Happy Birthday Michigan!

On January 26, 1837 the state of Michigan became the 26th state in the United States of America.

That makes the state 182.

I have only lived here four months but I have found so much that is interesting and I can hardly wait until spring to begin exploring.

  • With 3,200 miles of shoreline Michigan claims more lighthouses than any other state.
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Big Sable Point Light

  • Michigan touches four out of the five great lakes, more than any other state: Huron, Michigan, Erie and Superior.

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  • The legendary children’s story of Paul Bunyan is believed to be based on a French-Canadian lumberjack Fabian Fournier,  who moved to Michigan after the Civil War to take advantage of the high-paying logging industry.  While Minnesota also claims Bunyan as theirs, two towns in Michigan make that claim.  Ossineke has a giant statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox.

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  • The Cross in the Woods Catholic shrine in Indian River has a 55′ foot cross carved from one redwood tree.  Raised in 1954, a sculpture of the crucified Christ was added to the cross in 1959.  My husband and I visited this shrine several years ago when vacationing in Michigan but I am looking forward to seeing it again come spring.

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  • Mackinaw Island is high on my list of places to visit. The island sits between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.  Since I’m a history nut I want to visit Fort Mackinac which was founded in 1780.  Another fort, Fort Holmes, was built during the wall of 1812 and has been reconstructed.  No cars are allowed on the island so that should make travel interesting.
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Mode of transportation on this island

  • Mackinaw Bridge is one my husband and I crossed on our first visit here.  It is a little scary if you are afraid of heights.  The towers reach 554 feet above the surface water.   Five miles long it is the longest suspension bridge in the Americans.  Known as “Big Mac” it  links Michigan’s Lower and Upper peninsulas. When we planned our trip in Michigan a few years ago it included crossing this brige to the upper peninsula.  I was fine until I read how high the bridge was.  Then panic set in because I have a terrible fear of heights.  When we drive through a mountainous area, I often have to close my eyes to avoid a complete panic attack.  Caught between my fear of heights and my desire to see the upper peninsula, I started my day with my devotion before we headed to the car for the trip.  What a pleasant surprise as I read the devotion for that day.  So thankful that God cares even about our silly fears.  The devotion from the book of Habakkuk that day said:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places

I was now calm and ready to go.  My husband has no fear of heights and was not concerned about driving across the bridge.  However, when we were about half way across the bridge I looked at him and he looked terrified too.  It is a beautiful sight – but I’m not sure my husband is ready to drive over it again.  We shall see.

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There’s so much more to see, learn and explore.  But for now, Happy Birthday Michigan!

Detroit Michigan = Motown

Growing up as a teenager in the 60’s I loved the sound of music coming from the studios of the record company Motown in Detroit Michigan.  To me at the time Detroit seemed like a world away.  Little did I know I would one day live just a little over 100 miles from the city.

Today the studio where most of the music of Motown was recorded is a museum.  Called Hitsville USA the museum hosts visitors from around the world who come to see the place where the magic began.

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Looking back now at that time in American it is ironic to me that this record company founded by a black man, Berry Gordy, and featuring black singers should rise to such success at the same time that much of the country still had Jim Crow laws.

Diana Ross told a story of being in New Orleans for a show.  When she stopped to take a drink at a fountain she noticed people all around her staring.  Pleased at first at the thought that she had been recognized by fans, she was soon disappointed to see that their stares were because she was drinking at a fountain marked “for whites only.”

When Gordy took a group of his new artists on a bus tour in the south they stopped for the night at a hotel.  Hot from the long day on the road, they quickly put on their swimming suits and jumped in the pool.  All the whites in the pool just as quickly got of the pool.  After a few minutes when they discovered that the blacks in the pool were Motown artists, they joined them in the pool.

Some of the great artists of this record company that I loved to listen to:

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Stevie Wonder

 

The Supremes

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The Temptations

I especially loved Chubby Checker who started the twist.  My brother would often tease me by singing the one line from the song:

You should see my little sis.  She knows how to rock, she knows how to twist.

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This year Motown celebrates 50 years making music.  Gordy started the business with a family loan of $800 but it quickly grew into a financial success.   It became the most successful independent record company in history and the most successful African-American-owned business in America.

 

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Motown was how it helped to break down racial prejudice.

 

 

I Got My German Food Fix!

After moving to Michigan in October we have tried to do some sightseeing.  However, cold weather is limiting that right now.  Last weekend we had a beautiful sunshiny day so we took off on another adventure.  We had no definite destination – just heading east and seeing what the day brought.

Our first stop was in Flint, Michigan.  While living in Illinois we had watched the news report of the water tragedy in that city.  The city water was full of lead which was poisoning the residents and there were legal battles over who was at fault.  Watching the news of that city and trying to imagine how you would function when you could not use the water in your own home, I never dreamt that I would some day visit the city.

But  I discovered there is a lot of interesting history in both the city of Flint and its county of Genesee.

