemporary to describe him as “A wild theorist fit only to extract sunbeams from cucumbers.”

“He loved puns,” remembers Baulch. “Returning from an absence to find the street that would later permanently bear his name called Witherell, he said that it ‘withered all his plans.’”

According to Detroit historian George Catlin, “There was more or less disagreement over the naming of streets and some of the names were changed several times.” Judge Augustus B. Woodward was at times highly sarcastic and something of a ‘kidder.’ When some protested the naming of Woodward Avenue, he made the curious retort that Woodward Avenue was not named for him, but because it led wood-ward, toward the forested district north of town.

“Atwater Street,” the Judge said, was not named for Reuben Atwater, but because it was literally ‘at water,’ being on the riverfront; that Woodbridge Street was not named for William Woodbridge, but because it began at a wooden bridge across the little Savoyard River near the foot of First Street. Catlin says, “It was one of Judge Woodward’s efficient methods in debate to confuse his opponents by some ingenious ruse.”

Woodward proposed a system of hexagonal street blocks, with the Grand Circus at its center, taking its name from ancient Rome. Wide avenues, alternatively 200 feet and 120 feet, radiated from large circular plazas like the spokes of a wheel. As the city grew, these would spread in all directions from the banks of the Detroit River.

When Woodward presented this proposal, Detroit had fewer than 1,000 residents. The plan was abandoned eleven years later, but not before some of its most significant elements had been implemented. Most prominent remnants of the original design are the six “spokes” of Woodward, Michigan, Grand River, Gratiot, and Jefferson Avenues together with Fort Street. The pattern would be underlined and repeated through the years from the patterns of the Interurban Railways to the radiation in Interstate Highways.

During the War of 1812, Governor (and later Brigadier General) Hull surrendered Detroit to the British without a shot being fired. While Hull and Justices Bates and Griffin left town, Woodward stayed and maintained his status in Detroit during the British occupation. The British offered him the office of Secretary of the Territory, but Woodward turned it down. Eventually, the British considered him a nuisance and asked him to leave the Territory with safe passage to New York.

Considered a hero upon his return to Washington D. C., Woodward soon focused on his lifelong interest in science and the establishment of educational programs along similar themes to the University of Virginia, founded by Woodward’s friend, Thomas Jefferson.

Meanwhile, back where the Sauk Trail crosses the Huron River: French fur trader Gabriel Godfroy had purchased several properties from French-Americans. In 1811 and 1812 Godfroy submitted claims to 19 parcels of land to the Private Claims Commission, mostly along the River Raisin or the Lower Rouge River in the Dearborn area, with all his sales approved.

In 1814, Godfroy acquired the French Claim of Romaine La Chambre that he had submitted earlier and, in 1817, sold his own claim at Ypsilanti to Augustus B. Woodward. Godfroy’s other claims were disposed of after Benjamin Woodruff arrived in 1823 to establish Woodruff’s Grove.

In “The Story of Ypsilanti” published in 1923, Harvey Colburn notes, “Three shrewd and enterprising men, Judge Augustus Brevoort Woodward of Detroit, John Stewart, and William H. Harwood, with an eye toward the future, had bought the land adjacent to the (Sauk Trail at Huron River) crossing and platted it for a village, almost as soon as the road was surveyed.”

“An immediate desideratum for the nicely platted but still unbuilt metropolis,” noted Colburn, “was a name.” Concerning this, there was some discussion in which participated not only the three proprietors, but also the people of Woodruff’s Grove, who were evidently concerned with the new development. Stewart wished to call the town “Waterville,” Harwood suggested “Palmyra” and other names were proposed. The word of Judge Woodward, however, was of authority, a man of his position being naturally given deference.”

In a story on Woodward in an earlier issue of the GLEANINGS, James Mann observed, “Woodward…has been rightly called a brilliant eccentric. His legal decisions are examples of judicious thinking, but this was a man who took a bath by sitting in a chair in the rain. He was also a student of the ancient Greek language, and it was he who suggested the name Ypsilanti.”

Claire Shefler, in a 2007 story in GLEANINGS, reminds us that, “In 1825, the area was platted by Judge Augustus Woodward, William Harwood and John Stewart. Judge Woodward named this community, Ypsilanti, in honor of General Demetrius Ypsilanti, a brave hero in the Greek War of Independence.”

Other notable projects: It has been said that Woodward was among the first to recognize the coming of the scientific age. In 1816, he published his seminal work, “A System of Universal Science.”

With Reverend John Montieth and Father Gabriel Richard, Woodward drafted a charter for an institution he called the Catholepistemiad or the University of Michigania. On August 26, 1817 the Governor and Judges of the Michigan Territory signed the University Act into law. This institution became the University of Michigan. It was ahead of its time. No mere charter, it was a detailed blueprint for the organization of a first class university.

