Fletcher-White Archives (Summer 2012)

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

Author: Gerry Pety

You may have heard that we are now soliciting funds in the YHS Archives to dig a sub- level below the present Archive as we are quickly running out of storage space! We easily can use another 9,000 square feet to house all of the treasures we now house for the Ypsilanti community. So if you have about $250,000 just lying around, bring it on down to the Archives - our April fools joke this year!

Seriously, this summer we will be busy with collection organization. As part of this, Al Rudisill has been digging around and finding long-lost documents. One such fantastic find of late was an indenture for the James Aray farm between the two Aray brothers going back to 1843. (The Aray family was famous for their work with the “Underground Railroad”.) It is an ‘Indenture’ or land contract between James and Asher for the sale of his farm. Along with this is an actual promissory note for the $300 deficiency which is very rare in itself as most were destroyed when they were redeemed by the promissory note’s maker. Seems that Asher was about $300 short of cash for what he needed to pay James, so he included a promissory note as part of the transaction with the notation that it was to be paid ONLY in United States money. Times being what they were in the 1830s and ‘40s with ‘wildcat’ banks and devalued foreign money, James was smart to make sure this clause was in both the Indenture and the promissory note. The farm still exists and is on Textile and Campbell Roads, just across from the Harwood Cemetery in Pittsfield Township and is only about four miles away from here and just off Michigan Avenue, on the way to Saline. It is on a dirt road and the place is so peaceful and really quite a place to visit. The documents are with the Aray Family File in our Family History Collection.

Another enhancement to our collections is additions to our Ypsilanti City Directories. City directories are extremely valuable to researchers of our area as they encompass not only city residents, but also the townships in the Polk editions. They are the most valuable single research tool we have as they include people, businesses, government info, and much more. If you have any of these old editions, please donate them. We have some gaps in our coverage and the more directories we have the more focused and magnified the history of this region is. This upgrade was made possible by the Archives at Eastern Michigan University who have contributed their local history collections to us. Eastern Students who study area history now only have to come down to the YHS Archives as everything is right here. Thank you, EMU!

We expect the summer to be as hot and humid as last year, so come down to the Archives where it is always cool in more ways than one!

Museum Board Report (Summer 2012)

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

Author: Kathryn Howard, Chair Museum Advisory Board

After a beautiful spring, all Board members are back and fulfilling their responsibilities. We are back to normal. Our Museum being a “House”, it’s like doing your home “Spring Cleaning,” with each member having their sub-committee members helping them and reporting back.

The Art Exhibit was a great success; not as many artists, but a wonderful display of very talented work. We also have some of Fofie Pappas’ beautiful wood carvings in our showcase. Our display of Diane Schick’s collection of thimbles is very popular and will be here all summer.

The manikins have been re-dressed and “new gowns” were found in our closets and are truly lovely. These gowns are summer fashions, some with hem-stitching of superior quality. Fofie, Nancy and Laura are very fashion-minded with their choice of garments and accessories.

In early spring I received a call from Valencia, California from an individual whose ancestors lived here. Her name is Jennifer Brickner. She had what we call a “sewing carousel” that belonged in her family. It is hand-carved and on the carousel is carved “Philinda Walker Babbitt 1834.” What a find! Also, “Ypsilanti” is carved underneath the bottom. In later years, her grandfather worked at the Henry Ford Museum and lived in Dearborn. Even though it’s small in size, we feel it is quite an artifact for us. It is on display in the case in the Kitchen with some of Diane’s thimbles. George Ridenour is researching for more history on the family.

The Civil War Exhibit is still in place and the Lost Ypsilanti Exhibit will be up for the summer featuring towns and settlements that were here and now are gone.

We are getting ready for Ypsilanti Heritage Festival on August 17, 18, 19 and plan to have exhibitions and demonstrations out in the yard with an exhibit on the War of 1812.

The Quilt Exhibit will be here September 23-October 7. Rita has already made the quilt that will be given away.