The county’s name comes from Genesee County in the state of New York.  It means “beautiful valley.”  The county’s first white settler, Jacob Smith, opened a trading post on the Flint River in 1819.  In 1829 the federal government began building a military road connecting Detroit to Saginaw Bay.  Saginaw Bay is located in Lake Huron forming the space between Michigan’s Thumb region and the rest of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  The construction site where the wooden bridge was built over the Flint River became the city of Flint.

I have always associated the automobile industry with Detroit, but was surprised to find much of the history took place in Flint.  One of Flint’s citizens, Willam Durant, began building carriages.  His company, Durant-Dort, manufactured 50,000 vehicles annually.  As carriages began to give way to cars, he invested in the Buick Motor Company.  He had the vision of creating holding companies that would manufacture different lines of cars.  He joined with Louis Chevrolet and formed General Motors with a car designed by Chevrolet.  The city of Flint began rapidly growing with the automobile boom and was known as “Vehicle City.”

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Sadly, the automotive industry in Flint has taken a big blow and the city does not have  the booming economy it once had.  Work continues on the water situation and the city just recently reported that:

Overall, to date, service lines to 7,831 homes have been identified as lead and/or galvanized and have been replaced, including 1,603 homes found this year. The efforts are a part of Mayor Karen Weaver’s plan to determine if water service lines are made of copper, and replace service lines made of lead and galvanized steel. Mayor Weaver is determined to restore safe, clean drinking water to Flint residents.

The goal is to have all of Flint’s lead-tainted service lines replaced by the end of 2019. More information about the FAST Start initiative can be found on the City of Flint website – http://www.cityofflint.com

Still, there are several areas of interest we want to check out.  One fast trip through did not give us much time.  We will have to come back to see:

Longway Planetarium – Michigan’s largest planetarium

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The Buick Gallery and Research Center

 

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Oh you are wondering about my German Food Fix.  Well, after Flint we ventured on to Frankenmuth, Michigan a little town known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” where I enjoyed a delicious German meal.

But that will wait for my next post.

 

 

 

Music in a Small Town

Moving from a metropolitan area to a small town I thought I would miss the great musical opportunities I had in the Quad Cities.  My husband and I had season tickets to the Quad City Symphony and we enjoyed excellent music with well-known guest artists.

But recently I discovered great music can be found anywhere.  This month we had the pleasure of listening to a “Brass Holidays” concert by the Mountain Town Band.

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This elite brass ensemble was formed in 2016 and includes university trained musicians from all over middle Michigan.  Since St Johns is in the middle of the state, they have chosen to conduct their practices here – and also to give performances here two to three times a year.  They are a brass ensemble in the British brass band tradition, successfully blending impeccable musical virtuosity with an enjoyable audience-friendly ambience.

I was not familiar with the brass band tradition but after listening to this great music, I decided to check it out.

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I found that the Brass Band dates back to the early nineteenth century and England’s Industrial Revolution.  As the workers began to organize for more wages and better working hours, employers organized and supported bands as a way to actually decrease their  political activity.  Slowly as music departments began to develop at universities performance improved.  There were 750 brass bands in England by 1860.   Slowly these brass bands have expanded all over the world.

By the start of the Civil War there were brass bands throughout the USA.  Bands were used at rallies to encourage enlistment.  Bands were used to improve morale and were even sent in with the infantry to play during battles.

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8th New York State Militia Band, 1861

Today there are hundreds of brass bands in the USA.   There is an North American Brass Band Association (NABBA) dedicated to the promotion and development of the British-style brass band movement in North America

If you get a chance to hear a brass band, don’t pass it up.  You will enjoy it I guarantee.

Michigan’s Lighthouses

I have always loved lighthouses.  When my husband and I took vacations to the east coast we always visited the lighthouses.

Recently moving to Michigan I was so happy to find out the state, with 3,288 miles of shoreline, is home to more lighthouses than any other state in the USA.  Although Old Man Winter is showing up this week with a snow storm and we will not be able to do much traveling right now, come spring I’m heading out to check out these lighthouses.  As the maps below show that will probably keep me busy for a long, long time.

In the meantime, thought you might enjoy some interesting facts about lighthouses:

  • A person who likes lighthouses is said to be a pharophisle.  (Not really sure about that one – the word is not in the dictionary but there are plenty of lighthouse lovers who insist this is a word.  Collins English Dictionary says it is a word “pending investigation”.)
  • The United States has more lighthouses than any other country – 37 states have lighthouses.
  • The tallest lighthouse in the USA is Cape Hatteras Light on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  It stands 193 feet tall.
  • The tallest lighthouse in the world is in Saudi Arabia.  Jeddah Light is 436 feet tall.
  • The east coast of the USA has 391 lighthousesas opposed to only 94 on the west coast.
  • A lighthouse keeper was sometimes called a “wickie” because in the days before electricity the oil lamps were used for a light.  The lighthouse keeper was responsible for keeping the wicks trimmed and the light burning.