One of Woodward’s legacies is the Woodward Code, a series of statutes serving as the basis of the Territorial Supreme Court legal procedures.

August 26, 1824 saw Woodward’s return to the judiciary, as President James Monroe appointed him to a judgeship in the new Territory of Florida. Woodward served in that capacity until his death on July 12, 1827 at the age of 52.

Ypsilanti names a street for its nominator: Even with his national, state, and territorial fame, Woodward was not forgotten in Ypsilanti. In her Master’s thesis on naming the city’s streets, Elizabeth Teabolt highlighted from the original plat of the Village of Ypsilanti (Registered April 21, 1826 in Detroit) several new street names: Steward, Huron, Hamilton, Adams, Washington, Pearl, Congress, Michigan and Woodward. Steward was actually named for Woodward and Harwood’s partner, John Stewart (“probably a mistake in spelling,” says Teabolt). Huron Street was named for the Native Americans, the others for Presidents, government and the state. Pearl’s name remains a mystery. “And Ypsilanti has its own Woodward Street (not Avenue),” Teabolt concluded, “…named for Judge Augustus Brevoort Woodward, one of the platters of the village.”

Some older readers may remember how the city sign-makers got that one wrong for a few generations, as well, calling it “Woodard,” but it stands corrected in this publication.

Woodward, first Chief Justice of the Michigan Territorial Court, is remembered in Detroit at a couple of locations. First, on May 3, 1988 his Detroit law office across the street from the Renaissance Center, was dedicated and placed inside the Millender Center Atrium of the Omni Hotel at the corner of Randolph and Jefferson Streets. Another dedication to Woodward’s leadership is the obelisk that stands at the southern-most corner of Grand Circus Park and Woodward Avenue, a space of his own design in the form of a “Milestone Marker.”

(At the time of his death on May 11, 2013 Tom Dodd had completed the above story for the GLEANINGS and was working on a three part PowerPoint show on Woodward covering, “The Man, The Streets, and All Those Classic Cars in the Annual Woodward Dream Cruise.” The show was scheduled to make its debut at Chautauqua at the Riverside, part of the 2013 Ypsilanti Heritage Festival which will be held in August.)

Photo Captions:

1. Some scholars attribute Woodward’s big nose in this caricature as merely a political job.

2. This formal portrait of Woodward again shows that the gentleman did indeed have a huge proboscis.

3. The original Detroit street plan.

4. Woodward Street in Ypsilanti in 2013 – The location where the Sauk Trail crossed the Huron River.

5. Horse-Drawn carriages and streetcars cascaded up and down Woodward Avenue.

6. The Woodward obelisk in Grand Circus Park in Detroit.

7. Woodward Avenue in Detroit in 1931.

Ypsilanti History Featured in Detroit Historical Museum

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Tom Dodd

The new permanent exhibitions in the Detroit Historical Museum feature some unique Ypsilanti history. The Museum was closed from May to November in 2012 for $12 million worth of renovations and when it reopened two of the five newly-installed permanent exhibitions feature Elijah McCoy and the Willow Run Bomber Plant.

The museum’s “Gallery of Innovation” prominently displays Elijah McCoy and shining brass examples of the actual lubricating cups of his invention. Along with such luminaries as Henry Ford and Harley Earle, McCoy’s display tells the inventor’s story:

“Elijah McCoy is best known as the inventor of a practical railroad lubricating cup, a device that allowed train gears to be oiled while in motion, which saved time and reduced wear.

McCoy used his knowledge of mechanical engineering to solve other business and household problems. He developed a portable ironing board, lawn sprinkler and better tread patterns for rubber tires.

With all his inventions, McCoy developed and tested prototypes. He perfected his designs by learning from his successes and failures.”

Another new installation titled “Detroit: The Arsenal of Democracy” features Willow Run and the production of B-24 bombers for the World War II effort.

The two Ypsilanti features hold up well and are prominently displayed among more than 250,000 artifacts at the Museum that represent more than 300 years of our region’s history.

Ypsilanti’s history is well represented in Detroit’s unique historical museum at 5401 Woodward in Detroit next to Detroit’s Main Library and across the street from the Detroit Institute of Art. Admission is free and there is secure parking in a dedicated parking lot behind the Museum for $5.

(Tom Dodd was working on this issue of the GLEANINGS when he suddenly passed away on May 11, 2013.)

Photo Captions:

1. McCoy’s picture is on display with examples of his lubricating cups.

2. The Willow Run Bomber Plant and Elijah McCoy are two of the exhibits in the renovated Detroit Historical Museum.

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