All posts by Lindsay Hiltunen

Archives Month Staff Spotlight 2017 – Jeremy

Jeremy Staff Spotlight PhotoJeremy is our next staff member to be featured in the Staff Spotlight for American Archives Month!

First Name: Jeremy
Title
: Student Assistant – Copper Range Railroad Exhibit
Where are you from? Cadillac, MI
What is your major? Mechanical Engineering

What is your favorite thing about working at the Michigan Tech Archives?
Regularly handling historical documents and artifacts from the Upper Peninsula.

What is the most interesting thing you learned while working here?
The Bill Nichols Snowmobile Trail follows the route of the former Copper Range Railroad Company

What is your favorite collection?
The Copper Range Company/Railroad Collection.

What is your favorite photograph in CCHI?
A photo of the Copper Range Roundhouse in action.

What is one interesting fact about you?
I am a big stock car racing fan, and attended over 35 races during 2017.

Why are the Michigan Tech Archives important to you?
They help preserve the history of the Copper Country, and allow residents to access these pieces of history of the region they live in.

Copper Range Roundhouse, date unknown.
Copper Range Roundhouse, date unknown.

Archives Month Staff Spotlight 2017 – Emily

ArchivesMonthEmily
Emily visiting with Kermit the Frog at the National Museum of American History.

Emily is our next staff member to be featured in the Staff Spotlight for American Archives Month!

First Name: Emily
Title: Assistant Archivist
Where are you from? I was born and raised downstate in Grand Rapids, but my family roots in the Keweenaw stretch back many generations.

Where did you work before coming to Michigan Tech? My last job before coming to Michigan Tech was as a student worker in the curation division at the Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor. I also had internships at Keweenaw National Historical Park and the Ada Historical Society.

What is your favorite thing about working at the Michigan Tech Archives? I’d have to say that my favorite part of working here is getting to help people discover new parts of the local story or their family history. That moment when a patron lights up with irrepressible joy makes me just as happy as they are!

What is the most interesting thing you learned while working here? I can’t count all the fascinating tidbits I’ve picked up since I started here. As a genealogist, the most interesting knowledge would probably be the kind that has filled in gaps in my family history. Thanks to our collections, I now know exactly when my maternal ancestors came over from England, for example, and I can also tell you that all the stories about my moonshining paternal relatives were true! In fact, I wrote a blog post about my family’s Prohibition hijinks back in March.

What is your favorite collection? Choosing my favorite collection is a tall order! I think it’s a tie between Brockway Diary Collection (MS-010) and the employment cards from the Calumet & Hecla Mining Companies Collection (MS-002).  

The Riippa Lumber Company sawmill near Winona in January 1977.
The Riippa Lumber Company sawmill near Winona in January 1977.

What is your favorite photograph in CCHI? Picking a favorite photograph is another challenge! One of my top choices is a winter picture of my family’s sawmill in Winona–it really drives home just how much snow we get around here.

“Jeopardy!” publicity photograph taken just before filming the episode.
“Jeopardy!” publicity photograph taken just before filming the episode.

What is one interesting fact about you? When I was twelve, I appeared on “Jeopardy! Kids Week” and won.

Why are the Michigan Tech Archives important to you? The Michigan Tech Archives are important to me because of my love for the Copper Country; there’s nowhere like it and nothing quite so interesting as the story of its past. I’m proud to be part of an organization that helps to keep the history of this remarkable place alive.


Archives Month Staff Spotlight 2017 – Becky

 

This photo was taken at the lighthouse at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa this past summer. Becky said that while it was a long and steep hike, the view from the top was more than worth it!

For American Archives Month, in addition to offering all of our regular services, we will also be posting special content on our social media platforms. We had a busy day yesterday for #AskAnArchivist Day and we hope to keep fresh content on our Facebook, Twitter, and blog all month long. Archives Month Staff Spotlights are one such example of archives-themed content for the blog, and here is our first one!

