And We Still Live!

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2010,
Winter 2010
Original Images:

Winter 2010

Author: James Mann

The world did not end on Monday, September 6, 1875.  “The city is yet intact.  The sun, the moon, and the stars still continue in their courses.  The heavens have not fallen.  No earthquake, no great physical or moral revolution.  Our churches and schools are still in running order, and yet THREE WOMEN ACTUALLY VOTED MONDAY!” reported The Ypsilanti Commercial of Saturday, September 11, 1875.

That was the day the school board election was held, and Charles Woodruff and E. F. Uhl, an attorney, were taking the ballots.   Arriving at the poll were Dr. Helen McAndrew and Mrs. C. D. Bassett.  Woodruff refused to accept the ballots from the women, as, he said, it was illegal and ‘unconstitutional’ for women to vote.

“Mr. Uhl asserted his belief that women were entitled to vote, and secured for himself their gratitude, and the gratitude of every womanly woman in the city, by going to his office and looking up the law,” noted The Ypsilanti Commercial.

By the time he had completed this task, the women had left the poll.  Mr. Uhl went to the trouble of finding the women who were at the home of Charles Pattison, editor of The Ypsilanti Commercial, near the corner of North Huron and Cross Street.  There, Mr. Uhl informed the women that he had ascertained they were entitled to vote.  He offered to accompany the women to the polls.  Soon after this Ellen Fry Pattison, the wife of editor Pattison, went to the polls and cast her vote.

“Even Mr. Woodruff confessed to these ladies that woman suffrage was coming.  If coming, why oppose the inevitable?  It is coming, because it is demanded on the part of the most enlightened of our women, based in gospel common sense, wisdom and justice.  It is coming, because the large majority of the women of this country cannot much longer remain under a free and democratic form of government, submissive non-entities, unappreciative of a Christian and grander citizenship.  It is coming, because the opposition is the most absurd, the meanest and the most ungodly ever brought to bear against a political reform and righteous cause in a free government,” observed editor Pattison.

On the day of Monday, September 6, 1875, the world did not end, but the world had changed.  Yet, as Editor Pattison noted: “And still we live.”

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

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Dr. Helen McAndrew, born in Scotland, moved to Ypsilanti in 1850 and became the first female doctor in Washtenaw County.  She, along with other prominent women in Ypsilanti, pursued the right of women to vote.

Winter on the Banks of Sneak-a-Leak Creek

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2010,
Winter 2010
Original Images:

Winter 2010

Author: George Ridenour

The last produce from the garden had been harvested and either eaten or preserved for the long winter season. Summer had been spent weeding the garden, playing baseball, exploring Sneak-a-Leak Creek, or shopping for clothes. Sadness reigned because the long days of freedom would now be replaced with School.

At the end of summer the house smelled of vinegar and pickling spices. Steam rose from the kettles of tomatoes being boiled which would soon be turned into tomato juice, diced tomatoes, and oh God, Moms’ great chili sauce. Veggies were cut, dried and canned along with a variety of fruit for jams, jellies and deserts.

There were countless other smells from peanut butter, molasses and anise and the smells wafting from cookies, coffee cakes and other pastries. Many of these items were made by Mom to be used as gifts or for the packages that were delivered for the poor that lived in our neighborhood. The sights and smells tempted all of us whether we were adults or children.

In our house of ten it was essential that every item needed for survival was preserved, used or passed down. Clothes were mended, and if possible, passed to the next brother or sister. Winter, especially to a one-income family, was a hardship. Carrots, potatoes and onions were piled under dirt in the root cellar to be used for those special “Sunday dinners.” In those days these dinners were a once-a-week special occasion.

The first of the many hard freezes and snows transformed the Sneak-a-Leak Creek area into fields of glistening snow and ice. Looking back, it seems like it snowed more often and the drifts were deeper in those days. Snow piled over broken corn stalks provided a haven for pheasants and other wild animals. Cows huddled near barns and would not venture out into the pastures until the green of spring.

Soon after that first snow the sleds appeared and those that had been especially good brought out their new toboggans. There were many hills in the area for all kinds of sledding. Skis were very rare around Sneak-a-Leak Creek. Skates would glide over the snow crusted ice and the occasional frozen stump served as seats on our “ice rinks.” There were places along the creek where you could see rushing water beneath the clear ice and we all wondered “Where’d the fish go?” Traps were set along the banks of Sneak-a-Leak” and we dreamed of selling hides for a few dollars.

Mom would point out footprints in the snow outside our windows. Legend had it that Tom-Tom, a special elf of Santa Claus, watched us through the windows and reported on our behavior. Oh God, our greatest fear that Santa would leave us coal in our stockings.

Speaking of coal, the coal man would come every couple of weeks. With blackened face and clothes, driving a huge coal truck, he would back his truck up to the window to the “coal bin” in the basement.  A ton of coal would “thunder” out of the truck into the basement shaking the house. Then every so often someone would go down in the basement, shake the ashes through the grate, and shovel fresh coal into the furnace. If the fire went out during the night you would wake up to a very cold morning. One of our winter chores was to load the ashes into buckets and take them out and spread some on the driveway and empty the rest into the garden.

As Christmas drew near our thoughts turned to Santa and out came everyone’s “dream books.” The Sears, Spiegel and Montgomery Ward catalogs, along with their “toy supplements” were used to create our “wish lists.” The girls dreamed of receiving dolls, baking ovens and sewing cards, while the boys focused on guns and holsters, bicycles and slinkies. Also on the “wish lists” were board games like Clue, Monopoly, and Sorry. I wonder now if Santa ever read our “wish lists.”

Around Sneak-a-Leak Creek Santa was assisted in providing gifts by “The Old Newsboys” through Uncle George Ridenour. Gifts of meat, bread, toys and clothes helped add joy to our Christmas season and into the New Year. We thought we were blessed by both Santa and Jesus (…and we were!).

One of the things we did was lay face up under the fresh cut Christmas tree which was full of colored lights, old bulbs and streams of icicles. A sky of colored lights, shimmering silver reflections and the smell of pine needles overwhelmed our senses. All too soon it was over. The tree stayed for awhile but everything else was put away.

On free days out favorite thing to do was “go outside” to play. Most of the time this meant picking sides for the snowball fights. I often ended up getting my face washed with snow by my brother. Snow forts, snow angels, sliding, skating and sometimes just walking the dog in the knee deep snow occupied our time.

