I grew up in a very rural area of Northern Lower Michigan (near Petoskey, Michigan). When I was young, I was very influenced by my maternal grandfather (Elmer G. Wurst) who was an amateur genealogist and historian. Elmer lived in Northern Michigan his entire life (until his death at 88 in 2004), and had an amazing knowledge of people and events in that area!
Perhaps there is a historian / genealogist gene, because I also have a great interest in history. I anticipated my grandfather’s death and always wanted to somehow capture his knowledge - unfortunately I was too shy and inexperienced to ever formally interview him and record our conversations (a mistake I greatly regret!).
Luckily, two local schoolgirls outdid me! These two were researching the history of Brutus, Michigan for a school project. On March 12th, 2002, they interviewed grandpa and recorded their conversation. (Their names are Kayla Williams and Donna Steward, along with their teacher, Sally Smith). While I was at home this Christmas 2008 my mother (Janet Trowbridge) showed me the tape which she had kept. I transferred it to the computer and - thought I’d put it up here on the blog, the better to share the information with my family (interested in Elmer Wurst), and others who are interested in the history of Northern Michigan.
Listen to the interview (57min)
It’s a bit hard to make out everything at speed, so (for my own curiosity and your benefit!) I created a transcript. You’ll understand much more if you read along with the interview.
Interview regarding history of Brutus, MI and specifically its train depot.
- Date: March 12th, 2002
- Location: dining room of EW’s house…
- Students: Kayla Williams and Donna Steward
- SS: Sally Smith, teacher at Alanson Middle School
- EW: Elmer Wurst
- JT: Janet Trowbridge, Elmer Wurst’s daughter
Audible in background:
- EW’s finch.
- Scanner (EW loved to listen to the local authorities’ radio discussions.)
My mother emailed me these details about the interview
The 2 girls names were Kayla Williams (my cousin, Bruce Johansen’s step-daughter) & Donna Stewart. Their teacher was Sally Smith. They had to give an oral report in front of their class and I’m not sure what they did at the Waterfront Museum in Petoskey. They probably had to do something. It was a pretty big assignment for the whole class & I’m sure took the whole marking period to put it together. I’ll try to find out how to get in tough with Mrs. Smith & get back with you with more details.
His bird was a finch and yes it did chirp constantly. One can actually hear the ambiance of his house, can’t you? Also, I think the scanner went off a couple times. Brings back lots of memories.
I’ll try to find the picture of the girls with their train station soon & send it to you.
— 0:00 START TRANSCRIPT —
Students: This is Kayla Williams and Donna Steward. We are interviewing Mr. Elmer Wurst, who grew up in Michigan, Brutus Michigan. Today is March 12th, 2002.
SS: You wanna start with your questions, ladies?
Student: Um, I was wondering - like - do you know any important facts that happened in Brutus?
EW: (Pauses) … well (laughs) … I wasn’t there when the Purple Inn burnt, but I was there for a while when it was goin’.
Student: Do you know, like, if there was any bombings or anything?
EW: Well, uh, that one time there was a, they built a catholic church in there, and the first day they were supposed to have a service in it, lightning hit it and burned it down.
— 1:00m —
SS: Oh my god!
EW: (laughter) And they never rebuilt it, never tried anything again - that was the end of it!
SS: And this was the catholic church?
Student: Do you know anything about the Mennonites that came to Brutus?
EW: yeah, first they came up in here, in this country right up here, around Ayr, and then they went over to the Mennonite settlement over there, east of brutus.
— 2:00m —
SS: You mentioned that you knew about the Purple Inn when it was running. Were any of the relatives … sorry, you two ladies, if I’m interjecting once in a while… were the original families still operating it when you knew about it?
EW: Yeah, Mrs. Perfore (?) was there. See he was the sherriff, and ugh, he got shot back in 1922 and died. And then she ran the Inn there, the rest of the time that I was there, in ‘34, and then she moved in to Petoskey from there. And she was … well, she was in that … buliding right in there by the tennis courts - you go up on top of the hill, way up on top of the hill … well, the tennis courts ain’t there any more!!
SS: Well that’s ok. You mean, her house?
EW: No, she started one in there.
SS: Oh, she did!
EW: Yeah, uh huh.
SS: Oh, my goodness.
— 3:00m —
EW: Yeah, this is … (indicating map) … that’s the inn there … that’s the depot.
SS: Oh, my goodness, look at that folks … oh, how wonderful!
SS: Did she have, were there children? Did the Purples have children? There was Nelly, and then, Will?
Ok, you know more than …
EW: Uh - what the heck was? Mitchley was their father, and he lived with them, and he lived to be over a hundred years old. I never knew him, uh, but I knew of him.
— 4:00m —
Students: Do you know how, do you know how Mrs. Purple died?
Ew: No … no, uhh, she died … just about the time the (‘cut off in Petoskey there’) … (‘moved the tennis courts over by the bridge’ - guess) … she died just about then … my wife was working at her place.
SS: How many meals did they serve, when your wife was working there … was there, like three meals?
EW: I don’t think they had boarders there.