First Name: Becky
Title: Student Assistant
Where are you from? Mukwonago, WI
What is your major? Biomedical Engineering
What is your favorite thing about working at the Michigan Tech Archives? My favorite thing about working in the archives is being able to interact with the history of the UP.
What is your favorite collection? My favorite collection isn’t really a collection, but rather a part of a collection. I find the employment cards really cool because a single card can hold so much information for someone.
What is your favorite photograph in CCHI? My favorite photograph is the one where a snow statue appears to be eating a child.
What is one interesting fact about you? One interesting fact about me is that I traveled to South Africa this past summer.
Why are the Michigan Tech Archives important to you? The archives are important to me because they offer a glimpse into a past we might not get to know if it weren’t for the archives.
2014 Winter Carnival Contest
Becky’s favorite photograph, which was the first place winning photograph for the 2014 Winter Carnival Photo Contest. The photograph was taken by Michigan Tech student, Connor Wlodarczak. This statue is titled, “Chilled Delight.”

 


Keynote to Celebrate 25 Years of Industrial Archaeology at Michigan Tech: Preserving Legendary 20th Century Sites in Detroit

keynote

Please join us for a keynote presentation by guest scholar Krysta Ryzewski at 4:00 pm on Friday, September 22 in the East Reading Room of the Van Pelt and Opie Library on the Michigan Technological University campus. This event is part of A Celebration: 25 Years of Industrial Heritage and Archaeology, an anniversary of the founding of the Industrial Archaeology program, and is made possible through the Visiting Women and Minorities Lecture and Scholar Series at Michigan Tech. This event is free of charge and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Keynote speaker, Krysta Ryzewski.
Keynote speaker, Krysta Ryzewski.

In this presentation, Ryzewski will discuss Ethnic Layers of Detroit (ELD) and Unearthing Detroit, two interdisciplinary heritage projects in metro Detroit. ELD is an urban-focused digital humanities project engaging faculty and student researchers in creating, documenting, and sharing multimedia narratives of Detroit’s ethnic histories. Unearthing Detroit is a project that involves both academic research and public archaeology in its focus on the urban historical archaeology collections housed in the Grosscup Museum of Anthropology at Wayne State University. The project’s research and outreach team is comprised of archaeology faculty and graduate students from Wayne State’s Department of Anthropology, as well as a number of volunteers from the local community. Ryzewski’s talk will address challenges, successes, and implications of the projects that will be of interest to a diverse audience.

Krysta Ryzewski, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Wayne State University and is the Director of the Digging Detroit project, an investigation of industrial and post-industrial urban communities in the Motor City. She is a leading researcher in historical and contemporary archaeology and the digital humanities.

Ryzewski’s research visit and presentation are supported by a travel grant from the Institutional Equity and Inclusion office’s Visiting Women and Minority Series. Additional arrangements and refreshments are made possible by the Social Sciences Department and the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections.

For more information about this program or the Industrial Archaeology program’s 25th anniversary, feel free to call the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505, email at copper@mtu.edu, or call the Social Sciences department at 906-487-2113.

logos


Secret Societies of the Copper Country

“First regular communication of Quincy Lodge U.D. [under dispensation] F. & A. M. [Free and Accepted Masons] held at Lodge room in Village of Hancock, June 6th A.D. 1861 A.L. [Anno Lucis: ‘In the Year of Light’] 586. Present, Charles L. Wheeler W.M. [Worshipful Master], Jacob Hougton Jr. S.W. [Senior Warden], Alexander Pope Jr. J.W. [Junior Warden], J.A. Close S.D. [Senior Deacon] pro tem, J.P.M. Butler J.D. [Junior Deacon] pro tem, J.A. Hubbell Secty pro tem, S.S. Robinson Treasr pro tem, A.F. Leopold Tyler pro tem, & Brethern Lodge opened in due form in 3rd degree of Masonry The worshipful Master then read the dispensation granted by the G.M. [Grand Master] of the State of Michigan On Motion a committee of Three consisting of the W.M., S.W., & J.W. was appointed to draft the By Laws for the government of the lodge and report at next regular communication. On Motion Bro. Berd was allowed to occupy the preparation room till first of Sept. 1861. The W.M. appointed Tuesdays & Friday Evenings of each week as stated communications for instruction. On Motion the Lodge closed in harmony. Jay A. Hubbell Secty -pro tem-”
“First regular communication of Quincy Lodge U.D. [under dispensation] F. & A. M. [Free and Accepted Masons] held at Lodge room in Village of Hancock, June 6th A.D. 1861 A.L. [Anno Lucis: ‘In the Year of Light’] 586. Present, Charles L. Wheeler W.M. [Worshipful Master], Jacob Hougton Jr. S.W. [Senior Warden], Alexander Pope Jr. J.W. [Junior Warden], J.A. Close S.D. [Senior Deacon] pro tem, J.P.M. Butler J.D. [Junior Deacon] pro tem, J.A. Hubbell Secty pro tem, S.S. Robinson Treasr pro tem, A.F. Leopold Tyler pro tem, & Brethern Lodge opened in due form in 3rd degree of Masonry. The worshipful Master then read the dispensation granted by the G.M. [Grand Master] of the State of Michigan On Motion a committee of Three consisting of the W.M., S.W., & J.W. was appointed to draft the By Laws for the government of the lodge and report at next regular communication. On Motion Bro. Berd was allowed to occupy the preparation room till first of Sept. 1861. The W.M. appointed Tuesdays & Friday Evenings of each week as stated communications for instruction. On Motion the Lodge closed in harmony.
Jay A. Hubbell Secty
-pro tem-”
Please read on for a blog post from our summer inter, Steve Moray, on fraternal organizations in the Copper Country. ______________________________________________________________________

