When Michael Francis Mottley was born on November 22, 1898, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, his father, William, was 38 and his mother, Julia, was 28. Both of Michael’s parents were born in Ireland. His father died when Michael was only 15 years old.
Michael married Helen Gertrude Martin in his hometown. He was 11 years her senior. They had three children during their marriage. He died on May 31, 1962, in East Orange, New Jersey, at the age of 63, and was buried in Newark, New Jersey at Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Military records for Michael indicate that he must have been enlisted by age 18.
In 1923, Michael was working as a Police Officer. See how he handled the capture of those making a jail break from an article of 18 Jul 1923 /Times Union Brooklyn NY.
Here is an article below from 1924.
Michael’s first child, Helen Barbara Mottley, was born when he was 26 years old. Helen was born on December 4, 1924 and she died on March 22, 2001. Here is her obit:
Michael’s son John Robert Mottley was born on 29 Aug 1926 and died on 20 Aug 1989.
Michael’s third child was his daughter Barbara Joan Mottley. She was born on March 23, 1932 and died on May 11, 2020.
By the time of the 1930 US census, Michael was living with his wife Helen and his daughter Helen (age 5) and son John (age 3). In this census the family is living at 11 West End Place, Elizabeth, NJ. He is a veteran and he is still occupied as a Police Officer.
The article below is from 1939. There are actually many articles that I found relating to his work.
In the 1940 US census, Michael states that his highest level of education was completing 8th grade and yet he is a police detective.
In the 1950 telephone directory Michael and Helen are living at 1041 Coolidge Rd., Elizabeth, NJ.
On February 14, 1942, Michael filled out a WWII draft registration card. He would have been 44 years old and this would have been required of him.
Virginia’s parents were Clarence “Leo” Meredith and Grace Frederika George. The photos below announce the marriage of Ginny’s parents.
When Mary Virginia Meredith (“Ginny”) was born on March 13, 1922, in Hudson, Michigan, her father, Clarence Leo Meredith, was 27, and her mother, Grace F. George Meredith was 29.
At the time of the 1930 US census, Ginny was 8 years old and living in the household of her grandmother with her parents and her older brother and younger sister. They lived on Washington Avenue, Hudson, Lenawee, Michigan, USA.
Ginny was only 11 years old when her older brother Frederick George Meredith passed away.
Ginny’s younger brother was born only one month after the death of her older brother in May of 1933. Ginny’s younger sister also had major surgery in December of 1933.
By the time of the 1940 US census, Ginny was 18 years old and living with her family.
Ginny married Robert Emerson Ream on November 6, 1954, in San Diego, California.
Ginny and Robert Ream had two children during their marriage. She died on January 25, 2006, in Columbus, Ohio, at the age of 83, and was buried in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
We start our family history in the German Country of Prussia, Hinter Pommern, in or near the village of of Treptow. What we call Germany did not come into existence until after the Civil War. The Province of Pommerania was divided into three parts: Fore Pommern, Mitte Pommern and Hinter Pommern. Hinter Pommern was closest to the Polish border. (Pomerania is the present spelling.)
Since WW II, all of Pomerania is part of Poland and all German people had to leave this area. They were restricted as to what they could carry out in both money and goods as they left.
Our great grandparents, Charles and Dorthea Schrneling owned a small farm in or near the village of Treptow. Charles was a rather unsettled person. The family had to move on the average every two years because Charles traded the place for a different one. The last two years in Germany were the worst for the family as they had to move six times. This must have been too much for Dorthea. After the sixth time, she demanded they sell out and go to America. (This according to Carl Schmiling).
This is not as sudden as it seems, as they had correspondence with relatives and former neighbors who were in America. Two names (given by Minnie Detjen) were Schieser and Buege. There were also companies making a business of getting immigrants to the U.S.
As close as I can tell, Charles and Dorthea came over in 1857, which would make them in their mid-forties. They had five children at the time. Henry, Hanna (perhaps Johanna), Caroline, Alvina, and our grandfather, Albert. Albert was about five or six at the time and the youngest. I believe I have all of them named. in order of their ages as Minnie recalls them. (In a note from the Krueger family book, Brown County Library, they stated that the fare across the ocean was about $20.00 per person. Their ancestors came from Niederhagen, Pommern, in Prussia, about the same time.)
The family passed over a great deal of very good farm land on their way from the east coast of America. They did not have the money to buy developed land (according to Carl). Their destination was the village of Ahnapee, as Algoma Wisconsin was then called. Ahnapee is an Indian name and means Wolf River.