I remember delivering the Ypsilanti Press in the snow. This meant walking about one and a half miles along the route and then returning home on the dark and lonely roads. Sometimes there was sleet or just the raw, cold wind burning your cheeks. But more often than not, there was the glory and satisfaction of walking along the darkened road as the moon rose, revealing quiet fields now filled with millions of shining diamonds. There was the crunch, crunch, crunch of the cold snow under your feet, the buffs of white breath from your mouth, and the anticipation of getting home and warm again.

Back then, family and home were important, School was a necessary part of learning and growing up, and church and God were a natural part of life. Kids for the most part respected one another and spent a great deal of time playing together. Television was new and computers and cell phones had not been thought of yet. We read newspapers and magazines like Life, Look, and the Saturday Evening Post that we actually held in our hands and would often listen to the radio as a family.

There was an innocence in those days on the banks of Sneak-a-Leak Creek and the wonderful memories of those times will be with me for all the days of my life.

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

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: George and his sister resting after sledding on Sneak-a-Leak Creek.

Photo 2: George in a snowsuit that was passed down from an older sister.

Strange Story of a Nine Year Old

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2010,
Winter 2010
Original Images:

Winter 2010

Author: James Mann

Children are told not to talk to strangers, and someone should have said this to Mary Lewardowski, who was nine years old in 1920.   On Wednesday, August 4th of that year, Mary was playing in the street near her home in Detroit, when a strange man asked if she would like a car ride.  The car in this case was the Interurban, a street railway or street car line.  Mary said she would like a ride, and the two boarded a car together.  Once on the car Mary fell asleep.  The man got off the car, leaving Mary behind.  The car ended its run at Ypsilanti at one o’clock in the morning of Thursday, August 5, 1920.

“Homer Smith found Mary last night, questioned her and then took her to the city hall, where she slept in the detention room overnight,” reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Thursday, August 5, 1920. According to the report, Ypsilanti Chief of Police John Connors questioned the girl that morning.  In the course of his career, Chief Connors had heard many strange stories, but the story Mary told may have been one of the strangest.

Mary said her mother had died long before, leaving her father with six children.  She said her father gave all of the children away.  Her father, she said, was in prison and had been for two years for breaking windows.  Mary said she lived with a man named John Kasidlo on Proctor Street in Detroit.  Kasidlo, said Mary, had sold all of his furniture and had moved away.

Mary said she had an older sister named Sophia, about 16 years of age, who was accused of stealing $10 and was sent to the reform school for girls at Adrian.  Another sister, she said, lived in Hamtramck.  She said she did not know where the other children were and did not know their names.

“Mary can write and is an unusually bright and intelligent looking little girl, with golden hair and blue eyes.  She carried a pair of roller skates, which she guarded carefully,” noted The Ypsilanti Record of Thursday, August 5, 1920. “Mary is as bright as they make them.  When she is washed and properly dressed, she might be turned into a Polish beauty,” observed The Daily Ypsilanti Press.

She was taken to the health cottage on Perrin Street where Miss Sperry, the community nurse, took care of her.  Chief Connors notified the juvenile court in Detroit, and was told an officer would be sent for her.  It would be up to the authorities in Detroit to determine the truth of Mary’s story.

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

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: In 1920, Mary Lewardowski, a nine year old from Detroit, rode an Interurban car like this to Ypsilanti.

The Visit to Ypsilanti by George Francis Train

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2010,
Winter 2010
Original Images:

Winter 2010

Author: James Mann

On Tuesday, March 5, 1872, Charles Pattison, the editor of The Ypsilanti Commercial, was a passenger on a train from Detroit.  On entering the car, his attention was at once attracted to a remarkable person seated there.  Soon after John Gilbert boarded the train, and entering the car his attention was at once attracted to this same remarkable person.  “Who can it be?” wondered Pattison.  After a little while, Gilbert whispered to Pattison, “George Francis Train.  I heard him lecture some years since, in Chicago.”  The conductor soon after came along, and assured them, that this was the “veritable, irrepressible, inexhaustible Train.” Yes, it was Train!  The next President of the United States!

Pattison introduced himself to Train and invited him to speak in Ypsilanti on about the 6th of May.  When he bade good-bye, Train said to Pattison: “You are looking upon the next President of the United States.” To this Pattison replied: “If Grant is not elected, we hope you will be.” Train smiled and said: “You may expect a card to my inauguration on the 4th of March next.”

Who was George Francis Train? Train was a businessman, author, world traveler and eccentric. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1829, his family soon after moved to New Orleans.  There, when he was four years of age, a yellow fever plague killed his family.  After this he was raised by his grandparents in Boston, who were strict Methodist and hoped he would become a minister.  Instead, he went into business and was a promoter of the Union Pacific Railroad.  In 1870 he traveled around the globe in eighty days.  Train may have been the inspiration for Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. At least, Train said he was.  In 1872 he was running as an independent candidate for President of the United States, the reason for his visit to Ypsilanti in May of 1872.

There is no account of the speech Train gave at Ypsilanti, but there were reactions to what he said.  The Ypsilanti Commercial of Saturday, May 11, 1872, noted Train possessed extraordinary physical and intellectual abilities, was a first class actor, and an unequaled comic.

“Not one man in a million can hold an audience as he can,” noted The Ypsilanti Commercial. “Let any other man say the same things, and his audience would fly in disgust.  One of our prominent citizens became so offended that he said he would not cheer the scamp any more.  In less than ten minutes, at a grand, peculiar Train hit, he cheered and stamped and clapped his hands.  Fifteen or twenty minutes before Train finally closed, he proposed to dismiss the audience, and still they retained their seats - and here is the mystery - a mad audience, and still aching and waiting to hear more.  Only a strange fascinating influence can explain it.”

In another column of the issue, The Ypsilanti Commercial continued to comment on Train.  “As a show on the stage we don’t believe that he can be beat.  In comic humor, in the ability to produce incontrollable mirth, and to hold an audience even against their moral judgment, we don’t believe that his equal can be found.  It is a pity that such noble God given powers that might be efficiently used for high and beneficent purposes should be so ignobly prostituted.  He was invited here, and advertised, with his own consent, to speak on political topics only, and it was supposed that he was gentlemanly enough to adhere to the contract.  So far as the lecturer was concerned, no one cared whether he was a Pagan, or belonged to any one of the innumerous denominations, or simply a “Nothingarian.”  …A highly intelligent audience embracing the cream of our city went to hear Train, as we did, with the expectation of listening to a prodigy on the platform, to have a good shake down laugh, but not the least idea of being forced to hear low abuse of the Christian religion, of our sacred Scriptures, etc.”

