The Chautauqua Movement is Alive and Well Today

After a quick drive through Bay View Michigan where we discovered beautiful Victorian houses, we learned this community was part of the Chautauqua movement from the late 1800’s.  Although the movement slowly died out in the 1920’s this community has remained active from its founding in 1875.

Always interested in our country’s history I have done some research since coming home on the Chautauqua movement.

I found the word is an Iroquois word and means ““a bag tied in the middle” or “two moccasins tied together.”   This name apparently was given to the movement because the first such meeting took place near Chautauqua Lake in New York where the word described the shape of the lake.

Started by John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller in a Methodist camp meeting site, it was used as a summer school for Sunday School teachers.  Although it started in this religious setting, it was more than just religious teaching.

It quickly spread throughout the country and attracted families to enjoy educators, preachers, musicians, orchestras while also enjoying camping and other outdoor summer activities.

Politicians also enjoyed speaking at these gatherings.  The large crowds that attended these summer programs gave them a way to get their message out (before the days of television, Facebook and cable news).  One of the most famous of those politicians was William Jennings Bryan.  A Democrat who ran for president three times, Bryan was very adamant about the importance of making education available to all.  He found the Chautauqua Movement an excellent way to make educational, religious and cultural programs open to all.

Theodore Roosevelt called it “the most American thing in America.”

The movement began to die out as television and other modern entertainment venues grew in popularity.  However, today it is experiencing a come back.  The idea of lifelong learning has gained importance again and the desire for cultural experiences is returning.  There are existing Chautauqua communities throughout the USA.

The original Chautauqua is now a 750-acre education center in New York State.  During the nine-week summer season at the Chautauqua Institution, over 7,500 persons enjoy the all the programs which include the four pillars of the movement:  religion, recreation, arts and education.  Courses are offered in art, dance, theater, writing among many other psecial interests.

The one we found in Bay View is definitely one I want to visit next summer.  In addition to the beautiful homes and the programs they are offering, I look forward to enjoying the  sunsets on beautiful Little Traverse Bay just across the street.

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If you do not live near Michigan, check the map to find one of the many Chautauqua facilities and check it out.

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Smart Phones and Southern Twang

I was born in southern Illinois but much of my adult life has been spent in northern Illinois.  Everywhere I have gone people ask me where in the South I was born.  Most guess Tennessee, Kentucky or even Mississippi.  Often I have been told that I have a “southern twang” – whatever that means.

My husband and son-in-law tease me about many words that I pronounce wrong – at least according to them.  My husband has tried to get me to said the word as he says it.  When I listen to others I can tell the difference, but try as I do, I cannot pronounce it as they do.

While we were missionaries in the Philippines several asked us why my husband and I “talk different.”  They recognized my speech pattern was not the same as his.

With my recent purchase of a smart phone I now can just speak my test messages instead of typing them out.  The result has been so funny.   Alexis – or whoever she is – does not understand my speech.  Some of the texts she has sent have made me laugh.

Some words she doesn’t get

  • I say “said” – she hears “set”
  • I say “wash” – she hears “warsh”
  • I say wrestling – she hears “rassling”
  • I don’t dare say “oil” or any word with “oi” in it because who knows what she will think I am saying.

Not really being from the south (although southern Illinois is very close to Kentucky and if you look on a map it is as far south as Virginia), I just assumed living that close to the south my ancestors may have been southerners and that speech pattern was passed on to my parents and now to me.  There must have been some southerners in our background because the first secular song I remember singing was “I Wish I Was in Dixie.”

Recently doing more research into my ancestry I found most of our ancestors were from Scotland and Ireland.

Further research into my speech pattern gave me some interesting facts.  The linguist Barbara Johnstone at Carnegie Mellon University has determined that many of the words I mispronounce can be found in the regions of the country that were settled by Scots-Irish Protestants who came to America from Ireland and Scotland for greater religious freedom in the 1700’s.

Since most of those immigrants settled in the Tennessee /Kentucky area and the Appalachian mountains that would explain the “southern twang” people hear.

Anyway, it is going to make for some fun texts as I speak and Alexis tries to understand my dialect.

So – if you get a text from me that does not make sense, try to imagine how a Scots-Irish southerner transplanted to the north would say it.

 

Still Chasing Lighthouses

The forests in Michigan in the latter half of the nineteenth century helped build the expansion in cities like Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee.  Along with the abundant supply of trees in Michigan, the Great Lakes provided the means to transport the lumber to these cities.  But lighthouses were necessary for ships to navigate safely in the unpredictable waters of the Great lakes.

Two of these lighthouses were Big Sable Point Lighthouse and Little Sable Point Lighthouse.  In our recent road trip to the west side of the mitten we explored from Frankfort to Ludington and on our list of “must sees” were these two lighthouses.