Charles contacted Orrin Warner, a pioneer English settler in the area, about available government land. I’m not positive, but it may have been homestead land. While they were out looking, Charles slipped into a creek. He pulled himself out, sat on the bank and bawled like a baby. He said, “They could give this old land back to the Indians.” This story was told several times by Sam, or more properly, Simon Warner, the son of Orrin.
I heard the story from Sam, at St. Vincent’s Hospital, in Green Bay. Sam was to have an operation and Herman, Carl and I drove down to see Sam on a Sunday. I must have been eight or nine years old at the time. I remember Sam as a friendly old man who used to stop and talk to Reuben and I on our way to school. He lived on the river side of Hy. 42, the second or third house in Algoma, from the north.
Charles homesickness for the old country would not cease. (This according to Herman Schmeling.) Charles offered his oldest son, Henry, a pair of copper toed boots if he would go back to Prussia with him. This must have been a tempting offer, as copper toed boots were the rage of the young men and boys of that day. Despite all this, Charles laid claim to what must have been about 80 acres, 1 mile north of Ahnapee, on the river road.
(According to Carl) The first house on the land Charles claimed was near the line fence, by the Hilton farm, near the present highway, on the hill. Hilton was another early English settler, and, was interested in getting more English people to settle in the area. He sold, or gave, some land, about four acres, to an English family to get them interested in staying in the area, but German families kept moving in. There was an understanding these four acres would be sold back to the Hiltons if things didn’t work out. As it turned out, for some reason, the land was sold to Charles, at a later date. I believe the name of the English family was Boalt. I think the four acres plot is part of the twenty-four acre deal for which we have a warranty deed. In this four acre plot is a part, called by Charles or Albert, “The Devil’s Half Acre.” ( According to Herman). This one-half acre is composed of a heavy bluish clay that proves hard to work, even with modern tractors.
The land sale made two jogs in the line fence. One, for the four acres; the other, because of the twenty acre field. I remember August Krause, the next owner of the Hilton place, asking Herman to sell him the four acres to straighten out the line fence. Herman said he would buy the land in the other direction, whereupon, August said he couldn’t do that because that would bring Herman’s land right next to his house.
I was puzzled by the location of the first house being so far to one side of the farm, so I asked Carl why. Carl explained there were at least two reasons for this. One, they could get water close by from an established well. Wells were not an easy thing to come by. According to Herman, all wells had to be dug by hand and were quite large holes. The wells were usually a minimum of 10 – 12 feet deep. The holes had to be big enough to handle a shovel throwing ground out without cramping yourself as you dug deeper. Most wells got to be too deep for a shovel the last end. A bucket on a rope had to be employed. Of course, if you made a small hole with a short shovel, you had to start using a bucket sooner. You had to put a lantern down in the well before you went down to make sure no unsafe heavy gasses had collected during the night from the previous day’s digging. The well also had to be lined with either planks or stone masonry so it wouldn’t cave in. The lining had to extend above ground level to make sure no ground water ran into the well. Also, a frame had to be constructed to hold a crank for the bucket and rope.
The other reason Carl gave was to be close to a neighbor in a forested land. They had been used to living in farm villages in Prussia. This went back, in history, to a time before strong central governments were able to offer police protection to rural people. Farmers lived in houses over their stables, with their land, in mostly small plots going off in several directions. The land going in different directions was because of marriages and inheritances.
In this country, the only cleared land the first year was around the house. It was used to plant wheat and potatoes. The next few years, they concentrated on increasing the clearing, making one large field by the house. (According to Carl and Herman).
The closest flour mill was either Manitowoc or Two Rivers (Carl couldn’t recall which). Charles had to walk to the mill with the bag on his shoulder. They had a trail blazed to the lake from the house so he wouldn’t lose his way the first year. He had to follow the lake, fording the streams. Going and coming back took a number of days. When flour got too low and Charles couldn’t afford to take the time, Dorthea used to grind some wheat in her coffee mill which she brought along from Prussia. The flour wasn’t the best but could be used for pancakes ( per Carl). We don’t know how long this lasted, I understand no more then a few years before a closer mill was built.
The second house was built on the back lawn of the present house, facing the driveway, and still stands today. It was used for a time as a horse barn and later as a chicken barn. I asked Carl how they could afford to build two houses in such short order. He said the first one was put up in a hurry in order to get shelter and he figured it was never intended to be a permanent place. He said there wasn’t that much to a house in those days. They were always clearing land so there was no shortage of logs. They would pick out the best logs and most times burn the rest just to get rid of them. When your logs were cured, you hewed them square, notched out the ends and fitted them together, cutting out the places for windows and doors. Then you put a roof on and plastered any big holes shut. You saved some moss or old rags to poke in the holes as they showed up in winter.
