The Renaissance of the Winding River Raisin

Imagination and the River Raisin shimmering in the sunlight, frozen in the moonlight, or covered with a fog cape conjures up reflections of Native American canoes skimming over the waters. The Native people called their river Nummasepee – River of Sturgeon-

and canoed and fished its sparkling waters until a long, French shadow stretched across it.

In 1670, the French explorer Robert de LaSalle gazed on the River Raisin as he voyaged to Detroit, marveling at the lush richness of the country stretched on each side of the river. Black walnut groves, wild plum trees, and oak trees draped in grape vines dotted the level prairies. LaSalle and the French settlers who followed were so impressed with the grapevines that covered the trees and crept along its banks that they called the river “Riviere Aux Raisin” or River of Grapes. A few more strokes of the paddle sift scenes from Native American canoes to French bateaux anchored at the docks of long narrow ribbon farms. In another few feet, factories and bustling wharves appear. The River Raisin creates timeless ripple pictures of people and places in its journey from its source in Vineyard Lake in the Irish Hills area to its mouth at the Monroe Harbor.

Glacier Geology and River Geography


Scientists estimate the life span of the Wisconsin Ice Sheet or Pleistocene Glacier to be between two million and 11,000 years ago, which gave it time enough to carve out a geological landscape, including creating the River Raisin Watershed., which drains from the north and west. The River Raisin is approximately 140 miles long (estimated length varies from 135-150 miles) and its watershed covers 1,072 miles, about the size of Rhode Island.

The Raisin’s  headwaters rise about 1,200 feet above sea level in Vineyard Lake on the forested slopes of the Irish Hills and then wind southeast through glacial moraine and across an agricultural and industrial lake plain to its mouth in Monroe Harbor on Lake Erie. The River Raisin’s tributaries include Goose, Evans, Iron, Wolf, Black, and Macon Creeks and the Saline River. It has a south branch at Adrian and the Little River Raisin flows at Britton in Lenawee County.

The River Raisin’s watershed covers five counties, six cities, ten villages, and forty townships. River Raisin Watershed cities include Saline, Adrian, Tecumseh, Petersburg and Monroe. Villages include Brooklyn, Cement City, Manchester, Blissfield, Britton, Clinton, Deerfield, Onsted and Dundee. Its basin shelters 429 lakes and features more than 3000 miles of artificial drainage systems. Several earthen dams constructed in the 1800s are still maintained today, including those at Brooklyn, Norwell, Loch Erin, Saline, Milan, Dundee, Grape and Waterloo. [1]

Peeks at River Raisin People


Taking advantage of the plentiful food and easy water transportation along the shores of Lake Erie and the banks of the River Raisin, Paleo-Indians probably used the area as a crossroads, camp site, or village centuries before LaSalle and other Europeans discovered the Great Lakes. The City of Monroe unearthed more recent proof of Native American imprints between 1999 and 2003, when it commissioned several excavations at the northwest corner of North Dixie Highway and East Elm Avenue. Archaeologists discovered artifacts that reveal that Native Americans were there between 1550-1650.

In the Seventeenth Century, European explorers and fur traders traversed waterways like the River Raisin and its connections to Lake Erie and water passageways to Lake Michigan to prosper and establish new territories and settlements in the Great Lakes Region. For years, Pottawatomi, Wyandot, Ottawa, and other Native American tribes thrived in villages along rivers including the Detroit River and the River Raisin. The women farmed, growing corn, beans, squash, tobacco, and sunflowers for seeds and the men hunted wild game such as rabbit, deer, and wild turkeys as well as catching the abundant fish in the rivers and lakes.

The first French settlers establishing claims along the River Raisin were direct descendants of the old French pioneers of Detroit and their French Ribbon farms and in turn, most of the old French pioneers of Detroit had left France for Canada, bringing their French traditions and customs with them. The British outlawed private grants between French settlers and Native Americans with almost no exceptions. Between 1763 and 1801, hundreds of young French habitants left Detroit and settled on the River Raisin with the goal of establishing new farms and families, negotiating with Native Americans-mainly the Potawatomi, Wyandot, Ottawa, and Chippewa tribes of the Western Lake Erie area – for deeds to tracts of land.

Dividing riverfront and lakeshore land on both sides of the River Raisin into narrow ribbon farms provided important advantages to the farmer. Each farmer had water access and water was the main transportation. The layout placed each farmhouse at a minimum distance from one another, ensuring easy communication of news, and Indian alarms. Quick access to neighbors made dances, sledding parties, and other social gatherings easy to arrange and attend. France controlled the River Raisin region until 1763 when after losing in the Seven Years War, they ceded the area to Great Britain.  Fur trader Joseph Pulier Benac was one of the first to settle along the River Raisin, and in 1780, Colonel Francis Navarre arrived and established the community of Frenchtown. Almost 100 settlers followed him to the River Raisin, building log cabins and peacefully living with the Native Americans for many years. In 1793, the first American settlement was founded at Frenchtown and French and English settlers also lived peacefully together and prospered.

Just months after the United States declared War of Great Britain beginning the War of 1812, the Battle of the River Raisin or the Battle of Frenchtown took place. From January 18-23, 1813, American forces and British and their Native American allies clashed in a battle that was part of the American plan to advance north and retake Fort Detroit after General William Hull had surrendered it to the British the previous summer. After winning the first battle, the Americans lost 397 soldiers and 547 taken prisoner in the second encounter when the British and Native Americans counter attacked. More prisoners were killed when they fell behind on the forced march into Fort Malden in Canada. The Battle of the River Raisin was the deadliest to take place in Michigan and its casualties amounted to the highest number of Americans killed in a single battle during the War of 1812. The Battle of the River Raisin spurred the young United States to fight on to defeat the British in the War of 1812 behind the cry, “Remember the Raisin!”[2]

Settlers flocked to Michigan Territory to purchase farm land and enough of them settled along the River Raisin for Monroe and Monroe County to be created on July 14, 1817. In the early 1800s, Joseph Loranger bought several acres of land in what later would become Monroe. He bought his farm, located on the east side of Monroe Street, from Judge Augustus B. Woodward, who in turn  had bought it to fulfill a Michigan Territory requirement requiring a judge to own at least 500 acres of land. He called the farm Euphemia, until he platted his land into village lots in 1817 and the new land owners named their village Monroe. Samuel Mulhollen and Jared Egnew purchased the adjoining farm on the west of Joseph Loranger’s for six dollars an acre and Samuel built a log house on his land

On June 1, 1819, John Anderson, Oliver Johnson and twelve other citizens were authorized to build a toll bridge across the River Raisin, the first of many spanning the Raisin.

Agriculture and Industry Along the River Raisin


After Monroe and Monroe County were established in 1817,  Monroe’s enterprising citizens worked to take advantage of the abundant water power that the River Raisin and Lake Erie provided and  utilize its favorable geographic location halfway between Detroit and Toledo. Spurred on by the commercial rivalry with nearby Toledo, these pioneers searched for ways to take advantage of the water power of the Raisin and had their efforts had pulled Monroe ahead of Toledo until the canal and the railroad came.

The Canal was the  Wabash and Erie Canal which became operational in 1837. Monroe also became a city in 1837 and by 1838, its population, including Frenchtown was about 1,800. Toledo, which was reincorporated in 1837 numbered a population of 3,829 by 1850.

Then on April 22, 1833, the Territory of Michigan chartered the Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad to run from the former Port Lawrence, Michigan (now Toledo, Ohio) near Lake Erie, northwest to Adrian on the River Raisin and on to Kalamazoo. When the trains began operating on November 2, 1836, horses pulled them, but a newly arrived steam locomotive eventually replaced them. By 1852, the Erie and Kalamazoo had been absorbed into the Michigan Southern Railroad , a link in the early rail route from the East coast to Chicago.[3]

Still struggling valiantly to win the maritime business, in 1852 and 1853, Monroe entrepreneurs established a line of steamers between Buffalo and Monroe including the Southern Michigan, the Northern Indiana, and the City of Buffalo, at the time the largest and luxurious on the lakes. Although they prospered for a time, the steamers couldn’t compete with the railroads. Monroe’s population statistics compared with Toledo tell the story. Monroe’s population in 1874 was 5,782 and Toledo’s population 1880 was 50,137.  In 1890 Monroe had 5,618 people and Toledo had a population of 131,822 in 1900. [4]

Monroe pioneers also worked to improved its harbor on the River Raisin by dredging a canal that formed the outlet into Lake Erie. In 1834, the River Raisin emptied into Lake Erie at the south end of a low, marshy peninsula that stood between the channel and the lake. The mouth of the River Raisin at this point reached only a five-foot depth over a bar. From 1835 to 1882, Monroe entrepreneurs worked to improve Monroe Harbor, including digging a canal 4,000 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 10 feet deep, across the neck of the peninsula at a point one and half miles above the mouth of the River Raisin. The canal and other improvements resulted in a mid-channel depth of nine feet or more from Lake Erie to the wharves, where the depth was eight to nine feet with a solid rock bottom. Two piers protected the mouth of the harbor, the one on the north side a crib work built with stone, and the one on the south side constructed with piling and crib work.

Despite the improvements, Monroe maritime trade didn’t equal or surpass that of Detroit and Toledo. In these early days, most of the receipts were telegraph poles brought in on rafts with light draft tugs to tow the rafts in the River Raisin. During the summer season several small steamers carried passengers to equally small resorts near the mouth of the River Raisin. Steamers landed at the piers, but generally didn’t run to the Monroe wharves. During the 1897 Monroe season, 245 vessels with a registered tonnage of 11,180 arrived and the same number departed. The receipts for 1897 were 425 tons, and the shipments were 1,300 tons. In 1932, during the Great Depression, the City of Monroe and the Monroe Port Commission constructed the Port of Monroe near the mouth of the River Raisin and in 1981 built a new office near the ship turning basin on the River. The Monroe Port Commission owns a large amount of property with 4,000 feet of dock space and supports many tenants in the port area. The port generates about $38 million annually [5]

Not too long after the Monroe and Monroe County pioneers settled alongside or near the River Raisin, they dammed it and built mills across it.  Most of the dams were built in Monroe, but one of the more significant dams, the Alfred Wilkerson gristmill dam on the River Raisin, originated  in Dundee. In the early Nineteenth Century, the mills built on the River Raisin were mostly saw  or grist mills and later, in the mid-1800s paper mills were added to the mill mixture during the lumber booms and Henry Ford’s Rural Industry Program. Industries that at one time operated along the River Raisin in Monroe include the Alcoa Aluminum Plant, Newton Steel, Consolidated Paper Company, the Van Blerck Motor Company, the Ford Motor Company Monroe Plant and the River Raisin Paper Company. Gerdau  Specialty Steel, Monroe Waste Water Treatment Plant, Michigan Paving & Materials, and Barnhart Crane & Rigging are just a few companies that still operate near the mouth of the River Raisin in Monroe.  [6]


The DTE Monroe Power Plant, the third largest coal fueled electricity generating plant in North America, is located near the mouth of the River Raisin on the western shore of Lake Erie. Constructed in the early 1970s and completed in 1974, the plant provides approximately one third of Southeastern Michigan’s electric power. With all four of its generating units operating, the plant produces 3,300 megawatts of electricity. In recent years, the Monroe Plant has received awards for environmentally safe practices.

The DTE Power Plant diverts most of the River Raisin’s flow and discharges it into Plum Creek to control pollution of the River mouth area. The Power Plant’s peak water usage exceeds the River Raisin’s average flow, so water is occasionally drawn upstream from Lake Erie into the plant. Its intake system also impacts fish. .  Warm-water fish including bluegill, white sucker, channel catfish, walleye, crap, white bass, black buffalo, freshwater drum and smallmouth bass can be found in the River Raisin, but they face survival challenges. The high amount of industrial water use is believed to kill many fish in the intake screens and the seven dams on the River Raisin make fish migration from the River into Lake Erie almost impossible

In his 1998 Department of Natural Resources Report, Kenneth E. Dodge described the River Raisin flow reversal situation. He wrote that the DTE plant’s cooling water requirement of up to 3,000 cfs greatly exceeds the 741 cfs annual mean flow and during all but the yearly high flow periods, the entire flow of the River Raisin is drawn through the intake canal and processed through the power plant as cooling water. Lake Erie water is also drawn upstream to the plant through the channel of the River Raisins, essentially reversing its flow. The processed cooling water at an increased temperature is returned to Lake Erie through a separate outlet canal to Plum Creek Bay. This cycle, part of the plant’s normal operation, prevents potamodromous or freshwater fish, from making upstream runs to spawn. Fish stocked upstream from the power plant also find it difficult to migrate downstream to Lake Erie.[7]

Portraits of River Raisin Places


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Restoring the River Raisin


Agriculture and industries that made the River Raisin watershed region economically healthy didn’t return the same benefits to the River Raisin.. The Raisin’s natural course has been changed, its flowage diverted and dammed, and its waters polluted with PCBs, carcinogenic chemicals, heavy metals and agricultural runoff.

In 1985, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) designed the River Raisin as a Great Lakes Area of Concern. Areas of Concern are locations within the Great Lakes Basin that have suffered “significant environmental damage,” because of severe environmental degradation from industrial and municipal pollution. These areas are identified by specific ecological conditions that need drastic improvement. One of the established Areas of Concern covers the two miles of the watershed at the River Raisin’s mouth, which is industrial and harbor use, and fish consumption advisories exist up and down the River.

The River Raisin’s lower 2.6 miles which flows through the industrial zone of Monroe into Lake Erie has been heavily utilized over the decades and has earned an unenviable reputation as an “industrial sewer.” This stretch of the River Raisin has been on the U.S.-Canada international Joint Commission’s “areas of concern” list since 1987. The Areas of Concern” list identifies 43 of some of the Great Lakes region’s most toxic and problematic hotspots, including the Maumee and Ottawa Rivers, and the River Raisin industrial zone in Monroe. The original list included 31 areas in the United States and 12 in Canada and in the last 39 years, only seven have been removed-four in the United States and three in Canada.

In the 1990s, Ford instituted a remediation effort to clean up the portion of the Raisin adjacent to its plant, but studies had underestimated the extent of the PCB contamination, mostly because of the Raisin’s exceptionally hard and tough bottom. Although it had halted production in its Monroe Plant in 2008, Ford agreed to finance all but $9.5 million dollars of the cleanup.

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funded $275 million to $500 million dollars a year to Great Lakes projects and the House of Representatives approved a bill that extended the program at least five years. Since 2012, $23 million dollars’ worth of improvements have taken place in the River Raisin and an addition $30 million is being spent to remove toxic chemicals in the riverbed near the closed Ford Motor Company parts plant. The plan is for the River Raisin to enter a three to five-year healing and monitoring phase.

In September 2015, the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of the Great Lakes announced that state and local efforts to clean up the River Raison were bringing it closer to environmental recovery downstream. The DEQ removed one of its “beneficial use impairments” from the River Raisin, which means that the fish and wildlife habitat in the River has improved enough to support healthy populations.[8]

According to the DEQ, a 6.5 million dollar fund from the Federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and help from state and local governments helped bring about the restoration. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the City of Monroe effectively implemented the Restoration Initiative projects, which included eight projects to remove or retrofit 1930s dams and provide fish passages and four wetland restoration projects in Sterling State Park in Monroe.

Optimism about the future of the River Raisin hangs like morning mists over its waters. Kayaking, canoeing, fly fishing, and other water enjoyment activities have flowed freely along with the Raisin in its wilder parts west of Monroe. Water quality improvements and dam removal have made it possible for fish once again to move across the Raisin’s lower 23 miles from Dundee to western Lake Erie for the first time since the 1930s.

In most polluted areas of the Raisin, fish-consumption alerts will probably stay in place for years, but there is hope that eventually the River Raisin fish sizzling in the pan will include lake sturgeon. Lake sturgeon are gaining a foothold in the newly resurrected Detroit River and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and other organizations are planning to reintroduce them to the Maumee River. Federal, state, and local agencies and the efforts of private citizens may eventually restore the River Raisin to reflect its original Native American name- Nummasepee, the River of Sturgeon.


