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Mason County Memories

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History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News

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david k petersen

Scottville Michigan School

I spent the day at White Pine Village reading through some of the oldest newspapers from the Mason County Record. Although these newspapers dated back to 1867 they are a joy to handle and to read. Papers published before the 1890's are generally very high in rag content.

What that means is that the paper's pulp consisted in part of cotton fiber [rags] mixed in and this leads to a quality paper that will survive and can generally be easily handled without disintegrating. It feels thicker and sturdier to the touch and creates a tactile as well as a visual experience.

A newspaper from 1800 is generally in better condition then one from 1900. The high rag content in the newspapers helped to give the newspaper a long life but the attitude that yesterdays news is not news at all and the ever present need to lower costs led to changes and the increasing use of wood pulp after about 1880.

The newsprint that was created from this process is fairly self -destructive and because of a high acid content it will deteriorate rapidly. Other destructive elements include heat, light, airborne pollutants, and dampness. The preservation of the newspapers of our community is really the preservation of our history at it's best, as it happened.

The local newspaper is a community diary that records the lives of our families and early settlers in the notices of meetings, social events, obituaries, sports news, birth announcements and more. For those of us who enjoy the history, for genealogists, Librarians, and researchers they are indispensable.

In several of the 1867 newspapers reference was given to the new school being built in Ludington and of burning stumps to clear another section of Ludington Avenue. Once I returned home and was looking over my albums for this weeks article I touched upon the Rotary school issue from the Mason County Press on September 24th 1959. The paper in the 1867 editions have held up better then the 1959 but the information is no less important.

The 1959 Rotary School Dedication [of the new High School] issue gave reports and historical accounts of the various "one room" schools that became a part of the Scottville school system. The promotion of schools were an important part of the early settlers agenda. The Scottville Enterprise, of March 15, 1917 also related an early history of the schools as well.

As reported in the Scottville Enterprise: "The present school district was organized in the spring of 1877, when the first annual school meeting was held on a lumber pile at the corner of State and Main streets, where the State Savings bank now stands"

Miss Bessie Bates was engaged as teacher for the summer term of three months. At that time there were ten families in the district with children of school age and a house just outside the city limits was leased for use as the school. A new school building was erected in Scottville in 1878 with W.F. Fairbanks being the first teacher in that building. By 1887 the building was too small to serve the needs of the growing city and a new brick schoolhouse was erected which proved to be too small to accommodate the large number of pupils.

Preservation is the key to ensuring that these records are not lost in time. In the United States Daily, Vol. V, No. 86, June 12, 1930. B. W. Scribner of the National Bureau of Standards states: "In spite of their great historical value, however, such records, covering a period of from 1870 to 1927, are in danger of total extinction due to the perishable nature of the paper on which they are printed." It was recognized 75 years ago that there was a danger in losing this valuable resource and efforts were began to microfilm newspapers in order to preserve them.

Locally White Pine Village is attempting to preserve our local history by microfilming all known copies of local newspapers. They also have a significant number of papers and bound editions from 1867 forward. Their database can be found online at http://www.historicwhitepinevillage.org

The Mason County District Library also has Ludington newspapers on microfilm from 1880-1915 & 1924-1999 and bound editions from 1999- current. The Mason County Press in loose copies from 1956 - 1976 (few issues missing) and 1986- 1987 and can be found online at http://www.masoncounty.lib.mi.us

Please note the gaps in newspapers If you have a stack of old newspapers that have not yet found their way into the recycling bin please consider allowing them to be copied and preserved or in the event you don't have newspapers that you might donate some "green paper" toward the effort to preserve this important part of our local history.

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