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Local book is a great reminder of where we come from

In a world dominated by electronic communication, where our connected devices use GPS to tell us where we are and how to get to our next destination, sometimes it’s easy to forget where we have been.

The Champion-Beacon-Humboldt Historical Society has published a comprehensive two-volume book that delves into the history of western Marquette County in a way that places the spotlight on those communities and their residents over the course of over a century.

The book, entitled, “Glimpses of a Century in the Wabik Area,” is truly a grass-roots effort by a few to create a snapshot of the area from the pre-Civil War boom where the villages saw rapid growth to a population of nearly 4,000 to a decline to about 1,000 about a century later when mining in the area had ended and logging had become highly mechanized.

“…The plan for the book has been simply to describe, in as much detail as possible, life in our communities over the first century of our existence,” the book’s preface states.

Years of dedicated research and the monetary donations of about 100 individuals, families and organizations led to over 800 pages filled with detailed information and historic photographs that paint a detailed picture of what it was like to live in the area during the course of the century.

The book also reminds us that while the communities of Marquette, Negaunee and Ishpeming are widely recognized as pivotal in the region’s mining, logging and rail history, they never stood alone — not by a long shot.

Champion had the distinction of being considered a “railroad town” served by three depots in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the book states, due its “location at the east-west and north-south rail traffic serving the breadth of the Upper Peninsula and further west as well as connecting with lines to the south throughout Wisconsin to Chicago.”

The railroad was not just a primary means of transport for goods, services and people during during the height of the initial iron ore boom, it also represented one of the only means of communication with the outside world.

The book allows us to take a step back, to see how people lived, worked and played before electronic devices and radio signals seemingly put the world at our fingertips. It, and the efforts of its authors, remind us that before we input the coordinates of our next destination, it’s worth taking a long look in the rearview mirror.