Hugh Matthews Survived Civil War POW Camp, Returning to Work & Raise His Family

Throughout the pages of the recently-released historical novel The Penny by Michigan author Stewert James, readers find intertwined storylines that bring generations of families and friends together during often difficult times. One of the more compelling stories, one that warrants a more in-depth look, is Hugh Matthews – James’ great-great-grandfather.

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Bridges to Michigan’s Past

If your interest in covered bridges dates back to the 1995 film “The Bridges of Madison County” with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, you’re not alone! It was shortly after seeing that romantic drama that I began researching Michigan’s historic covered bridges – of which just few still exist. Over the past 12 months or so, I made a point to visit a couple of these bridges that I had yet to see for myself (in person). It renewed my interest in these beautifully rustic structures and I am reworking my presentation of the same name to add to my portfolio and am even looking at publishing a book in the future with The History Press.

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FAREWELL TO BACHELORHOOD: Ernest Hemingway’s Wedding in Northern Michigan

It should come as no surprise that Ernest Hemingway chose northern Michigan as the setting for his first wedding. This rural countryside was his first real love, so it was fitting that he and his muse would begin their marriage alongside the towering trees and flowing rivers which shaped his life. This year – September 3 – marks the 100th anniversary of the marriage between Hemingway (at the time, a life-long summer resident on Walloon Lake) and Hadley Richardson.

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The American Robin Celebrates 90 Years as Michigan’s State Bird

A sure sign of spring…the return of the robins to Michigan! In April 1931, the American robin (Turdus migratorius) was chosen as Michigan’s official state bird – one of three to claim this red-breasted aviary as its state bird (the others are Connecticut and Wisconsin).

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For the Love of Michigan Libraries

The first library that I remember in my hometown of Plainwell was inside 335 East Bridge Street (now a private home). My recollections are vague, but cloudy visions of story time are tucked in the back corner of my mind. I recall being jealous of my classmate Susan who later lived in the house…how lucky was she to reside inside a former library!

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Tragedy on South Manitou Island

Lighthouse keeper Aaron Sheridan was a Civil War soldier who lost the use of his arm in battle and as such, he was able to get his wife — Julia — appointed his assistant keeper oft his important beacon in the norther part of Lake Michigan. Given his injuries, when he needed to make the trip across the waters to the mainland, Aaron would often hire a local fisherman named Christ Ancharson to man the 25-foot Mackinaw sailboat. During such a trip, on Friday, March 15, 1878, high waves and bad weather overturned the boat just as it was approaching the harbor on South Manitou Island. Sadly, the Sheridans — including their infant son, Robert — died that day.

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Detroit’s Lost Mamajuda Lighthouse

One of Michigan’s many lost lighthouses – which boasted a female keeper for 11 years – also has ties to one of the state’s most significant figures in American history. The Mamajuda Lighthouse was built in 1849 (and rebuilt in 1866) in the Detroit River. The last keeper served there in 1921 and by the 1950s, the light had toppled into the water (which today covers the island). All is lost to time…but the history remains!

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Keweenaw Peninsula’s Unofficial Female Lighthouse Keeper, Henrietta Bergh

Over the past 170-plus years, women have been serving as lighthouse keepers in Michigan…sometimes officially recognized by the U.S. Lighthouse Service and sometimes not. Such is the case with Hansine Henrietta (Anderson) Bergh in Bete Gris. While she didn’t work at the official lighthouse she was known to hang a lantern in the window of her house so that her husband and other fishermen could find their way back home after dark. This story includes information gathered from her great great granddaughter, Nora Dee.

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