I remember asking Minnie how they raised all those kids in that little log cabin. She said she remembers it as being a very nice house. In fact, it had a wooden floor. I was surprised to learn most log cabins had only a dirt floor. She said it had two rooms. A kitchen and a living room, plus an upstairs which was used for sleeping.
On the 10th of July, 1876, the land… “with all the improvements, horses and cattle, machinery, all and everything there on” (statement from warranty deed) were sold by Charles and Dorthea to Albert for the sum of $1,000; and, (according to Herman) plus a bond of support.
Charles died by an accident involving a runaway team of horses. Carl told me about his grandfather dying a horrible death. He said the wagon wheel ran over the stomach area, cutting the flesh away, exposing the intestines. Carl said he laid around for several days suffering something terrible before he died and no one could do anything for him.
In Dorthea’s obituary, from the Ahnapee Record, it gives her name as Maria. I believe this is a mistake. Death notices are not always too accurate. Marriage certificates are usually very accurate. Her tombstone gives her name as Dorthea. The Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Brown, Kewaunee and Door” gives her name as Doretha. The warranty deed that transferred the farm to Albert, as signed for her, gives her name as Dorathea. I can only speculate how the name change came about. Charles and Dorthea are buried on the Lutheran Cemetery near the Elbert Schmiling place.
There are a number of inconsistencies one runs into in the spelling of the Schrneling name. In some early records, it is spelled Schmiling and later Schmeilling. I also saw it spelled Schmaling; this was the name of an Indiana basketball player in the 1960’s. This spelling would then be phonetically correct by German standards. This may be due to the German alphabet sound of the letters e and i. The letter e is pronounced like our like our long a and is called a; the letter i is pronounced like our long e and is is called e in the German alphabet.
The first great wave of Germans in America came to Pennsylvania, before the Revolutionary War, and, were, and still are, referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch. This is due to the misunderstanding of the German word that refers to themselves, their country, their written and spoken word. The people of Germany call themselves Deutch (pronounced Doy’ch); their country Deutchland; and their speech Deutch. German is a Latin word used by English speaking people. The English speaking people could hardly be blamed for thinking these people were Dutch. I can recall when I was younger that people of German descent were still referred to as being Dutchmen.
From Ahnapee Record / Thursday, October 22, 1885 Heading: Fatal Accident
“Last Thursday as Chas Schmiling was hauling some wood on his farm the colts he was driving took fright and ran away. Mr. Schmiling was thrown from the wagon and sustained injuries from the effects of which he died on Monday morning.
Deceased was one of the oldest residents of Ahnapee having come here from Kolberg, Prussia, in the year 1857, when he took a claim about a mile and a half from this city, on which he lived up to the time of his tragic death. He was born in the year 1811 and was therefore 74 years of age. He leaves a wife; two sons, Henry and Albert, and, two daughters, Mrs. Charles Damas and Mrs. Chas. Noll, of Racine, to mourn his loss.
In Mr. Schmiling, we lose one of the oldest and most respected citizens of the county.
The funeral took place on Wednesday afternoon and was largely attended by the many friends and relatives of the deceased.”
From Ahnapee Record Thursday, May 25, 1893 Mrs.. Chas. Schmiling
“Maria, widow of Chas. Schmiling, died last Thursday, May 18, 1893, at the home of her son, Albert Schmiling, in the town of Ahnapee. Mrs. Schmiling was one of the pioneer settlers of Ahnapee; she was held in high esteem by neighbors and friends. She had been an invalid for a number of years, her disease becoming more complicated this spring and developing into dropsy from which she died.
Mrs. Schmiling’s maiden name was Maria Westphal. She wasborn in Zarpen, Pomerania, June 4, 1814. In 1835, she was married to Charles Schmiling, who died in Ahnapee town in 1835. Nine children were born to them, four of whom are still living. Henry Schmiling, of this city, Albert Schmiling and Mrs. Chas Damas of Ahnapee town and Mrs. Chas Noll, of Waterford. She came with her husband to America in 1857, and settled in the town of Ahnapee where she had ever since resided.
The funeral took place last Saturday from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in this city. Rev. F. J. Eppling officiating, and was numerously attended.
Among those present at the funeral from abroad, was Mrs. Chas Noll, daughter of the deceased, of Waterford, Wis.”
Also, on the same page as the above
“A band of gypsies have gone into camp near Albert Schmiling farm on the north river road. There are about fifteen people in the band and they are a motley looking set. They have about a dozen horses and mules with them. Fortune telling is an important factor in their business and through it they add many dollars, it is said, to their store of cash. The camp is visited quite extensively, though principally by those only who are curious to see how the wondering homeless people live and work.”
Albert and Johanna
I know nothing of Albert’s early life. I assume he was a typical farm boy of his time with a minimum of education and plenty of chores around the farm. His older brother, brother, Henry, served in the Civil War but Albert would have been too young.