Pattison noted that the American people lack enough amusements, so when Train arrived to give a lecture, it was worth ten times the cost.  As such, noted Pattison, these men are public benefactors. “In all other respects he exceeded our expectations…He can capture an audience the most completely of any man we ever saw…He is an unfathomable mystery…Now all his attacks upon the vices and follies of the day amount to nothing so long as he does so much to undermine the morals of society, and of true social order, to corrupt the youth.  If he is insane he is to be pitied; if sane he is profoundly and INTENSELY wicked.  He is an unsolved mystery at all events - immensely smart - possessing unmeasured talents for good and terrible power for evil.”

Train left Ypsilanti and lost the election to Grant, and the nation was most likely the better for it.  According to Wikipedia, “He spent his final days on park benches in New York City’s Madison Square Park, handing out dimes and refusing to speak to anyone but children and animals.” He died in 1904.

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

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: George Francis Train, an independent candidate for president in 1872, stopped in Ypsilanti to deliver a political speech.

Local Education and History Collaborate

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2010,
Winter 2010
Original Images:

Winter 2010

Author: Mark Salzer

The Ypsilanti Historical Society is partnering with the Ypsilanti Tech High School @ Ardis on a project called Hidden Treasurers. This project is framed in a letter from the Historical Society requesting that all incoming ninth graders at the school solve a historical puzzle based on artifacts from the local area as they take on a “Junior Archivist” role. Groups of students will investigate a box of artifacts that directly relate to an important local historical person. Each student group will work collaboratively in determining the owner of the contents and their contributions to local, state and/or national history. They then will create a narrative to compellingly tell that person’s “story” in relation to the objects associated with that person.

These budding historians will reflect on what they already know and what they still need to know in order to successfully complete their task for the Ypsilanti Historical Society. The students will learn what an archivist is, how to handle historical items, and further develop their research and analytical skills. Each student group will use the data they have gleaned to determine what family or person all items in their particular box relate to, and that family or individual’s contributions to the Ypsilanti area. The students will write individual and group reports as well as create a video of the investigation, evaluation and conclusion of their particular box of artifacts. All student course will be aligned to meet Michigan State standards and benchmarks whilst engaging students on real world projects utilizing 21st century skills.

The Historical Society has been involved in the planning stages of this project since near its inception and has made many contributions to its evolution and implementation. Among other contributions, the Historical Society will provide their expertise to the students through site visits and possible workshops. Student team members may need to visit the Archives for additional fact finding information as they develop an engaging story in history. One or more staff members of the Historical Society will be evaluating the students’ final oral presentations. The three student groups that best describe and identify the historical person connected to the items in their box will be videotaped for inclusion via a link on the Ypsilanti Historical Society website for one month.

The backbone of Ypsilanti New Tech High School @ Ardis’ learning environment is Project-Based Learning. Instead of handing out daily assignments, teachers assign long-term, real-world projects with different components. The school uses technology to facilitate these student projects. This is a great opportunity to immerse our students in the rich culture of the Ypsilanti area and the History/Tech class of the New Tech High School is excited about working with the community as this and other projects progress. If you are interested in connecting with the New Tech High School for a student based project, please contact us at (734) 714-1500.

(Mark Salzer is one of the history teachers assigned to teach at the New Tech High School in Ypsilanti.)

Lost Businesses of Ypsilanti - Zwergel’s on West Cross Street

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2010,
Winter 2010
Original Images:

Winter 2010

Author: Peg Porter

If you attended Roosevelt, the “lab school” of MSNC, later EMU, chances are you remember Zwergel's. Like most other Roosevelt students you likely made regular visits to Zwergel’s during the lunch hour. Out the door, down the street past Pease Auditorium, around the corner and up the worn cement steps, and there close to the door on the right stood the candy counter. Oh, the decisions to be made. Would you like a rope of licorice or perhaps a piece of Double Bubble bubblegum? How about a jaw breaker? Were you up to handling a Fireball? And if you had more than a couple of pennies you could choose a candy bar or a package of Chuckles. So many choices!

Zwergel’s wasn’t in business to sell penny candy. Yet one of the clerks stood behind the counter patiently waiting for us to choose. We were never pressured nor treated like a minor nuisance (which we probably were). We headed back to school ready to begin the second half of the school day.

J. George Zwergel was born in 1851, to German immigrants, in Freedom Township, Washtenaw County. The family had settled in the County in the 1840’s. J. George left the family farm at age 22 to enter commercial life. He clerked for the John C. Liken Company in two different locations learning the trade. In 1896 he bought a lot in Ypsilanti on Cross Street where he built his store, just across the street from what was then the main campus. Zwergel’s sold books and school supplies as well as groceries and dry goods. For a time, Zwergel also operated an ice cream parlor. The business prospered. His prime location became the campus stop for the Interurban. Passengers would wait on the steps of Zwergel's for their car likely having made a stop at the store first.

Active in city affairs, Zwergel served as alderman for the Third Ward in 1902 and 1903. He was president of the City Council and Chairman of Ways and Means during his two terms. He died in 1915. Upon his passing, his daughter Mary, who had been clerking at the store, took over the business which she managed until her death in 1944. During her tenure the business expanded to include a beauty shop run by her niece Helen Zwergel Bassett. Prior to taking over the store Mary completed a year’s course in Cleary College and worked as a bookkeeper at the telephone company.

The following was written in the January 1, 1932, issue of the Ypsilanti Daily Press: “Miss Mary Zwergel, who heads four business enterprises at 616 and 618 West Cross Street is looking forward to improved conditions in 1932 even though the depression failed to make an appreciable difference in her sales. She is proprietor of Zwergel’s (the store at the Normal), Zwergel’s Beauty and Gift Shoppe, and Zwergel’s grocery and meat market.”