I think one reason I love lighthouses so much is the very idea of their existence.  They were created to serve as a navigational aid and to warn boats of dangerous areas.  As a girl I loved the song “Jesus is The Lighthouse.”  The Bible also talks quite a bit about Christians being lights in the world.

Here’s the song sung by the Heritage Singers.  Note that it is from 1976 – but I hope you will take time to listen to it.

And you can bet come spring I’ll be posting about the lighthouses of Michigan.

 

Getting Off the Beaten Path

My husband and I love to travel without any agenda other than heading in one direction.  As we travel we often get off the main highway and just follow a road wondering where it leads.  Or, we will pull off the interstate into what looks like just a “spot in the road” kind of place.

As new residents in the state of Michigan we are excited about the chance to follow new roads and see where they lead us.

Last week traveling west on one of the state routes that leads from our town, we took a side trip through the small village of Muir.  Driving through the downtown area it appeared time had passed this village by.  Most of the stores were empty and in need of paint and/or repair.  Thinking there was nothing here of interest, we turned a corner and found a hidden treasure.

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The Mother Church for the Disciples of Christ in the Grand River Valley.

Organized in 1856 in nearby Lyons, Michigan, the small congregation soon moved to the schoolhouse in Muir.  The small congregation grew quickly and in 1861 constructed a church building.

Considered the mother church for the Disciples of Christ denomination in the Grand River Valley, this is one of Michigan’s oldest Disciples of Christ congregations.

This single-story, rectangular wood-frame church is an excellent example of the Gothic  Revival Church.  Measuring 70 feet by 30 feet, each side has five Gothic windows.  They are so beautiful.

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One of the windows was dedicated in 1906 on the 50th anniversary of the church in memory of the founding pastor, Isaac Errett.

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The window on the left has an inscription dedicating the window in memory of their first pastor.

For these history lovers this was quite a find.  We love American history and have a large collection of biographies of American presidents.  We knew that President Garfield had been a minister before entering politics.  What a pleasant surprise to find that he had visited and ministered in this very church.  He apparently visited the area often and there are other spots in Michigan claiming a Garfield connection including the Garfield Inn in Port Austin.  This home has been made into a bed and breakfast and boasts that Garfield often visited here when it was owned by the Learned family.

He has been quoted as saying before giving his inauguration speech:

“I resign the highest office in the land to become President of the United States.”

Just six months later he died by an assassin’s bullet in September of 1881.

I found this copy of an article in the Detroit News published in 1930 telling the story of Garfield’s visit to the church in Muir.

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This church building is on both the state and national historic registers.  If we had not followed our spirit of adventure and turned off the main road we would have missed this period of history.

By not following the beaten path we have found many historical treasures like this as well as some beautiful parks, small lakes and other beauties of nature hidden from the main road.

So, when you travel, don’t be in too big a hurry to reach your destination.  Take some time and get off the beaten path.  You will be surprised at what you will find.

 

Underground Railroad History in Michigan

So excited!  As a lover of American history – both its good and its bad history – I have found that there is a wealth of history on the Underground Railroad in the state where I recently became a resident.

I recently wrote a couple of blogs about statues of African-Americans in the USA.

Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre Memorial  and

Denmark Vesey – Leader of Failed Rebellion

I knew there was a statute of Harriet Tubman in New York City.  This statute was dedicated in 2008 and is located on Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

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However, I was surprised to find out there is not one, but two statutes of Tubman in Michigan.  In researching information on these statutes, I discovered that Michigan was very much involved in the Underground Railroad.

Looking at the map of Michigan it is easy to see why this location would have been perfect for those trying to escape slavery and find freedom in Canada.  Surrounded by three of the Great Lakes – Michigan, Huron and Erie, Michigan’s eastern cities are only a short distance from Canada.

The first monument is a bronze statue of not only Tubman but local conductors of the Underground Railroad, Erastus and Sarah Hussey.  This statue in Battle Creek, Michigan depicts Tubman and the other two conductors leading a group of runaway slaves to safety.   Created in 1993 by sculptor Ed Dwight the W. K. Kellogg Foundation commissioned the work.

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The second statue of Tubman is in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  Located in Washtenaw County in Southeast Michigan there are numeous sites connected with the Underground Railroad.

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(Permission for use of this photograph of the sculpture is granted by sculptor Jane A. DeDecker, Loveland, Colorado.  The sculpture of Harriet Tubman was created in 1995 and is an Edition of 7 with one located near the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock Arkansas.)

 

Cass County in Southwest Michigan also offers many sites where the Underground Railroad was conducted by both free blacks and whites.  Slaves fleeing the South passed through Cass County, then on to Battle Creek and Detroit on their way to freedom in Canada.

So – what started as just wanting to see what statutes of African-Americans there were in the USA, I am excited to find I am near to a lot of history of the Underground Railroad.

Looks like I will be busy checking these sites out!  Can’t wait!

And, of course, I will be writing about these sites as I visit them.