The earliest I can recall anything that was said about Albert was that he fell hook, line and sinker for his cousin Johanna. This according to Minnie. She said she understood Albert had gone out with other girls. Johanna, or Hanna, for short, came over with her parents, Gotlieb and Caroline Grunewald, in 1872, from the Kolberg area of Prussia. (There are also other spellings of Grunewald.) She was eighteen at the time. Johanna’s mother was Albert’s right aunt, or his father’s sister. Hanna was about three years younger than Albert.
I’m almost positive 1Albert knew of his cousin before he met her. There must have been some letters going to Germany as well as some from there to here.
Albert and Hanna were married June 20, 1874, two years after she came here. They had seven children who lived to adulthood.
Hanna’s parents settled on a farm near Kolberg, Door County.
Albert must have started dairy farming on a larger scale than his father, Charles. He had a fairly large dairy barn built. The basement area could hold about a dozen cows and a pen for young stock. It had a mow overhead. The basement part was about thirty by thirty plus a 30 ft. mow and thrash floor at ground level about 60 ft. in all by 30 f wide. Part of this barn still stood until 1939. The ground level part, or north end, was torn down in 1917 to make way for the new barn built by Herman. The rest was torn down to make room for the present machine shed and granery, again by Herman.
Before the Civil War, wheat and peas were major crops in Wisconsin. When the western lands opened up the land here got to be too expensive for such crops, so dairying was pushed. At first, cows were only milked during the summer months. The cheese factories closed down as colder weather came and pasture was gone. Albert held a check too long, according to Herman, and, the owner of the cheese factory had taken the money out of the checking account. Albert had to see him personally to get his money.
Women used to make butter at home from what ever milk they could get in winter. They tried to get enough extra to sell in town to help pay for groceries.
According to Herman Wolter, who owned the present Elbert Schmiling place, Albert had a very commanding voice. He could be at the far corner of the farm and still shout instructions to his sons, Carl and Hugo, as they worked near the buildings.
About 1888, Albert built the brick house on the home farm, now owned by Clarence and Anna Mae Alexander. Herman Schmeling remembers him saying many times about how all the things that could fit into a pocket, like door hinges, locks and nails were the most expensive items to buy.
Ed Paape’s father was the carpenter who started the house. The Paape’s lived just north of the Hilton’s, or, present day, Stoller farm. I remember Ed as being somewhat older than my father, Herman, but I don’t know his father’s name. Paape had much of the framing up when a big wind storm blew the entire thing down. He became disgusted as he looked over the mess and told Albert he was too busy to clean up the wreckage and start over. After some delay, Paape managed to get another carpenter to take over.
During the great fire of 1871, also called Peshtigo Fire, my brother Walter, recalls hearing that the fire struck in the area during thrashing season, and, the men in the area, and, I assume, this included Charles and Albert, helped move a thrashing machine to Lake Michigan so it wouldn’t be burned. Thrashing machines were scarce items, and, thrashing by hand didn’t appeal to the area men. I don’t think any fire struck the home farm. Walter said the Kolberg area, in Door County, had quite a bit of damage and the area was just starting to green up the next year when Johanna and her parents arrived.
At the 100th anniversary of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, in Algoma, the son of a former pastor was preaching the sermon. He was recalling some of the things his father told him about the Algoma area. He mentioned how the fire of 1871 raced toward the church on gale force winds. The men did all they could to beat back the fire in the area of the church but the wind was very strong and at last when it seemed hopeless, the pastor had everyone kneel down to pray, and, shortly thereafter, the wind switched. The fire moved in a different direction and the church was spared. Incidentally, Charles was a charter member of St. Paul’s.
When Albert died in the accident with the train, Hanna had what might be termed a nervous breakdown. She was unable to function as either a mother, or manager of a farm. Carl and Hugo were already married and on their respective farms. That left Minnie, Martha, Herman, Elsie and Hulda at home. If my figures are right, Hanna was 49, Carl was about 29, Herman 19 and Hulda 9. Charlie Krause was appointed overseer, or guardian, of the ones at home. (Charlie Krause was the father of August and Martin Krause and lived in what I remember as the Martin Krause farm, near present Elbert Schmiling place.) Hanna’s sister-in-law, Ida Meister Grunwald, took Hanna to her farm home in the Kolberg area. I don’t know how she accomplished it, but, I understand she worked Hanna from dawn to dusk, never giving her time to think about herself, (source, Bertha Heuer, daughter of Gothilf and Ida). Ida was also a widow at the time. I don’t know anything about Ida, but, I recall Herman saying Hanna had only one brother, Gothilf. He was a hunch back as the result of a bad fall as a baby. He had red hair and a number of his children have red hair.
