Museum Board Report

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Nancy Wheeler, Chair

We are decorated for the holidays! Jane Schmiedeke has loaned her antique winter village houses and are displayed in the kitchen. Maxe and Terry Obermeyer have donated the wreath hanging in the Milliman Parlor as well as other beautiful decorations. The mannequins are dressed in their winter clothes. Great displays have been set up in every room.

Be sure to attend out Christmas Open House on Sunday, December 13, 2015. The Huron Valley Harmonizers will entertain from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. They serenaded us beautifully, several years ago. Refreshments will be served.

The Quilt Show held in September was a great success! Thirty-seven people loaned us 87 pieces for the exhibit. Seventy-two signed the guest book and six new exhibitors were added to the books, for future shows. Vera Sabastian and Arlene Measley were the winners of the beautiful wall hangings donated by Rita Sprague. THANK YOU Chair Sarah VanderMeulen and her committee.

Welcome to John Stewart and Louise Nagle, the two new members of the Museum Advisory Board.
Group tours continue to be popular. Call us to set up a visit for your organization.

We have several new volunteers debating a Docent position. Will you join their training group? Call 734.482.4990 and give Michael your name and contact information.


Picture Captions:

Photo 1: Maxe and Terry Obermeyer donated Christmas decorations for display in the Museum including this wreath hanging over the fireplace in the Milliman Parlor.

From the President’s Desk

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Alvin E. Rudisill

By the time you receive this issue of the Gleanings the Museum will be all decked out for the Christmas Holidays. Our “Annual Open House” will be on Sunday, December 13 from 2 to 5 pm. One new feature of the open house this year is that Christmas music will be playing on our newly installed sound system.

We were surprised and pleased to have a visit from descendants of the Demetrius Ypsilantis family. Some members of the family that visited live in Ohio while other members live in Greece and were visiting the family members in Ohio. Make sure you read the brief report about the visit in this issue of the Gleanings.

Receipts from our Annual Fund Drive this year will be deposited in our Endowment Fund. The interest from this fund goes to support our annual operating budget and allows us to continue our free admission policies for both the Museum and Archives.

We are fortunate to have so many volunteers who assist with operating both the Museum and Archives. In addition we have a number of interns from Eastern Michigan University and other universities in Southeastern Michigan that contribute approximately 150 hours on specific projects and activities.

If you are not on our email listserv please call the Museum at 734-482-4990 and have your name added. We are using the listserv only for program notifications and your email address will not be shared with others. Also, please check the Event Schedule on our website for upcoming special programs and displays.

Museum Advisory Board Report

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Nancy Wheeler, Board Chair

Charles Kettles was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1967. A display to honor him will be dedicated at the General Meeting on Sept. 27, 2:00 p.m. The display is located in the Edmonds-Ypsilanti Room.

The quilt exhibit will be held September 13 thru September 26. At least 85 quilts are scheduled to be on display. This is always a beautiful exhibit. Thank you to Sara VanderMeulen and her committee.

An exhibit of 25 chairs is now ready throughout the Museum. We have many styles dating from the 1800’s. The history of each style is included in the descriptions. Be sure to see the Boston Rocker once owned by the Starkweather family.

Rita Sprague and Midge Fahndrich have asked to be replaced on the Museum Advisory Board. Both have served in many capacities for years and will be greatly missed. Both will continue to docent and work on special projects. Thank you Rita and Midge!

More than 50 volunteers helped to present our beautiful Museum to the public during the Heritage Festival. Will you help next year? Will you help us before then? Call 734-482-4990 and Volunteer.


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Boston Rocker, circa 1840 from Starkweather family (Black rocker with stencils on back and seat).

Photo 2: Low-Back Armchair, circa 1850-1900 (Lowest back chair photographed).

Photo 3: Wicker Rocking Chair, circa 1830-1900 (Wicker with scrolls on back).

Clone of From the President’s Desk

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Alvin E. Rudisill

We have installed a “Charles S. Kettles” display in the Edmunds/Ypsilanti Room in the Museum. Lt. Colonel Kettles served during the Vietnam War and is currently being considered for the Medal of Honor. The program at our 2:00 pm, September 27th, Membership Meeting will be presented by Bill Nickels and will feature the service of Lt. Colonel Kettles. The display will be dedicated following the program and meeting. Make sure you place the September 27th Membership Meeting on your calendar.

The YHS Museum and Archives was part of the “Walking Tour of Historical Sites” that took place at the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival. Many people toured the museum and archives and had their “ticket” punched so they would be eligible for the tour prizes. First prize was $1,000 and second prize was a $500 golf and weekend stay at the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor Marriott Hotel.

