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Beacon Archive

October 2002
PDF Version

Constance Cappel visits Beaver Island.

Noted author Constance Cappel (Hemingway in Michigan) came to Beaver Island on August 27th to look at the “circle of stones” mentioned in her new book, Sweetgrass and Smoke. She used a quotation taken from Betty Sodder’s book, Michigan Prehistory Mysteries, describing the circle. She confirmed the existence of the stone circle in a telephone conversation with Alvin LaFreniere before publishing her book and traveled to Beaver Island last summer and earlier this summer to talk to him and others.

Her parents had a summer cottage in Harbor Springs, and as a child, the family often came out to Beaver Island in their boat and stayed at the King Strang Hotel. She inherited the family cottage, but sold it in the late eighties. She then bought an over one hundred year old house in Harbor Springs and restored it. She recently moved to Harbor Springs full time, after giving up her position at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. It was in Harbor Springs that stories about Hemingway first intrigued her and led to her research, which started when she was 23 –before she earned her M.A. from Columbia and her Ph.D. When she investigated leads about Hemingway, she found out that he had fallen in love with a Prudence Mitchell (Prudence Boulton in the Nick Adams stories). Prudence Mitchell was fifteen when she was with Hemingway, who was seventeen. She killed herself when she was sixteen and was supposedly four months pregnant. Dr. Cappel’s book, Sweetgrass and Smoke, contains this story and a fictional one about an American Indian girl in Harbor Springs in the fifties.

She has investigated archeological ruins for over twenty-five years from two visits to the Mayan ruins in the seventies to Stonehenge in Great Britain in the nineties. She belongs to N.E.A.R.A. and has investigated many sacred sites and stone circles in New England. Her opinion of the Beaver Island American Indian / Sumerian stone circle is that the lintels have probably been removed, leaving their in-ground bases. When she was told that the boulders in the wall behind Beaver Island Realty had been gathered from the Redding’s Trail field, she examined them and found some possible Ogam markings—a ratification of the theory presented by Andrew Jacob during Museum Week. She also brought up one of the subjects contained in Sweetgrass and Smoke about Andrew J. Blackbird’s account of a smallpox trick used against the Odawa as biological warfare. “L’Arbre Croche had 30,000 inhabitants before the smallpox treachery by the British in 1763,” she said. “This was when New York City had a population of 7,000.”

One of the fictional characters in Sweetgrass and Smoke is based on the father of Frank Ettawageshik, who has spoken during Museum Week several times. Another local connection is Jay Oliver, whom she interviewed for this book before he passed away. She ran her own publishing company, Vermont Crossroad Press, which had three best sellers and was among the top 250 publishing companies in the U.S. in 1980. She selected Xlibris, a division of Random House, as her present publisher, because it is a print-on-demand company where your book never goes out of print. She has appeared at book signings at Borders in Traverse City, both bookstores in Petoskey, and was interviewed on N.P.R. Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of any of her books can obtain a copy from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, order them through your local bookstore, or go to her web site: ConstanceCappel.com

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