Charlie Krause used to try and come in on a daily basis to see that things ran smoothly. I don’t know how long this went on, but it must have been for at least a year. Hanna did return, but she never recovered completely. She seemed like a frightened woman, afraid of any change. Herman, and, I guess, the rest of her children, had a hard job convincing her to sell the farm to Herman. I don’t know how the farm was operated during this time but Hanna must have had a widow’s share of the farm if she didn’t own it all herself. There were things Herman wanted to do and improvements he wanted to make. He especially wanted to build a new barn. It took from 1903, when Albert died, until 1917 before Hanna sold the farm to Herman, with a bond of support.
What I remember mostly about Hanna was that she was an invalid. We had to bring her to the table in a wheel chair. She was bedridden for the last year of her life. She died on the Easter weekend of March 27, 1937. She and Albert are buried on the Evergreen Cemetery, on Ry. 54, west of Algoma.
I remeber Bertha Gruendernan, Hanna’s sister, living with us. Bertha was blind, having had an operation for cataracts that wasn’t successful. The two old ladies used to sit in the front room and talk for hours. They talked about things that happened yesterday, last year, and, all the way back to their girlhood in Prussia. Bertha was married before she came here and did not come with her parents like Hanna did. I remember her saying that the year they got here was a very early spring. It got so warm a few of the farmers planted grain the last week of February. Most farmers wouldn’t take such a chance. As it turned out, the early birds got the worm. It turned rather nasty after that, never too cold, but, with some snow and later rains. Spring planting got to be later. There was a dry spell and grain didn’t do well. The farmers who planted early had a good crop.
These are recollections from my brothers, Walter and Reuben, and some from what I remember. Living with a grandmother in your home brings in quite a number of older relatives. They are bound to speak of things gone by and little people have big ears.
There may be errors in this history, but, it is the best of my recollections. I welcome any comments, additions, or recollections from any family member to help make this a more complete history.
Lloyd Schmeling / March 13, 1984
Note: The Carl Schmiling I refer to as a reference source, should not be confused with Charles, who sometimes signed his name Carl, especially on the warranty deed conveying the farm to Albert. Charles, or Chas., also called Carl, was born in 1811, in Prussia. The Carl I refer to for reference was my oldest uncle born in 1875, and, the one I went to for information right after my father’s funeral.
Giuseppe “Joseph” Cirabisi was born on March 5, 1873, in Sicily, Italy. He had one son and two daughters with Leonarda (Lena) Gerace or Geraci between 1909 and 1916. He died in 1950 at the age of 77.
On the free FamilySearch.org website his ID# is L1FX-D4W
Here is a recap on an original document showing when Joseph immigrated at the age of 10 to the USA arriving on November 3, 1013. (Note that census records and other government records showed little regard to spelling, this might explain why his father’s name is listed as Tirabisi instead of Cirabisi?!)
At the age of 35 years old, he stated for New York records that he was employed as a Bracciante (translation is farm hand , hired hand or laborer.
When Alice “Christine” Thompson (she used her middle name) was born on June 10, 1905, in Lawrence, Mississippi, her father, Ransom, was 48, and her mother, Susan “Sudie” Arabella Spurlock Thompson, was 43. I believe that she was the youngest of 8 children.
Her oldest son Samuel Henry Barnes was born on January 20, 1931, in Lamar County, Mississippi. Her second son Thompson Eugene “Genie” was born on August 27, 1935 and tragically died at age 12, in Mississippi. Her third son Arthur “Dale” (he used his middle name) was born on July 18, 1942, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Have you ever been on an endless hold on the telephone while listening to a horrid music tape constantly punctuated by messages that tell you to continue waiting? Have you ever been in a waiting room somewhere for much longer than you anticipated?
My life is still on hold. I have received dose 1 of the Moderna vaccine so I am on my way to being protected but my children have not received their vaccines. I would love to plan trips to see my children but that is complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic. My daughter, son-in-law and grandson live in Bavaria, Germany. I am not sure of the exact travel restrictions that Germany currently imposes on Americans. I am not sure if I would have to quarantine for 2 weeks upon arriving in their small village. Would I pose a potential risk to the people that I love the most by visiting with them after doing international travel? Still, I yearn to see them. My son is young and lives in San Francisco, CA. He is not vaccinated and that is unlikely to happen soon.
So, I sit in this waiting room of sorts. I am so happy that I have received my vaccine, but I really need all the people I love to receive theirs too.
