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Beacon Archive

May 2004
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The Historical Society prepares for a New Season

Even though groups have already started to arrive to see the Mormon Print Shop and the Marine Museum, the official opening is not until June 20th. New displays will be in place, and new books available. Volunteer Coordinator Joyce Bartels is struggling to replace three of the 26 helpers required to keep both museums open all summer. So if you know anyone you think might enjoy greeting newcomers and chatting about the Island’s past for three hours a week, have them (or you) drop her a line at – remember, this is a very rewarding thing to do. She'll conduct an orientation on June 19th.

Over the winter, much time was spent trying to obtain permits from the DEQ for needed work at the Marine Museum–for a roof over the Bob S and a revetment to protect the net shed's foundation. After much frustration, Township Engineer Gary Voogt stepped in, and shortly thereafter the DEQ offered to compromise. New engineering drawings are needed, and Gary is helping with that as well. Consequently the Historical Society feels this work can be done in the fall.

In the past few months the BIHS scoured its archives for pictures to use in a collage for the opening of the Moondance Productions film about Arranmore and Beaver Island, which is just about done. Another project on which much time has been spent is the preparation for reprinting Elizabeth Whitney Williams book, first published in 1905, Child of the Sea. The copyright was obtained by Agnes Allen and given to the BIHS. The book was reprinted before, but the plates were lost so the book had to be rescanned, page by page.

Elizabeth’s father came to Beaver Island to work as a carpenter on King Strang’s home (she says he built a rear addition for Strang and “Charlie,” his exuberant, capable, attractive, and young second wife, and that wives 3, 4, and 5 had to stay in the main house.) Mary Scholl finished a wonderful colorful painting for the new cover, showing a young Elizabeth watching her husband trying to save seamen just past the Whiskey Point Light (he lost his life in the process) while the presence of Strang looms over her shoulder. Her father was one of the last non-Mormons to leave, moving to Charlevoix in time for the Battle of Pine River, at which her half-brother Lewis was shot. She cites several specific cases of why Strang was so reviled.

Other projects to be stressed this year include adding more signs at historic locations, increasing the exhibits at the budding Heritage Park (Shaker Hites offered to help create a replica sawmill; his family has spent their life in this trade), and the continuing recording of Oral History. If you know a good story about the Island’s past, be sure to stop by the Print Shop so it can be preserved; with every year that goes by and every step into the globalized modern age, tales of our unique past become increasingly treasured.

The Strang Writers’ Group's Conference will take place on May 21- 23, and will include a reading of a new version of John Baldwin's play about King Strang. The drama department at MSU is considering staging this in East Lansing in 2006; if so, their cast may come here, lock stock and barrel, to put it on in the new Community House Theater.

The Spring Newsletter will go out in early May, filling in the details and giving everyone a chance to renew their membership (despite the still uncertain economy, last year’s membership total was a healthy 366.) If you're not on the mailing list, you can add your name by e-mailing or calling (231) 448-2254.

Despite much offered help, the Historical Society could not accomplish the purchase of the Cull House next door, and it is no longer available. So now the plan is to push ahead with an addition. The next few years will be important for making the right decisions; the way this is done will greatly define how future Beaver Islanders regard their past. So if you've ever thought you might someday like to get involved, now is the time.
Museum Week will be July 12 - 17. The Art Show should be better than ever; the ‘GLLKA Ladies’ will return; and new presentations have been offered.

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