Have a great summer and come see all the new displays.

From the President's Desk (Summer 2012)

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

Author: Alvin E. Rudisill

We appreciate the financial support we continue to receive from the many members and friends of the Ypsilanti Historical Society. Our current effort is 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 $56,000 of that amount. The original purchase price was $250,000 back in 2006 with $125,000 paid down with the balance due in 10 years without any accrual of interest.

The Captain Robert Arvin Display has been moved into the YHS Museum and was dedicated during our quarterly meeting on May 6th. The lead article in this issue tells the story of this American hero from Ypsilanti who excelled in everything he did. Thanks to Bill Nickels for his PowerPoint Program about Captain Arvin at the quarterly meeting and to Charles Kettles for planning and carrying out the display dedication.

By the time you receive this issue of the GLEANINGS, our annual yard sale on June 2nd will be over. We have been collecting items for the yard sale for the past year and stored them for the event in the Starkweather House on Huron River Drive. Thanks to Bill and Karen Nickels for hosting the event and to all the volunteers who spent time marking the items, setting up the displays and working during the actual yard sale.

One of our ongoing efforts is to expand and digitize the master database for the Fletcher-White Archives and to upload the latest version to the Internet on a regular basis. You can check out the latest version by going to the YHS web site and clicking on “Archives Database” on the left column of the home page. That action will bring up a set of instructions on how to open the database and search it. Once the database has been opened, you can use “control-F” to bring up a search box on your browser (location on the page depends on the browser being used) where you can type in the names of people, places or things and then search the entire database to see if we have that name in our collections. Clicking on “Next” will enable you to move through all the entries in the database for your search name.

Our next quarterly meeting will be held on Sunday, September 9, 2012, from 2 to 4 p.m. We will have a brief business meeting followed by a program. 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 always looking for volunteers as docents for the Museum or research assistants for the Archives. Both the Museum and Archives are open from 2 to 5 p.m. 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.

News from the Archives (Spring 2012)

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

Author: Gerry Pety

A lot of people believe an archive is some dark, damp collection of old, moldy papers thrown into some nondescript closet––a closet made popular by a radio personality named Fibber McGee who had his own ‘archive’ in a hall closet of his home. It was a popular gag line during his 25 years on radio with his wife, Molly, regularly nagging him to clean and organize that closet. He never quite got around to cleaning the darn thing out and every week we would hear a cacophony of sounds as his ‘personal archive’ came tumbling out of the closet. And what a sound it was, too! All winter we have been cleaning out our own closet to make it as accurate and accessible to you as in humanly possible.

To access our ‘new closet’, we have a way for you to search out what we have by way of your computer. Just go to the YHS website www.ypsilantihistorical society.com and look for the Archive Database. Just enter the database. This will give you a linear look into what we have here by just scrolling down the menu. To do a specific search, do a ‘control f’ and a search bar will appear either to the upper right or lower left of your browser. Type into the search bar as short a term as possible of what you are looking for. It will take you right to what you are searching for. These directions are also.

Have any problems? Just call the museum and speak with Dee or Lauren and they will help you. Once you find that we do have your old uncle Ozzie’s picture playing his Flugelhorn or his left-handed Sewer Flute, I know you will be down here lickety-split! If you are into a little of this type of nostalgia, I have written a small article in this issue of the GLEANINGS about the old YHS Archive that we habituated for five years while we were in physical ‘exile’ from the YHS Museum. This July 26th we have been in our new––and much improved––digs for five years. Where has the time gone? Many people still speak about the old archive when it was in the carriage house out back. This look back to the behind-the-scenes recollection will be a real eye-opener. We are luckier than you think that we still have your uncle’s picture.

