Calendar

Feb
15
Mon
1859 : Lansing, Michigan Incorporates As A City
Feb 15 all-day

A pair of New York speculators plotted and marketed a non-existent city known as “Biddle City”. The New Yorkers that bought into the idea arrive in Lansing to discover that the plots they had bought are located in a marsh, and are underwater. Some of the pioneers stay, but develop a village in what is now Old Town Lansing a mile north of the non-existent “Biddle City”.

The state capital moves from Detroit to Lansing Township in 1847.  The town was unofficially called Michigan, Michigan.

Did you know?  Lansing, Michigan was originally called Michigan, Michigan. Follow this link for a map of the Town of Michigan dated 1847.

In 1848 the Legislature officially changed the name to Lansing, Michigan.

Lansing was incorporated as a city on February 15, 1859.  Its 3,000 residents elected Hiram H. Smith as the city’s first mayor.

He served for just a year, but “gave the community a firm foundation on which its political and economic destiny was built,” according to an account in the centennial edition of the State Journal in 1955.

Lansing has had a total of 46 mayors.

The longest-serving mayor is Ralph Crego, who served from 1943 through 1960 and built a reputation for getting things done. During his years as mayor, the city grew by more than 20,000 people and 12 square miles.

The next-longest-serving was Gerald Graves, a feisty leader known for tight budgets, polyester suits and speaking his mind, who served from 1969 through 1981.

Terry McKane, who comes next on the list, told the Lansing State Journal he thought his legacy would be that he had instilled a higher standard and image in the mayor’s office. He resigned with one year left in his third mayoral term in 1992, taking an early retirement plan that would boost his pension.

Lansing’s current mayor, Andy Schor, took office in 2018.

Sources:

Lansing Michigan wikipedia entry

Vickki Dozier, “From the Archives: Lansing mayors”, Lansing State Journal, January 10, 2015.

Frank Hand, “Lansing’s Name No Easy Choice“, Lansing State Journal, February 17, 1984.  A plat for Lansing was filed with the County Register of Deeds on June 23, 1847.  The town was incorporated on February 15, 1859 by an act of the Legislature.  By then, the town had grown to about 3000 people.

 

 

1898 : Battleship Maine Explodes, Claiming Michigander Lives
Feb 15 all-day


Bay City’s 33rd Regiment established the first Michigan National Guard’s hospital corps during the Spanish-American War, according to Prof. Jeremy Kilar.

Fate intervened 119 years ago and took the life of a sailor from West Bay City along with another local seaman in one of history’s most mysterious naval calamities resulting an unnecessary war that took many American lives.

Seventeen-year-old Elmer Meilstrup of Bay City had hopes of being released from the U.S. Navy, where he was serving as an ordinary seaman aboard the U.S.S. Maine stationed in the harbor of Havana, Cuba on Feb. 15, 1898.

Another seaman from Bay City, Howard Hawkins, also was killed along with Meilstrup when the Maine mysteriously blew up that night.

Meilstrup had written to Congressman Rousseau O. Crump, of Oscoda, hoping for that official’s assistance and expressing regrets for his rashness in running away from home and being tricked by officers who showed him pictures of yachts that they said he would be stationed aboard.

The West Bay City Tribune reported that Meilstrup said: “many young men from the west had been induced to enlist through misrepresentation and had deserted.” But he added: “I will serve on this ship all my life before I will desert.”

The mysterious explosion killed 260 of the 400 sailors aboard. The Maine had been sent to Cuba to protect American interests during a rebellion against Spanish rule.

Another Bay Cityan, William Mattison, was blown from his hammock aboard ship and ended up in the water. But he survived burns and other injuries, was rescued, was treated at San Ambrosito Hospital in Havana, and returned home.

The families of Hawkins and Meilstrup were notified that their “remains were interred at Havana, circumstances being such that they could not be sent home.” However, the Global Burials at Sea Index indicates that Meilstrup’s “cemetery” was Havana Harbor, indicating the body may never have been recovered from the water.

