A History of the Cleary Family in Ypsilanti

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
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Author: Patrick Roger Cleary II

Ypsilanti welcomed a new era on October 8, 1883 when an ambitious and talented twenty-five year old Irish immigrant opened a school of penmanship in Ypsilanti and created an institution that continues to thrive today, 133 years later.

Our story begins in 1858 in the town of Borrisokane, Tipperary County, Ireland. A fifth child was born to Roday and Julia Cleary who they named Patrick Roger. Patrick’s parents were poor. Roday was a stockman on a large farm owned by the Marquise Tuthill, an Englishman. Julia worked in the farmhouse and they lived in a two-room thatch roofed cottage on the farm property.

Patrick’s father and mother died about 6 or 7 years after he was born. The dates and causes of their deaths were never revealed to our family. His older siblings had migrated to the United States earlier and had settled in various places in Michigan. After their parents died, the Tuthills took in Patrick and his younger sister Annie. Since the Tuthills were English, the children were able to continue their education in the English School that was not open to Irish children at that time.

In 1869, when Patrick was eleven, their older siblings sent for him and his sister Annie. They brought them to the United States where they settled in Hubbardston, Michigan. Hubbardston, a hamlet of less than 400 people today, is located in Ionia County not far from Lansing.

Patrick was an astute and industrious young man. He continued his schooling until he was fourteen and then went to work in a shingle mill for two years. He saved the money he earned while working and later returned to school where he completed high school in two years at age nineteen. Patrick Roger preferred being called P.R. or P. Roger rather than his given name due to the anti-Irish sentiment of the times.

After graduating from the Sheridan school, he entered the Northern Indiana Normal College (now Valparaiso, University) where he studied for a year before enrolling in the Spencerian Institute in Cleveland where he received his diploma in penmanship. Although the first typewriters came on the market in 1874, Spencerian script remained the standard in business well into the new century.

From his attendance at these institutions he formed his basic principles of education; learn in the same environment where the individual will be working; provide a rounded education to includeEnglish, mathematics and civics; afford the student a social environment.

Early on he had discovered that he had a wonderful talent in not only penmanship but also in drawing. Possessed of an entrepreneurial spirit and equipped with this talent, he saw that he could make a living by teaching penmanship. Returning to Hubbardston in 1880, he began teaching classes in this valuable skill in many towns in southern Michigan. Towns such as Ovid, Albion, St Johns and Fowlerville saw advertising bills and notices in newspapers citing classes in penmanship to be given by P.R. Cleary. His efforts proved lucrative and he enjoyed teaching.

By 1883 he had decided that Ypsilanti was where he would start a school of penmanship. Ypsilanti at that time was a bustling and prosperous city with 15 factories manufacturing a variety of products and enjoying a cultural environment with an opera house and a conservatory of music.

He opened his school in the second story of the Warden block on the corner of Huron and Congress (soon to become Michigan Avenue) Street. His first students were the three Babbitt sisters, daughters of Judge and Mrs. Babbitt. The October 13, 1883 edition of the Ypsilanti Commercial observed, “such a school was much needed.”

He was precise and demanding of his students. But as he continued to advertise his enrollment increased quickly and he moved his classes to the Union Block on the north side of Michigan Avenue between Washington and Adams Streets. He commenced holding both day and evening classes as well as acquiring a position as professor of penmanship at the Normal College at a salary of $50.00 per month.

In 1887 P.R. realized that his school was growing so rapidly that he must have a new building and purchased land on the northwest corner of Adams and Michigan Avenue for $2,200.

The highlight of 1887 for P.R. was that he met Helen Clarke Jenks, a very pretty twenty-two year old from St. Clair, MI. She was a cousin of Mrs. Scherzer and was visiting in Ypsilanti. P.R. was smitten with this pretty young lady and began a correspondence with her. By 1889, he had proposed to her and she had accepted. They were married in St. Clair in June 1889. The wedding surprised the Ypsilanti residents since they had considered P.R. as a most eligible bachelor and he had given no indication that marriage was imminent. The newlyweds left immediately after the wedding for a month long honeymoon in Europe.

For the next fifty years Helen Cleary was to be P.R.’s confidant, enthusiast and co-worker in the expansion of Cleary College. Her participation would provide great enrichment in the lives of thousands of young men and women who attended the College.

P.R. begin construction of the new building in 1889. Although it was not completed until 1891, he began to hold classes in rooms that had been completed. The building cost $20,000. P.R. received much support from Ypsilanti businessmen and raised over $10,000 in donations. He took out a mortgage for the balance. Carved into the capstone at the entrance to the building were the words “Cleary Business College.”

The next year, P.R. incorporated the college under state law. Earlier he had begun delivering courses in penmanship in Toledo, OH. He found that the man he had hired to deliver these courses was dishonest and had taken money from him. Thus, he was concerned that a lawsuit would impact his family and the way to protect them was to incorporate.

Tragedy struck on Wednesday evening April 12, 1893. The atmosphere was very heavy and humid and there were thunderstorms in the area. P. R. and Helen were sitting in the living room of their home on Forest Avenue holding their two children on their laps when a man banged on the door and said “Mr. Cleary, the college is gone.” P.R. raced out of the house and ran to the college to find that a cyclone had struck and knocked the roof of the turret from the building besides knocking out the east wall.

The next day, after surveying the damage, he posted signs on the wrecked building saying “classes will resume in all branches of work on Monday, April 17th.” This was a demonstration of his courage and determination. The college was soon repaired at a cost of $7,000.

During this period he formed a close relationship with J.L. Hudson of the J.L Hudson Department store in Detroit. Hudson had shown him how to figure profit. Business textbooks at the time taught that profit should be figured on cost. For instance, if a merchant bought an item for $6.00 and wanted to sell it for a gross profit of 33 1/3 %, he was actually making only 25%. Hudson stressed that profit should be figured on sale, not on cost. P.R said, “I had to work to get my teachers to se that profit should be figured on sale, not on cost and also that expense should be figured on sale.”

He established a practice of visiting businesses to help them set up a bookkeeping system which allowed him to keep abreast of business practices, place students in jobs and kept him aware of salaries in the marketplace. With this experience, he published his first book, How to Figure Profit in 1900 which was published by the Huron Press that was owned by the Cleary’s.

P.R. continued to expand his course offerings including accounting, shorthand and typing. In the secretarial studies curriculum, P.R. required all students to take dictation from him before they could graduate.

By the end of the decade, P.R. and Helen had had four children born to them; Charles Brooks Cleary in 1890; Marjory Julia Cleary in 1892, Ruth Marie Cleary in 1894 and Owen Jenks Cleary in 1900. In 1905, P.R. moved his family from the house on Forest Avenue, where all the children had been born, to 7 N. Normal St., a house that had been built in 1848 by the Smith family. It was a large, four-bedroom, Georgian style, house which had an upper front porch with wooden scrollwork forming the railing giving it a “New Orleans” appearance.

In 1912, Cleary College and the Michigan State Normal College formed a joint program where high school business teachers would study education subjects at the Normal College and business subjects at Cleary. He did this in collaboration with Charles McKenny, President of the Normal College. All the Cleary children attended Ypsilanti High School with Charles, the oldest going on to Cleary College and then the University of Michigan. Marjory attended Cleary College, the Michigan State Normal College and the University of Michigan. Ruth followed suit, attending the same institutions. Owen attended the Michigan State Normal College for one year prior to entering the U.S. Army.

When the U.S. entered World War One, all the Cleary children took part in the war effort. In 1917 Charles was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Marjory and Ruth traveled to Washington, DC where they found work at the War Industries Board. In 1918 Owen was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U. S. Army. He was one of the youngest 2nd Lieutenants in the Army at that time.

Charles saw action in France in 1918, but Owen remained stateside and was stationed at Camp Perry, OH as a small arms instructor. The girls returned to Ypsilanti in early 1919.

Early in the decade of 1920’s Charles Cleary moved to Florida and became engaged in real estate activities. He married May Weaver of St. Petersburg, FL. The couple subsequently had three children, Patricia, Thomas and Anita Joyce. Charles left Florida and returned to Michigan in 1933 where he became Director of Admissions at Cleary College.

Marjory married Arthur McKenny, son of Charles McKenny who was the President of the Michigan State Normal College. Arthur had been awarded a degree in Mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1916 and subsequently entered the Army and saw action in France. He later was an engineer and manager for the Chevrolet Company and the couple lived in Detroit. They had two boys, Charles, born in 1920 and Owen in 1925. Both subsequently served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Ruth moved to Riverside, IL where she taught business and bookkeeping at Riverside High School where she was also head of the commercial department. In 1958 she retired after 40 years of teaching and returned to Ypsilanti to live out her life.

Owen Cleary was discharged from the Army in 1919 and returned to attend Cleary College until 1920 and then entered the Michigan State Normal College. He received his teachers certificate in 1922 and then attended the University of Michigan. He received his BA degree in 1925. He then entered the University of Detroit Law School and graduated in 1931 being conferred with a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. Owen J. Cleary married Marie DeWaele in 1929. Catherine Ann Cleary was born in 1930 and Patrick Roger Cleary II was born in 1934.

Cleary College kept on growing and by 1925 the college had 325 students enrolled. It had reached some prominence when it was announced that other Michigan educational institutions were giving credit to their students for courses taken at Cleary. Among those institutions crediting Cleary courses were The University of Michigan and the Normal College.

With the depression in full swing in 1933, Ypsilanti was significantly affected. By now the college was 50 years old and P.R. wanted to ensure that it would continue in perpetuity. Thus all assets were turned over to a Board of Trustees. In late 1933 the Board met and P.R. Cleary was elected president, Helen Cleary was vice president, Irene Hines was secretary and Owen J. Cleary was treasurer.

As P. R. Cleary stated in the 1940’s, “we started with three charter members and the membership of the board has grown with current membership at 18. Prominent among board members were Daniel L. Quirk Sr., Donald M. Silkworth of Ypsilanti and Cecil Billington of Detroit.

In 1938, P. R. took a six-week trip to Ireland and England, the first time he had seen his homeland in 40 years. He had planned to take his wife Helen, but she was in ill health and instead took his daughter Ruth.

In 1938, Owen Cleary was admitted to the University of Michigan hospital with acute stomach ulcers and underwent a partial gastric resection. He incurred a serious infection and almost died, but recovered and was released after spending eleven months in the hospital.

A year later Helen Jenks Cleary passed away in December 1939. She had suffered from heart problems and had been in declining health for several years. P.R. decided to retire in 1940 and the Board of Trustees appointed Owen J. Cleary president of Cleary College.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, Owen attempted to go on active duty with his National Guard unit but his medical condition prevented him from activating his commission. Governor Harry Kelley then appointed Owen Chief Air raid /Warden for the State and then Major in the newly organized Michigan State Troops, a militia to replace the National Guard. Since Owen was now on active duty, P.R. resumed the Presidency of Cleary College.

