Marquette memories and yours
Researchers at the Marquette Regional History Center and the John M. Longyear Research Library of course love articles and newspaper accounts of events, but biographical sketches and personal reminiscences, even short ones just a paragraph or two long, are useful as well.
The History Center and Longyear Library will always be greatly indebted to the late Lew Allen Chase, a history professor from NMU. In the early 1920s he and his history students conducted interviews with more than 100 pioneers and early residents of Marquette.
They filled out sheets with basic biographical questions and included space for whatever the interviewee could recall of life here. From this collection we can learn about the everyday experiences in early Marquette. And as you enjoy these snippets from the Chase Collection, think about what stories you can collect yourself this holiday season.
Alice Sutton Ross arrived with her parents, David and Mary Ann Sutton, in 1867. When interviewed, she said “The Indians used to come to Marquette once a year for their government money, and I saw them many times line up on Baraga Avenue, then known as Superior Street. They would dance their various dances. … At that time there were no houses north of Michigan Street nor west of Sixth Street.”
Mrs. Emma Coles, daughter-in-law of the man for whom Coles Hill was named, said, “When my husband’s father first came up to this Lake Superior country in 1858, he went to Ontonagon on the steamer General Taylor late in the fall, with a boatload of merchandise and arrived Christmas day.
“He sold it all, and navigation by then being closed, and no railroad, tramped to Marquette on snowshoes, and thence to Green Bay. He came back to live here in 1864. At that time there was a hotel on the lakefront at Baraga Avenue called the Jackson House. North of Whetstone Creek, Mr. Ely had a handsome residence and next to it was Barney’s Exchange, a sort of boarding house later made into a hotel called the Northwestern, and set in a beautiful grove of trees. My husband and his father built the first modern hotel at the corner of Front and Washington streets, the Coles House, where the Harlow block now stands, later known as the Cozzens and also the Clifton.There were about 1,500 people here at that time and the first year, I remember the Indians had their last powwow on Front St. Their faces were all painted, (and) they were dressed in full Indian costume.”
Mrs. Flavia Bashaw added a few notes of even earlier days. She had come here with her husband Nelson, in 1852, from New York State and recalled that there were no streets, just a large clearing at what is now the Baraga Avenue and Lakeshore Boulevard intersection, trails running here and there and a small cluster of buildings.
What became the downtown district was nothing but trees and swamp, with a few planks and logs covering the marshiest places. The only industry then was Amos Harlow’s sawmill and forge. She remembered when Peter White and others started carrying the mail, and she also said that Mr. Bashaw put up the first Catholic Church, of logs and lumber. A bell was obtained and set into a little alcove on the roof and she was chosen as the first one to ring it.
James Pendill, born in 1858 and a lifelong resident, told of the first Ridge Street School (where Pine Ridge Apartments now stand), built of brick in 1860, with separate entrances for boys and girls. It was heated by stoves and the boys split the wood. Arch Street, from Front Street east, was practically the end of civilization during that period and the passenger pigeon shooting from there north was excellent. In fact when the flights were on, Pendill remarked that the pupils were disturbed by the frequent gunfire.
Since the last passenger pigeon died in 1914, you probably don’t have an uncle or even a great-uncle at your holiday gathering who remembers shooting them. But he may remember what Parkview School was like when it first opened, and your great aunt may have a story about gathering pine cones for wreaths at her church Christmas bazaar.
If they grew up in Marquette, ask them what Picnic Rocks or Presque Isle were like when they were young, or where they bought their first car, or where they went to pick blueberries. And if you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to ask them what they know about their grandparents–you’re sure to hear family stories that might otherwise be lost altogether. If you don’t know how to take a video of the conversation on your phone, probably there’s a teenager in the family who can do it for you. Or you can just listen and then write down the story as you remember it.
If you need help coming up with conversation starters, there are lots of resources on line. A few to start with include “Great Questions” from StoryCorps, https://storycorps.org/participate/great-questions/, “Twenty Questions you can use to Capture Grandma’s Story,” https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/20-questions-capture-grandmas-story/ https:/ and “Genealogy: 150 Questions to Ask Family Members About Their Lives,” https://www.deseretnews. com/article/865595932/Genealogy-150-questions-to-ask-family-members-about-their-lives.html. Happy Holidays!