Friday, August 30, 2013

Felony Friday: The tragic end of Marvin Gaye

One of my favorite Motown songs is "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," the version by Marvin Gaye. This song gives me chills, it's so soulful and heart-rending. I'm sure everyone has heard it, but check it out again:

Even more heart-rending than this song is the tragic way Gaye's life ended: at the hands of his own father, who shot Gaye with a gun that Gaye himself had given his dad. However, before I tell the story of Gaye's death, let me share some information about his life.

Marvin Gaye was born in Washington, D.C. in 1939, the son of Marvin Gay, Sr. (the younger Gaye eventually added an "e" to the end of his last name) and Alberta Gay. Signs of trouble between father and son began early in Gaye's life. Though Marvin Sr. was a minister, he was abusive, and administered regular beatings to his son. Salvation came in the form of Gaye's mother, who encouraged his interest in music. Gaye began singing in church at the age of four, and as a teen performed in various doo-wop groups. After an unsuccessful stint in the United States Air Force, Gaye helped form a group called The Marquees, which performed around the D.C. area. Later, the group became "Harvey and the New Moonglows" and worked out of Chicago, where the band recorded a few of its own songs and also performed as session singers for musicians like Chuck Berry.

Marvin Gaye, early in his career
The "New Moonglows" disbanded in 1960, and Gaye moved to Detroit, where he signed on with Tamla, a subsidary of the Motown record company. His initial recordings didn't go anywhere, but he eventually gained fame with songs like "Hitch Hike" and "Pride and Joy." Gaye also became known for his duets with female Motown stars, in particular, Tammi Terrell, with whom he recorded songs like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing." Gaye's real breakthough came with his recording of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," which was released in 1968 and was the first of Gaye's song to hit number one on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.

Despite his professional success, Gaye's life was taking a downward spiral. Terrell, his duet partner, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, and the news plunged Gaye into a depression that worsened when Terrell died in 1970. Gaye was also disillusioned with what he perceived was a lack of power over his own career. He considered himself a "puppet" of Motown found Berry Gordy, Jr., as well as of Gordy's sister, Anna, whom Gaye had married in 1964 and would ultimately divorce in 1977. After Terrell's death, Gaye took a break from Motown, but returned a few months later to record "What's Going On." Gordy deemed the song "too political" and refused to release it, but after Gaye went on strike, Gordy gave in. Almost immediately, the song reached the top spot on the R&B charts.

"What's Going On" album cover

During the 1970s, Gaye's work, which included the songs "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Let's Get It On," garnered him critical acclaim and commercial success. On the surface, life was going well, but inside, Gaye was crumbling again. He had developed an addiction to cocaine, and also owed several million dollars in taxes. In an effort to evade the IRS, Gaye moved to Europe, and left Motown soon after because, he alleged, the company had released one of his recordings without his consent.

Life in Europe was good to Gaye; he cleaned up his addiction and signed on with CBS Records. Gaye also embarked on a comeback effort that included the 1982 release, "Sexual Healing," which hit number one on the R&B charts, made it into the top ten on the pop charts, and won two Grammy awards. However, while on tour to promote his album Midnight Love, Gaye reverted to old habits, using cocaine again, and, according to friends, becoming increasingly paranoid and suicidal.

Gaye's troubles came to a head at his parents' Los Angeles home on April 1, 1984. For days, the family had been arguing about a misplaced business document. That morning, Marvin Sr. brought up the issue again. Around 11:30 a.m., Gaye was sitting in his bedroom, talking to his mother, when the elder Marvin, shouting, tried to enter the room. According to Alberta, Gaye shoved his father, then hit him. These actions were, essentially, a death sentence, as Marvin Sr. had often told his children that if they laid a hand on him, he would kill them. Marvin Sr. returned to the room with a gun--a gift that Marvin Jr. had given him--and shot his son in the chest. Marvin Sr. then fired a second shot at point-blank range. Though Gaye survived for a few minutes, the first shot proved fatal, and he was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital an hour and a half later. Gaye had died the day before his 45th birthday.

Marvin Sr. was arrested, and insisted that he had fired at his son in self defense, and that he didn't know the gun was loaded. (Editor's note: This argument seems suspect to me, because if Marvin Sr. wasn't expecting the gun to contain bullets, why did he shoot his son a second time?) Perhaps most telling is the way Marvin Sr. answered the question, "Did you love your son?" His response? "Let's say I didn't dislike him."

Marvin Gay, Sr. being escorted by police

Ultimately, Marvin Sr. pleaded "no contest" to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to probation. Gaye's ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean. The man himself become the subject of scores of tributes from his musician friends, and was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Almost thirty years after his death, Gaye's work still receives accolades and awards from music critics and organizations across the world. The "Prince of Motown" may be gone, his legacy lives on.

An interview with Johnathan Rand, author of "Michigan Chillers"

Johnathan Rand gets a kick out of scaring kids…and the kids love it.

Rand is the author of the “Michigan Chillers” series of books that feature pre-teens taking on all manner of creepy things in various Michigan communities…poltergeists in Petoskey, aliens in Alpena, gargoyles in Gaylord (you get the picture). Since Rand published his first book, “Mayhem on Mackinac Island,” in 2000, the series has exploded in popularity, and now fills the shelves of bookstores across the state. “Michigan Chillers” has become so popular that it led Rand to create another series, “American Chillers,” that will eventually feature kids tackling weird goings-on in every state in the union. As if Rand isn’t busy enough, he also writes books for adult readers, and is the author of two additional children’s book series, “Freddie Fernortner, Fearless First Grader,” and “Adventure Club.” I recently spoke to Rand by phone while he was at Chillermania!, his store in Indian River that sells all of Rand's children’s books, as well as other products. 

Johnathan Rand
How did you start writing "Michigan Chillers"?
“It happened in a roundabout way. I had written adult fiction under the name ‘Christopher Knight,’  and while I was working on the second book, I was trying to come up with a metaphor for everything that was wonderful about northern Michigan. Like, if you put everything that’s wonderful in a bottle, and sold it on the shelf as a beverage, what would you call it? One of the names I came up with was a ‘Michigan Chiller.’ I kept thinking about that during the summer, about some of the scary books I had read as a kid, and how I could write scary stories about different cities in Michigan.”