Lastly, please, if you have any pictures or histories regarding the ‘lost settlements’ that were everywhere not that long ago around Ypsilanti, the proverbial ‘ends in the road’, little economic units such as Cherry Hill, Oceania, Urania, Geddesburg, etc. we would love to make copies of what you have for the Archives. These tidbits of history seem to be evaporating as very little of the essences of these small settlements are still left. In fact, with the advent of modern GPS units and modern maps that don’t even mention them, they are truly the ‘ghost towns’ of this area.

Museum Advisory Report (Spring 2012)

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

Author: Kathryn Howard, chair

Winter is over and we turn our attention to the coming of Spring. It sounds so good to say “Spring” and “Warm Weather!”

We had a successful winter with many visitors, some from as far away as California. The mild winter brought in a number of visitors and tours from outside the city.

Our Spring is filled with school and organization tours. New exhibits are being shown and costumes on the mannequins have been changed. The Museum has been cleaned and inventory is being taken. Our upcoming Art Exhibit begins May 13 and we are extending our shows to three weeks. Several artists have requested this – and we feel this is needed. If you are a painter of watercolor, oil, pastels, etchings, etc. we welcome all of you. We hope to have many new artists. Paintings are for sale after the Art Exhibit.

“Lost Ypsilanti” starts in July and will be displayed through the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival in August. The theme this year is “Lost and Almost-Lost Villages.” The show will feature villages that were active during the settling of our surrounding territory, such as Dixboro, Stony Creek, Snow, Oceania, Urania, Willis, East Ypsilanti, Lowell, Rawsonville and many others you never knew.

We do not know the plans for the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival although its theme will be “War of 1812 – Bicentennial” and it runs August 17, 18, 19. There will be interesting exhibits. Volunteers are so welcome. We have new docents who have volunteered in the past months and we welcome all of you.

We will be helping with the Garage Sale on June 2nd so save and bring in your contributions that you found during Spring cleaning. You may also call the Museum and arrange to have your contributions picked up.

From the President's Desk (Spring 2012)

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

We have received many compliments over the past few months regarding our quarterly publication, the GLEANINGS. Much of the credit is due our authors who continue to produce interesting and informative stories of the people, places and things that make up our city’s history. Credit is also due to our Assistant Editor Peg Porter and our Design and Layout Specialist Tom Dodd. In this issue there is an invitation for others to submit articles for inclusion in future issues of the GLEANINGS.

We appreciate the financial support we continue to receive from the many members and friends of the Ypsilanti Historical Society. Last year we raised over $16,000 to build and install over 40 storm windows at the Museum resulting in significant savings in heating and cooling bills. Our most recent effort raised over $20,000 toward the $125,000 still owed the city of Ypsilanti for the purchase of the property at 220 North Huron Street. The $125,000 owed the City is due in five years so future fundraising efforts will need to be devoted to this program.

The 2012 Annual Yard Sale hosted by Bill and Karen Nickels will be held on June 2. We will be collecting and storing items for the sale throughout the winter and spring. If you have items to donate please drop them off at the Museum Tuesday through Sunday 1-5 p.m. or call Bill Nickels at 734-474-3259 or Al Rudisill at 734-476-6658 to arrange for the items to be picked up.

Please check out the “Archives Database” that has been posted to the YHS web site. Just click on “Archives Database” on the left column of the home page and it will bring up a set of instructions on how to open and search it. Using “control-F” will bring up a search box on your browser (location on the page depends on the browser being used) where you can type in the names of people, places or things and then search the entire database to see if we have that name in our collections.

Our next quarterly meeting will be held on Sunday, May 6, from 2-4 p,m. We will have a brief business meeting followed by a program. Members will be notified of program details by email or postcard. If you are not currently on our email listserv please call the Museum 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 always looking for volunteers as docents for the Museum or research assistants for the Archives. Both the Museum and Archives are open from 2-5 p.m. 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.

