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!

Well, as you can see from their dates none of them were likely buried in vaults.  And overstretching that family plot is a huge maple Grandfather Tree!  When we visit them, we listen to the quiet, and hear wind sighing through the overhanging branches.  I’m sure that something of them is in that huge old maple!  And there is now no one left who can remember all of them.  If anything happens to that huge old maple, I will take it very personally!

One of my favorite writers, James Dickey, was about my age.  A pilot in WWII he became a writer and college professor after the war.  Marion and I met him one day in Ann Arbor when he came to the University of Michigan for a poetry reading.  We attended a luncheon in his honor, and Dickey came in with a Life Magazine rolled up under his arm.  It had just come out and had a big spread on his life and works.

One of my favorite poems by him is “In the Tree House at Night.”   Dickey too had a brother who was born and died before he ever was on earth.  And in the poem he speculates on life and death as he tells how he and his living brother have built a tree house, and sleep out in it one night.

He listens to wind sighing through the branches.  Around them little birds sleep, feathers fluffed out and feet gripping the branches.  And Dickey has a sense of his dead brother’s presence.  His dead brother is still there.  He says in the poem:

I breathe my live brother’s light hair

The blanket around us becomes

As solid as stone, and it sways

…..Wind springs as my dead brother smiles

And touches the tree at the root.

…..Can two bodies make up a third?

To sing must I feel the world’s light?

My green graceful bones fill the air

With sleeping birds.  Alone, alone

And with them I move gently.

I move at the heart of the world.

Coloma Library News

Book Club

The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, August 17 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “Wonder” by RJ Palacio.  Generally, depending on demand there are titles available for check-out at the front desk. The book club regularly meets every other Thursday and is always looking for new members.

Summer Reading Picnic

The Summer Reading Picnic will be Wednesday, August 16 at 12 Noon at Randall Park in Coloma. Prizes and hot dogs will be provided. If your child participated in the Summer Reading Program come to the park for a fun time. Feel free to bring a dish to pass. There will be no Story Hour on Wednesday, August 16.

Story Hour

Story Hour will be taking a break until after school starts. Check back for information on when it will return.

Hartford Library News

 Visit the Hartford Library and sign up your children for a Hartford Public Library card. All children who sign up before Saturday, August 12, will be eligible for the bus trip to the Potawatomi Zoo on Tuesday, August 15. This is the Hartford Public Library Card sign-up promotion sponsored by The Pokagon Fund. Call the library at 621-3408 for more information.

Don’t forget “Dinosaur Encounter” on Wednesday, August 16 at 2 p.m.; great fun searching for dinosaurs.

There will be a special “STEAM@HartfordPublicLibrary” on Wednesday, August 23 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. This is a drop-in program. Each child must make two projects using some of these materials: Keva Blocks, Think n’ Link, Creative LEGO, 3-D Doodler, K’NEX and our new ROK Building Blocks. Sample projects will be on display. Instructions for various structures that can be built will be available. Everyone who builds two projects will receive a prize. All ages are welcome to create a project.

Watervliet District Library News

 LEGO donations needed – any and all LEGOs you don’t use anymore. Bring them to the library.

In Stitches Knitting Group – Aug. 11, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m.: Bring your summertime knits or winter projects: we are always ready for a great knit-together!

Third Monday Book Club – Aug. 21, 7-8 p.m.: Mothers, Tell your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell.

Solar Eclipse Party – Aug. 21, 1 p.m.: Do not miss this rare and spectacular celestial show! A total solar eclipse last occurred on the U.S. mainland on Feb. 26, 1979. But August 2017 will mark the first time in 99 years that the event will be visible to people from coast to coast. Special viewing glasses, hands-on activities and snacks will be available.

Yoga: Monday, 9 – 10 a.m.; Wednesday 7 – 8 p.m.; Wednesday, 6:15 – 6:45 p.m. Chair Yoga for people with limited mobility.


100 years ago – 1917

Apple growers: review the new apple packing law before you attempt at packing your crop.

Funeral services were held for Mary Augusta Reischka. She was united in marriage to Joseph Thar. To this union nine children were born.

Village taxes are due and payable to Harry W. Hill, village treasurer.

Dancing Friday Night – Bunker’s Opera House

Dr. P.E. Douglas – Dentist – Office State Bank of Coloma Bldg. –    Phone 19-F-2

Give Your Wife a Check Book – Many wives of successful business men know how to make a deposit and draw a check. Women are becoming part of the business life. (State Bank of Coloma)

60 years ago – 1957

Firemen admire new $11,000 truck. Inspecting the new vehicle are Captain Casey Jones, Chief Chester W. Hocker, Dorl Sawatzki, Paul Davidson, John King, Norris Feury and Red Umphrey.

The Home Town Jubilee will be held in the Coloma High School. Mrs. Virgil Dorstewitz will direct the program. It is worth the price of the ticket just to see the local women’s hillbilly band.