Book 2, "Terror Stalks Traverse City"

 Describe what the “Michigan Chillers” are about.

“They’re spooky stories for kids ages seven to thirteen. They all have different main characters and they stand alone, so they don’t have to be read in any particular order. The kids in these books are pretty much on their own, having their own adventures and solving their own problems. They have to find their own way to get out of scary situations. There’s no blood, nobody dies. I write books like that for adults, but, again, those are for adults. Second graders are already exposed to too much of that stuff as-is. I want to make these books an enjoyable reading experience for them."

You publish the books yourself, right?
“Yes. I had pitched the idea to publishers, but I was pretty much rejected. One of the largest publishers in the world told me it was a good idea, but that kids aren’t reading that kind of thing anymore. And of course, now I’ve sold a million copies.”

Do you prefer publishing the books yourself?
“I do, especially after talking to other authors in the business. I’ve spoken to bestselling authors who can’t quit their day jobs because they don’t make enough money. [Self-publishing] is a lot of work because you’re responsible for all aspects of the product, but I’m glad I took that route. Early on I could handle everything myself, but now I have editors, an international events coordinator, an IT guy, an array of people to fill various shoes.”

Book 11, "Great Lakes Ghost Ship"

How did you know the books were becoming a hit?
“I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, but right away the response was great. At the end of Book One, kids could read the first four chapters of Book Two. At the time, only Book One was available, so kids were coming into bookstores looking for Book Two. We started getting calls from bookstores asking for the next book, and it wasn’t even printed yet. That was an indication things were looking good. When we received our first order from a distributor for an entire case (65 books), my wife and I popped open a bottle of champagne. Now we get orders of 100 cases from a single customer.”

When you write your books, do you pick the “monster” first, then figure out the location, or is it the other way around?
“I start by picking a place. In most cases, it’s a place I’ve actually visited. Then I come up with several titles, and pick the title that I think is the best. If I know I have a good title, that gets me excited. Then I build the story around the title.”

What is one of your favorite “Michigan Chillers”?
“That would be one of the more recent ones, ‘Catastrophe in Caseville.’  Last year, I was looking at a website that advertised this huge cheeseburger festival that Caseville holds. It’s a ten-day festival that brings thousands upon thousands of people from around the country. Basically, it’s a big Jimmy Buffett bash. The pictures looked great, and I could imagine this giant cheeseburger destroying the city. The idea of a sandwich wrecking a town was fun.”
Book 16, "Catastrophe in Caseville"

What made you decide to write the “American Chillers” series?
“All along, I had been planning to write “American Chillers” if the “Michigan Chillers” series worked. I started getting letters from kids saying the same thing. It was like the kids were urging me on with an idea I already had.”

How many books do you write in a year?
“Typically around eight to ten, sometimes more or less. I could probably get more done in a year, but I travel from mid-September to May. It’s pretty extensive; I’m on the road for a week, home for the weekend, then on the road for two weeks. I can actually write on the road, though. I get up at 3:00 a.m., write until 6:00 or 7:00, then speak at colleges and schools, usually two or three a day. By 4:00 or 5:00 I’m back at the hotel and I hit the sack around 7:00 so that I can get up early again. It’s a magical time early in the morning; everybody’s quiet, and I can concentrate and focus.”

What’s in the future for you?
“As far as the ‘American Chillers’ go, I know I’m going to write one for every single state. I’ll continue writing the ‘Michigan Chillers’ series. I’ve had people ask me, ‘Will you write ‘International Chillers,’ but I don’t know about that.”

What do you read when you’re not writing?
“I will read just about anything and everything. I like scary stuff, but I also read autobiographies, kids’ books, just about everything.”

What is one of your favorite places to visit, or your favorite things to do, in Michigan?
“I grew up fly fishing the Au Sable River in Grayling, and I love going to the U.P. once a year to rent a cabin in as remote of an area as I can find. I spend two weeks writing, hiking, fly fishing. It’s so desolate, it’s like a whole different country.”

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For more information:

Johnathan Rand's website

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Alexis St. Martin: The man with a hole in his stomach

Alexis St. Martin lived one of the weirdest lives on record. Not only was he unfortunate enough to have part of his stomach blown off during an accidental shooting on Mackinac Island in 1822, he also spent the next ten years as guinea pig to a doctor who, among other things, dangled bits of food into St. Martin's unhealed wound to study the effects of digestion (a process that wasn't well understood at the time).

(Now that you've read the above paragraph, let me issue a disclaimer: If you're at all squeamish, it might be best to skip this post [or at least parts of it]).

St. Martin was a 20-year-old Canadian voyageur who, in June 1822, worked as a fur trader for the American Fur Company. (Side note: Some sources claim that St. Martin was born in 1794, which would have made him 28 in 1822, but this information is incorrect. St. Martin had a brother, also named Alexis, who was born in 1794 and who died in 1802. It's the older Alexis these sources are inadvertently referring to, not the "guinea pig" Alexis, who was born the same year his older brother died, in 1802.) During a stop at a Mackinac Island trading post, a fellow voyageur accidentally discharged his musket, spraying birdshot into St. Martin's left side. Dr. William Beaumont, a physician at nearby Fort Mackinac, was quickly summoned, and though Beaumont treated the victim, he expressed doubt that St. Martin would survive.

St. Martin in his later years, proving that he did, in fact, survive.

St. Martin defeated the odds and overcame his injuries...except for one. The edge of the wound in his stomach had attached to the edge of the hole in his skin, forming a fistula (in essence, a passageway) that provided easy access to whatever was going on in St. Martin's stomach. Beaumont realized the research opportunities that St. Martin presented. Because the voyageur's injury prevented him from going back to work for the American Fur Company, Beaumont hired St. Martin as a laborer, assigning him chores like chopping wood, hauling heavy items, and letting Beaumont dip bits of food attached to silk strings into his stomach so that the doctor could observe the digestion process. Beaumont made many discoveries and published his findings, becoming known as a preeminent expert in human digestion, and eventually earning the very specific title of "Father of Gastric Physiology."