Brett Moyer – Kayaking the River Raisin


River Raisin Watershed Council

River Raisin Legacy Project

River Raisin Dam Remediation Project  

The City of Monroe published a 36-page booklet about the River Raisin’s history, legacy, pollution, and environmental restoration efforts. They are available at Monroe City Hall at 120 East First Street, Monroe.

[1] River Raisin Watershed Council

USDA Local Coordinating Committee, 1996.

[2]In 1956, the State of Michigan declared the River Raisin Battlefield a State Historical Site and in 2009, the United States Congress designed the River Raisin National Battlefield site as the River Raisin National Battlefield Park, just one of four parks in the country and the only one commemorating the War of 1812.  In 2013, U.S.  Representative Tim Walberg and the entire Michigan delegation introduced H. Res.37, 113th Congress, honoring the 200th anniversary of the battles at the River Raisin.

[3] Later it became part of the Lakeshore and Michigan Southern, the New York Central, the Penn Central, and the Conrail systems, and it carried passengers until November 1956.

[4] History of the Great Lakes, Volume 1. J.B. Mansfield, editor. Chicago:  Beers & Company, 1899.

[5] History of the Great Lakes, Volume 1. J.B. Mansfield, editor. Chicago:  Beers & Company, 1899;  River Raisin Legacy Project.

[6] River Raisin Legacy Project.

[7] Kenneth E. Dodge, Michigan Department of National Resources, 1998      

[8] River Raisin Watershed Management Plan          



George Lang Bicycled and Mapped His Way Through the Hearts of Monroe County and Monroe City


The first person to check out a book from the Carleton Branch Library, George Earl Lang didn’t spend all of his time reading. After he won a bicycle in a local contest, he guided his bicycle through Monroe County interviewing people and mapping as he pedaled dusty country roads and optimistic asphalt ones.  George Lang created the first comprehensive maps of the backroads and byways of the region and his mapping trips earned him the title of bicycle man, and the Map Maker of  Monroe and Monroe County. George Lang ranked Monroe and Monroe County as number one on the list of best places to live. After discussing the state of the county roads and extolling the educational accomplishments of the County and City’s students, he wrote in his 1917 Pocket Road Map of Monroe County, Michigan, “Railroad facilities are unsurpassed, located between two great cities, telephone service, electricity, automobiles, good towns linked up with good roads, her chief city growing with leaps and bounds, with optimism in the air, it will be Monroe County and City “First and Always.”

George Earl Lang absorbed Monroe County appreciation before his birth in Ash Township on October 8, 1873.  His parents, Edwin and Lavina Baker Lang, and his Baker grandparents were Ash Township pioneers and his  Baker grandparents had settled on the farm at the intersection of Ready and Sweitzer Roads where George and his sister Chlora were born. His Lang grandparents were pioneers in nearby Port Creek. The 1880 Federal census shows six year old George living with his parents Edwin and Livina and his sister Chlora on the farm of his Baker grandparents.

Edwin and Lavina Lang eventually moved to Carleton, a Carleton that grew along with George Lang. Edwin established a blacksmith shop and the family settled into village life. In 1877, the village of Carleton had a population of 300 people, two sawmills, one broom handle factory and one stave factory, as well as general stores and a meat market. In 1879, Carleton had 500 inhabitants, industries, and a brick school houses which doubled as a place of worship, and in 1887 Mrs. Hannah Baker was listed in the businesses directory as operating a general store and Harrison Baker was Justice of the Peace. Later in telling the story of his early years, George recalled that he helped his father in his blacksmith shop on North Hand Street after school and on Saturdays.

George Lang’s Wider World


 Although he attended Carleton High School, George couldn’t wait to graduate.  There were too many opportunities in the wider world of Detroit, luring him with siren songs of opportunity, adventure, and career choices other than farming. From an early age, George displayed a love of and talent for art, so he enrolled in the Detroit Art School before he had finished Carleton High School. In an interview with the editor of the Carleton Messenger years later, George recalled that while he attended the Detroit Art School, he met Silas Farmer, the author of several histories about southeastern Michigan and that Silas Farmer encouraged him and steered him into his map making endeavors. While George lived in Detroit, he also served as a secretary for a branch of the YMCA.

A look at the personal life of Silas Farmer and the history of the YMCA in Detroit provides evidence for a deep connection between Silas Farmer and George Lang. In 1850, before they moved to Ypsilanti, Justus and Mary Littlefield lived in Ash, Monroe County, with their family including their daughter Orpha. On June 18, 1868, Orpha married Silas Farmer in Detroit. Silas Farmer traveled around southeastern Michigan, including Monroe County, to collect material for his books and to court his future wife Orpha. Silas and Orpha Farmer had a son Silas Hamilton, who died on May 12, 1873 before he reached his first birthday. Intuition says that Silas would befriend and mentor the young George Lang, born the same year as the son he lost, the young man whom he may have met during his travels in Monroe County and the young man with similar interests and inclinations as himself.

Even if George Lang didn’t meet Silas Farmer until he attended the Detroit Art School, there still would have been a bond between the two. Silas Farmer was the founder of Silas Farmer, Inc., a map making company and he focused George Lang’s gaze on map making in Monroe County. A book called One Hundred Years with Youth:  the story of the Detroit YMCA, 1852-1952 by A.G. Studer documents that Silas Farmer served on the pioneering boards of the YMCA. In 1891, around the time that George Lang would have been going to Detroit Art School. YMCA membership in Detroit had grown so rapidly that the organization created branch offices in different parts of Detroit and established the Detroit Technical Institute, the only evening educational institution in Detroit that allowed young men further educational preparation for a vocation. George Lang could have received his draftsman and designing training there while serving as secretary for the YMCA branch. [1]

George Lang Makes a Monroe County Map

This isn’t George, but he probably looked like this riding his bicycle!

Besides being a skilled artist, George wrote well and he contributed articles to the Carleton Messenger and other area newspapers. In 1896, two important changes happened in his life. He returned to Carleton to live and he won a bicycle in a newspaper contest. The bicycle gave him the wings of wheels to travel around Monroe County and he began collecting the information that provided the foundation for his maps.

For two years, George interviewed land owners, pored over records, and peddled tirelessly over country roads, stopping overnight at hotels in Milan, Monroe, Dundee, and Petersburg. His appreciation of hard working farmers, enjoyment of their company, and open manner made him friends all over Monroe County and City.

The Monroe County map named the owners of every piece of private property in Monroe County and featured detailed maps of every village in the County. George scaled Monroe 300 feet to the inch while he scaled the villages in Monroe County, 400 feet to the inch. The village maps included Strasburg, Grape, Yargerville,, Pointe aux Peaux and plats recently laid out in the Third Ward of Monroe.


George Lang finished his Monroe County Map in 1901, copyrighted it and published 3,000 copies of it. Copies of his Monroe County Map traveled around the Monroe County and Monroe many times faster than George had pedaled to gather data for it and found permanent places in schools, law and surveying offices, and other locations around the County, including private homes.

George Lang, Craftsman, Community Servant, Comrade

Designing and publishing maps, writing newspaper stories, designing and hand lettering signs, and taking pictures kept George Lang busy for the next fifty years of his life. When his bicycle wore out, George turned to selling motorcycles as a side line. In the 1900 United States Federal Census, George, 26, listed his occupation as a designer. He lived in Ash with his parents Edward, 61, and Livina, 57, and his sister Chloa, 24.

In 1903,  when George was thirty years old, he was listed in Carleton’s business and professional directory as George E. Lang, Civil Engineer and he was also listed as a Civil Engineer in the 1907 directory. The 1910 United States Federal Census showed George working as a photographer with his own studio living in Ash with his parents, but not his sister. By that time, his sister Chlora had married Harry Henry Hause on April 17, 1906 when she was 30. During those years, George actively promoted the Greater Carleton Association, and he helped organize and build the Community Tabernacle which eventually became the village recreation center and at one point housed a roller skating rink before fire burnt it to the ground.

A letter from the State Board of Supervisors in Lansing dated June 15, 1911, revealed the important part that George Lang played in the confirmation of Carleton’s incorporation as a village on December 12, 1911.  The letter from Attorney General Franz C. Kuhn is addressed to Mr. George E. Lang, Carleton, Michigan. It said:

Dear Sir—Your communication of June 8th relative to the incorporation of the village of Carleton, directed to the Secretary of State, has been referred to this department. You state that a petition signed by one hundred legal voters has been filed with the county clerk and you ask if it will be all right and acceptable to have the board of supervisors which meets on June 19th, pass upon this petition and permit the question to be submitted to the voters in the territory to be affected.

In reply thereto would say it is assumed that your inquiry arises under Sections 2 to 4, inclusive, of Act 278 of the Public Acts of 1909. Said Section 4 requires that the petition “shall be filed with the clerk of said board not less than thirty days before the convening of such board in regular session, or in any special session called for the purpose of considering said petition,” etc. It will be observed that such a petition as that to which you refer can be considered by the board of supervisors only at a regular session or at a special session called for that particular purpose. If the meeting on June 19th is a special meeting called for the purpose of considering this petition, it will be proper for the board to consider same; otherwise the board has no authority to act.

Very Respectfully,

Franz C. Kuhn, Attorney General[2]

Carleton’s incorporation as a village was confirmed in Lansing on December 12, 1911.

Following the mentoring example of his friend Silas Farmer, George became interested in Scouting work ,becoming a scouting master in 1913. He continued to be active in scouting for many years.

Pocket Road Map, Monroe County and Monroe City

In 1916, George Lang lost his Carleton studio and photography business to fire, but he kept writing, making maps, and taking pictures as well as earning the reputation as the best and only sign maker in the region. Just a year after the fire in his studio in which he lost much of his previous work, he produced a book called Pocket Road Map, Monroe County, Michigan:  Monroe County Briefly Historical Data and Facts about Monroe County, Briefly Told.


In his introduction to the book, George wrote that in publishing a brief history about Monroe County he was indebted to many friends and several items had been secured with much difficulty. He observed that he had access to many volumes of old records in the Court House, township records, State Department Records, facts and dates from many pioneers of the County. He said that Monroe County and City would be “first and always” and “when it comes to state and national calls for service, the second oldest county in Michigan has never been found wanting.”

As well as his community and Scouting activities, George Lang continued to use his engineering, literary, and photography talents. In 1921-1922, the Michigan State Gazetteer listed him as both a civil engineer and a photographer. In 1927, he served as Carleton Village treasurer and in 1944 he was appointed village clerk and elected to that position the next year.


Military Matters, One More Job Listing, and Museum Recognition…

At age 45, George Lang registered for the World War I draft and his card is dated September 12, 1918. He listed Secretary of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce as his employment.

A Charter Member of the Monroe County Historical Society, his fellow members honored George Lang in October 1952, when he donated many of his maps and slides to the Museum.  That same night, Historical Society members recorded his voice and played it back to him.

But  Most of All, A Friend

Almost two decades later, George Lang’s name appeared on another military record, this time as a friend performing a final service to another friend. George’s friend Owen McManus enlisted in the 17th Michigan Infantry in the Civil War and he died in Monroe County on April 14, 1915.  George E. Lang, of Carleton, Monroe County submitted an application for his veteran’s head stone which was shipped on June 30, 1937.

George Earl Lang’s family and friends laid him to rest in Carleton Cemetery after his death in  Monroe on April 18, 1953, following long bouts of heart trouble and leukemia. His immediate family members  had gone before him in death, but he kept  smiling, taking pictures, making friends, and mapping his life to the end. As his obituary in the Monroe Evening News said, “His financial wants were not excessive and he had a host of friends who were always willing to help.”


[1]One Hundred Years with Youth:  the story of the Detroit YMCA 1852-1952. A.G. Studer. Detroit: Studer, 1952.

[2] Annual Report of the Attorney General of the State of Michigan, 1911.

Michigan Attorney General’s Office


Dundee, Michigan – “The Hub of Highways”

William D. Loreaux Takes A Bottoms Up, Backward Look at the Historic Water Tower

William D. Loreaux. 1885-1976. William D. Loreaux was born on a farm in Wayne County, Ohio on January 8, 1885. In 1910, he received a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Ohio State University at Columbus. He spent the next several years acquiring more technical expertise, working in industry, and teaching in Cleveland Public schools. In 1926, he took a job at the Flint Water Department and in 1932 he came to Dundee, taking over from Otto Spohr, the local plant’s first engineer.

The history of Dundee’s Water System. It was completed in December 1930, at a cost of $44,000, after a vote on the bond issue narrowly squeezed through. Water was previously pumped from Sulphur wells at Water Works Park on Ypsilanti Street.  The water is taken from the River Raisin near the Toledo Street plant, treated chemically, softened and filtrated at the plant and then pumped into one of the two tanks in the park. In the 20 years of operation, (1970s figures) customers have tripled to 600, and pumpage has increased four times. There have been so many expansions on the distribution system that Mr. Loreaux estimates that the mileage of the pipe has doubled. The record number of gallons pumped per day is 275,000.

Changes in operation and a reduction in electric rates which has reduced power costs from $88 to $35 per million gallons has given the plant a chance to operate in the black on expenses. Today, the value of the plant is over $150,000, Mr. Loreaux says.

William married Lillian Riley on June 19, 1919, in Copperhill. They lost a son, Eugene, 23, in a flight training accident at Freeman Field, Indiana, in 1944. Their only other child was a daughter, Mary Elizabeth.

He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery.

Times Before the Water Towers

Long before the birth and demise of its old water tower and the rise of its new tower with the Cabela emblem, the village of Dundee, Michigan began as hopes for better lives in the hearts of stalwart pioneers, many from New York, strong muscular axe arms, and dreams of opportunities thicker and wider than the dense woods hugging the River Raisin. Today, the village of Dundee, incorporated in 1871 and the surrounding Dundee Township are part of the Monroe, Michigan metropolitan area.

John McClelland Buckley in his History of Monroe County, Michigan narrated some early Dundee and Dundee Township history. He wrote that the records show that William H. Remington recorded the first land entry for a homestead on July 23, 1823 and Riley Ingersoll and George Wilcox built cabins in the Dundee wilderness in 1824. Other pioneer names appearing in the record of claiming land in the hardwood forest wilderness included Samuel Jenner, Nathaniel Richmond, George Wilcox, Samuel Barber, Riley Ingersoll, Martin Smith, Heman Spaulding, Justus and Charles Jermain, Enos Kent, Ira Irons, George Pettingill, William Verdon, Sam Rankin, and Walter Burgess.

In 1825 the only road from Monroe to what was afterwards Dundee, was up the south side of the River Raisin. The road that touched the River Raisin opposite Dundee featured a canoe ferry across the river. the same as to Petersburg, where it touched the River Raisin On this road the setters’ houses passed were Gale, Bliss, Burchard, Farewell, Sorter, Dives, Mettez, and several Frenchmen, who names were not lost to history. In the fall of 1827, with the help of settlers from Monroe, Petersburg, and Blissfield, the early settlers began to build a dam across the River Raisin at Dundee, and they finished a sawmill in 1828 and 1829. The turnpike from La Plaisance to and through Dundee was laid out in 1832, and individual citizens laid out the bridge timber.

The first post office to leave a documentary record was named Winfield, with William Montgomery as postmaster conducting post office business in his own cabin. Alonzo C. Curtis and his parents and brothers were some of the pioneer settlers of Dundee, arriving there in 1828. Alonzo moved the post office into the village. He became the village’s first postmaster and officially named it Dundee, after the city of Dundee, Scotland.

In 1835, Sybrant Van Nest platted the village of Dundee by now stretching along the north shore of the River Raisin and offered land for sale. His pamphlet advertising the village proclaimed “two first rate sawmills and one small gristmill in the village and a large and elegant tavern house.”

