08-10-2017 Tri-City Area History Page

Boston Store, Watervliet

North Berrien Historical Museum is always interested in photos, stories or information sharing.  The museum can be contacted at 269-468-3330 or by email to info@northberrienhistory.org.

From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum

300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma

The Paw Paw River Journal


Grandfather Trees

Summer wind sighing through the huge trees that shade the old Indian cemetery out at Rush Lake.  And once a year The People, as friend Art Morsaw calls the Potawatomi, would gather for a work session.  They spent the whole day clearing out underbrush and trimming around the graves of tribal members… some of them famous. Think of Chief Simon Pokagon, last titular head of the tribe, and his wife.  All long gone, and some newer plots of tribal members.

Art is a friend of ours, Deacon in our church, and Vice Chairman of the Family Welfare Commission for the local tribe. We almost think of him as a Life Coach, and he visits us just about every week.  He first made me aware of calling the huge old maples around Hartford “Grandfather Trees.”

This is important to The People. They believe that our ancestors are in those grandfather trees.  And this is logical to me.  Most of them were buried in forest glades.  Just go out and visit the old Indian cemetery.  There is a quiet peace about the place.  Of course, the people are in those trees!  They were buried in blankets or later on in wooden coffins.  Eventually they went back to the earth, and the trees have taken something of them up from their roots!

One year, Art said, they spent the whole day clearing out the cemetery.  They brought food for a picnic and built two fires.  One was a ceremonial fire, and the other was for cooking their dinner.  After the work was done they had their meal.  As they were sitting in the quiet, he said out of the corner of his eye, he saw two boys come out of the trees.  One was in modern dress, and the other was clothed in the skins of long ago.  They did not speak to each other, or to anyone there.  And then they were gone.  He has no explanation for seeing them… they were just there, and then they were gone.

Out south of Hartford in Maple Hill Cemetery we have a family plot.  Therein are buried my sister and her husband, my parents, and my brother who was born and died in 1918.  He was their first child, and the winter was so cold and frozen they could not dig a grave, so he had to be kept in the vault there until the spring thaw.  Such a peaceful place, and stretching overhead a huge old maple “Grandfather Tree.”

A century ago, when my brother was stillborn, people were not buried in vaults.  So I believe by this time he has gone back to Mother Earth.  And part of him… something… must be in that huge old grandfather tree!  I sense it when we visit our family plot.

Northeast of Bangor in Arlington Township is Arlington Cemetery.  We also have family there.  My father’s family came from New York State, and settled in Rush Lake, Wisconsin, where my Grandpa Davis owned and operated a general store in the little frontier town.  They moved to a farm near Bangor, where my dad grew up.  His folks died and were buried in that cemetery.

Every spring we plant geraniums on their graves… Silas W. Davis (1913), Ida Webb Davis (1929), and my dad’s brother, A. Everett Davis (1951).  I can just barely remember Grandma Davis.  Uncle Evy (as we called him) used to come and run my dad’s greenhouses when they wanted to be gone for a few days.  We thought he was an immense amount of fun, and loved to hear him blow Reveille on the trumpet… even though he always hit a few sour notes!