Dr. William Beaumont
In 1825, Beaumont moved to Fort Niagara in New York, and St. Martin accompanied him. However, the former voyageur grew tired of his work with Beaumont, and returned to Canada, where he married and eventually fathered several children. (St. Martin could live a relatively normal life by putting a plug in his fistula to prevent things from getting in or out.) St. Martin intermittently reunited with Beaumont so that the latter could conduct more experiments, but their partnership ended in 1832 when, while working with Beaumont in Washington, D.C., St. Martin received word that one of his children had died in Canada. St. Martin left, and though he and Beaumont discussed plans to resume their experiments, he never returned.

Beaumont eventually moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he died of a closed-head injury in 1853 after slipping on ice. St. Martin survived for a few more decades, dying in 1880. To dissuade curiosity seekers who might want to conduct illicit autopsies on him, St. Martin's family left his body in the sun to decompose, then buried him in a secret location that wasn't revealed until 1962.

While St. Martin's position in history has essentially been that of a footnote, Beaumont is still esteemed, especially in the state where his revolutionary experiments began. He is the namesake of William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Troy, and Grosse Pointe, as well as the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. To try to even the score, albeit in a small way, I'll end this post with a photo of Alexis St. Martin and his wife, Marie, obviously well into their golden years, but still enjoying each other's company. (Well, at least Alexis is....I'm not so sure about Marie.)

Marie and Alexis St. Martin

For More Information:

In 2012, the "Radiolab" radio show ran a piece that, in part, told the story of William Beaumont and Alexis St. Martin. You can find it here: "Holey Cow"

In 1956, the television show "Medic" aired an episode dedicated to the Beaumont/St. Martin story. Here's the clip, from YouTube: "Who Search for Truth"

Author Jason Karlawish has written a novel about the Mackinac Island incident and its aftermath, called "Open Wound." I own this book, but haven't read it yet. It's gotten rave reviews, so I can't wait to dig in (no pun intended). You can find it on Amazon here: "Open Wound"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Speaking out against slavery: The story of Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth's life began around 1797 when she was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York. Her life ended November 26, 1883, when she died at her home in Battle Creek. In the intervening 86 years, Truth dedicated herself to securing equality for all races and both sexes. Her words were so compelling, and her presence so powerful, that she effected change across the nation, including in her adopted state of Michigan.

Sojourner Truth

Truth was born Isabella Baumfree, and was a slave for the first thirty years of her life. During that time, New York state was in the process of abolishing slavery, and Baumfree's owner said that he would free her in 1826, a year before the "official" date of emancipation, so long as she remained productive until then. He eventually broke his promise, saying that, because she had injured her hand, Baumfree was not producing enough to uphold her end of the bargain. Enraged, Baumfree bided her time, then escaped with her infant daughter, Sophia. She found refuge with a Quaker family, the Van Wageners, who "bought" Baumfree from her master for twenty dollars. Baumfree lived with the Van Wageners until the following year, when New York's emancipation order took full effect and she was free. The family also helped Baumfree secure the freedom of her five-year-old son, Peter, whom her former master had illegally sold to a slaveholder in Alabama. Truth's victory made her one of the first African American woman in the United States to win a court case against a white man.

While living with the Van Wageners, Baumfree became a Christian, and it was this religious awakening that led to the next phase of her life. The years Baumfree had spent as a slave were never far from her mind, and in 1843, filled with the sense that she was meant to preach about the evils of America's "peculiar institution," Baumfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth and traveled the country, urging audiences to support emancipation. Truth also adopted the cause of women's rights, and in 1851, at the Ohio Woman's Rights Convention in Akron, delivered an off-the-cuff talk that became known as "Ain't I a Woman?" Some controversy surrounds this speech because multiple versions of it were published. One version didn't include the phrase "ain't I a woman" anywhere in the text, while the most "popular" version (which was recorded by conference organizer Frances Dana Barker Gage and appears in the above link) contains southern terms and inflections that Truth probably would not have used, as she hailed from the north. However, regardless of what exactly Truth said, she delivered a moving speech that won over the hearts and minds of many attendees.

Truth's life in Michigan began in 1857 when she bought a house in Harmonia, a community west of Battle Creek. When the Civil War began, she traveled extensively, helping recruit African American troops for the Union army, as well as working at the Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C. In 1867, she moved to Battle Creek and continued her campaigns, which now included an (ultimately unsuccessful) effort to obtain land rights for freed slaves. Truth also tried to vote in the 1872 presidential election (Battle Creek election officials turned her away), and spoke against capital punishment to the Michigan Legislature.

Truth's health failed in her later years, and when she died in 1883, more than 3,000 people attended her funeral. She is buried in Battle Creek's Oak Hill Cemetery. The state of Michigan has honored her by naming I-194, a stretch of freeway between downtown Battle Creek and I-94, the "Sojourner Truth Downtown Parkway." Truth was also one of the first inductees into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame, and is the subject of a twelve-foot monument in Battle Creek.

Sojourner Truth monument, Battle Creek

While these accolades are well-deserved, Truth's most enduring legacy is the fact that, thanks in part to her efforts, equality among the races and between the sexes has become not an impossible dream, but a very possible reality. Truth wasn't shy about letting the world know that, through her efforts, she was going to change history. As she herself said, "I am not going to die, I'm going home like a shooting star."

Additional Facts:

*Truth spoke only Dutch until she was nine years old.

*She achieved all her accomplishments despite never having learned to read or write.

*When Truth escaped in 1826 with her daughter, she insisted that she had walked, not run, away. Her rationale? "I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right."

*During a speech she gave in 1858, one of the audience members accused her of being a man. Truth answered the question simply by opening her blouse to prove the accuser wrong.

For More Information:

"Narrative of Sojourner Truth," by Sojourner Truth

"Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol," by Nell Irvin Painter

Michigan at the Movies

I get a kick out of watching movies set in Michigan. I think it's because I like the idea that Hollywood actors and actresses, probably most of whom have never set foot in the Great Lakes State, are pretending to be Michiganders, talking about places I've been or experiencing historical events about which I've read. I'm definitely not a Hollywood junkie, but I enjoy seeing how "big stars" interpret the people and events of the Great Lakes State.

Following are some Michigan-set movies that I've enjoyed. This list is limited by the fact that I don't watch a lot of films (so in the hands of someone else, it probably would be more extensive and more interesting). I've tried to include a variety of genres, though, so hopefully everyone will find a movie or two they've seen and loved (or a few they haven't seen and need to check out).