We are looking for authors to contribute articles for the Gleanings. With the passing of prolific authors Phil Barnes and Tom Dodd it has been somewhat of a struggle to gather the number of stories we need to fill the available space. Please call me at 734-476-6658 or email me at al@rudisill.ws if you are interested in submitting a story or in becoming one of our regular contributors.

One of our new projects in the Archives is to transcribe the many “Oral History” audio tapes that have been produced over the years by YHS members and many others, including A. P. Marshall who produced a series on African American history in Ypsilanti. Alice Calder started this project a couple of years ago and now volunteer Sam Smaltz has taken on the responsibility. A new collection titled “Oral Histories” will be established and the printed version of each audio tape along with the actual audio tape will be placed in a folder in a file cabinet.

I want to thank all of the volunteers who serve on our boards, docent in the Museum, provide services in our Archives, or provide other services to the Ypsilanti Historical Society. Without their efforts it would be impossible to provide the many services available through the Society.


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The display case in the Edmunds/Ypsilanti Room featuring the military service of Lt. Colonel Charles Kettles.

From the President’s Desk

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Alvin E. Rudisill

We have installed a “Charles S. Kettles” display in the Edmunds/Ypsilanti Room in the Museum. Lt. Colonel Kettles served during the Vietnam War and is currently being considered for the Medal of Honor. The program at our 2:00 pm, September 27th, Membership Meeting will be presented by Bill Nickels and will feature the service of Lt. Colonel Kettles. The display will be dedicated following the program and meeting. Make sure you place the September 27th Membership Meeting on your calendar.

The YHS Museum and Archives was part of the “Walking Tour of Historical Sites” that took place at the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival. Many people toured the museum and archives and had their “ticket” punched so they would be eligible for the tour prizes. First prize was $1,000 and second prize was a $500 golf and weekend stay at the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor Marriott Hotel.

We are looking for authors to contribute articles for the Gleanings. With the passing of prolific authors Phil Barnes and Tom Dodd it has been somewhat of a struggle to gather the number of stories we need to fill the available space. Please call me at 734-476-6658 or email me at al@rudisill.ws if you are interested in submitting a story or in becoming one of our regular contributors.

One of our new projects in the Archives is to transcribe the many “Oral History” audio tapes that have been produced over the years by YHS members and many others, including A. P. Marshall who produced a series on African American history in Ypsilanti. Alice Calder started this project a couple of years ago and now volunteer Sam Smaltz has taken on the responsibility. A new collection titled “Oral Histories” will be established and the printed version of each audio tape along with the actual audio tape will be placed in a folder in a file cabinet.

I want to thank all of the volunteers who serve on our boards, docent in the Museum, provide services in our Archives, or provide other services to the Ypsilanti Historical Society. Without their efforts it would be impossible to provide the many services available through the Society.


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The display case in the Edmunds/Ypsilanti Room featuring the military service of Lt. Colonel Charles Kettles.

Incident at the Archives

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

Some years ago, back when the YHS Archives were in the carriage house behind the Museum, a strange event happened. Late one afternoon a tall thin man entered the Archives, stepped up to me, and asked for James Mann. I told him that was me. The man told me he had come to the Archives at the suggestion of the staff at the Library, as I might help identify the ghost in their apartment. The family, he added, was in such fear of the ghost that they had spent the night sleeping in the car. He promised to pay for the research.

As we talked, a little boy entered the Archives, holding a smaller child up to his chest. The boy asked if we had a bathroom. We did, and quickly directed him to it. Once informed of where the bathroom was, he hurried past us and went to do what had to be done. Right after this, a petite, dark haired young woman wearing glasses entered and asked about the children. She was the wife of the man and mother of the children. At some point, we were told she was employed as a waitress at a nude dance club, east of the city.

The man told me the family had left the house one day, and on their return had found a noose hanging from the light in the dining room. He told me about the children playing on the floor rolling balls that would roll back to them from across the room. There was the time, he told me, of a ball rolling down the stairs, stopping halfway down, and rolling back up the stairs. The man added: “Mary Ann, the Ghost Whisperer, is a friend of ours, and she said the house is haunted and the ghost does not like children.” This was a reference to the then popular television show, Ghost Whisperer, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. The premise of the show was that the lead character could communicate with the dead. She helped those who could not cross over because they could not find peace because of unfinished business. The stories were said to be in part based on the work of Mary Ann Winkowski, who claimed to communicate with the dead. The show ran on CBS from September 23, 2005 to May 21, 2010.

The reference to the Ghost Whisperer meant nothing to me, as I had stopped watching television several years before, and had never heard of the show. Instead, I asked for the address of the house, which was 106 North Adams Street.