5th Anniversary of Moving Archives

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


Author: Gerry Pety

Happy 5th Anniversary... to Us!
Reflections on the old YHS Archives: 7/26/2007-7/26/2012

As most people in the YHS community know, we have a new Archive which is absolutely first rate and a blend of the old and new that makes it very efficient and yet evokes a positive feeling on Ypsilanti history. What the walls of this 150-year-old house could tell! The best part of moving to this well-planned 'Phoenix' of the old YHS Archives is that everything works on a consistent basis which again makes this an ideal place to do research or just converse about the history or the area. Moreover, we are now fully capable of finding anything in the archives pertaining to Ypsilanti - which is something we could not always do at the old place, due to its interior configuration.

It is still hard to believe that it has been five years since we moved the Fletcher-White Archives from the, then city-owned, carriage house to our new present facilities in the lower level of the YHS Museum. What a move it was too! Everyone within the YHS family and others, it seemed, came to help us move. It was a real job and it involved a great deal of preparation on everyone's part, but my volunteers and I pulled it off. Phew!

People seem to remember different aspects of that place than I do, and although I still remember the good times we had over there, there were many other things which made the place absolutely 'unique'. Many have asked me what I feel about the old Archives and then they would wax nostalgically about how charming the old place was or the great view we had of Riverside Park from our windows. During the summer, there were lots of annual events within our view. All of this free! Also, some of our guests and members remember the coziness of the place which engendered a a spirit of camaraderie among the patrons with everyone helping one another; whether it was to do research or just simple explanations of Ypsilanti's fascinating history. Yeah, it was a wonderful experience to be sure, to everyone including myself.

Yep, I really liked the place but there was a side to the old Archives not everyone knows about. I will spin that story for you now as I remember the old place.

Sometime in 2002 the Archives were in the Ypsilanti Room in the YHS Museum where I was a volunteer and during my first week we moved the Archives over to what was known as the carriage house. Wow, what a move it was! James Mann was the first Archivist at the new digs and I worked for him the first year. In 2003 James left this position and I was finally hired to run the 'exiled' Archives at the carriage house. This was after the short-lived tenure of an archivist who was allergic to dust and mold. Two ambulance rides to the hospital later they hired me to take her place. It seems it was on June 25th, 2003, a date that General Custer made famous some 127 years earlier.

The part of the story most people find hard to believe was that totality of the problems we would encounter there and I do mean WE! Every day we came to the Archives I never knew, until I entered, what would or could possibly go wrong that day or what my guests and helpers would encounter. Many times during the next five years we would welcome patrons and helpers without any heat, light, phones, computer, water, or even with a plugged toilet! This happened all the time! We even had a flood in the bathroom one day and a bathtub that was backed-up with some really, slimy goo---shades of 'slime' in the movie "Ghost Busters"! We some how always found a way to stay open though. Oh, we might get really cold, but we remained open.

Our final August in 2006 at the old Archive, we even had a real fire! The power line leading to the building was literally knocked off by a direct lightning strike; it was just hanging there on the side of the building when DTE arrived to fix it. No air conditioning, light or computer that day! Luckily, the actual strike was so short-lived, probably only took a nano second. The electrical lead-in wire was probably due to fail anyway due to its advanced age and lack of maintenance, so it was time to replace it anyway. This place was originally converted to apartments in 1929 and that was probably the original lead wire from then. The only evidence left was a scorched and melted carpet under the desk in the living room and a completely destroyed surge protector. The good news was that the computer survived and somehow the place didn't burn to the ground like the building almost did in 1968 when there was a boiler fire in the basement!

When we did finally move to the new Archive, renovations started. What was revealed was a very antiquated wiring system and confusing fuse panel, and a plumbing system that even the ancient Romans would regard as sub-standard. (YHS President Al Rudisill and Jerry Jennings would remedy all of this over the course of the next nine months to make this place into a deluxe apartment). Besides the physical problems with the old Archives, we had all kinds of visitors- invasions of all kinds of some really ugly creatures that came to visit: a rodent or two, numerous House Centipedes, (I swear one was size of a 75-cent Tootsie Roll) and other 'things' I never knew existed or haven't seen since my student days at Hover Labs at EMU, when we studied bugs. If you believe there is not enough bio-diversity on this planet, is wasn't missing, it was just hiding right here in the Archives!