The Freemasons, the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias…secret societies. Many people find them fascinating, but many may also have a misunderstanding of exactly what these secret societies are or what they do. Most “secret societies” are more mundanely referred to as fraternal organizations. Organizations such as these may have a variety of purposes, including social or charitable goals, or insuring the financial well being of members or their families in case of accidents or hard times or any combination of these or related goals.

 

List of Signatures of the first Masonic Lodge in the Copper Country, including Jay A. Hubbell (about halfway down).
List of Signatures of the first Masonic Lodge in the Copper Country, including Jay A. Hubbell (about halfway down).

Since very early on in the history of the Copper Country these organizations have had a presence. Thanks in large part to their portrayal in popular culture, the most well known fraternal organization is likely the Freemasons. And, indeed, they were one of the first secret societies in the Keweenaw. The first chapter of Free and Accepted Masons, the Quincy Lodge No. 135, was established here in the summer of 1861, just after the beginning of the Civil War. That’s less than 20 years after the Treaty of La Pointe ceded the land in the Keweenaw Peninsula to the United States, 15 years after the Quincy Mining Company was established, and just 2 years after the city of Hancock was founded.

 

Some of the Quincy Lodge’s founding members included some names that may sound familiar. The first “Senior Warden” (second in command) of the Lodge was Jacob Houghton Jr., brother to State Geologist Douglass Houghton (Douglass had passed away in 1845). Jacob accompanied his brother on his famous geological survey, and contributed to the report that was responsible for the copper rush in the Keweenaw. The first Secretary (pro tem) was Jay A. Hubbell. Both the town of Hubbell, and Michigan Tech’s now demolished Hubbell Hall were named for the Mason. At the time Hubbell was a Houghton County attorney, and would later be a U.S. Congressman, State Senator, and district court judge. He was instrumental in helping to establish the Michigan School of Mines, which later became Michigan Technological University.

Hubbell Hall - From Copper Country Historical Images
Hubbell Hall – From Copper Country Historical Images

Members of the Freemasons were very often pillars of the community, and membership in such fraternal organizations could be used to make useful political and social connections, as well as to increase one’s social standing. The Michigan Tech Archives has an extensive collection on the Masons in the Copper Country. MS-035, The Copper Country Masonic Lodge Collection consists of 66 boxes related to the Quincy (later Copper Country) Lodge No. 135, Houghton Lodge No. 218, Keweenaw Lodge No. 242, Calumet Lodge No. 271, John Duncan Lodge No. 373 in addition to various other associated groups such as the Order of Molay, the Michigan Grand Lodge, the Royal Arch Masons, and material related to Masonic buildings such as the Houghton Masonic Temple and the Union Building in Calumet (now the headquarters of Keweenaw National Historical Park).

This certifies that the named sister was a member of a Rebekah Lodge that closed, and can be admitted into any new lodge as a member in good standing.
This certifies that the named sister was a member of a Rebekah Lodge that closed, and can be admitted into any new lodge as a member in good standing.

