100 YEARS AGO: Manistee destroyed by flames — 'The wooden town, saw-dust streets ... the pine clad hills north of the river, all burst into a sea of flame'

The following news items are reprinted from the Manistee Daily News for the week Oct.7-13, 1921 and are compiled by Teena Kracht from the newspaper archives of the Manistee County Historical Museum. Read more of the 100 Years Ago column at manisteenews.com.

Oct. 7, pg. 1

“‘Motor bus service is the only solution of Manistee’s present transportation problem. But motor bus service should be regulated by a city ordinance and busses should be compelled to maintain a regular schedule and carry liability insurance to protect patrons in case of accident and injury.’ — This is the report and recommendation of the (Manistee) Special Transportation Committee of the board of commerce named two months ago when the Manistee Railway Company ceased operation of its streetcars ...

“The committee statement goes exhaustively into the financial condition of the local street railway. It pointedly declares that the company is not operated and cannot be operated at a profit ... It is conceded ... that there is no way of compelling the company to operate streetcars unless it is willing to do so ... .

“The real spirit of service in business was the keynote of an inspiring address given by Frank Stockdale on the subject ‘Women in Business’ to an interested audience of 200 women members and guests of the Manistee Business Women’s club ...

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“Mr. Stockdale complimented the ladies on their salesmanship in bringing out such a fine audience ...

“‘Appeal to the fundamental emotions,’ he (said). ‘People like to be noticed. Stores in this country are losing customers and sales by the thousands because of inattention ...

“Assuring his hearers that he liked the name of their organization, he said that women have come to take a very important part in business ...

“Stating that the standard of retail selling is not very high in Manistee, and in many other cities as well, Stockdale said the fault lies in the fact that there are many ‘store waiters’ instead of salespeople ... To be successful, he said, the salesperson must know her merchandise and be able to confront the customer with confidence ...

“He also impressed the value of courtesy and polite attention to the class charcterized as ‘lookers,’ who eventually may become good customers, and who in any event will spread the word through the various groups and circles of society ... .

Pg. 3

“As Noah Heap puts it: Men are seldom as good as they pretend to be or as bad as they are said to be.

“Life’s greatest idiot is he who refuses to have anything to do with the man who holds different beliefs from his own.

“You had better not neglect your business unless your competitor will agree to neglect his at the same time — and when he does you should get busy — which is probably the same idea he has.

“A light topcoat, once considered as superfluous haberdashery of the dude, is now looked upon as an essential in fall and spring when the mean temperature demands something between a heavy ‘bennie’ or none at all.

“The weatherwise are predicting a hard winter, but if we recall correctly they foresaw a cool summer last spring.

“As Noah Heap puts it: The world is getting bigger than the men who are trying to run it.

Oct. 8, pg. 1

“Manistee Destroyed By Flames Fifty Years Ago Today. SEA OF FIRE FANNED BY GALE LAID CITY IN RUINS ON SUNDAY, OCT. 8, 1871. Great Disaster ... Graphically Described By Gen. Byron M. Cutcheon ... from a book published in 1882 ...

“‘ ... Then came a deluge of fire ... The wooden town, the saw-dust streets, the stumpy vacant lots, the pine clad hills north of the river, all burst into a sea of flame ... It was pandemonium on earth ...

“‘Famlies were separated ... The writer, when he gave up the unequal contest south of the town, rushed to his residence to find it deserted ...

“‘Everything went down before the storm — dwellings with their home treasures, mills with their machinery, stores and their stocks, warehouses ... bridge ... vessels and their cargoes — all mingled in common ruin.

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“‘A thousand men, women, and children, houseless, homeless, and many of them penniless, wandered sad and blinded in the black and smoking streets, or had taken refuge on vessels ... to escape the devouring element ...