Dundee Township was organized in 1838, formed from the adjacent Summerfield Township. The first election was held at the house of Samuel Barber in the spring of 1838. Riley Ingersoll was the first settler in the new township, moving to Michigan Territory from New York in 1824. He bought a part of the Potter farm and built a log house on his land. Captain Richard P. Ingersoll, Riley’s son, was the first white child born in the township.[1]

The first schoolhouse in Dundee, built of logs, dated from 1834-1835. When fire destroyed it, Dundee citizens replaced it with a frame building with better facilities. Some of the early teachers included Doctor Bassford, John Montgomery, William Parker, Junius Tilden, H. Townsend, H. Watling, Rebecca Whitman, Emily Jenney and Mrs. James White.

Mail and transportation in Dundee grew along with its population. In the stage coach days, mail was supposed arrive in the village weekly, but especially in the spring with often impassable roads, the mail didn’t always arrive in a timely manner. When the railroads came, daily mails and the telegraph kept Dundee villagers in touch with the outside world.

The Michigan State Gazetteer of 1867-1868 described Dundee as a township and post village of Monroe County, on the river Raisin, 55 miles south west from Detroit, and five miles north of Petersburg, on the Michigan Southern Railroad, the nearest shipping point. The village contains two flour mills, one paper mill, a lath factory, three steam and one water saw mills, two turning shops and a bowl factory, also one Methodist, one Baptist and one Congregational church, a fine school, a Masonic lodge (Dundee, No. 74), two hotels and several stores and mechanics’ shops. Population of village. 500; of township, 2,000. It has three mails per week. Postmaster—Charles F. W. Rawson.[2]

Five years later in 1873, the Michigan State Gazetteer recorded Dundee’s growth when characterized Dundee as an important inland village, in Dundee township, Monroe county. It is situated at the crossing of the Chicago and Canada Southern R. R. and the Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern R. R , both now in process of construction. It is 6 miles north east of Petersburg on the L. S. & M. 8. R. R. The river Raisin flows through the village, affording a fine water power. The U. S. Express Co. have an office here, and the place supports a weekly newspaper, the Dundee Enterprise. It also has a paper mill, a woolen mill, a machine shop and some other manufacturing interests. It ships away paper, cheese, staves, brooms, and farm products. The surrounding country has a clay, alluvial soil, and is heavily timbered Dundee was settled in 1827, incorporated 1871, and now has a population of 500. It has a daily mail. Peter Clark, postmaster.[3]

George Lang Map of Dundee and Dundee Township, 1901

George Lang wrote this about Dundee Township in his 1917 Pocket Roadmap of Monroe County, Michigan. “Part of 6, South Range 6, East and West half of Town 6, South Range Seven East; fourteenth township organized by the Legislature on March 31, 1838 out of Summerfield and Raisinville Sections 31, 32,33, in southeast corner, were added to Ida for a time and then set back. No records as to dates can be found.

The first town meeting was held April 1, 1839, at the house of Samuel Barber, who was elected supervisor.  The first land entry was made by William Remington, July 23, 1823.  During the next ten years came Riley Ingersoll, Nathaniel Richmond, Ira Jones, George Wilcox, Martin Smith, William Perdun, Samuel Rankin, Herman Spaulding, Samuel Jenne, Enos Kent, Justus Germain. The turnpike from La Plaisance to and through Dundee was laid out in 1832; bridge across the River Raisin built in 1833. Although no Scotch settlers can be recalled, at the meeting called for that purpose it was named Dundee after Dundee, Scotland. Has many fine farms. First white child born within the limits of the township was R.P. Ingersoll.”[4]

In his 1917 Pocket Roadmap of Monroe County, Michigan, George Lang described the Village of Dundee as: “the second town in the county; was incorporated February 10, 1855; reincorporated April 13, 1871. Territory added, April 2, 1895.

Population: 1,240; 22 miles north of Toledo; 45 miles southwest of Detroit; has two state banks, a large suspender factory, (The Nu-Way Stretch) , flouring mill, elevator, two creameries, two canning factories, a pickle salting plant, laundry, two cigar factories, milk condensery, weekly newspaper, good hotel, good business blocks, four churches, fraternal orders, fine residences, paved streets, municipal lighting plant, water works, high school on University list, splendid railroad connecting over the Ann Arbor, Lake Shore, Detroit, Toledo & Ironton, & Toledo and Detroit; a good hustling town. The first schoolhouse was built in 1834. The post office was called Enfield in 1835 and located two miles east of the present village. Original plat recorded November 12, 1833.  The first settlers were Riley Ingersoll and George Wilcox.  Called Dundee in 1838.”

Over the decades, Dundee Village kept adding transportation and people. Eventually so many trails and railroads crisscrossed in Dundee that the little farming community was dubbed the ‘Hub of the Highways.”  Dundee’s population followed the same growth path. The village’s 1880 population numbered 932. A century later in 1980, the village had grown to 2,575. The village’s year 2,000 population numbered 3,522 and by 2010 it had grown to 3,957.

Practicing History in Practical Dundee Places


The Dundee Historical District

The Dundee Historical District or Dundee’s Downtown District was settled about the same time as the Old Village Historic District in Monroe, both built in their present locations near or on the River Raisin. Dundee (and Monroe’s) original buildings were small, wooden structures, built between 1866-1900, although Dundee traces some of its building to its founding in 1825.  Eventually the businessmen replaced the small wooden buildings with two story brick storefronts.

Dundee’s Historical District is located about one mile east of US-23, along M-50, known locally as West Monroe Street east of the river and Tecumseh Street west of the river, at the bend of the River Raisin. The major part of the Historical District is located on the north side of the river, including Riley, Ypsilanti, East Main, and Tecumseh Streets with south of the river including small parts of West Monroe and Toledo Streets.  Locally, the District is called the “Triangle District,” after the unique shape of the grid plan where Riley and Tecumseh Streets intersect at a 45-degree angle which creates a triangular piece of land cut off by Park Place on the west. The original owners of the Triangular piece of land donated it to the Village of Dundee with the stipulation that it would remain an undeveloped park in the center of the expanding community. Today it is known as Memorial Park, featuring a naval cannon and a bandstand.

The Dundee Historical District was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 20, 1990.

The Old Mill Museum


The Old Mill Museum, originally the Alfred Wilkerson Grist Mill, is located along the River Raisin on Toledo Street in Dundee. Although the mill dates to 1849, its dam, the largest of several dams located along the River Raisin, was first built in 1827 and rebuilt in 1846. The mill functioned as a gristmill for Dundee’s growing milling industry, but around 1910 it was converted to produce hydroelectricity to furnish Dundee’s only source of power.

Although the mill had the distinction of being the oldest surviving building in Dundee, it was neglected for years and the village almost demolished it in 1934. Then automobile czar Henry Ford bought the building and spent a large sum of money restoring it, although the only addition he made to the original three story mill was a single-story building on the side of it. He converted the mill into a small factory to produce welding tips for the automotive industry. His activities in Dundee were part of his village Industries Program.  He believed that Dundee would be a vital part of the Village Industries Program experiment to see if small towns could be used to contribute to the global automotive industry and he visited Dundee often to check on the progress of his experiment.

After Henry Ford died in 1947, interest and support for his small factory disappeared and in 1954, the building was sold to the Wolverine Manufacturing Company. Once again, the original mill was transformed, this time to produce paper products and it operated until 1970, when the Wolverine Manufacturing Company sold it to the village of Dundee for one dollar. The village converted the mill and its surrounding 13.8 acres into a museum park.

Although the Old Mill Museum was designated as a Michigan Historic Site on August 3, 1979, it is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places in its own right. Instead, it is listed as a contributing property within the Dundee Historic District which was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 20, 1990.


A much older image of the building and the dam (date unknown)

Pioneer Paragraphs

John S. Babcock. 1813-1889. He was born in Bath, New York on June 30, 1813.  On June 14, 1835, he married Jane Fleming and in 1836, John and his wife Jane came to Dundee with their young son Albert H. who was about six months old.  He provided blacksmithing to the village of Dundee and the surrounding area for nearly 50 years. He died on December 30, 1889 at 76 ½ years old and he is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.7

Rev. Harry Coleman.  1896-1978. Harry Coleman, born in June 1896 on a Dundee Township farm, had to quit Dundee High School in his senior year when his father’s health forced him to help on the farm. For more than year before he left the farm, he worked as a foreman at the Consolidated Paper Mill in Monroe and later at the National Supply Company in Toledo. In 1935, he bought a 120-acre farm on Day Road in Dundee. He farmed until a major operation forced him to give it u p and then he worked as assistant herdsman at the Ypsilanti State Hospital Dairy, maintaining 160 head of cattle, 89 of them cows.  He married Myrtle Zilke on April 7, 1939 after his first wife died in 1937. He took a ministerial training course in the Methodist Church, and served as a replacement when the Rev. Charles F. Bragg retired. He served three years on the board of education, and he was a member of the Community Chest and bond drives during World War II. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Alonzo C. Curtis -1804-1887. Alonzo C. Curtis and his parents and brothers were some of the pioneer settlers of Dundee, arriving there in 1828. Alonzo became the village’s first postmaster and named it Dundee, after his homeland city of Dundee, Scotland. He served Dundee for many years as justice of the peace, a druggist, practiced law, and he also farmed. He died on December 10, 1887 and he is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Scott W. Jackson. 1869-1950. Maple Grove Cemetery. He attended Dundee Public Schools and he began teaching at age 17. He taught 39 years, retiring in 1931. He was one of the oldest members of the Dundee Methodist Church. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery.

Charles F.W. Rawson. 1812-1903. He settled in Monroe County, Michigan, in 1833 and practiced several occupations including farming, blacksmithing, and operating a boot and shoe shop. He was the Dundee Postmaster for 16 years. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

George W. Richardson- 1852-1934.  George W. Richardson was born in Sanborn, Niagara county, New York state on September 4, 1852. He attended and graduated from the Buffalo College of Medicine in 1878 and came directly to Monroe county where he settled at Cone. After a short time, he removed to Azalia and then to Dundee, having practiced his profession in this vicinity for over 56 years. His tales of those early days in the community will be remembered by the many who enjoyed to converse with him. For the first two years, he walked carrying on his work, later acquiring a horse with which he managed to go farther afield through the woods. For 19 years Dr. Richardson served with Dr. Denias Dawe of Monroe, on the U.S. Pension Board. For several years, he attended lecture courses in Cleveland and New York City, and shortly after received his diploma as a pharmacist from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He is buried at Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Donald Erwin Siler. 1900-1985. Donald Erwin Siler was born November 8, 1900, in Dundee to William and Maude Adams Siler. He married Rebecca L. Smith in Dundee. He served as justice of the peace for 16 years, and Governors George Romney and William Milliken appointed him to the Monroe County Jury Commission.  He also was a real estate broker and the owner of Don Siler Real Estate as well as owning and operating the Siler Hatchery for many years.  He held many village offices and was a deacon in the First United Presbyterian Church.  He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Henry Alonzo Stewart, 1838-1906. In 1847, Henry Alonzo Stewart came to Dundee with his parents and until he reached 19 years of age, he lived with Mr. Cady who conducted a hotel in Dundee for many years. Henry learned the blacksmith trade and worked as a blacksmith for five years. In November 1863, he enlisted in Company L of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry. He lost the sight of one eye while serving in the Civil War and he mustered out on August 28, 1865. He was a member of William Bell Post No. 10 of the G.A.R. in Dundee. He married Mary A. Haines on April 15, 1860 and their three children all died in infancy. Henry operated a grocery business in Dundee for many years and was undertaker for two years. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Judson W. Van DeVenter. 1855-1939. Judson W. Van DeVenter was born on a farm near Dundee, Michigan. After he studied art at Hillsdale College, he became interested in music. He taught at the Rankin School in Dundee in 1878. Eventually, he wrote hymns, probably one of the best-known being “I Surrender All,” found in many church hymn books. He is buried at Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Charles A. Verschoor. 1888-1943. Charles Verschoor invented the first radio transistor which was produced in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Alfred Wilkerson. 1820-1900. Alfred Wilkerson moved to Dundee from Ledyard, New York in 1836. He organized the first Republican Party in Monroe County and in 1859, was its Michigan State Representative. The 1812 Hand Atlas noted that “he has been twice married…and deserves great credit that he has never drank beer or smoked a cigar.”  He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Dundee. A biography of Alfred Wilkerson indicated that he moved to Dundee from Ledyard, NY in 1836. Alfred organized the first republican party in Monroe County and he was the Michigan State Representative in 1859. According to the 1812 Hand Atlas, “He has been twice married…and deserves great credit that he has never drank beer or smoked a cigar.”)

The Serge Williams Story:  The Autobiography of a more recent Dundee resident.


The Business of Dundee is BUSINESS!

Michigan State Gazetteer  -1856-1857

In 1856-1857, the Michigan State Gazetteer reported that Dundee was a post village in the town of Dundee and Monroe County located on the north side of the River Raisin, 18 miles from Lake Erie. Dundee featured a vigorous milling and manufacturing trade with a township and village population of 2,900.  An alphabetical list included:

Henry Angel & Co., flouring mill

William Bell, saw mill and turning factory

J.P. Christiancey, saw mill

Dealand & Goodrich, steam saw mill

Ebenezer Duston, general store

Justin B. Duston, grocer

Daniel DeVeu, shoe store

Fuller & Green, steam saw mill

James W. Gale, general store

Willis Hinsdale, turning factory

Clemon Longe Lee, haress store

John G. Parker, steam saw mill

James Plank, general store

Daniel Reid, turning factory

Watling & Barber, general store

Dundee Business Cards

A listing of some Dundee businesses from  1856-2017.


Dundee Business Briefs

Some Dundee Businessmen and businesswomen


Veterans Voices

Dundee veterans serving America.

Ernest Berndt, 1894-1960.  Ernest was born in St. Joseph, Michigan, on November 29, 1894. He worked on his father’s fruit farm and in a Ford Motor Company assembly plant in Chicago until he was drafted into the Army in 1917. He served as a PFC in M37 Infantry, World War I. After his discharge, he came to Dundee and worked for Beaume-Rauch Co., later Consolidated Paper Company, in Monroe, as a millwright. After eight years, he started his own business selling straw to paper companies and later worked at the Ford Mill. In February 1945, he joined John Norman in buying the Dundee Bar, formerly Fred’s Tavern, from Kurt Fredericks. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Dr. A. H. DeGroot- 1885-1954. A.H. DeGroot was born on a farm in Vriesland, Michigan, and received his early education in Vriesland, “a widening of the highway about four miles from Zeeland.” Between farming seasons, he worked at a furniture factory in Grand Rapids, and eventually enrolled in the Grand Rapids Veterinary College, graduating with the class of 1917. During his junior year at college, he had the opportunity to become acquainted with Monroe Country when he went to Ida for several months to take over the practice of Dr. D.M. Hagen who was recovering from an operation. After he graduated, he went to Dundee to set up his veterinary practice. In 1918, he enlisted in World War I and was training as a second lieutenant in the Sixth Co. Veterinary Corps when the war ended. He returned to Dundee and resumed his practice. In 1922, he joined Edward A. Schaap in founding the Dundee Hatchery, but in 1936 he dropped out to concentrate on his veterinary practice. On October 4, 1923, he married Leona M. Schultz and they had one daughter. He served on the Dundee Village Council for three years. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Henry Phillip “Hank” Karen. 1915-2016. He worked for the Karner Brothers Elevator in Dundee, the family business, and during World War II, he was a test pilot and member of the flight crew that flew B-24’s at Willow Run. He ran the Ann Arbor Airport, was a flight instructor and charter pilot, and then a corporate pilot for Hoover Ball Bearing. He retired as Chief Pilot in 1964. After he retired, he joined the Boyne Highlands professional ski patrol.  He loved to hunt and fish and shot a bear at age 91. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