While most people are familiar with the Freemasons, some of the other fraternal organizations operating in the Copper Country may be a little more unfamiliar. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), for example, were very popular, and in fact, a larger organization than the Masons for much of their existence.The Independent Order of Odd Fellows were formed in Baltimore in 1842, an offshoot of the British Oddfellows organization. The IOOF dedicates itself to charity, it’s purpose to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan”. Of course, the Odd Fellows also used the organization, much like the Freemasons, for fellowship and socialization.

Portrait of an unnamed “Daughter of Rebekah”.
Portrait of an unnamed “Daughter of Rebekah”.

Despite the name, however, “fraternal” organizations weren’t just limited to men. The Odd Fellows became the first of its kind in the United States to admit women in 1851 when the Daughters of Rebekah were created as the Odd Fellows women’s auxiliary organization (both groups would eventually admit both men and women). The archives has a wide variety of records related to the Odd Fellows, including from the Hecla Lodge 90, the Mystic Lodge 109, the Holly Rebekah Lodge, and the Ivy Rebekah Lodge, and many items such as photographs spread throughout our collections. 

By 1890 the Knights of Pythias also had a presence in the Copper Country, despite the organization not even existing until the end of the Civil War, a quarter century earlier. The Knights were similar in organization and purpose to the Masons and Odd Fellows, but while those groups were brought over from Europe, the Knights were originally founded in the U.S. The “F.C.B.” initials you can see in the emblem on the cover of the by-laws stands for the Pythian motto: Friendship, Charity, Benevolence.

A pocket copy of the by-laws of the Lake Superior Lodge, No. 109 of the Knights of Pythias, printed in 1890. From the Wilbert Salmi Collection, MS-601.
A pocket copy of the by-laws of the Lake Superior Lodge, No. 109 of the Knights of Pythias, printed in 1890. From the Wilbert Salmi Collection, MS-601.

The Daughters of the Eternal City were an Italian/Italian American women’s mutual benefit society located in Calumet, but in addition to providing aid to members in need, the Daughters partook in their own share of secret society traditions. While I don’t speak Italian, I am an avid Google Translator. With a little help from Google, my colleague Allison, and a bit of judicious interpretation, part of the ritual described in their rulebook includes this tidbit regarding latecomers: “The sisters who are late, when the meeting is already open, will knock at the door with one distinct stroke and three consecutive strokes. The doorkeeper opens the door saying ‘Rome’. The sister outside will answer ‘Eternal’.” You can’t have a secret society meeting without a secret password.

As you can see, the Copper Country has a long and rich relationship with fraternal organizations, and the Michigan Tech Archives contains a variety of records related to those organizations. Unfortunately this blog post has barely scratched the surface of the wealth of information that could be mined from our various collections. Who knows, maybe this blog post may inspire some current or future historian to enlighten about what the records of these “secret” societies can tell us.


Summer Intern Update

Steve is hard at work assisting a patron with some genealogical research.
Steve is hard at work assisting a patron with some genealogical research.

Here is an update from our summer intern. He’s learned a lot and we are keeping him busy!


Hi everyone, it’s me again, with an update on my first few weeks in the archives. Although it’s only been a short period of time, I’ve seen a lot of friendly faces, both new and familiar. Not only have many visitors come from all over the country to stop in and research their family during their travels, there have even been a few professors stopping in to work on projects (yes, they work during the summer). One of my primary goals when I applied to this internship was to gain a lot of practical experience, and I think that goal is certainly being fulfilled. My first week was spent learning about the archives, and about the different collections that are here, how to locate them, and how they might be useful to patrons. I was also tasked with performing some remote research for a patron, using the digital microfilm reader to collect newspaper articles on the Northern Copper Country professional baseball league from 1907, which included many teams from the Keweenaw and surrounding areas. Seeing other articles from the time, referencing President Theodore Roosevelt, ships wrecking in the Great Lakes, or even articles about how much the locals love ice cream and soda provides an engaging context to what was happening at the time.