“‘The writer of this, at 10 o’clock the next morning, found his family three miles northeast of the city, having barely escaped with their lives ... The night before (the fire) surrounded with the comforts of a beautiful and happy home; at dawn we found ourselves blinded with heat and smoke, without home, or so much as a change of raiment — but thankful for life, strength and unconquerable hope and courage.

“‘Then came a spectacle to gladden the heart! Every house that remained was opened ... Hearts and hands were as open as the houses. We almost felt it worth while to suffer for the sake of witnessing how much of generosity was latent in human nature ...

“‘Manistee will rise from her ashes ... We have hope, energy, faith in the future ... .’

“Tonight is when you get back that hour of sleep that you lost last spring, when the city’s clocks were shoved an hour ahead, to eastern standard time.

“Tonight at midnight ... the city will go back to central time, which is one hour slower ... and time normalcy will be restored. Tomorrow the churches of the city will hold their services by the old time and Monday morning schools and factories will be back in step with railroad time.

“The safe way to have your timepiece right tomorrow will be to set it back when you retire tonight. Or, rather, to set it 11 hours ahead, as jewelers say it does a watch or clock no good to reverse the gears in setting it.

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“Then you’ll be set for that extra hour’s sleep tomorrow morning.

“Frank Stockdale, business expert who has been enlightening Manistee merchants for the past week ... delivered his concluding ... meaty talk on ‘Community Competition’ ... and emphasized the great need ... for a large volume of advertising.

“‘There is a close relationship between the merchant and the newspaper. The merchant can’t make a success of his business unless he has customers. The newspaper man can’t make a success of his venture unless he has subscribers, and newspaper subscribers and store customers are one.

“‘The lack of results from newspaper advertising is due to not enough advertising ... to make it interesting to the readers. The circulation of a newspaper depends upon the amount of advertising carried as well as the amount of news carried ... the more advertising ... the more subscribers.’

“Mr. Stockdale in this connection took occasion to compliment the News-Advocate on its editorial policy, and characterized the paper as an excellent representative of a city of Manistee’s size.

Pg. 3

“An increase from $10 to $70 in the bill of the Consumers Power company against the city for power furnished in lifting and lowering the Maple Street drawbridge during September caused the city commission to take notice and lift inquiring eyebrows when the item was read off.

“The bill was ... put aside for investigation ... The commission wants to know the cause for the high jump. Up to last month the street railway company used the span ... but since this service has been discontinued it appears to the commissioners that the power company is disposed to capitalize this service to the limit ...

“Coincidentally ... Mayor Rademaker presented a resolution serving notice on the Consumers Power company and all its subsidiaries that unless within 30 days steps are taken to resume streetcar service in Manistee the city commission will declare the franchise forfeited ... The resolution was unanimously adopted.

“The resignation of Arnold T. Graves as city clerk was tendered last night to the city commission and was reluctantly accepted by that body.

“Coincidentally announcement was authorized of the purchase by Mr. Graves of the general insurance agency business of the late W. A. Albertson, which since the latter’s death has been continued by his widow. Mr. Graves ... will assume active direction of the agency as soon as he can be relieved. Under his management the agency will, as heretofore, handle all lines of insurance ... representing several well-established companies ... .

“The clinics yesterday in Dr. King’s general hospital showed the following results: tuberculosis, seven ex-service men examined, of which three showed positive cases, one suspicious ... and three negative ... Of the eight adults and children examined, three showed suspicious tuberculosis and five negative ...

“In the children’s clinic, out of 35 examined 33 showed pathological conditions ... in 31 cases definite recommendations were made for further observation and treatment by the family physician and dentist.

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“Property owners and residents in the long block on Third avenue between Washington and Ford streets are up in arms over the city’s action in removing the plank walk over the sandy hill ... and want this convenience restored ... as indicated by a petition bearing 19 signatures presented to the city commission last night.

“The walk was recently torn up as the result of payment of a damage claim of $246.43 to Rose Steffens on account of injuries alleged to have been sustained there last winter, and because a walk of that description is in violation of the city ordinance. Residents thereabouts aver that the claim was paid without thorough investigation, and declare that Miss Steffens’ injuries were the result of her own carelessness and not of any imperfection in the walk ...