SS: They did not have borders?
EW: I don’t think so … they could have had, but I don’t know of any of them.
SS: So it was primarily run as a restaurant then?
— 5:00m —
EW: yeah, but it was a little bit exclusive
SS: Ohh, see that’s what I thought … so it was exclusive?
EW: Yeah, the Burt Lake resorters would come in there a lot.
SS: Very interesting … the Burt Lake resorters … then, when Mrs. Purple served as the hostess, I guess you would say, for the inn - see, we’re going to do costumes at the museum …
SS: And I was trying to think of … of course it would still be turn of the century … and I was wondering if she dressed up, or if she wore an apron, of if there were any colors to her and her wait staff?
EW: Gosh, I couldn’t tell you. (laughs)
SS: Ok, I just wondered …
EW: No, I couldn’t … they all dressed up though …
SS: They all dressed up.
EW: Yeah, they all dressed up. Uh … but they were all well dressed, and served like … were serving rich people.
— 6:00m —
SS: What were some of their favorite meals, or specialities, I should say?
EW: I couldn’t tell you that! (laughs)
SS: We got one recipie from Jan Smith at Stanford’s for a ‘Purple Inn’ … was is Huckleberry?
Students: Yeah, Huckleberry cake.
EW: Yeah, that could be.
SS: I just didn’t know if there were any others specials, people would go to the Purple Inn, for you know, like they go to Bob’s Place for … roast …
Students: There’s umm .. she made Chicken dinners for a dollar a plate.
EW: Ya, yeah, she made Chicken dinners, and fish … and she used to sell a lot of Indian baskets too … the Indians sold her a lot of baskets.
SS: That’d be quill baskets too, or just the … ?
EW: Yeah, quill and reed baskets.
SS: Oh good, quill and the reed baskets … oh, that’s great. And the Inn was purple?
— 7:00m —
EW: No! It was brown!
SS: It was brown! Ohhh, ok, that’s what I wondered.
Students: Oh, on the internet it said it was painted purple.
SS: It did say that it was purple.
Janet Trowbridge (daughter of EW): Oh my goodness! Well, that’s just their name, right?
SS: Oh, well, there we go, we’re clarifying.
EW: Yeah, that was their name, ya.
SS: So, do you know if there were any … when you say that it was the wealthy people from Burt Lake that came … were there any other famous people you know of that may of attended, the Purple Inn?
EW: (sighs) Gosh - I don’t know, probably, there must have been, because there was some real, big names out there, in the Burt Lake.
SS: Ok, so maybe in the Burt lake community … (to students) Go ahead … I’ve kind of taken over, and I didn’t mean to…
— 8:00m —
Students: This may be out of our way or anything, but do you know any of the major imports or exports that they had? Or did they not have them back then?
EW: Well, they made broom handles … uh, they had a regular handle mill there. And they done a lot of lumbering … potatoes … they had a pickle factory there, they made pickles. And they sent a lot of potatoes to Ohio … uh, Israel Eby was one of the Mennonites, and he bought a truck to start hauling … down south, and he got kicked out of the church for, (laughs) driving a truck!
SS: Oh for driving a truck, that’s interesting, (to students) did you hear that?
— 9:00m —
SS: How interesting! And he’d go all the way to Ohio? With his potatoes. And this was a Mr. Eby? Is this Silas?
SS: (to students) Is there a Silas? Cyrus, maybe? Cyrus.
EW: Yeah, there’s a Cyrus Eby. Cyrus Eby is … two miles north, and half a mile east, of there … the old Eby farm over there.
SS: Ok. So Israel (to students) just like the country. Israel Eby. And he got kicked out of the church for doing that. See, those are fun stories. (laughs) Not for Mr. Eby, but…
EW: They didn’t believe in anything modern, at all. They was, at that time, they was … nothing modern. They couldn’t drive a car, they coulnd’t have a tractor … anything. … Amos Gregory - almost got kicked out - they changed, just about the time he made himself a homemade tractor …
— 10:00m —
EW: (laughs) They didn’t like that at all!
SS: Are you girls clear on what the Mennonites believe?
Students: Pretty much, I think.
SS: Because I think Mr. Wurst would know a lot about that too.
EW: They … they moved from up in this neighborhood, and, uh, went over there, and … well, we used to pick up cream over there - my dad worked for a cream station in Petoskey - and we used to pick up cream all through there, and well, that was in ‘27, and we used to pick up a lot of cream over there. And, all the way down … well that would probably be another product that was sold as cream.
EW: Or butter.
— 11:00m —
SS: Ahh, there’s a picture at the Alanson depot with the cream buckets out front.
Students: Umm, do you know the Brutus’s true colors? Like … when I was first … umm? The depot?
EW: (laughs) Well, same as in Alanson, it was the color green.
SS: It was sort of an Army green?
SS: And it did have red trim, by any chance?
EW: I don’t think so.
SS: It was just all green?
EW: It was a darker green trim then the [main body color].
SS: So it was different shades of green?
EW: Um hmm.
Students: What about the roof?