Owen was promoted to Colonel and assumed command of the 31st Infantry Regiment, Michigan State Troops at the Brush Street Armory in Detroit where he was stationed until the end of the war. In August 1945, Owen was promoted to Brigadier General and was charged by the governor to reorganize the Michigan National Guard. He officially retired from the Michigan State Troops in January 1947.

Charles Cleary worked at the Ford Willow Run Bomber Plant during the war and following the war moved to La Mesa, CA to re-enter the real estate business. Charles died in 1958. His children continued to live in St. Petersburg, Fl. Patty Cleary married Larry Baynard. Tommy Cleary served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II and saw action on Guadalcanal in the south Pacific. His battalion received the Presidential Unit Citation for heroism in battle. He died in 1963. Joyce Cleary lived in Atlanta and passed away shortly after Tommy.

Marjory Cleary McKenny’s son Charles graduated from Albion College in 1942 and served in the Army during WW II. In 1947 he married Mary Louise Whitney of Toledo, OH. She had served in the Navy during WW II as an officer. Both graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1948 and began practicing law in Toledo. They had three children, Thomas born in 1949, Arthur in 1951 and Anne Elizabeth in 1957. Later Anne and her mother would become very involved with Cleary College as substantial donors.

Marjory’s second son, Owen Cleary McKenny, graduated from Michigan State University in 1954 and went on to become an engineer and manager with General Motors. He married June Faber after graduating and the couple had four children; Gail, Gerald, Stephen and Mark. Owen served on the Cleary College Board of Trustees for a number of years and was on the search committee for former president of Cleary College, Tom Sullivan.

By 1946, Owen had resumed the presidency of Cleary College and returned to his law practice. He ran for the office of Lieutenant Governor on the Republican ticket that fall but was unsuccessful. With Owen reassuming the presidency, P.R. Cleary retired again and began work on a history of Cleary College. He remained active until 1948 when just 3 months past his 90th birthday he suffered a stroke and passed away. He is buried next to his wife Helen in Highland cemetery.

Owen was named to the Michigan Liquor Commission in 1947 by then Governor Kim Sigler. One year later assumed the Chairmanship of the Republican Party of Michigan, a position he retained until 1952 when he was elected Secretary of State of Michigan. During this period Owen had named Walter Grieg Vice-President of Cleary College. Walter handled the day-to-day operations of the college.

Following his term as Secretary of State, he returned to his law practice and the College. By this time, Donald M. Silkworth, a long time Trustee and supporter of the College had commenced a fundraising program for a new campus to be located at the northeast corner of Washtenaw and Hewitt Roads.

Tragically In 1956, while in Florida, Owen fell and injured his neck. He endured but was in constant pain and his doctors did not recommend surgery. He continued his work as president of Cleary College as well as pursuing his law practice. His health was waning, but he continued to work toward erecting the new campus and the cornerstone was laid in early 1960. On September 10, 1960, Owen J. Cleary passed away from renal failure and Donald Silkworth was named president. Thus ended the seventy-seven year tradition of a Cleary as president of Cleary College.

With the new building holding classes in 1961, enrollment began increasing and by the mid-1960’s, it was over 1400 and Cleary College was offering 146 classes. But, in 1965, Washtenaw Community College opened and Cleary enrollment began to decline. Because it was a publicly funded institution, tuition at WCC was less than at Cleary and by 1978, enrollment stood at 459.

With college enrollment dropping steeply, in 1978 the Cleary Board of Trustees named Gilbert Bursley President. Bursley, a former state senator and U.S. Congressman increased fund raising, modernized college equipment and opened the Livingston campus in 1979. Under Bursley’s leadership, enrollment began to increase and by 1980, stood at 765.

Following Owen’s death, Marie Cleary, with her characteristic grit and courage, embarked on a mission to complete her teaching degree that she accomplished by 1964. She followed this up by completing her Masters degree the following year and commenced a second career as a guidance counselor at West Junior High School.

In 1973 Marie married Jess Mangas whom she had known since 1941, when he and his then wife Mildred rented an apartment at the house on 7 N. Normal. Jess had worked at the Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn for many years. He and Mildred moved from 7 N. Normal in 1953 to a new home at 1310 W. Cross St. Jess retired from Ford in 1964, and following Mildred’s death, began courting Marie. Shortly thereafter, Marie and Jess moved to Sarasota, FL where Marie had a home that she and Owen has purchased in 1958.

Owen and Marie’s daughter Ann attended Roosevelt High School and the University of Michigan graduating in 1952. In 1953 Ann married Patrick Heck of Toledo and had four children, Teresa, Catherine Ann, Patrick and Maria. In March 1975 Ann divorced Patrick Heck.

On March 14, 1977 she married Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Kettles (a corporate merger with net assets of 10 children). Ann had known Chuck since her high school days when he was living next door. Chuck was drafted for the Korean War in October 1951 after completing two years at Michigan State Normal college. He completed Officer Candidate training at Fort Knox, KY and the Army flight Training program before being assigned to Korea. He achieved a distinguished record as an officer and Army aviator being awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in combat in Vietnam.

The Kettles family have truly been pillars of the Ypsilanti community, for Eastern Michigan University (EMU), Cleary University, Washtenaw Community College and Washtenaw Technical Middle College (Charter School).

Ann Cleary Kettles began working at EMU in September 1972. Her excellent organizational and leadership abilities were recognized and she rapidly advanced from secretary in the Nursing Department to becoming Director of Records, Registration and Academic Advising in early 1990, a position she held until her retirement in January 1996. She also served on the Board of Trustees of the Washtenaw Community College for over 12 years and Chair of the Board for the last four years of her service. She served on the initial board for the Charter School created under the Washtenaw Community College and on the Board of the Red Cross of Washtenaw County.

She began serving as a Trustee of Cleary College in March of 1985 and retired as a Trustee Emeritus in 2003. Ann suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in October of 2001 at the age of 71 that left her paralyzed on the right side. With the determination that has been her “hall mark,” she continued to serve on three of the boards for over two years before accepting the fact that it was no longer practical.

Chuck served on the Ypsilanti City council for four years. Further, he developed and implemented the Aviation Management Program in the College of Technology, Eastern Michigan University that continues to graduate students in Management and Flight. He was instrumental in establishing a scholarship in the name of Capt. Robert Arvin, USA which provided over $110,000 to deserving students over the ten year period of the Foundation. The program continues as an endowed Scholarship in honor of Bob Arvin, a graduate of Ypsilanti High School and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. Arvin lost his life in Vietnam after having earned two Silver Star medals for heroism.

Patrick Cleary II attended Roosevelt High Schools and the University of Michigan and received his B.S degree in 1956. he entered the U.S. Navy Flight Training later that year. He married Wilma Louise Stiltner in 1957 and was designated a naval aviator in 1958.

Pat and Wilma had two sons, Patrick Roger Cleary III in 1962 and Michael Jenks Cleary in 1964. During Pat’s 24 years of service with the U.S. Navy, their family lived in the Far East including Guam, Japan and the Philippine Islands. They also were stationed in San Diego and San Jose, CA, Lexington Park, MD and Washington, DC. While living on Guam, Wilma taught school and in Japan she taught English to Japanese doctors.

Following his retirement from the Navy in 1980 as a Captain, Pat was employed by Litton Industries and retired as a Vice-President and General Manager of the Warfare systems Division. After Pat’s retirement, Wilma opened a boutique in Alexandria, VA, successfully operating it until she retired in 1991. After she retired, she and Pat traveled extensively in Europe, Canada and the U.S. Wilma passed away in September 2015.

Patrick Roger Cleary III graduated from The College of William and Mary in 1984 and also became a naval aviator. He retired in 2013 as a Captain. He married Annemarie Dinardo in 1989 and they have two daughters, Emma, 22 and Erin, 17.

Michael Cleary graduated from James Madison University in 1987 and went to work with the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). He married Ellen Grube in 1990 and they have three children; Bridget, 20, and twins, Owen J. Cleary II and Dana, 16. Michael eventually transferred from ONI to the Defense Intelligence Agency where he is currently a senior executive.

In the three decades from 1980 to 2010 Cleary College saw many milestones achieved including accreditation as a university, a high ranking among specialty colleges and being ranked as the second best value education in the state of Michigan just behind the University of Michigan’s extension campus in Dearborn.

Today, two of P.R’s. and Helen’s descendants continue to be involved with the Cleary institution. Anne McKenny, a software engineer and manager for General Motors, was named to the Cleary College Board of Trustees in 1990. She continues as the longest sitting member on the Board and one of the University’s most significant donors. Patrick Roger Cleary II is also deeply involved with Cleary University, having been on the Board of Trustees since 2003. He has now been named as the vice-Chairman of the Board.

(Patrick Roger Cleary II has served on the Board of Trustees of Cleary University since 2003 and was recently named Vice-Chairman of the Board.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The original Cleary College building in 1893. This picture was taken in circa 1905.

Photo 2: The two-room thatch roofed cottage where Patrick Roger Cleary‘s parents lived in Ireland in 1858 when Patrick Roger was born. The picture was taken in 1938, 39 years after Patrick Roger left Ireland for the United States.

Photo 3: Patrick Roger Cleary at age 25.

Photo 4: Patrick Roger Cleary started teaching penmanship in many towns in southern Michigan in 1880.

Photo 5: Cleary included handwriting samples in this 1883 newspaper ad.

Photo 6: The cyclone that struck in Ypsilanti on April 12, 1893 did severe damage to the newly constructed Cleary College building.

Photo 7: By the end of the decade, Patrick Roger and Helen had had four children born to them; (L to R) Marjory Julia in 1892, Ruth Marie in 1894, Mother Helen, Owen Jenks in 1900, and Charles Brooks in 1890.

Photo 8: Donald Silkworth and Owen Cleary at the cornerstone laying ceremony in 1960.

Photo 9: The Cleary College building that was located on the Northwest corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Hewitt Road in Ypsilanti.

Providing for the Family During the Great Depression: An interview with Virginia Davis-Brown

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Eric Selzer

Virginia Davis Brown has been active with the Ypsilanti Historical Society since 1980. She has served as a volunteer and been a member of the Board of Trustees for over four decades. She was born in Washtenaw County in 1925 and grew up in the 1930s, during the height of the Great Depression. Last autumn, Mrs. Davis-Brown discussed some of her most vivid childhood memories in a tape-recorded interview that is currently on file in the Society Archives in conjunction with an ongoing oral-history project.

Virginia, could you tell me a little bit about your home life experience?

