Posts of interest to local history buffs, written by local history buffs!

But Wait ... There's More

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The Local History Room at the Ann Arbor District Library also boasts a complete run of the Ann Arbor Observer from 1976 as well as the Observer's City Guide from 1987. We use the Observer constantly at the Reference Desk to answer all questions local. The covers alone are worth a visit!

Good News on Old News

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There is a treasure trove of area newsletters in the Ann Arbor District Library Local History Room and they provide histories of our streets and neighborhoods, social events and social groups, churches and businesses that cannot be found anywhere else. We have Washtenaw Impressions from 1943, Old West Side News from 1975, Family History Capers from 1979 and Washtenaw Jewish News from 1977 to name just a few. The Local History Room is located on the 2nd floor of the Downtown Branch Library.

Carrie Nation in Ann Arbor, May 3, 1902

Carrie Nation

submitted by Wystan Stevens. Click here for a version with mouse-over features highlighting historical details in the photograph; or here, for a much larger view.

Mob cheers for a State Street hatchet job: but hey, who axed that woman to come here, anyway?

Carrie A. Nation (1846-1911), the "Vessel of Wrath," was 56 and at the peak of her fame on May 3, 1902, when, standing on the back of a horse-drawn cab at the corner of State Street and North University Avenue, she engaged in rollicking repartee with a boisterous crowd of Michigan students. Emerging as a Prohibition crusader in Kansas in 1900, Mrs. Nation had obtained quick national renown by vandalizing the stock and furnishings of numerous saloons -- at first hurling rocks, then switching her M.O. to smashing with a hatchet that she carried beneath her waterproof cape. She was arrested again and again, and paid the fines for her "hatchetations" by lecturing and selling souvenir hatchets and photographs. In this area, she spoke in nearby Milan and in Ann Arbor (at the Athens Theater, the former Opera House, at the SW corner of Main and Ann). Although she entered several Ann Arbor saloons to confront their owners or barkeeps, she was on good behavior there, and smashed nothing. Newspaper reports suggest that too-high admission fees kept her Ann Arbor lecture audiences small, and there were few verbal fireworks. In fact, while here she drew her biggest crowd during this free appearance on the edge of the University of Michigan campus.

"I have been to all the principal universities of the United States. At Cambridge, where Harvard is situated, there are no saloons allowed, but in Ann Arbor the places are thick where manhood is drugged and destroyed." --Carrie Nation, in her memoirs (1905).

Washtenaw County, Michigan Heritage Driving Tours

The weather may be more suitable for sleighing than driving, but if you're up for a trip into Tree Town's past during the holiday, try one of The Washtenaw County Historic District Commission's four driving tours. Each of these themed tours--the Esek Pray Trail tour; the Greek Revival Architecture tour; the Historic Barns tour; and the German Heritage tour--comes with a detailed, color brochure you can download to accompany you on your drive. The tours are offered as part of The Washtenaw County Heritage Tourism Map Project to guide visitors and locals through the County’s cities, villages, and rural areas and to celebrate the region’s rich heritage.

Life of Nathaniel Stacy, first Universalist pastor in Ann Arbor

submitted by Wystan Stevens

The St. Andrew's history committee should check out this book, which I discovered during a Google Books search. Nathaniel Stacy published his memoirs in 1850, and this rare volume is now in the Universalist collection at Harvard University -- and fully readable online. Stacy was invited in 1835 to pastor the Ann Arbor Universalist congregation, and he came and stayed here about five years. He discusses the establishment of the Universalist church in Michigan, his acquaintance with Mssrs. Kellogg and Fuller, businessmen of Lower Town Ann Arbor who were members of his congregation, and his conversion to Universalism of John Williams, an ex-Calvinist (Presbyterian) farmer of Webster Township. The Ann Arbor material in Stacy's book begins on page 383.

Stacy's account has several pages on his own financial troubles, and he relates them in strong terms to the immoral craze of speculation that afflicted Michigan in the 1830s -- the era of Wildcat Banks and worthless paper money. The St. Andrew's history committee should relish the account of his doctrinal dispute with the pastors of the mainline protestant churches of Ann Arbor, which resulted in a public challenge to debate each of them -- either in his pulpit or in their own.