John Owen.1836-1924. He was a teacher and justice of the peace in Dundee.  He was a Civil War veteran. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Harrison D. Plank-1840-1865. Harrison D. Plank, the son of James and Sarah H. Dubois Plan, was born in 1840, just in time to come of age during the Civil War. He fought in Company H of the 18th Michigan Infantry and he was taken prisoner on September 24, 1864 and paroled on March 16, 1865. On April 27, 1865, he and an estimated 1,547 people, many of them Civil War soldiers eager to return home, boarded the riverboat Sultana to begin the voyage northward and home. When the Sultana had reached a place on the Mississippi River just above Memphis, Tennessee, the Sultana’s boilers exploded. The explosion broke the Sultana nearly in two, and it burned and drifted uncontrollably before grounding on a small island in mid-stream. Harrison drowned in the Mississippi River on April 27, 1865. He has a memorial in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Horace Pulver, Sr. 1846-1919. Horace Pulver Sr., was born on August 20, 1846 on the Captain Ingersoll farm near Dundee. Early in life he learned the trade of brick mason and followed that until about 1889, when he opened a stone quarry in Dundee.  He also opened a contracting business and oversaw the construction of the Dundee High School building. In about 1907, he retired from active business. During the Civil War, he enlisted in Company A, 13th Michigan Infantry for two years. He worked actively in the G.A.R. and commanded the local William Bell Post twice. Once or twice a year he visited the school and talked to the pupils about Sherman’s march to the sea. The children called him “Uncle Hod.” He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

William H. Pulver. 1834-1905. William H. Pulver was born in New York State in November, 1834. His mother died when William was about ten years old, and he wandered and worked at various places until he married Mary E. Philbeam when he was 29 years old. They settled in Dundee where he opened a carriage and wagon business. The first building he built in Dundee was his house which he built in 1869 and he lived there with his wife and two daughters.  He fought in Company B of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry during the Civil War. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Captain Nelson White. 1808-1899. Nelson White came to Michigan in 1832, locating his farm two miles west of the village of Dundee. He received his deed from President Andrew Jackson and owned the land since then. For many years after he settled in Dundee, Captain White went back east during the summer, commanding a boat on the Erie Canal. In 1838, he married Emily Jenne and they had ten children. He served as first lieutenant in the company recruited in Monroe County to fight the Toledo War. With his men, he “invaded” enemy territory and always enjoyed telling war stories.  He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

More veterans voices


The First Settler’s Story


Dundee Homestead

The First Settler’s Story

by Will Carleton

It ain’t the funniest thing a man can do—

Existing in a country when it’s new;

Nature—who moved in first—a good long while—

Has things already somewhat her own style,

And she don’t want her woodland splendors battered,

Her rustic furniture broke up and scattered,

Her paintings, which long years ago were done

By that old splendid artist-king, the Sun,

Torn down and dragged in Civilization’s gutter,

Or sold to purchase settlers’ bread-and-butter.

She don’t want things exposed, from porch to closet—

And so she kind o’ nags the man who does it.

She carries in her pockets bags of seeds,

As general agent of the thriftiest weeds;

She sends her blackbirds, in the early morn,

To superintend his fields of planted corn;

She gives him rain past any duck’s desire—

Then may be several weeks of quiet fire;

She sails mosquitoes—leeches perched on wings—

To poison him with blood-devouring stings;

She loves her ague-muscle to display,

And shake him up—say every other day;

With thoughtful, conscientious care, she makes

Those travellin’ poison-bottles, rattlesnakes;

She finds time, ‘mongst her other family cares,

To keep in stock good wild-cats, wolves, and bears;

She spurns his offered hand, with silent gibes,

And compromises with the Indian tribes

(For they who’ve wrestled with his bloody art

Say Nature always takes an Indian’s part).

In short, her toil is every day increased,!To scare him out, and hustle him back East;[5]

Dundee settlers didn’t hustle back East.  They stayed in Dundee, built lives and left descendants to attract new settlers into infinity


[1] History of Monroe County, Michigan: a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interest. John McClelland Bulkley. Chicago:  Lewis Publishing Company, 1913, p. 150.

[2] Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1867-1868;view=1up;seq=208

[3] Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1873.;view=1up;seq=282

[4] Pocket Road Mpa, Monroe County, Michigan.Centennial Editor, 1917. Geoge E. Lang. Monroe, Michigan:  McMillan Printing Company, 1917. P. 8

[5] The First Settlers Story;view=fulltext

Joseph C.W.Van Blerck, Engine Entrepreneur


River Mark in Oudenbosh, Netherlands- Photo Credit, Andre Speeck

The River Mark flows near both Oudenbosh and Zvenbergen where Joseph Van Bkerck and his wife Dimphna were born. The Atlantic Ocean, the Detroit River, the River Raisin, the Cuyahoga River, the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, a circular life voyage, are some of the waterways that Joseph C.W. VanBlerck traveled and populated with his marine engines after he immigrated to the United States from Holland across the vast Atlantic Ocean. He spent a lifetime working diligently to invent and manufacture lighter and more efficient engines for newfangled automobiles, boats, and the newer fangled airplanes. His Van Berck engines powered boats,  navigated and raced through waterways across America and the world and his son, Joseph Van Blerck Jr. carried on his legacy. [1]

After years of collaborating with Henry Ford, Joseph Van Blerck created the Van Blerck Motor Company, pioneering the development and manufacturing of innovative design and high performance marine engines. His engines were installed in nearly all early hydroplane and racing machines, and in 1914 he drove the Kitty Hawk, powered with a Van Blerck engine, to a record of 60 mph. For years, his engines propelled boats to victories and records in all of the major boat races. He also pioneered design and development of stern drive units. Many of his inventions became standard components on marine engines.

The Dutch Archives show that Josephus Christianus Van Blerck was born on August 16, 1876, in the Netherlands village of Oudenbosch in the Dutch Province of North Braband and his future wife Dimphna Adriana Goddrie two years before him on February 13, 1874 in the village of Zevenbergen,in the province of Noord-Brabant near Breda.  The River Mark flows near borh Oudenbosh and Zvenbergen. Rivers, windmills, land reclaimed from the North Sea, and the North Sea itself were wallpaper waterscapes in Joseph’s early years. He stated on his United States Federal Census records that he had an eighth grade education, but his mechanical talent and character carried him to achievements far beyond eighth grade. Perhaps he dreamed of boats speeding through the water as swiftly as seagulls and perhaps news about Henry Ford’s harnessing horsepower to create fast moving(rumor had it the Model T could do 40 miles an hour) automobiles focused his visions of powerful, reliable engines.

According to the 1910 United States Federal Census, Joseph C.W. Van Blerck and his wife immigrated to the United States in 1902, when he was 26 years old and his wife Dimphna was 28. Other sources say they didn’t arrive until 1904. Joseph listed his occupation as a machinist who owned his own shop.The 1910 Census shows the Van Blerck family renting a house at 366 Hibbard Avenue in Detroit. Joseph, 34, Dinshina, 36, and their two children Cornelia, 4, and Johanna, 2, shared the house with Dinshina’s mother, Cornelia Mather, 66, and her brother Christ Goodrie who had just immigrated from the Netherlands. The Van Blerck’s had lost one of their children, three-year-old Joseph Van Blerck who was born on November 3, 1902 and who died of pneumonia in Detroit on March 3, 1906.  Another Joseph, who would be equally as famous as his father, was born in 1916.

 The Detroit Years


Detroit River – Photo by John Duguay

Before he created and perfected his first marine engines and established his own shop in 1910, Joseph Van Blerck worked with Henry Ford in his early efforts to develop the 71909 Model T engine. Henry Ford was the first in a long line of prominent and talented people that Joseph Van Blerck’s own talent and perseverance drew into his entrepreneurship circle.  Often Henry and his young son Edsel would visit Joseph and discuss the practicalities of building his first marine engine in the backyard of his Detroit home. Joe Van Blerck’s prototype engine, a one-cylinder, quickly attracted affluent buyers and new business. The Smith-Ryan Boat Company, one of Van Blerck’s prominent customers, bought his engines that could travel an astonishing 31 mph and more for its modern ships.

Marine author Stan Grayson wrote in his book, Engines Afloat, From Early Days to D-Day that between 1905 and 1915, innovative inventors greatly improved the weight-to-horsepower ration of marine engines.  He explained that after Joe Van Blerck established his own engine shop about 1908, he soon hired John Hacker, a talented designer as manager and in 1912, Charles Page, a Cleveland businessman. Stan Grayson also wrote that Chris Smith of Chris-Craft fame possibly was an early supporter of Joe Van Blerck.

According to Stan Grayson, the Van Blerck Motor Company had problems along with its successes. Rex Wademan who wrote and designed catalogs for Joe Van Blerck reported that the Van Blerck motors were not standardized, and even two motors with the same cylinder size and number of cylinders didn’t necessarily have interchangeable parts. He said it was a frustrating and time-consuming chore to replace worn out or broken parts.[2]

Yearly sales increases often  countered by the time and expense of replacing custom build parts and the necessity of replacing them kept Joe Van Blerck constantly purchasing patterns, tools, and jigs. His company  wrestled with the problem until 1908, when Joe Van Blerck began to build standardized motors. He ordered another catalog promoting the change in production and his business increased. By 1913, Joe Van Blerck was building a new factory in Monroe, Michigan.

Author James Barry in Hackercraft wrote that Joseph Van Blerck immigrated to the United States in 1909 and opened a small engine shop in Detroit where he served as designer, builder, and office manager. About 1912, Charles E. Page, a Cleveland businessman, joined Joe Van Blerck and he set up a new plant at Monroe. The Van Blerck dock fronted on the River Raisin and boats would pull up to have their engines overhauled or new engines installed. George Page took over the office functions of the company because Joe Van Blerck’s interests and abilities didn’t include office management. Business insiders knew that Joe Van Blerck didn’t have time for office work. As a report in Motorboat Magazine of August 1914 asked rhetorically:  “Can you imagine Joe Van Blerck swearing into a dictaphone?”[3]

 The Monroe Years

River Raisin, Monroe Michigan – City of Monroe

 In 1913, Van Blerck Motor Company moved to a new, more modern facility in Monroe, Michigan. The October 1913 issue of Motor Boating reported that Van Blerck Motor Company was building a new factory in Monroe, not too far from the banks of the River Raisin. Engineer McGeorge planned a fireproof brick, steel, and concrete factory, 60 feet wide by 176 ½ feet long that would meet the company’s immediate requirements for space. The building, modern for 1913, featured an office, large windows, and state of the art electric equipment.The company also built a power plant and the facility featured a testing room where Joe Van Blerck could operate several engines simultaneously, using handmade stands simulating boat angles. Each engine came with test results. [4]

The opening of the new business created a furor of excitement in Monroe. Joe Van Blerck mailed dozens of invitations, urging everyone to visit his shop, touting its favorable location 45 minutes from Toledo and 1 ¼ hours from Detroit. Gradually, Joe Van Blerck established standardized tooling as the norm in his Monroe operations and all parts became interchangeable. He ran another advertising campaign to promote the benefits of standardization and the public embraced his campaign, buying enough standardized motors to support full time shifts and even overtime at the Van Blerck factory.


As well as racing engines, Van Bleck also built standard models, including D and DD engines that the company sold to use in fire equipment, electrical generating sets, pumping outfits and trucks and farm tractors. A 1915 fire truck sale with a Van Bleck engine to the City of Monroe caused some controversy. In January 1915, the city bought a $5,500 Watrous fire truck with a Van Blerck engine to replace a horse-drawn steam pumper. A story in the Monroe Michigan Observer repeatedly stressed the unreliability of the cone clutch in the Watros fire truck. In 1920, the truck was rebuilt, leaving some people with dark thoughts about the Van Blerck motor, in truth a marine model, in the fire truck..[5]

Joe Van Blerck introduced three engines while he operated in Monroe: the E, E-Special and the EE.  According to Stan Grayson, the new engines were so well made of such high quality material that they still run the occasional cruiser. Another Van Blerck model, a 6-cylinder, 125-horsepower engine, powered a twenty foot hydroplane called The Kid, which dominated the 1913 Astoria, Oregon Regatta.

The Van Blerck engines continued to win races and boat builders with sterling reputations including Lawley in Boston, Herreshoff in Rhode Island and Matthews in Ohio used standard Van Blerck engines as standard operating procedure. A boat builder named S.A. Ferris operated with Joe Van Blerck, because at that time it wasn’t unusual for marine engine builders to build boats as well. In 1914, Ferris built the Hacker designed Hawk Eye at the Van Blerck shop and Van Blerck installed a 12 cylinder engine of his own design and construction. The hull design was that of an improved Kitty Hawk. Other Kitty Hawks followed over the next few years: Hawk Jr., Kitty Hawk IV, and Kitty Hawk 5 – all with Van Blerck engines.

Most Van Blerck engines ran reliably and long term. Demand for them remained steady or increased. Other countries around the world including China, Australia and New Zealand purchased many Van Blerck Motors. A carpenter living in Shanghai, China, built a Yankee runabout he called Carthay II, and powered her with a four cylinder Van Blerck Motor capable of reaching 30 miles an hour. The owners of the Carthay II wrote that she is the “fastest boat by far in all China, Japan and the East. The engine has run ten months and is better than ever.”[6]

Over the next few years, the Van Blerck Motor Company continued its expansion, and Joe Van Blerck continued to attract talented and famous people to his business and to his engines. In November 1915, at an annual stockholders meeting, the Van Blerck Motor Company reorganized and made plans to greatly increase its facility. Officers elected were:  Joseph Van Blerck, president; Charles B. Page, vice president and treasurer; and Clifton Knoll, secretary. Thomas B. Taylor, George B. Cross, and F.D. Ames of New York and J.S. Haggerty of Detroit were Directors. By 1916, the Van Blerck Motor Company had a diverse line-up of engines, ranging in power from 40-500 horsepower. The prices ranged from the low $1,000 to over $6,000 for the V-12 unit.[7]

During his Detroit and Monroe years, Joe Van Blerck had also opened a New York office. In March 1916, Thomas B. Taylor, a well known motor boating enthusiast who had been a director in the Van Blerck Motor Company since October 1915, was elected second vice president and the resident Eastern Executive in the Company. Besides the changes in the New York office and its force, the Van Blerck Company opened a Washington office in charge of Horace Ward. In its announcement of the change, the Motor Boating Magazine stated that the rapid increase in the volume of business placed by the United States Government in the Van Blerck Company has caused this action.[8]

World War I

The Motor Boating Magazine announcement said that World War I brought even more orders rather than a slump for Joe Van Blerck marine engines. Naval architects heard of Van Blerck engines and eventually the engines powered their way to the front lines of the War. A maritime museum, Forum Marinum, in Turku, Finland, has models of patrol boats built for the Russian Navy during the First World War which were equipped with Van Blerck 150 hp engines. [9]

Joseph Van Blerck’s obituary in the Monroe Evening News stated that he moved his factory east where he designed and supervised building a series of interchangeable motors for the U.S. Navy. A 1924 catalog of the Model N marine engine has the address of the Van Blerck Engine Corporation as Plainfield, New Jersey. The Model N featured one of Joe Van Blerck’s favorite cylinder sizes, 5×6’ bore and stroke. Max F. Homfeld in Gas Engine Magazine stated that he had little doubt that the Model N was a Naval engine.[10]

An obituary in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle stated that during World War I Joseph Van Blerck had built hundreds of engines for the Navy and was selected to design a special standardized engine for the Navy’s lifeboats and launches.  [11]

At this point, the transitions in offices and companies of the Van Blerck Motor Company, and the swinging doors of personnel become a kaleidoscope of conflicting documents and speculation about Joe Van Blerck’s motives and directions. The February 1917 issue of Motor Boating Magazine stated that Joe Van Blerck had moved his general sales office to New York City at the beginning of the year and opened for business on January 3 in the Hecksher Building at 50 East 42nd Street. The facilities contained 800 feet of floor space to hold a large number of Van Blerck parts. The Company was also ready to open a sales office in Boston, and Joe Van Blerck planned to open a combination sales and service station in Chicago on or about April 1, 1917.[12]

The announcement said that the general sales offices had been moved, but it didn’t mention the factory part of the organization. According to Stan Grayson in Engines Afloat, From Early Days to D-Day, Joe Van Blerck left Monroe in 1918, and documents at the Monroe County Historical Museum indicate that the company was dissolved on June 23, 1923. There are conflicting documents about this scenario. Joe Van Blerck registered for the World War I Draft on September 10, 1918, and his draft registration shows that he enlisted from Monroe and he listed his livelihood as being president of the Van Blerck Motor Company. The Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory shows Van Blerck Motor Company still present in Monroe in 1921-1922, but with different executives. The Gazetteer listed George H. Houston as President, and L.A. Moehring as secretary-treasurer and stated that the company manufactured gasoline engines.[13]

Stan Grayson wrote that the details of what might have happened between Joe Van Blerck and Charles Page are unknown to history. He speculated that a postwar slump may have strained their relationship or that Joe Van Blerck simply was not interested in the new model engine. Since he did not leave an archive of letters and diaries, any statements about Joe Van Blerck’s motives are speculative, but studying his life and actions provides some clues. If the 1914 Motorboat Magazine is correct, Joe Van Blerck was more of a dreamer, designer, and doer when it came to creating engines and not a practical, pragmatic, pencil-pushing businessman. He followed his product dreams where they led him, and when someone else couldn’t visualize or produce his dream engines, he moved on to more sympathetic environments.