The location and the store’s reputation for customer service combined to create a very successful business that would last for many years. As the college, then University, expanded all around the store, the corner property eventually was acquired by the University, the store was demolished and the grounds of Pease Auditorium were extended to Cross Street.
I have not looked to see if there is any sort of marker to designate where Zwergel’s once stood. If there isn’t, there should be for the store was a vital part of campus and city life for almost 100 years.

(Peg Porter grew up in Ypsilanti and is the Assistant Editor of the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: George Zwergel outside The Normal Book Store just after the turn of the Century.

Photo 2: Newly constructed Roosevelt School (c1927). The sidewalk in the foreground leads to Cross Street.

Photo 3: An ad for “Holeproof Hosiery” from Zwergel’s at the Normal.

Photo 4: An ad for “Fresh Meats” from Zwergel’s, The Store at the Normal.

Photo 5: The front cover of Zwergel’s Beauty Review that was published in 1940.

Early Settlers of Augusta and Superior Townships

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2010,
Winter 2010
Original Images:

Winter 2010

Author: Janet (McDougall) Buchanan & Heather (McDougall) Carlson

Augusta Township, Michigan Territory, counted as very early settlers the Muir and McDougall families. The first members arrived from Scotland in 1828 and bought land from the government. Slowly encouraging additional family members to emigrate from Scotland over the next several years, they increased their numbers. Surviving letters between family members from America to the ‘old country’, and back, throughout the years, make for very interesting and informative reading. The Muir children in America (six) had a total of 39 children and at least 63 grandchildren by the late 1800s, most of them staying in the Washtenaw County area.

Andrew and Mary (Donaldson) Muir arrived in New York on the ship Roger Stewart on June 9, 1828, along with their children, Mary, Sarah and Andrew. Andrew later married Huldah Jones; Sarah married Oscar McLouth, and after his death she married James Rambo. Mary married the young apprentice, George S. McDougall, who traveled from Scotland with the Muirs. George and Mary Muir were married on October 31, 1828, in Rochester, New York in Monroe County. By the late fall of 1828, Augusta Township became home to Andrew and Mary Muir and George and Mary (Muir) McDougall.

Mary A. Campbell, in her publication “The Andrew Muir Family of Scotland and Augusta Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan,” related that Andrew Muir's chimney was “the first that smoked in Augusta." She also wrote that, “He built the first fire ever lighted by an American citizen in that portion of the wilderness, and also the first log house ever erected in that section of the county.”

In the book “History of Washtenaw County, Michigan” published by the Biographical Publication Company in 1881, it is noted that “Andrew Muir is said to be the first settler; but there is a faint shadow of probability that James Miller, who made a settlement near Stony Creek in 1829, may be the owner of the honor – he who founded the village of Stony Creek – and to him is accorded the honor of being the father of Andrew Miller, said to be the first white child born in the district.” However, Mary A. Campbell stated, “James Miller’s purchase of land in Section 7 was recorded May 1, 1828, and the patent was recorded on the same day as Andrew Muir’s. These two men made the first recorded purchases in Augusta Township.” Further, Mary A. Campbell notes that “Andrew Miller’s birth date is July 6, 1831. Elizabeth McDougall, daughter of George S. and Mary Muir McDougall, was born in June 1830 and is stated elsewhere to have taken the honor of being the first born in Augusta Township.

Mary Belle (McDougall) Logan described to Thelma (Reddcliffe) McDougall that Andrew Muir’s land was “considerable farm land at Stony Creek, six miles south of Ypsilanti.” Another description of the land (source unknown) is “south of Bemis Road and east of Hitchingham Road (which is east of Stony Creek Road).” And yet another description by Andrew Muir in a letter to relatives in Scotland, gives the land as being “south of Bemis Road and west of Hitchingham Road in Augusta Township.” The Land Office Patent Certificate #626, dated March 6, 1829 and initialed by President Andrew Jackson, described the Andrew Muir land as “for the North West quarter of Section five, in Township four, South, of Range seven, East in the District of lands offered for sale at Monroe, Michigan Territory, containing one hundred and ninety-two acres, and ninety-one hundredths of an acre”).

Muir daughters Margaret and Jane arrived a few years later with their children and respective husbands, Robert Gardner and James Pearson. Robert and Anna (Muir) Campbell and family were the last to arrive from Scotland in October 1842. Their later arrival was probably due to the nineteen year lease on the family Ayrshire farm having nearly expired. The name of the family farm in Ayrshire, Scotland was Lauriston Parish, and was on the Hollybush Estate. A son, Gabriel, had drowned in Scotland in 1826. Daughter Jean’s whereabouts are unknown, but she probably stayed in Scotland.

Andrew and Mary (Donaldson) Muir, their children, and George S. McDougall, were born and raised in Scotland where they attended the same kirk (church) that Robert Burns (1759-1796), the poet, had attended in his lifetime. George McDougall and Mary Muir knew each other from childhood. George was born November 7, 1799, in Moncton Hill, Ayrshire, and Mary was born April 1, 1802, in Glencaird, Dalrymple, Ayrshire. The following was related by Mary B. (McDougall) Logan. “In Scotland the Muirs were wealthy but Andrew’s partner was clever and captured the booty and left them poor so they came to America to begin anew. Mary and her sisters had beautiful linen nightgowns and petticoats and lots of them all trimmed with choice hand embroidery. The bush [of Ypsilanti] offered no place to wear these so they were eventually made into clothing for the babies, nicer than anything that could be obtained otherwise in the new land.”

The following is from a letter dated April 18, 1936, written to Walter McDougall by Delphine (Fowler) McDougall (wife of John A. and mother of Walter): “Yes, Father McDougall’s name was George, but I never heard much about his family. He was bound out to a farmer when he was a boy, and came here with the Muirs. Mother McDougall’s father said he did not want his girls to marry in Scotland for they would never be anything but servants, so Mother and Father McDougall did not get married until they got to New York, then they both got a job and stayed there a year. The rest of the family came on to Michigan. I don’t know how old he was but she was 19. Her father sold everything he had and brought his whole family. George McDougall had four brothers and one sister, Mary McDougall, in Ayrshire, the same place that Robert Burns lived. We heard later that his brothers came here, but don’t know where. There is a large settlement of McDougalls south of Hillsdale.” Note: We now know that Andrew Muir did not bring his whole family with him and Mary Muir was 26, not 19. Father and Mother McDougall refer to George S. and Mary (Muir) McDougall and Mother McDougall’s father was Andrew Muir.