Much of my time has been spent shadowing archivists at the reference desk. That means I watch and learn about the procedures and techniques of interacting with patrons and helping them with their inquiries or research. Sometimes I will even take the lead to help patrons understand some of the procedures of the archives’ reading room and getting started searching through some of our databases and collections. Soon I will be taking my own reference shifts. My favorite part of working here is helping patrons with their genealogical research. When we can show someone the house their ancestor lived in on a Sanborn fire insurance map, or an employment card from the mining company that shows exactly how much they were paid, or just hearing the excitement in their voices or the joy on their faces as they uncover information they never knew before.

In the work room, preparing some collections for relocation and cleaning.
In the work room, preparing some collections for relocation and cleaning.

I have also begun to do some of the archives work that goes on behind the scenes. I have performed the accession process for a number of small donations from the Michigan Tech Registrar’s Office. Accessioning is the first step in adding donations to our collections, to establish and record exactly what they are and where they’re located physically in the archives. These donations included a set of Michigan Tech Commencement Programs (including from my own commencement ceremony!) that will likely be my first processing project. Processing a collection includes digging deeper to make sure the items are arranged in an orderly manner and described in order that the material is easily findable and accessible to the public. I recently finished writing up a plan for Lindsay, the University Archivist, to approve so I can get started on the processing procedure. I’m looking forward to working on that, and on helping the archives process a number of other small collections during my time here.


Welcome to Summer Intern Steve Moray

Steve Moray assesses a map of Isle Royale in the archives stacks.
Our new summer archives intern, Steve Moray, assesses a map of Isle Royale in the archives stacks.

On behalf of the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, in partnership with the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library, we hope you will help us welcome our new archives intern for summer 2017. Steve Moray was selected as the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library Archives Intern after a competitive national call for applicants. While in Houghton, Steve will be assisting with research support services and behind-the-scenes tours in the Michigan Tech Archives, particularly during the busy summer season. He will also be responsible for arrangement and description of several small manuscript collections and assist with developing new processing workflows for our ArchivesSpace implementation. We are very excited to have him on board! Below, please take a moment to get to know Steve as he introduces himself in his own words.


Hello everyone! My name is Steve Moray and I am a graduate student in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s coordinated MA History/MLIS degree program, concentrating in Archives. I graduated from Michigan Technological University in 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in Archaeology and History. I am thrilled and honored to return to my Alma Mater for this incredible internship opportunity at the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections. As an alumnus, I am already familiar with the archives and have used the collections in multiple classes during my time at Michigan Tech, including for a research paper on amusement parks in the Keweenaw Peninsula and for my undergraduate thesis on the history, archaeology, and GIS mapping of a historic copper mine on Isle Royale (Island Mine). In addition, my archaeology field school at Cliff Mine and History of the Copper Country classes both contributed to my in depth historical knowledge of the local area.

In 2013 I moved to Milwaukee and got a job as a field archaeologist working all over Wisconsin at a small archaeology firm. The nature of the job kept me away from home during the work week for nine months of the year. After three years, and much soul-searching, I came to the realization that my chosen profession was not fulfilling my passion. I wanted to find a way to incorporate my long time hobby, genealogy, and my love of historical research into a new, stable career that would allow me to come home every night, while also igniting that missing passion in me. I was lucky that Milwaukee had one of the best MLIS programs in the nation, and after some research, I applied for, and was accepted into, the Coordinated MA History/MLIS program.

My professional interests include collections digitization, MPLP (More Product, Less Processing), and history and genealogy reference. The final paper for my Introduction to Modern Archives Administration class at Milwaukee discussed the use of MPLP in digitization projects to balance issues of backlog, access, preservation, authenticity, and constraints of time and funding. This is a subject I am eager to explore further as I continue to develop as a professional. In my History program at UWM I have also taken Research Methods in Local History, which entailed conducting an in depth research project specifically focused on utilizing the March on Milwaukee digital collection and various physical collections of the UW-Milwaukee archives. After graduating from my master’s program I would like to pursue a career as an archivist at a local or state history archival institution, or as an archivist for the National Park Service at a National Historical Park.

I am also a seasoned genealogist with 20 years of research practice and am experienced in a wide variety of records located in both physical and digital repositories. I am currently working on becoming a Certified Genealogist and I would like to use my extensive knowledge and experience not just personally, but in a professional capacity as well.