We also had a squirrel that went absolutely beserk in 2005 and ran 'hill and dale' leaving paw prints on everrrrrryything! He left paw prints on every vertical surfaces too. This little fellow went everywhere and only the ceiling was spared this 'super-tracker'. Seems he came down the chimney and could not back up so he decided to show his immense displeasure with the whole joint by leaving his 'calling cards' along with numerous tracks.

But this is not a 'hit piece' about a place that never would have made 'code' if it had been owned by a private landlord, this was a city owned building at the time. Ypsilanti over the years had taken a minimalist approach to repairs and human safety issues - and all of the 'regulars' and visitors who came in knew it instinctively. One of the first items of interest upon entry was to survey where the exits were and how far it was to jump out a window in case of an emergency. The walls were uniformly rough from faulty plastering, the doors stuck, nothing worked properly. I got to know Stan, the leader of the city maintenance crew that came to fix things on an almost weekly schedule. Heck, even when everything appeared to be working well, you knew that this was just a setup or prelude to some new difficulty---lady luck was nowhere to be found during our tenancy.

When I think back to those days of five years ago, I still remember all the things that went on and wonder if this was not some sort of immense cosmic joke. Maybe, in some perverse way the place was so trouble prone that it challenged the laws of possibilities. How could so many negative things happen all at once and all of the time! Maybe it was some escaped gremlins from the Ford/Consolidated bomber plant of World War II. Nah!

Then I think of the people and made 'IT' the special place that it was. It was a great place to do research and a lot of fun to boot - the full spectrum of positive human personalities were present there every day we were open. Many of those people that came to the old Archives are now gone but the special memories of these people are accentuated by an equally special place we all shared. I will never forget the old Fletcher-White Archives, it was a special time, in a very special place. There will never be a place like this again.

As to our present Archives, I am sure, that 45 years from now someone will write an equally satisfying account of all of the great happenings and people here and now and about our panoply of friendly ghosts that habituate the place. I sure hope so!

So long live the YHS Archives and Happy 5th Anniversary!

[Gerry Pety is Archivist for the Fletcher-White Archives and a boon to all who seek professional research there.]

News from the Archives (Winter 2011)

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2011,
Winter 2011
Original Images:

Author: Gerry Pety

What a year we have had down in the Archives! Christmas came early this year with the purchase of a much needed microfilm reader with donated funds. But blessings are not just about material things you get in this life, but the people you associate with on a daily basis. Our staff of dedicated volunteers has made this place a blessing to the en- tire community of Ypsilanti year-round! Whether it is James, George, Marcia, Laura, Dee, Debbie, Lyle, Liz, Sally or Karl, all of them do a great job in assist- ing visitors conducting research on the history of the people, places and things in Ypsilanti. Thanks to each of you for being here!

December 4th is our Holiday Open House and quarterly meeting this year. While we will not have a guest speaker, we will be hosting a book signing by James Mann, author of “Wicked Ann Arbor, and Laura Bien, authoress of “Hidden History of Ypsilanti.” James’ book is about what we have known for a long time––that Ann Arbor has some wicked elements relating to its people and history. He documents that theme throughout his new book along with some fascinating and true stories that you never knew about our neighbors in “tree town.” Oh yes, it’s the crimes and disorder that he writes so interestingly about. Laura’s book is about what Lau- ra does best, finding the story behind the story. It is always amazing to read- ers (and the Archives bunch) where she finds this stuff! We, at times, believe she is making all of these stories up, but one thing about Laura is that she documents everything she writes about. So, if you like what Laura writes in the local news- paper, you will love this book. That you can take to the bank! These great books are now available in the Archives for $20 and you can have them signed by the authors at our open house.