My plans for this summer of 2021 are therefore restricted. When I think of ways that I might still have fun, I do think about my close infinity with the Great Lakes. Perhaps I will rent a beach house for the week on Lake Huron. The beach walking would do me good. It might be fun to invite a friend or two to stay with me in the cottage. The activities would include picnics, beach walking, rock collecting, photography, campfires and drives along scenic by-ways.
At home, I adore gardening. I look forward to tending my flower garden beds. I plan to retain my title as the Zinnia queen. I already have purchased the seeds (zinnias do not re-seed). I might venture off to the plant nursery to purchase a new rose bush as my way to show an affinity to my friends in Portland, OR. Portland is well known as the city of roses. In fact, from the police cars, the city buildings, and even the storm sewers, everything in the City is marked by a rose emblem. Oh, the roses do thrive in the beautiful climate of Portland.
I have another summer hobby that most folks would find rather archaic. I like doing laundry and hanging it outside to dry. I didn’t always have this passion. I attended a class through Osher on the history of laundry. There was something in all of the class photos and discussions that made me become extremely interested in laundry. I also am very conscious of environmental concerns and this is one of the ways that I give myself a lower carbon footprint.
I will take walks. I adore festivals, concerts, theater and museums but it has always been nature walks that take my fancy. I always take along my camera. I walk around all of Ann Arbor’s parks. We have so many to be very proud of. I will spend time with friends (those who have been vaccinated) and will drink a great deal of iced tea. My doctor gave me a new medicine that works perfectly but does not give me the allowance of holding any alcoholic beverage including my beloved wine. It is ok. I think it actually helped me to lose weight and I probably end up with more energy.
I will find a way to be with nature. I will be in a beautiful place, but it is still my waiting room. I still wait for Covid-19 to be no longer with us. I wait for everyone close and in far off locations to receive their vaccines.
In 1998, I posed for photos at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle. I looked great that summer day. My blonde hair was long and wavy. I had some rather fine sunglasses and so I kept striking a pose by various boats and nautical items in the museum. What I did not know then was that I had a connection to a Great Lakes shipwreck.
I did have some nautical connections. After all, my father had served on a heavy cruiser named the USS Oregon during WWII. But I had personally never had any nautical experiences of my own. I had never been on a ship for a voyage of any sort. My nautical experiences had been only been to travel by canoe along the river, a rowboat on a lake, or paying for a steamboat tour.
Still, I felt a deep connection to all things nautical and certainly a bond to the amazing Great Lakes. After all, I am from Michigan and as the expression goes, “4 out of the 5 Great Lakes prefer Michigan.” I loved the Great Lakes so much that most of my vacations as an adult centered around going to a cottage on the Oscoda shores of Lake Huron. Every morning while at Lake Huron, I walked to the beach with coffee in hand and watched the massive Great Lakes steamers that plowed through the water. I telepathed my sincere good wishes to the crew who worked on those massive freighters.
The Great Lakes shores have plenty of tourist shops and I would often visit them and see the sad books about Shipwrecks. It tore at my heart and although many folks are eager to purchase this type of book, it seemed much too sad for me. I would not even pick up the book to look at any possible sad illustrations or photos.
Many of us probably know the Gordon Lightfoot song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” I still feel profoundly sad to hear the song. Here are some of the lyrics that stress the dire historical moment.
“And later that night when the ship’s bell rang Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?
The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound And a wave broke over the railing And every man knew, as the captain did too T’was the witch of November come stealin'”
It was in 2006 that I became fascinated with researching genealogy. My beloved mother had passed away that year and I was anxious to find all the family stories that I forgot to ask her about. During my searches on genealogy web sites, I had a bone chilling moment when I realized my family had a strong connection to the Great Lakes ship wreck of the Hippocampus. My 2nd great grandmother, Mary Ann Higbee Hess, was the big sister of Urial Higbee. It was Urial (my 2nd great granduncle) that perished and was lost in this well known shipwreck.
I started to read the very type of story that I had spent years avoiding in those gift stores. As I read, I looked at a pen drawing of the Hippocampus. The artist had pictured it in the angry swell Lake Michigan’s waters. Seeing the illustration wrought me with profound sadness. The same lakes that have always fascinated me with their majesty also could cause unspeakable loss.
Here are articles from the Saint Joseph Herald newspaper from 12 Sep 1868. This was one of the first articles that I found and it was very unnerving to see what may have caused the disaster. A story that literally hinges on a tired ship captain taking a day off and a load of too many peaches being placed on the ship.
There was another article that I found which gives greater context to the type of storm. This article appeared in the Herald-Palladium (St. Jospeh, MI) on 30 Nov 1981.
When Uriel Urial Higbee was born on April 4, 1826, in Sandusky, Ohio, his father, James, was 46 and his mother, Mary, was 43. He married Sarah Louise Dodge in 1844. They had five children during their marriage.