EW: That was wood shingles.
SS: Oh, wood shingles? So it would have been cedar?
SS: Cedar shingles, which would have been a brown color?
EW: Yeah, everything was cedar shingles them days.
SS: That’s right (to students), and I will have to explain it to you.
— 12:00m —
SS: That they’re wood instead of today … today we have asphalt, right, asphalt, and another new fabric out for shingles … I want to say, fiberglass …
EW: Yeah, fiberglass, and then (unintelligible) … they might of had some … I don’t know, they might of had, they didn’t have tar on the roofs at all. But … I, yes, the Smiths had a shingle mill - so they made shingles right there.
SS: So they made cedar shingles … they just cut cedar shingles at Smith’s mill (to students) are you aware of Smith’s mill?
EW: Schmidt, Schmidth
SS: S C H M I D T ?
SS: (to students) You might ask a question about Hinkley’s?
EW: Oh, that was the handle mill. I think … I’m not sure about it, but I think that that, uh … (indicating on map) yeah, it must … I think that this was probably Hinkley’s house there, that’s … uh …
— 13:00m —
SS: Right here?
SS: Ok … (to students) Do you have this picture here? … And then the depot?
EW: Yeah, the depot was down to the end down here … the depot was right, to the … right there.
SS: Oh, I see, and this was Purple Inn?
— 14:00m —
SS: Oh my.
EW: And this was Wagley’s store … this was … Wagley was, well, they were probably some of the first people in Northern Michigan. They had a sawmill, and they had a boat in Cross Village. And … uh, in fact, he used the boat to go to Beaver Island, when they kicked the Mormans off … or, not the Mormans, but King Strang off of the island …
[JT: notes that the full name of the store owner was ‘Lynn Wagley’]
SS: King Strang, oh my goodness! (to students) I’m sorry … [I’m] talking too much, go ahead?
Students: Umm, did the Hinkley brothers own the Butter bowl? (?)
EW: Yeah, in Alanson … I don’t think they had a Butter bowl mill in Brutus … maybe they did? I wouldn’t say for sure.
— 15:00m —
Students: We’re going to have to check over our internet stuff.
SS: We have found some problems with things on the internet … with the wrong location, we had to have it verified by the museum - who was not happy with … of course, incorrect information … it wasn’t done by the museum, but somebody else. See that’s why these interviews are so priceless.
EW: Uh … all that was there when I remember, was just a big sawdust pile (?) … a sawdust pile as big as this house. That was all I ever seen of …
— 16:00m —
SS: Did sawdust piles that tall sometimes catch fire?
EW: Yeah, I imagine that them was hauled away for bedding and stuff like that, because it dissapeared, and I never seen any more of it.
SS: That was the end of it.
SS: (to students) You were asking about the Butter bowl, the Butter bowl mill? Good!
Students: Do you know any other businesses that were up there?
EW: (sighs) No, they had a sawmill there … that cut lumber. ‘Cause where my grandfather’s built their new house, why they hauled logs down there to the sawmill … one tree built the whole house!
SS: Oh my! One, did you hear that, one tree!
Students: That was ours.
SS: That was yours?!
Students: No, that … our house was like that too.
SS: Built by one tree, with one tree? Isn’t that fascinating?
— 17:00m —
EW: They sold two logs off from, besides that, to the sawmill … uh, they couldn’t even get them in the door to the sawmill - so, they drilled a hole in ‘em, put a stick of dynamite in to ‘em, and blowed ‘em all to pieces!
JT: Oh my goodness!
EW: And then, the other log … well, they made the hole bigger, so they’d get the log in!
SS: Oh my gosh!
EW: But it was a tree that was in a difficult place to get to, and if they cut it, it was going to go down into Maple river … awful steep bank … now, how my grandfather got it out, I don’t know, but it went … two 16-foot logs, and then it branched, and they cut four sixteen foot logs out of the branches! So it must have been a monster of a tree.
— 18:00m —
EW: And the whole Mennonite settlement over there was … great big pine trees. I don’t know … (to daughter Janet) Are there still stumps over there? … Hard to know, you’d have to go down by Gregory’s?
JT: Down by Gregory’s? Like south from the Dam site?
EW: Yeah. That’d be the first tract (unintelligible).
JT: Well, I don’t know … (laughs) I don’t know! … if I remember seeing any stumps, I’m not really sure… You mean all those open fields were trees? Were woods?
EW: Yeah, oh yeah. I don’t know how they ever planted anything in where those pine stumps were.
JT: Oh my gosh!
— 19:00m —
EW: Yeah, them were great big monster stumps like that, and … of course, pine doesn’t rot very fast, and they was hard to get out! (laughs)
SS: (to students) Other questions?
Students: I, like, have a question, but I’m, kinda like, not too sure about it?
SS: What’s it have to do with?
Students: I have no clue!
SS: Okay …
EW: What is it?
JT: Spit it out!
Students: Um … do you like, in Brutus, do you know how people acted towards each other? Like …
— 20:00m —
SS: The personality of the community, what people were like.