The debate challenge was flung boldly, via a letter printed in the Ann Arbor Argus and the Ann Arbor Journal, and it was ignored by all of the pastors except, finally, Mr. Marks, the Episcopal minister, who published his retort to Stacy (a lengthy letter) in the same newspapers. After that, Marks avoided Stacy on the street. Then he left town . . . .

Portrait of Rev. Nathaniel Stacy, in the fronticepiece of his memoirs:

Around page 450, Stacy writes briefly of his return visit to Ann Arbor years later, by train.

Sanborn Maps

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Want to know more about your house? Then you need the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. These indispensable tools for historical cartographic research were created by the Sanborn Map and Publishing Company to help fire insurance companies find who they needed to bill and what they needed to pay, they now serve as an important record of America's urbanization.

The maps cover some 12,000 cities and towns across the country and were published from 1867 to 1970. Many libraries and historical societies will carry maps of their surrounding areas. The Ann Arbor District Library has copies (on micro film) for Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, Milan, Saline, and Ypsilanti (with dates from 1884 to 1948). They can be found in the micro film drawers (2nd floor, way behind the periodicals desk).

Longone's Lost Cookbook Author

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Ann Arbor's own Jan Longone, curator of the Longone Culinary Archive at the William L. Clements Library makes an appearance today in the New York Times with A 19th Century Gost Awakens to Redefine Soul, about Jan's quest to uncover more information about Malinda Russell, author of "the earliest cookbook by an African-American woman that had ever come to light." The Ann Arbor District Library is one of the lucky recipients of a limited-edition facsimile of the only known copy of Mrs. Russell’s cookbook from the Longone Center. The Ann Arbor Cooks website provides digital access to a growing collection of heirloom local cookbooks.

The DKE house at 1912 Geddes Avenue, 1913-1967

DKE fraternity
(Click for larger view.)
Submitted by Wystan Stevens

I looked up the City Directory information on the house at 1912 Geddes (across from the entrance to the Arboretum), which is pictured here on a lovely handcolored Albertype postcard view, from c. 1930, that was published by Ann Arbor book merchant George Wahr. The photo shows the house after it had become home to the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) Fraternity, which was Gerald Ford's fraternity while he was a student at Michigan in the 1930s.

This house was built as a private residence for George W. Millen, and is first listed in the 1913 directory. Millen was a vice president of Ann Arbor's Farmers and Mechanics Bank.

The Dekes moved here when their former home on State Street was demolished for construction of the U-M Law Quadrangle. They had occupied that house for about 35 years. The DKE Shant, their ceremonial meeting place on East William, never was a residence.

When Millen left 1912 Geddes, he moved to 816 East University Avenue. The Dekes were here until 1967, when the house burned down. Another building now occupies the site, but the lot was empty for quite a few years after the old one burned.

Fischer and Finnell Building: 1910 and Now

Fischer and Finnell Store, 1910
(Click for larger view.)
Photo montage by Kim Scarborough. Comments, below, by Wystan Stevens.

An interesting partnership -- Fischer was the son of German immigrants, and James Finnell was Irish, from a Northfield Township family. Although most of Ann Arbor's German settlers were Protestants, Fischer was a parishioner of St. Thomas Catholic Church. He and Finnell probably had gone to the parish school together. Finnell later became a traveling auctioneer, in the style of Braun and Helmer of these latter days.

The horse-drawn delivery van was one of a fleet of dozens operated by the Merchants' Delivery Company. A housewife could shop downtown on foot, or by way of the trolley, and not have to lug her packages home --the Merchants' Delivery took care of that chore.

The donkey was a photographer's prop. He would lead the docile animal through the neighborhoods, getting parents to pose their children with it. He probably charged a fee up front, then delivered the prints in person or by mail. As a child in the '30s, my brother posed in a cowboy outfit on the saddle of a pony led around in just this way. (My parents lived on Marshall Court, just a few blocks from this intersection.)

In the 1920s, this building was called "The Delta" because of its shape, but I don't know if that was the original name.

Calling All Yearbooks

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The Ann Arbor District Library is looking for a few good high school yearbooks. Donations of past yearbooks from old Ann Arbor High School, Clemente, Community, Huron, Pioneer and Stone for our Local History Collection would be greatly appreciated. Please contact Debbie Gallagher at 327-8332 or gallagherd@aadl.org to make a donation or for more information about the Local History Collection.

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