The house was built for Dr. Thomas Shaw, when he moved to Ypsilanti from Chelsea in 1888. He had lived in the house until his death on March 19, 1917. I pulled the biography file on Dr. Shaw and found two photographs of coffins set out in the parlor of a house. It was a common practice well into the 20th Century to hold funerals in the family home. These were photographs of two different coffins, at two different funerals, in two different homes. There was no information on the photographs as to who was in the coffins and or where or when the funerals were held. Dr. Shaw had one child, a daughter, Mary Shaw, who never married and lived in the house until her death at the age of 94. She, as her father, is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Chelsea.

George Ridenour, a fellow volunteer at the Archives, contacted the producers of the show Ghost Whisperer because the man had claimed her as a friend. Not long after, George received a phone call from Mary Ann Winkowski, who said she knew nothing of the haunted house, and did not know the family involved. She added, she would have remembered a name like Ypsilanti.

The family disappeared from the area soon after their visit to the Archives. A relative of the family told George they were safe, and no harm had come to them. We finally concluded that the family had probably wanted to break the lease and escape from paying the rent. Such is life in the Archives. By the way, the visitor never paid for the research.

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

Volunteers Receive Service Awards

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:


The Gerald Jennings Service Award was established in 2012 by the Board of Trustees of the Ypsilanti Historical Society to honor individuals who have dedicated a significant amount of their time and talents to Society programs, activities and projects. The award was named to honor Gerald Jennings who is a member of the YHS Board of Trustees and has contributed his time and talents to the Society for many years. Recipients of the Award are selected by the Society Board of Trustees and are recognized at quarterly membership meetings of the Society.

During the Membership Meeting on September 7 three individuals received the award, James Mann, George Ridenour and Lyle McDermott. These three individuals are current volunteers in the YHS Archives who assist visitors and respond to call-in and email inquiries. The wording on each of the awards was as follows:

“Lyle McDermott has been a volunteer in the Ypsilanti Historical Society Archives for the past eight years. As a dedicated member of the Archives team, he is able to answer even the most unique research questions. He is skilled at reading maps and atlases, and researching properties. Lyle’s passion for Ypsilanti and the Ypsilanti Historical Society is evident in his enthusiastic approach to inquiries and new acquisitions. The Society is fortunate to have such a devoted volunteer.”

“George Ridenour has been a volunteer in the Ypsilanti Historical Society Archives for the past eight years. He is particularly adept at finding people through careful vital records research. Guests to the Archives can always count on him to assist them thoroughly and skillfully. An avid contributor of articles to the Gleanings, his creative stories shed light on oft-unexplored topics in Ypsilanti history. George also serves as a member of the YHS Archives Advisory Board.”

“Presented to James Mann for extraordinary service and dedication over the past several years to the Ypsilanti Historical Society. His experiences as a local historian, storyteller, and author have made him a valuable resource to visitors seeking information about people, places, and things in the Ypsilanti area. His significant contributions to the Gleanings and the creation of the “Friday Night Movie Series” go beyond the expected volunteer call of duty.”


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Lyle McDermott (right) is presented the award by YHS Board of Trustee member John Pappas.

Photo 2: George Ridenour (left) is presented the award by YHS Board of Trustee member Virginia Davis-Brown.

Photo 3: James Mann (left) is presented the award by YHS Board of Trustee member Nancy Taylor.

Fletcher-White Archives (Fall 2012)

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2012,
Fall 2012
Original Images:

Author: Gerry Pety

Report from the Fletcher White Archives
By Gerry Pety, Director

We have been busy in the Archives sorting and filing the materials given to us is summer by the Eastern Michigan Archives. Al Rudisill and company have been sorting, classifying and adding to our data base which is on our website. So if you would like to know what we have just view it at www.ypsilantihistoricalsociety.org! Marcia McCrary, our Thursday host, and my assistant Deirdre Fortino, have spent a lot of time keeping the database up to date. We now know what we have in the Archives and where it is, which is a real accomplishment!

Diving into history: Every now and then we have a visitor in the Archives who provides us with new information. Recently an individual visited who is scuba diving in Ford Lake where the old settlement of Woodruff’s Grove was thought to be. The area was flooded in the 1930s to provide an artificial lake for power generation and flood control of the Huron River. Under 30 feet of water the old village sits, or what is left of it. We now know that the village sits some distance from a deserted road entering the lake near the northern point where the Huron River enters. The diver says he will continue to dive in the hopes of finding more and better artifacts - maybe even some treasure. He will report back if he finds anything of interest.

