1816 : Tiffin, U.S. Surveyor General, Reports That Michigan is “Interminable Swamp”
Nov 30 all-day

At the end of the War of 1812, Congress authorized bounty lands to be awarded to soldiers, to compensate them for their service. Each man would get 160 acres in the Old Northwest Territory, which included present day Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and a portion of Minnesota.

To do this, they first needed to survey the land to determine its agricultural qualities. In 1815, Ohio native Edward Tiffin, the U.S Surveyor General, visited the Michigan Territory and reported on November 30, 1816 to the Secretary of War that “there would not be more than one acre out of a hundred if there would be one out of a thousand would … admit of cultivation. … It was unsafe for men or pack mules, the ground sinking at every step and shaking for several feet around, having indications of being over a vast underground lake covered by a thin crust though which a man or mule might easily break and be lost.

“ … The intermediate space between the swamps and lakes, which is probably nearly one half of the country, is, with a very few exceptions, a poor, barren, sandy land, on which scarcely any vegetation grows, except very small scrubby oaks. … The abandonment of colonization is urged as being dangerous and unnecessary.”

It is likely that Tiffin and his team of surveyors saw very little of Michigan.

As a result of the Tiffin report, President Madison recommended to Congress that, since the lands in Michigan were covered with swamps and unfit for farming, only a small proportion could be applied to the intended grants, and that other lands should be designated to take the place of Michigan’s portion. Accordingly, three-fourths of that amount was ordered to be surveyed in Illinois.

School geographies and guide books reportedly contained maps with the words “Interminable Swamp” across the interior of Michigan.

As a result of Tiffin’s report, the settlement of Michigan was delayed for a number of years.

Territorial Governor Lewis Cass tried to counteract the bad publicity by saying that Tiffin’s report “grossly misrepresented” the territory’s land and lobbied Congress for a new survey of the land between Detroit and Chicago as a matter of national security.

Many articles on successful farming ran in the Detroit Gazette, an early newspaper founded in 1817, and were reprinted in New York papers. Other countering influences were letters from successful pioneers published in eastern papers, reports made by settlers revisiting their old homes in the East, and the circulars of land speculators.

By about 1825 the effects of the Tiffin report in the East began to wane. That year was marked by the appearance of John Farmer’s maps and gazetteers of Michigan, published in Detroit. Farmer’s maps were considered essential tools for emigrants and by 1830 had reached a high demand in eastern cities.

For the rest of the story, see Bill Loomis, “How one bad review delayed the settlement of Michigan“, Detroit News Blog, June 3, 2012.

John Farmer, Mapmaker, 1798-1859 courtesy of the Michigan State University Map Library.

1885 : Traverse City State Hospital for the Insane Opens
Nov 30 all-day
Image result for Traverse City State Hospital for the Insane photo

Created by Michigan Public Act Number 155, and originally called the Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane, the Traverse City mental health institution had a total of five names in its one hundred plus year history. Medical advances during the institution’s existence made the treatment of patients more humane as time went on, but early treatment was anything but gentle. Opium and morphine therapy, in addition to insulin shock, induced metrazol shock, lobotomies, and the infamous electroshock therapy were used to treat patients with illnesses ranging from typhoid to polio to shell shock. When the hospital closed in 1989, patients with continuing mental health problems were turned loose and ended up homeless, in jail, or in inadequate private care. Some even tried to return to the abandoned hospital, which they referred to as “home.”

Sources :

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

Northern Michigan Asylum : a history of the Traverse City State Hospital / William A. Decker.  Traverse City, Mich. : Arbutus Press, [2010]

1911, Reid Stout, School Bus Safety Mirror Inventor, Born
Nov 30 all-day


Reid Stout, Born November 30, 1911, Died June 1, 1986

A near-accident was the inspiration for the invention of the school bus safety mirror. These mirrors help the bus drivers see the blind spots, and avoid hitting children that may be unseen in front of the bus.

