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Mason County Memories


"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus" ~ Mark Twain


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



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Local History Books

Last week we explored some of the local history texts that have been published in the past and we are going to continue along that vein this week as well. Often local texts are in a limited edition and some times few examples survive the tests of time.

One text that I quote from on occasion is " Sand Sawdust and Sawlogs" by Francis Caswell Hanna. She was deeply interested in local history and put together an early history of the Ludington area in time for the centennial celebration in 1955. The book was self published It's hard to say how many copies were sold or given away but it appears that there are not that many copies available today outside of the Library and the research room at White Pine Village. It is also available online at . http://ludingtonmichigan.net/sandsawdust.htm

Every attempt by an author to interpret our local history adds to our understanding and enriches us with new perspectives

As we review these wonderful old texts, and some newer ones as well, if you happen to have copies gathering dust please keep in mind that the local Library and White Pine Village are good repositories for these texts and would be in a place that people can access and enjoy them. If you are also aware of any other histories whether unpublished or published, of any aspect of Mason County History please contact me so that I might include them. The following is quoted from Francis Caswell Hanna's book " Sand Sawdust and Sawlogs"

"Public school education in Ludington took a forward step in 1875 when the school board employed as superintendent, John N. Foster of Lansing.

"The crude Sawdust Avenue school house where the aristocratic Sarah Melendy and the gentle Catalina Mitchell (Mrs. Fred Dowland) had opened up the world of knowledge to the resisting youth of the community, housed the typical district school of retarded boys, spelling bees and McGuffey Readers.

"Mrs. Dowland told of finding live frogs in her desk (compliments of Peter Glassmire, prominent Manistee attorney in later years). Items in the Record indicate the school was like many others that became famous in song and story.

"One of the pioneer women teachers was obliged to go to the school board for help in disciplining the big boys. One teacher decided to give an "exhibit,' and visitors were mildly startled at some of the information given by the "scholars:"

"Teacher: What state do you live in?

Little Girl: British America.

Teacher: What is the capital of this state?

Another Little Girl: Maine.

Teacher: Who ruled this country 99 years ago?

Third Little Girl: The Pere Marquette Lumber Company."

"Since the lumber industry moved here from New England, close neighbors to "British America," and many Ludington residents of that day came from Maine, and for years the Pere Marquette Lumber Company was the only large industry here, one must admit the little girls were developing powers of observation. Of such was District 3 of Pere Marquette Township which embraced the same territory that is now included in Union District 1 of the City of Ludington.

"John N. Foster the first superintendent came to Ludington directly from the Reform School at Lansing, later the State Industrial School, where for two years he had been assistant superintendent. Discipline held an important place in the educational set up of that day. Mr. Foster's first report published at the close of the school year in 1876 gives his clear-cut ideas of the requirements of a public school system.

"The high school had been accredited to some higher institutions of learning, but not the state university which required an additional year of study. The library of 35 volumes would soon begin to grow under his expert guidance. "Prof." Foster had prepared his first class here for graduation when Luther H. Foster was assassinated. The commencement exercises were postponed (Foster was a member of the school board) and never took place.

"The shocking murder of Luther Foster brought benumbing tragedy to the peaceful little town as well as to the school. Awakening in the night to find a prowler in their room, Mrs. Foster heard her husband exclaim, "You rascal! " The intruder fled and Foster, grasping a revolver, followed. Under a young maple at the corner of Main (Gaylord Avenue) and Court Streets, the burglar fired, and Foster dropped. Mrs. Foster, who had followed her husband, found him still breathing, but he died in her arms unable to speak. The crime remains unsolved.

"John N. Foster, for all his severity-a quality not disapproved in a school man of the 1870's-was an educator of high rank and accomplishment. Ludington schools progressed during his superintendency. He set for them a standard that demanded progress. With Luther Foster and other education-minded men on the board, the schools moved forward under the first superintendent 's efforts. Testing them by the leadership they produced, the schools of the seventies were excellent."

If you have any stories or photographs you would like to share with our readers please feel fret o contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com

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