The parentage of Andrew and Mary (Donaldson) Muir: What we know about the parents of Andrew Muir is from his baptism records and those of his siblings, Gabriel and Ann, known children of Andrew and Jean Osburn Muir of Ayrshire. The baptismal dates for these children indicate they are considered “lawful.” In the case of Ann’s baptism record, Jean is mentioned as Andrew’s spouse, this is the only time her name is actually mentioned. These records were transcribed by Heather (McDougall) Carlson from the Scottish Parish Records. The assumption is that Jean’s maiden name is Osburn.

Mary (Donaldson) Muir’s parentage is not clear but Heather has done much research on this, also in the Scottish Parish records. It appears likely that Mary’s father was James Donaldson and James’ father was John. We assume that Mary’s mother’s name was Margaret because of the naming patterns of her children. She did stray from the male naming patterns with second and last son, Gabriel, but one assumes it was because of the early death of her brother, Gabriel.

The following letter is one of many that still remains in the Muir family and was first published by Mary A. Campbell in the Family History Capers article. It was dated October 23, 1830, written by Andrew to his brother, Gabriel, a farmer who still lived in Gorton Parish, Ayrshire, Scotland. The following letter was received January 30, 1831.

“Thanks to the giver of all good we are all in good health. I wrote you last year a long letter and have learned since by a letter from Aunty Ann to Sarah [McLouth] that none of the letters I sent from Scotland ever were received. This is a fine pleasant country though great varieties of soil and of climate prevails. I looked a good deal over the state of New York for a situation. Old settled places are much exhausted by mismanagement and everywhere at a high price to be in this country. They would ask from 15 to 100 dollars per acre for land.

We stopped about 4 months at a place called Clyde on the canal about 146 miles east of Buffalo. I having a strong desire to see the country farther west I started off for Detroit in the territory of Michigan. From there steered my course southward 35 miles here I found a pleasant healthy country, good rich land water pure and abundant. After looking about the country a little I purchased (70 acres of) land of what would in any country be called first-rate land. About 70 acres nearly cleared and the remainder fine timberof hard wood no fir. The price was six dollars per acre I paid the money down and got a handsome allowance for ready money. The situation is very inviting having abundance of pure spring water. One spring brook runs past where we have fixed our house sufficient to drive a threshing machine. Land in its natural state can be had of government at 1 ¼ dollars per acre. I read the newspapers and am sorry to observe the disastrous state of the old country. Two men from Edinburgh are with me when I write this. They are going to purchase land. They say matters are always getting worse in the old country.

I will naturally be asked what is the best way to come among the Yankees. It is answered here temperately …. are firmness and truth the course everyone ought to pursue whether in an old or new country. The potatoes I got from you had a blessing in them. There were a few of them left after we arrived at America. We planted them and have some of them yet.

Blacksmiths charge very high for their work. A single potato hoe costs a dollar and other things in proportion. A tailor charges dollars for making a suit of clothes. The cotton and woolen goods are much inferior in this country to what they are in the old country. We have wheat of excellent quality and as to vegetables we have all kinds that are grown in any country in a similar latitude. It is certainly advisable to such as mean to follow agriculture to come here. There is no method I know of for vesting money equaled to purchasing land in this district. Please give our best respects to all our friends, particularly to Margaret and Anne’s families. My impression is if they can come here have ordinary health and ordinary luck they will soon be independent. In the old country a man with a large family is kept down not so here. A large family is their riches. They soon come to do something and as they grow up the parent is enabled to give each of them 80 acres of land that is equal to a hundred dollars in money. How any children they have there is land enough for at least a thousand years to come. When any of our relations come here please be so good as write us direct to Andrew Muir of Shieldhall by Ypsilanti, County of Washtenaw territory of Michigan, North America.

I shall conclude with the words of the Hebrew poet happy is he who has the God of Jacob for help whose hope is in the Lord his God. I am D Sir yours most truly.” Andrew Muir

Two more letters, with only these remaining excerpts shown below, are retained by the Ypsilanti Historical Society. The first dated January 29, 1832, by son, Andrew Muir, Jr., written to relatives in Scotland.

“The land in our immediate neighborhood is mostly bought, some of it very good and some not … it is about six years since Ypsilanti was founded, there is 600 inhabitants in it, and it is growing fast; there is a grist mill, a turning mill, two carding mills and a filling mill at Ypsi, which is 4 ½ miles from my fathers farm. There is a saw mill a mile above the town, a saw mill ¼ mile below it… there is limestone on the Huron 4 miles above the town, the snow lies in general 3 & 4 months, the river runs toward the lakes. We are said to be about 40 miles east of the ridge where the water turns west, & about 34 west of Lake Erie.

There are six stores, two groceries and 5 Taverns in Ypsilanti & almost everything you can name (except honesty and trust) is to be had for money or produce … most articles are 10 to 25 per cent cheaper than when we came here … “I am nearly broke down. The bears have taken 6 of my hogs last summer… I have been employed nearly two years past for on a farm belonging to Mr. Wilson. This farm is 500 acres. This farm lies on both sides of the River Huron, 2 miles below Ypsilanti. I had 50 [cents] per day summer & winter, & harvest time, haying, 62 ½ cents… I like this country middling well, I don’t much admire some of the people, … there is too much cheating and lying…”

Another quote from the above letter quoted in a newspaper article from 1962 states Andrew, Jr. urged his brother-in-law (Robert Campbell) to come to America where he could easily get land. But he cautioned him not to tell the “poor and idle” about the new country because “a man without money and who will not work, is just as fit to farm the land in America as an old black coach horse would be fit to clerk in the Bank of Scotland.”

The second letter noted above is from the father, Andrew Muir, again to his brother, Gabriel, in Scotland, and is dated January 12, 1832.

“…. This is the third year I have paid taxes. First year I paid 1 ¼ dollars; second year 13 shillings currency, for the last year I paid $1.29 thus it becomes less as settlers come in. This is called the county tax. 6000 settlers came to this county last year….so you are going to have a reform in your election of members of Parliament. The generation which commenced a change in any government very rarely completes it…we are not disturbed by the Indians…greater part of them 100 to 300 miles west…a few straggling Indians came about last year but when they found the country thickly settled they soon cleared out. By a late treaty of Government, they now get the interest of their money when the government takes up their lands. This keeps them in check…when they do not behave this money is withheld. The president has given them to understand that they must give up the practice of going annually to Canada to receive presents from the British government…”

Each letter urged the family to leave Scotland, where it was rare to own land, and move to Washtenaw County where land was there for the settling. The letters even gave specific instructions on how to pack. One letter stated, “Put your baggage in moderate size boxes or barrels like what two men can lift. If too small you are apt to get them stolen. Our press (chest) was rather too large and very unhandy when traveling. But not so now, it is of great use to us."

