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Ann Arbor Yesterdays ~ A Farewell Miscellany

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Ann Arbor Yesterdays — A Farewell Miscellany

July 10, 1961

By Lela Duff

Two other century-old Ann Arbor businesses have been drawn to my attention, both founded by Germans. The Wagner clothing store has come down from William to Charles to Paul. An old cash book records that in 1845 William Wagner made a coat for Christian Eberbach. And for one of its three partners the Muehlig Funeral Chapel has Robert E. Muehlig, a descendant of one of the founders. Since they were skilled cabinet makers, the Muehlig Bros, were advertising in 1852 for logs suitable for making coffins:

I should like to suggest a project for the Chamber of Commerce: that they draw up a form for a citation—worded and printed with dignity—to be awarded to every business project in Ann Arbor that has remained in the same family for 100 years.

Since this is to be the last number of “Ann Arbor Yesterdays,” I am mentioning today a number of suggestions that have come to me which I have been unable to develop in my column. They have enriched my own knowledge immeasurably, and I wish to express my gratitude for them.

From Dr. Donald F. Huelke has come a copy of his recent article, “History of the Department of Anatomy, the University of Michigan, Part' I, 1850-1894,” published in the Jan.-Feb., 1961, number of the U-M Medical Bulletin. I find it absorbing and delightful reading, and a valuable addition to local history.

From Parker Pennington, now living at his camp at Interlochen, I have received a packet of photographs of beautiful sculpture done in recent years by Avard Fairbanks. Since Fairbanks and his family were well beloved residents of Ann Arbor for many years, Parker suggests that it is a pity that no example of the later work of this now internationally famous artist is to be seen in our city. (Of course the fine large bronze medallion, “The Pioneers,” at the entrance of Ann Arbor High School and the lifelike bust of Principal Emeritus L. L. Forsythe that dominates the main corridor of the new building were done by Fairbanks during his Ann Arbor sojourn as professor of sculpture at the University.)

It seems that at one time a group of boys in the Tappan-Eberbach school area started a fund to have Mr. Fairbanks do a statue of Claude Wyman, popular caretaker of Burns Park. Since the sum collected for the project at the time was insufficient for the purpose, it was placed in a bank in escrow, Pennington believes. If the now grown-up men of that group of boys could be found, perhaps this sum could form a nucleus for a fund to obtain a major Fairbanks work. His new interpretations of Lincoln are particularly striking.

A certain mimeographed periodical has been quietly circulating in Ann Arbor for nearly 25 years which seems to be little known except to its recipients. It is called ‘The Citizen’s News.” In 1959 a complete index was published of articles having appeared in its then 249 issues. As I leaf through the 33 pages of this index, I am amazed at the scope of the subject matter covered, and at the caliber of the writers, all authorities on the subject of their article.

The aim of the publication seems to be to enlighten people on matters on which they must make a decision, often, but not necessarily, related to an up-coming election.

I am told that there are some 350 member-subscribers, and the annual dues are $2.50. I am impressed with the spirit of earnest inquiry that must dominate these intelligent people and the unselfish dedication of time and effort on the part of the writers and boards.

Another periodical printed in Ann Arbor at a much earlier period—but I fear on a lower ethical level—has been brought, to my attention: “The Botanic Luminary,” cleverly discussed in an Article by Wallace J. Bonk in the February, 1961, “Michigan Alumnus Quarterly Review.” This odd little monthly paper has been claimed by some to be the state’s first magazine. Its subject was pure propaganda for a freak kind of medical quackery in vogue during the late 1830’s called “Botanic medicine.” According to enemies of the system, the patient was simply plied with certain herbs that made him so actively and desperately sick that afterwards, if he survived at all, he couldn’t help being considered better.

Robert H. Schoen of Saginaw has presented me with a letter written in 1847 by H. Willis, station master of the “Central” railroad, to his superior in Detroit. He requests that the engineers be instructed to blow their whistles one half mile before reaching the Ann Arbor depot, as “the clatter of our Saw Mill and other Noises oftimes drounds the noise of the Engine & Cars.”

Helen Tubbs Judson has supplied me with a quaint picture of her father as a young man in charge of his horse-drawn milk wagon, with many details of the difficulties of running a milk route in the early days. For a bundle of unusual old clippings I thank Margaret Beal Davis, and for helpful letters of reminiscence I am grateful to Mrs. Effie Niles Wilson of Dexter, Mrs. Grover C. Sweet of Milan, and Mrs. Merritt W. Martin of Saline, who is a descendant of the Travers whose name is perpetuated in Traver Rd. I have wondered if there might not still be living here descendants of John Allen’s sister, Mrs. Henry Welch. Her daughters became Mrs. Olney Hawkins and Mrs. Denton.

Three people have told me that they still have their little souvenir bells cast from the old A. A. H. S. bell after the fire. One of these, Mrs. Bernard H. Glenn of Fowlerville, has sent me many important contributions, including a copy of the Maynard family record taken from the old Family Bible. Many others have boosted my morale simply by telling me that they enjoyed my articles.

To anyone else who may have followed my column, I should like to say in parody of Kate Smith's old closing formula: “Thanks for readin'.”

I wish to express here my appreciation also to the staff of The Ann Arbor News for unfailing kindness—especially the editor, Mr. Arthur Gallagher; the city editor, Dick Emmons, to whom my long-windedness has been a cross I know; and Eck Stanger for his marvelous photographs.


Avard Fairbanks, well-known sculptor and former Ann Arbor resident, did this medallion of “The Pioneers” at the entrance of Ann Arbor High School.