A horrifying account of the situation inside the ship’s hull after the blast was given by Charles Morgan, a trained diver, who went below in a 200-pound diving suit seeking the cause of the blast:

“It was horrible! — As I descended into the death-ship [MAINE’s wreckage] the dead rose up to meet me. They floated toward me with outstretched arms, as if to welcome their shipmate. Their faces, for the most part, were bloated with decay or burned beyond recognition, but here and there the light of my lamp flashed upon a stony face I knew, which when I last saw it had smiled a merry greeting, but now returned my gaze with staring eyes and fallen jaw.

“The dead choked the hatchways and blocked my passage from stateroom to cabin. I had to elbow my way through them, as you do in a crowd. While I examined twisted iron and broken timbers they brushed against my helmet and touched my shoulders with rigid hands as if they sought to tell me the tale of the disaster. I often had to push them aside to make my examinations of the interior of the wreck. I felt like a live man in command of the dead.

“From every part of the ship came sighs and groans. I knew it was the gurgling of the water through the shattered beams and battered sides of the vessel, but it made me shudder; it sounded so much like echoes of that awful February night of death. The water swayed the bodies to and fro, and kept them constantly moving with a hideous semblance of life. Turn which way I would, I was confronted by a corpse.”

That first-hand account was published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Magazine in December 1898, no doubt serving to further inflame the sensibilities of an aggrieved nation.

Diver Morgan had concluded the Maine was blown up by an outside force, primarily because of armor plates he observed were bent upward. “A Naval Court of Inquiry ruled in March that the ship was blown up by a mine, without directly placing the blame on Spain,” History.com reports. “Much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible and called for a declaration of war.

“Subsequent diplomatic failures to resolve the Maine matter, coupled with United States’ indignation over Spain’s brutal suppression of the Cuban rebellion, and continued losses to American investment, led to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in April 1898.”

Col. Augustus Gansser, in his monumental 1905 History of Bay County, recalled that Meilstrup, son of J.S. Meilstrup, manager of the Sage (lumber) Company interests, was a graduate of West Bay City High School and a member of the Peninsular Military Company when he joined the Navy in 1897.

Mattison for months suffered for months terribly from burns, wounds and embedded slivers but finally was able to resume his activities.

In 1976, American naval investigators determined that the Maine explosion was likely caused by a fire in its ammunition locker, not by a Spanish mine or sabotage.

The Peninsulars, part of the state military establishment for 24 years previously as Company D, Third Regiment, Michigan State Troops. It included many of Bay City’s most prominent business and professional men on its roster. “When in March 1898 it became certain that war was inevitable, there was a rush of young men to the colors, and hundreds had to be turned away because each company was allowed just 112 men.

A Civil War veteran, J.F. Berdan, was rejected because of his age.

In April the Peninsulars answered the call of President William McKinley for service against Spain. “It was a day never to be forgotten. Thousands thronged the streets, business was suspended, cannons roared, bands played and fireworks added to the din,” recalled Col. Gansser.

Now part of the 33rd Michigan Infantry, the Peninsulars were in rendezvous at the old Bull Run battlefield as they marched through the South. The cheers of people in the former rebel states convinced the Bay Cityans “there was no north, no south, in this war, but a united country had rallied around the old flag.”

From Camp Alger, near Falls Church, Virginia, the men moved to Fortress Monroe and then were transported to Cuba. “War’s horrors were everywhere in evidence here,” Gansser recalled. But thoughts of home came flooding back when one night the Bay City band played “Michigan My Michigan.”

One thousand Michiganders rallied in the trenches with the regulars at San Juan Hill, he recalled. American machine gun and rifle fire drove the enemy back and “the writer witnessed the last desperate charge of the Spaniards on the bloody angle.”