A letter written in March 1835 by Sarah (Muir) McLouth to relatives in Scotland, explained that “Our father is very frail but mother is in good health and able to do her own work and is brisk and cheerful.” Andrew Muir, Sr. died on April 13, 1837, and was buried on his Augusta Township farm, which he called Shieldhall. His wife, Mary, is buried next to him. Their son, Andrew and his wife, Huldah Jones, are also buried near them. The area has since been developed with homes and condos. The headstones were moved and are now in the storage shed at nearby Stony Creek Cemetery. One headstone reads: "Andrew Muir April 13, 1837 in 68th year," and the two footstones, read A.M. (Andrew Muir) and M.D.M. (Mary Donaldson Muir). A Dalymple Cemetery Transcription website containing records from Ayrshire, Scotland, has this entry: #196 - “In Memory of Andrew Muir 13.4.1837 age 67, wife Mary Donaldson 27.4.1864 age 94, interred Augusta Michigan U.S.A., son Gabriel 26.6.1826 interred here.” Their son Gabriel's stone and his remains also lie in that cemetery. At the bottom of the stone, it says, “…erected by Robert Campbell and Annie Muir his wife, 1882.” Heather Carlson surmises that they must have put up the stone as a memorial to Annie's parents, and young brother long after his death. Mary A. Campbell wrote, “Mary (Donaldson) Muir was blind for many of the last years of her life before her death in 1864. Her daughter, Margaret Gardner, cared for her much of the time.”

(Janet (McDougall) Buchanan edited, compiled and submitted this article. She is a great-great-granddaughter of George S. and Mary (Muir) McDougall, and great-granddaughter of John A. McDougall. Heather (McDougall) Carlson, also a great-great-granddaughter of George S. and Mary (Muir) McDougall, and great-granddaughter of George McDougall (brother of Chet and John A.), has researched the McDougall and Muir families in Scotland for many years. She contributed greatly to this article.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Mr. & Mrs. George McDougall moved to Augusta Township in the fall of 1828.

An Odoriferous Education

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2010,
Winter 2010
Original Images:

Author: Tom Dodd

A before-standardization memoir: We learned more than our teachers suspected in the schools of our childhood.

“School stinks!” we proclaimed when we wanted to say something unkind about our childhood headquarters, and indeed, the schools of our past did have a unique smell about them. One wonders if today’s tots enjoy the same sensory experiences we knew in schools that had wooden floors, slate blackboards, wet plaster walls, oak trim moldings, cork bulletin boards, coal and/or steam heat, and windows that actually opened. And we had those long cords on the window shades that could be tied into hangman’s knots! Today’s kids just have iPods.

Our teachers sometimes accused us of “not paying attention” but, in reality, we paid attention to far more than they realized. We saw, heard, tasted and smelled everything that was going on. For some unexplained reason, our library paste was laced with mint flavoring, but the teachers warned us not to eat it. We ate it anyway. We never used “library paste” in the library; only in the elementary classrooms.

Mimeograph ink was so delicious that, when the teacher handed out new papers (“Take one for yourself and pass them back!”), it was the custom to bury our face in the top sheet and inhale deeply. Long before we heard that Morning Glory seeds had a hallucinatory effect, we were convinced there was some magical quality in the smell of that purple mimeo ink. In those days, “purple” was an exotic color, only to be used by “fancy ladies.” That was long before rip-stop nylon backpacks in purple, pink and chartreuse.

A faint odor of peanut butter & jelly wafted from the lockers in the corridor. In some spots it was mixed with the gentle hint of urine. Old, forgotten sandwiches sometimes mixed into a potion of ingredients nearly unrecognizable by semester’s end. The bright pink deodorizer cakes in the bathroom urinals smelled worse than the smells they were trying to cover up, but they were fun to pee on.

Old books in the library had a musty, mysterious quality about them. The giant dictionary on a reading stand had alphabetized thumbholes on the side and, when you riffled the gold-edge pages with your thumb, the odor of antiquity wafted clear over to the kid doing homework across the table. These were the most popular reference materials available to us, and contained most of the banned words that we had been wondering about. They were easy to find; these pages had been opened so regularly that just placing the book on its spine would cause it to open to the favorite sections. We had to wash our hands after handling those smelly, old books, but it was worth it.

Wood pencil shavings had an “up north” aroma about them but, when mixed with graphite from pencil sharpeners (grinders), they made a dirty mix of pine pitch and acrid chemicals that we were sure were poisonous. At least it killed the plants on the windowsill.

Soft, pink pencil erasers were a “smellifluous” addendum to childhood - until you brushed the crumbles off the page when they mixed with the former pencil marks. Then they were a minor-grade poison. Art Gum erasers were the best crumbles to collect. You could chew on them too, but we did not swallow. Those green or gray kneaded erasers looked like chewing gum, but tasted terrible.

Rubber cement was voted the most volatile smell in the classroom and painting it on your cheek or forearm and then squeezing it together when nearly dry made the most believable facsimile of a terrible scar. Walking around with a severe limp added to the wounded-soldier-affectation and sniffing the cement reminded us to stay in character for maximum effect.

Airplane glue came later, and we quit destroying our brain cells just in time to get into college. Most of our projects started out soberly but became more sloppy and disorganized as time went on. We never understood what caused that and blamed it on our short attention spans. Imagine a skillfully constructed airplane fuselage with wads of wrinkled tissue paper hanging off the tail. That’s the “designer” taking a nap face-down on his desk. (“Fuselage?” There’s a word we have not seen since the days of Willow Run!)