Men in Uniform:  Midn. 1/c. George T. Stevens sends messages by signal light while aboard the USS Des Moines. Army Pvt. Charles E. Fain spent a three-day pass in Paris.

30 years ago – 1987

We Asked You… “Why do you want to be Glad-Peach Prince or Princess?” I want to wear a crown, ride on the fire truck, get a trophy, or get new clothes, are popular responses.

There is not enough traffic to warrant a traffic signal at the new McDonald’s. The County Road Commission recommends installing right turn lanes. City Engineer Monte Sternaman suggests a four-way stop.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the fire station dedication. Big thanks were given to Jack Atherton and Donald Schultz for their help in this large endeavor.


100 years ago – 1917

Fire believed to been caused by spontaneous combustion completely destroyed the barn at the Howard Butcher farm two miles southeast of town, yesterday morning. The building was a mass of flames when discovered and little could be done to combat the fire. It was with difficulty that two horses were rescued from the barn, while four calves perished. The barn was filled with new hay, and contained some farm tools.

There has been some early blight and tip burn on early potatoes and tip burn on late potatoes, but not enough to seriously affect the crop. Tip burn, they declare, is caused by extreme hot weather, and spraying is not effective for it. Only in extreme cases is it considered particularly injurious to the crop.

75 years ago – 1942

The Hartford High School Band which has been entertaining Wednesday evening shoppers during the summer weeks has been invited to play at Riverview Park in Chicago, Friday, September 4, according to the announcement by Director E.A. Boisman. The young musicians are already making plans for the trip, eagerly anticipating this opportunity to make a public appearance in the big city. All expenses of the tour are paid.

As the shrill siren sounded the blackout signal in Hartford, Wednesday night at 9:57 p.m., lights were quickly extinguished in business places and homes throughout the village, the air raid wardens and auxiliary corps of firemen and policemen took their posts, and into many homes came for the first time the consciousness of war. Darkness settles ominously over the village as the practice blackout brought a calm fear into the hearts of men and women as they realized that this was no fool’s play.

50 years ago – 1967

Miss Lynn Stafford will be graduated Friday, Aug.11, from Western Michigan University, with a Bachelor of Science and an Elementary Education Certificate. She will be teaching third grade at Whitmore Lake in September. Miss Stafford is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Hope and a 1964 graduate of Hartford High School. She has completed the four-year course in three years.

Yeoman 3-C John A. Empson, son of Mr. and Mrs. James C. Empson, has been awarded the National Defense Service Medal at Dong Ha, Vietnam, while serving with the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11. The medals are presented to all military personnel on active duty. The battalion which arrived in Vietnam in April is the navy’s northernmost unit in Vietnam, based just south of the demilitarized zone.


90 years ago – 1927

Mr. and Mrs. R.R. Shelters arrived here last week and moved into a house in town. Mr. Shelters, who is the new superintendent of the Watervliet schools, has been busy since his arrival in taking up various matters connected with the re-opening of the schools on September 6, 1927. Mrs. Shelters is to be music supervisor in the school.

Mr. and Mrs. Ward Morlock welcomed their new baby girl, Norma Grace, born August 23, 1927 and weighed 8-1/4 pounds.

Advertised on July 29, 1927:

Lrg. bath towels 50¢

Med. bath towels 25¢

Hemmed sheets $1.49

Pillow slips 33¢

Ladies silk hose 59¢

60 years ago – 1957

Arthur E. Aspengren, 2nd Lt., USAF, son of Mr. and Mrs. Chester Aspengren, Watervliet, was awarded the silver wings of an aircraft navigator on July 8, 1957 during graduation exercises at Ellington Air Force Base, Houston, Texas.

Military appointments in the 1957 Culver Summer Schools listing officers for the Naval School, the Cavalry Camp and the Woodcraft Camp were announced here this week as the 56th eight-week sessions reached the half-way point. Among those receiving appointments was Arthur W. Helweg, who was named a Petty Officer Third Class in the Culver Summer Naval School.

On August 18, 1957, Midshipman, 1/Otto J. Helweg spoke at the First Methodist Church on his experiences while in training at Annapolis. Helweg also acts in the capacity of Chaplain at Annapolis and while on board ship, whenever his services are needed.

30 years ago – 1987

Mrs. Elsie Brunson, Watervliet, will be honored at an open house on August 23, 1987 in celebration of her 90th birthday.

Assistant Fire Chief Tom Sweet and Fire Department Lieutenant Rich Quinn, the only full-time employees on staff at the Watervliet Fire Department., recently finished an intense four-month course of study to become certified as Emergency Medical Technician Specialists.

The 1987 Watervliet Pony League team had an excellent season. Competing in the North Lincoln 8-team league, Watervliet finished in second place with an 11-3 record. The Pony League team also finished third at the Eaton Park tournament.


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