My dad, Frank Jr., was a builder and worked on several buildings in the Ypsilanti area. He helped build the Huron Hotel. He was not wealthy, but had enough that we could build a house. So he bought property out on Michigan Avenue near Hewitt Road and built a house, never completing it, because when the depression came the banks closed and there was no money. He had absolutely no money, no job, and did not work for two years. He had children to keep fed and warm ... And so, we had to grow our own vegetables, our own food. We always had chickens, so we always had eggs. My dad went hunting almost every day for food and he would come home with squirrels and rabbits and raccoons and my mother, Helen, would can them. There were not that many deer in this area ... but the everyday things were the rabbits and the squirrels and the raccoons. And my mother would can anything that he brought home, so we would have enough food to carry us through in the winter, because there was no money
for food. There was no way of getting [food] except walking the two miles into Ypsi to buy the necessary things that we could not raise on our own.

There also were men who walked up Michigan Avenue coming from Chicago and going to Detroit that had no food and they would stop at certain houses. My mother always had an egg sandwich for them and they always said, “thank you,” and wanted to help. Sometimes they’d see if they could help do something around the house to pay for what they had received and then they would continue on their way. They always said, “thank you.” They were always very, very polite. My dad eventually lost the house. He borrowed money on it and was not able to pay it back and so they foreclosed and we had to move.

What sort of attempts did your father make to find employment during those two years?

Well, he tried a lot of different places, but there were just no jobs for anybody. The government was just starting with the Works Progress Administration and he did apply for that, but did not take it. He was a builder and so if he was not out hunting, he was out collecting willow and made furniture. He had a few nails and we had all kinds of furniture. He sold some, but not much because not many people had money. But he was very, very busy trying to keep up with the garden. And we had to grow enough food to carry us through the winter. We would buy flour, so we would have flour enough to carry us through in the winter to make bread and biscuits and other things that we would need the flour for. We made all of our own bread. We had no idea what it was to have bought bread.

An Ypsilantis in Ypsilanti

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Michael Gute

The Ypsilanti Historical Society had the honor of receiving Dr. Tena Ipsilantis Katsaounis and her parents, the Ypsilantises. Yes, you read that correctly. Tena’s father, Haralambos Ypsilantis, is a descendant of the Ypsilantis Family from Greece. He and his wife were in the United States visiting Tena, who resides in Ohio.

In 1825, Judge A. B. Woodward donated a large area of land used to form the Original Plat of Ypsilanti, Michigan. It was Woodward, who named Ypsilanti in honor of celebrated Greek General, Demetrius Ypsilantis.

During their visit the Ypsilantis family visited the YHS Archives and spent considerable time reviewing documents in our family files. Many of the documents they reviewed were Ypsilantis family-related documents that they had never seen. After the family left, Kelly Beattie our archive intern, spent several hours copying documents and then mailed them to the family in Ohio. Haralambos will return to Greece with a little more family history, and the experience of visiting the city that boasts his famous family’s name. The world is not so big, after all.

(Michael Gute is enrolled in the Graduate Program in Historical Preservation at Eastern Michigan University and is serving an internship at the YHS Museum.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Haralambos Ypsilantis is a member of the Ypsilantis Family from Greece and a descendant of Demetrius Ypsilantis, the individual that the City of Ypsilanti is named after.

Primitive Open Hearth Trammel

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Peter Diehr

(The Trammel with hooks and chain were found on the old Kelly Farm at 6170 Whittaker Road in Ypsilanti Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan)

Our neighbors found this rusty old chain with three hooks near the old barn of the former Kelly farm. It was clearly hand-forged from old-style wrought iron by a blacksmith. It is a Hearth Trammel:  “An adjustable pothook that was used to hang cooking pots over the fire at different heights. The cook could adjust and lock the trammel into different lengths, thereby controlling the temperature.” This one was made to hang from a beam up inside of a great hearth.

This trammel has three hooks. The largest is on the end of the grab bar and will be hung from the support. The other two are at the opposite ends of the short bar at the hanging end of the chain. The smaller hook can be used to adjust the length of the chain, while the final hook is for hanging the pot.

It probably dates from the earliest days of the Kelly homestead, as cooking was an everyday activity! It would have been relegated to the summer kitchen after a major enlargement and renovation of the house in 1860, when they probably installed a box stove. It was removed to the barn when the farmstead was renovated in 1940.

The founder of the Kelly farm, John Peter Kelly (formerly Köhli) (1780-1829) left Switzerland after the Napoleonic Wars, bringing his family to Philadelphia in 1818. Later, while working on the Erie Canal at Lockport, NY, he met Lyman Graves. When their work was done in the spring of 1825 they came to Ypsilanti Township and took up land near today’s Textile and Whittaker roads. John Peter was a formally trained blacksmith, and the family story is that he started the first blacksmith shop in the area by burning out an old stump for a forge pit.

So John Peter probably made the hearth trammel to fit the great hearth of his new home; or it may have been his son, Christian Kelly (1809-1869), as the house was enlarged over the next few years. Christian married in 1833 and he and his wife raised a large family. Christian was trained in blacksmithing by his father, and there are entries in his cash journal from 1866 for straightening plow shares and sharpening saws.

The “rusty chain” was partially restored by removing the heavy rust without damaging the existing metal or finish, by means of electrolysis.

(Peter Diehr was raised on the family farm and remembers his great grandmother, Ella Youngs Kelly. His grandmother donated many items to the Ypsilanti Historical Society and he has continued the tradition by donating the hearth trammel. You may be able to see it soon, with an old iron pot, hanging in the YHS kitchen! Six generations lived on the old homestead between 1825 and 1975. The farmhouse is still standing.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Christian Kelly (1809-1869) and his wife, Sarah Ann Steers (1812-1893). These photographs taken about 1862 by Edwin P. Baker, Ypsilanti photographer.

Photo 2: Trammel after rust removal.

Photo 3: A demonstration, at Sauder Farm Ohio, of cooking over an open fire with a trammel to hold the pot.

Photo 4: Detail of the individually forged links connected to the grip bar which has been twisted.

Photo 5: Early blacksmith work by the Kelly family, John Peter or Christian c1825.

Figure 6: C. J. Kelly farm on E. Monroe, now Whittaker Road, from an 1873 Atlas.

Photo 7: Kelly farmhouse in 1938. The photo was taken by Harlan John (Foster) Diehr.

The Article I Never Wanted to Write

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Peg Porter

On April 8, 1955, I celebrated my 14th birthday. On April 12, four days later in Ann Arbor, just a few miles down the road, Dr. Thomas Francis and Dr. Jonas Salk announced the successful field trials of Salk's polio vaccine. This medical breakthrough signaled the beginning of the end of one of the most feared and destructive illnesses. Each summer brought new outbreaks of the polio virus. Its victims were primarily but not exclusively children. The announcement of an effective vaccine meant an almost immediate reduction in the number of polio cases. The demand for the vaccine in the first few years outstripped the supply. Age limits were placed to determine eligibility. Younger children were the primary target. If you happened to be a young teenager, your chances of being vaccinated were remote, to say the least.

The summer of 1955 was a hot one. Fortunately we had a cottage on Base Lake (aka Baseline Lake). My brother and I spent hours in the water, reluctantly returning to shore to eat. Mother sometimes made us lie down during the hottest part of the day but as soon as we could we went back in the water.

In early August my parents decided we should take a short road trip. My brother and I sat the in back seat of the family’s turquoise Plymouth Station wagon. Baby sister Jane stayed home watched over by her Granny from Canada. Off we went toward Niagara Falls, first on the U.S. side, finally to cross over to the Canadian side with its lovely gardens, tea rooms and the best view of the falls. We rode the Maid of the Mist before heading back west through Ontario. Dad pointed out the signs to Guelph where his Nova Scotian father attended agricultural college. We stopped in Stratford for lunch. The Shakespeare Festival was in its second year with all performances in a tent in the city park.

The last leg of the trip was up to Godrich, Ontario, a pretty town on the northern shores of Lake Huron. There was an old inn on a bluff above the lake. That was where we stayed. As soon as we could, my brother and I were in our bathing suits headed down to the beach and into the cold water. It certainly was cooler than Base Lake. Our swim was short as we had to dress for dinner, an experience mother used to reinforce etiquette. The following day we headed home to Dexter.

Less than two weeks later, I developed a tingling in my legs; by that evening I found myself struggling to go up and down the porch steps. The next morning when I got out of bed, I fell to the floor. My legs could not support me. The crash brought my parents to my room. I could not stand up and was lifted into bed. I heard my parents conferring. Dad was going to summon Dr. Al Milford who had a cottage at Portage Lake. We had no phone in those days. It wasn't long before Dad returned with Al. After a brief examination, I heard Dr. Milford say, "We must take her to University Hospital."

And so my mother made a bed of sorts in the backseat of the Plymouth station wagon. My father carried me out to the car. Off we headed for Dexter then on to Dexter Ann Arbor Road. My head was propped up by a pillow and I watched the familiar scenes flash by. Dr. Milford guided us to the Emergency Entrance. They did a spinal tap. That was the one sure way to diagnose the virus. The diagnosis was what we all expected - polio.

Then I was loaded into an ambulance for a trip down the hill behind the hospital. The Contagious Ward was housed in an old World War I cottage with screened in porches on all sides. If you saw the film "The English Patient" that is what it resembled. I was put in a small room, my body encased in sandbags. It was hot, no air conditioning not even a fan. Staff were gowned and gloved when they entered the room. Their visits were as short as possible. I could see my parents through a small window at the back of the room. This was isolation. My one human contact was the resident physician, a young man with a kind face who spoke with me as if I were a person, not merely a patient. One night I felt I was having trouble breathing. I asked for the doctor, the nurse resisted but finally relented. He came, calmed me down and stayed with me until I went to sleep.

After four days, I was put back in the ambulance, went up the hill to the main hospital to begin rehabilitation. My home for the next two and a half months was Ward 4-C. This was a noisy often raucous place that housed all of the patients who, like myself, had paralysis from polio and were undergoing rehabilitation. We were almost all teenagers and now that we were no longer "sick" did what teenagers do.

There was a TV mounted on the wall. That fall the Mickey Mouse Club made its debut. We watched faithfully and picked our favorites among the Mousketeers. In the evenings we listened to local DJ Ollie McLaughlin. At least once a week he dedicated a song to "my friends at 4-C." We had visits from some of the Michigan football players, including Ron Kramer who I thought was really good looking. We were indulged but for the most part this treatment kept the depression at bay that follows a traumatic illness or accident. That would come later.