1. Dreamgirls (2006)

I'm obsessed with Motown music, so I LOVED this movie. It's based on the musical of the same name, and tells the story of the Dreams, a Detroit girl group that, thanks to luck, hard work, and some shady dealings, rose to the top of the pop charts in the 1960s and 1970s. "Dreamgirls" is a thinly fictionalized account of the Motown record company and the Supremes; every major character in the movie has his or her real-life counterpart. For example, the movie's slick music producer, Curtis Taylor, Jr. (played by Jamie Foxx), is essentially Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr., while the soft-voiced ingenue, Deena Jones (played by Beyonce Knowles), who replaces the band's former lead vocalist, is a fictionalized version of Supremes lead singer Diana Ross. There are too many other parallels to include in this post, but if you're at all interested in musicals, Motown, or Michigan history, I highly recommend this film. Though much of the action takes place outside of Michigan (especially once the Dreams "hit it big"), the movie starts with a performance by the Dreamettes (which was the Dreams' name before they became famous) at the fictional Detroit Theater. Check it out here.

2. The Evil Dead (1981)

Okay, I didn't "enjoy" this movie so much as I "watched" it, but in the interest of having a well-rounded list, I'm including it here. I'm told that if you're a horror fan (which I'm not), you'll love this film. It was written and directed by Michigan State University student Sam Raimi, and stars his friend and fellow Michigan native Bruce Campbell. The plot revolves around five MSU students (including Campbell's character, Ash) who decide to vacation in a remote cabin in Tennessee. While there, they inadvertently unleash demons that possess several of the students, leading to mayhem, grossness, and hundreds of jump-out-of-your-seat moments. "The Evil Dead" premiered at the Redford Theater in Detroit, and eventually screened at the Cannes Film Festival, where horror master Stephen King gave it rave reviews. The film's popularity took off from there, and now it's a cult classic. (It also inspired a 2013 remake that my husband rented one evening; I had to leave the room after watching about twenty minutes of it because I was so creeped out. I have no idea how I got through the first one, but I can definitely attest to the fact that "The Evil Dead" is one freaky movie.)

I couldn't find a YouTube clip for this film that didn't involve buckets of gore, so I'll leave you with the 1981 movie's trailer (which is plenty gross in itself). If you don't like demons, stabbings, or bloody axes, it's best not to watch this.

3. Tiger Town (1983)

Anyone else remember this movie? It was a TV film that my family taped on VHS, and I must have watched it a thousand times. It stars Roy Scheider as Billy Young, an aging Detroit Tiger who is due to retire and is having a rough season. Young's biggest fan is a kid named Alex (played by Justin Henry, who was also the son Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman fought over in "Kramer vs. Kramer"). Alex desperately wants to see Young end his career on a high note. Noticing that Young hits a home run every time Alex is at a home game, the superfan decides that, from now on, he needs to attend every one, school and curfews be darned. "Tiger Town" was the first made-for-TV movie the Disney Channel released, so you can guess how it ends, but it's still a fun little flick to watch. "Tiger Town" also stars famous Tigers and Detroiters like manager Sparky Anderson, former Supreme Mary Wilson (who sings the national anthem during the championship game), and sportscasters Ernie Harwell and Ray Lane.

I couldn't find ANY clips of "Tiger Town" on the Internet, so here's a picture of the movie poster, just to prove this film does, in fact, exist.

4. The Five-Year Engagement (2012)

I typically hate romantic comedies, so I thought this one would be a real stink-a-roo, but I actually liked it. The movie is about a San Francisco couple, Tom Solomon (played by Jason Segel) and Violet Barnes (played by Emily Blunt), who get engaged, then face a variety of circumstances that prevent them from actually getting married. One of those circumstances is the fact that Violet has been accepted into a post-doctorate program in psychology at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she and Tom move (much to Tom's consternation, as he has just been offered a promotion himself, at the restaurant in San Francisco where he works as a sous chef). Tom's and Violet's relationship weathers various ups and downs, all against the backdrop of Ann Arbor, where the movie was filmed. "The Five-Year Engagement" doesn't present an entirely flattering picture of Michigan, as Tom has trouble finding a job, and tires of the frigid winter weather (I can't say I blame him on that last one), but it also showcases several Ann Arbor hotspots like Zingerman's Deli, and ultimately shows that Tom's and Violet's rocky ride in Michigan is a result of their own internal frustrations and lack of communication as a couple.

Here's the trailer:

5. Somewhere in Time (1980)

This is another movie that I can't say I "enjoyed" in the sense that it's one of my favorite films, but I did "appreciate" it. Anyone who has ever been to Mackinac Island has heard of "Somewhere in Time," as the movie was filmed there, at the Grand Hotel. Now, you can't go into any gift shop on the Island without seeing "Somewhere in Time" tchotchkes filling the shelves. To be honest, I can't remember whether or not the movie's plot actually takes place in Michigan...all we get as a reference point is that the action occurs at the "Grand Hotel," which I guess is as good an indication as any that it's a Michigan-set film. Anyway, "Somewhere in Time" tells the story of Richard Collier (played by Christopher Reeve), a modern playwright who, suffering from writer's block, travels to the Grand Hotel for some R and R. In the lobby, he sees a photograph of Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour), a famous stage actress from the early 20th century, and immediately falls in love with her. Richard hypnotizes himself and travels back in time to 1912 so that he can meet and woo Elise, under the disapproving eye of her manager, played by Christopher Plummer.

"Somewhere in Time" is probably one of THE biggest things to come out of Mackinac Island, and every year fans of the film flock to the Grand Hotel, which holds an annual "Somewhere in Time" weekend. Some of the YouTube videos showing clips from this movie are literally ten minutes long, so I'll show you the trailer instead.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Felony Friday: A killer love story

It's a typical love story, told in countless romance novels. A poor boy meets a rich girl and works tirelessly to elevate his social standing so that he can win her affection. The boy woos the girl, marries her, and spirits her away to a life of comfort and luxury in the big city. Then, when the girl's parents come to visit the newlyweds in their posh new home, the boy kills them.