From all of us here in the Archives, may you have a blessed Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2012!

Museum Advisory Report (Winter 2011)

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2011,
Winter 2011
Original Images:

Author: Kathyrn Howard

After a busy fall at the Museum we are now into our winter activi- ties and holidays. Our Quilt Exhibit was a wonderful success with nearly one hundred quilts and other quilted pieces. We had many wall hangings and runners, which added to a won- derful variety. The Quilt Tying Raffle was a great success and the finished quilt was won by Nahid Hemati. We received $400 in donations. This is for new electric light fixtures for the Heri- tage Room.

The costumes have been changed to beautiful winter clothing by Fofie Pappas and Nancy Wheeler. The dis- play cases are ready with new exhib- its. One case has an interesting exhibit of turkey salt and pepper shakers plus other pieces of turkey-designed items, from the collection of Mary Baker.

The large display case in the Dr. Ed- munds Room has new exhibits of items, many manufactured in the Yp- silanti area, as well as items that local merchants had for sale from yesteryear.

Our Christmas Open House on December 4th from 1 to 5 p.m. will fea- ture entertainment by a musical group that has previously appeared at the Museum. The Museum is beautifully decorated for the Holidays. The tree is featured in gold. Very lovely, and the rest of the Museum also is beautifully done. There will be refreshments and fellowship, so please enjoy the afternoon with us.

If you have an exhibit you feel is of interest, we would be glad to display it. We all have interesting collections. The Museum will be open all winter with some very interesting activities, tours and special programs in the Archives. We are planning some day activities during the winter months. Several peo- ple have asked for day workshops. Calendars, books and other items are for sale in the Archives.

We’ve had several groups this past fall. The Underground Railroad Power Point program has been shown to indi- vidual groups.

All of the linen has been laundered and carefully stored. Rugs have been cleaned in the halls. We are ready for the Holidays – and we are ready for you!

The Museum will be closed on December 24, 25, 26 and 31, and on January 1. Happy Holidays!

From the President's Desk (Winter 2011)

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2011,
Winter 2011
Original Images:

Author: Al Rudisill

This has been a great year for the Ypsilan- ti Historical Society and I want to thank all of you who have made contributions through our fund raising programs, the volunteer staff program for our Museum and Archives, the various Advisory Boards that provide leadership for our sponsored activities, and our members who provide support and encouragement to all of us.

One of our major activities during the remainder of this year and during 2012 will be to launch a campaign to raise the $125,000 balance owed the City of Yp- silanti for the purchase of the property at 220 North Huron Street. Now that we have completed the major renovation projects on the Museum and the Carriage House and completed the paving of the parking lot, we can focus our efforts on paying off this balance. Donald Loppnow was recently elected Chair of the Endow- ment Fund Advisory Board and we look forward to his leadership in guiding this effort.

Our Holiday Open House is scheduled for Sunday, December 4th from 1 to 5 p.m. Re- freshments will be served and we will be entertained by strolling musicians. James Mann, author of “Wicked Ann Arbor” and Laura Bien, author of “Hidden History of Ypsilanti” will be in the Archives au- tographing their new publications. Come and join us for an afternoon of fellowship. The tree will be up and the Museum will be decorated for the Christmas season.

Our thanks to James Mann for hosting the “Education Nights in the Archives” pro- gram. We will be featuring films that have significant historical value and James will provide an introduction to each film and lead the discussion after the film has been shown. We are keeping Society members notified of the times and film titles through our new email list-serve. If you have not been receiving our email notices please call Lauren Carpenter at the Museum (734-482-4990) between 2 and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and provide her with your email address.

We are always looking for volunteers as docents for the Museum or research assis- tants for the Archives. Both the Museum and Archives are open from 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.If you are avail- able during that time and are interested in helping us preserve the historical informa- tion and artifacts of the area, or in educat- ing the general public about our history, please give me a call at 734-476-6658.

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