My sister Mary Ann came to me with an idea just before my 18th birthday. My birthday gift from her would be a completely arranged blind date. All I had to do was be willing. My sister and her boyfriend would arrange for this blind date to be a double date to the circus that was playing in the Metro area. According to their plan, I would not meet my date until he arrived at my home on my eighteenth birthday.
I am now embarrassed to admit that my questions about my blind date were about as shallow as a could be. You see these questions were purely based on his physical appearance and had little to do with his intellect or nature.
“What does he look like?” I wanted to know.
“He is tall and very good looking.” my sister explained.
Now this sounded promising to me. I had just purchased a pair of 3 suede high heels with a metal stud décor, and I was relived to find out he was a tall guy so I could easily wear my new shoes without towering over my date’s head. Looking back at this philosophy and qualifying a date by his height or my shoes seems ridiculous to me now, but at that time it was paramount.
“How tall?” I asked her.
She surprised me when she said that he was 6’5” tall. Yep, this could be good because I could easily wear those new high heels. And this was important because I also had a new wool vest and hot pants combination outfit. The hotpants were wool plaid and they matched to my new high heeled shoes. I am so sorry that no photograph seems to exist of me in this smoking hot outfit.
Funny the things we choose to remember through the decades, but those hot pants and those shoes were one of my finest “drop the mic” looks. My polished look had also been achieved by wearing curlers to bed the night before so that my long blond hair would wave with body and shine.
My parents were there to get the door when the doorbell rang on the evening of our date. My sister and her date greeted him into our home. All I had to do was walk down the stairs and meet him in the foyer. Now, as I imagined myself to be somewhat of a super model in the ultimate outfit, I tried to make my descent down the stairs a picture-perfect moment. I wanted to put all my theater and drama training into good use. Everyone was waiting for me at the bottom of the staircase. That also means that everyone was there to see me trip on the last step and make a small falling motion. I did not fall down completely because my blind date caught me as he broke my fall with his arms outstretched.
When I looked at him, he was smiling down at me. He looked like a Greek god. He was handsome beyond my wildest dreams. He had perfect dark hair and the brownest of eyes. His physique was athletic and trim. And he was certainly tall. Even in my suede heels I only came to his shoulder height. He released me from his arms and warmly joked, “Wow, I guess you really fell for me.”
The date was perfect. We enjoyed the circus and all the fun things that could accompany such a date including vendor snack foods. I don’t even remember if we did much talking. I had literally fallen in love with him at first sight. I was giddy with joy. Could this possibly be real?
There were more dates in our future and getting to know him only secured my belief that I was truly in love with the perfect person.
We were young. I still had college ahead of me and he would join the Air Force. We made it through those years writing long love letters and saving money for long distance calls. Our love flourished. He professed his love for me, and I was absolutely gone on him. I traveled to Andrews Air Force Base and he traveled to my college for visits as often as we could arrange it.
About 5 years after we met, we planned our wedding. Jack became my husband. We had a magical honeymoon to Stratford, Ontario. We ate in fancy restaurants and attended the Shakespeare theater there. We held hands, kissed, and walked through parks and the city. I was charmed. For years after that honeymoon, we would recall moments of joyfulness that we shared.
The years progressed and our first child arrived nearly nine years after we had first met. Our daughter arrived and we became a family of our own. We were such good friends and parents.
As our daughter grew, I also found a dream job working in management for a large Ann Arbor hotel. My career was going strong and so it seemed a good time for Jack to go to school on the GI bill and complete college too.
We started to argue. We argued a lot. I don’t even know exactly what those fights were about anymore. We were not perfect, he was not perfect, and I was not perfect.
19 years after we first met, we had a second child, our son. All of what I wanted was in my happy orbit. My beautiful children, my handsome husband, and a lovely house. I would make sure that the arguing stopped. I made it my career to try and be pleasing and lighthearted when we were together. I tried not to engage when he criticized me. I was sure it would all be fine.
But it came undone. I just had not noticed that he had become increasingly unhappy. When he told me that the marriage was over it was a complete shock. I was sucker punched, the rug was pulled out from me, I hit a brick wall and the idea of divorce was a surprise to me. How could this have happened to us?
Later, I would learn that love is not always enough to keep a marriage together. My love was not enough.
I was terrified about becoming a single mother to a toddler and a teenager. I begged him. I cried and pleaded. And he left me. He left the family home with our children. We divorced. Before long at all I heard that he had married his co-worker.
I still loved him. He was married to someone else.