Okay, so the marriage of Arthur Warren Waite (the boy) and Clara Peck (the girl) was not a storybook romance, a fact with which Clara's ill-fated parents, John and Hannah Peck, would likely agree. The sad saga of the Peck family began when Waite started dating Clara during high school, shortly after the turn of the 20th century. Waite came from a family of farmers, while Clara enjoyed a wealthy lifestyle made possible by the fortune her father had earned as co-founder of Peck Brothers Drug Company in Grand Rapids. The lovebirds continued their romance after Waite left for The University of Michigan, where he studied dentistry, and later for postgraduate work at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, from which he graduated with honors. The newly minted physician found his way to South Africa, where he served as chief dentist for a mining company. However, Clara was never far from his thoughts and Waite eventually returned to Grand Rapids in 1914 to speed up their courtship.

Arthur Warren Waite

Trouble was already brewing between Waite and his sweetheart's family; John Peck disapproved of the relationship, insisting that Waite was too ambitious. However, his concerns fell on deaf ears, and Clara married Waite in Grand Rapids in September 1915. Perhaps as a peace offering, John gave the newlyweds an apartment in Manhattan, where Waite and Clara moved shortly after their marriage and where Waite set up a dental practice.

If Waite had been as diligent about maintaining his practice as he was about playing tennis and hooking up with married women, John and Hannah Peck might have lived the rest of their lives in peace. As it was, not long after arriving in New York City, Waite began an affair with a wealthy married woman, and realized that he needed money to keep his new honey satisfied. Though his in-laws give him and Clara a monthly stipend, the amount wasn't enough to please Waite. He hatched a plan to get his hands on the rest of the Pecks' fortune, and put it into action in January 1916, when Hannah Peck arrived in New York to visit her daughter and son-in-law.

Hannah likely relished the chance to relax and catch up with her family while spending time in a fast-paced, cosmopolitan city. However, ten days after her arrival, she was dead, and her cremated remains sent back to Grand Rapids. Waite insisted on overseeing the cremation and funeral preparations so that the rest of the grieving family would be spared the task.

Hannah Peck

John Peck mourned his deceased wife, but was also grateful for the way Waite had taken charge of the situation. The eldest Peck decided a visit to his daughter and son-in-law was in order, and he arrived in New York City in March 1916. In an eerie coincidence, he, like his wife, died not long after. As he had done after Hannah's death, Waite insisted that a quick cremation and return to Grand Rapids was in order. However, Clara and her brother, Percy, resisted, saying that their father was so well-known in his hometown that mourners would certainly want to see his body.

John Peck

Not wanting to invite suspicion, Waite gave in, but his murderous plot was already unraveling. When Percy returned to Grand Rapids, he received a telegram from an unknown person, "K. Adams," that urged him to have his father's body examined. (It was later revealed that a Peck relative, Elizabeth Hardwicke, had sent the telegram after seeing Waite parade around New York City with his mistress.) Percy arranged for the exam, during which physicians discovered traces of arsenic and chloroform in his father's body. Their conclusion was that John Peck and, in all probability, his wife Hannah, had been murdered.

At first, Clara insisted that her husband had nothing to do with her parents' suspicious deaths, but the evidence quickly mounted against Waite. The man who embalmed John Peck told police that Waite offered him money to put arsenic in the embalming fluid, so that examiners would attribute the presence of that substance in John's body to the embalmer's work, and not to Waite's deadly deeds. (Though the embalmer accepted the money, he never spiked the fluid with arsenic.) Police also found an atomizer that Waite had filled with typhoid and anthrax germs, and had then given to Clara when she caught a cold. (Clara refused to inhale from it, a decision that likely saved her from becoming the third Peck to die at the hands of Arthur Waite.)

The evidence against Waite was piling up, and Waite, seeing no way out, tried unsuccessfully to kill himself with sleeping pills before finally confessing to the murders of John and Hannah Peck. Waite said he had dosed the couple with anthrax and typhoid strains that he had stolen from a hospital. While Hannah died right away, John hadn't perished quickly enough for Waite, who eventually resorted to arsenic. When that still didn't work, Waite smothered John to death with chloroform.

Arthur Waite in custody

The reason for Waite's crimes? Money, plain and simple. Waite had set his sights on the Peck fortune when he was just a kid, and everything he did afterward--courting Clara, graduating from The University of Michigan (through which he had cheated his way to a degree), and attending the University of Glasgow (where he forged papers stating that he had graduated from the institution)--moved Waite closer to that goal. The dentist admitted that he planned to kill everyone in the Peck family, so despite the fact that Clara and Percy Peck lost their parents to a deranged sociopath, they were also lucky in a sense, as they had escaped his murderous clutches.

Waite was tried and convicted for his crimes, and executed in the electric chair on May 1, 1917. John and Hannah Peck are buried in Oakhill Cemetery in Grand Rapids.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

An interview with Ross Richardson, discoverer of the Westmoreland

I recently spoke by phone with Ross Richardson, a diver who, in 2010, located the wreckage of the Westmoreland, a ship that sank in Lake Michigan in December 1854 during its final run of the year between Chicago and Buffalo. After the Westmoreland left Milwaukee on December 6, a winter storm battered the ship, causing it to plunge into the icy waters near the Manitou Islands, off the Lower Peninsula’s northwest coast. Only half of the 34 people on board survived.

For nearly 150 years, explorers searched for the wreck, and not simply out of curiosity. Rumors swirled that, along with its cargo of winter provisions for residents of Mackinac Island, the Westmoreland had contained a fortune in gold coins, as well as a couple hundred barrels of whiskey. Beginning in 1872 and continuing through the 21st century, dozens of divers plied the waters near the Manitou Islands, searching for the ship and its legendary treasure. (One of those divers was a man named Jim Sawtelle, who searched for the Westmoreland in 1957, and who would play a small role in Richardson's discovery over 50 years later.) Though some claimed to have found the Westmoreland, no one could provide proof...until Richardson began his search in 2010.