“The walk, all agreed, was a great convenience ... in some instances saving a walk of five to seven blocks in reaching the marketing section of that neighborhood. The petitioners, it appeared, are all willing to build their own concrete walks if the city will grade the street and establish a level — would in fact prefer this to be done to having the board walk restored. But if this is found not feasible at present they want the walk replaced.

“Harry J. Aarons returned last night from Rochester, Minn.

“One of the features of fire prevention week is the price of coal.

“What’s become of the fellow who would hide behind a woman’s skirts?

“The price of eggs is again getting to be hard-boiled.

“In a few minutes now we’ll withdraw our daylight savings account.

“Police department made 18 arrests last month, 13 of which were for drunkenness.

“The sweetest day of the year is today — national ‘Candy Day.’ Say it with candy, fellows.

“Backward, turn backward, O time in thy flight, — Give me an extra hour’s sleep tonight.

Oct. 10, pg. 1

“With the arrival early this morning of two carloads of structural steel, and report that similar consignments are moving rapidly in this direction, indications are that actual construction work on the mammoth salt plant of Ruggles & Rademaker will be under way by the end of the present week, or at latest, the first of next week.

Pg. 3

“Gus Pirsig, arrested twice on the charge of driving a car while under the influence of liquor, appeared in Justice Greve’s court this morning and, changing his plea of not guilty to guilty on the first charge, paid the fine of $50 and costs, thus keeping the case from going into circuit court.

“The hearing on the second charge will be held Wednesday.

“Manager Otto J. Lauer of the Lyric announces that beginning tomorrow matinees will be given every Tuesday afternoon throughout the fall and winter. Two performances will be given, at 2:30 and 4 o’clock for school children.

“Be careful how you drive your car these days, as Manistee has become afflicted with accident fever.

“Late Saturday night, Dr. Norconk, of Bear Lake, driving down Division Street toward River in his Ford, collided on the corner of River Street with the Dodge touring car of an Elberta man named Brandt. The latter’s car received two badly bent front fenders, a caved in radiator, and a broken fan. Dr. Norconk’s car was only slightly damaged.

“This afternoon at 2 o’clock, Mr. Clouse of Pentwater, with his wife and daughter in their Buick car, ran into the Buick car of Martin Knudstrup. Both cars were being driven east on First Street ... Knudstrup signaled that he was going to turn ... Clouse ... ran into the back of the Knudstrup car ... (both cars) were very badly damaged ...

“Mr. Clouse was very badly cut by glass from the windshield and was taken to the hospital. Mrs. Clouse and her daughter were badly shaken up but otherwise did not suffer any injuries.

“(Placed advertisemt/comment) Thank Heaven We are today back to normal time ...

“We no longer have to rouse our children from a sound slumber to get them to school on fake time.

“We no longer have to conflict with the Federal laws or the laws of the State of Michigan in the matter of time.

“We no longer are in conflict with railroad time in trying to catch a train.

“We are no longer in conflict with the Post Office department in sending our mail.

“We are no longer in conflict with the time of the farmers, of tourists, and our neighboring cities.

“The ‘daylight saving plan,’ so called, is a misnomer, a fraud and a rotten deal for the public generally.

“Why disrupt organized society for the benefit of Golfers and Joy-riders?

“LET US STAY NORMAL HEREAFTER. — Citizen’s Committee.

Oct. 11, pg. 1

“The Exchange club luncheon at the Chippewa yesterday was one of the best attended in the history of the organization, nearly the full membership responding to the rollcall.

“President Kessler reported on the national Exchange convention held recently in Grand Rapids, to which he was a delegate. John C. Beukema, secretary of the board of commerce, asked the backing of the Exchange club in an effort to make the board of commerce a more democratic organization than in its present form of administration and in bringing it into closer contact with the public, as a means toward securing its fuller cooperation in civic and community movements.