Friendships developed in 4-C. Some would last beyond discharge from the hospital. My closest friends were Ellie, a freshman at the University of Michigan from New York, and Sarah, like me, a freshman in high school. She was from Manchester. My parents "adopted" Ellie who started referring to me as her "little sister." Both Sarah's parents and mine were regular visitors: they also supported each other. I was the most severely disabled and the last to leave the hospital. At one point four of us, my two friends and I plus another teenager named Joan, were moved to a women's surgical ward to reduce the overcrowding in 4-C. It was a typical hospital ward of the times, two rows of beds facing each other in a long room. Not an appropriate environment for four teenagers. The move was short-lived. Someone (we never found out who) went directly to Dr. Francis. I heard a commotion at the entrance to the ward. Since we were at the far end, I could not understand what was being said. But I recognized Dr. Francis as he was very tall. Clearly he was not happy. Within the hour we were moved back to 4-C. It seems that Dr. Francis viewed the patients who were recovering from polio as "his." Surely he recognized the irony of the teenagers recovering from polio just months after he joined Dr. Salk in announcing the success of the vaccine.

My therapy consisted of being placed in an "oven" that produced warm steam. Only my head was outside the "oven." It had a timer that I watched; when it rang, I was removed to a table and the stretching began. It hurt but was felt necessary to keep the muscles from contracting. This was followed by some strength building exercises. After six weeks or so I was fitted with a full-length leg brace on my left leg and provided with "Canadian" crutches so I could stand and begin to walk.

My mother visited the hospital and was told to go down to Physical Therapy where a surprise was waiting. She came into the room to see me standing though propped up by the crutches. It was a shock for her. Up until then she had seen me either in bed or in a wheelchair. During that visit she faced what the virus had done to my body. She kept herself together until she reached her car and then broke down in tears. She was sobbing so hard that when she reached Washtenaw, she pulled over. A truck driver saw her and pulled up behind her. He walked to the car and asked if she was alright. It was difficult for her to stop crying long enough to answer him. He offered to call my dad or to drive her home. By then she had pulled herself together, thanked him and told him she was able to drive the rest of the way home.

Now that I had the brace and crutches much of my physical therapy involved practicing walking, sitting down and getting up, and the most frightening of all, climbing stairs. I could go up the stairs but when it came to come back down, I froze. I was taught to put my crutches on the next step down, balance myself and then lower my braced leg first. Of course it felt like I was going to fall head first. I think it was the first time I cried in Physical Therapy. But I had a cheerleader. A male patient with both legs missing sat at the bottom of the stairs in his wheelchair and talked me down.

I've seen this happen in therapy again and again. The fellow patients are very supportive of each other and a camaraderie develops. When one person succeeds the other patients offer their support and congratulations. It is a crucial piece of regaining confidence.

After about six weeks, I made my first home visit. This was just for a half-day but it was an important milestone. I had not been outside since late August. I remember going out the door into the cool autumn air and seeing the first touches of color on the leaves. The two family members who seemed most happy to see me were Muffin, our English cocker spaniel who cried and covered my face with kisses and Janie Lynn my fifteenth month old baby sister. Janie stayed as close as she could.

About two weeks after that first visit I was signed out for a weekend visit. I remember I slept on a pull-out couch in the den; the stairs would be tackled later.

The home visits and the progress I made in Physical Therapy signaled the preparation for release from the hospital. And on a cold day in mid-November, my father's birthday, I left and headed home.
My next goal was to return to school in January. I had been receiving assignments regularly from most of my teachers. Through these I managed to stay on track in my classwork. I was physically ready but I was not mentally ready for the changed world I was going to reenter. I was now a person with a disability. My good friends remained my good friends. I was not however ready for the rejection I would experience.

I began this by stating this was the article I never wanted to write. Why? And why did I choose to do it now?

I was determined to resume my life much as it had been before I contracted the virus. I did not want to draw attention to my disability. It was not me and I was determined that not be defined by changed physical characteristics. To do so would limit my opportunities. But to others, especially those who had not known me before, that is exactly what happened. It was terribly unfair. I experienced what we would now recognize as discrimination although much of it was benign, done in the guise of protection.

The 1950s were a time of conformity. This was particularly true among the young. As a teenager I was sometimes excluded from social activities. I still remember a New Years Eve Party. The first New Year's celebration among my peers. Many of my friends attended but I was not invited. Yet, I was well-liked and involved in numerous activities. When it came time to apply for college my options were more limited than my classmates. I was accepted to one of best private liberal arts colleges in the state but I did not attend as there "was no dorm space." This, I realized later, was blatant discrimination but there were no laws then that prohibited an educational institution from such practices.

I know that my struggles were similar to those experienced by many others with an acquired disability. Yet, most of us try to preserve a positive attitude and to be the best in whatever we do. And many, if not most of us, not just succeed but to do so almost effortlessly or so it seems. There is a term "super crip" used within the movement that recognizes that phenomenon. The demands that we place on ourselves and that others come to expect from us can be exhausting. Those are some of the reasons I chose not to write about my own experience.

Why now? This past year marks a highly significant anniversary. Many view the development of the vaccines as the most important medical advance of the 20th century. There are fewer of us to tell the story, to educate and enlighten not just about polio but to look inward and honestly think about how we view and value other people. In this age of inclusiveness, more attention needs to be paid to how others are excluded. Attitudes and awareness require constant attention.

As the years passed, I became more and more of an advocate and not just on behalf of polio "victims." I learned about deafness, the deaf community or communities. A close friend and colleague of mine, who was diabetic, lost most of her vision and eventually her life. I worked with blind individuals and watched the advances in technology that provided support on the job. I came to understand that various types of physical disability presented their own unique challenges. For example, people with spinal cord injuries function differently than those with cerebral palsy. And perhaps the most damaging of all are the closed head injuries that affect communications and the thought process and often result in outbursts of anger that are frightening to the injured and those around them. All of this is at times overwhelming and yet disability coalitions have been built that have had major impact on the lives of both disabled and TABS (Temporarily Able Bodied) people.

When I moved to Washington, D.C in 1980, Michigan and California were viewed as the states who led the nation in securing rights for disabled people. I was privileged to attend the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on the West Lawn of the White House in July of 1990.

Previously people with disabilities were treated with a kind of patronizing pity. Now it was the law of the land that disabled people were entitled to full participation in almost all aspects of life. On return to my home state I found that times had changed. In part this was due to the change in political leadership and a struggling economy. Michigan, in my view, was no longer proactive but more reactive. More than once I have pointed out barriers to full participation only to hear "we don't have to do that." The end result is loss: the group or organization loses the potential contribution of people who are excluded and these individuals are denied participation. Most barriers, whether they be physical or attitudinal, aren't the result of maliciousness but have their origins in lack of awareness or lack of knowledge regarding the law. Personally I would rather not have to take legal action but it is sometimes necessary to ensure fairness and equal opportunity.

My own perspective has changed significantly since 1955. In the early years I was defensive, easily hurt while still pushing myself not only to do well but to be better if not the best. Over time, as I experienced some level of success I realized the much larger issues that face so many people. I rejected the role of "victim" and became an advocate and leader. This represents personal growth and a greater level of comfort in my own body. It also allowed me to write this article, the one I did not want to write.

(Editors Note: Peg Porter was born in Ann Arbor and grew up on the west side of Ypsilanti. She graduated from Roosevelt High School and received a Bachelor's and two Master’s Degrees from Eastern Michigan University. She was on the faculty of Central Michigan University, a staff member of Eastern Michigan, a program manager at Macomb County Community College and a consultant with Michigan Rehabilitation Services. She was a Department of Health and Human Services Fellow and a staff member in the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. She also is a trained mediator, writer and editor.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Iron Lungs were used when Polio was at its peak in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Photo 2: Dr. Thomas Francis from the University of Michigan and Dr. Jonas Salk, vaccine developer, announce the success of polio vaccine in field trials in April 1955 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Photo 3: Peg Porter holding her sister Jane a few months before contracting the polio virus.

Photo 4: The University of Michigan Hospital in the mid-1950s. The contagious ward was behind the main hospital.

Photo 5: Peg Porter with sister Jane on one of her visits home.

Photo 6: Peg Porter (at right) on her 15th birthday on April 8, 1956. At the upper left is Eleanor Bergeret, a U of M student and friend of Peg during her hospital stay.

Photo 7: President George Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act in July 1990 on the West lawn of the White House. On the left is Evan Kemp; Justin Dart, Jr. is to the right; both Republican disability advocates.

Childhood Memories of Frog Island from the 1970’s

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Robert and Eric Anschuetz

Twins Robert and Eric Anschuetz spent much of their childhood hanging out at the Huron River while growing up in Ypsilanti during the 1970’s. They knew almost every foot of the river from the Peninsular Paper Company dam on Leforge Road, past the Highland Cemetery, along the area known as “Greenland” behind Railroad Street, near the Forest Avenue railroad and street bridges, along the stretch bordering Frog Island, through Riverside Park, past the hobo camps across from Waterworks Park, leading up to Gilbert Park, along the stretch near Grove Street, past the Ford plant, and emptying out to Ford Lake. Robert and Eric were never the most avid fishermen, but they did enjoy going fishing at the river when they were children. Their two favorite spots to fish were on top of the drainage culvert that fed into the river next to the railroad bridge at Forest Avenue, and on the bank of the river at the Forest Avenue and Rice Street entrance to Frog Island. They would typically go fishing by themselves, with their brother Kurt, or with other friends.

One of their fishing buddies was a kid about five years older than them named Eugene who lived a block away on Dwight Street. Eugene used to stop by Robert and Eric’s house on the way to the river and ask if they wanted to go fishing. They would usually oblige and go along with him. At the end of the day, they would bring home a string of fish and sell them to some of the families who lived on River Street, between Forest Avenue and Norris Street, in houses that have since been torn down. In those days, it seemed that there were only four kinds of fish in the Huron River: bluegill, catfish, suckers and carp. Bluegill and catfish were plentiful. The catfish were a beautiful variety with long whiskers, stinging gills, a bright white under-body, yellow coloring on the sides, and a dark green back. Suckers were bigger and pretty rare. They were called suckers because their mouth had a distinctive shape that looked like a suction cup. Carp were also pretty rare but they were a prized catch. At least once a year, a local kid fishing in the river would land a huge carp up to 30 or 40 pounds. Sometimes Robert and Eric would find a huge carp on the side of the shore rotting away.

One day Robert, Eric, and Eugene decided to set a lofty goal of catching 100 fish in a single day. If the families on River Street did not buy the fish, Robert and Eric’s mother (frequent Gleanings contributor, Jan Anschuetz) would bury them in her garden as fertilizer, taking a hint from the Indians who also taught that technique to the Pilgrims. This was way before the time of “catch and release” fishing that is much more humane. Robert, Eric and Eugene spent the whole day fishing, and sure enough, at the end of the day, they had their 100 fish. They remember taking them back home to show their mother, who took a picture that has since faded, but still captures the monumental achievement. It was a day of fishing that the twins will never forget.