When I’m not at school or work my hobbies include photography, doing genealogy for myself and friends, exploring the outdoors (especially the waterfalls of the Keweenaw), and reading authors such as Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson, among many others.

I will be here until the beginning of the Fall semester, so stop in and say hi, and let me help you with your historical or genealogical research!


For more information on the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library Internship Program or to set up a time to say hello to our new intern, please call Lindsay Hiltunen at (906) 487-2505 or e-mail us at copper@mtu.edu. The Michigan Tech Archives can also be found on Twitter: @mtuarchives.


“Go across the ocean with me”: Student Essays on Family History from 1917

Douglass Houghton School, which sat to the west of the intersection of Douglass and 6th streets in Houghton, as it looked in 1906.
Douglass Houghton School, which sat to the west of the intersection of Douglass and 6th streets in Houghton, as it looked in 1906.

At the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, summer means genealogy! Taking advantage of our warmer weather and the local attractions open for the season, visitors arrive from all around the country–and even the globe–to research their family history. In turn, our staff members learn more about the people who called this place home years ago and their family connections.

The love of genealogy that these visitors display is part of a long tradition in the United States. From America’s earliest days, tracing family ties or handing down family stories has been a hobby for some and a calling for others–and Houghton County was no exception. In 1917, students from Houghton High School and the upper grades of nearby primary schools were asked to write short essays about their families, with an emphasis on ancestors, their origins, and any particularly intriguing anecdotes. What the students produced ranged from terse, straightforward accounts to colorful stories apparently penned by budding novelists. Compiled by the Keweenaw Historical Society and presently part of that organization’s collection (MS-043), the essays recount ancestors with origins in places as diverse as Germany, Finland, Ukraine, and Syria.

High school student Marguerite Morrow set the stage for telling her family history by inviting the reader to travel back in time.
High school student Marguerite Morrow set the stage for telling her family history by inviting the reader to travel back in time.

 

Despite differences in origin, the stories demonstrate many common themes. Students boasted, wherever possible, of illustrious ancestors and connections to fame.   Strobel claimed that one of her relatives had traveled to America with his close friend, a brother of Charles Dickens. Claribel Wright took pride in her “pure English stock”; she asserted that she was descended from a Mayflower passenger and had cousins in famous businesswoman Hetty Green and women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony. Ruth Standish MacDonald did Claribel’s Mayflower ancestor one better: her middle name came from Miles Standish, one of the most famous of these Pilgrims and Ruth’s earliest known family member. Other pupils described forefathers who had made good in their home countries: Joseph Strobel bragged of one who had received “the Sword of Honor” from a German emperor, for example, while Mary Piipponen had no small admiration for her grandfather, who had personally petitioned the Tsar of Russia to restore the Finnish constitution.

But even more typical to the students’ essays were stories of challenges and tragedies, ones that prompted emigration to the United States or that continued to stalk families after their arrival. Fred Caspary’s family, after immigrating from Germany, took a homestead near Puget Sound. “Then,” he said, “the railroad came… and my parents had to sell after living on it 9 years 9 months.”  Embarrassed, Harold Gross admitted that his father’s family had neglected to snuff out all the candles after a night of partying and caused a fire that killed eleven people. James Finley recalled that his twenty-year-old grandfather left Ireland after his mother starved to death during the Irish Potato Famine; he traveled only with a younger brother, just twelve years of age. Myrtle Brassaw, writing of her mother’s journey from England to America in the 1860s, described “a terrible disease”–cholera–that “arose among the people, taking the lives of two hundred ten.” Another Myrtle, Myrtle Warrington, had lost a grandfather to the Osceola Mine fire of 1895.