EW: It was all … they all seemed friendly, yeah, it was all friendly … Uh, when I was up there in ‘34, I stayed with my grandfolks for two years … and, uh - everybody went to the store pretty near every night, and sat there, and talked … and (laughs) … they had a … it was real friendly.
SS: The Brutus school only went to the fourth grade?
EW: At that time, yeah.
SS: I see.
— 21:00m —
Students: Umm, didn’t one of the Brills used to, like, own one of the halfway houses or something like that (unintelligible)?
EW: Yeah, yeah … uh, it was, let’s see, (to daughter Janet) What’s that road past (unintelligible)’s up there?
JT: Maple River Road
EW: Yeah, Maple River Road … after you cross the river where the gold course is now.
JT: Where the … what’s that called, the new one?
EW: Yeah, the new golf course.
JT: It’s past the three cornered stone church, turn right off the highway, and you go down over the river, and that … I don’t know what that new golf course is …
Students: Isn’t it like hidden river or something?
SS: Hidden Valley? No?
(laughter, more names)
EW: But you see the stagecoach road used to come from Harbor,
— 22:00m —
… and it’d go through there and it went through the school forest over here, in back of Alanson, by the cemetery, and then it went up, and went across by Schmidt’s, and turned north, and there’s still a piece of road that … after you cross Brutus road, that’s called ‘stagecoach road’ and, it crossed down through Brill’s, and it crossed the river … and they a stop, a layover there …
EW: And my grandparents ran it for a year or so up there, the stagecoach stop, on the way to Cheboygan. And, that’s probably, that’s probably the last time it run, was when they …
— 23:00m —
SS: They operated it. And were they Wursts also?
EW: No, they was Burgesses.
SS: Burgesses, B U R … B U R G E S
EW: S S
SS: Oh, Burgess! Ok, sure - isn’t there a Burgess road?
EW: Out by … Sturgeon Bay …
SS: Yeah! I’ve seen a Burgess … isn’t that funny, I can see the sign …
EW: No, not Sturgeon Bay, Bay Shore.
SS: Bay Shore, Ok.
Students: Do you know of any forms of entertainment that was on the train?
EW: That was on the train? (laughs) Nope … there was a lot of trains, though! When I was up … it could be as high as … one every hour.
EW: Goin’ one way or the other.
— 24:00m —
SS: And were they all passenger trains, or?
EW: No - well, there were passenger trains, and then they’d have freight trains too. See, they hauled all the Iron Ore and stuff on the train, after the lakes started freezing. Well they was all pulled by train … there was 40 cars to a train.
SS: Right … (to students) you have that down? (Unintelligible) (to EW) So sorry … And you said Iron Ore, coming from Mackinaw?
EW: No, coming from up across the Straights.
SS: So, I’m trying to figure out the route … so if it went through Brutus?
EW: Eh, it came all the way across the lake, from up in the straights … there was a boat that hauled the …
SS: Wawanum (?) … (to students) that’s what you need to know … and I’ve got the book at school … the Wawanum then would load the Iron ore on to a train …
— 25:00m —
EW: Well, no they’d go clear from … (to JT) where is that from, Kevin? (Your humble transcriptionist, KT, son of JT, grandson of EW - I went to college in Houghton, MI, in the Keweenaw Penninsula.)
JT: Where Kevin is? The Keweenaw peninsula? So they’d come down Lake Superior …
SS: The train would?
JT: The boat.
EW: Well, no - up in the wintertime…
JT: Oh, the train…
SS: The train would come all the way from Lake Superior?
SS: With Iron Ore … (to students) are you writing this down, ladies? (laughter) This is really good! This is the first we’ve come across … (to students) did you read this anywhere?
SS: Okay … they’ve been doing a super job, by the way! I just thought … maybe that got away from me. (to students) All the way from the Keweenaw peninulsa, they would haul Iron ore!
Students: How do you spell that?
SS: IRON, and then ‘Ore’
(general laughter, EW especially)
SS: K, double E, W A N A U, isn’t it? No?
JT: There’s a W E in it.
SS: There’s a W? You all would no more than I would …
— 26:00m —
SS: (to students) N A W
Students: Do you know what this is for?
SS: We keep seeing this on roofs! With the ladder … and the little steps?
EW: Well, that was probably … uh … whether they had stops there or not?
SS: Was this a sign?
EW: That’s a sign, yeah.
SS: Okay, and so they would have to change that sign?
EW: Mmm hmm … they had …
SS: And that would tell you?
EW: Gonna stop, or go, or whether they had passengers or not. At that time, you could take the can or cream down anyplace to the railroad tracks, and they’d stop and pick it up.
SS: Oh, a can of cream.
SS: (to students) Go for you, reading that. See, we’ve been all looking at those (unintelligible) steps and we thought that maybe was to change the sign, but sometimes the steps would be there, and there’d be no sign, so we were sort of confused.
EW: And sometimes they had the, uh … (to JT) you get it?
— 27:00m —
JT: Yeah, Keweenaw … K E W … okay … two Es … N A W … spelled, K E W E E N A W.