Fishing wasn’t the only activity that Robert and Eric enjoyed at Frog Island during their childhood. Warm spring days with westerly winds always meant one thing to Robert and Eric – kite flying weather! In those days, Frog Island was a rarely-used park that provided a vast expanse of open space to fly kites. When Robert and Eric first started flying kites, they tried to construct a “box kite” out of sticks of balsa wood and newspaper. Their box kite never really flew too well, so they changed their strategy to buying plastic kites – usually from Weber’s Drugs on Cross Street in Depot Town or from the Hobby Shop on Prospect Road near Prospect Park.

Their favorite model of plastic kite was called the “baby bat” kite. The “baby bat” was a black kite in the shape of a delta-winged bat that had two stickers for eyes. This type of kite didn’t come with any string, so Robert and Eric had to buy a spool of string separately. Just as all kids do, they would try to launch the kite in the air by running along the field with about 10 feet of string leading to the kite. The kites would invariably get a couple feet off the ground, do a couple twists, and then crash down to the ground with a thump. The spines of the kites were constructed out of plastic sticks, which sometimes bent, or even broke, if the kite crashed too hard.

If the wind was really blowing steadily, Robert and Eric would be able to get their kites in the sky and slowly let out more string. They would put their index fingers on either side of the spool of string and let the wind carry the kite further and further into the sky. Sometimes the string would burn the twins’ fingers if they tried to grab it when it was unwinding too fast. On rare occasions, they used up an entire ball of string. When the kite eventually came crashing to the earth when the wind died down, it would always be a huge mess to roll the string back onto the cardboard tube which held the string. There would always be small sticks and grass entangled with the string, and it would become so full of knots that it would basically be unusable ever again.

One year, Robert and Eric bought a plastic kite crank-handle that was attached to a spool of string. This allowed the string to be let out while flying the kites, and then it could be easily reeled back in after the day of kite flying was over. This made the hassle of flying kites go away, and the twins went more and more often to Frog Island to fly their kites. On one particular fine spring day in the mid 1970’s, the wind was blowing from the west directly over the Huron River and across Frog Island toward the railroad tracks. Robert and Eric got one of their kites so far up in the sky that they had to use two rolls of string connected together on their crank-handle system. They still remember looking far off in the distance seeing the little spec in the sky dancing above the railroad tracks near the Michigan Ladder Company. Suddenly the kite string became entangled in the power lines running along the railroad tracks and that ended a great day of kite flying. Ah, those were the days, long before video games, high-def televisions, smart phones, and laptops would provide the modern generation of kids with all of their entertainment that keeps them mostly confined indoors. They don’t know what they’re missing!

(Robert and Eric Anschuetz grew up on River Street and are regular contributors to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Site on the Huron River at Frog Island where Robert and Eric Anschuetz once caught 100 fish in a single day.

Photo 2: Eric, Eugene, an unknown friend, and Robert with a portion of their haul of 100 fish. These strung-up fish were the unfortunate leftovers destined for the garden after the kids made some sales on River Street.

Marjorie Walters – One of the Original “Rosie the Riveters”

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Katie Heddle

At 93 years of age Marjorie Walters has little trouble recalling details of her time spent as a riveter at the Willow Run Bomber Plant. She easily recalls coming to Ypsilanti from Superior, Wisconsin as a young lady and living with her brother and sister-in-law in their house on Perrin Street, "…they had seven roomers in that house," remembers Walters. "It was hard to get an apartment around here to yourself back then."

She remembers well the apartment she lived in after that on N. Huron Street and the job she got at the United Stove Company making 40 cents an hour. When she heard they were hiring at the Bomber plant she decided to head over and apply. "Over there they paid a dollar an hour and that was a big raise," she says with a chuckle, "we felt like we were really making something then!"

Marjorie Walters is an original “Rosie the Riveter.” The name having become synonymous with women who worked in factories during World War II. She helped build B-24 liberators in a plant not far from the home she lives in now in Ypsilanti. Though precious little remains of the original Willow Run Bomber Plant, what is left is not only being preserved but converted to the National Museum of Aviation and Technology by the Save The Bomber Plant Campaign. As the need for funding to populate the museum ramps up, the Campaign is gaining more traction and recognition, most recently by organizing a Guinness World Record setting event for the most Rosie's in one place. Marjorie and 43 other original Rosie's attended the event.

These women are becoming increasingly precious with each year as they are approaching centenarian status. Nearly six million women answered the call for help as the nation's men went off to war. Though nearly one million men were still present to work, it was the first time in history that women outnumbered men in the nation's workforce.

Marjorie recalls after she got her job she had to attend rivet school. Each position at the plant had a 'school' which was a period of training for their position, and although the monikor 'riveter' is synonymous with Rosie's, the women who worked in factories during the war performed a variety of jobs. They put together not only planes but tanks, jeeps, guns, shells and canons as well.

"One of the days I was in rivet school President Roosevelt came through. He was in the area dedicating a road." The day she's speaking of was in September of 1941. He was there to see the newly built bomber plant and to dedicate a stretch of what is now I-94. The stretch of road was the first expressway in America and was created for the sole purpose of giving Detroit workers a road into the plant. Marge showed me a picture she has from that day of the President riding in his open top car and I'm reminded how much the world has changed since then. We would never see a President so out in the open today with no security around.

That day President Roosevelt was joined by Henry Ford and Charles Sorenson, Ford's Production Manager. Sorenson is the man responsible for the design of the plant itself. As the war began the B-24 was made one at a time by hand with no two alike. By 1945 the Willow Run Bomber Plant was making one B-24 an hour on a mile long assembly line, the peak expected production when Sorenson conceived it. The year’s production for just that one model of plane exceeded the production of the entire Japanese air fleet for that year.

It seems surreal to many people alive today, especially those of the younger generations who have no concept of war other than what they see on the news happening far away, that America existed in the way that it did back then. Everyone pulled together for the common goal of defeating an enemy and defending our land, not just in spirit but in action. Action included wartime food rationing, paper drives, the sale of war bonds, saving waste fats for explosives, turning in scrap rubber and metal for tanks and planes. These efforts by all Americans gave a sense of community and togetherness rarely seen before or since that time.

Though we do not wish for the experience of war, we do long for the sense of community that this particular crisis provided for Americans. On October 24th, 2015 roughly 2096 women and children came together to experience a bit of that nostalgia and camaraderie in an aircraft hangar adjacent to the remains of the Willow Run Bomber Plant. The gathering was ultimately a successful bid to set the record for the number of women dressed as “Rosie the Riveter.”

Emily Sakcriska, who became involved with the “Tribute Rosies,” a group that dresses up as “Rosie the Riveter” for events, over a year ago was head chair of costumes for the event. "It was a very humbling day as we stood amongst 2,096 women. We counted. We made a difference. We were all singing patriotic songs and for a bigger cause. Savethebomberplant.org. everything we as “Tribute Rosies” do... always is for the greater cause of the beloved bomber plant."

"Having so many women come together to accomplish one goal really did make me feel like we can do anything, it was inspiring," said Liz Fancett, of Ypsilanti, who was in attendance with her two daughters as well as her mother, aunt, two sisters and their four daughters. "I'm happy my girls got to be a part of it and will have this memory." Her mother Susan Regner agreed and added "I became involved because I think these 'Rosies' the original ones, deserve to be celebrated."

These sentiments were echoed by all who attended including Staci Aviles who was there with four generations of women in her family, "My favorite part was the amazing sense of sisterhood you felt. I don't know that I have ever had that feeling within a group of women. The history and pride within those walls was indescribable!" Linda Milliman, also of Ypsilanti, attended with friends and echoed the sentiment, "Proud to meet the original Rosies, they worked so hard."

This is not the first time Marge and other original Rosie's have gathered to break a record. She was also present at the previous record breaking gathering at the Bomber Plant in 2014 which had 776 women and children present. That record didn't last long and was soon after broken by a group in California.

Over the past few years these events have garnered much interest and directed a spotlight on the women who worked so hard during the war. Despite participating in many large gatherings, events, public question and answer sessions, and interviews Marge is still a little baffled at the fame. She commented that "We were just doing our job."

Walters particular job was one that involved working on the 55 foot center wing. She met her husband Alfred under one of those wings. Though he soon went off to fight in the war himself, he happily made it home. "He came home in October ‘45' and we got married February of ‘46,’ she tells me with a smile. It is this part of her story that I find most precious because it is the summation of what the fight was for, to come home and live a peaceful life. Marge Walters and the other Rosie's helped make that a reality.

She began as a song. The 1943 tune "Rosie the Riveter" gave a name to the women working in factories during the war.

All the day long whether rain or shine
She’s a part of the assembly line
She’s making history, working for victory
Rosie the Riveter

Then she was the subject of a Norman Rockwell painting created for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. In blue coveralls, a white chalk 'Rosie' scrawled on her lunch pail, riveting gun resting across her lap, blue coveralls, and a polka dot scarf tied around her head, “Rosie the Riveter” came to life.

Over the years many different women have been associated with the image of Rosie the Riveter. The most recent image associated being the 'We Can Do It' poster. I try to think of this as I'm sitting at Marge Walters dining room table going through her scrapbook. All the images she is sharing are of herself as a grown woman more than 70 years removed from the job I'm asking her to recall. I'm amazed because while she easily answers questions about the job that she held for a few years in the 1940's, I can barely recall the job I held 3 years ago. Though she doesn't have any pictures of herself in the iconic 'Rosie' coveralls and head scarf I have no trouble imagining her that way. "I think people think we really wore that every day," she says smiling a small smile and shaking her head. Even though I know she didn't, somehow the image still fits.

I was there myself that day the record was broken, my four-year-old daughter Leia in tow. We attended with friends and ran into so many others. As we dressed in those same coveralls, tied the same polka dot scarves around our heads, pulled up our red socks and laced up black work boots, we felt instantly transported to a different era. We took piles of pictures, checked out the planes, listened to speakers and performances, we had our outfits approved, and then we gathered together for the official photo of the entire group and to officially break the record which required we all stand together for five minutes.

Those few minutes will live easily in my memory. As we all sang America the Beautiful, the Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America and Amazing Grace, I couldn't keep the tears from my eyes. It was a moment filled with the emotion of gratitude for an entire generation who fought so hard in so many ways to keep a peaceful life for us in this country, and sadness for the unimaginable losses experienced here and around the world. Ultimately the biggest emotion I felt was pride, for being a part of such an amazing event, for being a woman, for being an American, and for being from Ypsilanti, home of the great Willow Run Bomber Plant and the place where record breaking history was made.