Unfortunately we discovered a visit to Big Sable Point Lighthouse required a walk of  1.8 miles there – and then back.  My husband could probably have made the walk, but for me it was impossible.  So the only thing we have of Big Sable Point Lighthouse is the pictures we got from post cards.

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They do offer a bus ride to the lighthouse twice a year so I am hoping next spring we can go back and ride out to the point.

The French explorers called this area Grande Pointe au Sable.  The stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline between Big Sable Point and present-day Ludington was a dangerous area.  Twelve ships wrecked in 1855 leading the state to ask the federal government for a light station here.

In 1867 Big Sable was built.  Its tower is 112 feet high, only one of a few Michigan lighthouse reaching 100 feet.

Shortly after its construction was completed the brick began to crumble.  Steel plates were installed around the light tower.  Cement was then poured between the bricks.  Mariners complained that they could not see the tower during the day because the bricks, which were cream colored, looked too much like the sand.  Thus the black and white colors.

This lighthouse was the last of the Great lakes to become electrified.  That paved the way for automation and the lighthouse was closed in 1968.  However, the light still comes on automatically at dusk until dawn and can be seen approximately 18 miles out in Lake Michigan.

Disappointed that we did not make it to the lighthouse – but that gives us something to plan for our summer trips in 2020.

Thankfully we were able to reach Little Sable Point Lighthouse.  Named by the French Petite Pointe au Sable is translated into Little Sand Point.

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Constructed in 1874 it is one of the tallest in Michigan at over 100 feet.  There are 130 steps to climb to the top.  A few years ago I would have attempted it.  Sadly, today my arthritic knees did not permit that.

Still, it was great to see the lighthouse and the beach there was beautiful.

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Funds for the lighthouse were approved by Congress in 1872 but the point was inaccessible by roads so construction was delayed until 1874.  Even today getting there by road was a little scary.  Very narrow and winding with little room for two cars to pass.  When I was beginning to think we were driving to the middle of nowhere, we turned a corner and there it was.

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Like Big Sable Point Lighthouse, this lighthouse was also painted white so the mariners could see it better.  Since it was the lighthouse keeper’s responsibility to paint the tower each year, I am sure this was not a decision they welcomed.  In 1977 the tower paint was removed and the lighthouse was restored to its original brick.

Little Sable Point Lighthouse has the special distinction of having a woman lighthouse keeper.  She only served for one month but my research showed me there were many women who manned lighthouses throughout the Great Lakes region.

As I shared in an earlier post, Michigan with 3,288 miles of shoreline, is home to more lighthouses than any other state in the USA.  We have spent this summer exploring many of them – and my husband has been busy painting some of them.

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Summer is going by so fast, I am not sure how many more lighthouses we can tour this year – but that will give us something to look forward to when the winter snows comes.  If we ever run out of lighthouses to explore in Michigan, our neighboring state, Wisconsin will provide more lighthouses for our adventures.

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A Village Time Forgot

In our road trip today we visited one of only two covered bridges open to traffic in Michigan.

The bridge leads to a village that time has forgotten.  John Wesley Fallas and his brother, Silas, came to the area in 1837.  Built alongside the Flat River they used the power from the river to construct a sawmill and a chair factory.  In 1839 they built the first bridge across Flat River at this site.  Today, this is the fourth bridge built here and was completed in 1871.

 

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I loved the sign that indicated there was a fine of $5.00 if you drove across the bridge at a speed greater than walking.

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Today all that is left standing of the village is a school house, a cemetery, the Fallas and Misner House museums and the Orlin Douglass/Tower Farm.   The old school house was built in 1867 and was actually used as a school until 1961.

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School house was built in 1867 and actually used as a school until 1961.

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The Fallas home – for its time it was quite an elegant house. 

At one time the state road from Detroit to Grand Rapids passed through Fallasburgh and the village was a thriving area.  The village had a stone-mason, blacksmiths, general stores, mills, a post office and even a hotel and tavern.

Then the railroad came.  In 1858 the D&M Railroad came to a nearby town, Lowell.  Slowly, the village declined.  Most of the area’s hardwoods which supported the mills and the chair factory were depleted by late 1800’s.  The founder died in 1896 and by 1905 the post office had closed.

The village continued as a sleepy summer community until today it is only a reminder of the past.

A historical society has been founded and events are held throughout the year to keep the memory of the community alive.

The village is surrounded by a beautiful park.   Close to 300 acres of picnic areas, beautiful trees and  the Flat River.

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We drove along the road near the Flat River on our way home.  A beautiful drive.  Lots of curves and hills.  A perfect end to our visit to Fallasburgh.

 

 

Gerald Ford Presidential Museum

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In the continued exploring of our new state, Michigan, this week my husband and I headed to Grand Rapids to check out the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum.  It was quite an impressive place.  Beautiful grounds and building.

Along with a reflecting pond with fountain there were beautiful flowers around the area where President Ford and his wife, Betty Ford, are buried.