On Sept. 3, “every person living in Bay City was out to welcome the Peninsulars and the 33rd Infantry Band home. “The ranks were thinned (19 had died), many of the boys could hardly be recognized after only four months service, so deep graven were the pieces of evidence of tropical war service under adverse conditions, and many a cheer was hushed at the sight of the wan faces and the emaciated forms.”

Besides battle deaths, the Michigan troops suffered from Yellow Fever and other tropical diseases. A year after the war Michigan emissaries returned to Santiago, looked up the graves under crude wood markers and brought the remains back, some to Arlington National Cemetery and some to Bay City.

Source : Dave Rogers, “Remembering the Maine: Two Bay Cityans Killed Aboard Battleship in 1898; Col. Gansser Recalls Four Months Service of Bay City Troops in Cuba”, MyBayCity.com, February 19, 2018. (Reposted)

1915 : Ionia Mayor and Future Governor Fred Green Pitches Idea for First Ionia Free Fair
Feb 15 all-day

The “free fair” project was launched at the Ionia Businessman’s “solidarity” meeting on February 15, 1915. At that time, Mayor Fred Green, who was to later become the Governor of Michigan, presented his plans for a promotion for the coming year. It was to be a free fair. The Ionia Free Fair would be held on August 18-20 and would continue for many years.

The 100th Ionia Free Fair was held July 16-25, 2015.

The next Ionia Free Fair will be held July 12-21, 2018.

Ionia Free Fair Discussed in July 2013. It’s county fair time around West Michigan and one of the biggest is the Ionia Free Fair. Fair board member, Becca Usher and Kelbie Stout, one of the teens taking part in 4-h, sat down with eightWest to talk about all the fun to be expected at the fair.

Source : Ionia Free Fair

1921 : Red Scare Grips Michigan
Feb 15 all-day

25 citizens of Michigan were deported to Russia during the first Red Scare of the 1920s.

Source : Historical Society of Michigan

For further reading, see

Young J. Edgar : Hoover, the Red Scare, and the assault on civil liberties / Kenneth D. Ackerman. New York : Carroll & Graf Publishers ; [Berkeley, Calif.] : Distributed by Publishers Group West, 2007.

Red scare : FBI and the origins of anticommunism in the United States, 1919-1943 / Regin Schmidt. Copenhagen : Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 2000. Also available online.

Red scare; a study in national hysteria, 1919-1920 / Robert K. Murray. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press [c1955]

If you can travel, you may want to visit the University of Albany Library to consult the Howard Abramowitz Papers, 1937-1985 which includes a number of unpublished manuscripts about the Detroit Red Scare.

1926 : Dearborn Hosts First Contract Airmail Service in Country
Feb 15 all-day

First flight cover carried over CAM-6 from Detroit to Cleveland on the first commercial U.S Air Mail flight, February 15, 1926, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

On Feb. 15, 1926, the nation’s first contract airmail service began from Dearborn to Cleveland. Ford Motor Company’s Ford Air Transport provided the service, as well as a similar service from Dearborn to Chicago.

Note the cover of a letter carried on the first flight. The cover is autographed by Lawrence G. Fritz, the pilot of the first flight from Ford Airport at Dearborn, MI, on the CAM-6 eastbound leg to Cleveland. Capt. Fritz would later become the Vice President for Operations for TWA.

The USPS issued a 13-cent commemorative Postage Stamp (Scott #1684) on March 19, 1976, honoring the 50th anniversary of U.S. commercial aviation launched with the Contract Air Mail service. The stamp includes an image of the Stout AT-2 used on CAM-6.

Commemorative 1926-1976 aviation stamp released on the 50th anniversary of commercial aviation, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Sources:

First U.S. Air Mail Commercial Flight Commemorative

Mich-again’s Day

Wikipedia Commons.