(Katie Heddle is a native Ypsilantian and a proud graduate of Ypsilanti High School, Eastern Michigan University and Wayne State University. She wears many hats including wife, mother of four little ones, archivist, librarian and freelance writer. She volunteers at the Yankee Air Museum Archive and is proud to have been part of the record breaking Rosie day!)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Marge Walters was an original “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II.

Photo 2: A rose was pinned on all of the original “Rosie the Riveters” who attended the record breaking reunion.

Photo 3: Two young ladies from Ypsilanti that participated in breaking the Rosie Record. On the left is Emma Hasey and on the right is Emily Gruenke.

Photo 4: Emily Gruenke from Ypsilanti poses under the wing of one of the airplanes on display at the Yankee Air Museum.

Photo 5: Posing with the “We Can Do It!” position is Arya Hasey.

Photo 6: Ypsilantian Liz Fancett with her daughters Maddie and Nina.

Photo 7: Four generations of Rosie’s starting at the top with Billie Sturgill, her mother Margaret Smith, her granddaughter Charlotte Scharf and her daughter Staci Aviles.

Photo 8: All the Rosie’s are gathered for the official record photo.

Photo 9: Katie Heddle with daughter Leia posing under the wing of the Yankee Lady.

Photo 10: Katie Heddle with daughter Leia after a long record setting day!

Photo 11: Six original “Rosie the Riveters” got a warm welcome at the Bomber Restaurant in Ypsilanti in June of 2015. From left, Marge Walters, Mallie Mellon, Lorraine Osborne, Phyllis Lenhard, Rachel Mae Perry and Mary Jane Childers are all members of the American Rosie the Riveter Association (United Service Organizations photo by Samantha L. Quigley).

My Dad, John Nick Pappas, Sculptor

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Catherine Pappas

When I was a kid, people would often ask me "What's it like to have a sculptor as a father?" It wasn't until I became an adult that I realized how unique it was that my dad is a sculptor. Don't get me wrong, as a kid I thought it was pretty great too, it's just that that's all I knew - I had nothing to compare it to. I always loved the smell of the clay and watching him model a lump of nothing into something spectacular.

I remember when he bought his studio, an historic building and Ypsilanti's first City Hall located in Depot Town, for the specific purpose of creating the massive statuary he was commissioned to produce for Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan Headquarters in Detroit. He needed a large space to create what would eventually become a seven ton bronze work. He had to completely gut the building, including removing the floor on one side, to create the larger than life-size figures.

In addition to being a sculptor, my dad also taught sculpture and drawing at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) for more than 40 years, before retiring in 2000. He still runs into former students, even though he's been retired for many years now. I've been with him on more than one occasion when this has happened and I can tell you, it is pretty special. It makes me beam with pride when I see and hear about the incredible role he has played in the lives of so many of his students. Back in the late 70’s, three of his graduate students; Ed Olson, Paul Mauren, Jeanne Flanagan and my oldest brother Nick, worked with him in his studio to help create the Blue Cross piece, which took four years to complete.

After my dad modeled the seven larger than life-size figures in clay, the pieces had to be cast in bronze in large separate sections, and then welded back together. The pieces then had to be lifted separately by a crane out of the building to be transported to the site in Detroit, where they were installed by a team. Although I was quite young at the time, I remember the excitement at the unveiling of the piece in the Blue Cross Blue Shield courtyard near Greektown. There were speeches and the mayor of Detroit was there along were several hundred others, including family and friends. Following the unveiling, there was a lovely dinner and then we stayed in the Renaissance Center, nearby. The whole evening was quite a wonderful celebration of my dad and the monumental Blue Cross sculpture, "The Procession." My dad said that the piece represented human emotions such as; sadness, joy, fear and love.

The son of Greek immigrants, my dad was born in Detroit. Greek was his first language and he was an altar boy in the Greek Church. He grew up cooking in his father's restaurant and was never that interested in the academic side of high school, he mostly enjoyed playing basketball and chasing girls. Until one day, when he went to the Detroit main library with a friend. He went into a number of different rooms before he walked into the room with a large art section. As he entered the room, he noticed that one of the tables had two big books on it. As he approached the table, his eyes opened wide and he felt an immediate connection to the images he saw. One of the books was open to Rodin's "Gates of Hell" and the other was open to Michelangelo's "Boboli Slaves." His experience in that moment made an impact that was life-changing for him. Not long after, he decided to take a class at Arts and Crafts (now College for Creative Studies.)

Although it was a good experience at Arts and Crafts, he decided he needed to further his education in other areas as well, and went on to attend Wayne State University. Mr. Andrews, his advisor, talked with him about his high school grades, which were less than stellar. It was decided to put him on academic probation and things began to fall into place for him after that. It was these events that changed the course of his life.

He told me that he always made sculpture when he was a child, but he just thought that's what everyone did. Another pivotal moment for him in his youth was in his eighth grade Latin class. Mrs. McClure, his teacher, asked the kids in the class if any of them could make two clay heads, one of Socrates and one of Caesar. My dad shot his hand up in the air and said that he could do it. After he turned the pieces in, the teacher praised him and his work so much that he has remembered it to this day.

Although that early experience was very important, he once told me that he felt like he wasn't really born until he was a student at Wayne. A whole new world opened up to him. He met many different types of people and started learning so much more about different points of view. He had the most amazing professors that made such a huge impact on him that he can still tell you all of their names. He became involved in all aspects of art. He was a teacher's assistant in Sculpture and Art History. On average, he spent 12 hours a day on campus. Everything was new and exciting and he loved all of it.

Years later, when he won the Arts Alumni Achievement Award from Wayne State, he thanked his professors who played a key role in his becoming a successful artist. As a young Art professor at EMU, my dad won the prestigious "Prix de Rome" fellowship to live and study in Rome for a year in the late 60s. He and my mom Mary, with their four children - myself, my older sister Anna and my two older brothers Nick and Andy, traveled overseas and I'm told, (though I was a baby and don't remember it, sadly) that we all had a wonderful experience living abroad. My dad studied and learned alongside other exceptional Prix de Rome winners in the Arts.

After returning to the States, and back to teaching at EMU, my dad would go on to receive many impressive commissions over the years. Also, he has had numerous shows all over Michigan, in Chicago, Minneapolis and New York. Many times over the years he has told me "how lucky" he has been. Perhaps luck played a small role, but from what I have observed, it began with talent, which was then combined with lots of hard work over the years.

I remember when he was invited to exhibit in an international sculpture show in Chelsea Harbour, England. He was one of a handful of sculptors who were selected to meet the Queen of England. My mom was thrilled by the whole experience. In my Dad's true style, he seemed quite low-key about meeting the Queen.

He continues to go to work at his studio five to six days a week. The only thing he misses about being at EMU is teaching the students. He doesn't miss going to meetings. When talking about going to the studio to work he talks about "luck" again. He tells me how lucky he has been to do what he loves. He simply loves making sculpture.

He is also interested in so many other things and is always active. His doctor recently told him that his test results reveal that he has the health of someone twenty years younger. It's really quite astounding, since he has survived three very serious health scares over the years; bacterial meningitis, a brain aneurysm and an aortic aneurysm. All of us in his family are the lucky ones that we still have him after those life-threatening illnesses. Each time he recovered, he got right back to work.

Along with the enjoyment of researching things on his iPad and Nook, building things and gardening, he really loves cooking. He cooks for my mom, his adult kids and daughter-in-law, Lexie, as well as his and my mom's grandkids; Ethan, Emma, Drew and Cristina. He has always said "family is everything" and has instilled that in each of us.

Last week, I ran into one of my dad's former students. I had recalled meeting her many years ago and re-introduced myself. Her face lit up when she spoke of my dad. She said "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about your dad! When I walk in to my studio each day, I think about what an incredible man he is and how much he helped me as a student. I am so grateful."

As I think about what she said to me that day and my dad's role in her life, as well as the stories he has shared with me about what his professors did for him, I am awestruck by the incredible role quality teachers play in the lives of their students. All of that said, my dad is so much more than a sculptor and teacher to me; he is the best father and friend I could have ever imagined. If you would like more information about John Nick Pappas, Sculptor, and to see more images of his work, please visit: johnnickpappas.com.

(Catherine Pappas has more than twenty years experience in the fundraising field. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Speech Communication from Eastern Michigan University and a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University. She has worked for Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, Ronald McDonald House of Ann Arbor and Detroit Public Television. Currently, Catherine is the Major Gifts Officer for the Humane Society of Huron Valley.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The John Pappas 1978 sculpture at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. The thirteen bronze figures statuary is located in a courtyard set in a reflecting pool and ranges over a sixty foot space. Pappas won an all Michigan competition for this commission.

Photo 1A: A huge crane and four flat bed trucks were needed to get the thirteen bronze figures moved from the Pappas Studio to the Blue Cross Blue Shield location in Detroit.

Photo 2: John Pappas was born in Detroit, the son of Greek immigrants. Growing up Greek was his first language and he served as an altar boy in the Greek Church.

Photo 3: The “Looking Forward” statue by John Pappas in 2000 is located in BASF Waterfront Park in the City of Wyandotte. Pappas won a competition for this commission.

Photo 4: Pappas was invited to exhibit in the international sculpture exhibition in Chelsea Harbour, England and was one of a handful of sculptors who were selected to meet the Queen of England.

Photo 5: “Mother and Child” sculpture by John Pappas in 1990 is in the Mother and Child Unit at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Photo 6: “The Garden” is a 1997 sculpture by John Pappas that is located in the Dr. Dan Fall Memorial Garden at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Photo 7: “Emergence I” is a John Pappas sculpture commissioned by Ford Motor Company in 1986.

Photo 8: “Healing Hand” is a 1983 John Pappas sculpture that is on display at the Detroit Osteopathic Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.

Photo 9: This 1994 bronze sculpture by John Pappas of “Hippocrates” is displayed on the University of Michigan Medical School Campus in the plaza between Medical Science II, Taubman Medical Library, and MSRB III.

Photo 10: John Pappas Family: (Standing L to R) Andy Pappas (son), Nick Pappas (son), Catherine Pappas (daughter), Lexie Pappas (daughter in law), Anna Geppert (daughter), Emma Geppert (granddaughter), (Sitting L to R) Drew Pappas (grandson), John Pappas, Mary Pappas, Cristina Pappas (granddaughter).

Photo 11: The bronze statue “Icarus” by John Pappas is located on the Eastern Michigan University campus in front of the Quirk Building. It was dedicated in the Fall of 2003. Pappas describes his feeling on the character as follows: “The mythical image of Icarus has always symbolized freedom, strength, imagination, science, hope, and man’s fallibility.”

Photo 12: John Pappas’s workshop in the old City Hall Building on Cross Street where his art work is created.