Pg. 3

“They used to hide their rouge; now they rouge their hide.

“As Noah Heap puts it: The man who sits up nights hating his neighbor will find in the morning that his neighbors have beaten him to it. Some folks get pug noses from butting them into other people’s business.

“The sparrows that have chirped and rollicked with such high glee through the summer around the play- and picnic-grounds have taken up their winter quarters under the eaves, from where they can watch the housewife toss out the vagrant crumbs. Remains of the picnic lunches made banquet boards for the sparrows throughout the summer.

“When you see that the approaching motorist insists on not giving up a rightful share of the road, turn out, young man, turn out, away out, and under your breath hum contentedly the lines of the well-known epitaph: ‘Here lies the body of William Jay, who died maintaining his right of way; he was right, dead right, as he sped along — but he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.’

“Jewelers say that now is the time to buy diamonds and pearls, but unfortunately it happens that this is also the time to buy coal.

Oct. 12, pg. 3

“Last night at 6 o’clock ... Rev. Carl Lorimer and ‘Sam’ Rutherford (taxi driver) were coming west on First Street. Arriving at the corner of First and Cypress streets, Rev. Lorimer started to turn ... without a signaling, it is claimed ... Rutherford, coming close behind him, tried to swing around the pastor, but in so doing, he hit the gutter in front of Ed. Kieling’s butcher shop. This caused the taxi to be swung around into Cypress Street, and directly into the Ford touring car belonging to John Swanson, owner of the grocery store at the corner of First and Cypress streets. The latter’s car was parked on Cypress Street ... without the (parking) lights burning ... .(Substantial damage to the Swanson car; minimal damage to the taxi. — T. K.)

“In the article appearing in the News Advocate under the date of Oct. 8, under the heading ‘3 Av. Residents Opposed Tearing Up of Sidewalk,’ there is a misstatement which I wish to correct.

“The article states, ‘residents thereabouts declare that Miss Steffens’ injuries were the result of her own carelessness and not of any imperfection in the walk.’ This statement is not true. I was with Miss Steffens when the accident occurred. Miss Steffens was not careless, and the injury was occasioned through the defective sidewalk. — VIOLA L. RADTKE.

“The proof of the mushroom is in the after effects.

“The Lyric will give a benefit performance Friday for the Manistee Business Woman’s club. ‘The Frisky Mrs. Johnson,’ featuring Billie Burke, will be the main attraction.

“Farmers report that hens are laying thick-shelled eggs so that we are going to have a hard winter. It’ll be a hard winter to get eggs, for sure, at the rate the price is going up.

“The body of Paul Skrezenta of Eastlake, who died in France, will arrive here tomorrow, according to word received. Funeral services will be held Saturday under auspices of the American Legion if the remains arrive tomorrow.

“The best thing to make for Christmas is money.

“As Noah Heap puts it: Advice and medicine are all right except when you are obliged to take them. When a man gets hot in an argument it’s a sign he is running out of reasons.

Oct. 13, pg. 1

“A glance at the show windows of downtown stores shows a vast improvement in attractiveness over a month ago, which is evidence that the recent Merchants’ Institute gave business men ideas that were worth copying.

“Suggestions for interior arrangement are also being tried out. It was found this morning that one clothier followed a suggestion with respect to the location of the collar counter.

“The diplomas awarded by the board of commerce have all been received by the salespeople who attended at least three meetings and the holders are more than pleased with them inasmuch as they represent the completion of an exceptional course in salesmanship.

“DETROIT, Oct. 13. — Mrs. Myron B. Vorce, former president of the League of Women Voters, said today that if a woman has ability to teach she should do so, whether she is married or not and gave this as the reason for a resolution to be sent to the board of education in defense of the married school teacher. The resolutions will urge that ability and efficiency be made the only standards for employment of women teachers in Detroit schools.