Whatever his reasons, about 1919, Joe Van Blerck relocated to Akron, Ohio, opened a factory there, and introduced the first commercially oriented engine, the Model MM.  He left that company  a year later and moved to New Jersey.

Van Blerck Motors Race On to Ohio, New Jersey and New York


Wikimedia Comons

The 1920 United States Federal Census showed Joseph Van Blerck 44, living with his wife Dinphina, 46, and their children Cornelia, 13, Johanna, 12, and Joseph, 8, and his mother-in-law Cornelia Goddriek, 74, in Akron, Summit , Ohio. He listed his occupation as an engineer in a machine shop. Even though Joseph Van Blerck had left Monroe, the company that he had founded still remained by the River Raisin. The 1921 Michigan State Gazetteer listed the Van Blerck Motor Company as still located in Monroe, Michigan. George H. Houston was named as president and Lester Ahrend Moehring as secretary-treasurer.[14]

It appeared that Joe Van Blerck created or sold name and engine rights to different companies that he either started or endorsed. A 1920 newspaper advertised the WS-M engine which was a Joseph Van Blerck design. The factory’s address did not appear, but the sole distributor was Wilbur H. Young with a Fifth Avenue, New York City address. A 1920 catalog showed the Van Blerck address again as Detroit and the company logo included the words, “The Standard High Speed Motor.”

 Another Van Blerck Motor Company advertisement dated January , 1921 promoted the “Lucetta,” built for H. De Ver Warner, Bridgeport, Conn. Designed and built by Wm. H. Hand, Ir. Powered with an eight cylinder Van Blerck engine. Speed, 30 MPH. NE of the most successful boats of the past season is “Lucetta” and one of the best things about her was the splendid way in which she maneuvered at all speeds. From dead slow to full speed ahead, the engine instantly answered the throttle. No backfiring, no stalling— just an even, consistent flow of power as and when required. The Van Blerck Engine, plus the Van Blerck Fuelizer, makes an altogether desirable combination — add this combination to your boat and you have the Ideal. VAN BLERCK MOTOR COMPANY Also Makers of High Duty Commercial Motors OFFICE AND WORKS AT MONROE, MICH, New York Sales and Service Branch—3o Church Street[15]

In January 1921, Power Boating Magazine announced George Sykes as the new general manager of the Van Blerck Motor Company in Monroe, praising his trained executive mind and splendid experience in production methods and executive management.

In September 1921 Power Boating printed a notice about Guy W. Vaughn, who had been the vice-president and general manager of Van Blerck Motor Company since 1919. Guy Vaughn resigned as general manager, but would still remain as vice president and a member of the board of directors. Power Boating commented that , “Mr. Vaughn’s remarkable record with the Van Blerck Motor Company which company he entirely rehabilitated, increased their business, and made their balance sheet a pleasant sight to behold,” a statement that tends to support the people who believed that Van Bleck’s engines were in production decline and had become obsolete before the advent of World War I.  Guy Vaughn would remain vice president and a member of the board of directors of Van Blerck Company, but he accepted a position as vice president and general manager of the Standard Steel and Bearings Company of Philadelphia, effective on August 8, 1921.[16]

The June 25, 1922 Motor Boat Magazine section called The Trade announced the latest Joe Van Blerck move.

Joe Van Blerck to Supply Van Blerck Motor Parts

An interesting announcement made in a rather modest sort of way is to the effect that Joseph Van Blerck is prepared to take care of all owners of Van Blerck Motors in the way of service and parts. It will be remembered that several years ago, Mr. Van Blerck severed his connection with the Van Blerck Motor Company, then at Monroe, Michigan.

Since severing his connection with the Van Blerck Motor Company about two years ago, Mr. Van Blerck has received many requests from Van Blerck owners for his services for the repair and rebuilding of the Van Blerck power plants. It was the number and character of these requests as well as Mr. Van Blerck’s own personal interest in all motors which bear his name and for which he still feels responsible which caused him to undertake to supply proper parts service to all owners of Van Blerck motors. Perhaps the idea of maintaining the representation for quantity which had been earned by Van Blerck Motors also helped to prompt this move.

Mr. Van Blerck opened offices at 90 West Street, New York City, where he will be prepared to supply parts built under his personal supervision for all models. This service will be rendered at very reasonable prices. For this work, Mr. Van Blerck has enlisted the services of a number of men who were formally associated with him and who were directly in charge of the production of practically every Van Blerck motor now in service.

Low prices will be possible because of the fact that it will be unnecessary to carry a heavy overhead burden as in the case of a company manufacturing motors on a large scale. The savings will be on such items as sales expenses, the necessity of carrying a large shop and the elimination of developmental and experimental work.

This is a move that might be expected from Joe Van Blerck by anybody who has followed his career in the Marine Motor Industry. The Van Blerck Motor made its personal appearance 15 years ago when Joe Van Blerck made a few engines at Detroit  into which went every speck of capital he could scrape up. From that beginning the business grew rapidly and steadily until the Van Blerck Motor Co,, became one of the leading manufacturers in this industry. War expansion of the business caused the control of it to pass into other hands and on January 1 of this year (1922)the manufacture of Van Blerck Motors ceased. Since that time owners of Van Blerck Motors in need of parts or service found that repairs entailed great expense and many of them took up the matter with Joe Van Blerck. His characteristic answer to these  inquires and requests is found in the present announcements . The business will be conducted under the name of Joseph Van Blerck, Inc. [17]

One of Joe Van Blerck’s  associates, Leonard Ochtman Jr., automotive engineer, came to Akron to continue his association with Joseph Van Blerck.  He was born in Riverside Connecticut on March 22, 1894, to Leonard and Mina M. Ochtman. His father, born in Holland, was a noted artist. Leonard Jr. was educated in Greenwich, Connecticut Schools and graduated in 1915 from Cornell University with an M.E. He worked as a draftsman and designer on gasoline and light automobile engines in 1913 and in 1914 as an inspector of automobiles at the Saxon Motor Company in Detroit. He worked at Van Blerck Motor Company in Monroe as a chief draftsman from 1915-1919. By 1922, he was the chief engineer for Joseph Van Blerck Inc., in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.


Surviving and Thriving Through the 1930s

Navesink River, Red Bank, Monmouth, New Jersey

Navesink River, Red Bank, Monmouth, New Jersey-Wikimedia Commons

The 1930 United States Federal Census showed that Joseph Van Blerck,52,  lived in Red Bank, Monmouth, New Jersey with his wife Diaphinia, 54, and his son Joseph, 18. He listed his employment as a manufacturer at a boat works.

Part of Joe Van Blerck’s strategy to survive during the Depression and beyond included rebuilding and converting used automobile engines. He advertised five different models in 1934 and 1939 for Joseph Van Blerck Boat Engines, Inc., Long Island City, NY. He used the car clutch and transmission, modifying the gears to provide a 1:1 reverse similar to the JVB and Model N. He designed marine conversions for truck and tractor engines. He designed engines to power midget race cars and to replace less efficient outboard motors, and he built many engines for early Elco-Electric Company Motor Yachts.


Van Blerck engines didn’t seem to have geographical or territorial limits. In 1931 when the Van Blerck 16 valve engine was advertised from 2200 Diamond Street in Philadelphia.  Van Blerck made copper exhaust pipes for Elco-Electric Launch Company in Roosevelt and Freeport, Long Island and provided technical and transportation support for the company. Joseph Van Blerck Jr. oversaw most of the Long Island operations and became an acclaimed speedboat racer in his own right.

The variety of his company names and locations reveal Joe Van Blerck’s tireless quest for better quality and quantity engines and his sheer love of imagining and designing them. The names of the companies that he founded or was associated with in some way include:

  • Van Blerck
  • Van Blerck Motor Company
  • Joseph Van Blerck
  • JVB
  • Joseph Van Blerck Motor Corporation
  • Wellman-Seaver-Morgan Company
  • Elco-Electric Launch Company
  • Fay & Bowen
  • Navy
  • Continental Motors


He also has a varied list of company addresses including Detroit and Monroe, Michigan, Akron, Ohio, Plainfield, Red Bank, and West Bank, New Jersey and Philadelphia Pennsylvania. His company timeline is just as varied (although these times are estimations):

  • 1909-1911-Detroit
  • 1913-1920-Factory in Monroe, Michigan
  • 1918- New York City
  • 1920-Cleveland
  • 1921-JVB in Akron
  • 1923-24-Plainfield, New Jersey
  • 1926-New York City
  • 1928-Red Bank, New Jersey
  • 1934-1939-Long Island City
  • 1949-Fort Lauderdale, Florida


The Engines Keep Running Through the Waters

Great South Bay Long Island, Wikimedia Commons

In 1935, Joseph and his wife Dinphina lived in Free Park, Nassau, New York, where he and his son Joseph Jr. actively designed, manufactured, marketed, and adapted marine engines.

Years later, Joseph Jr.’s obituary in the New York Times reveals more of the complicated interchangeable engines that were the lives of the Van Blerck father and son. Some of Joe Jr.’s maritime achievements included championship speedboat driving. He set a record 39 minutes in the 1947 Manhattan Island Marathon in his 225-cubic inch class hydroplane Alijo V. In 1949, he broke the one-mile world’s record off Aberdeen, Maryland, with a mark of 92.3 miles per hour and in 1950, he won the national championship in the 7-liter speedboat class at the Buffalo Launch Club Regatta. He often raced with Guy Lombardo, his Freeport neighbor.

Joseph Van Blerck Jr. was born in Detroit and proved to be a chip off the engine block son of Joseph Van Blerck Sr. In 1912, the family moved to Red Bank, New Jersey, where the Senior Van Blerck designed and built marine engines. After graduating from the Pratt Institute, Joseph Jr. joined Van Blerck Motor Company in 1929, and ran it after 1938. During World War II, he discontinued the business and designed and built PT boat exhaust systems for Elco in plants at Freeport and Roosevelt, Long Island. He also serviced and sold parts for the 1,500 horsepower Packard PT boat engines in yards at Ocean Avenues in Freeport.[18]

Even though he apparently turned over some of the businesses to his son Joseph Jr. Joseph Van Blerck Sr. listed his occupation as manufacturer in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census. The Census also shows that Joseph Van Blerk, 63, and his wife, Dinphina, 66 lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at this point in their lives.

Florida records chronicle some of the last years of Joseph Van Blerck’s life. His wife Dinphina died and he remarried Reta Mary Crosthwaite in 1949. He kept his fertile imagination and literal and figurative fingers in the workings of a marine engine.


When Joseph Va  Blerck died on September 5, 1949 in Fort Lauderdale, news of his death appeared in newspapers and magazines and saddened the hearts of internal combustion engine lovers around the world. One of his obituaries appeared in Motor Boating-ND in October 1949.

One of America’s pioneer marine engine manufacturers, Joseph Van Blerck, Sr. passed away September 5, at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Mr. Van Blerck, born in Holland 74 years ago, contributed much to the development of internal combustion engines for boats. Before entering the marine engine field in 1910, Mr, Van Blerck was associated with Henry Ford in the early development of the Ford Car. After the day’s work, Henry Ford and his young son Edsel often spent many pleasant evenings with Mr. Van Blerck when he was building his first marine engine in the backyard of his Detroit home.

During the first World War, Mr. Van Blerck built hundreds of engines for the U.S. Navy and was later selected by the Secretary of the Navy to design a special standard engine for the Navy’s life boats and launches. Mr. Van Blerck is survived by two daughters and one son, Joseph Van Blerck Jr. of Freeport, Long Island, New York. He was a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers.[19]



[1] The variety of documents about Joseph Van Blerck list various dates and data about his life and his engines.  It isn’t possible to reconcile them all, although I have attempted to accurately cite the conflicting stories and documents.

[2] Engines Afloat, From Early Days to D-Day, Stan Grayson. Devereaux Books, 1999. Chapter 5, Volume I, “The Gasoline Era.”

[3] Hackercraft. James P. Barry. Voyager Press, 2009.

[4] Motor Boating, Volume 12, No 4, October 1913, p. 94.  1913-  In a booklet titled Review of the Racing Season of 1913, the address shown is Monroe, Michigan, location of factory.

[5] Monroe Michigan Observer, November 21, 1942.

[6] Open Exhaust, July, 1915. p. 11

[7] Open Exhaust, Volume 6, November, 1915

[8] Motor Boating Magazine, Vol. 17, No 3. March  1916, p. 40.

[9] Forum Marinum, Turku, Finland 

[10] Gas Engine Magazine. Max F. Homfeld, September/October 1993.

[11] The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) ·  Wed, Sep 7, 1949 ·  Page 21

[12] Motor Boating Magazine, February, 1917. Volume 19, No. 2, p. 46. 1918. A 1918 Catalog shows the company address as 50 East 42nd Street, New York City, rather than Detroit or Monroe

[13] Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1921-1922 

[14] [14] Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1921-1922 

[15] Motor boat Magazine, January 1, 1921, Volume 18, part I, page 52

[16] Power boating, Volume 23, January 1, 1921, p. 62; Power boating.  Volume 23, p. 62. September 1921

[17] Motor Boat Magazine, The Trade, June 25, 1922, p.40

[18] New  York Times, July 8, 1974. Joseph Van Blerck Jr. Is Dead; Set Many Speedboat Records

[19] Joseph Van Blerck Sr. Obituary in Motorboating – N.D. , October 1949, p. 77


The Farmer Takes a Wife, Children, and to the Fields in Monroe and Monroe County

Farm family, Wikimedia Commons

Farmers have imprinted their fingers, hoes, and plows on Monroe and Monroe County soil since the glaciers that covered North America gouged out the Great Lakes and the warming climate melted enough water to fill them and toss waves to shape shorelines and inland contours. Archaeologists and historians estimate that bands of Paleo-Indians numbering about 20-40 people likely crisscrossed Monroe hunting caribou and gathering plants, although they couldn’t definitively identify individual tribes until after French explorer Rene Robert Cavalier Sieur de LaSalle explored the area for New France in 1679. Sailing east to west on the Griffon, the first sailing ship on the Great Lakes, LaSalle’s explorations identified the lands that today include most of Eastern Canada, Michigan, and territory extending south to Louisiana. His reports of abundant game and souls to be saved encouraged French missionaries and fur trappers to venture into the newly discovered lands.

Native American Farmers

Wyandot Village – Fran Maedel

Taking advantage of the plentiful food and easy water transportation along the shores of Lake Erie and the banks of the River Raisin, Paleo-Indians probably used the area as a crossroads, camp site, or village centuries before LaSalle and other Europeans discovered the Great Lakes. The City of Monroe unearthed more recent proof of Native American imprints between 1999 and 2003, when it commissioned several excavations at the northwest corner of North Dixie Highway and East Elm Avenue. Archaeologists discovered artifacts that reveal that Native Americans were there between 1550-1650.