Ross Richardson

Richardson, a Lake Ann resident who had long been interested in shipwrecks and had even learned to dive so that he could explore them, first read about the Westmoreland in a book called "Shipwreck!" by David Swayze. "I thought it would be a really interesting ship to find," Richardson said. "It's uncommon to have a cargo of treasure in the Great Lakes." Richardson began researching the ship while taking part in other shipwreck-related projects and discoveries. In the summer of 2010, equipped with a boat and a side-scan sonar that gave him a search range of 360 feet to each side, Richardson hit the lake to begin his hunt. What he found led him to create a website ( and to write a book ("The Search for the Westmoreland") about his discovery. Our interview starts near the beginning of Richardson's search on July 7, 2010.
How did you search for the wreck?
"Shipwreck hunting is very slow and methodical; we call it 'mowing the lawn.' You set up a search grid and travel down it at about four miles an hour. Then you come back at a parallel line. It's very tedious; you can spend years looking before you even find a shipwreck. It's not everybody’s cup of tea."
Tell us about how you found the Westmoreland.
“I found it at the beginning of the third square mile I looked at after starting the search. It’s really remarkable to find a shipwreck that quickly. I’ve been involved in searches for airplanes and other ships, and sometimes we looked at over 100 square miles before we found anything.
"It was a nice summer day, and it was pretty calm. I was by myself; I do most of my searching by myself. I had just started another run when I ran over this unmistakable shape. I knew immediately it was a ship. It was in 200 feet of water, and I was kind of stunned.

Sonar image of the Westmoreland (bottom), with comparison photograph of a similar ship above
(no known photographs exist of the Westmoreland)

“I grabbed my phone and called Jim Sawtelle. We’d become friends over the past few years, and I said, ‘Jim, I got this target.’ He said, ‘When you get back to that area again, run it over a few more times.’ The images ended up being pretty stunning. They showed a large ship with hogging arches, which are basically suspension bridges built over the hull of a ship to give it strength. I called Jim back and said, ‘This looks really good.’ I knew I had to dive it and film it.” 
Image of the Westmoreland, with its hogging arches (located in the center of the picture)
At that point, what did you do?
“I went back on July 10 with an underwater video camera that I had bought on eBay for 99 bucks. It was just me and my brother on the boat. He can barely swim, so at this point, I’m about as ‘by myself’ as I can get in the water. We dropped down the grapple, which is a metal hook that snagged the ship. I geared up and got the camera ready to go.
“The big thing was that I didn’t know what I was going to see when I was down there. I didn’t know where we’d snagged into the wreck. I went down the line, close to 200 feet deep, and looked below. My first sight was of the bow of this giant ship, and I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ I stopped for a minute and caught my breath. I wanted to go back toward the stern and film the hogging arches. If I could film them, I could prove the wreck was the Westmoreland. After about a minute, I could see the hogging arches, upright in this great ship.
“The 1874 explorers said they had salvaged the engine and boiler, but I had my doubts about [whether they had done so] because the wreck was so deep; at that point in time, divers had only a 130-foot depth range. I went back farther, and toward the stern I saw the engine, the engine cylinder head, the boiler, and the four lifeboat cranes still on the back, standing upright.

“I was heading toward the stern and about to turn around, when slowly this big ship’s wheel appeared. Man, it was just beautiful. It was fully attached, no spokes were missing. I knew then that this ship was a virgin [i.e., had never been explored], because if anyone had been down there, they would have cut that wheel off and put it in their living room so fast.
“At that point, I looked down at my computer and saw that two-thirds of my breathing gas was gone. I was only halfway through my dive, and two-thirds of my life support was gone, so I hauled it back to the upline. It was one of the most scary things I’ve ever been through in my life.
“These shipwrecks, they’re like underwater haunted houses. They’re very creepy. You’re down there by yourself, everything’s dark, you’re so far away from everything else. If something happens, there’s nothing you can do.”
What was running through your mind once you realized you’d found the Westmoreland?
“That was probably one of the most amazing times in my life. I love shipwrecks, so to do something like that was like landing on the moon. It would be like, if baseball was your passion, hitting a grand-slam home run to win the World Series.”
How did you reveal your news about having found the wreck?
“It opened up an interesting dilemma. I had found a virgin wreck, which I wasn’t expecting, and it was one that might contain ten to twenty million dollars in gold coins. My worst nightmare would be to hear that another diver had found it and was now a millionaire, living in the Cayman Islands. I was very nervous that other people might be looking for it, so I did a press release to claim the shipwreck as ‘mine.’ I also created a website because, being a history buff, I wanted to share the wreck’s history with people.”
What else did you do after you found the Westmoreland?
“I teamed up with a dive buddy who was a very skilled diver, and we explored the shipwreck, looking for the safe. We were ‘going for the gold.’ I wanted to document the wreck, but I also wanted to go over every surface of it to make sure there wasn’t a chest of gold there. If there was, I think we both would have faded into the sunset with it.”
So, you didn’t find any gold?
“We didn’t find any gold.”
What’s going on now with the Westmoreland? Has anyone else been diving it?
“Only close friends of mine have dived it. I’m keeping the location [of the wreck] to myself. When I wrote the book, I originally included the [global positioning] numbers so that other people could dive it, but everybody told me, ‘No, don’t give the numbers out.’ The night before the publisher sent the book to the printers, I called them up and said, ‘Pull the numbers out,’ and they did.

“Very few people are interested in diving that wreck, anyway. It’s a decompression dive. To me, the most significant thing about the wreck is its history, and that’s why I wrote a book about it.”

Richardson's book, "The Search for the Westmoreland"
What’s next for you?
“I’m writing my second book, which is going to be along the lines of my website. It’ll deal with missing people, planes, and ships in the Michigan region. I have a friend who’s a retired Traverse City detective, and in the 1970s his parents disappeared in a plane somewhere over Michigan. They haven’t been found yet, and it’s the craziest thing. This plane probably crashed in the woods somewhere, and you wouldn’t think that there’s a place in the Lower Peninsula where people could be in a plane for thirty years and not be found. It fascinates me that there are still things out there in Michigan that haven’t been discovered.”
I probably know the answer to this question already, but what is your favorite place to visit, or your favorite thing to do, in Michigan?
“I would say exploring. There’s so much to explore, so much to see on land, so much diversity. Then, when you get out in the water, there’s another entire planet that’s been unexplored. For me, Michigan is the perfect place because you can explore right outside your door. You can find something that no one else has found before. It’s really quite a place.”