“Mrs. Vorce in answer to those who claim a woman cannot properly manage her home and children if she sought employment said that when competent help could be obtained for the home, the married woman’s place was where she could best serve the community.

“‘Why should exceptions be made in the case of school teachers,’ she asked. ‘The only answer we can figure out is that the teachers are the footballs of circumstance, buffeted around because they are public servants.’

Pg. 2

“(What’s Doing In Our Schools.) During this past week, fourteen new pupils have been enrolled in the vocational school. The number now enrolled is close to the one hundred mark and, without doubt, this number will be exceeded. New classes in Civics, Hygiene, English and Arithmetic commenced this week. These, together with sewing, shop work, typewriting and shorthand classes make up the subjects offered. The boys and girls in the vocational classes seem to be greatly pleased ...

“All of the public schools in Manistee are closed today and tomorrow because of the county institute for teachers.

“On Saturday the football team goes to Ludington, and it is expected that both teams will put up a battle royal ... Plans are going forward rapidly to make the football game, to be played here on the afternoon of Armistice Day between Manistee High and Mt. Pleasant, the feature of the season ... The proceeds of the game, after expenses have been deducted, will be devoted to the purchase of new athletic equipment, for which there is a great need ... The Roman Legion, consisting of pupils taking Caesar, will hold its first meeting of the year next Friday ...

“A general assembly of all High School students was held at the Lyric Monday afternoon ... Frank Barnes, a local insurance man ... gave a talk on fire prevention ... After this interesting address, one of the football heroes was called upon to tell the students something about the football games that have been played out of town ...

“The rest of the time was devoted to arousing ‘pep’ ... After the yells had been given, the students were dismissed ...

“Lincoln School:

“More than fifty children availed themselves of the clinic service. Of these, forty-six were examined. We hope that the parents, when they learn wherein their children are deficient, will hasten to have these deficiencies removed. Children cannot do their work at school with any great success if they are suffering under the handicap of some form of ill health.

“Ninety books were drawn from our library last Friday. Miss Froberg seems greatly pleased with the evident interest displayed by the pupils.

“Two teachers’ meetings were held at our building last week ...

“Four of our students had their tonsils removed Saturday. We are sure that their health will be improved thereby. This good work was the result of the efforts of the health department and social service worker. The pupils of the open air room were also given a physical examination by the health officer, assisted by Miss Shane. Pupils who were found to be enjoying good health were removed to the regular grades to make room for new applicants to the open air room ...

Pg. 3

“The steel framework of the immense Ruggles & Rademaker salt plant began to assume shape yesterday ... As the work progressed good-sized crowds assembled to watch this phase of construction from the nearest vantage points permitted.

“Learn from the clock; it passes the time by keeping its hands busy.

“All kinds of weather yesterday. You could take your choice, rain, hail or snow. Frost last night and Indian summer today. The latter suits us best.

“As Noah Heap puts it: Life is what goes on while you’re alive ... .

“It’s easy to be a fool and it’s foolish to be easy.

“It is no credit to go forward without making an effort to help those who are slipping backward.

Oct. 8, pg. 1

“(Editorial) On the fiftieth anniversary of her destruction by fire, Manistee today stands on the brink of a new industrial renaissance. In that half century changes have taken place here which only the oldest pioneer can appreciate, changes which have tended toward a more stable, a more prosperous Manistee.

“Fifty years ago today, on Sunday, Oct. 8, 1871, Manistee, simultaneously with Chicago, was laid to ruins by fire. It was a black, heart-breaking period for the struggling community. Homes were desolated, families were forced to find comfort under improvised shelters, business and industry were set back to the point of beginning, and with the insurance companies ‘broke’ as a result of the disastrous Chicago fire, the Manistee victims had no other recourse than their own undampened spirits and energy, and some outside aid.