The custodian dumped a sweeping compound on the floor and pushed it around with a four-foot-wide dust mop in an effort to collect the dirt without sweeping the dust up into the air. The compound seemed to be a mix of reddish sawdust and some kind of sweet-smelling oil. When the custodian was on call with the “slop bucket,” that usually meant there was a “throw-up” somewhere and the corridor did not get dusted for another hour. Students could volunteer to dust for the custodian, but no one ever volunteered to slop the vomits - even though the wringer on the slop pail was great fun to play with. Throw-ups were a common - but still surprising - smell in the corridors. No matter what a sick kid had eaten earlier, it always smelled like a mixture of orange juice and tomato juice. Who do you know who has TWO glasses of juice for breakfast? Today, “throw-up” is a term used by graffiti artists. Vomits are just called vomits now.

When contractors repaired the school’s roof, we collected their droppings and chewed on tasty chunks of warm, black tar. The flavor was a lot like Beeman’s Pepsin chewing gum and the blackness made our teeth look whiter.

Gym lockers gave us the worst and probably most memorable smells. In the days when only women used deodorants, we brought our own towels to school. Some days there were only two or three “acceptable” towels available from donors in gym class, and that was enough to convince most athletes to take theirs home for washing. Long after our gym clothes were washed, the mildew smell remained since not everyone had the same tolerance level for the stench of moldy towels, shorts, shirts and jock straps. It seems the acrid odor had seeped into the steel of the lockers, never to dissipate.

Orange peelings left over from lunch could be placed in the bottom of a gym locker to mask the smell of athletic appurtenances, but they had to be removed after two weeks - or the fruit flies made their presence known to the coach. We were surprised to see that orange turned to dark green in two weeks and most of the smell was gone by the time that green color appeared.

Milk cartons didn’t seem to have much smell about them at first, but if kept in the back of your desk with a few inches of liquid in them for a week or so, they soon joined the other mysteries of that dark space as beacons to direct you to your overdue homework.

Dixie cups were a much anticipated school treat and, when the ice cream was gone, it was still satisfying to keep sucking on the tiny lozenge-shaped wooden spoon that had been stuck to the top of the original product. If you were able to save the spoon until the bus ride home in the afternoon, it was a clear signal to everyone else that your class had a treat… and perhaps they didn’t. Not much flavor was left three hours after the ice cream was gone, but the wet wood had a naturalistic and subtle flavor that lasted long into the day.

Some of the most exotic smells came from our four-hundred-year-old virgin Latin teacher, Miss Virginia Dowdy. On warm days she emitted a tangy sour-milk smell. That was the signal to take up a collection for her annual Christmas present: a blue glass vial of Evening-in-Paris perfume. The larger bottle would last until near the end of second semester as Miss D slathered the not-too-subtle hints of a continental lifestyle across her entire torso.

The high school social studies teacher smelled equally wonderful. Mr. Schaeffer wore the most intriguing tan leather sport coat––often with a Real Bow Tie (not the clip-on kind). Leaning over his desk with a question, a student could get close enough to smell the leather and maybe even briefly touch the softness of the former bovine. Such brave and intimate inspection also reinforced the suspicion of other smells coming from this dapper professor: tiny bits of Sen Sen tried (unsuccessfully) to hide the fact that he smoked in the boiler room between classes, and Listerine antiseptic sometimes dribbled from the corners of his mouth. Schaeffer kept a big bottle of the volatile mouthwash in his largest desk drawer and, as there was no sink in which to spit it out, he swallowed it. He was always in his best mood for the class that met the first hour after lunch. One big bottle usually lasted a week.

Similarly, the Home Economics staffer sipped on the giant-size bottle of vanilla extract. She was one smart cookie and always jolly and friendly.

School students of an earlier age could literally “follow their noses” to a more sensory education. Maybe we could apply for a grant to open a new charter school to reinvigorate the “stinky education” we experienced before standardized testing took the senses out of learning.

Addendum by Robert Fox: “Oh yeah, and I remember the smell of the asphalt playground. Seemed like there was always some kid four years older than me who thought I needed another taste. The Catholic school paved the playground so it could be used as a parking lot on Sunday - and there was less mud tracked around. And then there was blood - so much blood. You see, I didn't like fighting, but I was big for my age and someone was always thinking I'd be a good foil for testing manhood. I had a rock jaw, but a glass nose - just a touch and my nose would gush. It became a deterrent. Those bullies with white shirts and ties - as soon as my nose bleed started, I'd grab the assailant and hug them - making certain as much of their white shirt turned scarlet red as possible. They looked gut-shot and I'd spend the remainder of the day with a head full of blood clots draining down my throat. Then there was the taste of dirty, salty snowballs. They stung twice, like a razor burn when they hit you in the face, and later when we got the paddle for throwing them.”

Scratched onto the upper-left-hand side of the chalkboard, outlined and labeled “Save” would be the daily vocabulary list with the notice “They’re going to be on the final exam.” So, if you are up to it here is your list!

Today’s vocabulary list:
Aroma, Bouquet, Fetor, Fragrance, Funk, Odor, Odorus, Odoriferous or Odiferous, Redolence, Reek, Scent, Stink, Whiff. “They’re going to be on the final exam.”

(Tom Dodd is a retired teacher, historian and author and is a regular contributor to the Gleanings. He is also the author and editor of the Depot Town Rag.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: A typical early classroom with wooden floors, slate blackboards, oak trim moldings, and windows that actually opened.

Photo 2: Every day we would have a new vocabulary list on the blackboard.

Photo 3: Gym lockers gave us the worst and probably most memorable smells.

Ida Bourgdoff Goes Missing!

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2010,
Fall 2010
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

Ida Bourgdoff, a 13 year old girl in the care of the John Dawson family of Oakwood Street, went missing on the evening of Saturday, October 28, 1905. She had been in the care of the Dawson family since they had taken her in from the state school at Coldwater in July of 1904. Ida had no mother and her father failed to provide for her. For a time she stayed with her aunt, Mrs. Lewis Hartzell, of Vicksburg, and it was she who placed Ida in the school at Coldwater.

On the evening of Saturday, October 28, between 5:30 and 6:00 pm, Ida asked Mrs. Dawson if she had time to comb her hair before supper. Permission was granted and Ida went to her room. At this time she was wearing a faded dark blue skirt, an old dark waist and high black shoes. When Ida failed to appear at supper a search was made, and she was found to be missing. At first it was thought she had left in her working clothes, but it later developed she had appropriated a dress of Mrs. Dawsons and other clothing to match. She took with her a pocketbook containing $10, which was all the money in the house.

