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Mason County Memories

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david k petersen

Do you recall a local character that some people even have the audacity to call fictitious that went by the name of Ossawald Crumb? Actually Ossawald Crumb was the creation of Robert Stearns. Through his creator's paintings and stories that were published in small booklets Ossawald went on to become a local legend. Whatever you do if you happen to see him, don't let on to Ossawald that he is fictitious as I'm sure he would have an argument to the contrary. From what I have read about the venerable Ossawald Crumb I can tell you that he was the first white settler to establish a permanent residence on the land now occupied by the City of Ludington. Now right off the top there will be some who will want to say that he was the first settler of European Descent as that would be the politically correct way to describe him in the twenty first century. If we were to relay his story in those terms I'm not sure we would have a story to tell. If there was one thing in the world that defined Ossawald or Ossie as he was called by his wife Minerva it would be his axe. Ossawald would carry his axe everywhere; it was with him at all times day or night. It was said that he was born with an axe in his hands, but this was disputed by he medical society of the day who denounced it as being untrue and impossible. As a baby Ossawald was kept in the soap kettle by his parents, one day he was mislaid by his mother and left in the woodshed. It was here that he found the family hatchet and promptly carved himself a comfortable crib out of a log. This could very well be the beginning of his love for the axe. According to the second volume of Ossawald Crumb published in 1937 "He loved his axe above all things of this world, more then the golfer loves his mashie, and he would fondle it as a mother would her baby." Ossawald did not care for firearms and was often heard extolling the virtues of the axe and crying out "Give me the Axe!" One night as he was loudly extolling the virtues of the axe in a speech at the church oyster social the guests also shouted, "Hear Hear Give him THE AXE!" That was he night that Ossawald tore his trousers climbing out the back window of the church. Ossawld came here in 1838 and set about setting up his camp, after a strange disappearance the following summer he returned with his bride and built his home on the site of the present day Stearns Hotel. When asked about the construction of the home Ossawald was quoted as saying "Women know what kind of house they want to live in, so let em build em!" Ossawld had a pet panther, he caught it one winter after trailing him 15 miles, as the story goes he might have had to trail him much farther except that the panther turned around to see who was after him and upon seeing that it was Ossawald Crum promptly gave up. Ossawald took him home, named him Horace and made a place for him in the woodshed. Horace however enjoyed the warmth of the woodstove and would like to sneak in to stretch out to warm himself in the kitchen. This proved disastrous for all concerned as one night Mrs. Crumb stepped on his tail and he bit her in the leg. Ossawald was very angry for he had to cook for five days in a row and afterwards poor Horace had to sleep under the corncrib. We have enough space to relate one more quick story about Ossawald's ability as a musician and his skill as a flute player. He had a unique technique and standing erect would use his arms as he played the flute giving the impression that he was trying to fly. Once while he and his wife [she played the Melodeon] were going to play for the Orpheus Society a mouse jumped out of his flute and into his whiskers. The poor mouse created quite a stir as two of the women seated in the front of Ossawald saw the mouse and went about flailing their arms and screaming loudly. Ossawald jumped directly into his selection of "The Mocking Bird" and calmed the audience. Ossawald was credited with averting a panic. "A panic in which all present may have been trodden underfoot, possibly burned to cinders from the overturning of a kerosene lamp that might have ignited the building and burned it to the ground." We have Robert Stearns to thank for the creation of Ossawald Crumb and the stories which comprise the life and times of this early pioneer whose fame certainly rivals that of Paul Bunyan and Ole Blue. Later this fall as a part of the Sesquicentennial Celebration you will have a rare opportunity to view Robert Stearn's paintings of Ossawald Crumb and I would heartily recommend that you take the time to view the show. If you have anything you would like to share with our readers feel free to contact me anytime. 231-757-3240 or email at davep@blackcreekpress.com

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