Via the Toledo Blade, it all began with Reid Stout. Reid was not just the school principal, he was also a part-time bus driver. It was in the late 1940s and Reid was driving the bus, dropping kids off after school. A nine-year-old girl who had gotten off the bus accidently dropped her belongings… front of the bus. As she kneeled down to pick them up, Reid was about to put the bus in gear and move forward. The little girl was so far below the bus hood that she was completely hidden from view. The other students saw what was happening and began shouting and screaming to Reid to stop. He stopped, got out, went around to the front of the bus and saw the girl, still kneeling, picking up her things.

It was something that Reid could not get out of his mind, thinking about what might have happened if the alert students hadn’t yelled at him. Months later, he came up with the idea for a safety mirror after spotting an outdoor metallic gazing ball. He made a makeshift version and took it to a mirror plating firm that made about a dozen. In 1950, all Bedford Township buses had these mirrors installed.

More districts found out about the invention, but unfortunately it took a tragic accident to get the state legislature to make the mirrors mandatory. After a six-year-old girl was killed by a bus in Center Line, Michigan, Reid demonstrated his invention to education officials in Lansing. Impressed, they put it through, making the safety mirrors a necessity for all school buses.

Reid Stout passed away in 1986.

In October 2009, a marker was finally erected in Lambertville noting his historic achievement.

Source : Paul Robinson, : “ The School Bus Safety Mirror Was Invented in This Michigan Town “, 99.1 WFMK Blog, April 29, 2021.

1932 : Detroit Police Raid Oasis Club During the Height of Prohibition
Nov 30 all-day

On November 30, 1932, Detroit Police raided the Oasis Club, a blind pig located near the Detroit City College campus (now Wayne State University).

Source : Detroit Historical Society

For more information about Prohibition, see Philip P. Mason, Rumrunning and the roaring twenties : prohibition on the Michigan-Ontario Waterway, Wayne State University Press, 1996.

Also see Kathy Warnes, “The Gray Ghost Haunted the Detroit River During Prohibition”, Definitely Downriver, June 2012.

1961 : Michigan Nurse Killed in Vietnam, Only Female Casualty
Nov 30 all-day

On November 30, 1961,  Hedwig Diane Orlowkski, a 1st Lieutenant and member of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, was killed in Vietnam, the only Michigan woman killed in the conflict. 7 other female nurses also sacrificed their lives during the war. 56 other female civilians were also killed. Orlowski is buried in Olivet Cemetary in Detroit. She was awarded a Bronze Star posthumously.

Source: Christina Hall, “Couples Crusade : Find graves of the 2,654 Michigan Soldiers killed in Vietnam War”, Detroit Free Press, May 26, 2013.

1983 : Senator David Serotkin Recalled Over Tax Raise Vote
Nov 30 all-day

Recall fever swept the legislature in 1983 after it went along with newly elected Gov. James Blanchard’s call for a 38-percent increase in the state income tax. Only one Republican — Sen. Harry DeMaso of Battle Creek — voted for the controversial measure.

Numerous recall efforts were launched against lawmakers who voted for the tax hike. Two were successful.

On November 22, 1983, Sen. Phil Mastin (D-Pontiac) was recalled by voters in his district. Eight days later, Sen. David Serotkin (D-Mt. Clemens) met the same fate. Both men had been in office for less than a year and had won by the narrowest of margins.

They would be replaced by Republicans, switching Senate control to the GOP — a majority it has not relinquished. It also elevated John Engler to Senate majority leader, where he laid the groundwork to unseat heavily favored Gov. Blanchard in 1990.

Sources :

Charlie Cain, “Reporters Notes”, Dome, July 16, 2009.

David Serotkin recall, Michigan (1983) Ballotpedia entry

2020: Mass Shooting at Oxford High School
Nov 30 all-day

A 15-year-old boy killed four fellow students and injured more at a Michigan high school.  Copycats called in and threatened shootings at other high schools in the days that followed.

Source : Corey Williams and Ed White, “Michigan teen charged in Oxford High School shooting”, ABC News, December 1, 2021.

1866 : Michigan Home for Veterans Established in Grand Rapids
Dec 1 all-day

On December 1, 1866, the Michigan Soldiers Home was opened in Grand Rapids for veterans of the Mexican War, Civil War and Spanish-American War who were disabled by disease or wounds and were incapable of earning a living. Space was provided for mothers, wives and widows of veterans. Now known as the Michigan Home for Veterans.