Photo 13: John Nick Pappas relief sculptures at the Robert H. and Judy Dow Alexander Cancer Care Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The plaque shown at the bottom was done in memory of Julie Van Haren.

Photo 14: The sculptured busts are all the work of John Pappas.

Photo 15: John Pappas in his studio in the Old City Hall on Cross Street.

Photo 16: John Pappas sculpture “Reading Together” at the Ypsilanti District Library on Whittaker Road.

One Tower House

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

Ypsilanti is fortunate to have so many stately homes of the late nineteenth century lining its streets. Some of these homes have been restored to their past glory and add to the quality of life. Then there are homes that can be called “works in progress.” Sadly, there are not as many of the grand homes as there once were. A number of the grand old homes have been demolished because of neglect or to make way for a new structure. A few have been lost to fire. One such house stood at 701 East Forest Avenue.

William Evens built the two and a half story frame house at 701 East Forest Avenue in 1892. He is listed in the 1896 Ypsilanti City Directory as a real estate agent. The house had a tall tower on the front west end, and a wide porch below the tower. Evens and his wife Helen lived in the house until 1899, when it was sold to a Major B. H. Rothwell of Detroit, who moved into the house in April of that year. William and Helen Evens moved to Detroit. Major Rothwell would return to Detroit to live in October of the same year, after selling the house to Louis B. Littlefield, the former sheriff of Wayne County. Successful in business in Detroit, Littlefield was elected Alderman in 1883, and later as sheriff of Wayne County.

“In those days the river front, from Gross Point to Wyandott was considered rather “lively,” and in certain localities low dives and gambling dens existed with little restriction. Cock fights, dog fights, fargo tables, road houses where orgies were held, and other interesting places, made up a rather warm combination,” noted The Ypsilanti Commercial of Thursday, January 4, 1900.

“Sheriff Littlefield made a systematic move on the gamblers and pit fighters” the report continued, "and many are the interesting stories related to his raids. When the famous McCarthy road house murder occurred he began a systematic effort to restore law and order among this class of public places, and succeeded admirably. He was an officer feared by law breakers, and was always prompt in deciding on his official course. So great was the fear of his strong hand that a number of River Rouge and Ecorse's sporting residents can even now remember taking a cold plunge into the river one night from back windows of a certain resort, when it was announced that “Louie Littlefield was in front.” Littlefield was later elected city treasurer and then retired from politics because of failing health.

“The property conveyed to Mr. Littlefield includes 10 acres, fruit orchard and buildings, and the price paid was $16,905,” reported The Ann Arbor Argus-Democrat of Wednesday, October 20, 1899. “It is not known,” the report concluded, “whether he will remain out of politics in this county or whether he will soon make a break for the republican leadership here. At any rate, the younger politicians who get into his good graces will find his political advice of value.”

Whatever reason Littlefield had for moving to Washtenaw County never became clear, as he died at his new home on Wednesday, January 3, 1900. Soon after, the house was sold to a Charles Widrig, a traveling salesman, and his wife Elizabeth. Charles Widrig seems to have come into some notoriety himself, as The Ypsilanti Sentinel-Commercial of December 1, 1903 noted: “This is the house where Mr. Widrig had his celebrated smoking den, which figured so largely in the lawsuit about the fine rugs which he bought in Detroit.”

Widrig and his wife sold the house and moved out by September of 1903. The house was then the property of D. C. Griffin. Mr. Griffin appears to have been in no hurry to move in, as the house stood empty for some time. A Martin Cremer stopped by the house on Wednesday, November 25, 1903, and found everything in order. The furniture consisted chiefly of two stoves, a gas range, curtains and cushions. Cremer locked the house as he left.

A neighbor was returning home just after midnight of Saturday, November 27, 1903, and saw the house was on fire. An alarm was immediately turned in. The fire department responded promptly and did Trojan work, succeeding in saving the laundry buildings, barns and the adjoining neighboring residences. “When they arrived on the spot there seemed to be fire in every room in the house, and the floors were falling in,” noted The Ypsilanti Sentinel-Commercial of December 1, 1903. “The origin of the fire is unknown.” All that was left of the house were two tall chimneys and the foundation walls. Everything else had burned to the ground. “There was an insurance of $5,000 on the house but this will not begin to cover the loss,” reported The Evening Times of Saturday, November 28, 1903. “There seems to be some question, whether on account of the vacancy of the house the insurance has not been reduced one-third,” noted The Ypsilanti Sentinel-Commercial.

In time, a new house was built on the site, which still stands today.

(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: The “One Tower House” at 701 East Forest Avenue burned to the ground in 1903.

The George Families of River Street (Another Episode of the River Street Saga)

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Jan Anschuetz

River Street in Ypsilanti is a short and beautiful road that has led to fame and fortune for several of its residents including Mark Norris, Lyman Norris, Benjamin Follett, Shelly Hutchinson, Walter Pitkins and Walter Briggs, all of whose stories can be found in past issues of the Gleanings. In this installment I will tell the story of an immigrant family who came to this country from England seeking free and excellent education for their children and whose grandchildren, in turn, did much to influence education in Ypsilanti.

Our tale begins in England and is the life-long love story of Cary Eaton and George George. Cary was the daughter of Susannah Woodhams; she was born in July, 1781 in Hartfield, Sussex, England and died circa 1812. Her father was James Eaton; he was born circa 1772 in Kockholt, Kent, England and died about 1818. His profession is listed as a farmer on Cary’s marriage record. Susannah and James were married August 11, 1800 in Hartfield, Sussex, England, and Cary was born May 28, 1808 in Godstone, Surrey, England.

Cary wrote her own life story as published in her obituary in Ypsilanti in 1895: “My parents lived at Godstone, Surrey, England, and their six children were all baptized at Godstone Church. My mother died when I was only four years old; my father died soon after, and my Aunt Hesham who was my mother’s oldest sister, and who stood sponsor for me when I was baptized in infancy thought it was her duty to take me and bring me up with her own family. When I was 15 years old I went to live with a distant relation of my mother’s who had not any family and she wanted a companion and someone to write her notes and teach her little niece; so I went there and had a pony to ride and was quite happy. They had a nephew living with them, George George. He fell in love with me. I consented at last and we were married in 1838.”

Their marriage record can be found in Guild Hall, St. Bride Fleet Street, Register of marriages, 1837-1839 in the parish registry, City of London for July 22, 1839. George George is the son of George George (1788 to 1845), whose occupation is listed as a farmer on his son’s marriage record. His mother was Ann Worgor. Cary writes a little about their life together, referring to her husband as she continues: “He had a great deal of trouble, poor man, through the sacrifice he had made, and I am afraid he was never repaid for it: but we loved our children and they were so good and dutiful to us I think that we can say, what very few parents can say, that not one of our children ever gave us any trouble.”

We don’t know what troubles that Cary was referring to in George George’s life, but we do know that Cary and George decided to immigrate to the United States of America with their children. Their oldest son, Worgor, was born July 4, 1840. He was married while in England to a woman seven years older than him, Emily Morgan, and had a daughter, Marianne, who was born in 1863. Cary and George’s son, Frederick, was born February 24, 1842; Cary Elizabeth was born November 16, 1843; George Edward was born September 1, 1845; Eliza Ann was born in 1847; Susanna was born September 27, 1849 and died two years later; and Martha Maria was born July 14, 1851.

In an audio-taped interview recorded in 1965, Cary and George’s granddaughter, Jessie Swaine, stated that her grandparents decided to come to America because they had a large family and wanted their children to have a good and free education. In England, at that time, parents were responsible for paying for their children’s schooling, and the George family could not afford to educate their many children on their own. Family records tell us that George George came to the United States in 1863 and the next year sent for the rest of his family.

We do not know how it was that Cary and George George and their children ended up in Ypsilanti, but we do know that their daughter Cary married a local man, Leonard C. Wallington, and lived at 627 River Street. Jessie Swaine, their niece, tells us in an interview recorded 60 years ago that Leonard inherited part of a family farm which was on Cross Street where the golf course is, sold his portion, and purchased a large home on River Street. He soon went into the malt business with his father-in-law, George George, who in 1866 bought the brick school which was built in 1839 as the Peck Street Primary and then sold to the public school system and became the Fourth Ward School in 1850.

George George, L. C. Wallington, and Worgor George went to work converting the structure into a malt house. A second cousin to the George children visited the family from Kent, England and was impressed with the opportunities in Ypsilanti, Michigan for the brewing industry. Frederick Swaine’s family occupation, that of his father and grandfather, had been brewers, and they were licensed to brew for the king. Although he had been orphaned as a baby, Frederick was interested in investing his inheritance, talent and ambition in the malt business to supply the two breweries in town. He also fell in love with the beautiful young Eliza Ann George, his second cousin. Swaine returned to England to pack up his belongings, arrange his finances and affairs, and moved to Ypsilanti where he married Eliza in 1874. The young couple then moved in with his brother and sister-in-law on River Street while he went about the business of becoming a maltster. Frederick quickly bought out the interests of his father-in-law and two brothers-in-law, Worgor and Lawrence, even though they remained employed by him. He also set about greatly enlarging the malt house from a 20 by 40 foot structure to a three story building of an impressive size: 50 by 94 feet.

Furthermore, Frederick Swaine contracted for the building of a home for his new bride on the north east corner of River Street and Forest Avenue. River Street was soon teaming with George family members – working, playing and living. Worgor, Emily and their three children, Marianne, Percival (born in 1867), and Frederic Morgan were living at 505 River Street. Leonard and Cary George Wallace lived a few doors south of the malt house at 627 River and had two daughters: May, born circa 1870, and Ethel Maude, who had been born in 1872. Frederick Swaine and Lizzie George had a total of four children: Florence born in 1875, John in 1877 (who died the same year at about six months), then Jessie born in 1880, and son Frederick who was born in 1880 and died two years later of diphtheria.

Meanwhile the malt business and the George families prospered. It seems that the dreams of George and Cary George were coming true at last with prosperity for their children and a free and excellent education for their grandchildren in the new country. All of the grandchildren of George and Cary were attending the excellent public school at the 4th Ward School, and then the Seminary and Ypsilanti High School. However, their joy was tempered with sadness with the death of their beautiful 22 year old daughter Patti in 1873. A few years later, in 1879, Cary Elizabeth George Wallington died, along with the baby boy named George Edward Wallington she had just delivered seven weeks earlier. From census records, we know that her daughter Maude moved into her Aunt Lizzie’s home.