1935 : Astronaut Roger Bruce Chaffee Born
Feb 15 all-day
Image result for Astronaut Roger Bruce Chaffee

 

Astronaut Roger Bruce Chaffee was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on this day. Chaffee graduated from high school in 1953 with his sights on an engineering career. In pursuit of this goal, he entered the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corp (NROTC) at Illinois Institute of Technology and later transferred to Purdue University and received a degree in aeronautical engineering. It was here, in his last semester, he began flying.

Chaffee completed Naval flight training in 1959. He then received assignment in the overhaul and repair of the A3D twin-engine jet photo reconnaissance plane and became one of the youngest pilots ever to fly the A3D. Aerial photographs taken during his flights over Florida’s Cape Canaveral and Cuba were later used to map the area which became the launching center for the United States space program and to prove the existence of Russian missile bases in Cuba.

In October of 1963, Chaffee was accepted as one of fourteen people in the third group of astronauts in the United States space program. After completing training, he was selected for the first manned flight of the Apollo project in NASA’s effort to progress toward the goal of landing a man on the moon by 1969.

A tragic loss, he died on January 27, 1967, with two other astronauts, when the Apollo I spacecraft caught fire on the launch pad at Cape Kennedy, Florida.

Chaffee was awarded the Navy Air Medal and NASA Distinguished Service Medal. He will always be remembered as a pioneering American engineer, scientist, pilot, and astronaut.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum includes the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium. The Planetarium is complete with the latest Digistar 5 projection equipment and software, producing high-definition imagery and incredible special effects, accompanied by high-powered digital sound. Seasonal sky shows and themed productions educate visitors of all ages about the solar system, stars, and our place in the universe.

Source : Michigan Historical Calendar, courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

Chaffee Memorial Page

Feb
16
Tue
1819 : First Congressional Election Held in Michigan Territory
Feb 16 all-day

Residents in the Territory of Michigan voted in a congressional election for the first time electing William Woodbridge as a non-voting member of the US House of Representatives.

William Woodbridge actually served from March 1819 to August 1820.

Sources :

Historical Society of Michigan

Zlati Meyer, “This week in Michigan history: Territory gets to send delegate to House of Representatives”, Detroit Free Press, February 16, 2014.

1897 : Pere Marquette, First All-Steel Carferry, Makes First Run
Feb 16 all-day

 J. H. Beers & Co., 1899

The first all-steel railroad carferry, Pere Marquette 15, made its first crossing between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wisconsin on this day in 1897. The ferry, built by F.W. Wheeler & Company of Bay City, departed on the evening of the 16th, and arrived in Manitowoc at 7 a.m. the following day. She carried twenty-two freight cars, the private car of the Flint & Pere Marquette’s General Manager, other railroad dignitaries, and a brass band. The Pere Marquette went on to have a successful thirty-eight year career with only a few minor accidents.

For a time rail car ferries were all the rage on Lake Michigan and Lake Erie, as well as some rivers. Transporting up to 30 fully loaded railroad cars, ferries could trim time off the commute by avoiding the busy Chicago railroad terminal.

Sources :

Historical Society of Michigan and Wikipedia Commons.

Source : Michigan Historical Calendar, courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

Zlati Meyer, “World’s first all-steel car ferry debuted in Michigan”, Detroit Free Press, February 14, 2015.

Brandon Champion, “First-of-its-kind Pere Marquette car ferry made maiden voyage on this day in 1897”, MLive, February 16, 2016.

1926 : Ski Jumpers Inaugerate Suicide Hill in Ishpeming
Feb 16 all-day

A Michigan tradition : ski jumpers launching themselves off of the jump at Suicide Hill or Suicide Bowl in Ishpeming. According to the Historical Society of Michigan, the first jump occurred on February 16, 1926.