“Mr. Dawson, who was at the barn, noticed a young man, tall, smooth faced, without overcoat, sauntering past the house, but as it was nearly dark, paid little attention. A neighbor says the girl came out and spoke to this man, went back into the house, but did not notice what she did next,” reported The Ann Arbor Daily Times of Tuesday, October 31, 1905. The man continued to walk down the street.

“She is very much afraid of the dark and no hand to be out at night,” noted The Ann Arbor Daily Argus of Monday, October 30, 1905. “The girl is large for her age, has brown hair and is rather awkward.”

After leaving the house, Ida had made her way to Ann Arbor, where she went shopping. There she purchased a hat adorned with wings and feathers. From Ann Arbor she made her way to Detroit, where she engaged a room at a hotel and spent the night. She left the hotel on Sunday, bought a newspaper, and spent her time perusing the news of the day.

“Monday morning she started on another shopping tour. She purchased a $2.50 doll, a remnant of silk and fancy shawl to dress it,” reported The Ann Arbor Daily Argus of Tuesday, October 31, 1905. That evening she boarded the interurban for Ann Arbor, but her ticket was only for Ypsilanti. At Ypsilanti she tried to purchase a ticket for Ann Arbor. “Her absurd appearance attracted attention and it was supposed she was crazy. An officer was sent for and she was taken to police headquarters, where after a session in the sweat box the officers declared she could tell more lies faster than anyone who had occupied that position in a long time,” noted The Ypsilanti Daily Press of Tuesday, October 31, 1905.

“When Officer Ryan took the girl in tow she presented an odd enough figure,” continued The Ypsilanti Daily Press. “The gown she wore was several sizes too large while her hat was old enough for a woman of 50. A white silk tie about her neck completed her appearance, although the manner of donning the dress was, if modish, decidedly new to Ypsilanti. The fact that she was not equipped with a belt and that the waist was outside instead of inside the skirt may have had something to do with her recherché appearance.”

Ida said the young man she had been seen talking to was the boy with the papers, and as far as could be learned she was telling the truth.

Her possessions, listed by The Ypsilanti Daily Press, at this time included the hat she had purchased, the doll, a white shawl, two and a half yards of silk for a waist, some ribbons, a pair of golf gloves, and a set of three handsome combs. Ida also had one nickel and a ticket to Ann Arbor.

“Mr. Dawson said this morning to a Daily Press representative that the girl would be sent back to Coldwater or wherever the state agent decided, as it is entirely too expensive a luxury for him to keep her.”

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

(Editors Note: Coldwater was primarily an institution for the mentally retarded. What makes this story sad is that it appears she was made an object of humor. People had very little understanding of various mental disabilities at that time.)

The Ypsilanti Phantom Prowler

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2010,
Fall 2010
Original Images:

Author: George Ridenour

Among the long forgotten menaces to public safety in Ypsilanti during the years 1935 thru 1940 was a series of serial burglaries! At the time the burglar was known as “The Phantom Prowler” or “The Prowler.” He was so feared that many thought he might have murdered Richard Streicher in March of 1935. He was thought to be living in Ypsilanti or at least to be someone well known in the “neighborhoods” where the burglaries were committed. The problem with this theory is that the break-ins occurred all over Ypsilanti in both black and white neighborhoods.

Stories from the State Police files of 1935-40 and the Ypsilanti Press from that era provide a flavor of what the Phantom Prowler was all about, including what and who he targeted!

July 15, 1939 – State Police File: “Home of Harry Bland, S. Huron & Stony Creek Road. Entered by cutting the screen and opening a window sometime during the night. $12.00 taken from Bland’s trousers, $2.00 from Mrs. Bland’s purse. Trousers were in bedroom where Mr. & Mrs. Bland were asleep and were found in the bathroom in the morning and the light was on. Thief left by the front door leaving it open. Bland found print of a small bare foot under window entered.”

March 15, 1940 – State Police File: “An early morning prowler was $2.00 richer today as the result of a 6:30 am forage in the Rollen Casselberry home, 132 Bell Street. He entered through a cellar window, went to the first and second floors, ransacked drawers and escaped with the money from Mr. Casselberry’s trousers which were on the first floor. A young girl, 13 years old, who was asleep on the second floor, said she saw the burglar and described him as heavy set, six feet tall, wearing a mask and a gray cap.”

July 15, 1940 – Ypsilanti Press: “Prowler Enters Ridenour Home: Home of Mr. & Mrs. Glenn Ridenour of 322 Miles Street was entered between 8:00 and 9:00 pm Saturday evening the thief ransacking the buffet, and a writing desk, and escaping with $5.00 found in a purse. The Ridenour’s had been away during the evening and had left the children with a neighbor girl. She left the home for about an hour, leaving the doors unlocked. It was during that time that the thief enteree.”

Statistics shown in the files of the Michigan State Police indicate the following crime statistics during the years 1935-1940 for the City of Ypsilanti:

  • 61 Prowler Incidents
  • 141 Burglaries
  • 6 Purse Snatchings
  • 4 Window Peepers

The Phantom Prowler was described by Officer R. Klavitter in an office report as follows:
“Imaginary Description of the Phantom Prowler: After a lengthy investigation and from various contacts with victims of the phantom prowler I have arrived at the following description. He is a colored man, medium brown, about 22 years old, 5’ 10” to 6’ tall, weighing about 160 pounds, athletically built, a fast, smooth runner, wears a gray cap part of the time and operates bare handed. He usually works in a medium colored jacket and medium colored trousers. His footwear has been sneakers, tennis shoes, a Kresge composition sole and a hard heel pointed shoe size 9 or 10. He wore rubbers on some of his jobs last winter. I must add that he has worn a gray suit part of the time.”

Another description taken from an unknown Michigan State Police Officer that was published in the Ypsilanti Post: “John Doe: age 21, 5’ 11”tall, weighing 145-155. Light brown skin Negro with medium brown short, curly hair. Has athletic build and is a fast runner, quick action on his feet. Walks with a cat like glide of swiftness. Usually wears gray clothes and cap. Sometimes wears dark trousers and light colored shirt. Has been known to wear rough jacket or sweater. Voice low with pleasant, southern drawl. Slow spoken.”

The Phantom Prowler passed into the mists of Ypsilanti history after 1940 as is the case with many unsolved crimes. No one was ever arrested. No one was ever charged. He remains a phantom 65 to 70 years later.

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

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