(girlish laugh from students)
SS: Oh, it’s Whee! Key - wee - naw!
EW: Yeah, Kee - Whee …
SS: Okay … so the trains would come through with the Iron Ore … and you were asking, you know … what other products passed through? It would be mostly the Iron Ore during the winter months.
EW: Yeah … and they hauled cream outta there.
SS: And the cream.
SS: Another one that’s fascinating…
EW: Yeah, they hauled a lot of cream … what was that … cedar … cedar valley?
— 28:00m TAPE FLIPS —
SS: The … umm, (to students) do you wanna ask about … I don’t wanna ask … do you have any more questions? What about … the passenger? Go ahead.
Students: It’s not really a question, but it’s something Mr. Woodrove told us … he, and a couple kids from our kids interviewed him for Oden … he thought that the steps on our roof was for mail? Do you know if that was also a possibility for it, like … do you know if?
EW: They’d keep right on going without stopping!
EW: Yeah … they had a hanger there that they hung a mailbag on. And they’d just stick out an arm (creak of chair, presumably miming motion) and snatch her right in!
SS: Just had to remember to let go!
Students: So they just like, stuck it out, while the train was moving?
EW: Yeah, yup. They used to do that alot, actually …
SS: That wouldn’t be on that same sign … that would be on a separate hook?
— 29:00m —
EW: Yeah, yeah, that would be a hook.
SS: A separate hook that would come out. (to students) Do you want to ask about the passenger pigeons?
Students: Do you know if the passenger pigeons were up there or not? Around in there?
EW: No, I lived a little far north for the passenger pigeons … uhh, passenger pigeons was more in by, uh … oh, you know where Petoskey Sands is …
EW: Yeah … in there … in that country was where the passenger pigeons was.
SS: Okay, sort of on that state road, or by the Petoskey park, state park.
EW: Yeah, yeah. They killed thousands of those … just barrels of tham.
SS: We read … one train called 450 thousand … that was not unusual for it to be like that (unintelligible).
EW: Right - they didn’t even stop to cut their heads off! They bit their heads off!
— 30:00m —
JT: That’s not a nice thing to record!
EW: Yeah - they’d capture them things, and they’d bite their heads off, and throw ‘em in the barrel.
Student: Woo!! That’s something I didn’t need to know!
SS: We’re gonna tell the girls from … we have a Kegomic depot … by the tannery … wouldn’t that be from around the same area, or no?
EW: Yeah … that’d be the same …
SS: Interesting fact for them! Oh my goodness!
Students: Oh the internet site … did they, um, punch out their eyes also? Like, punch out their eyes.
EW: I don’t know about that …
SS: Was that on the internet?
Students: Yeah - well, actually it came out of that passenger pigeon book.
SS: Oh really … that’s might be … that was the one from the historical society.
EW: It’s entirely possible!
Students: It’s nasty!
SS: Ohh … yes!
— 31:00m —
EW: Well, they was … they was a lot of passenger pigeons … they said the sky was black! They couldn’t see hardly.
Students: For hours.
SS: Yes, one report says they had to light their lanterns … because at one point, one day, the sky got so dark.
Students: Ok, so they just like … like … bit their heads off, like … did they even think?
SS: How did they grab them, you mean? They were that approachable?
EW: Yeah, they would take them out of the net.
SS: Ohh … now where were these nets … you mean, they had these big nets?
EW: Yeah, that they shot … they’d wait till they landed, and then they’d shoot these nets out over them, and catch them, and then they’d get in there, and grab them just as fast as they could.
SS: So were the nets shot out, like a gun?
EW: Well, it was … I don’t really know how they … I think it was …
SS: I wonder how they did it? I thought they shot them out of the sky, but no.
— 32:00m —
SS: Oh my …
EW: It was netting.
SS: (to students) Ok, I’m sorry ladies … go ahead.
Students: (amongst selves) They didn’t go through our depot … oh yeah.
SS: Train lines, is that what you were going to ask?
Student: No, she was thinking about the double train.
Student: Umm … how many railroad lines were there going through our depot?
Student (amongst selves): Three.
Student (amongst selves): Just makin’ sure.
EW: I think there was only one there in (Brutus?). Uhh … there was a spur off of the side of it … I think one of them pictures has got a uh …
Student: One of the pictures has it, and it looks like there’s three of them.
EW: Yeah … see, there’s a train off in back of the depot … and the tracks actually went in front of the depot.
SS: Did uh … we have had a lot of talk about … in our research about the dummy train. Did the dummy train come to Brutus, that you know of? We have the answers to that, we think.
— 33:00m —
EW: Yeah, I think it went all the way to Mackinac … but not all the time.
SS: So when it went to Mackinac would it automatically make a stop in Brutus? Not necessarily.
EW: Well, if there was somebody on it that wanted to get off, yeah.
SS: So they could have just swung it around, and backed it up?
EW: Uh … I don’t think them things even turned around … I think they’d … go to Harbor Springs, and then back up to the Tannery, and then go off towards Brutus … I know they went to Conway, and uh … the first railroad went as far as Conway, pulled by horses.
