Bygones of Monroe:
SOCIETY IS FORMED TO RECORD HISTORY OF MONROE COUNTY
W.C. Sterling Elected to Presidency at First Meeting Monday
SUGGESTIONS MADE FOR ACTIVE PROGRAM
Museum in Sawyer Home Is to Be Established by Society
A revival of interest in preserving and publicizing the fascinating history of the county bore fruit yesterday when 23 men and women met by invitation at the Monroe club and founded the Monroe County Historical Society. Largely an enterprise undertaken and carried through by a descendant of one of Monroe's oldest and most prominent families, the new society honored its most active founder by electing William C. Sterling to the presidency.
A constitution and by-laws were adopted after a brief discussion, the first officers elected and a number of those present sketched in outline the activities that might be undertaken by the new organization.
At the conclusion of the meeting, President Sterling announced that the charter would be left open for a period of two months during which anyone in the county interested in its history may become a charter member. Collection of dues, and the issuance of membership cards, will be started Monday at the Dansard State Bank, Boyez Dansard, elected treasurer of the society, announced this morning.
Interest and enthusiasm over the possibilities of establishing a county museum for the preservation of local historical records and relics were expressed by many of those present. President Sterling called attention to the recent gift of the Sawyer home to the community, and said arrangements had been made to use two of the upstairs rooms as headquarters of the society and for the beginnings of a museum, which might later be moved to the lower floor.
The officers elected, in addition to Mr. Sterling and Mr. Dansard, were: First vice president, JS Gray; second vice president, Oliver J. Golden; third vice president, Joseph A. Navarre, jr.; fourth vice president, Miss Carrie L. Boyd; fifth vice president, Mrs. George R. Navarre; secretary, Mrs. Kirke G. Bumpus; historian, Miss Mary J. Crowther; curator, Mrs. C.W. Beck. The officers will constitute the board of directors who will be called into session shortly, Mr. Sterling said, to arrange plans for the early meetings of the society.
Nominations on the motion of Mr. Dansard, were made by a nominating committee consisting of George Paxson, chairman, Miss Crowther and Mr. Gray. Their unanimous election was moved by Mrs. H.C. Orvis and seconded by Mrs. Will Hanson. The constitution and by-laws, as drafted by Mr. Sterling, were approved with minor changes on motion of Mr. Dansard seconded by Mr. Paxson. Mr. Sterling presided and appointed Miss Boyd as temporary secretary.
The charter members attending the initial meeting on invitation of Mr. Sterling included: Mrs. Fred F. Kolb, Mrs. C.W. Beck, Mr. and Mrs. W.C. Sterling, Mrs. H.C. Orvis, Mrs. Will Hanson, Miss Carrie L. Boyd, Mrs. Arthur C. Tagge, Mrs. Kirke G. Bumpus, Miss Lulu Weiss, Miss Hedwig Weiss, Miss Mary J. Crowther, Miss Lydia Schmeising, Mrs. Jennie Wallace, Mrs. Albert Wiest, Mrs. George R. Navarre, George C. Kirschner, Charles Verhoeven, JS Gray, Joseph A Navarre, jr., Boyez Dansard, George W. Paxson and Karl F. Zeisler.
It was emphasized that the membership in the society is open to anyone interested in its objective, which is stated in the constitution as the marking of historic sites and the discovery, collection and preservation of every variety of material illustrative of the history of this county and of Michigan. It is hoped to enroll a membership of at least 200, with representation in all sections of the county, Township chairmen will be selected by the board of directors.
The constitution states that "Any person who is interested in the history of this county and of the state may become an associate and active member of this society on payment of an entrance fee of one dollar. Active membership may be retained after the first year by payment of 50 cents annual dues. Life dues are $50."
Honorary membership, in recognition of service to the society or its cause, may be conferred by vote of the membership. All persons in the county 70 years old or more who have lived in the county 25 years may join without payment of dues.
The constitution provides for a museum committee with the curator, Mrs. Beck, as chairman, and four other members to be selected. It is hoped to secure PWA assistance not only for the transcribing of records, filing of historic data, clipping newspapers, etc., but also for building display cases and arranging exhibits for the museum in the Sawyer Home.
Annual meetings of the society are to be held on the second Tuesday in January at the Sawyer home. Officers will serve a year and be elected at these annual meetings.
Material collected by the society will be kept in the city of Monroe, and such as is not desired for display or preservation here may be turned over to the state historical commission. All possessions of the society, should it go out of existence, would become the property of this commission.
Provision is made in the by-laws for holding social gatherings, picnics and similar affairs to stimulate interest in historical discussions.
Mr. Sterling, pointing out the many possibilities existing for the usefulness of such a society, and suggesting that funds for its work might be secured from some such source as the Rackham Foundation, called on a number of those present to express their ideas on a program.
Mr. Gray referred to the founding of the society as of historical importance in itself, and called attention to the rich historical background of Monroe, the third oldest community in the state, which played a prominent part in the development of the entire Great Lakes area and had attained national note as the scene of the Battle of the River Raisin and the home of General Custer.
"With so much to work with, and under such favorable auspices as Mr. Sterling's leadership, the society can accomplish a great deal to provide better records of this history, better exhibits of the community's relics and to make that history better known to others, " Mr. Gray said.
The experience of the newspaper indicates the great interest existing in the community's history , he continued, and an effort has been made by the News to assemble complete files of local publications back as far as 1830 and beyond. Other records and files of the paper are also available, he said, for historical research.
The Sawyer home, he suggested, was an ideal place not only for the beginning of a museum, but as the climax to a suitably marked historic trail that might be laid out along Elm Avenue, beginning with the Nelson home at Telegraph road, which the state could convert into a tourist information lodge, and proceeding past the site of the stockade at Monroe street, the battleground of the River Raisin, the older stockade on the south side of the river and the Custer monument. He expressed confidence that money would be readily available for such enterprises as the society might undertake, and that it would find ready cooperation with the city government and the existing women's organizations.
The existence of a previous historical society in the county was recalled by Mr. Zeisler, who urged that the new organization undertake a compilation of local history in such form as to be useful in the schools, where its teaching is now handicapped by lack of available material.
Miss Crowther also referred to the dearth of reference material and urged better preservation of public records in the townships through the society. She explained the state museum and historical research project of the WPA, and said its assistance could be utilized by the local organization. Much valuable information, she pointed out, would have to be secured in personal interviews of living descendants of the older families.
On December 10, 1940, will occur the centennial of General Custer's birth, and in anticipation the library is adding to its collection of Custer material. She showed the group present a set of early grant maps of this area, presented by the Burton library in Detroit as the first gift to the new county museum.
Miss Boyd noted the fact that at leas 13 of the group present, including Mrs. Tagge, Mrs. Hanson, Mrs. Wallace, Mrs. Kiolb, Mr. Sterling and Mr. Navarre, were descendants of the very families that had been most instrumental in the founding and development of the community. She urged that the society take especial note of the families who had given the town its distinctive character.
It has always been a puzzle to her, Miss Boyd continued, why Monroe, rather than Detroit, had been selected by its pioneer settlers, and hazarded the opinion that the existence of a port led them to believe that Monroe would grow into a metropolis. "They did not expect it to remain a small town," she observed. Some of the most valuable information relative to local history must be obtained from people now living, she concluded.
Monroe Evening News, Nov. 22, 1938, p1 c1 and p6 c5