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For more information:

Richardson has posted his footage of the Westmoreland on YouTube. It's AMAZING... I got shivers down my spine watching it. Here it is:

Richardson has also posted other videos on his YouTube channel, nmiwrecks. Be sure to check them out!

"Michigan History in Objects" at the Michigan Historical Museum: Part Two

As promised (though a day late), here's the next installment of my "treasure hunt" at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing. If you missed Part One, you can find it here:

"Michigan History in Objects" at the Michigan Historical Museum: Part One

Now, on to business.

1. Prohibition-Era Alcohol and Gun

These bottles of hooch, as well as the gun, were found in the Detroit River in the 1980s, several decades after bootleggers likely discarded them while trying to sneak alcohol into the country. Though liquor was banned in the United States from 1920 to 1933, smugglers maintained a lucrative trade keeping Americans stocked with booze. Detroit's closeness to Canada, where alcohol was legal, made it a prime spot for such activities. Bootleggers traveled across the Detroit River to smuggle alcohol from Windsor, Ontario to the Motor City, transporting so much illicit cargo that the so-called "Windsor-Detroit funnel" provided 75 percent of all the alcohol smuggled into the United States. It's no surprise, then, that southeastern Michigan had a ridiculously high number of speakeasies, by some accounts as many as 25,000 in Detroit and surrounding cities.
2. Bloody Shirt, Tie, and Vest from the "Battle of the Overpass"

This is the shirt, tie, and vest that United Auto Workers organizer Richard Frankensteen wore during the "Battle of the Overpass," an altercation on May 26, 1937 during which security guards at the Ford Motor Company's River Rouge plant in Dearborn beat UAW leaders who planned to distribute pro-union leaflets from a pedestrian overpass during a shift change at the plant. When news photographers asked the leaders to pose for photos, the security guards charged, while police stood by, saying they could do nothing because the security guards were defending Ford property. The resulting public outcry increased support for unionization at the plant, and Ford ended up signing an agreement with the UAW three years later.

3. Two-Seat Corvette

During the early 1950s, General Motors' Chevrolet division suffered from an image problem. While European sports cars were all the rage, motorists regarded Chevy's cars as lackluster and boring. To spice up its image, Chevy introduced the two-seat Corvette at the 1953 Motorama car show. The Corvette's sleek lines and fiberglass exterior excited attendees so much that GM rushed the vehicle into production at its Flint auto plant that same year. Unfortunately, the first-year Corvettes had only six-cylinder engines and automatic transmissions, so they were not exactly the "power vehicles" that consumers had been promised. To remedy this, Belgian engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov refined the Corvette, giving it a larger engine and manual transmission. Sales skyrocketed, making the Corvette one of the most popular vehicles of all time and earning Arkus-Duntov the nickname "Father of the Corvette."

FYI, the Corvette automobile was named after a type of small, lightly armed warship, typically used to patrol coasts and escort fleets.

The "other" corvette

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The sordid saga of the Michigan Relics

James Scotford stuck his shovel into the ground, hefted a pile of earth, and heaved it to the side. He was digging postholes in the Montcalm County community of Wyman that day in 1890, and so far his labors had been routine. That all changed when his shovel plunged into the earth again and struck something hard. Scotford cleared away dirt from his find and lifted the object for a better look. In his hand was a clay cup with strange symbols, almost like hieroglyphics, scattered across its surface. Whether or not he knew it at that moment, Scotford's life was about to change forever.

James Scotford

The laborer had unearthed the first of what would turn out to be thousands of "Michigan Relics," objects that Scotford and his eventual business partner, former Michigan Secretary of State Daniel Soper, claimed were evidence that civilizations from what we now know as the Middle East had traveled to the New World. The artifacts have long since been exposed as forgeries, but the background behind their "discovery" and the conspiracy surrounding it is just as interesting as the tall tale that Scotford and Soper insisted was the relics' true origin story.

After Scotford "found" the cup, he quickly unearthed several other artifacts around Wyman. Though academics who examined the finds quickly denounced them as fakes, several believers maintained they were proof that ancient Asian civilizations had lived in Michigan. Ministers were especially interested in the relics, as some of the finds featured scenes from the Bible and seemed to be the work of people who had once occupied the Holy Land.

"Michigan Relic" made of clay

Soper's role in the ruse came about a few years after Scotford made his first find. The former Secretary of State had been forced to leave office after committing various financial shenanigans, and lived in Newaygo County (immediately to the west of Montcalm County) at the time Scotford was making his phony discoveries. Soper participated in his first dig with Scotford in 1907, and eventually became the duo's spokesman, criticizing any academic attempt to discredit their finds. 

Daniel Soper

Eventually, searchers found such relics as coins, pipes, boxes, figurines, and tablets in sixteen counties across Michigan. Scotford had a standard procedure he followed when conducting digs. He would create artifacts with his sons and sons-in-law, plant the artifacts in the ground, wait a few weeks for nature to erase any signs of recent disturbance, then hire a digger to search the area. (Sometimes, Scotford was bold enough to sneak an artifact into the ground while the digger was at work.) Scotford invited members of the local community to watch, and when an artifact appeared, the observers were so excited, they quickly signed affidavits attesting to the relic's authenticity.

"Michigan Relic" made of copper

Though Scotford and Soper had their defenders, including Father James Savage, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Detroit, who purchased a significant number of Michigan Relics, the weight of their detractors' arguments continually grew. In addition to the college professors, archaeologists, and historians who insisted the artifacts were fake, individuals who knew Scotford and his sons (including Scotford's own stepdaughter) insisted that they had seen the men make the relics themselves. Critiques ran along the lines of what one researcher concluded in 1891, after Scotford found the first relics:

The articles were bad enough in the photographs. An examination proved them to be humbugs of the first water. They were all of unbaked clay and decorated with bogus hieroglyphics...On opening one casket we found that the lid had been dried on a machine-sawed board.
And from another critic, writing in 1892:
The inscriptions are largely a horrible mixture of Phoenician, Egyptian and ancient Greek characters taken at random from a comparative table of alphabets such as is found at the back of Webster's Dictionary.
A "Michigan Relic" tablet
Scotford and Soper never admitted their finds were frauds, and even today a few scholars insist the relics are authentic, arguing that they offer evidence of ancient Christian civilizations in Michigan. However, modern historians are in near-universal agreement that the artifacts were constructed with contemporary tools by men who, by selling the artifacts to eager believers, committed fraud as a means of achieving fame and making money off people willing to pay for a piece of history.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A tribute to Elmore Leonard

The "Dickens of Detroit," author Elmore Leonard, has died at age 87. He had suffered a stroke late in July, and though initially he appeared to be recovering, he ultimately lost his battle, dying at his home earlier today in Bloomfield Hills. Leonard is best known for his gritty mystery and crime novels, many of which have been adapted into television shows and Hollywood films by the likes of Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, and Barry Sonnenfeld.