In hindsight, perhaps the most distressing paper was that written by high school student Sadie Kremen, documenting the lives of the Kremen and Futran families. These ancestors came from the Odessa region of Ukraine, wrote Sadie, who noted proudly that all of her mother’s male relatives “were learned men or teachers.” Her uncles, as young men, were so dedicated to learning that they “wanted to have a more modern education but the government would not allow them to attend any of the universities within the country.” The Futran family, like the Kremen family, were Jewish, and the Russian Empire, which ruled Ukraine, had closed many doors to Jews. Sadie’s uncle found opportunity in Vienna and Berlin; he trained as a physician in both cities before returning home and offering his services to Russia during World War I. “Although the government through its admirable educational system,” Sadie said incisively, ”had not permitted him to study within the country, they were very glad to have the services of a trained doctor.” Sadie’s paternal aunts and uncles had encountered similar prejudice from the government in the later years of the 19th century. “Finding the persecution and tyranny of the government unbearable,” they decamped to America, and her parents soon followed. A little over twenty years after Sadie wrote her essay, Ukraine would be caught up in the Holocaust; over 800,000 Ukrainian Jews were killed, a number that undoubtedly included members of Sadie’s extended family.

Snippet from Sadie Kremen’s essay discussing the oppression her family faced under the Russian Empire.
Snippet from Sadie Kremen’s essay discussing the oppression her family faced under the Russian Empire.

I cannot let this blog post go by without mentioning a personal discovery in the collection: an essay penned by Ethel Moyle, my great-grandmother. She wrote this piece in eighth grade, the last year of school she attended. I never had the chance to know Ethel, but her paper tells me that she might have been an imaginative young lady–or raised by parents determined to pull the wool over her eyes. “My father’s father was a sailor in a boat for a good many years,” she said. “One day they had a wreck and he was drowned.” In reality, her paternal grandfather had suffered a fatal injury while working as a miner. On the other hand, Ethel explained that her maternal grandfather “died a long time ago, when my mother was a baby. After, my grandmother and mother decided to come to America.” Ethel’s mother had more motivation to misremember her family history: she had been illegitimate, possibly the result of an assault on her mother. Then, as now, it seems that descendants were motivated to remember their predecessors in the best–and most interesting–light.

Perhaps, as I did, you will discover an ancestor’s essay tucked away in the Keweenaw Historical Society Collection. Maybe you will discover a compelling or tragic story that needs to be shared; you might enjoy a memory passed down through the generations. If nothing else, the prose of these young student-authors stands firm on its own merits, more than a century after it was put to paper.

By Emily Riippa, Assistant Archivist

 



Reading Room Spotlight: Portrait of an Ancestor as a Young Woman

This week’s blog post is courtesy of our Assistant Archivist Resident, Emily Riippa. It provides a thoughtful spotlight on one of our reading room art pieces.

——————————————————————————————————————————

For the past year, visitors to the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections have been captivated by the portrait of a striking young woman that graces a wall in the reading room. This painting of Christeen Shelden was donated by Therissa Jane Libby, a great-granddaughter of the subject, in 2016; a previous blog post by University Archivist Lindsay Hiltunen provides additional information about Mrs. Libby’s generous gift.

While our staff knew the provenance of the portrait, our knowledge of Christeen herself remained minimal. As we passed the painting many times in our daily work and fielded questions from patrons who had paused to admire it, the sense of mystery grew. Christeen was a scion of the respected Shelden family, yes, but what more could be said about her experiences? Did she live to a happy old age, or was her life cut tragically short? Did she pursue one of the careers available to women of her time? Did she marry and raise a family? As archivists, naturally, we turned to historical documents to answer these questions. Like researchers who come to investigate their family history here, we now are able to see this face from the past with greater clarity.

Donor Jane Libby and Archivist Lindsay Hiltunen pose with the framed portrait of Christeen M. Shelden, daughter of local historic figure Ransom B. Shelden. The painting was donated to the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections on Monday, June 20.
Therissa Jane Libby posing with the portrait of her great-grandmother, Christeen Shelden.

Christeen Shelden was born in May 1848 near the Portage Entry, where her father had recently built a store on the sandbars near Jacobsville. She was the third child and only daughter of Ransom and Therissa (Douglass) Shelden; Carlos and George were several years older, and Ransom, Jr., would join the family four years later. Hoping to further capitalize on the supply needs of the nascent copper boom, Ransom and his business partner relocated the store to Quincy Mine in the early 1850s and then to Houghton. Their operations flourished: by 1860, Ransom Shelden informed the census taker that his property was worth some $175,000.