In the Eighteenth Century, Pottawatomi, Wyandot, Ottawa, and other Native American tribes survived in villages along rivers including the Detroit River and the River Raisin. The women farmed, growing corn, beans, squash, tobacco, and sunflowers for seeds and the men hunted wild game such as rabbit, deer, and wild turkeys as well as catching the abundant fish in the rivers and lakes. A Memoir on the Indians between Lake Erie and the Mississippi. Memoir on the Indians of Canada as far as the River Mississippi, with remarks on their manners and trade. 1718 described Wyandot Indian farming practices along the Detroit River and Lake Erie.

“The Hurons are also near; perhaps the eighth of a league from the French fort. This is the most industrious nation that can be seen. They scarcely ever dance, and are always at work; raise a very large amount of Indian corn, peas, beans; some grow wheat. They construct their huts entirely of bark, very strong and solid; very lofty and very long, and arched like arbors. Their fort is strongly encircled with pickets and bastions, well redoubled, and has strong gates. They are the most faithful Nation to the French, and the most expert hunters that we have. Their cabins are divided into sleeping compartments, which contain their Misirague, and are very clean.

They are the bravest of all the Nations, and possess considerable talent. They are well clad; some of them wear close overcoats (jusle au corps de capot)- The men are always hunting, summer and winter, and the women work. The soil is very fertile; Indian corn grows there to the height of ten @twelve feet; their fields are very clean, and very extensive; not the smallest weed is to be seen in them.” [1]

French Ribbon Farms

The first French settlers establishing claims along the River Raisin were direct descendants of the old French pioneers of Detroit and their French Ribbon farms and in turn, most of the old French pioneers of Detroit had left France for Canada, bringing their French traditions and customs with them. The British outlawed private grants between French settlers and Native Americans with almost no exceptions. Between 1763 and 1801, hundreds of young French habitants left Detroit and settled on the River Raisin with the goal of establishing new farms and families, negotiating with Native Americans-mainly the Potawatomi, Wyandot, Ottawa, and Chippewa tribes of the Western Lake Erie area – for deeds to tracts of land.

Dividing riverfront and lakeshore land into narrow ribbon farms provided important advantages to the farmer. Each farmer had water access and water was the main transportation. The layout placed each farmhouse at a minimum distance from one another, ensuring easy communication of news, and Indian alarms. Quick access to neighbors made dances, sledding parties, and other social gatherings easy to arrange and attend.


Monroe County Historical Society Map

Because water transportation was essential in these early times of dirt trails and dense forests, every farmer wanted to own land rights on a river or lake and under the French-Canadian system, the plots, called ribbon farms, were long and narrow.

Most of the French ribbon farms measured from one to five arpents (an arpent was 192 ½ feet) wide and extended inland from the river for one and one half to three miles. A dirt road with a ditch alongside ran between each settler’s house and a road usually stretched between the farmhouse and the shore. The ribbon farms extended into the dense forests surrounding Frenchtown, but farmers didn’t cultivate the rear parts of their lots.

French ribbon farmers grew Indian corn, wheat, and oats and farmers and their wives tended vegetable gardens, raised livestock and tended grapes for wine. Orchards with pear, apple, and cherry trees either in front of or behind the farmhouse decorated the old French farms.

 French Pear Trees

John McClelland Bulkley

In his History of Monroe County, John McClelland Bulkley traced some legend and fact surrounding the graceful old French pear trees. He recorded one of the legends handed down about the old pear trees, noting that the Jesuit fathers who were the first arrivals in the Monroe County region of New France, planted orchards of apples and pears along the rich and fruitful lands. Along the River Raisin they planted the trees in groups of twelve, symbolizing the twelve apostles of Jesus. As they planted the pear trees, the Jesuits set one tree out of each dozen apart from the others so that the betrayer, Judas, might be forever separated from the faithful. Bulkley wonders if succeeding generations of French farmers planted their orchard pear trees in the same formation to preserve and pass down the Jesuit message. As the years went by, time and circumstances thinned the rows of apostle trees, and at times, the Judas tree grew closely enough to join the others.

When the people of Monroe first saw the pear trees on the farm of Robert Navarre, there were ten of them standing in a stalwart row. Eventually storms of weather and life thinned their ranks to five. Time again intervened and the farm of Robert Navarre merged into the growing city of Monroe. Now one dignified tree stood on a city lot in the third ward between the tracks of the Michigan Central Railway and the Detroit and Toledo Shore Line – Grand Trunk- Railroad. Historian Bulkley credited George W. Bruckner, an old resident, with providing him with the illustration of the French pear trees growing in 1796.[2]

French Ribbon Farmers

A majority of the Frenchtown settlers were farmers and many others were fur traders, dealing with Native Americans in Ohio and Indiana. Traders themselves lived in the Indian villages over the winter and in the early spring exchanged goods for furs and skins that were eventually shipped to Detroit and Montreal. Others supported traders and Indians with blacksmithing and silverwork and others worked transporting trade goods, and furs and skins by boat and pack horse.

In 1802, a Frenchtown tax list numbered 152 heads-of-family owning property in the River Raisin region, with a population estimated at about 628 people with a majority having French names. About nine percent of families were Scots-Irish, Welsh, German, or British or other non-French nationalities.

French ribbon farmers lived on their ribbon farms and cultivated the soil. A few of them could be called large farmers, but usually they cultivated less ground than their American counterparts and were less interested in accumulating wealth. In his History of Monroe County, Michigan, Talcott Wing writes that until around 1830, the French farmers had no markets to sell their surplus crops, so for many years they grew only enough to feed their families. They didn’t see the wisdom of owning land or farming to be wealthy. Most were devout Catholics, close to their church, and kind people, good neighbors and faithful friends. Few of them had book education, but there were many intelligent, strong thinkers among them. They were men of sound judgment who lived up to their reputations for integrity and upright living.[3]

Settling a distance from the British in Detroit enabled the French habitants to preserve their culture, religion, and traditions despite British control. British soldiers and civilians didn’t settle in places without British forts, and as long as the French habitants kept the Native Americans, content they could survive culturally intact.

Several French ribbon farmers led the way in the founding of Monroe and Monroe County. Jean Baptiste Romain dit Sanscrainte was the first to secure land in the River Raisin area. In 1780, Joseph Porlier Benalque or Benac established a claim. In 1784, Francois-Marie Navarre dit Heutreau and his brother Robert Navarre dit Tonton secured land and in 1785, Francois-Marie Navarre dit Tchigoy, commonly considered Monroe’s founding father, secured a claim.

Jean Baptiste Romain dit Sanscrainte

During the Eighteenth Century and Nineteenth Centuries, French settlers carved out about 442 new farms along the rivers, streams, and shore of Lake Erie from Lake St. Clair, north of Detroit, south to Otter Creek, ten miles south of the River Raisin. In 1779, Jean Baptiste Romain dit Sanscrainte led the way in securing land in the River Raisin area. According to his descendant Michael E. Van Wasshnova , a member of the Monroe County Historical Society, John Baptiste Romain dit Sanscrainte III (dit means also known as in English) accompanied his father to New France on a trip seeking favorable places to establish missions. His father, Jean Baptiste II, had Jesuit connections and helped found mission at Black Rock, Fort Meigs, Maumee, Huron – now Windsor- and St. Lawrence which is present day Toledo. As a young man on an adventurous trip, John Baptiste met many Native Americans from different tribes and built the foundation to be an Indian interpreter and trader, learning and appreciating the customs of different tribes.

On October 13, 1778, John Baptiste married Margaret Solo-Soleau and in 1779 he negotiated an agreement with several Detroit River region tribes to purchase thousands of acres of land along the River Raisin, now part of the City of Monroe.

John Baptiste II participated in important historical events that shaped the Detroit River region and America as well. He and at least four other French-Canadians from the Detroit and River Raisin region fought for the British and their Indian allies in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in August 1794. General Anthony Wayne’s Northwestern Army defeated the British and their allies, and their victory ended the Indian desire to fight for the British because they felt the British had not helped them at all.

In an ironic about face, after the Battle, General Wayne recruited Jean Baptiste and several other French Canadians to gather chief from several tribes to sign the Treaty of Greenville. By signing the Treaty of Greenville, the leaders of Native American tribes including Wyandot Chiefs Tarhe, Leatherlips, and Roundhead and chiefs from the Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Miami, Wea, Kickapoo, and Kaskaskia  bands ceded lands that make up most of modern Ohio, the future site of Downtown Chicago, and the Fort Detroit, Maumee Ohio and Lower Sandusky Ohio areas. The Native Americans exchanged these lands for goods such as blankets, utensils and livestock at an accumulated value of about $20,000

According to Michael E. Van Wasshnova, other records indicate that Jean Baptiste and his family were involved in the Battle of the River Raisin, with some sources saying that he fought on the British side and others that he fought with the Americans. At least three of his four sons fought with the Kentuckians and lost property.

In 1838, Jean Baptiste II died at age 84 while he was out hunting for horses and he was buried at Detroit on March 19, 1793.[4]

Joseph Porlier Benalque or Benac.

In 1780, Joseph Porlier Benalque or Benac established a claim by the River Raisin. He was born on February 9, 1730 in Montreal, Quebec Canada, the son of Claude Porlier Benalque and Angelique  Cuillerier Beaubein Benalque.  Joseph married Louise Michelle Gamelin. He was buried on November 21, 1810 in St. Antoine Cemetery in Monroe County.

Francois Marie Navarre dit Tchigoy or Francois “Franci” Navarre

Talcott Wing

In 1784, Francois-Marie Navarre dit Heutreau and his brother Robert Navarre dit Tonton secured land and in 1785, Francois-Marie Navarre dit Tchigoy, who is considered Monroe’s founding father, secured a claim.[5]

Born on October 12, 1763 in Assumption Parish in Sandwich, Ontario, Francois “Francis” Navarre was the son of Robert and Marie Louis Marsac Navarre. On November 9, 1790, he married Mary Suzor, daughter of Louis Francis Suzor and Mary Joseph LeBeau in Detroit. They had fourteen children.

Francois bought land on the River Raisin, arriving about 1780 and founding the Frenchtown settlement. Historians credit him with being the first permanent white settler on the River Raisin, and he is often called “the Father of Monroe. Nearly 100 settlers soon followed him there, building log cabins and living peacefully with the Indians for many years. He established a civil government and a court system in Frenchtown.

As another war with Great Britain loomed, the Army appointed Francois a captain and then a colonel of the militia of the River Raisin. The British captured him twice and he escaped twice in the War of 1812. When he returned to Frenchtown after the end of his service, he discovered that the settlement had been decimated during the War and he worked to help rebuild it.

Francois Navarre is buried in the Old Burial Ground in Monroe.


Settlers of all nationalities continued to buy land in Frenchtown and gradually the French population and their French Ribbon farms were replaced by new farmers and farming methods.

Monroe Lands and Farms B.T. – Before Tractors

In the early 1800s, Joseph Loranger bought several acres of land in what later would become Monroe. He bought his farm, located on the east side of Monroe Street, from Judge Augustus B. Woodward, who in turn  had bought it to fulfill a Michigan Territory requirement requiring a judge to own at least 500 acres of land. He called the farm Euphemia, until he platted his land into village lots in 1817 and the new land owners named their village Monroe.Samuel Mulhollen and Jared Egnew purchased the adjoining farm on the west of Joseph Loranger’s for six dollars an acre and Samuel built a log house on his land

Land and farm ownership in Monroe and Monroe County sometimes could be as tangled as the roots of a century old oak tree in a farm yard. On March 3, 1807, the United States Congress passed an act that restricted the rights to grants of lands occupied and partially improved before July 1, 1796. The settlements extended along both sides of the River Raisin almost continuously for eight or nine miles, and a few isolated tracts went further up and along both sides of otter Creek from near Lake Erie to  four miles into the interior and along Stony Creek. These early settlers had settled very near each other along the River Raisin and the Creek, and cleared only a small portion of the land in front along the stream. The Act of Congress restricted each claimant to the lands in front of those he improved and allowed him any amount up to 160 acres, requiring him to pay the government surveyor for surveying his tract.

The results of this Congressional Act shaped future land transactions. The first consequence of the Act was that each landowner would have to take a narrow tract to get any substantial amount of land, making up the amount by extending a larger or smaller distance back from the river of stream. This made each tract a narrow, ribbon like piece of land fronting on the stream. The second consequence was the fact that the claimant had to pay the government surveyor for surveying his claim. This reality meant that since most of the settlers saw no reason to extend their tracts further back from the front than would be convenient to work as a farm and include enough woodland in the rear for firewood and timber, most of them refused to pay the extra cost of surveying out the large tract of 160 acres that each claimant was entitled to possess. In most cases, the acreage would have been extended from three to five miles to make up the quantity, and not more than one in ten of them of people making claims would agree to make their tracts longer than about two miles.  Many of the tracts of land were only one mile. Occasionally, a person making a claim would extend his claim four or more miles deep to include nearly 160 of the acres that the law allowed, but this usually happened in one out of twenty claims. [6]

Talcott Wing notes in the History of Monroe County that generally people who claimed land next to each other would make claims of the same depth of about two miles so that the rear of their claims would be a straight line. At times another claimant would refuse to expand his claim more than a mile which made the rear of the claims jagged and unequal. Years later when the United States Government surveyed the public lands, they found a large number of claims extending the same distance back and bounded by a straight line, but the Government didn’t notice that some of the claims extended back about half the distance and the land in the rear of the short claims had mistakenly been left unsurveyed and counted as part of the claim in front. The original people making claims knew that the rear lands were not included in their grants, but their descendants did not always realize the lands were not included. Many of them believed that the rear lands were a part of the front claims that they had inherited, and acting on good faith beliefs, they sold, mortgaged, and leased the rear lands as part of the front grants.

There were several thousand acres of these lands, and some of them were the best lands in the county. Between 1850-1854, honorable Charles Noble was surveyor-general in Michigan and he spearheaded a complete survey of these lands, returning the survey to the general land office in Washington.

The disposition of these lands continued to be confusing and controversial until the Michigan Supreme Court decided the case of Walcott Lawrence and Christopher Bruckner. Walcott Lawrence who later became a judge, bought some land in Raisinville, about nine miles above Monroe on the north side of the River Raisin. The majority of the land turned out to be within the bounds of a prior patent, or claim, which Christopher Bruckner had purchased. After long litigation, in 1847 the Michigan State Supreme Court decided in Bruckner vs. Lawrence, 1 Doug. 19, that “no grant or conveyance of lands, or interest therein, shall be void for the reason that at the time of the execution thereof such lands shall be in the actual possession of another claiming adversely.”[7]

All similar cases were settled or decided on the basis of this decision.

Farm Living – Will Carleton and Reminiscences

In Colonial America, 90 percent of people earned their living from agriculture, most farms were focused on providing subsistence living for their owners, and most towns were created by and served as shipping points for agricultural commodities. The expanding frontier and population opened up vast amounts of new farms and after 1840, industrialization and urbanization opened up profitable domestic markets to match the lucrative domestic and foreign markets for Southern cotton. In 1850, the number of farms in the United States were estimated at 1.4 million. By 1880, the number had grown to 4.0 million, and by 1910, 6.4 million. After 1910, the number of American farms began to decline, dropping to 5.6 million in 1950 and 2.2 million in 2008.[8]

In his poem called Out O’ The Fire, Carleton, Michigan poet and author of Farm Ballads and other farm reminiscences, Will Carleton, described some of the realities and continuity of farm life for Nineteenth Century Michigan farmers in Monroe County and across America.

Up from the East we had traveled, with all of our household wares, Where we had long been workin’ a piece of land on shares; But how a fellow’s to prosper without the rise of the land, For just two-thirds of nothin’, I never could understand.