I am an American history nut and have a large collection of biographies of our presidents, their wives and family members.  To be honest, I was never a fan of President Ford.  Perhaps it was because he was the only president never actually elected to office.  Perhaps it was because he began the process of allowing draft dodgers and those who fled to Canada to escape the Vietnam War back into the country.  My first husband had served in Vietnam and that was a painful time for us all.

Today I feel he did the right thing but at the moment he was not on my list of favorite people.

So – the only reason I went to his museum was because Grand Rapids is very close to where I live.  It seemed I should add this presidential museum to the list of those presidents whose libraries I have already visited.  But I said I would never drive a long way to see his burial place.

Was I ever wrong?  After taking the time to review all the history of his time in office I came away realizing I had let personal feelings from that difficult time in our history color my views.

Another reason why it is so important that we study and know our history.  After spending over two hours taking in all the events of his time in office, I approached his grave site with much more respect for the man than I had when I first came to the museum.

 

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Gerald and Betty Ford’s graves

There was so much to take in.   It was a step back through memory lane as his time in office was the time of my young adult life when I was a young mother just beginning my family.  Many of the politicians and famous people shown in the exhibits were people that were on the daily news every evening.  Many are now dead – or extremely old.

It was interesting to see a young Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfield, George H. W. Bush and a Dick Cheney with hair!

Funny how time passes and as look back on times past, we often see things in a totally different light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s Some More Heroes

Yesterday I posted about heroes, pointing out the difference between our fantasy super heroes and the “real” heroes of history.

Check that out at:

Who is Your Super Hero?

But today reminds me that we have so many heroes to thank for our freedom, not only for the USA but much of the world.  Today is D-Day.

On June 6, 1944 soldiers from the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada stormed the beaches in Normandy, France in a move to push the Nazis out of western Europe.

How many died that day?  There are numbers out there but who can know exactly how many perished with the chaos of that day.

In Bedford, Virginia there is a memorial with 4,414 names representing every Allied soldier, sailor, airman and coast guardsman who died on D-Day.  This number was given by Genealogist Carol Tuckwiller after years of research.  This, of course, is only those killed on June 6.

In Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France is a World War II cemetery honoring the American troops who died in Europe during World War II. It covers 172.5 acres and contains 9,388 burials.

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The total number of lives lost in World War II is really beyond comprehension when you include all the lives of those lost from the Axis alliance of German, Italy and Japan.  Add in all the civilian lives lost – what a terrible number that is.

We will never know how different our lives would have been without the sacrifice of the brave men and women who fought in that terrible war.  But, today, we should stop and thank God for our freedom and remember these heroes.

Who is Your Super Hero?

We all love super heroes!

  • Superman

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  • Iron Man
  • Spider-Man
  • Batman

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  • Captain America
  • Green Arrow
  • Hulk
  • Aquaman
  • Ant-Man
  • Thor

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And the list could go on and on.

We have a love affair with super heroes.  We dress up like them.  Our children carry backpacks with their images.  We buy comic books, watch movies and TV shows where their daring adventures thrill and entertain us.

But why?

There are probably as many reasons to love super heroes as they are people who love them.  But I think some of the reasons might be:

  • They give us a feeling of safety.  In this world with all its dangers it’s nice to imagine there are heroes who can protect and save our world.
  • We see all about us the struggle of good against evil and we love the idea that good will always overcome evil.
  • They stand up for the little guy – and most of us are little guys who love the idea of someone fighting for us.
  • They give us a sense of hope.  In spite of evil around us, we have hope that good will ultimately triumph.

For me, growing up I loved Batman and Superman.  Something about the idea that these super guys lived ordinary lives only coming to the rescue when danger demanded it.  Yet, never revealing their super hero side to those they lived and worked with.  To me they made them seem somehow not only brave and strong, but humble.  A hero that does not need to be recognized for his good deeds.

In my reading today in Psalms 16:3 I read where the Psalmist mentioned his super heroes.

“The godly people in the land are my true heroes!  I take pleasure in them.”  – NLT

“The holy people in the land are the ones who are worthy of honor; all my pleasure is in them.” –   CJB

That scripture got me thinking.  How many of the “real” heroes do we know about?  How many of the stories of the “real” heroes have we shared with our children?  Who do we (and by example, our children) look to for inspiration and who do we admire?

After all, as much as I loved the stories of Superman and Batman, I knew they were only fantasies and not the real world.  In reality, no super hero is going to jump over the skyscrapers of New York or fly through the air over the Midwest and bring peace and safety to our land.

While we can enjoy these fairy tales, when real trouble comes who are we and our children going to have for an example of dealing with real life difficulties?

Had to ask myself, how many of the true stories of these “real” super heroes do I or my children know?

People like:

  • Amy Carmichael

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  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Jim Elliott
  • Sojourner Truth

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  • William Tyndale
  • Harriet Tubman

Question:  How many of these real heroes do you know – and how many of the stories of  these real heroes have you shared with your children?

Who are your heroes?