Source : Official Blog of the Michigan House Democrats, December 1, 2014.

1913 : Ford Introduces the Assembly Line
Dec 1 all-day

On December 1, 1913, Henry Ford installs the first moving assembly line for the mass production of an entire automobile. His innovation reduced the time it took to build a car from more than 12 hours to two hours and 30 minutes.Ford’s Model T, introduced in 1908, was simple, sturdy and relatively inexpensive–but not inexpensive enough for Ford, who was determined to build “motor car[s] for the great multitude.” (“When I’m through,” he said, “about everybody will have one.”) In order to lower the price of his cars, Ford figured, he would just have to find a way to build them more efficiently.

Ford had been trying to increase his factories’ productivity for years. The workers who built his Model N cars (the Model T’s predecessor) arranged the parts in a row on the floor, put the under-construction auto on skids and dragged it down the line as they worked. Later, the streamlining process grew more sophisticated. Ford broke the Model T’s assembly into 84 discrete steps, for example, and trained each of his workers to do just one. He also hired motion-study expert Frederick Taylor to make those jobs even more efficient. Meanwhile, he built machines that could stamp out parts automatically (and much more quickly than even the fastest human worker could).

The most significant piece of Ford’s efficiency crusade was the assembly line. Inspired by the continuous-flow production methods used by flour mills, breweries, canneries and industrial bakeries, along with the disassembly of animal carcasses in Chicago’s meat-packing plants, Ford installed moving lines for bits and pieces of the manufacturing process: For instance, workers built motors and transmissions on rope-and-pulley–powered conveyor belts. In December 1913, he unveiled the pièce de résistance: the moving-chassis assembly line.

In February 1914, he added a mechanized belt that chugged along at a speed of six feet per minute. As the pace accelerated, Ford produced more and more cars, and on June 4, 1924, the 10-millionth Model T rolled off the Highland Park assembly line. Though the Model T did not last much longer–by the middle of the 1920s, customers wanted a car that was inexpensive and had all the bells and whistles that the Model T scorned–it had ushered in the era of the automobile for everyone.

Source : This Day in History from

The Assembly Line and the $5 Day – Background Reading courtesy of the Michigan Historical Museum and still available thanks to the Internet Archive..



1953 ; Former Michigan Governor Kim Sigler Dies in Plane Crash
Dec 1 all-day

Kim Sigler former Michigan Governor.jpg

December 1, 1953, former Michigan Governor Kim Sigler and three passengers were killed when Sigler’s personal plane crashed into a radio tower near Battle Creek.

Kim Sigler, who rocketed to the Michigan governor’s chair seven years ago after a sensational grand jury expose, plummeted to his death late yesterday in a fiery plane crash. Three companions died with him.

Sigler’s own four-place plane, threading its way through a dense fog, snagged onto a guy wire supporting a 540-foot television tower. The impact sheared off one wing and sent the fuselage hurtling into a woods three quarters of a mile away, where it chrashed and burned.

The 59-year-old Republican ex-governor presumably was at the controls.

The other victims were Sigler’s secretary, Mrs. Ruth Prentice, 41; her sister, Mrs. Virginia Schuyler, 28; and Mrs. Schuyler’s husband Harold, 37, of Lansing.

The crash scene was near Augusta, in northeast Kalamazoo County.

Sigler and his party were returning from a combination business-pleasure trip to Louisiana.

It was believed that because of the fog Sigler might have been coming in for a landing at Kellogg Field, only three miles from the tower.

In the mid-1940’s Sigler, as special prosecutor for a one-man state graft grand jury, was responsible for indictments against more than 100 legislatures and lobbyists. Many of them went to prison. Bribe taking to influence votes was exposed.

After a bitter feud over continuance of the grand jury, Sigler took a fling at politics in 1945.

By a thumping majority of 340,000 votes, he defeated Democratic Incumbent Murray D. Van Wagoner.

But after one two-year term, Sigler, was unseated by present Democratic Gov. C. Mennen Williams by 164,000 votes in a surprising political nosedive. He returned to his law practice in western Michigan.

Sources :

Jefferson City (Missouri) Post-Tribune December 1, 1953.

Michigan Marker

Ken Sigler wikipedia entry