Up from the East we had traveled, me and my folks alone, And quick we went to workin’ a piece of land of our own ; Small was our backwoods quarters, and things looked mighty cheap; But everything we put in there, we put in there to keep. So, with workin’ and savin’, we managed to get along; Managed to make a livin’, and feel consid’able strong

The poem narrates how a fire destroys the hard work of years, but ends by expressing the joy and relief that her parents feel when they discover that their beloved daughter Katherine has escaped the burning of their homestead by eloping with her boyfriend. Although her father had previously disapproved of Tom, Katherine’s choice of husband, the fire and her survival leaves the family still making “a livin” and feeling “consid’able strong.” The narrator of the poem is telling the story to Katherine and Tom’s child, his grandchild.[9]

Making a “livin’” often was a harsh and unrelenting reality for Monroe and Monroe County farmers and they had to be “consid’able strong.”  In the Nineteenth Century, the possibility of giant agricultural business farms gleamed like distant mountains, and farmers of that era worked to make their farms self-supporting and self-sufficient. At the dawn of the Twentieth Century, almost half of America’s population lived on farms, but by the year 2,000 the figure had dropped to one percent of the population living on farms. Farming was treadmill work, with few machines to lighten the weight of chores and no electricity to scatter the darkness. Most farms were family farms, supporting the family and sometimes providing extra income from the sale of surplus crops.

Farm chores didn’t begin at dawn and they didn’t end after sunset-they were an around the clock reality for the farmer and his family. An unspoken and occasionally spoken gender line divided farm work. Men and boys performed most of the outdoor chores, farming the fields and caring for the livestock. They built the house and barns, constructed and maintained fences, and took care of other maintenance chores. Women worked both indoors and outdoors. They managed dairy and poultry operations, made soap and candles, and produced cloth from cotton and wool for the clothes that the family wore. Outside of the farmhouse, farm wives and daughters usually planted, tended, and harvested the kitchen garden, helped care for livestock, and assisted their husbands with chores.

Almost as soon as children learned to walk, they had chores to do around the farm. Young boys joined their fathers working in the fields and girls worked alongside their mothers doing household chores learning the skills they would use in their own homes. Farmers and their wives often produced large families because children were considered assets that increased the cost efficiency of their farms. Farmers set up their adult children on adjoining farms, allowing them to combine their farming efforts and assure built in caregivers in their old age.

Monroe and Monroe County Farmers Created Life Stories and Crops

Monroe, Monroe County, and farmers across America led lives of rugged individualism, weather watching, practicality, and dreams of money making crops and sunlit futures for their children. Some farmers worked themselves into prosperous farms while others hoe scraped or subsisted.

James F. Cronenwett, farmer, was born on August 29, 1923, in Ash Township. On September 9, 1945, he married Linda Smith at the Carleton Evangelical Church and they had five children. In 191, James and Linda founded the Carleton Farm Supply Implement Company and incorporated their business with their son Keith in 1976. James died on January 31, 2015 and he is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

George Willis Fox. Born November 20, 1920, in Whiteford, Michigan, to Clifford and Gertrude Fox,  George Willis Fox served with the United States Army from 1942-1945. In 1946, he married LaVerne Kinsey. George was a Farm Drainage Contractor for his entire career, retiring in 1985. He served on the Fair Board for years. He is buried in Bedford Memorial Cemetery, Temperance.

Charles Kramer. Charles Kramer was born on April 19, 1846, in Germany, the son of Johann Georg Kramer and Agnes Fischer. He immigrated to America in 1854 and he met and married Matilda Rothdow in Ohio about 1870. They had six children together. The Kramers were farmers and they owned a general farm in Ash Township in Monroe. Charles and Matilda is buried in St. Patrick Cemetery #2, Carleton.

William Leibold, Sr. William Leibold was born in Romerz, Germany in 1861, and immigrated to the United States in October 1880, traveling directly to Michigan. A family story goes that William reached Maybe from Germany, he didn’t speak English. As he stopped off the train in front of a hotel, a crowd was raising a pole for presidential candidate James Garfield. The crowd cheered and William believed that people were cheering to welcome him to Maybee!

On January 22, 1884 William married his former schoolmate Amanda Maul at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Monroe and they had ten children. They moved to a farm that their sons John and Anthony  Leibold later owned.  Anthony was a lifelong farmer.

William Leibold helped to build St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and he was a church member as well as serving as the caretaker of St. Joseph’s cemetery. He prided himself on remembering everyone buried in the cemetery, knowing when they died and where they were buried. William died on May 7, 1946 at age 84 and he  is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Maybee.

Edwin J. Miller, born in Exeter Township on July 11, 1906, worked as a self-employed farmer in Exeter Township for most of his life. In 1937, he married Viola Masson. He was a member of Monroe County Farm Bureau and a volunteer fireman and he retired in 1972. He died on January 10, 1995, and he is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Maybee.

Diantha Jones Smith. Diantha Jones was one of ten children born to Nathaniel and Diantha Jones on February 4, 1832 in Victory, New York. On January 24, 1852, she married Henry Smith in Victory, New York and they had nine children. They moved to a farm in Monroe County which today is designated as a Centennial Farm, a distinction meaning that the farm has been owned and operated by the same family for 100 years. Henry served in the Civil War, Company H, 18th Regiment, Michigan Infantry. He enrolled in September 1864 when he was 34, and he was discharged honorably in Nashville, Tennessee on June 26, 1865 for disability because of a loss of hearing. Diantha and Henry are buried in Azalia Cemetery, Azalia

Gilbert C. Steinman was born on the Steinman Centennial farm in Maybee on March 23, 1933. He attended St. Joseph Grade School and in 1951 he graduated from Dundee High School. He attended Michigan State College and became an Air Force Reserve member. After he was drafted into the United States Army, and was stationed in El Paso, Texas. He still owned the Steinman Centennial farm in Maybee when he died suddenly at age 80 on January 23, 2014. A lifelong member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Maybee, he is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Maybee.

 Jerome J. “Uncle Jerome” Verhille. The Monroe Evening News highlighted the life of Jerome J. Verhille on December 13, 2010. He was born in LaSalle, Michigan on May 21, 1920, to Maurice and Bertha Verhille. He obtained his education from St. Mary’s Catholic School Hall of the Divine Child in Monroe, and he graduated from Monroe High School in 1938. As a youth, Jerome worked with his father and he was a self-employed farmer and dairy farmer most of his life and farmed the same farm on Geierman Road that his father and brother farmed for approximately 45 years. He retired in 1985. After his retirement, he loved to garden and he shared his produce with family and friends. Many of his friends and family called him “Uncle Jerome”.

Uncle Jerome died at age 90, on December 11, 2010. He was a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Maybee and he is buried in St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, Maybee.

Monroe Farmer’s Wives Worked  Out Lives and Life Stories

Farmer’s wives were as diverse as the weather on their farms.  Some of them thrived on the work and responsibility and necessary partnership with their husbands. Others led subdued and barren existences with no hope of escape from the societal and financial constrictions of their times and lives.

Mary Ann Chapman Burnap

Photo Credit Darrell Brown

The Monroe Record -Commercial reported on October 12, 1911, that Mrs. Mary Ann Burnap , 87, had died in the Carleton home of her son, Dr. Potter. She was born in Vermont, but came to Monroe County with her parents while wolves still howled around the settler’s log houses and it took two weeks to travel by ox teams.

In his memoir of his childhood, Mary Ann’s son Elmer recalled their life on their Monroe homestead farm, recording that they lived on a farm in Ash Township, Section Twenty Five, Monroe County State of Michigan. The farm was located a little over a mile up the stream of Swan Creek from the village of Newport. The creek ran through Royal Potter’s farm and the south bank of the creek lay immediately by the house. They lived four miles from Lake Erie, making for good fishing. Elmer noted that his father Royal L. Potter and his mother Mary Ann, lived “happily and contented, enjoying each other’s companionship” without any dissention but ruled by love and affection. He said his mother was an “earnest, every day practical Christian woman.”

Royal Potter fought in Company F of the 24th Michigan Infantry in the Civil War, was captured and died in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. Mary Ann was left alone with Elmer, and half and adopted sisters to support. Royal left his son Elmer land that had been his father’s and left the rest to Mary Ann which tax records show that Mary Ann managed well.

Mary Ann’s granddaughter Eva Potter Woodward who lived with her from 1907-1911 wrote several poems about her, including this one:

Keen Sight

by Eva Woodward

My Grandma wore her spectacles

And she could always see

When someone had a problem

Or were sad as they could be.

I asked her how she always saw

As she could always do

Those things to help somebody then

To lift their burdens too.

And she replied with a small smile

That it was a way she had

To see thro all her busy life

Which things are good or bad.

And so I’d like some spectacles

So I’ll have a better view

When I can help some other folk

To choose the right way too.[10]

Mary Ann outlived four husbands:  Jeremiah Decker Peters, Royal Laroy Potter, Job Burnap and Richard Gilmore and  she left several children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as well as a legacy of successful farming and surviving the hardships of country life. She is buried in Potter Cemetery, Monroe County.

Lynn and Dorothy Kathryn Myers Albring

Dorothy Kathryn Myers was born on May 25, 1932, in Temperance, Michigan and lived there all of her life. She went to Bedford High School where she met her husband Lynn Albring, graduating in 1951. She and Lynn were married on June 28, 1952 and they owned and operated Albring Farms and Greenhouses in Temperance for 58 years.  She and Lynn are buried in Bedford Memorial Cemetery in Temperance.

 “I am not a practical woman”

An anonymous farm wife wrote a memoir at the turn of the Twentieth Century, graphically describing the life of a farm woman. [11] She begins her story by noting that “everybody knows that the farmer’s wife must of a necessity be a very practical woman, if she would be a successful one. I am not a practical woman and consequently have been accounted a failure by practical friends and especially by my husband, who is wholly practical. This is her account of how she spent a spring day in May:

May Day!

Any bright morning in the latter part of May I am out of bed at four o’clock; next, after I have dressed and combed my hair, I start a fire in the kitchen stove, and while the stove is getting hot I go to my flower garden and gather a choice, half-blown rose and a spray of bride’s wreath, and arrange them in my hair, and sweep the floors and then cook breakfast.While the other members of the family are eating breakfast I strain away the morning’s milk (for my husband milks the cows while I get breakfast), and fill my husband’s dinner pail, for he will go to work on our other farm for the day.

By this time it is half-past five o’clock, my husband is gone to his work, and the stock loudly pleading to be turned into the pastures. The younger cattle, a half-dozen steers, are left in the pasture at night, and I now drive the two cows, a half-quarter mile and turn them in with the others, come back, and then there’s a horse in the barn that be­longs in a field where there is no water, which I take to a spring quite a distance from the barn; bring it back and turn it into a field with the sheep, a dozen in number, which are housed at night. The young calves are then turned out into the warm sunshine, and the stock hogs, which are kept in a pen, are clamoring for feed, and I carry a pailful of swill to them, and hasten to the house and turn out the chickens and put out feed and water for them, and it is, perhaps, 6.30 A..M.

I have not eaten breakfast yet, but that can wait; I make the beds next and straighten things up in the living room, for I dislike to have the early morning caller find my house topsy-turvy. When this is done I go to the kitchen, which also serves as a dining-room, and uncover the table, and take a mouthful of food occasionally as I pass to and fro at my work until my appetite is appeased.

By the time the work is done in the kitchen it is about 7.15 A. M., and the cool morning hours have flown, and no hoeing done in the garden yet, and the children’s toilet has to be attended to and churning has to be done.

Finally the children are washed and churning done, and it is eight o’clock, and the sun getting hot, but no matter, weeds die quickly when cut down in the heat of the day, and I use the hoe to a good advantage until the din­ner hour, which is 11.30 A. M. We come in, and I comb my hair, and put fresh flowers in it, and eat a cold dinner, put out feed and water for the chickens; set a hen, perhaps, sweep the floors again; sit down and rest, and read a few moments, and it is nearly one 0′ clock, and I sweep the door yard while I am waiting for the clock to strike the hour.

Harvesting wheat, I make and sow a flower bed, dig around some shrubbery, and go back to the garden to hoe until time to do the chores at night, but ere long some hogs come up to the back gate, through the wheat field, and when I go to see what is wrong I find that the cows have torn the fence down, and they, too, are in the wheat field.

With much difficulty I get them back into their own domain and repair the fence. I hoe in the garden till four o’clock; then I go into the house and get supper, and prepare some­thing for the dinner pail to-morrow; when supper is all ready it is set aside, and I pull a few hundred plants of tomato, sweet potato or cabbage for transplanting, set them in a cool, moist place where they will not wilt, and I then go after the horse, water him, and put him in the barn; call the sheep and house them, and go after the cows and milk them, feed the hogs, put down hay for three horses, and put oats and corn in their troughs, and set those plants and come in and fasten up the chickens, and it is dark.

By this time it is 8 o’clock P. M.; my husband has come home, and we are eating supper; when we are through eating I make the beds ready, and the children and their father go to bed, and I wash the dishes and get things in shape to get breakfast quickly next morning.It is now about 9 o’clock P. M., and after a short prayer I retire for the night.”[12]

Farm Children of Farmers and their Wives

Farm children had serious life decisions to make as America changed in the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries from a mostly rural, agricultural country into an urbanized industrial nation. In 1790, only about one out of every twenty Americans lived in cities, but by 1870 one out of four lived in cities.  By 1920, one out of every two Americans lived in cities and by the 1960s, two  out of every three Americans lived in cities and in the 2000s, four out of every five Americans lived in cities. Many farm children succumbed to the economic and quality of life lure of the cities. Others attempted to combine farm and city life, while others remained on the farm for their livelihoods.

Mary Ann Chapman Burnap’s son Dr. Elmer Jeremy Potter wrote an extensive memoir describing the shifts in the weather and circumstantial winds of farm life. [13]

In the month of March [1899] our house hold goods, a span of fine horses, a lumber wagon, a surrey and five harnesses were loaded in cars, and we left Holgate for our new home on the farm near Newport Mich., my family having gone a few days earlier, making visits among old acquaintances. Then began our new work, starting with nothing, it required quite an outlay for farm stock and machinery. For five years we were farmers in every sense of the term. In the spring of 1904 we left the farm and moved to Carleton, a new and comfortable house was built, which we occupied in July. In Sept. 1904 I again opened a jewelry store.

In the spring of 1905 I took up the study of optics in the South Bend, Ind. College of Optics, passing the required examination, received my diploma as Dr. of Optics. This trade brought a fairly good profit and well compensated for time and money spent on the same. A great many improvements, inventions, and enterprises have been made and erected during my time of recollection. The old horse cars have been relegated to the oblivion of almost forgetfulness to be superseded by the rapid moving electric car. The telephone that is in many country homes is another great convenience.

The automobile, a wonder of the age has taken the place of thousands of horses and carriages both in city and rural districts, and here I would add, my first ride on one was beside of our congressman, Chas. E. Townsend on the 26th day of October 1908. The Flying machine, and wireless telegraphy are almost incredible achievement. The making of the finest of sugar from beets another great enterprise, which furnished labor to thousands. The machinery and appliances in these institutions is a marvelous sight.

I go back in memory to the days of my boyhood home and look over the country where cow paths were, and there are now fine graded and graveled public highways. Fine farm residences have taken the place of the log cabins. The wolves, lynx, fox and deer have left the country. Wild turkey and the chattering squirrel as other wild game is almost unknown by the boys of 1908. Even the farmer has his daily paper, that forty years ago was so expensive that very few if any were bought, and with this it is delivered to his door daily by the rural mail carriers paid by the government.

Dr. Elmer Jeremy Potter,  1851-1911, is buried in Carleton Cemetery

Lightning Strikes Twice – Literally and Figuratively

Statistics say that farming is the third most dangerous occupation in the United States.[14] The lives of Monroe County and Monroe farmers and their families are interwoven with stories of falling tree fatalities, kerosene stove and lamp explosions, and machinery accidents. Farmers had to constantly battle nature in the form of weather and its effect on crops and conditions for growing them. Benjamin H. “Ben” Mack and his family experienced one of nature’s most powerful weather productions– lightning.

William Mack  and his wife Catherine Goodnough Mack owned and operated a farm on the Blue Bush Road in Raisinville.  They had three sons:  Benjamin, Frank, and Edward. As well as the uncertainties of farming, the Macks had to deal with family health problems. In 1913, Catherine fell ill and her son Benjamin endured a serious operation at the Blind Babies Home. He was the last patient in the hospital and shortly after Detroit Doctor Manton and Monroe Dr. Southworth discharged him to complete his recovery at home, his father William became gravely ill. William died in early June, 1914.

