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Archive for August, 2009

It was 1856 and 17 year old William E. Stephens had run away from home to join the Union Army. Being a mere youth with no wife or children, it seemed appropriate to assign him to the pony express. Thus young William found himself riding through unfriendly territory carrying the U.S. mail.

Many a day the young man raced through wild untamed lands with his leather pouch close at hand. Many a time he hunched close to his horse to elude the ever present threat from Native American weapons. Then one day an Indian arrow found its mark. William was disabled——shot through the hip, leaving a shattered leg and damaged internal organs. He found himself in a hospital in his home state of New York.

And it was there that William met the love of his life, Emma Wilcox. They say that pity is akin to love, and as Emma watched the young man struggle through painful hours of recovery, it brought a tenderness in her heart, and when William left the hospital he and Emma were married. Shortly thereafter they joined the land rush to northern Michigan.

It was thus that William and Emma found themselves in the deep woods with very little of life’s comforts. The area was covered with trees, and it was William’s job to fell those giants with only an axe as his helper——a dull axe at that. So despite his injured hip, William set out on a 60 mile round trip to Elk Rapids, planning to buy a grindstone and maybe some newspapers to catch up on world events. Of course the trip was more than a single day’s journey and the accepted practice was to find a cabin where one might spend the nights. William’s first stop was at the John Call homestead, about four miles west of the present site of Mancelona.

On the return trip William again spent the night with the Calls and then left early in the morning on the final leg of his journey home. He walked all day until he found himself on the bank of the Green River in the dark of night, looking for the log that served as a bridge to the other side.

Tired to the bone, William was in no mood to stumble around in the dark, so he lit the newspapers and walked up and down the bank until he found the bridge. But the grindstone was now missing. Rather than lose the bridge again, William finished the trip and returned the next day for the grindstone.

By today’s standards William’s journey was a grueling experience, but those early pioneers took difficult times in stride. They were a tough breed who simply did what needed to be done.

******

This is another true story, taken from Aunt Rosie’s book, Pioneer Potpourri, which was written some 60 years ago when times were different. Why not go to http://www.dawncreations and take a look at the book, Pioneer Potpourri.

And by the way, Footprints Under the Pines which invites you to view life as it was in the lumber camps of the 1890’s is available as well. You may buy it on Amazon, at Gift and Bible in Lansing or agape booksellers in Jackson. Footprints Under the Pines may also be ordered in most bookstores including Barnes & Nobel or borrowed from the Library of Michigan.

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Well, we went up north this weekend to find Death Hill. It was easy enough to visit the Scenic Landslide and Dead Man’s Hill; both are well marked. But no one knows that Death Hill exists, including personnel at the county offices. (That is to say, they didn’t know about it until Friday) We walked in and showed them the paragraph in Pioneer Potpourri that reads,

The East Jordan Lumber Co. found a good stand on a steep hill which later became known as Death Hill, found in Echo Township it is not to be confused with Dead Man’s Hill, located in the Jordan Valley.

And they became involved in the search. They called every office in the territory, sent us to the museum where we found some really good stuff and even called a museum that was closed for the weekend. But no one could find Death Hill.

We drove through Echo Township and saw some beautiful country, including some steep hills where one could certainly believe a logging team might lose their lives. Yet we found nothing.

In the end, we decided to give up the search and go to visit an old Aunt who lived in the territory and who is now residing in an assisted living facility. Ours was a lost cause.

Then as we visited, I told Aunt Alice of our quest and she said. “Well yes, I know where it is. It’s off of the road to Belair. (Yes, Belair, not Bellaire – We locals call the town Belair) At this point I grabbed my pencil and began to take notes. “It’s an old 2 track road,” she said. “And it’s kept open for hiking and skiing.”

So the next day, before going to the family reunion, we grabbed our map and headed out in the direction she’d given. We traveled the 2 track roads into the deep woods. Then we found the trail to Death Hill just as she’d said. We traveled deeper and deeper into the wilds and the roads grew more and more narrow and muddier and filled with potholes. In the end we came to a place where the county had made a roadbed across a fast moving stream out of broken rock pieces that were rougher than a corn cob. This is where we stopped. We’ll go back some day driving a truck that is designed to traverse such territory.

So we found the object of our search in the process of doing a kind deed.

Hmmmmm, I think there may be a moral there somewhere.

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