Elmore Leonard
Leonard was born in 1925 in New Orleans, and moved with his family to Detroit when he was about nine years old. He's said that the writing bug first bit him in the fifth grade, when he wrote a play based on the novel, "All Quiet on the Western Front" and staged it in his classroom. In 1943, Leonard graduated from the University of Detroit High School, then joined the Navy, where he served in the South Pacific. After leaving the service, he studied English and philosophy at the University of Detroit, graduating in 1950.

Though Leonard got a job writing copy for an ad agency, the fiction bug was still circling him. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway's spare style, and by the western movies Leonard loved so much, he began writing western novels, then segued into crime fiction. Throughout the decades, he wrote 45 full-length novels, as well as a novel serialized in the New York Times Magazine. Leonard also wrote several short stories, essays, non-fiction works, and screenplays.

I haven't read any of Leonard's works, though a few of his novels are in my insanely huge pile of to-be-read books. I'm more of a historical fiction girl, so I'm not sure whether his subject matter will interest me. However, I might have to pick up a few works in homage, especially after having read one of the suggestions he gave to aspiring writers in his essay, "Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing." Quite simply, Leonard said, "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip."

For more information:

Elmore Leonard's website

List of Elmore Leonard books

"Michigan History in Objects" at the Michigan Historical Museum: Part One

Yesterday, I paid a visit to the Michigan Historical Museum in downtown Lansing, strolling through three floors of exhibits and taking pictures of artifacts that I'm going to briefly describe in this post and in another post tomorrow. It's part of a regular series I'll be running called, "Michigan History in Objects." My plan is to visit museums and historic sites across the state, take photos of their "coolest" items, and publish the pics here with brief descriptions of the roles their subjects played in Michigan history.

(Actually, my plan is to have my husband, and not myself, take the photos, because he's a really good photographer and I, in two words, am not. He wasn't available yesterday, so that means you get to to enjoy the "quality" pics I took using my phone and a shaky understanding of composition and framing.)

Anyway, enough jibber jabber. On to the artifacts!

1. Float Copper

This is a poorly framed, badly lit photo of a piece of float copper from the Keweenaw Peninsula. It's four feet by eight feet in size, and weighs almost 4,000 pounds. Float copper began its life as molten copper that leached from the earth thousands of years ago. During the Ice Age, glaciers "grabbed" the copper and pulled it along, eventually depositing it on the ground once the ice melted.

The largest-known piece of float copper was found in 1997 in Hancock, Michigan, and is now on display at Presque Isle Park in Marquette. It has a diameter of 15 feet, and weighs more than 40 tons.

2. Guidon from the 5th Michigan Cavalry

A guidon is a flag that troops use to identify their units. The 5th Michigan Cavalry used this guidon when its troops lined up for charges during the Civil War.

The 5th Michigan served from 1862 to 1866, and mustered out of Detroit. Until 1863, its soldiers helped defend Washington, D.C. from Confederate invasion. The 5th Michigan also served in major battles like Second Bull Run, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness. In 1864, one of its members, Private John A. Huff, shot and killed Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart during the Battle of Yellow Tavern in Virginia. (Huff himself was shot during battle a few weeks later, and eventually died at his home; he's buried in Macomb County.)

3. Colonial-Era Cannon

Before I describe this artifact, I'll provide some set up. Despite the fact that America gained its independence from Britain in 1783, the battle over the Great Lakes region wasn't over. Britain held onto Detroit for more than ten years after the Revolutionary War ended, handing over the city to the Americans in 1796 only after ending up on the losing side of a series of battles. The British briefly reclaimed Detroit in 1812, but controlled it for only a year before Americans recaptured it.

Now, onto the cannon. Divers found it in the Detroit River near Cobo Center in 1987; since then, several more cannons have been found in the same area. Though no one knows for sure how the cannons ended up in the river, historians believe they were either dumped there when the British left Detroit in 1796, or that they fell off a British ship in 1812.

4. Territorial Capitol Desk

Here's a picture of Stevens T. Mason, Michigan's first governor, in mannequin form. Mason was known as the "Boy Governor" because he became governor of the Michigan Territory in 1834 when he was 22 years old. When Michigan became a state in 1836, he held onto his position. To this day, he remains, at age 23, the youngest state governor in American history.

The desk he's leaning against is one used by the Secretary of State at the Territorial Capitol in Detroit, which served as Michigan's capital city until Lansing took over that position in 1848.

5. "Toledo, Michigan" Box

If you look closely at the bottom of this box, you'll see the faint words, "Toledo, Mich." (Sorry for the glare at the right side of the box. This thing was in a glass case and there was a light shining directly over it, so I couldn't get a good shot.) As I hope most of you are aware, the city of Toledo is located in Ohio, not Michigan. So what's the deal with this box?

In territorial days, boundary lines weren't clearly drawn, so Michigan and Ohio found themselves fighting over a 468-square-foot piece of land, the so-called "Toledo Strip," along their southern and northern borders, respectively. Neither side was willing to back down, so when Michigan applied for statehood, Congress said it would approve the request if Michigan gave up the Toledo Strip and, as a consolation prize, accepted land that eventually became three-quarters of the Upper Peninsula. Michigan accepted, but at the time residents weren't too happy about the bargain. Their tune changed when they discovered the U.P. wasn't a desolate wasteland, but instead contained enough copper, iron, and timber to fuel the state economy for decades.

Check in tomorrow for Part Two of "Michigan History in Objects: Michigan Historical Museum Edition," when I feature artifacts from the more-recent Michigan past.