His wife Catherine, still recovering from her illness, rallied and resolved to press on with life and the farm.  On Thursday, June 18, 1914, her two oldest sons, Frank, 30,married with a pregnant wife and three children, and her son Benjamin, 21, were holding a fence bee on the homestead farm and several neighboring farmers were helping them. Everyone worked steadily until a thunder storm rumbled over the fields. Frank and Ben Mack and Frank’s ten-year-old son and the dog drove their team of horses under a nearby tree for shelter from the storm, and waited for the storm to end. Two of the Mack’s neighbors sheltered under a nearby tree, not more than ten feet away. They called for Frank’s son to run over and get into their buggy with them and the boy had just left his father and uncle and climbed into the buggy when a lightning bolt flashed over their heads. Frank and Ben, the dog, and the team of horses were killed instantly. Neither the Macks nor the team were scarred and the wagon remained intact. The lightning bolt didn’t strike the tree.

A neighbor, Mr. Weisbecker couldn’t see them, so as soon as the rain slackened, he went to find them. He discovered them in a huddle under the tree.

Funeral services were held at St. Joseph’s Church at Maybee and the young men were buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Maybee. The Monroe Democrat of Friday, June 26, 1914, said that Catherine Mack was grief stricken and prostrated since the lightning strike had “wiped out all the male help of the farm in less than a fortnight and a half.”


[1] Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of new York: procured in Holland, England and France. John Romeyn Brodhead, Esq. Albany:  Weed an Company printers,1885. P. 887.

[2] History of Monroe County, Michigan: a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests. John McClelland Bulkley. Chicago:  Lewis Publishing Company, 1913, P 42.

[3] History of Monroe County, Michigan. Talcott Wing. New York:  Munsell & Company, 1890. P. 40.

[4] Michael E. Van Wasshnova is a member of the Monroe County Historical Society. Ypsilant Gleanings, Ypsilanti Historical Society.

[5] Dates and other circumstances indicate that Francois Navarre was one of the founding fathers of Monroe along with Jean Baptiste Romain dit Sanscrainte, and Joseph Porlier Benalque or Benac,

[6] History of Monroe County, Michigan. Talcott Wing. New York:  Munsell & Company, 1890. P. 46.

[7] 10823. Conveyance of Lands Adversely Possessed. Sec. 7. No grant or conveyance of lands, or interest therein, shall be void for the reason that at the time of the execution thereof such lands shall be in the actual possession of another claiming adversely. How. 5657.— C. L. ’97, 8961. 4 Scam. (111.) 67, 21 Wend. 98. Prior to the taking effect of this section, Mar. 2, 1847, an owner might release his claims to, but could not convey lands in the adverse possession of another: Godfroy v. Disbrow, Wal. Ch. 260; Bruckner’s Lessee v. Lawrence, 1 Doug. 19; Hubbard v. Smith, 2 M. 207. But the grantee could sue in the grantor’s name to recover the land: Stockton v. Williams, 1 Doug. 546. See Crane v. Seeder, 21 M. 82.  Howell’s Annotated Statutes of the State of Michigan including the Acts of the Second Extra Session of 1912 with Notes and Digests of the Supreme Court Decisions Relating Thereto by Andrew Howell, Second Edition. Compiled and Annotated by Colin P. Campbell of the Grand Rapids Bar.

[8] US Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2010 (2010) Table 80

[9] Out O’ The Fire, from Farm Ballads by Will Carleton. New York: Harper, 1899.

[10] Mary Ann Chapman Burnap

[11] Her eyewitness account of a typical day in her life appears in Holt, Hamilton, The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans as Told by Themselves (1906).

[12] “Farm Wife, 1900. Eyewitness to History. (2007)

[13] Memoir of Dr. Elmer Jeremy Potter

[14]  “NIOSH- Agriculture”. United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007.

A Few Future Articles and Stories

Centennial Farms

George Lang, the Carleton Map Maker


James Monroe

Elizabeth Monroe

Welcome to Carleton, Michigan


Daniel A. Matthews, Will Carlton, the Flint & Pere Marquette, and the Canada and the Canada Southern Railways played important roles in Carleton history. Since before Daniel Matthews laid out and platted the land around and including Carleton in northern Monroe County about ten miles north of Monroe in 1872, agriculture has been a mainstay occupation of its citizens. After Daniel Matthews platted and laid out the village, it was named Carleton after well-known poet Will Carleton because according to George Lang in Pocket Road Map, Monroe County, Michigan, 1917, Dan Matthews admired Will Carleton’s poetry.

George Lang also wrote in Pocket Road Map that along with Daniel Matthews, Charles A. Kent helped lay out the original plat of the village consisting of 80 acres. Shortly after that Daniel Matthews and William Hickok added 80 more acres, and a few years later three more acres were added to the village. George Lang noted that  Carleton voted to incorporate on December 4, 1911, with a vote of 102 people for the incorporation and 24 against. The incorporation was confirmed at Lansing on  December 12, 1911.

Carleton’s location at the intersecting of the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad and the Canada and Canada Southern Railways helped the community to grow and become incorporated into a village in 1911. In 1877, five years after Daniel Matthews surveyed and platted land for Carleton settlers, some 300 citizens lived in the community. The 2010 Census showed a population of 2,346 people.  In the 21st Century, Carlton is still an agricultural community and supports several small businesses and restaurants.

Daniel Matthews, Land Developer, Develops Carleton

In 1872, Daniel C. Matthews, a land developer, surveyed and plotted land around Carleton and he bought 80 acres of land. He also served as railroad express agent after the Pere Marquette Railroad came through the village in 1874 and as village postmaster in 1877. Daniel Matthews also helped select the site of Lansing as Michigan’s state capital.[1]

Daniel was born in 1831 in New York, the son of George Washington Matthews and Hannah Maria Soule Matthews. U. S. Census records show that in 1850 Daniel lived in Meridian, Michigan with his parents and brother and sisters. In 1860, Daniel lived in Dearborn with his wife Rachel and nine-month-old son Frederick and in 1870 Daniel, Rachel, and Frederick lived in Ypsilanti. By 1880, Daniel, Rachel, and Frederick lived in Ash, Monroe County, where he worked as a hotel keeper and by 1885 Rachel had died and Daniel re-married Mattie Woodard and they lived in Carleton. In 1900, he and Mattie lived in Ash with their daughter Hazel, his aunt, and several boarders. He listed his occupation as hotel keeper. Daniel died November 4, 1901 in Ash, Monroe County Michigan, and he is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Railroads Criss-Cross Carleton

Railroads were the corporations of the Nineteenth Century and the imprint and impact of railroad ties helped develop southern Michigan and small villages like Carleton. The opening and expansion of the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad in the 1870s created railroad tracks through stands of virgin trees, lumber camps, and far-flung markets. The railroad opened up dense forests of virgin hardwoods to lumbering, and towns like Monroe to be distribution centers for wood and farm products like berries, fruits, and vegetables.

On November 13, 1873, the railroad line between Detroit and Toledo opened for business and Monroe County grew to the rhythm of the train whistle. The Chicago and Canada Southern line stretched diagonally in a southwestern direction through Monroe County and the village of Carleton formed where it crossed the Flint and Pere Marquette tracks. For many years, Carleton shipped hard wood timber and other products, prospering by railroad transportation.

The villages of Scofield and Maybee also sprang up as shipment centers for the area, and even the inland village of Dundee profited from its railroad connections.  These railroads created centers of trade tended to divert business from Monroe City, but as new railroad lines were opened, new factories and other businesses established and populations grew. There was enough business for everyone, with more and more people moving into Monroe County. Railroad trade attracted so many new businesses and so many people that in the fall of 1873, rent prices escalated and vacant houses were as scarce as castles between log cabins.[2]

Why Carleton? Will Carleton!


At the same time that railroads were creating Monroe County villages and stimulating more growth in Monroe, Will Carleton wrote poetry and articles for the Hillsdale Standard in Lenawee County. The fifth child of John Hancock and Celeste Smith Carleton, Will grew up on the family farm in Hudson, Michigan in rural Lenawee County. He went to school in a one room schoolhouse and continued on to Hillsdale College, while continuously contributing poems and stories to newspapers. After he graduated, Will forged a journalism career on newspapers in cities including Hillsdale, Chicago, Detroit, and New York.

In 1871, Will published a poem called Betsy and I Are Out, an ironic story of divorce and in 1872, Over the Hill to the Poor House, possibly his most famous poem. Over the Hill to the Poor House spotlights the struggle for survival of aging people in Nineteenth Century America with no resources and no help. This poem published by Harper’s Weekly, catapulted him into national prominence and established him as a national literary figure. It also inspired Daniel Matthews to name the village he platted after Will Carleton.

Will Carleton moved to Boston in 1878 and married Anne Goodell. In 1882, they moved to New York City, but he continued to be involved with his college fraternity and his boyhood home and friends. In 1907, he returned to Hudson as a literary figure, his poems quoted across America. In 1919, the Michigan legislature passed a law requiring teachers to teach at least one of his poems in school and officially naming October 21, his birthday, as Will Carleton Day in Michigan.

Other places christened in Will Carleton’s honor include a school in Hillsdale called Will Carleton Academy, a section of M-99 in Hillsdale called Will Carleton Road, and for Carleton, Michigan, probably the most important christening. The village of Carleton is named after Will Carleton, with the road on its northern border separating Monroe and Wayne counties named Will Carleton Road. Will Carleton is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn. But according to George Lang, Carleton is the only town in the United States named after Will Carleton.

George Lang also listed some interesting facts about Carleton in his 1917 Pocket Road Map, Monroe County, Michigan.  He wrote that Will Carleton actually visited Carleton two times. He first came to Carleton in June 1908, and made a return visit on June 28, 1909.

 Some  Historic Carleton Businesses and Business People

Joseph Allan Doty, Sr., born February 19, 1856 in Grafton, Monroe County, Michigan operated the Standard Ohio Station in Carleton for 26 years until his retirement.  He died on April 23, 1942, and he is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Charles William Ohlemacher was born in 1864 and died on November 9, 1950 in Carleton. He was a merchant and Carleton resident for 63 years. He is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Dr. Elmer Jeremy Potter, born in Ash Township on January 16, 1851 on the Potter homestead,. He married Elva Haley on December 21, 1871 and they had five children. Jeremy Potter graduated with a medical degree from an Ohio medical college, but after several years practice, he gave up medicine and returned to Carleton where he established a jewelry business. Dr. Potter died December 31, 1911 and he is buried in Carleton Cemetery. He wrote a memoir of his life which he titled Memorandum of Events from 1851 to 1911, transpiring in the life of E.J. Potter M.D., detailing life in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.



Photos courtesy of Grace Schuon-Leidt, former Carleton resident

Here is a list of historic Carleton businesses. a-few-carleton-businesses

Here is a list of some Carleton businesses , 1917-2017.  carleton-businesses-1917-2017

Carleton Contributors

Floyd Leverne Barnum was born June 6, 1879 in Ash Township and he spent his life farming the farm where he was born. On March 22, 1909, he married Miss Mable Deppen at Carleton and they had three children.  Only his daughter Alberta, Mrs. Montoe Kahlbaum, survived into adulthood. Floyd served as a supervisor of Ash Township in 1924,1925, and 1926. He died on March 18 1936 and he is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

James “Jacob” Boyle’s short life spotlighted the dangers of rural life. Born about 1851, he was the son of Charles and Anna Boyle of Ash Township. The Monroe Commercial of October 13, 1859, reported the James went hunting on a Monday morning and didn’t return on Monday night. His friends searched the woods for him and found him dead, killed by a falling tree. “Whether the appearance were that he died immediately from the blow we have not be able to learn,” the Commercial concluded. James is buried in St. Patricks Cemetery #1, Carleton.

Elmina Rose LuckeElimina Rose Lucke, born on December 6, 1889 in Ash Township, Monroe County, established models for International Social Work practices and several firsts for women. Earning a BA degree from Oberlin College in 1912, in 1919 she founded and directed the Detroit International Institute. In 1922, Columbia University accepted her as the first woman accepted for doctoral study in the field of International Law and Relations. After she graduated from Columbia in 1927, Dr. Lucke helped found a high school in Carleton, Michigan, her home town, and she later taught at the Teachers College of Columbia University for nearly 20 years. She helped organize and served on the board of the American Council for Nationalities Service.

In 1947, the YWCA of America asked Dr. Lucke to go to India to help develop a social work training program for young women. In India, she met and became close friends with Mahatma Gandhi and he opened doors for her work, including establishing the first graduate school of social work in India at the University of New Delhi. Later as part of the United Nations Technical Assistance Program, she established a national social work education program in Pakistan.

Dr. Lucke returned to America to more recognition and awards. Oberlin College awarded her a Doctor of Humane Letters degree for “building of friendships between people and peoples.” In 1985, she published her book, Unforgettable Memories, A Collection of Letters in India.” In 1986, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.  She died on October 31, 1987, and she is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

The Newcomb Doctor Dynasty

Dr. Darwin E. Newcomb was born on February 1, 1848, in London, Monroe County, MichiganAfter attending Michigan University, he graduated with the class of 1884 in the Detroit Medical College, and practiced as a physician and surgeon in Carlton. He married Emma Z. DuPaul and they had five children:  Blanche, Stanley, Ralph, Charles, and Elizabeth. Dr. Darwin Newcomb is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Dr. Stanley NewcombDr. Darwin Newcomb’s son, Stanley was born in 1877. He graduated from Monroe High School and graduated from the Detroit College of Medicine, his father’s Alma Mater, in 1904 with an M.D. degree. He practiced medicine in Ida, Michigan and served as health officer of Raisinville Township. He married Julia R. Snell and they had two children. He served as a private in Company M, 31st Michigan Volunteer Infantry between 1898-1899. He is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Dr. Elizabeth NewcombElizabeth Naomi Newcomb was born in April 1885, the youngest daughter of Dr. Darwin Newcomb and his wife, Emma Z. DuPaul.  She earned a medical degree and is listed in the 1940 United States Federal Census as a Medical Doctor and a widow. She died on December 7, 1942 and she is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Sidney and Robert Woodward

Sidney Ellen Reid Woodward. Sidney was born on February 14, 1842, in Delaware County, Ohio, and moved to Monroe County with her parents. She married Robert R. Woodward of Monroe on November 9, 1861.

Sidney told her descendants stories of her childhood in the woods of Monroe County, describing the nightly howling of wolves outside the cabin. If people had to go out at night, they carried burning pine knots to keep the wolves away, but their eyes gleamed in the darkness. Robert recalled one time an Indian visited the cabin while his father was gone. His mother hustled her children up into the loft where they crouched silent and still while the Indian prowled below and his mother stood holding a loaded shotgun. Eventually, the Indian left the cabin and disappeared into the woods. Robert died on June 3, 1921 and he is buried in Carleton Cemetery. Sidney died on December 26, 1926, and she is buried in Carleton Cemetery with Robert.

A Few Veterans in Carleton Cemeteries

(I changed the list of veterans in Carleton Cemeteries to a PDF because the list was 14 pages long in the blog format and I wanted to make the blog a little shorter to read. I also wanted to say that I in no way intended for this list to be a list of Monroe County veterans or even a complete list of Carleton veterans.  It just struck me as I was researching for this article how many veterans are buried in Monroe County cemeteries and how much we owe them.  I wanted to honor them by printing their names. A very unhappy gentleman complained because I didn’t include all of the Monroe County Veterans listed on the memorials.  Of course I can’t in this short article and that wasn’t my purpose. I just want to highlight as many veterans from Carleton and Monroe County as I can. Sincerely, Kathy Warnes)

A Few Veterans in Carleton Cemeteries     a-few-veterans-buried-in-carleton-cemeteries



[1] The Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory of 1877 lists Daniel as D.A. Mathews, while his genealogical records list him as Daniel C. Matthews.

[2] History of Monroe County Michigan, Volume 2. John McClelland Buckley. Books on Demand, 2013. Pp. 238-240.