Christeen grew up in Houghton, surrounded by her family and by the world that had sprung up around the mines: mercantiles, hotels, saloons, investors like her father, laborers who had spent everything they had to move to the Copper Country for a chance at something more than subsistence. Many of her neighbors were American-born, like her family, but just as many had come from places like Canada, England, and Germany. Undoubtedly, living in a boom town made for an interesting childhood, with the surroundings adding a real world touch to Christeen’s education. Based on the presence of a teacher named Emily Collingwood in the Shelden household in the 1860 census, it seems likely that Christeen received her formal schooling in her home. Census records also indicate that, as a young adult, Christeen probably did not elect to become a schoolteacher herself, one of the few careers available to a woman of her socioeconomic status. In 1870, her occupation was listed as “at home,” meaning that she likely filled her days by assisting her mother and their servants in household upkeep or by attending to social and charitable obligations. The style of Christeen’s clothing in the portrait suggests that it was painted at some point in the early years of this decade.

Love found Christeen in her twenties. She met a young man named Edwin Salmon Gilbert, a bookkeeper and the son of a Baptist minister. Edwin had spent his youth moving around the country, following his father between pastorates in his native New York, Illinois, and Marshall, Michigan, according to various federal censuses. From Marshall, the youthful accountant headed north and took a job with Ransom Shelden in about 1873. Christeen and Edwin fell in love and were married in Houghton on February 28, 1874. They remained close to her family: when the Michigan state census was taken later that year, the Gilberts and the Sheldens were recorded as living side by side.

Christeen and Edwin’s brief marriage was marked by moments of profound joy and sorrow. They welcomed their first child, Shelden Douglass, nine months after the wedding; a second son, Edwin Gage, followed in April 1876. Sadly, their next two children, who arrived in March 1877 and April 1878, were stillborn. Therissa I. Gilbert, named for her grandmother, was born on October 2, 1879.  Less than six months after her daughter’s birth, Christeen died; her headstone in the Shelden plot at Houghton’s Forest Hill Cemetery gives the date as March 8, 1880. She was 31 years old.

Christeen’s memorial in the Shelden family section of Houghton’s Forest Hill Cemetery as it appears today.
Christeen’s memorial in the Shelden family section of Houghton’s Forest Hill Cemetery as it appears today.

After Christeen’s death, Edwin and the children moved south to Illinois, residing with his parents at census time and likely trying to come to terms with their loss. They eventually returned to Houghton County. In 1883, Edwin remarried in Houghton and moved with his new wife to Santa Cruz, California, where voter registers the following year recorded him as a merchant. It is unclear whether Shelden, the younger Edwin, and Therissa accompanied him immediately or whether they remained with extended family in the Midwest. What is apparent, however, is that Christeen’s brothers felt it important that they take her children under their wing. Shelden Gilbert showed an aptitude for the law, and his name appeared in the alumni directories of Northwestern University and Yale Law School. When Carlos Shelden was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1896, he chose his young nephew as his private secretary. Sadly, Shelden Gilbert’s life was even shorter than his mother’s. While visiting the Copper Country in April 1899, the 24-year-old contracted cerebrospinal meningitis and died within a day.  

An obituary of Shelden D. Gilbert in the April 24, 1899 edition of the Copper Country Evening News.
An obituary of Shelden D. Gilbert in the April 24, 1899 edition of the Copper Country Evening News.

Edwin G. Gilbert, meanwhile, studied at Northwestern University and what was then the Michigan College of Mines, developing his abilities as a civil and mining engineer. Like his father, he moved to California, residing in Plumas County and San Diego. He died there in 1943, leaving a wife and one son.

Therissa Gilbert seems to have resided in Illinois for a time before also making the migration to California, where she married pharmacist Edwin Elliott at the age of 21. Their two sons thrived as professionals: the elder, Shelden, was a professor of law at New York University and dean of the University of Southern California School of Law, while Edwin Elliott, Jr., became a teacher and attained the rank of commander in the Navy during World War II.

It was Therissa Gilbert Elliott who inherited her mother’s portrait. Thanks to her faithful care and preservation of the painting over the years–a responsibility later taken up by her granddaughter–Christeen’s confident and thoughtful countenance will continue to charm onlookers well into the future, just as it has for over a century.