Tragedy continued when Worgor’s wife, Emily, died of consumption in June, 1879 and despite the kind and faithful nursing of her Aunt Lizzie George Swaine, his daughter Marianne soon joined her mother. Her touching obituary in the Ypsilanti newspaper reads

“GEORGE – Dec. 8th, 1880, of consumption, MINNIE, beloved and only daughter of Worgor and Emily George, aged 17. Minnie was left motherless a few months since. The eldest child she was her fond father’s dependence. She was ‘glad to go and meet her mam’. Shortly before her death she said to her aunt, Mrs. Swaine, ‘Pa cries and you cry, but I don’t.’ Her pastor, Rev. Dr. Wilson made some affecting (sic) remarks at the funeral. Thy Father called thee, loved ones, while yet in early bloom but fond, sad hearts of earth will cry, too soon, too soon.”

Worgor did not give up on love and a few years later married a local girl, Anna E. Shutts, who was born September 10, 1850. Anna was the daughter of Martin and Mary A. Shutts who owned a farm in Plymouth, and soon two more children joined their cousins on River Street: Anna Marian and Edward Shutts. Despite these blessings, sorrows were not over for Cary and George George.

In 1886, George George, the optimist who moved to Ypsilanti from England to seek his fortune and make sure that his children and grandchildren were educated, died, and his widow Cary moved in with her daughter and son-in-law. What type of man was George George? Perhaps we can glimpse his kind character and genuine affection for his grandchildren in the little poem he wrote to his four-year-old granddaughter, Jessie Swaine, which was found in her childhood album. It reads:

I have searched and searched the place around

Searched nearly every house in town

To see if I could possibly find

A nice little girl for a Valentine

All at once I thought of you

I want no other she will do

That’s the girl for me, say I

The one that suits my eye

You are mine dearest Jess

I choose you from all the rest

Grandpa, 1883

There are several other affectionate and sincere notes from her grandfather carefully pasted by the little girl in the scrapbook on pages which are now yellow and brittle, and now reside in the Ypsilanti Historical Museum archives. The album is filled with childhood memories of Jessie Swaine, who died in the same bed and in the same bedroom that she was born on River Street nearly 90 years later.

Within a year after George George died, his son Worgor died in July, 1887. By this time, Cary had only two of her seven children living – daughter, Lizzie George Swaine, and a son, George Edward, who was a grain buyer in Kansas. Cary wrote “Bereavements have been a great trial, only two left out of seven children, my daughter Lizzie and my son (George) Edward of Kansas City. God grant they may be spared to me. The others, I trust are safe in Heaven.”

The sadness continued on River Street, and Worgor’s son Percival died of consumption only four months after his father. His obituary in a local newspaper states: “Died – 11-7-1887: Percy George, son of Mrs. Worgor George of River St. died suddenly last Monday of hemorrhage of the lungs. He was but nineteen years old, and a young man respected by all who knew him. The funeral services were held at the house, Wednesday afternoon and conducted by Rev. Mr. MacLean.”

Cary George, who lived with her daughter Lizzie and son-in-law Frederick Swaine and their two daughters, passed away eight years later. Her obituary gives us a glimpse of her life and her last hours, as published in the Ypsilanti newspaper: “Mrs. Cary Eaton George died at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. F. J. Swaine, Monday, June 10, 1895, at midnight, aged 87 years and 13 days. The life which then was transferred from this to the world beyond was a beautiful one and presents an example worthy of emulation. Mrs. George was born in Surrey, England, in 1808, left an orphan while a little child, and was reared to womanhood by relatives. At 15 years of age she shouldered the responsibilities of life for herself, and for a long time made her own way in the world. In 1838 she became the wife of George George, with whom and the family she had she came to this country in 1863. Here she has lived ever since, her husband and five of their seven children preceding her to the other shore. The two surviving members of her family, a son Edward George of Kansas City and a daughter, Mrs. Swaine, were at her bedside to receive her dying blessing. Mrs. George was a consistent member of the Episcopal church in which faith she found comfort and happiness in her declining years.”

Two years later, Frederick Swaine, husband of Lizzie and once a successful business and civic leader as well as noted musician, died suddenly, leaving the family destitute. By this time, Florence and Jessie Swaine were in their early 20s and, after graduating from high school in Ypsilanti and from the Michigan Normal College, they were able to supplement the family income by money earned in their teaching careers.

George George and his wife Cary came to America so that their descendants could receive a free education and would have been proud to know that this dream had come true and that at least four of their grandchildren attended college. Jessie and Florence were both life-long teachers who went on to continue their education beyond their college degrees, and Jessie was an especially loved and honored founder of the first home economics department in Ypsilanti Public Schools.

We know that Fred George, son of Worgor and Emily, attended college. We have several pictures of him as a student with a mortar board on his head and pipe in his mouth in a student bedroom looking very happy.

Fred’s half brother, Edward Shutts George, son of Worgor and Anna, also grew up to pursue an advanced degree and make his mark on education in Ypsilanti. In fact, he was so esteemed for his contributions that George School on Ecorse was named for him.

In remarks made shortly before he died, we get a glimpse into his personality. Edward teasingly admitted that “as a boy we had a neighbor, a dear old Irish lady, who once told my mother. ‘Why – he’s the devil of the Fourth Ward’”. We know that Edward grew up with this sister and half-brother, Fred, on River Street. He liked to play at the Huron River bank and served as a choir boy at the George family’s church, St. Luke’s, on North Huron Street. He graduated from Ypsilanti High School in 1906 and worked as a lineman on the railroad that passed two doors from his home on River Street, to earn money to go to the University of Michigan Dental School, from which he graduated in 1911. Edward worked at a dental clinic in Ann Arbor for a year and then joined a partnership with Dr. Louis James in the office at 119 Huron Street, started by Dr. Watling who had founded the dental school at the University of Michigan.

His life continued to improve when on June, 1915, he married a local girl, Alice Mable Gass. They lived with Edward’s mother, Anna, on River Street until they purchased a large home a block from his dental practice at 219 Huron Street. Edward and Alice had one daughter, Marian Elizabeth, who married George N. Elliot and they, in turn, had three daughters.

Edward’s philosophy was to serve the community as well as his family. Soon he went about proving his leadership talents and positive outlook on life through a variety of community commitments. In a speech he once wrote, he stated his view on life by saying “If you want to be really cruel to a man, just deny him the opportunity of serving his community and his fellowmen.”

Perhaps Edward was influenced by his grandparents’ reverence for education. He served on the school board from 1919 to 1939 and wanted to make sure that the educational system in Ypsilanti met the growing needs of the community. During his time on the school board, a gymnasium was added to the high school and the aging Prospect School was rebuilt. Also, an addition was added to Woodruff School and Harriet School was built on the south side of town.

In an undated newspaper article published after Edward’s death, found in the Ypsilanti Historical Museum archives, we read about other ways that he served the community: “Another of his contributions to the city was his leadership in the construction of Island Park. When Detroit Edison bought the water rights at the Huron River he foresaw the possibilities of using the land for a recreational center. The electric company deeded the land jointly to the city council and the school board. Dr. George together with his friend, Fielding Yost, who took a personal interest in the project, worked to lay out the recreational field. Both men had become close friends while working together on the County Boy Scout Council. Dr. George had worked so hard on the island project that one day a group of his friends called him down to the area where they had placed a sign naming it “George Island.” One reason he chose the spot was because he had played there as a child along the banks of the Huron River.” Thus we learn that what we know as Frog Island Park was once named Island Park and, in jest, “George Island Park.”

Dr. George was also president of the Kiwanis club from 1923-1924 and was the enthusiastic energy behind their participation in the city’s 100th anniversary projects. The Kiwanis built an authentic log cabin, completely furnished appropriately for the 1823 era at Gilbert Park, where it remained for several years. They also obtained an ox cart, oxen, and driver and gave rides to eager children.

In a speech he gave to the Ypsilanti school board shortly before his death, Dr. Edward George relayed his philosophy of education: “Sometimes we put too much stress on buildings and equipment, when the backbone of a good school system is in the teaching staff. Personally I have always felt – start with the best kindergarten teachers that can be found – then go one better – if possible – for the rest of the grades.”

The grandson of George and Cary George was well loved and honored for his contributions and betterment of education and the community of Ypsilanti, so much so that after his death in 1949, the new E. S. George School at 1076 Ecorse Road in Ypsilanti was named for him. In a short paper, handed out when the school was opened in 1951 it was written “this school was named for a Dentist, Dr. Edward Shutts George who was born and raised in Ypsilanti in 1886 and lived here his entire life, until he passed away in 1949. He had been President of the Ypsilanti School Board from 1919 to 1933 and because he was a staunch believer in improving educational facilities, this school was named for him.”

Over 150 years ago when the George family made the long and perilous sea crossing from England to American for the education of their children and grandchildren, little did they know that the surname of George would be written on a school building and stand for quality education in their chosen city. The Georges are still on River Street – resting together on a beautiful bluff high above the Huron River and city of Ypsilanti that they loved so well, where the dreams of this immigrant family seem to have come true.

Other stories in The River Street Saga series can be found online at the Ypsilanti Historical Museum web site. More still can be read about the Frederick Swaine and Lizzie George family, as well as others who lived on this pretty little street in Ypsilanti, Michigan, most of whom are still there, in body if not in spirit, in the historic Highland Cemetery.

(Jan Anschuetz is a local history buff and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Funeral photo for Worgor George. Daughter Anna Marian is holding his photo. Second wife Anna E. Shutts George is holding baby Edward Shutts George. Standing is Frederick George and seated is Percival George.

Photo 2: Emily Morgan George, first wife of Worgor George with daughter Marianne. Emily is holding her son Percival.

Photo 3: Martha (Patty George) daughter of George and Cary Eaton George.

Photo 4: Worgor George with pitchfork in front of the Malt House on Forest Avenue.

Photo 5: Jessica Florence and cousins having fun outside the Malt House. Note the Swaine home on the left.

Photo 6: The Wallington girls May and Maude with cousin Jessie Swaine with bicycles on River Street at Forest Avenue.

Photo 7: Eliza (Lizzie) George Swaine, wife of Frederick Swaine.

Photo 8: The log cabin built by the Ypsilanti Kiwanis Club for the Ypsilanti Centennial celebration.

Photo 9: Jessie and Florence Swaine circa 1883.

Photo 10: Children from Fourth Ward School at the corner of Prospect and Michigan Avenue in 1892. Front row 3rd from left is Edward Shutts. Second row in the middle is Miss Stuffy, the teacher. (Anna) Marian George is at the right end of the second row.

Photo 11: Cary Eaton George and George George.

Photo 12: Cary Eaton George as a young woman in England.

Photo 13: Marianne George, daughter of Worgor and Emily George.

Photo 14: Worgor George, son of Cary and George George.

Photo 15: Joseph E. Thompson making presentation to Dr. E. S. George in 1949. Seated at right are Mr. and Mrs. Paul Ungrodt.

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