SS: And were those wood rails?
SS: Okay …
Students: (overwhelmed sound)
— 34:00m —
SS: They’re getting organized over here … actually they’re very organized, I’m real pleased.
Students: This may be out of proportion but, um, do you have any idea of how many people would work at the depot? Like, an estimate?
EW: I don’t think there was very many worked at the depot in Brutus, maybe two.
SS: Two? Telegraph operator?
EW: Yeah, and the depot agent.
SS: I’m sorry, what was that?
EW: Agent … they called him the depot agent. Yeah. He uh, took care of the mail, and stuff like that … stuff that went in and out of the train.
SS: Oh! (to students) See, there you go, that answered what his job was.
— 35:00m —
SS: That he would … oversee the mail, and what went in and out of the trains.
EW: Uh huh, they would load it on wagons … and, um, I remember when … after what, William Lagley (?) died, why the Evanses … took care of it, and there wasn’t even an agent there then, I don’t believe, in the depot, but they had … a four-wheeled wagon that they hauled back and forth and took care of the mail, and that stuff. And uh …
Student: (looking at notebook) Oh, I think we know that one … (to EW) Um, how did communication take place, like, between cities.
— 36:00m —
EW: They had telephone, uh, there’s still a Brutus telephone, still owned (laughs) by the separate community … uh, but they was telephones all over, I can remember telephone poles …
EW: Yeah, we had a crank telephone here, for a long while … and, uh … in fact this one (refering to telephone in EW’s house), uh, was put in privately, and uh, run to the bottom, well - pretty-near-to Conway … and then they sold it to Bell telephone company, for a dollar (laughs) … and this is the only Petoskey phone …
SS: Oh my gosh!
EW: At that time, it was the only phone around here …
Student 1: Do you know why our depot was placed where it is?
Student 2: We believe it was because of lumber, but …
— 37:00m —
EW: Yeah, well, it was lumber, and that’s where a little town was … and, well, wherever the service went, was where they … they was, they was good on service! The depots, the trains was excellent, gave excellent service! And they run strictly on time, they was right on the minute … you could depend on ‘em, you could set your clocks by ‘em.
Student: Do you, um, know how much a train ticket cost back then?
EW: We used to go from Petoskey to Brutus, or Alanson, for twenty-five cents. I think Alanson was fifteen.
[Gasps, folks are amazed by concept of inflation, EW laughs.]
— 38:00m —
Student: So back then, people, like didn’t get, like pay much, like, my mom said that about like, when my grandma was a kid, a loaf of bread cost three pennies.
EW: (thinks) We’d pay a dime for it, I don’t know … I don’t suppose I can remember it any cheaper than that, but we used to pay that for it.
Student: Like, do you know how much people made per hour?
EW: (sighs, reflects) Well, in 1929, before the depression hit, my dad was gettin’ a dollar, err, five dollars a day. And, before that was, that year was over, he was gettin’ three. (laughs) So, before, after, before that winter was over he was going and ridin’ to Cross Village in an open truck and shoveling show for three dollars an hour, err, day!
— 39:00m —
SS: Three dollars a day, shoveling snow!?
EW: Yeah … and, uh, it was a long cold trip, riding in an open truck! That was … ‘30, ‘31. They, uh … a dollar a day, they worked a long time doing it and got a dollar a day.
Student: When did you move to Brutus, or did you not move to Brutus?
EW: I was born in Brutus!
Student: Oh, you were born in Brutus?
EW: I was born in Brutus on Red School Road, right by the …
Students: (cute laugh/gasp) That’s where I live! Do you know Bruce Johansen?
Student: He’s your uncle, or, you were his uncle?
EW: Yeah, ya, ya.
Student: He’s my stepdad.
— 40:00m —
EW: Okay! (realizes he is related to this child) We know each other then.
SS: See, there you go!
EW: Yeah, they was some of the first people … that’s the house that was built from that one tree. [See discussion near 16:00.] And uh …
Student: That house is an historical landmark!
EW: It’s over a hundred years old! Um, they had a log house behind that one that they built first, and I don’t know whether mine was, where I was born was a log house or not … but my aunt was born there too, when they first came.
— 41:00m —
EW: She was born there in, 1884, and I was born there in, 1915 … so, that house was (coughing) for a long time!
SS: And were you a second generation, uh, Brutus community member, or … ?
EW: Yeah, uh, third …
EW: Yeah, my dad was born there, and I was born there.
SS: So they came quite early?
EW: Oh yeah, they came in ‘83.
EW: Yeah, they bought that farm …
SS: In 1883.
SS: Which is only ten years after the first train went to Petoskey.
EW: Yeah, ya - and on the Burgess side of the family, they came in, uh, let’s see - 1844.
SS: Oh my god.
— 42:00m —
EW: They came to, uh, southern Michigan … (to JT) what the heck was that? (Unintelligible) Woodstone, Woodland? (laughs) I couldn’t tell you where it is right now. But, uh, then they came north in ‘76 - that was Kilpatricks at that time - he came north in 1876 - and, lived over winter, with an indian family in Cross Village, in a house that had no floor in it, a dirt floor. And he went out to the, uh, the lake - Wycamp lake - and built a log house over winter, and then they moved out there in the spring. And he was the first supervisor of Bliss township.