Tiny towns researched: For the last year we have been collecting ‘place names’ of settlements that have largely disappeared not only from the landscape but our memory as well. Sometimes these little places were just names to the locals so as to make it easy to find, but many times they were also economic units where business and services were found. One that has been recently recognized as a defunct settlement or place name is Sobers Corners, back when there was a TB sanatorium at the intersection of Ridge and Geddes roads. I doubt it was just the hospital but we just don’t know. The other place name was at the junction of Lowell and Jarvis streets known as Norton’s Corners. Mr. Norton, founder of Norton’s Flowers, had several greenhouses near the Michigan State Normal College campus (now EMU) back in the 1920s to the 1940s. But that is all we know about these place names. In both cases we have no pictures, references, maps, layouts, history - almost nothing.

We are also looking for more information about Frains Lake, Urania and Carpenter’s Corners. If you have any additional information about these places or Willis, Stony Creek, Paint Creek, Cherry Hill or Superior please pass it on to us here in the Archives. The information on a lot of these places is out there, I just know it, but we need your help to find it!

Museum Board Report (Fall 2012)

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2012,
Fall 2012
Original Images:

Author: Kathyrn Howard

It is early fall and hard to believe our summer activities are over. Attendance was down as we do not have Macy’s Museum Adventure Pass (MAP) program as in the past. The final program in the series will coordinate museum visits with library Summer Reading programs. The new MAP program is an online program. Library patrons will use the www.detroitadventurepass.org to see what is going on.

Heritage Festival went very well. The weather plays a great part in this. The case display of The War of 1812 will be shown until November. The display is a collection from one of our members depicting phases of events in the War. There are pictures and a 15 star United States flag of this time also, in the library. The Lost Ypsilanti exhibit was very interesting, as people did not realize these towns existed. A new display is our collection of typewriters, starting from the 1890’s up to electric ones.

The most exciting event for fall is our Quilt Exhibit, which goes from September 23rd to October 14th . One wonders at the superior workmanship that goes into all of these quilts, especially the detail of the design and fabric used. This display is under the leadership of Rita Sprague. Rita has designed a beautiful quilt called “Wisdom” which will be on display. You can win it by giving a donation and dropping a ticket with your name and phone number in the receptacle. If you have a quilted quilt or piece you would like to display, call Rita at 734-483-3600.

Fall tours are being booked now. The Quester Group will be touring October 17th. The Holidays will be here and if you have an interesting collection you want us to see, call us. Karen at 734-483-8896 or me at 734-482-7081. The Holiday Open House is December 9th. Come and see the Museum in all its festive glory.

An acquisition we have received is a lovely silver tea and coffee set with tray. A gift from Mary Cosgrove. Thank you, Mary.

Come visit us and see all these wonderful displays we have planned for you.

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The War of 1812 display depicts various phases of events in the war

From the President's Desk (Fall 2012)

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2012,
Fall 2012
Original Images:

Author: Al Rudisill

From the President’s Desk
By Alvin E. Rudisill

We continue to receive financial support from members and friends related to our efforts to raise $125,000 to pay off the balance owed the City of Ypsilanti for the property at 220 North Huron Street. Since December of 2011 we have raised approximately $70,000 of that amount. The original purchase price was $250,000 back in 2006. $125,000 was paid at that time with the balance due in 10 years without any accrual of interest.

The Ypsilanti Heritage Festival held August 17-19 provided another opportunity to showcase our Museum and Archives. Our volunteers worked hard to host over 200 visitors over that weekend. In addition to visitors to the Museum and Archives the Society had the opportunity to participate in some of the programs at the “Chautauqua at the Riverside” event held at the Riverside Arts Center. Tom Dodd provided the leadership in planning and conducting the Chautauqua program which featured exhibitions, lectures, demonstrations, panel discussions, Q&A sessions, musical performances and documentary films. We were extremely pleased to hear that Tom has agreed to facilitate a similar Chautauqua program at the 2013 Heritage Festival.

Many of our readers will be disappointed to discover that our regular feature “It’s a Test” on Ypsilanti history is missing from this issue. Our good friend and author of this feature, Peter B. Fletcher, has experienced some temporary medical problems. We look forward to his speedy recovery and the return of this feature in the Fall 2012 issue of the Gleanings.

Our next quarterly meeting will be held on Sunday, September 9, 2012, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. We will have a brief business meeting followed by a program by Bill Nickels titled “The Norton Family in Ypsilanti.” Norton family members have lived in Ypsilanti for almost 150 years and we will be dedicating and renaming our solarium “The Norton Family Solarium.” Members will be notified of program details by email or postcard. If you are not currently on our email listserv please call the Museum at 734-482-4990 and have your name added. We are using the listserv only for program notifications. Your email address will not be shared with others. Also, please check the Event Schedule on our web site for upcoming special programs and displays.

We are looking for volunteers as docents for the Museum or research assistants for the Archives. Both the Museum and Archives are open from 2:00 to 5:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday. If you are available during that time and are interested in helping us preserve the historical information and artifacts of the area, or in educating the general public about our history, please give me a call at 734-476-6658.

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