“Yet, despite a situation that tried men’s souls, they met the test. They did more than just meet it; they conquered it; and by a fine example of community team-work, a team-work not often found today, they set about to rebuild the city which 10,000 persons today are privileged to call ‘home!’ ... a municipality that in point of health, peace and prosperity challenges any other city of its size in Michigan ...

“ ... It is not out of place ... to state here that the lesson to be learned is a lesson of unbounded optimism and faith in future possibilities, possibilities which are far from exhaustion today, waiting to be improved by the same kind of faith and optimism ...

“The expression is often heard, ‘Oh, for the good old days,’ but ... appeals for the ‘slapjacks mother used to make and sleigh rides to Wissner’s corners, etc.,’ sound pleasing momentarily or when decrying some modern practices, but when two and two are placed together, and the circumstances connected, such as cutting the wood on a frosty night for the fire to make those slapjacks, with the modern way of cooking with gas, the good old days don’t seem so attractive after all.

“The progress of Manistee has kept pace with that of the rest of the world. Her improvements are noteworthy achievements. Paved streets have replaced cedar block drive-ways. Cement sidewalks have displaced calk-pitted boards ...

“The industrial transformation of Manistee has been one of the really remarkable accomplishments ... Born of a lumber manufacturing community and dependent on that industry alone for its life blood, Manistee, with the passing of this romantic period ... is now well along in manufacturing products of a more permanent character ...

“What are the permanent industries here today which have grown up since the fire of 50 years ago? Underwear manufacturing, shirt manufacturing, cigar manufacturing, pulp making, ship repair work, pumps, evaporators, salt, shoe manufacturing, leather tanning, canning, furniture manufacturing, woodenware, milling, factory-built homes ... whose operating forces are native Manisteeans and not a shifting class.

“What are some of the fine office and public buildings? Ramsdell opera house and hall, the library, the postoffice, Masonic temple, Elks temple, the Savings bank block, Chippewa hotel, Aarons building, city hall, Ramsdell block, and a number of others ...

“On this fiftieth anniversary of her destruction by fire Manistee is just opening the doors to a great future. Salt which has outlived the sawmills with which it had been associated since its discovery here in 1881, promises to give great momentum to that future ... Manistee will regain its name as ‘the Salt City of the Unsalted Seas,’ and the greatest single city producing salt in the world.

Oct. 8, pg. 2

“(Article) Justice Greve, While Moving, Finds Manistee 1888 Directory.

“How many of you remember way back in 1888?

“Justice Greve, going over his collection of old books while establishing himself in his new place on River Street, has found a city and county directory of 1888, published by John P. O’Malley, then publisher of the Manistee Advocate.

“The preface shows some very interesting facts about the city. Between the years 1883 and 1888, the population of Manistee increased by 8,500. This was principally the city, Eastlake, Filer City, Stronach and Onekama. The population of the city, Eastlake, Stronach, and Filer was estimated to be about 16,000.

“Other interesting facts to be noted are as follows: ‘Manistee manufactures One Million barrels of salt a year of a quality not only equal to but superior to any salt in Europe or America. It has the largest salt blocks in the world; the best saw-mills in the state.

“‘Manistee has better schools and churches than any city of its size in Michigan. It owns more sailing and steam crafts than all the ports from Michigan City to Menominee combined. More homes are owned by the citizens of Manistee than any other city of equal population in the country. Its machine shops and saw factories are equal to any in the state. There are five weekly newspapers liberally patronized, viz. ; The Advocate, Democrat, Times-Sentinel, Broadaxe, Michigan Scandinavian.’

“The Advocate claimed to be the leading newspaper in the Manistee region. It advertised itself as. ‘Independent in All Things,’ ‘Neutral in Nothing’, and ‘Radical for Right.’

“Manistee then had one bank, four dry goods stores, three drug stores, three foundries and machine shops, one saw manufacturer, three hotels, five hardware stores, three livery and sales stables, fifteen lumber mills, three planing mills, one railroad and three steamboat lines.”

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