Several areas and hills were used before Suicide Hill came into existence. The first formal tournament was held on February 25, 1888, by the Norden Ski Club (renamed the Ishpeming Ski Club in 1901). During the early years, hills were fashioned out of snow pushed up against boards to form the scaffold, then snow was piled up for the bump or takeoff, and smoothed out for the landing. The Norwegians and Finns had differing views on ski jumping as the Finnish skiers used poles. At one point the Ski Club decided to let the Finnish boys in the club, poles and all. However, during one meet, when the best skiers had difficulty reaching long distances, and fell during competition, it was blamed on the Finnish boys as their poles ruined the track, attesting to the high level of competitiveness between nationalities in those early years. Competitions were held at hills which include Brasswire, circa 1901, Jackson Hill, circa 1907, East New York Hill, circa 1923, Rocky  Walter Huns Anderson, circa 1924, with scaffolds built of man-made materials that provoked a certain amount of fear and danger, adding to the heightened spectra of adventure and daring, and giving way to tournaments exhibiting “death defying feats” by the town’s local jumpers.

Club officials kept looking for a better hill with greater capacity. Credit for discovering  Suicide Hill goes to Peter Handberg and Leonard Flaa, at the time active officers of the Ishpeming Ski Club. Engineering authorities had previously advised the club that 165 feet was the maximum they could jump in the Old Jackson Hill and efforts were launched in 1925 to locate new hills. Flaa and Handberg, recalling remarks of those who had tramped that district, searched the territory and decided on the locale. They settled on the present location in Section 12, Negaunee; and negotiated a lease from Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company. Representative citizens and service club officers were invited to make an inspection, and when they concurred with the Flaa-Handberg findings, development work started. Work started in the autumn of 1925 on clearing, grading, and shaping the hill. Ishpeming turned in another of its famous performances for community effort – Suicide Hill was built by volunteer labor and donated materials. The effort was rewarded with scheduled a completion and the first meet on Suicide Hill to be held February 26, 1926.

Suicide, carved out of a pine forest, nestled among rocky bluffs, looks forbidding and formidable, as the man-made scaffold peers over the tree tops. The scaffold towers 140 feet towards the sky. Its structure is supported by 4 x 8″ I-beams bolted to a 4 to 5 foot cement pilar foundation, 2 x 4″ angle irons connecting the massive I-beams, and 4 x 8″ x 2.7 meter I-beams, with Douglas fir flooring, and particle board sideboards, stretching a length of 90 kilometers.  Its scaffold can be seen towering over the tops of trees at several locations throughout Ishpeming and Negaunee.

Suicide Hill got its name when in 1926 Walter “Huns” Anderson was injured on the hill. The local newspaper reporter, Ted Butler, said “Sure it’s a good hill, but why not have a little color about it. I gave it the name a few days before it was used in 1926. Walter Anderson fell in practice a few days before the meet and was badly hurt. In the stories I sent out about him, I called it Suicide Hill and the name stuck”. “We don’t like the name ‘Suicide Hill,” James Flaa, club official protested, “because it keeps riders away. It creates the wrong impression of what troubles await them”. Actually, it’s one of the best hills in the country. Even Johanna Kolstad, the fine Norwegian woman skier, says she has only seen one better hill in the country. But the name did stick, and it has turned out to be a fine, competitive, and safe hill.

Sources :

Ishpeming Ski Club History.

Johanna Boyle, “Ski jumpers take to the air at Suicide Bowl”, Mining Journal, February 9, 2012.

Historical Society of Michigan.

1935 : Sonny Bono Born in Detroit
Feb 16 all-day

Photo of Sonny and Cher, 1971,  courtesy of the Wikipedia Commons

On February 16, 1935, Salvatore “Sonny” Bono of “Sonny and Cher” fame was born in Detroit to Italian immigrant parents.

Bono’s “I Got You Babe,” released in 1965, one year after his marriage to Cherilyn La Pierre (Cher), left the singing duo a national success story. After music and divorce, Bono entered politics and served as mayor of Palm Springs, California. He died in a skiing accident in January 1998.

Source :

Detroit Historical Society Facebook Page

I Got You Babe (1965)