SS: Oh, there you go - of Bliss?
— 43:00m —
Student: Um, this has been on my mind for a while. Earlier, didn’t you say that, um, the Mennonites, like, didn’t like the idea of people driving trucks, so they kicked them of the church or whatever?
EW: Umm hmm.
Student: Was it still like that when you were there?
EW: Most of ‘em, most of ‘em was driving horses yet. Uh, but it was just about that time, they changed, from a - (to JT) whatever they call ‘em - Mennonites out in …
JT: Old order?
EW: Yeah, the old order into the, newer order. Then, when they started tractors they was glad to have (unintelligible) tractors! (laughs) Right now … but they, uh, they still wear their old …
JT: Well, the old order people left.
EW: Well, they didn’t really leave, but they just - died off.
JT: (laughs) Because Menno always talked about …
— 44:00m —
EW: Well Menno was a younger …
EW: He was a younger generation.
JT: Yeah, he was the young generation, and he started going to that different church, up on the hill.
EW: Yeah, well they went up there on the hill all the time. That was the first church.
JT: The old order was up there?
EW: Oh yeah!
JT: But then … ?
EW: But, uh, his dad was the old order, and Harvey Brubaker was the new order.
SS: (to students) Write ‘Harvey Brubaker, old order’ (laughs) ‘cause some of those names were mentioned in a book - (to EW) well, you’re in the book! You’re in the book!
EW: Yeah (laughs) - and, uh, oh gosh, they was Ebys, Brubakers, Burkharts, Gregorys, uh Martin … uh … gosh, they was … uh, there was quite a bunch of them there!
— 45:00m —
JT: The Snyders?
EW: Snyders! Snyders was there. His folks … uh, see my grandparents come over here in ‘83, and there was ten families come over at the same time as them.
SS: And from where?
EW: From Germany.
SS: So that was a strong German …
EW: Oh yeah, that was a German, well pretty-near all the Mennonites was German too.
SS: That’s what I am!
EW: Well, the Wursts was right in there close - Wurtzberg (?) is … right there.
SS: Ooh! Okay.
— 46:00m —
EW: In fact, where Jason, er Kevin was, there, why it’s just up the valley, there, it goes right in to that.
JT: Yeah, he’d gone up into the German part of Switzerland (unintelligible) - he took Jason up there, and they went camping up in the mountains.
EW: Uh, they was, Wurst, and Clinks, and Kuglers, Shriers, uh, Kueblers …
SS: Oh Kueblers, now is that the same Kiebler that’s in Petoskey?
SS: K U E B L E R
EW: Yeah, yeah.
SS: I just wonder, ‘cause that’s the Kubler station, and they were over there, they ended up settling in Kegomic, actually.
EW: Well, that was just Ed.
EW: That was one of the boys.
SS: Oh, but the original ones …
EW: He was the same age as my father was.
— 47:00m —
EW: Yeah, and, uh, SYDOS.
SS: And how do you spell SYDO? S E Y?
JT: S Y.
EW: S E Y.
JT: No, S Y.
EW: Yeah, S Y.
[Not sure about the spelling of that name.]
EW: And uh …
EW: Yeah, well, the Buckhorns came later - they came in, uh, ‘bout ‘92.
EW: 1892. This is, uh, this is the Ayr school … some pictures that the (unintelligible) brought down. (to the schoolgirls) These are the kids that went to school, that school.
SS: Ohh, so like, the enrollment. Oh - (to students) see what that is? And there’s the dates.
— 48:00m —
SS: Umm, unfortunately, the girls do have to get going pretty soon - I’ve got mothers coming - but this has been so much - and so enjoyable! But I wanted to ask something, I’m very confused on something - maybe they (the schoolgirls) aren’t, but I am! (laughs) And that is the difference between Ayr, and Brutus? Are they?
EW: Just the distance.
SS: But they’re two different communities?
EW: Not really …
EW: They’re different communities, yeah, uh, but the Mennonites settled in Ayr first …
SS: Oh, I see.
EW: And then they built that church on top of the hill there.
EW: And they afterwards they moved out, and went over on the east side, and, uh, settled over there.
SS: Which would be Brutus?
— 49:00m —
JT: That’s the Dam Site Inn, that’s where those people were.
SS: That’s where most of Brutus … ?
EW: Uh huh.
JT: No, the Mennonites …
EW: The Mennonites settled.
JT: Are over there east of, the Dam Site Inn.
SS: Okay (to students) - do you know where the Dam Site is? Okay. So east of that … so this book on Ayr Community School, where you’re listed as one of the sources, is something they could look at as Brutus? Or …
EW: Yeah, well, Maple River.
SS: Maple River, ‘cause it says Maple River township, but then it has a Brutus telephone, and then there’s a map, and there’s Brutus, and then there’s Ayr … and so I was trying to establish for them, like the Brutus depot was specifically right in the heart of Brutus, and not what you would say was Ayr community.