Years have gone by. There were some new love affairs after my marriage, but I never remarried. When I think of him, I still recall that deep love we once shared so easily and my heart is sad that we did not make it. I wish him well. I am ok. This February of 2021, I will turn 67 years old. It was 49 years ago that I fell for him. I do not regret that love story. I also no longer regret that he left because I have had a full vibrant life. I just wish that I could still wear those smokin’ hotpants and I do regret having no photo of that youthful woman I once was as my eyes looked up with adoration to that man who stole my heart.
The queen ant leaned forward in her throne, balancing her head between her two upper legs. An idea was racing madly through her elegant brain, but it was the kind of an idea which one can never put a finger on, especially an ant. Disappointment spread over the face of the beautiful queen, as she crossly pushed away the blank sheet of paper in front of her. The pen, which she had picked up with her second leg set, dropped with a ping to the small tile floor. One of the many work ants, which surrounded the throne room, made a move toward the fallen pen. While, at the same time, two other handsomely dressed ants raced to re-fluff the cushions and dampen cloths for the forehead of the queen. The queen, who appeared to be quite out of sorts, looked sadly into the solemn eyes of the young ant who was holding the cloth on her forehead. The young ant, in return, moved his eyes toward the floor, as he had been conditioned to do in such a case.
“Dear young ant,” spoke the queen in a very gentle voice, “I am very anxious to help you and your fellow ants. I realize how hard it must be to live as a common working ant.”
The young ant, who was a little uncertain about how to handle such a touchy moment, reached back into his mind for some words he might have been taught at the Conditioning School for Young Male Ants, but he could not remember learning any such words. Frustrated with himself, the young ant boldly replied, “Dear queen, I am not fit for thy service. Please may I be excused, so that I might be executed in a manner which befits such a stupid ant as I.”
“No” the queen answered boldly, as a smile broke across her face. “No, I command you to remain in my service!”
The poor young ant, whose antennae had already fallen, began to cry desperately, “Dear queen, I couldn’t…I am just a stupid, oh dear.”
The other work ants had frozen in their places and were witnessing the whole scene with dumb-struck faces and tear-filled eyes. The queen jumped up boldly on her throne. She looked over her court with happy eyes, and screamed very loudly, “I love you all, and I want to give a present to each one of you to show my love!”
The female ants swayed in their shoes, and several of the male ants began to develop symptoms of a nervous breakdown. This seemed to make no difference to the queen, for she only smiled wider, and giggled louder.
“I will give you freedom. I will give you free will, free choice, free speech, free education…Oh my dear ants, all your years have been spent in serving me, now you shall be your own masters. You have freedom.”
“But what is freedom?” one of the boldest ants in the group finally managed to blurt out.
“Why my dear friends, it simply means that you are now as I am, and you can choose to do things, just as I always have done.” The queen answered patiently.
There was a moment full of silence amount the ants, as they each gave themselves a pinch. There was another moment full of realization as the work ants began to understand what the queen had said. A few of the young ants began to giggle nervously, but the older ants began tearing at their clothes and shedding huge ant tears.
Finally, an old ant stepped close to the queen and whispered in a cracked voice. “You have apparently experienced this ‘freedom’. Perhaps you could explain to us older ants, what we must do in order to appreciate freedom.”
“But” blurted out the queen, who had been taken a little off guard, “Well, you see, um…. To experience well it is quite simple, you just, all you do is, oh dear…I don’t know.” The queen fell back down into her throne.
“Your Highness, if I might suggest something?”
The queen, who was really a bit upset cried out, “Well, yes, go right ahead.”
The old ant leaned forward and began to speak in a thoughtful, determined way, “Well, freedom seems to be a state in which all ants would have the opportunity to decide what is best for themselves.”
All the ants seemed to agree that this was a reasonable conclusion. And the queen motioned him to continue.
“Aren’t we then implying that we all know what is best for ourselves?”
“Well yes” cried the queen, “that is exactly the point.”
“Well,” the old ant proceeded “What would happen if we all decided to would be best to stop working?”
The queen who was a bit confused, answered truthfully, “we should all die.”
“Exactly, and what would happen if each ant decided it would be best to tell all the other ants what they should do?”
“There would be no order!” said the queen.
“Quite right, you see dear queen, all ants do not want to be work ants. They would rather have the privilege of freedom. But, if all ants had the privileges that you do, there would be no ‘common’ cause to do the work which must be done. For this reason, we have set up conditioning schools for your young ants. And even you, dear queen can never have freedom, because you are bound to be our ruler, and the mother of all new-born ants.”
“Stop” cried the queen. Her big eyes looked out at the court. “You don’t have to worry. I know now that I was only talking about a dream, but it was a very colorful dream and I’ve never had one quite like it before. “Now I order you back to work.”
Some of the ants grumbled, but others knew the old ant had just saved their lives.