EW: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
JT: When did the post office up here … when was it built, and when did it, uh, die?
— 50:00m —
EW: I don’t know - it was nothing but a pile of logs when I first come up here, in ‘37, and I can’t ever remember - we was here - we collected cream in ‘27 - and I don’t remember the post office being there then, so, uh, the post office must have moved out, just before that.
SS: And that post office would have been for Ayr.
SS: Not Brutus?
SS: Okay. And then, there’s Ayr community school - would students from Brutus go to Ayr community school? Or did they have their own school, Brutus school?
EW: They had their own school, in Brutus.
SS: In Brutus, ok.
— 51:00m —
EW: And Ayr had, see Ayr, Ayr school was built in 19 … no 18, uh, ‘bout 1884 or five, I think … a woman lived where the Ayr cemetary is now, on that piece of property, and she started teaching kids there. Before that, they had to go to the, uh, Pleasantview school, that was in, Tower and North Conway road.
EW: And uh, then when Ayr started up, why there was a lot of them, started going to Ayr school. Uh, and they, I think it was only one year that they stayed in her house, that she had school in her house, and then they moved to, uh, the Ayr school started, Ayr school, and uh, that was in … that was a home, and then they built this other school in 1906. So that school’s been there since 1906.
SS: (to students) Well we talked a lot of (unintelligible).
SS: This has been just wonderful - I think, the girls have gotten - you can see several pages of information! (laughs) And you were so generous to let us come, I wish we could stay longer! Although we don’t want to wear out our welcome either.
— 52:00m —
EW: Well, there’s some stuff about that … (unintelligible) uh, that you can take with you …
EW: I don’t care, you can take … some more of that kind of stuff … that’s more about (unintelligible) … you can take some of the pictures, you can take all the pictures with you if you want …
SS: … these are nice.
Student: Are these ballteen? [no idea what they’re talking about]
EW: Yeah, those are ballteen, and uh …
SS: Isn’t that fun?
SS: Well, thank you!
Student: Thank you so much!
EW: That’s ok. And this is, this is a map from Maple River so you can orientate yourself.
SS: So all of it was Maple River, is that right?
SS: All of it, so that’s why they … Maple River … clinic, so I thought … (unintelligible) the Maple River township!
EW: There, that’s just about …
SS: Is where that … clinic is?
— 53:00m —
EW: Oh, well that’s a good boundary, that’s easy for me to …
JT: Oh, the south boundary you mean?
EW: Yeah. And this road …
JT: This corner down here is a four-township intersection.
JT: We’re in Pleasantview.
SS: We’re in Pleasantview right now.
JT: We’re in Pleasantview, south is Little Traverse, and east is Littlefield, and west is Maple River.
SS: Oh boy, well …
— 53:35 TAPE RUNS OUT —
I corresponded with Sally Smith to make sure she had no objections with putting this interview online
Kevin Trowbridge 06/08/09:
Hi Mrs. Smith!
How are you these days? I was in your class once upon a time (well, a long time ago now, I graduated in 1998!) and remember you well …
A few weeks ago my mother gave me a tape of an interview you organized with my grandpa Wurst back in 2002, about the history of Brutus. I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed listening to it, and in fact I have transcribed it and placed it online, on my blog, so that I could share it with my cousins.
(And you can let me know having your conversation online bothers you at all, and I could take it down if necessary. But the blog format is useful for sharing it with my family and there is much to be gained from making things like this public.
Grandpa passed away in 2004 and—well, we really loved him and miss him—so anything that reminds us of him, is extremely valuable to us.
I also enjoy the history of Northern Michigan a lot and I think it was an inspired project that you did, to help the youth to interview the local older people, and to document those interviews. Training young people in the way of historians, to effectively interview their older relatives, is a very worthy project.
Thanks again, really, thanks a lot. That tape was like pure gold for me. And I learned a lot, it’s funny how sometimes it takes a stranger to ask the simplest questions … that your own relatives never think to ask.
Cheers, Kevin Trowbridge proud ‘Alanson Viking,’ class of (nineteen) ‘98 ;)
Sally Smith 07/09/09:
It was so good to hear from you! Of course, I remember you. I certainly enjoyed having you as a student.
I am so glad to hear that you and your family are still enjoying that tape of your grandfather’s interview. It was an honor for the students and me to have had the opportunity to interview him. He was an outstanding community leader and a man of great character. I do not have a problem with you sharing that tape with your family on your blog. I haven’t had a chance to visit the blog, but I will.
I thoroughly enjoy hearing from former students. After all, I chose teaching as my career and hope to encourage lifelong learning within them all. I so appreciated your complimentary remarks regarding that project that we did. Your comments meant a lot. Thank you. I am also pleased to hear that you enjoy Michigan history. I enjoy history as well. We learn so much from the culture of the past.
Let’s keep in touch. Thanks again for your kind remarks. It is wonderful to hear from you!
Cheers to you, too, and happy summer.